The Light of Reason
Edited by James Allen
Vol. V. March 1st, 1904 No. 3
The expounding of the laws of being and the higher life.
Everyone who aspires to the bettering of himself and humanity should ceaselessly strive to arrive at the exercise of that blessed attitude of mind by which he is enabled to put himself, mentally and sympathetically, in the place of others, and so, instead of harshly and falsely unhappy without adding to the happiness of those others, he will enter into their experience, will understand their particular frame of mind, and will feel for them and sympathize with them.
One of the great obstacles to the attainment of such an attitude of mind is prejudice, and until this is removed it is impossible to act towards others as we would wish others to act toward us. Prejudice is destructive of kindness, sympathy, love, and true judgment, and the strength of a man's prejudice will be the measure of his harshness and unkindness towards others, for prejudice and cruelty are inseparable.
There is no rationality in prejudice, and immediately it is aroused in a man he ceases to act as a reasonable being, and gives way to rashness, anger, and injurious excitement. He does not consider his words nor regard the feelings and liberties of those against whom his prejudice is directed. He has, for the time being, forfeited his manhood, and has descended to the level of an irrational creature.
While a man is determined to cling to his preconceived opinions, mistaking them for Truth, and refuses to consider dispassionately the position of others, he cannot escape hatred no arrive at blessedness. The man who strives after gentleness, who aspires to act unselfishly towards others, will put away all his passionate prejudices and petty opinions, and will gradually acquire the power of thinking and feeling for others, of understanding their particular state of ignorance or knowledge, and thereby entering fully into their hearts and lives, sympathizing with them, and seeing them as they are.
Such a man will not oppose himself to the prejudices of others by introducing his own, but will seek to allay prejudice by introducing sympathy and love, striving to bring out all that is good in men, encouraging the good by appealing to it, and discouraging the evil by ignoring it. He will realize the good in the unselfish efforts of others, though their outward methods may be very different from his own, and will so rid his heart of hatred, and will fill it with love and blessedness.
When a man is prone to harshly judge and condemn others, he should inquire how far he falls short himself; he should also re-consider those periods of suffering when he himself was misjudged and misunderstood, and, gathering wisdom and love from his own bitter experiences, should studiously and self-sacrificing refrain from piercing with anguish hearts that are as yet too weak to ignore, too immature and uninstructed to understand.
Sympathy is not required towards those who are purer and more enlightened than one's self, as the purer one lives above the necessity for it. In such a case reverence should be exorcized, with a striving to life one's self up to the purer level, and so enter into possession of the larger life. Nor can a man fully understand one who is wiser than himself, and, before condemning, he should earnestly ask himself whether he is, after all, better than the man whom he has singled out as the object of his bitterness. If he is, let him bestow sympathy. If he is not, let him exercise reverence.
Let those who aim at the right life, who believe that they love Truth, cease to passionately oppose themselves to others, and let them strive to calmly and wisely understand them, and in thus active towards others they will be conquering themselves; and while sympathizing with others their own souls will be fed with the heavenly dews of kindness, and their hearts be strengthened and refreshed in the pleasant pastures of peace.
Win man than honor, vanquish more than might,
And strike against a fiercer foe
Than one who comes with battle-axe and bow.
—Sir Edwin Arnold
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More from James Allen
James Allen was a little-known philosophical writer and poet. He is best recognized for his book, As a Man Thinketh. Allen wrote about complex subjects such as faith, destiny, love, patience, and religion but had the unique ability of explaining these subjects clearly and in a way that is easy to understand. He often wrote about cause and effect, sowing and reaping, as well as overcoming sadness, sorrow, and grief. For more information on the life of James Allen, click here.