In a higher classification, mankind may be divided—irrespective of its various minor attributes—into two grand subdivisions of thinkers and non-thinkers: the former susceptible of further distinctions, both generic and specific, becoming more and more specialized. It is the unthinking—the poor in thought—who constitute the real masses, the clay that is molded by the minds of thinkers. So arduous is it to think for ourselves, so convenient to accept other men's thoughts, that we are for a period constrained to waive the high prerogative of creative and original thinking and to dwell within that lesser province of intellection—the sphere of imitative and mechanical thought; and thus are we kept circling well within the horizon of some book. But when we would boldly sail to the circumference of our circle, there to balance on the outermost edge of the universe, where sky and water meet, the horizon has somehow slipped before us and we are at the center of a new circle, this time of our own projecting.
He that owes no allegiance save to the Eternal, and believes first in himself and his divine right and equality, walks thenceforth among manikins. But these men are not elect, they are self-evolved; and constantly do we hear of traitors in the ranks of the non-thinkers who have crossed to the other side never to return, detaching themselves as do icebergs from the mass of a glacier, thenceforth to float away, solitary.
During the period of adaptation to its new environment, the child must gradually become familiar with perspective and must acquire the faculties of assigning objects to their respective planes, of discriminating between two and three dimensions, and of distinguishing solids and fluids. The development, in some degree, of these faculties through experience would appear to be the necessary preparation for voluntary action. To this end it is probable that the sense of sight contributes as much to delude as to enlighten; and it is by hard knocks that something is learned of the properties and dimensions of solids and their relations to one another in space. So every man begins life an explorer; and, from reconnoitering first a crib and then a nursery, he goes to investigating broader and broader fields.
Thus do we mature infants grope in the mysterious world of unknown quantities and indefinite dimensions, and are bumped and bruised through inability to judge of distances and broken on the projecting corners of divine and immutable laws; relegating to an indefinite futurity that which is contemporaneous with us, mistaking the third dimension for a fourth, and stumbling over the fourth where we saw only three. And in this manner are we brought to perceive the real nature of our environment, that we may conclude our researches within the realm of subjectivity—nor again forsake the oasis of truth in pursuit of a mirage of the desert.
To have attained an outlook whence we are enabled in some measure to view both cause and effect, the one commensurate with and proceeding logically from the other—and this law of sequence inherent in the nature of all; to perceive action as having its inception in thought and issuing thence, objective proceeding from the subjective and causation the sole prerogative of spirit and not of matter, of the mind and not the body, of the potter and not the clay—this perception in itself constitutes the passing over of the mind from the irrelevant and nondescript dreamland of chance to the consciousness of fixed and permanent spiritual quantities. It is the recognition of the all-inclusiveness of the province of design, of intent and purpose; wherein no more to be pursued by causeless results—the headless horsemen who lie in wait for the unwary; where no longer shall we throw the dice nor play at roulette.
This same outlook reveals the interrelation of theory and practice. To be contemptuous of theory denotes a lack of savoir-faire—an intellectual brusqueness; for so necessarily restricted is the finite comprehension of natural order, and yet so ingenious is the human mind, that working theory has become a part of the groundwork of science: and the most eminently practical men are such in virtue of their recognition of its nature and function. In short, theory has been made to supplement human limitations in the cognizance of law, and affords a present working basis; and practice may be largely defined as theory in application. The affinities of atoms—their very existence—and the precise nature of various forms of energy are still theoretical to our partial understanding, but serve, nevertheless, as the basis upon which is erected a superstructure of chemical, electrical, and commercial interests; and the world owes much to those practical men whose faith in the theory has made this possible. Were it not for the evolution of theory we would doubtless still wear necklaces of teeth, and rings in the nose, and go armed with clubs and javelins; the savage devoid of theory remains a savage. What were the reason without the imagination? A dull tool, indeed, which would be forever chipping stone but make never a Corinthian column. The province of theory extends as well to political and governmental science. Monarchism is a theory that has largely failed—democracy a theory that is being tried.
Seldom is the message of the eye or ear wholly trustworthy; and to obey it implicitly is to follow a will-o'-the-wisp over the quagmires of illusion. As we float upon the limpid waters of the lake, skyline and water-line do sometimes vanish, distant sails appear unsupported in the fluid air, and sticks lying on the sandy bottom seem writhing serpents seen through the gentle surface undulations of this so transparent yet delusive medium. Dip an oar beneath the surface and the straight-grained ash or hickory appears distorted and inadequate. Given the angle of refraction, the reason diligently corrects the optical illusion and in time makes unconscious allowance for such error. And so the indices of refraction are obtained for various media, and science stands ever ready to apply the tables of correction to the results of the errant senses.
But it is no less certain that whenever we dip an oar in the sea of sensuous perception it is apparently deflected from the normal; and it becomes imperative that we so augment our tables of refraction as to embrace all opinions, concepts, and traditional wrappers and coverings whatsoever, and make specific allowance and correction for all impressions that reach us from the outer world. It is here that we are brought to recognize the function of higher law; for, while there are properly speaking none but divine laws, yet are we so encompassed with hypotheses that for lack of the recognition of something better are constituted laws, and so deemed axiomatic, that it becomes expedient to make the distinction. But the knowledge of the night continually vanishes with the dawn, and the tongues that spoke the loudest are silenced. "Skim milk" everywhere "masquerades as cream"; on every hand arise pretenders to the throne of reason; and semblance and delusion, and all the minions of the seeming, persistently throng the portals of the mind, so that again and again are men constrained to ask, "What is real?" Yet in that reality do we find our life and being; and these divine laws are the method of its working and impel us ever upward.
We think to "break the law," and at will to set aside divine order, or to divert the stream of good for one brief moment that it may overflow in our direction and leave others high and dry—only to find the bottom has fallen out of our little tub and it will no longer hold a drop. To follow this law of good is to receive a passport in whatever direction we would travel; and at every port we land we have but to show our papers. But who goes contrary to it and would outdo another opposes himself, not to one man alone but to the power of universal good. The divine laws become the sponsors of every good man; but the very dust conspires to trip a rogue, and every sparrow mocks him.
The world—what is it, then? One lives in a sphere of sensation and another in a sphere of ideas; there are dream-worlds and thought-worlds, worlds tumultuous and worlds serene; spheres concentric, it may be, and these numbered by quintillions. Day after day we bid farewell to this world and awaken to a new one somewhat different; once in a lifetime to have all the old landmarks swept away and to find we are strangers in the land. A man of the world! Man of what world—world of fashion or world of letters; world of society or world of solitude? Close scrutiny reveals for every mind an inner and an outer world—the former the object, the latter its image; and when the world within is comely, then indeed is its reflection fair. We are traveling, after all, the beaten tracks of our minds, and seldom get beyond them. Now and again some determined explorer breaks away and starts for the pole of his being, returning with some fragments of evidence from that terra incognita—perchance returning never at all. Serene minds cast the reflection of their tranquil beauty before them, and who retains sweet thoughts moves evermore in a garden of roses.
We are as yet unable to define the world of dreams, nor is it evident that it is susceptible of definition in that we can set no bounds to the mind in sleep; but the mind when deemed awake tends to limit itself on every hand. Then when are we the more awake—when defined or undefined? Ideas may come in sleep that are more lucid and succinct than are waking ideas, and altogether unmixed with anything extraneous, standing forth boldly as planets on the background of the night. We go a-dreaming with our eyes open, and all our days are somewhat drowsy and indifferent to real issues and a prey to conflicting thoughts. In waking hours the phantoms of death, of ills and imperfections, flit before us and are accounted real; but when in sleep we walk amidst peaceful groves and listen to the thrushes, we say, "I have had so fair a dream." It may transpire that in the perfect repose of profound sleep we have possessed the clearest recognition and so have drawn the curtains and discreetly retired within; that we are dwellers in that land of Nod and but visit this earth in dreams—and sleep, the ministering angel of the night that descends unto the mind and bids it return to the Fatherland.
There is a world less intangible than the foregoing, yet whose seeming anomalies forever repel and baffle casual investigation. I speak of the sphere of men's influence. Deference to sense evidence so obscures the perception of what is real that we are readily deceived into thinking men are actually removed from their sphere of usefulness; and where the influence is benign and far-reaching we are at a loss to be reconciled to its apparent and sudden withdrawal. Because the physical man is removed the eye discloses no man, but the reason should reveal an influence steadily growing. The years give prestige to the life no longer visible and hallow the sayings that were once unheeded. One who has apparently left the world has nevertheless not withdrawn his influence, but is enlarging his sphere of good in virtue of the transition: for whereas in the flesh he was known to a handful only, he is now the good friend and counselor of thousands. In place of the good being buried, as the false adage would have it, it grows apace and becomes the beacon light of ages. But the malign influence of vicious persons—the Neros and Caligulas—declines from the hour of their demise. We walk with a dozen men in the flesh and feel no affinity, but we are drawn by the human magnets of other times and delight to commune with the shades of the departed great. And they are nearer to us than our nearest neighbors, and understand us, it may be, better than brother or sister, and say to us that which none other can say. As fountains rise and fall, intermingle and disappear, and from an idea assume their form, so there are affinities that hold together and give shape to human lives and their relations—and repulsions that break asunder. The apple falls to the earth and the earth to the apple, and we call it gravitation; but so am I gravitating to you and you to me, and all of us toward that which we do not know, but of which we are known. Men fall toward one another with irresistible force, and fall away from one another with equal violence—surging to and fro in friendships and animosities. A bird's-eye view of humanity would show it to be segregated into knots and clusters, each revolving about some individual as a center, and these in turn moving around some more distant mesmeric point—all subject to the motive power of suggestion.
My thought reaches you and impresses itself upon your mind; and if I sun the stronger presently you are set in vibration and begin your unconscious revolution about me, carrying with you satellites having each its period. And thoughts are winged, and fly about until they find lodgment in some mind; and their coming and going are ceaseless vibrations of the ether. They are every one a suggestion fraught with future action. To every state of mind come like thoughts, and the positive mind is the recipient of messages of congratulation from far and near—a constant stream, resembling the fall of meteors into the sun. We harness the puissant forces of attraction and so sit in communication with gods and men, with all minds and all things. And to the knowing it is the seal of Omnipotence, but to the foolish an engine of destruction. We light the lamp of Aladdin and the earth rocks with the tread of genii, and the winds rise from the rustling of their wings. Now we attract a princess and a palace, and again are conjured up all the ills to which flesh seems heir—and they likewise are speedily forthcoming. Our fears come upon us, and the flock of crows for which we have looked do even now obscure the sun.
There is a state of mind through which some men pass—and it may well be called the winter of their discontent—wherein they leave no stone unturned in the effort to disparage their prerogatives and to erect barriers against the influx of good tidings. Under the ban of this delusion the mind is persistent in its denial of any good flowing to itself, and with faith in its own ability still defeats its good ends through avowing self-limitation and repelling those benign influences that are tapping gently at every window.
Whoso would rise to the full height of his possibilities must possess an immeasurable faith, not alone in himself but in the cooperation of Divine Love. He must rest in the conviction that all shall work to the good of those who love God, that all desirable ends are to be obtained by whosoever abides in the truth. To a life so ordered the time is ever ripe to test the assertion of the Spirit. He that once despaired of happiness and equanimity—who in his ignorance gazed upon a Cimmerian world—shall yet behold the dawn of a brighter day and rejoice in the promise of a new life, therein to experience a liberty once undreamed of: a reality and depth of living until then unrecognized—for the tyranny of the unreal shall be overthrown, and that which filled the horizon shall recede and become as a speck.
How dearly are we loved of the Spirit, that it should admonish us of our every fault—that from the cradle to the grave it should walk beside us. And never for an instant are we left wholly to our own devices, nor allowed to deviate a hair's breadth from the right direction without a reproof—that we may turn in time. The Divine Warning comes in diverse and unexpected ways. An aching face and a lame back have each their message from the Soul; and if we live an hour without the consciousness of love we shall directly be made aware of it. Though we skulk surreptitiously through the streets, a heavenly host is following and angels hover over us; for to what pinnacle shall we ascend, or to what depths may we plunge, and not find there the love of God? Truly was it said of wisdom that her every path is peace; and knowledge is like oil poured upon the troubled waters.
The Infinite offers us this compensation—that it is in itself the promise of everything it has seemed to withhold or take away: a father to the fatherless, a child to the childless. The seeking of a lifetime, it is there; the aspirations of the illustrious, they are there. "It is only the finite that has wrought and suffered; the Infinite lies stretched in smiling repose." We live immersed in the wealth we seek; we are surrounded by the good to which we would attain. Here is the vale of Tempe; here are the Elysian fields. We shall cast the potent spell of thought over this world in solution, and out of it shall crystallize the objects of our true desire.
What of the Adepts, Arhats, Mahatmas—mysterious beings having control over the elements? You are the Adept who shall control your senses; you are the Mahatma of your own destiny, the appointed magician who shall cause the rod of daily life to blossom with lovely thoughts. The Spirit shall lead you on to all good things, and to it nothing is impossible. The will makes the way; and if it be the human will the way may be confusion, but if the Divine Will, it shall be peace and plentitude. You may be keeping accounts, and presently you shall walk out of the door that for so long has seemed to you the barrier of your ideals and shall find yourself before an audience—the pen still behind your ear, the ink-stains on your fingers—and then and there shall pour out the torrent of your inspiration.
You may be driving sheep, and you shall wander to the city—bucolic and open-mouthed; shall wander under the intrepid guidance of the Spirit into the studio of the Master, and after a time he shall say, "I have nothing more to teach you." Now you have become the master, who did so recently dream of great things while driving sheep. You shall lay down the saw and the plane to take upon yourself the regeneration of the world.
We are bounded by no horizon but that of the mind—held captive within imaginary circles. We shall meet with no barrier but that of our own thoughts. "Vaulting ambition" overleaps itself, but vaulting aspiration, never. Our deeds shall be commensurate with our ideals. "Hitch your wagon to a star." Hitch it to a comet, and if it takes you beyond one floating speck of earth you shall irradiate the heavens of some other. You who have waited this weary time, impatient to ac\ shall be hurled into the maelstrom of action. You who have for so long cherished the desire to think shall become the recipient of great thoughts, descending upon you like an avalanche. You who have yearned shall find your yearnings take shape, as the ghostly mist rises from out the forest—as from the transparent air at the cold touch of the mountain come beautiful forms and are made golden by the parting rays of sunlight. Your ideals are taking form, as trees planted grow while we sleep. Past your door rushes the current that will carry you to the goal; but you shrink within the doorway. Come out into the sun and wind!