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Chapter 8 – As A Man Thinketh
“Mind is the master-power that molds and makes,
And man is mind, and ever more he takes
The tool of thought, and shaping what he wills,
Brings forth a thousand joys, a thousand ills:–
He thinks in secret, and it comes to pass:
Environment is but his looking-glass.”
NATURE does not thrust powers and accomplishments upon us. In her infinite wisdom she left us a work to perform. Endowed by Nature with incipient powers, it was left to man to develop them or not, as he should determine.
Wisely was it ordained when man was created that he should eat his bread by the sweat of his brow. Labor has been the propelling force in man’s progress and advancement in civilization. Without it he would have placed no value on that which satisfies his wants and ministers to his comforts. We value that most which we accomplish by our own efforts, either physical or mental. “Diamonds are found only in the dark places of the earth; truths are found only in the depths of thought,” says Victor Hugo.
That we may have a due appreciation of the forces and powers within us, we must learn to unfold and develop them for ourselves. This we can do only by the exercise of our own thought and will power. If we wish mental power, we can have it only as we exercise the faculties of the mind and thus develop and educate them for the work that devolves upon us. If we wish character, thought is the key to its development. If we desire accomplishment along any chosen line, we must put forth the thought and effort necessary to produce the sought-for results. If we wish to utilize the subjective forces within, only as we properly train the objective mind to play upon them and impress its thought upon them can we expect valuable or important effects.
Cause and effect are written everywhere in the universe. The law of compensation is ever before our eyes. If we would evade it, it steps in our pathway to block our progress. We must ever pay the price. Wherever there is an effect, there was first a cause.
Everything in the universe that we observe, all the varied and marvelous manifestations in Nature, all that takes place in men’s lives, proclaim the truth and universality of this law. From elections to worlds keeping their orbits through infinite space, all things animate and inanimate must obey the positive mandates of this law. This law is as inexorable, unerring, and constant in the mental and spiritual planes as in the physical universe. It is never suspended, never varies; it is fixed and eternal. The same law that the planets obey, that causes the seed to germinate and grow, that brings the recurring seasons with equal precision regulates and controls every thought sent forth from the human mind. Let us consider well what thoughts we entertain, and how we shall send them forth, for they are causes and will in good time come into expression in our own lives. As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he. This wondrous truth is old, and it is new. Its application is new to us every moment of our lives. Its real significance and true meaning were never known until the discovery of modern psychology.
Until we have learned something of the nature of subconscious mind, we can have but a faint understanding of the import of this golden proverb. We must first realize that the subconscious mind has control of the functions and forces of the body; that it is the great mental and spiritual storehouse of man; that it is amenable to every suggestion of the objective or conscious mind; “that the conscious mind acts, the subconscious reacts; the conscious mind produces the impression, the subconscious produces the expression; the conscious mind determines what is to be done, the subconscious supplies the mental material and necessary power,” before we can understand its full meaning and significance.
Translated into modern language, we would say that as a man thinks deeply and reaches down into the subconscious mind and impresses it with his thought the subconscious mind will respond according to the nature of the thought and impression.
Plato said: “Thinking is the talking of the soul with itself.” Thought is dynamic. Thoughts are not things, but the forces back of things; the creators of things. Thought is power, thought is force, thought is cause.
“Our todays are the result of our past thinking, our tomorrows the result of our present thinking. We have been our own mental parents, and we shall be our own mental children. All that a man does and brings to pass is the vesture of thought.”
There is a correspondence between thought and deeds, thoughts and circumstances. Thoughts produce conditions in our physical bodies, in our lives and circumstances, according to the character of those we harbor. Emerson says: “The key to every man is his thought. Sturdy and defying though he look, he has a helm which he obeys, which is the idea after which all his facts are classified. He can only be reformed by showing him a new idea which commands his own,”
Every thought accompanied with deep feeling, or impressed upon the subconscious mind, produces chemical changes and effects upon the body. Thoughts of fear and anxiety disturb the functions of the body and bring weakness and disease. Pleasant, agreeable, and joyful thoughts bring health, strength, and poise.
“The pleasantest things in the world are pleasant thoughts, and the greatest art in life is to have as many of them as possible.”
The laws of mind are fixed, absolute, and eternal. We are the results of the sum total of our thinking. Thoughts are revealed in our faces and manifested in our lives. As we glance in the mirror, we see the reflection of our thoughts. Men foolishly believe their thoughts are their own, and that they may entertain them in secret and keep them to themselves. Thoughts are not secrets; they are not their own. Every thought is registered in the archives of the soul. Thought pencils the lines in the brow. Thought plows furrows in the cheek. Thoughts reveal their character in the expression of the eye. The face is the mirror, reflecting the mind and thought of its possessor.
“Sauntering the pavement or riding the country road, lo! such faces.
Faces of friendship, precision, caution, suavity, ideality!
The spiritual prescient face–the always welcome common benevolent face.
The sacred faces of infants, the illuminated face of the mother of many children.
The face of an amour, the face of veneration.
The face withdrawn of its good and bad, the castrated face;
This now is too lamentable a face for man;
Some abject louse, asking leave to be cringing for it.
This face is a haze more chill than the Arctic sea;
Its sleepy and wobbling icebergs crunch as they go.
The melodious character of the earth,
The finish beyond which philosophy cannot go, and does not wish to go,
The justified mother of men.”
If we but observe, we too can see the faces Whitman saw, as we saunter through the highways and byways of life. Similar faces appear in every street and thoroughfare. Whitman looked through the eyes of the seer, he saw beyond the faces, he recognized the silent causes there registered, he understood. We, too, can look beyond the expression to the cause and understand they were all wrought in the forge of thought. We can almost feel the calculating thought of the man with a face “A haze more chill than the Arctic Sea.” We can see a life of unselfish love back of the face of “The justified mother of men.”
The character of thought betrays itself, not only in the faces of men, but in their lives and characters as well. Thought determines character. Thought is character. James Allen has well said: “Think good thoughts and they will quickly become actualized in your outward life, in the form of good conditions. Control your soul forces, and you will be able to shape your outward life as you will. The difference between a saviour and a sinner is this, that the one has a perfect control of all the forces within him; the other is dominated and controlled by them.
“Dwell in thought upon the grandest,
And the grandest you shall see;
Fix your mind upon the highest,
And the highest you shall be.”
What we sow, that shall we also reap. Some men seem to think this law applies only to outward acts and relates only to the sowing in a physical world. But the same law governs mind and thought.
Thoughts of revenge, hatred, jealousy, envy, and lust affect and mold the character and lives of those who harbor them as certainly as effect follows cause. Sooner or later they will be externalized and manifested in every outward circumstance and condition of life.
Thoughts generate health or toxins in the system according to the kind of thought entertained. Thoughts of malice, fear, hatred, and envy interfere with the normal functions of the body, affect its secretions, generate poisons, resulting in disease. Thoughts of health, thoughts of joy, thoughts of kindness, bring joy and health to him who entertains them and sends them forth.
If we think ourselves inherently bad, we shall reap the fruits of that thought. If we conceive of ourselves as weak and unworthy, as Whitman said, “Asking leave to be,” we shall develop those qualities and actualize them in our daily lives. If we recognize divine attributes as our inheritance, we shall grow into the likeness of those attributes. Whitman said: “I believe in you, my soul–the other I am must not abase itself to you. To me the converging objects of the universe perpetually flow.”
It is the man of conscious power within that wins in life’s contest. He is great, because his thought was first great. The man who is conscious of the potentialities of his own nature and couples energy with that thought, is master of circumstances. He is the magnet that attracts power, attracts success; he is success. A man may have a lofty opinion of himself but as long as he thinks small thoughts he will be small. Man can only become great as he thinks great thoughts, and to think great thoughts he must seek to gain a larger consciousness of real worth and superiority.
Greatness is strength, without egotism. It is power, with a desire that others shall not recognize that power. Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” He did not employ the term “meekness” as the synonym of “weakness.” His thought was that man should be great without parading it, without ostentation: strong without letting it be known. This is the essence of all greatness.
By the law of suggestion the subconscious mind is amenable to the thoughts and impressions it receives from the conscious or objective mind. The subconscious registers the impression which is again given expression in the life and character of the individual. The subconscious faithfully reproduces every mental idea or state contained in the impression. The law is as unerring as the law of gravitation. As is the suggestion, so is the result.
The subconscious is a rich soil, and the seed thought planted therein by the conscious mind will produce according to its kind. If we plant flowers, we shall pluck flowers. If we sow tares, the crop will be tares. The subconscious is an obedient servant. It obeys the thoughts of the conscious mind. What it receives, it reproduces, and its effect is manifested in the personality of the individual. If we sow ideas of diseases, we shall reap a harvest of disease. Thoughts of health will be re-expressed in healthful conditions. If we sow ideas of poverty, that will be our portion. If we sow thoughts of inferiority, weakness, and fear, we shall build a personality devoid of character and strength. Ideals of abundance will produce abundance, if we plus them with intelligence and energy.
In that valuable little volume “The Great Within,” Mr. Christian D. Larson has stated the law well and correctly. “The subconscious mind is a rich mental field: every conscious impression is a seed sown in the field, and will bear fruit after its kind, be the seed good, bad, or otherwise. All thoughts of conviction and deeply felt desires will impress themselves upon the subconscious and will produce their kind, to be later expressed in the personal being of man.”
Since the subconscious is impressed with every earnest and deeply felt thought, it is easy to understand how beliefs stamped upon youthful minds are perpetuated in adult age, whether they are true or false. The subjective mind receives them in an impressionable age, and there they remain and grow throughout the years of life. Certain institutions understand the psychological law perfectly and therefore insist on what they call religious instruction in early life, before they encounter any opposition from auto-suggestion or independent thought. The religious instruction usually consists of teaching certain creeds and dogmas, and in most instances playing upon the emotions to cause their teachings to be impressed upon the subconscious. Fear has been the favorite influence to cause these impressions to become permanent in the subconscious.
These impressions, being ground into the subjective mind, remain to bring forth fruit after their kind in the succeeding years. It is no evidence of their truth that they remain as fixed belief in mature age. Men believe what was impressed on the subconscious mind in early life, because that belief has become so firmly planted therein that it becomes a habit. Habits thus formed in childhood prevent the mind from accepting any line of thought that does not accord with those habits or beliefs. They are accepted as fundamentals, and logic and reason are powerless to overcome them. Yet these habits and beliefs, however firm or fixed they may become, may or may not be true. That they are thus believed in mature life, by men of the highest intellectuality, is no evidence of their truth.
Men of greatest mental attainments differ as widely in their religious beliefs as the opposite poles of the universe. They cannot all be true. The question is asked, Why do intelligent men differ so radically? The explanation lies in a study of psychological law, that the subconscious mind is so thoroughly impressed in childhood that the impression is never eradicated, but remains a fixed and permanent habit and belief through life. Men are compelled to believe as they do by reason of the deep impression on the subconscious mind. These impressions are so strong that they color and warp everything that enters into the mind thereafter, even education itself. Thus education and training become merely servants of our earlier beliefs.
Then, too, ecclesiastical authorities and ecclesiastical reverence are important factors in silencing youthful minds from questioning what they are told. They are taught that they must accept the instruction given, as the final commands of authority, and to make further inquiries would tempt the divine patience. These become deep and lasting impressions on the subconscious mind, the tendencies of which are to preclude further inquiries in later years.
As long as the world continues to cling to the idea that some men are clothed with exclusive authority to teach truth, or that their authority cannot be questioned, so long will they be able to fasten beliefs upon the human mind that reason and judgment cannot dislodge or eradicate.
So long as the child is taught that it is dangerous to think except as his spiritual advisers tell him and that he must accept their interpretation of what has been written, so long will he refuse to see or accept truth or enlarge his conceptions of truth. Whatever his intellectual attainments may be, he is likely to remain a spiritual slave. Mr. Larson has well said, “When you accept anything as final, you bring your mind to a standstill in that sphere of action; and the fact that nearly the whole world has accepted certain spiritual ideas as final is the reason why spirituality –real, living spirituality—is almost unknown today.”
The conscious mind supplies the ideals for the subconscious mind to work to and bring forth into expression. This is a subject for the deepest thought and consideration, and is the key to all true mental training. As is the ideal, so will be the expression. It is of the utmost importance that proper and truthful ideals be always held before the subconscious, for whatever they are they will find expression in the life, character, and personality of the individual.
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