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The Way Mind Through the Subconscious Builds Body
When one says that he numbers among his acquaintances some who are as
old at sixty as some others are at eighty, he but gives expression to a
fact that has become the common possession of many. I have known those
who at fifty-five and sixty were to all intents and purposes really
older, more decrepit, and rapidly growing still more decrepit both in
mind and body, than many another at seventy and seventy-five and even at
History, then, is replete with instances, memorable instances, of
people, both men and women, who have accomplished things at an age -- who
have even begun and carried through to successful completion things at
an age that would seem to thousands of others, in the captivity of age,
with their backs to the future, ridiculous even to think of
accomplishing, much less of beginning. On account of a certain law that
has always seemed to me to exist and that I am now firmly convinced is
very exact in its workings, I have been interested in talking with
various ones and in getting together various facts relative to this
great discrepancy in the ages of these two classes of "old" people.
Within the year I called upon a friend whom, on account of living in a
different portion of the country, I hadn't seen for nearly ten years.
Conversation revealed to me the fact that he was then in his
eighty-eighth year. I could notice scarcely a change in his appearance,
walk, voice, and spirit. We talked at length upon the various,
so-called, periods of life. He told me that about the only difference
that he noticed in himself as compared with his middle life was that now
when he goes out to work in his garden, and among his trees, bushes, and
vines -- and he has had many for many years -- he finds that he is quite
ready to quit and to come in at the end of about two hours, and
sometimes a little sooner, when formerly he could work regularly without
fatigue for the entire half day. In other words, he has not the same
degree of endurance that he once had.
Among others, there comes to mind in this connection another who is a
little under seventy. It chances to be a woman. She is bent and decrepit
and growing more so by very fixed stages each twelvemonth. I have known
her for over a dozen years. At the time when I first knew her she was
scarcely fifty-eight, she was already bent and walked with an
uncertain, almost faltering tread. The dominant note of her personality
was then as now, but more so now, fear for the present, fear for the
future, a dwelling continually on her ills, her misfortunes, her
symptoms, her approaching and increasing helplessness.
Such cases I have observed again and again; so have all who are at all
interested in life and in its forces and its problems. What is the cause
of this almost world-wide difference in these two lives? In this case it
is as clear as day -- the mental characteristics and the mental habits of
In the first case, here was one who early got a little philosophy into
his life and then more as the years passed. He early realised that in
himself his good or his ill fortune lay; that the mental attitude we
take toward anything determines to a great extent our power in
connection with it, as well as its effects upon us. He grew to love his
work and he did it daily, but never under high pressure. He was
therefore benefited by it. His face was always to the future, even as it
is today. This he made one of the fundamental rules of his life. He was
helped in this, he told me in substance, by an early faith which with
the passing of the years has ripened with him into a demonstrable
conviction -- that there is a Spirit of Infinite Life back of all,
working in love in and through the lives of all, and that in the degree
that we realise it as the one Supreme Source of our lives, and when
through desire and will, which is through the channel of our thoughts,
we open our lives so that this Higher Power can work definitely in and
through us, and then go about and do our daily work without fears or
forebodings, the passing of the years sees only the highest good
entering into our lives.
In the case of the other one whom we have mentioned, a repetition seems
scarcely necessary. Suffice it to say that the common expression on the
part of those who know her -- I have heard it numbers of times -- is: "What
a blessing it will be to herself and to others when she has gone!"
A very general rule with but few exceptions can be laid down as follows:
The body ordinarily looks as old as the mind thinks and feels.
Shakespeare anticipated by many years the best psychology of the times
when he said: "It is the mind that makes the body rich."
It seems to me that our great problem, or rather our chief concern,
should not be so much how to stay young in the sense of possessing all
the attributes of youth, for the passing of the years does bring
changes, but how to pass gracefully, and even magnificently, and with
undiminished vigour from youth to middle age, and then how to carry that
middle age into approaching old age, with a great deal more of the
vigour and the outlook of middle life than we ordinarily do.
The mental as well as the physical helps that are now in the possession
of this our generation, are capable of working a revolution in the lives
of many who are or who may become sufficiently awake to them, so that
with them there will not be that -- shall we say -- immature passing from
middle life into a broken, purposeless, decrepit, and sunless, and one
might almost say, soulless old age.
It seems too bad that so many among us just at the time that they have
become of most use to themselves, their families, and to the world,
should suddenly halt and then continue in broken health, and in so many
cases lie down and die. Increasing numbers of thinking people the world
over are now, as never before, finding that this is not necessary, that
something is at fault, that that fault is in ourselves. If so, then
reversely, the remedy lies in ourselves, in our own hands, so to speak.
In order to actualise and to live this better type of life we have got
to live better from both sides, both the mental and the physical, this
with all due respect to Shakespeare and to all modern mental
The body itself, what we term the physical body, whatever may be the
facts regarding a finer spiritual body within it all the time giving
form to and animating and directing all its movements, is of material
origin, and derives its sustenance from the food we take, from the air
we breathe, the water we drink. In this sense it is from the earth, and
when we are through with it, it will go back to the earth.
The body, however, is not the Life; it is merely the material agency
that enables the Life to manifest in a material universe for a certain,
though not necessarily a given, period of time. It is the Life, or the
Soul, or the Personality that uses, and that in using shapes and moulds,
the body and that also determines its strength or its weakness. When
this is separated from the body, the body at once becomes a cold, inert
mass, commencing immediately to decompose into the constituent material
elements that composed it -- literally going back to the earth and the
elements whence it came.
It is through the instrumentality or the agency of thought that the
Life, the Self, uses, and manifests through, the body. Again, while it
is true that the food that is taken and assimilated nourishes, sustains
and builds the body, it is also true that the condition and the
operation of the mind through the avenue of thought determines into what
shape or form the body is so builded. So in this sense it is true that
mind builds body; it is the agency, the force that determines the
shaping of the material elements.
Here is a wall being built. Bricks are the material used in its
construction. We do not say that the bricks are building the wall; we
say that the mason is building it, as is the case. He is using the
material that is supplied him, in this case bricks, giving form and
structure in a definite, methodical manner. Again, back of the mason is
his mind, acting through the channel of his thought, that is directing
his hands and all his movements. Without this guiding, directing force no wall could take shape, even if millions of bricks were delivered upon
So it is with the body. We take the food, the water, we breathe the air;
but this is all and always acted upon by a higher force. Thus it is that
mind builds body, the same as in every department of our being it is the
great builder. Our thoughts shape and determine our features, our walk,
the posture of our bodies, our voices; they determine the effectiveness
of our mental and our physical activities, as well as all our relations
with and influence or effects upon others.
You say: "I admit the operation of and even in certain cases the power
of thought, also that at times it has an influence upon our general
feelings, but I do not admit that it can have any direct influence upon
the body." Here is one who has allowed herself to be long given to
grief, abnormally so -- notice her lowered physical condition, her lack of
vitality. The New York papers within the past twelve months recorded the
case of a young lady in New Jersey who, from constant grieving over
the death of her mother, died, fell dead, within a week.
A man is handed a telegram. He is eating and enjoying his dinner. He
reads the contents of the message. Almost immediately afterward, his
body is a-tremble, his face either reddens or grows "ashy white," his
appetite is gone; such is the effect of the mind upon the stomach that
it literally refuses the food; if forced upon it, it may reject it
A message is delivered to a lady. She is in a genial, happy mood. Her
face whitens; she trembles and her body falls to the ground in a faint,
temporarily helpless, apparently lifeless. Such are the intimate
relations between the mind and the body. Raise a cry of fire in a
crowded theatre. It may be a false alarm. There are among the audience
those who become seemingly palsied, powerless to move. It is the state
of the mind, and within several seconds, that has determined the state
of these bodies. Such are examples of the wonderfully quick influence of
the mind on the body.
Great stress, or anxiety, or fear, may in two weeks' or even in two
days' time so work its ravages that the person looks ten years or even
twenty years older. A person has been long given to worry, or perhaps to
worry in extreme form though not so long -- a well-defined case of
indigestion and general stomach trouble, with a generally lowered and
sluggish vitality, has become pronounced and fixed.
Any type of thought that prevails in our mental lives will in time
produce its correspondences in our physical lives. As we understand
better these laws of correspondences, we will be more careful as to the
types of thoughts and emotions we consciously, or unwittingly, entertain
and live with. The great bulk of all diseases, we will find, as we are
continually finding more and more, are in the mind before being in the
body, or are generated in the body through certain states and conditions
The present state and condition of the body have been produced primarily
by the thoughts that have been taken by the conscious mind into the
subconscious, that is so intimately related to and that directs all the
subconscious and involuntary functions of the body. Says one: It may be
true that the mind has had certain effects upon the body; but to be able consciously to affect the body through the mind is impossible and even
unthinkable, for the body is a solid, fixed, material form.
We must get over the idea, as we quickly will, if we study into the
matter, that the body, in fact anything that we call material and solid,
is really solid. Even in the case of a piece of material as "solid" as a
bar of steel, the atoms forming the molecules are in continual action
each in conjunction with its neighbour. In the last analysis the body is
composed of cells -- cells of bone, vital organ, flesh, sinew. In the body
the cells are continually changing, forming and reforming. Death would
quickly take place were this not true. Nature is giving us a new body
practically every year.
There are very few elements, cells, in the body of today that were there
a year ago. The rapidity with which a cut or wound on the body is
replaced by healthy tissue, the rapidity with which it heals, is an
illustration of this. One "touches" himself in shaving. In a week,
sometimes in less than a week, if the blood and the cell structure be
particularly healthy, there is no trace of the cut, the formation of new
cell tissue has completely repaired it. Through the formation of new
cell structure the life-force within, acting through the blood, is able
to rebuild and repair, if not too much interfered with, very rapidly.
The reason, we may say almost the sole reason, that surgery has made
such great advances during the past few years, so much greater
correspondingly than medicine, is on account of a knowledge of the
importance of and the use of antiseptics -- keeping the wound clean and
entirely free from all extraneous matter.
So then, the greater portion of the body is really new, therefore young,
in that it is almost entirely this year's growth. Newness of form is
continually being produced in the body by virtue of this process of
perpetual renewal that is continually going on, and the new cells and
tissues are just as new as is the new leaf that comes forth in the
springtime to take the place of and to perform the same functions as the
one that was thrown off by the tree last autumn.
The skin renews itself through the casting off of used cells (those that
have already performed their functions) most rapidly, taking but a few
weeks. The muscles, the vital organs, the entire arterial system, the
brain and the nervous system all take longer, but all are practically
renewed within a year, some in much less time. Then comes the bony
structure, taking the longest, varying, we are told, from seven and
eight months to a year, in unusual cases fourteen months and longer.
It is, then, through this process of cell formation that the physical
body has been built up, and through the same process that it is
continually renewing itself. It is not therefore at any time or at any
age a solid fixed mass or material, but a structure in a continually
changing fluid form. It is therefore easy to see how we have it in our
power, when we are once awake to the relations between the conscious
mind and the subconscious -- and it in turn in its relations to the
various involuntary and vital functions of the body -- to determine to a
great extent how the body shall be built or how it shall be rebuilt.
Mentally to live in any state or attitude of mind is to take that state
or condition into the subconscious. The subconscious mind does and
always will produce in the body after its own kind. It is through this
law that we externalise and become in body what we live in our minds. If
we have predominating visions of and harbour thoughts of old age and
weakness, this state, with all its attendant circumstances, will become
externalised in our bodies far more quickly than if we entertain
thoughts and visions of a different type. Said Archdeacon Wilberforce in
a notable address in Westminster Abbey some time ago: "The recent
researches of scientific men, endorsed by experiments in the Salpétrière
in Paris, have drawn attention to the intensely creative power of
suggestions made by the conscious mind to the subconscious mind."
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