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The Power and Powerlessness of Heredity

One of the most prolific causes of the continuance of suffering and all that is called evil is the belief in the power of heredity.

Even moral reformers and philanthropists run against this rock in their efforts at betterment of general conditions. And rock indeed it is in its immovableness, not because of its own inherent power but because of the general consent to what is ignorantly claimed for it.

Heredity is a fact, it is nonsense to ignore it. It is much better to understand it and thus learn how to deal with it. Fortunately it is not the only fact. There are others. They modify each other. None of them is the absolute truth.

We will do well if we always keep in mind the distinction between a fact and the truth. A fact is relative. The truth is absolute. The truth is always more than a fact, it involves many facts. The truth is unlimited, a fact is always limited by its relation to other facts.

When we deal with the truth, we deal with the ideal. When we deal with the fact we are dealing with the actual. How to make a logical enduring relation between the two, satisfactory to both reason and the heart and demonstrable in daily life, or how to be practical, is the question of the hour.

This question will not be satisfactorily answered by that which ignores either the truth or the fact. Witness the many statements made in late years and falsely called “scientific."

But by being able to see the relation of the fact to the truth, of the actual to the ideal, and working according to this relation, we may continually push the fact nearer and nearer to the truth; for the fact is movable or adjustable, the truth is unyielding.

To repeat—heredity is a fact. It is true that diseases and immoral tendencies appear in the same family from generation to generation; and because this is true, comparative freedom from disease and immorality can appear in the same family from generation to generation.

If a process of transmission is steadily going on, this process is neither good nor bad. It is neutral. It is the working of law. Its results will be either good or bad as compared with each other. A doorway is without quality, we will say, but through it may appear either an angel of light or a demon of darkness. The doorway is the same in itself, whichever comes through it.

Heredity is the continued transmission of tendencies, and hence the most desirable as well as the undesirable can be transmitted. We are talking now on the side of the actual, and are not ignoring the ideal, only seeking to get that relation between the two which shall enable us to master fate.

As there can be no objective action without preceding subjective action, no deed without thought; as the outer body is the means for the soul's expression, bodily conditions are made subjectively before they appear objectively. Moral conditions are made subjectively before they appear outwardly. Let us say also in passing that spiritual conditions must be made subjectively before they can appear as a transfiguration of the fleshly man.

Heredity, in its last analysis, is neither more nor less than the transmission of thought tendencies. This man is a hereditary Methodist. His family for generations have been Methodists. He was brought up to believe in Methodist doctrine, was told it was true—and, perhaps, that other doctrine was false—and he has accepted as truth what he was told was true.

The trend of his family life and environment makes him the unquestioning Methodist if he does not exercise his own individuality, examine the doctrine given him as positive truth, and make up his own mind as to whether it is true or not.

When he has given his own assent from conviction, after an impersonal examination of the doctrine, unbiased by the family trend, he is a voluntary and not a hereditary Methodist. In the first case he is mastered by a tendency. In the second he has mastered it.

We all know it is easier to be mastered than to master, whether it be our religion, our morals, or our conditions that are in question. We also know, if we have even a little wisdom, that it is sure to be either the one or the other with us.

Here is another man who is a hereditary rascal. His father and grandfather were rascals, men who preyed upon their fellowmen, without heart or conscience. They created a mental tendency, thievery and knavery in thought, set up a mental current sure to draw into it anything that could be drawn.

This man as a boy was passive to this tendency, and has embodied it in his turn, swelling the current which will draw into itself more and more till it is checked by a counteracting tendency. And this man, rascal though he is practically, can set up this counteracting tendency any moment he chooses; for because of what he is in being, the power to resist, overcome, or create is in him.

His heredity from God is more than his heredity from the flesh. He has but to gain the knowledge of what his higher heredity is and choose to act with it instead of with the other, act subjectively, to gain mastery of the fleshly heredity.

Whether it be morals or physical conditions that need correction, they are what they are always for the same reason—the master is “asleep in the hinder part of the boat." Awaken him. At his word the tempest of misunderstood and ungoverned sense impulses and the havoc they create, will cease, for he knows the power of the Word and speaks it with authority.

Here is another man who is suffering from chronic dyspepsia. He has a very delicate stomach. He has always had a very delicate stomach. His progenitors for generations have had very delicate stomachs. Life is a misery. If he could only eat one square meal of anything and everything he wanted! What happiness, he thinks, can a man have in life cursed with such an inheritance as his?

All the trouble with him is that he is not really acquainted with his inheritance. He has been ignorantly passive to a thought tendency transmitted from generation to generation. Through this passivity he has been susceptible to the action of thought germs, and especially to this particular kind because of his environment.

They have bred their consequences in him, and he has become the blind slave of heredity, the master in him fast asleep. And so long as this master continues to sleep he will add to and intensify the fleshly heredity, sending it along to the next generation, because he does not set up a counteracting tendency.

Our heredity from the eternal I Am is the absolute truth which changes not and which underlies all our outward facts. These are true as far as they go, but they are limited in their present and potential power.

Outside of all the misconceptions and blunders made by the student of mathematics, which originate with him, stands that eternal and immutable truth, the nature of the unit, and which did not originate with him. His misconceptions and blunders will hold him to their consequences, he will be bound to experience them, till he turns to that changeless principle and elects to stand by it.

"Know ye not that ye are servants to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey?"

To whom ye yield yourselves. Here is the key to the whole matter. As Adam-souls we ignorantly yield ourselves to the illusion of appearances and the prompting of sense-impulses. Sometime, after experience has scourged us and we suffer its stripes and wounds, we begin to inquire: "Why do I suffer?" And when we believe the answer, "Because you have to. It is the common lot. The sins of the fathers are visited upon the children," we must have still more stripes and wounds; suffer, not forever, but only till we find out that the master of suffering is in the boat with us, has been there all the while.

Then, seeing what we are in being, seeing our changeless heredity from God, whatever the appearance on the plane of sense, we turn to and awaken this master who rules all through his divine Son-ship. We claim our higher inheritance—health, joy, peace, wholeness. We have had enough of halfness. We connect our personality with our eternal individuality, no longer separate, but one.

Our personality no longer embodies merely the thought tendencies of the Adam-soul. It begins to embody the higher thought tendencies of the higher soul. It begins to incarnate the Son of God. It puts off the fleshly heredity and puts on the divine.

When we make this connection, when we see the fact in its proper relation to the higher truth, we use the law and are no longer its passive servant. The son uses by right. The servant is used by necessity.

As the son, recognizing and putting to practical use our inherent dominion over all things, we help to redeem others as well as ourselves from the “curse." Our new thought tendency, counteractive of the old, gives us individually better conditions, and helps to lessen the common ills of humanity.

It is a glorious thing to know that every effort we make for ourselves is equally an effort for the whole race; that by the very law of cause and effect our thought, redeemed and purified, is a savior of men as well as of our own souls.

Are you setting up a thought tendency which will cause the old heredity to disappear and the God-heredity to appear? Stop complaining of your dyspepsia and excusing your ill-nature on the ground of heredity. Get up and go to work.

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Ursula N. Gestefeld

  • Born April 22, 1845 and died in 1921 (burried at Graceland Cemetery, Chicago).
  • Involved in Christian Science
  • Most famous work is The Woman Who Dares.
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