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Mental Suggestion—The Human Aura—How We May Attract the Highest Influences From Both the Seen and Unseen Sides of Life

The title which heads this chapter is a somewhat formidable one, dealing as it does with some of the most perplexing and intricate phases of what is commonly known today as "psychic experience." In the four preceding essays in this volume we hope we have done something in the way of clearing the road for a definite statement of what is meant by Suggestion. As we define the nature of suggestion, it is in no way to be identified in thought with coercion, command, control, or any other word which stands for an idea incompatible with the fullest individual liberty or personal freedom, which is never to be confounded with lawlessness or license both those terms involving disregard of the common requirements of the social order. There are practically no limits to the exercise of beneficial suggestion, though the area in which adverse suggestions can be made to operate is distinctly limited. It becomes necessary at this point again to refer to what we understand to be the natural quality of human nature regardless of its plane of development, so as to present an intelligible base on which to erect the structural edifice of Suggestive Treatment. Our most earnest contention and most serious proposition is that we are all open to good suggestions, while only some of us are open to such as are of inimical varieties; this ground is taken safely as a necessary correlative of our perception of what Nature is in general and human nature in particular. Certain desires and tendencies are common to all living beings, and these all of us certainly share, but none of these are evil; on the contrary, each is good, but only in its rightful place and time. Extreme individualism is far less civilized or advanced than intelligent mutualism, but the rankest individualist professes no shade of ill-will to another; he only claims good for himself Perversions of self-preservative and kindred instincts must never be confounded with the instincts themselves; the instincts are good, though the perversions are evil. There are no evil instincts per se, but we often encounter perverted instincts; these, by means of practically applied suggestive treatment, are all vincible.

We do not say that no disorder exists because we pronounce no disease or discord incurable. It is not the honest detection of error and our protest against its continuance that interferes with our success as moral reformers and mental healers, but only our frequent pessimistic attitude toward a victim of error which disqualifies us from helping a captive to release himself from unseen fetters.

Now that Suggestive Therapeutics is a popular phrase in medical circles, and Bernheim's valuable treatise bearing that caption is being carefully studied in America as well as in Europe, the time is certainly ripe for a sober commonsense discussion of the theme in which the "laity," as well as professional physicians, surgeons and dentists, have a sovereign right to take part. Sidney Flower, editor of the Journal of Medical Hypnotism, issued in Chicago, has taken decided exception to the narrow cliqueism of a fraction of the medical fraternity, as he very wisely urges that not only doctors and professional nurses, but all parents and teachers should have some thorough knowledge of suggestive methods,—not chiefly, perhaps, for vanquishing bodily ailments, but certainly to aid them in the highly necessary work of training the rising generation to live worthy of any high vocations to which they may be called. A right knowledge and practice of suggestion in the nursery and in the schoolroom will go very far indeed toward banishing every vestige of barbarity which has so long hung like a nightmare over educational efforts, all of which have been greatly impaired by lack of knowing how to make learning a delight and the schoolroom and playground merely two harmonious dimensions of an educational center. It is interesting and always profitable to observe how incessantly we express different ideas in closely similar language; that we do so proves that we have by no means lost lingual traces of a time when no such arbitrary distinctions between work and play were imagined as are now far too common. Playing upon musical instruments includes performing in a manner which calls into expression the fullest knowledge of technique, and embraces what in other words might be called extremely hard work. The harmonious play of our varied faculties, and many similar expressions, such as bringing latent forces or capabilities into play, shows that the original idea of play was inseparable from that of work, and vice versa. We need now to restore the original connection and identify the thought of doing good work with the fullest and freest enjoyment of all that pertains to our normal existence. Suggestion in the infant schoolroom, nursery, or kindergarten must commence with the root idea of pleasantry and easy stimulating to action of a dormant, though really present and ready-to-become-active, power. A phrenological bust or chart is often very helpful because it embodies abstract ideas in concrete imagery so that everyone can see what is meant by giving a mental treatment in a scientific manner. At the present moment certain faculties, or commodities of the brain as they are sometimes called, are very active in some persons but very inactive in others. The most effective suggestion can always be made by one in whom a certain quality is strongly in evidence to one in whom that quality is as yet only in a state of dormancy. It is, of course, much easier in a large percentage of cases successfully to suggest to another person than it is to help yourself; and that for the following among other easily comprehended reasons. Primarily, when you are in need of some special helpful suggestion, you are usually in a state of mental or moral darkness or depression, even when not suffering from any conscious physical disability. To treat yourself when you are in the deep shadows is no easy task, and you are really in no condition to do it. Your extremity is another's opportunity, just as at some future time another's need will constitute your similar opportunity. We must stand ever ready to help and to be helped, and as it is no disgrace to render aid, it is no disgrace to receive assistance. This is a portion of the general subject which needs strong ethical treatment, because too many people are to be found who enjoy the dignified, self-important feeling which comes with rendering help to others, but are too proud to place themselves as they should on a footing of equality with others by taking as a life motto (than which none better can be selected), "I'll help you and you'll help me." It is exactly this sense of mutuality of which we stand sorely in need at present everywhere. Beggar and lord as pictured in the old song, "London Bridge," are still amongst us in feeling as well as in outward expression, and no matter how many ulterior steps may be taken to relieve actual poverty, so long as a domineering spirit prevails on the one hand and a beggarly servile temper on the other, would-be reformers will inveigh in vain against the piteous inequalities which today prevail, many of which are easily remedied and quite unnecessary.

Suggestions are often made quite unconsciously, and just as unconsciously are they taken up and acted upon.

The scientific investigation of the psychic realm now being undertaken is very praiseworthy and is productive of real good in many a community; but, useful though such investigation be, it must not for a moment be imagined, though suggestions can be given and taken at will and also rejected at pleasure, that the entire ground or even the major portion of territory covered by suggestion is traversed when we allude exclusively to that noble philosophic aspect of suggestive action which happily promises to inaugurate a new era in education and medicine alike.

Suggestions are made very powerfully upon little children and unborn babes quite without the knowledge or desire of either the one making or the one receiving the suggestion. So much is this the case that the whole story of heredity can be written from this standpoint and truthfully from no other. The Greek mothers, yea, and fathers also, in the palmiest days of Greek supremacy, knew much of this, and turned their knowledge to excellent account by treating the wives of their race with almost divine honors, as well as with tender affection and unfaltering esteem. The real ego, the essential entity or primal soul (sol), is not affected from the standpoint of what it truly is by heredity or any other environment; but, though this essentially divine center of universal consciousness cannot be intrinsically impaired or unaltered, it would be contrary to all human experience to deny that the mind (mens)—from which we derive such words as mental and mentality—is influenced both by antenatal and postnatal impressions made upon it.

The primal nature, the pure, changeless, in- corruptible essence of life, is untarnishable, but the intellectual and physical media through which entities are expressed are built up by suggestion from the moment of conception on- ward. The babe in the womb is more susceptible than even the infant at the breast; then on through all stages of adolescence susceptibility lessens on the involuntary side, till, with the approach of what we call maturity, voluntary susceptibility begins commandingly to assert itself The strong-willed young man or woman scorns and repulses the thought of being compelled to do anything, no matter how good the thing proposed in itself may be; but exactly in proportion as compulsory obedience ends, voluntary submission asserts itself with matchless power. It is the budding maturity, the incipient manhood or womanhood in your children, which makes them what you call so headstrong and rebellious. Great is the error of supposing that what is called self-will or willfulness is wrong, and ought to be mastered. Never should we attempt to repress or suppress it. It needs training or directing, but never ought we to make war upon it or regard it as other than a necessary, indeed a highly important, element in our economy.

The right sort of suggestion is always an appeal to will, never from it. Will is that which gives us strength of character and the disposition to be, as Longfellow puts it, not "dumb driven cattle," but "heroes in the strife." What this strife is may be a little problematical, and as the word suggests battle and seems to justify the crude idea of a "sinful" nature to be overcome, we prefer to give it a purely alchemical or Rosicrucian interpretation. The lower must die; the lamb must be slain; we must celebrate our own Passover and accomplish our exodus or journey out of a lower into a higher state of conscious life. As we are making the transit we find ourselves in a perplexed, unsettled condition because we are ignorant as yet of the true worth and meaning of the material at our disposal. The most awkward and uncomfortable periods in our career are those which we may well call "moving-times." We sit down in the lowest place at the banquet of life, and then we are called in due season to "come up higher." Though the call is to promotion, we are confronted with doubt and mystery; the untrodden future we shrink from, even though assured that it is an advance upon its past. At such times or in such crises we need the help of those who have taken the step which we are about to take; a good midwife is required to cut the umbilical cord which binds us to the past and set us free to have a freer life than was aforetime possible.

All natural, orderly external processes correspond precisely to some interior state; therefore, the intelligent mental scientist is also a physical scientist, one who can appreciate both sides—the inside and outside—of a complex experience. There can be no legal divorce between the seen and the unseen, for the two are only different sides of the same thing.

All situations can be viewed psychically or inwardly, also physically or outwardly, and it needs to be taught that what is good on the one side is never bad on the other, and vice versa. Negative suggestions are often harmful even when well-intentioned, because they offend and confuse in places where affirmative statements to the same intentional effect would be kindly received and help to unravel a tangled and perplexing skein of trying experiences.

Suggestions to be truly valuable must be, not only affirmative in general, but also in specific character, though even the most general statements on the right side of things are by no means to be despised. Suggestions are of several varieties, among which silent and oral suggestions play an almost equally important part. Sometimes the one and sometimes the other sort will prove the more effective. For instance, should you desire to help a friend at a distance who cannot enjoy a personal interview with you, if you can but annihilate the sense of distance in your consciousness you can just as readily communicate with a person, telepathically, a thousand or more miles away, as with one who stands physically at your elbow. If, however, you cannot get rid of the feeling of remoteness, you are probably not able to effect the needed thought-transfer. Some persons will receive suggestions from you immediately, even though they are total strangers to you, while others whom you number among your oldest and best friends may prove totally non-receptive.

There are several reasons for this seeming discrepancy, among which the following are frequent. According to the idea of Emerson—as stated in his essay on Circles—and of many other gifted seers, there are persons who belong to us and to whom we belong in a specially close degree or far more intimate manner than that in which we all belong to one another in the Grand Circle of Humanity. As in Ezekiel's vision wheels are found within wheels, so are there families within families and states within states. One brother or sister certainly is nearer to you than another, and that on account of some subtle spiritual relationship, often difficult to define. As these relationships exist and prove themselves far beyond the limit of family connections, it often is discovered that two persons utterly unknown to each other except spiritually will succeed in communicating mentally in the most convincing manner, while the nearest of blood relations will be unable thus mentally to correspond.

Suggestions made to you by any one of these, your spiritual relatives, are apt to be very acceptable, because of the genial accompaniment you distinctly feel, even though you may be unable to define it or explain it. Another (and less remote from the ordinary) explanation of success in one case and not in the other in the suggestive field is that some people are magnetically agreeable to each other; again, in other instances, intellectually companionable in consequence of something distinctive in their personal condition or cast of thought. As we grow in the faculty of discrimination we outgrow all harsh repulsions; we never feel unkindly to people; therefore, in a very true sense we are repelled by none; but, though ill feeling becomes extinct, good feeling becomes more clearly defined, and we learn to find and keep our proper places in society instead of blindly dropping in anywhere, and vainly imagining because we can all do something useful there is no need of symmetry.

Symmetry is that delightful blending, that veritably divine concord of excellencies which robs a noble life of all semblance to monotony and affords perfect scope for the fullest possible expression of every faculty with which we are severally and collectively endowed. So mysterious to many people appears the question of human aura, so mixed up has the subject been with the most fantastic varieties of occultism, that it needs much skill on the part of one who writes for the public at large to deal intelligently with this somewhat obscure mystery. We cannot hope in brief space to do more than point toward an explanation of this mysterious reality, but if we approach its consideration entirely free from prejudice or preconception, we shall find much of the mystery quickly vanish as we employ well-known words in which to elucidate this problem. Effluvium, exhalation, and emanation are common words; nimbus and aureola are familiar to all art students and many others. The above five words—all of which are in general use—will suffice to introduce the reader into the very heart of the topic of our respective auras : what these auric emanations are, and how we can and do vary them, sometimes for better, sometimes for worse, often quite unconsciously, but occasionally as a direct act of our volition.

The fragrance of a flower suggests the actual giving forth from a plant which has produced the flower of something inseparable from its peculiar nature; consequently one variety of vegetable cannot possibly give forth the aroma peculiar to another. So powerful are the mental or psychic as well as physical effects produced by different varieties of plant life, that the use of herbs has always been extensive among those who have sought by outward means to induce clairvoyance, ecstasy, or some other phase of psychical activity.

The animal possesses a much more powerful aura than any plant, and so strongly do many people feel the influence of animal emanations—and so diversely are different people affected by them—that the presence of a large, powerful animal of any species may be delightfully agreeable to one person and most distressing to someone else within the radius of its exhalations.

When Oriental teachers tell us that the Adepts of the East can with impunity invade the jungle and suffer no harm, even though they make the close acquaintance of lions, tigers, and other ferocious animals, they are not romancing, because if there be just such people living on earth as they call Adepts, these singularly developed men and women can certainly dominate all animal propensities external to themselves, seeing that they have first completely mastered the entire animal kingdom or economy within themselves. It is equally true that such highly developed men and women must be wonderful healers of the sick and reformers of the vicious, because from them must go forth a healing and elevating elixir—the natural and inevitable outcome of their interior condition.

Many of the finest painters have been clairvoyant to such an extent that they have seen the nimbus or glory with which they have encircled the head of a saint and which they have placed around the entire person of one whom they intend should represent a perfected humanity. The most curious mistake made by Angelo in his painting of Moses was the introduction of horns, which are grotesque, upon the forehead of the glorious leader of the host of Israel through the wilderness. This extraordinary and thoroughly inartistic disfigurement of an otherwise noble painting proves how strangely misled must these translators of the Pentateuch have been, from whose mistranslation Angelo drew material for a picture of Moses, who is said to have been in so radiant a condition after receiving the Law on Sinai that the people begged him to veil his countenance when he addressed them, because they could not bear the dazzling light proceeding from it.

This ancient story is one that closely concerns the human aura, which becomes so intensely luminous, owing to states of great interior elevation, that some glimpses are caught of the literal meaning of the account of the transfiguration of Jesus when it is said that on Mount Tabor the whole person of the Master became so illumined that his three nearest disciples, Peter, James and John, fell, with their faces to the earth, unable to endure the brightness of his glorified presence.

The spiritual body, which is the real organic structure to which the physical shape simply corresponds, becomes so luminous when the divine soul fully possesses it that this true form, after which the physique is patterned, so transfigures its inferior facsimile as to render that for the nonce too bright for ordinary vision to endure. These transcendental stories of the great and pure minds which have specially illumined the world by their work and influence are no idle dreams of rhapsodic poets, but actual histories and still more glowing prophecies.

Our aura it is that protects us against the inroads of disease by rendering whoever generates it in abundant measure and of high quality no super-susceptible to all forms of germs or bacilli which can find entrance into unprotected bodies, but are effectually excluded from well-defended temples. How easy it is to illustrate the profoundest scientific verities by simple allusions to everyday occurrences on the most external planes of action, if we do but resolutely set to work to trace the obvious correspondence between the seen and unseen or the inner and outer aspects of existence! Negative, unprotected persons who have simply failed to develop any powerful or characteristic auric belt around them, are in a chronic condition resembling that of unscreened windows in summer time, through which all kinds of insects can enter the house.

When you suggest to a housekeeper to employ wire blinds or mosquito netting, you are not telling her that there is something in her dwelling which attracts flies, gnats, or other insects; you merely advise her to put up a barrier over which they cannot pass. The above commonplace illustration has proved helpful to hundreds of students who have been all "at sea" and grievously perplexed by trying to find what special sinful or erroneous thoughts they have been encouraging to invite the distressing disorders which afflict them.

Rays of practical comfort and help shine on their darkened pathway immediately you make to them, in all kindness, the helpful and not unpleasant or fault-finding suggestion that, though they may not have been doing any particular things which they ought not to have done, they have been ignorantly omitting to do some simple necessary things which they ought to have done and can begin to do directly.

So much for that branch of the inquiry, from which we now turn to the positive effects of encouraging right or righteous thoughts, all of which have a drawing power peculiarly their own. There are three things we need to remember: First, all thoughts attract their own kind, and in proportion to the intensity of a thought is its attractive force. Second, it is impossible to think of nothing; therefore, it is indispensable to our highest welfare to cultivate that excellent state of mind recommended by the apostle Paul and strongly insisted upon by Gladstone when addressing young men who applied to him for counsel, "Whatsoever things are excellent" think on these things!' Third, the unseen universe encloses the visible, for it is a case of the larger including the smaller; consequently we need not concern ourselves about the how, though the why of our attracting certain definite sorts of influence is a matter of paramount importance.

When the three foregoing propositions are mastered to something like an adequate degree, the mystery of "mediumship" and much else that is today cloudy will have grown transparent. Always let us suggest the highest to ourselves and others, and the results cannot be other than progressively beneficial in every case in which suggestion is employed in any appropriate manner to the case in hand.

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William Juvenal Colville

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