By W. J. Colville
Author of The Law of Correspondences, The World's Fair Text Book of Mental Therapeutics, Old and New Psychology, etc.
Among the many signs of philosophic progress in the present day, the great movement generically called metaphysical, may be fairly regarded as one of the most significant. It may truthfully be stated that the enormous interest now taken in all phases of psychical research, is rapidly evincing the renewed interest on the part of the general public in those mighty questions pertaining to predestination and free agency, which no theologian, scientist, or philosopher has yet proved able perfectly to explain.
We use two great words—Destiny and Fate—synonymously, though they are etymologically wide apart. By Destiny is properly meant, whatever is possible unto us; by Fate we should always understand the sum of those extraneous agencies and outward circumstances which appear in our path—to be manipulated and eventually mastered by us.
When we speak of divine foreordination we should at once turn our eyes to the ample field of nature outspread before us, for therein shall we find innumerable examples of the evolution of evolved capabilities. "Consider the lilies how they grow" is one of the best known quotations from the New Testament; but though humanity has been for many centuries invited to consider this beautiful natural process, we find but very few, even among thinkers, who imbibe to any large extent the obvious lesson taught in the vegetable realm.
The immutability of universal law is conceded on every hand; at this point the theologians and philosophers are completely at one, though the former often consider the latter unduly agnostic. When we proclaim the unchangeableness of universal order we of necessity proclaim the truth of necessary foreordination, but not in such a way as to contradict the expressive Talmudical saying, "All is regulated by Divine Providence except the conduct of man," by which is clearly meant that while no one can procure any other flowers than lilies from lily bulbs, it is quite within our power to place hyacinth bulbs in future in the exact places where we formerly cultivated lilies, providing we will to do so.
A very eminent clergyman was once heard to remark upon the two columns of an arch which appeared like two unconnected pillars in different parts of a huge edifice, while the arch was spanned far above the line of vision of the ordinary observer. One of these columns he compared to the doctrine of predestination, the other to the doctrine of human free agency, and by means of this similitude he threw much clear light upon two of the most vexing problems the Church has ever undertaken to solve.
No system of philosophy can be in any way sufficient to meet the demands of human reason which takes into account only a portion of human experience. What Herbert Spencer calls "synthetic" philosophy is a system which at least endeavors to explain all the facts of human consciousness, though it can with fairness be stated that Spencer himself falls far short of explaining everything.
We are all conscious of a determination to better our condition by all lawful means in our power; we are none of us satisfied to believe that things are bound to be continuously as they now are; for, did we so believe, we should regard all effort to improve conditions as futile. When we read with open eyes the fascinating story of Joseph in Egypt, we are introduced to the very heart of this tremendous subject. Pharaoh dreams that there will be seven years of plenty, followed by seven years of dearth in all his territory. This is inevitable, and no human foresight can change what is immutable; but visions would be useless if they could not both forewarn and forearm those who are privileged to enjoy them. The Pharaohs of the world, though monarchs, are too blind to read the signs in the heavens and in the earth; but the Josephs of the world are those in every age and clime, who can, as it is said, take time by the forelock, and by so doing, though they cannot make a season of scarcity a time of agricultural plenty, they place in store a large provision of food wherewith to feed an otherwise famishing multitude.
It is recorded of Buddha that he gave the following well-known Oriental proverb for the edification of his followers, "Rain soaks through an ill-thatched roof, but into a well-roofed house it cannot penetrate." In these few expressive words we find a summing up of the whole philosophy of Karma, with which so many students of modern philosophy are well-nigh blindly wrestling.
We hear it said that a person is fated to meet with an accident, and that this has been foretold by some astrologer, palmist, or clairvoyant; but we fail to see how anyone can make any use of clairvoyance, palmistry, or astrology, who simply foresees coming events, but possesses no insight with reference to mastery over surrounding conditions.
No wise person wishes to borrow trouble, or to cross mentally some dangerous bridge before he confronts it physically, though all intelligent people would be glad to so foresee a coming event, that when it occurred they would be able to master it, instead of being mastered by it.
The very great interest in chirology, now so prevalent, can be turned to excellent account when the public has learned to discriminate properly between Fate and Destiny. Those who are well versed in the language of human hands say that the left hand largely indicates natural predispositions, while the right hand shows the use we are making of our varied opportunities. Hands, heads, and faces are certainly of different types, and to the student of character one type may appear, and should appear, quite as good as another.
We desire earnestly to impress the truth contained in the following mottoes upon all:—
First, We must agree to differ, but we must never disagree.
Second, One white sheep makes many.
No more disagreeable words fall on our ears than infection and contagion, but when they are redeemed they can be so employed as to convey the most exhilarating sentiment. Why should disease be infectious instead of health? Why should vice be contagious rather than virtue? The faith of Israel has ever been that the true mission of the Jew is to spread light and thereby illumine the darkness of the world. This is divine infection.
The Apostle Paul, who, as Saul of Tarsus, had been a pupil of the illustrious Gamaliel, one of the seventy elders who constituted the council called Sanhedrin, the highest in Israel, was evidently thoroughly indoctrinated with the ancient truth concerning election; therefore, he exhorted all to whom he spoke or wrote to use all diligence to make their calling or election sure. There is no connection whatever between true and false views of election. The Eternal Being must be regarded as impartial and as working incessantly through a changeless law of pure beneficence, and it seems like blasphemy to insinuate that some souls are better treated by the Eternal than are others. This point being settled in our minds, we are ready to go forth and examine the manifold differences which do most certainly exist between individuals in their present conditions. We have no desire to encumber the reader with a perplexing inquiry into re-embodiment, or any other difficult speculative doctrine, but we do desire to emphasize the attitude which everyone must take here and now toward his actual surroundings, before he can become the lord of fate and master of circumstance.
We should never say "under" circumstances, but only "in" them. Should someone say to you: What would you do under certain circumstances? you would be justified in replying, "Well, if I am under them you will have to ask them what they intend to do with me." Now, if you substitute the word in for under, you, while acknowledging the limitations of your present environment, claim it is your mission to conquer it instead of being conquered by it.
When we speak of self-made men and women, we are not referring to people in any particular walks of life, but only to those who have (figuratively speaking) taken the bull by the horns instead of allowing the bull to take them by its horns. The "bull" must be met in either case, but it makes a great difference to you what attitude you take toward it when you meet it. We all know from experience that there is much truth in the proverbial saying, "Constant dripping wears away the stone." They only make the obstructing stone a stepping-stone for their own advancement, who claim the right to utilize their inherent ability to gain the victory by means of that very stone which appears at first to be an insurmountable obstacle in their path to success and freedom.
The magnificent statement in the Book of Revelation, "He that overcometh shall inherit all things," suggests the precise idea we are seeking to convey. What do we mean by things? This is a most important inquiry. All things made by hand (manufactured) can certainly be destroyed by the power that made them, but man has no power to add to or take from the original substance of the universe. We do not create atoms, but we arrange molecules; and the good or evil of any molecular structure made by man depends solely upon the wisdom or folly displayed in its construction. The much disputed sayings, "Whatever is, is right," and "All is good, there is no evil," can never be understood so long as people fail to discriminate between being and existing. Whatever is, is; this is an axiom, but that which is must be unchangeable, seeing that, though we can transform and transmute in a chemical laboratory, no chemist can either create or annihilate an ultimate atom.
The whole business of the world is practically regulated, in so far as it is successful, in accordance with two fundamental propositions of universal science:—
First, the immutability of law.
Second, the power of man to shape or fashion matter according to his own will commensurately with his developed intelligence.
We are all ignorant or unlearned before we have gained the experience necessary to our education; and by education is meant the unfolding of latent ability, for no educator can infuse into a pupil that which the pupil does not essentially contain. Provided a child has some dormant ability in a musical direction, the music teacher can instruct the child how to play upon an instrument; but were a child found entirely destitute of such ability, no professor, however learned, could develop that child into a musician. The same remark applies to all arts or employments equally.
We very frequently talk about our wills, but we do not usually inquire sufficiently into their nature and origin. Why do I will what I will? This is a leading query which can only be answered by the profound philosopher who delves deeply into the genesis of the human individual. Our willings are of two kinds: First, those which are common to all humanity; Second, those which are peculiar to certain individuals and sections of humanity. Among the first mentioned, we place the desire for health, for happiness, and for prosperity in all our undertakings, regardless of the nature thereof. In the second list we include all desires which differentiate one man from another man and one community from another community. With the first set only do we have to deal when engaged in the work of general teaching. We will because we can, and we can because we will, are two sayings very popular at present in metaphysical circles. Let us seek to interpret them.
Human will must be accounted for in some way, and it cannot be explained satisfactorily until we find its root in our essential nature. We desire what we desire because we are what we are. All talents struggle toward expression, therefore the wisdom of the counsel found in Proverbs, "Train up a child in the way he should go," which certainly means that, instead of thwarting the natural desire of the child to work in some particular direction, we should carefully investigate the tendencies even of the smallest or youngest children, with a view to discover what they are best fitted for. The true meaning of the word "rod" is, a measuring line, therefore the rod and the staff are mentioned together logically in the twenty-third Psalm. "Spare the rod and spoil the child" sounds harsh to many, but only because of general ignorance concerning the nature of the rod alluded to in the Bible. The sages have all declared that no greater sin can be committed by parents than to deny their children the means of useful education. The wonderful influence still exerted by a mere handful of Jews, in literary and artistic as well as in scientific and financial circles, is due historically to the undeniable fact that the Jew above all others has insisted upon educating, as far as possible, all his children.
Whatever views of Socialism may be entertained by modern writers of so-called advanced schools of thought, one fact remains supremely evident—viz. that you may educate all people and thereby place all on a common high level, but you cannot by hook or by crook make the ignorant the equals of the learned, nor can you make the idle the equals of the industrious. Truly there need be no idlers, and we delight to cooperate in all feasible schemes for the education of everybody, therefore we believe and teach that the socialistic ideal may be fulfilled through the agency of universal education, though it can be fulfilled in no other way.
Let all English people remember that the illustrious motto of the Prince of Wales is, "I serve" (Ich dien). When the heir-apparent to the throne thus publicly glorifies the idea of service, we can indeed see how to extol mutual service while utterly discountenancing every phase of servitude. We may despise the word servant, though we love the word service. Interdependence is one of the greatest substantives in the English language. No one can be independent of others, and no one should believe himself wholly dependent on others. The welfare of the entire social fabric rests on cooperation, which necessitates various kinds of work done by variously qualified human beings. No one has a right to call an employee a "hand," seeing that employers have no monopoly of brains. When society has become intelligently organized we shall all rejoice in our work, and should an idler appear, he might be submitted to the heroic treatment suggested by the Apostle Paul in those momentous words, "If a man will not work neither shall he eat." The same great writer has said, in effect, that we are no longer under the law when we have grown to a knowledge of how we are to make use of the law. The law itself remains immutable, and therefore inexorable. One eye for one eye and one tooth for one tooth will always be exacted in all dispensations; but it is our privilege so to relate ourselves to each other, that by conferring mutual benefits instead of injuries, we stand in the relation of those who are entirely free from condemnation.
Nothing can be more immoral than to teach defiance of law; but when people are educated to do without its prohibitive inculcations, the eternal law will appear before them transfigured as Moses on the Mount. One of the most beautiful experiences connected with mountain climbing is to "go through a cloud while accomplishing the ascent of a steep incline. When we are in a valley we look upward and see a black cloud overhead, but when we have gone through it we see a golden cloud beneath us; for a cloud has two sides, the upper side is always bright, and the underside is always dark. When we fulfill destiny and master fate, we rise mentally to an exalted station from which we can smile down upon those things which formerly frowned down upon us. We have traveled from a lower to a higher vantage ground, and from our new viewpoint things look to us as they could not have looked before. Many people ignorantly prate of a bottomless pit, not knowing that they are talking only of a long tunnel which we enter on the dark side of ignorance, and finally emerge on the bright side of knowledge.
When you are crossing the ocean you need not be seasick, but the one who avoids sickness is in the midst of the same motion as the greatest sufferer on board. We should be simpletons indeed, did we deny the facts which environ us. The sea moves, and so does the boat, but we can learn to harmonize ourselves with the rocking of the vessel and the surging of the sea. We may not say to the wind "Subside," but we can overcome our own fears of a hurricane, and by dint of constant increase in our own thoughts of strength, we can safely walk the deck where aforetime we should have been in deadly peril from the elements. No one who has attended a gymnasium need fail to trace a direct analogy between mental and physical development. You can only lift fifty pounds today; last year you could only lift thirty; next year you may lift eighty. This simple allusion to common gymnastic experience throws much light on can and cannot. You cannot at a given moment lift more than a certain number of pounds weight; such is an actual statement of the case; but you can grow to lift twice and far more than twice that particular amount. We must unceasingly discriminate between potential and actual. Our destinies are potential, and we are here to work them out. We either do or do not fulfill them, which only means that we are either living up to or below our possibilities; no one, of course, can live beyond possibility.
The place of conscience or moral sense, in a system of ethics which harmonizes with the theory of evolution, must prove a most instructive subject for thought. Conscience, or the moral sentiment, is far too frequently regarded as an accusing voice within us, when it is in reality the Divine Voice inviting us higher. We cannot remain satisfied with mean and sordid lives which express but a small fraction of our innate ability; we are therefore constantly being impelled forward by what is sometimes called "divine discontent." We all have ideals, and we individually know what our ideals are. These ideals are glimpses of our involved destiny, which we must evolve by a process commonly called disciplinary. The word, discipline means instruction, and we certainly learn by means of what we have to overcome. A wise writer has said that we must rename obstacles opportunities, and then we shall soon find that we have been entertaining angels unawares and sometimes blindly calling them fiendish foes. Jacob, wrestling with an angel and overcoming the angel in a midnight encounter, is a fit symbol of the true hero meeting a difficulty which looks like an enemy, but which is in reality a faithful friend. We all take more or less false views of what we call our troubles, and none of us are sufficiently free from the degrading tendency which calls those things evil, the goodness of which is not yet apparent to us.
Very few people dare to comment freely on the forty-fifth chapter of Isaiah, which sets forth the purely monotheistic and highly philosophic view of the universe taken Standard of by all the greatest among the prophets. Dualism is always prevalent among the ignorant, who see good in the day and evil in the night, good in the summer and evil in the winter, and who equally in their private experience call everything good that pleases them for the moment, and everything evil which they do not immediately fancy. The twelve months of the year have been divided into two equal sections of six each; the six summer months were attributed by the Persians to the influence of the god of light, while the six winter months were supposed to be under the direction of an adversary. After the captivity in Babylon this hideous error had infested current Jewish thought, and against it the second Isaiah fulminated vigorously. This same ugly doctrine pervades nearly all modern thought, and until it is entirely eradicated from our consciousness we shall remain slaves of fate instead of becoming moral heroes.
The only safeguard to take in daily life is to embrace gladly whatever may come, and mentally exclaim, I need this experience or I should not get it; but I need to conquer it and most positively do I refuse to let it conquer me. The trials of life are like lessons in school; those things are not evil which we have not yet learned to conquer, but we are in an evil condition so long as we call them evil.
In the fulfillment of our destiny we must control our fate, in precisely the same way that the sculptor chisels a shapeless mass of stone into an exquisite marble statue which appears at length so lifelike that it seems almost as if it could speak. Stone remains stone; it is just as hard and cold, when sculptured into a charming bust, as it was when it was taken from the quarry; but the sculptor, having accomplished his purpose with it, rejoices in his achievement over it, and, pointing to it joyfully, he exultingly exclaims, "This is my masterpiece; in this marble I have made manifest my genius." In the same way the painter makes the canvas and all his artist materials subject to his will, compelling them to obey his dictates and make manifest his thought. We cannot evade facts, but we can and we must conquer them. It is useless to tell people that they suffer nothing when they are enduring intense agony, but it is highly useful to point the way to victory over pain, and best of all is it to show the road which leads to final triumph over all that causes it.
We need not sin in order to suffer, but when we are in any distress whatever, we are suffering the effect of some internal disorder or derangement. The word disorder covers all disease; so does order express the idea of perfect health. Let us not repine at ailments or fight against them, but resolutely set to work to find the way out of them by rising above them. The same cause invariably produces the same effect, but a different cause must produce a different effect. On the basis of this self-evident proposition, we can erect a stalwart edifice of mental science and spiritual therapeutics.
Suggestion is now a very popular term. By "suggestion" is properly meant an intelligible invitation to clearer thinking, and wiser modes of life in general. Those who are now making the very mistakes which other people made some time ago, can surely derive benefit from the instruction of those who have ascended to a higher level of attainment; while those who are now in the midst of tribulation, when they have been lifted higher, can, in turn, serve as healers to others also.
Healing and teaching are inseparable. No one is a true doctor who is not a teacher, therefore there are doctors of Music, of Philosophy, of Law, and of Divinity, as well as of Medicine. The mere druggist or apothecary, who administers a medicament is not a doctor, because he does not instruct his patient, and though he may temporarily relieve a local ailment, he leaves the ignorant person who has consulted him with no added knowledge concerning the law of health. The greatest difference between the root idea of material medicine, and that of suggestive mental healing, consists in the obvious fact that the mental healer must be an educator, and whoever really profits permanently by mental treatment must be a student of sanitary science. We are fast beginning to learn that we must change conditions by our own efforts, and not expect conditions to miraculously change themselves or be changed for us by Divine Providence, seeing that it is our life-work to develop our own characters. Our severest trials and difficulties should be regarded by us as the baser metal which the alchemy of experience will transmute into untarnishable gold. We all speak poetically of a Golden Age, which means, using a worldwide and most expressive metaphor: We are all interested in universal peace and arbitration, but all endeavors must prove futile to settle international disputes without recourse to the sword, until we have first learned to settle our private difficulties and harmonize our social differences pacifically.
War is so old that no one can tell when it began. Animals and reptiles doubtless fought with each other through long geological epochs, long before the foot of man existed to press the surface of this globe. Prophets are genuine seers endowed with unusual foresight and insight, they therefore are able to look within and look ahead, consequently they can predict a time when wars shall cease in all the earth; but they must first cease in our small private earth, before they can subside in the expanded world around us. Every one of us contains fire, air, water, and earth within our own organism. How shall we be able to control the outside elements on a large scale before we have learned to govern the same elements within us on a smaller scale? The Book of Daniel is strictly scientific, for Daniel and his three companions are types of those superior developments of humanity which constitute men heroes instead of vassals. Those four young Hebrew initiates did not live like Babylonians or like ordinary Jews, for they separated themselves entirely from the vices and follies of a voluptuous court and abstained also from many things considered innocent in Israel; for that reason they could completely withstand what most people have no power even partially to regulate. We must begin all victories at home, later on we can go on and conquer outside difficulties. Never fight anything if you wish to subdue it to your service, but gaze steadfastly with tireless mental vision upon an ideal which you are determined to embody in your actual experience. Many people increase the ferocity of their own bad habits by making desperate efforts to subdue them; because they fear their foes, and fear making them weaker, they are most unwillingly bound in chains to the very practices they detest. No one likes to be ill, and no sensible person wishes to be a drunkard; but it is commonly believed that, by reason of unfavorable inheritance, some are compelled to yield to weaknesses every one of which should be made to yield to us completely. When Tennyson spoke of our dead selves becoming stepping-stones to higher things, he showed wonderfully clear insight into the real human law of progress. No attitude of mind is so reasonable and none so salutary and none so optimistic, as that which bravely faces all existing circumstances, and declares them all to be nothing other than means whereby we can fulfill that destiny which we most desire to accomplish.
The Roman goddesses Pecunia and Fortuna are still worshiped in modern temples, and we acknowledge them whenever we speak of our lot or our fortune, as though it were something arbitrarily fixed by an outside propitious sovereignty. We must banish from our speech all such miserable expressions as bad luck and ill fortune, we must not allow ourselves to say lachrymosely, "That is just my luck" for no one has any luck better or worse than his neighbors. Our destinies are indeed various, and all that comes in our way as fate must be looked upon as just so much raw material, which we are called upon to use in the manufacture of those utensils necessary to the fulfillment of our destinies.
Truly all voices cannot render the same solos or take the same part in choruses; truly all instrumentalists cannot perform upon the same instruments in an orchestra; but the success of an opera, a symphony, or an oratorio depends upon the perfect blending of many voices of different range and pitch, and the perfect harmony of many wind and stringed instruments playing in sublime concert. Let the dressmaker remain such, for she can be as happy as any schoolteacher; let the carpenter remain at his bench, for he can be as happy as any journalist. Now, seeing that all kinds of activities are necessary to the maintenance of society, let us all stand in our own esteem upon one common high level, never daring to think that one useful occupation is any higher or lower than another. When this subject is fully expanded in life as well as being elaborated in philosophy, the day will quickly come, by prophets long foretold, when all the animals in us will lie down in peace together, as we read in the eleventh chapter of Isaiah. Then when we have become inwardly harmonious, we shall not find it difficult to carry out in private, social, industrial, national, and international affairs, those glorious ideals of harmony which have animated, and which now do truly inspire, all our great philanthropists.
In quietness and confidence we shall ever find our fullest strength. We must learn to work restfully and to rest actively, by blending all our energies in one glorious harmonious work which will overcome competition in all branches of industry by substituting blissful cooperation. You love me and I love you; you help me and I help you; you are my friend and I am yours; your welfare and mine proceed from the same cause, and must be accomplished through the same agencies; I can have no enemies when I am everybody's friend, and I can receive no return of injury when I only send forth goodwill to all humanity.
The greatest of all lessons which we every one of us need to learn, is so to behave in the midst of turmoil that our influence will produce a great calm. Let us smile at those very episodes in our careers which appear most disastrous, and ever determine to employ as our agents those menacing obstacles which threaten our total discomfiture. Thus shall we learn increasingly that in the fulfillment of our several destinies, all of which are included in the great destiny of the human race, our many fates are just so many opportunities for unfolding the power that is within us. Never despair; hope always. Be strong and very courageous. Then through the agency of the very things we have most disliked, we shall scale the mountain heights and become conquerors indeed.
More in this category:| Interior Force—Its Practical Evolution »
More from William Juvenal Colville
- The Influence of the Mind Upon the Body—The Science of Health, and What it Signifies—Becoming One's Own Physician and Thereby Physician to Others
- The Destructive Influence of Fear and Worry—The Bodybuilding, Success-Compelling Influence of Faith and Courage
- The Attractive Power of Thought—How We May Use It Most Effectively—The Influence of the Mind in Molding the Everyday Conditions of Life
- Mental Suggestion—The Human Aura—How We May Attract the Highest Influences From Both the Seen and Unseen Sides of Life
- Sleep, Dreams, and Visions—How We May Gain the Most From Them