Our Relations to Environment
The threads which connect us with objective things are woven into our life-fabric, and determine its quality. This is true in its application alike to circumstances, events, principles, and persons. We are not only influenced and modified by relations, but are made by them. The ego is the vital centre of a network of derived, shared, and related ties over which vibrations are continually passing. The ideal condition to be sought is harmony with the cosmic order.
It is apparent that if the quality of relations determines character, a consideration of our power to modify and improve them becomes of great importance. There are but two possible ways in which changes in our relations to the external world can take place. One involves an alteration in the objective things or circumstances themselves,—either through our own efforts or those of others,—and the other, a change in ourselves, or in our attitude and disposition towards them.
"We find, however, that our power to reconstruct, or even to modify, outside conditions, in order to mould them to our liking, is exceedingly limited. To improve our external surroundings we may, perhaps, move from place to place, and thus find new conditions and society; but even when this is practicable, it does not always furnish the desired improvement. Our duties or business will not always admit of such experiments, even if they were uniformly successful. In removing ourselves from the presence of seeming ills, we are liable "to fly to others which we know not of."
But our closest and most real environment is that of our own mentality, or thought world, which we carry with us, and which cannot be readily altered by a mere change of locality. A moment's consideration will show that a vast majority of the ills that encompass us are of our own making, and belong to our own economy. They are not a real part of us, however, though they may often seem so to be.
Our limited ability to control external conditions so as to ideally shape and color them, makes it evident that the main field for improvement lies at our own end of the lines of relationship. From our spiritual centre or ego radiate lines which connect us with every part of the universe of God. Invisible telegraphic wires keep us in communication with every material object and spiritual entity, and currents of attraction or repulsion are ever crossing over them. Everything is sending its message to us. The stars, the sky, the cloud, the air, heat, cold, the landscape, the flower,—each and all are transmitting their communications to our consciousness. Events, transactions, joys, fears, good and ill, all flash their varied and peculiar dispatches to the heart of our being,—the ego.
Are we weak and passive recipients of all these discordant sounds? and are we bound to receive them as unwelcome? or can we, in great measure, transform and harmonize their significance? These are not mere questions of curious speculation or metaphysical abstraction, but of intense and living practicality. If it be in any degree possible, through spiritual culture and unfoldment, to improve and rule our relations, rather than to remain in utter subjection to them, we should be alive to such an opportunity and privilege. We frequently say what we will do "under the circumstances;” but is there a possibility that we can get over the circumstances? Is there a kind of spiritual alchemy at our command, by which the freight of base metal which comes to us over the lines of relationship may be transmuted into the fine gold of utility and harmony?
Spiritual problems, like those of mathematics, are solved by scientific rules because they have a similar exactitude. Let us suggest a proposition which everyone may utilize in some degree, and which, if observed, may prove an "open sesame” to higher conditions, and then test it as we try a key in the wards of a lock. The messages that we receive over all the multiform invisible wires of relationship are the exact reflection and correspondence of those we send out. Even though we fail to recognize their features, they are of our own design and engraving. Our own thought regarding person, place, state, or thing is flashed back, even though we may not identify it.
Let us try to bring out this principle of universal application by means of a simple illustration. A nervously sensitive person lives upon a noisy city thoroughfare. For some reason it is not practicable for him to remove to a more quiet locality. The roar of traffic over pavements and the buzz of electric cars become intolerable, and prevent repose by day and by night. The sensitive one is antagonized, and sends out a current of unreconciled and rebellious thought, and in return each rumble and buzz telegraphs back its harsh and troublesome message. Now apply the rule. Though at first it seem mechanical, and even absurd, let the sensitive one affirm and send out thoughts: "That noise is music to my ears; that roar is necessary, and it is therefore good. It conduces to the convenience of many whose comfort I highly value. It shall not be evil to me, for I will make it good. I am learning to love its music, and I will send out no other thought. I actually enjoy it."
Let the nervous person faithfully persevere in the course indicated for a few weeks, and see if the roar does not become a veritable lullaby. What a boon if we can transform stumbling-blocks into steppingstones! We become despondent, and perhaps ill, because we think things are against us; and each thing sends back a transcript with the same coloring. Two persons experience similar pains or illnesses. One regards his experience as an unmitigated calamity, undeserved, without good cause, and only evil. Things are against him; and he is impatient and rebellious, or else wilts before them. In either case intensity is added. Every sensation thus voices back his own thought. The other person soliloquizes: "This experience is educational and necessary, else it would not exist. All law is beneficent, even that which produced this result; and it must tend toward my spiritual development, and is therefore good. I cheerfully accept this teaching, and will profit by it. In the future I will try to avoid past mistakes, and 'think no evil.'“ The judgment is thereby accepted, the suffering fades out, and the seeming evil becomes a good; and all for the reason that the good thought came back like an harmonious echo.
The law of non-resistance is immutable and divine. "But I say unto you that ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” "Absurd!” says the worldly policy. But non-resistance conquers. Rising superior to the affront, it transforms the whole transaction. Again, "Love your enemies,” and so they are overcome and changed into friends. The "enemy” may not always be a person, but possibly an event, an illness, a seeming calamity, a fear, or misfortune. As soon as messages of love are sent to them,—which may be in the shape of a realization that seeming evils are really good in disguise,—they lose the hostile attitude which they have occupied in our consciousness. They remove their repugnant masks, and are found to be friends. We must resolve that nothing shall antagonize us. Whether here or hereafter, unlimited antagonism is hell. As we repel things, they repel us.
But should we not antagonize evil? Only by showing a better way. It may be admitted that in the present evolutionary stage of society, civil governments must possess executive force; but even now the law of non-resistance is available for the individual. As rapidly as unselfishness comes into recognition, not only as the highest, but as the most profitable law, governments will become organized channels for altruism.
In proportion to its intensity, antagonism is suicidal. How many allow trivial matters, even possibly mere questions of taste and fancy, to make them critical and uncomfortable. Individuals, sects, and parties antagonize each other, not so much for what they really are, as for what subjective coloring makes them appear to be. The quality of environment is largely what we make it. If we recognize and emphasize the negative and evil, even with purpose of correction, we not only unwittingly aid in bringing it into manifestation, but we receive it back with interest.
Thought is a projectile which always hits the target; and if silently telegraphed specifically, or even at random, it is gathered up and echoed back in like grade and measure. Love "thinketh no evil” is one of Paul's scientific declarations. We must learn to control our thoughts rather than let them control us. If left to their own free course, without discipline and supervision, then, like a rudderless boat, we become the sport of every passing breeze and current. The will must exercise itself in the selection of right thought material. "With what measure ye mete it shall be measured to you again.” This is even a truer philosophy of thought interchange than of transactions of a material nature. Every sound, whether of harmony or discord, has its corresponding echo.
God, being the sum-total of all our other relations, must have our supremest homage and love. Messages of aspiration, oneness, and communion, flashed out from our end of the line of his relationship, come back in vibrations, sweet, heavenly, and harmonious. The law of attraction and correspondence is universal. As sons of God we should, through law, reign over the realms below us. The divine element in humanity is creative, and must be exercised. Thus we may evolve good, and bring it into manifestation. While "we may not at once be able to attain to that altitude where the universal beneficence of the divine order is fully apparent, we may climb and aspire, and each step will open up a broader horizon of the real.