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Chapter 1 - The Principle
Would you find that wonderful life supernal, That life so abounding, so rich, and so free? Seek then the laws of the Spirit Eternal, With them bring your life into harmony.
How can I make life yield its fullest and best? How can I know the true secret of power? How can I attain to a true and lasting greatness? How can I fill the whole of life with a happiness, a peace, a joy, a satisfaction that is ever rich and abiding, that ever increases, never diminishes, that imparts to it a sparkle that never loses its lustre, that ever fascinates, never wearies?
No questions, perhaps, in this form or in that have been asked oftener than these. Millions in the past have asked them. Millions are asking them today. They will be asked by millions yet unborn. Is there an answer, a true and safe one for the millions who are eagerly and longingly seeking for it in all parts of the world today, and for the millions yet unborn who will as eagerly strive to find it as the years come and go? Are you interested, my dear reader, in the answer? The fact that you have read even thus far in this little volume, whose title has led you to take it up, indicates that you are -- that you are but one of the innumerable company already mentioned.
It is but another way of asking that great question that has come through all the ages: What is the summum bonum , the supreme good in life?, and there have been countless numbers who gladly would have given all they possessed to have had the true and satisfactory answer. Can we then find this answer, true and satisfactory to ourselves; surely the brief time spent together must be counted as the most precious and valuable of life itself. There is an answer : follow closely, and that our findings may be the more conclusive, take issue with me at every step if you choose, but tell me finally if it is not true and satisfactory.
There is one great, one simple principle, which if firmly laid hold of, and if made the great central principle in one's life, around which all others properly arrange and subordinate themselves, will make that life a grand success, truly great and genuinely happy, loved and blessed by all in just the degree in which it is laid hold upon. A principle which, if universally made thus, would wonderfully change this old world in which we live, that would transform it almost in a night. And it is for its coming that the world has long been waiting; that in place of the gloom and despair in almost countless numbers of lives would bring light and hope and contentment, and no longer would it be said as so truly today, that “man's inhumanity to man makes countless thousands mourn.” It would bring to the life of the fashionable society woman, now spending her days and her nights in seeking for nothing but her own pleasure, such a flood of true and genuine pleasure and happiness and satisfaction as would make the poor, weak something she calls by this name so pale before it, that she would quickly see that she has not known what true pleasure is, and that what she has been mistaking for the real, the genuine, is but as a baser metal compared to the purest of gold, as a bit of cut glass compared to the rarest of diamonds, and that would make this same woman who scarcely notices the poor woman who washes her front steps, but who, were the facts known, may be living a much grander life, and consequently of much more value to the world than she herself, see that this poor woman is after all her sister; because child of the same Eternal Father. It would make the humble life of this same poor woman beautiful and happy and sweet in its humility, and would give us a nation of statesmen in place of, with now and then an exception, a nation of politicians, each one bent upon his own personal aggrandizement at the expense of the general good. It would go far, very far, toward solving our great and hard-pressing social problems with which we are already face to face; and, in short, would make each man a prince among men, and each woman a queen among women.
I have seen the supreme happiness in lives where this principle has been caught and laid hold of, some lives that seemed not to have much in them before, but which under its wonderful influences have been so transformed and so beautified, that have been made so sweet and so strong, so useful and so precious, that each day seems to them all too short, the same time that before, when they could scarcely see what was in life to make it worth the living, dragged wearily along. So there are countless numbers of people in the world with lives that seem not to have much in them among the wealthy classes and among the poorer, who might under the influence of this great, this simple principle, make them so precious, so rich, and so happy, that time would seem only too short, and they would wonder why they have been so long running on the wrong track, for it is true that much the larger portion of the world today is on the wrong track in the pursuit of happiness; but almost all are there, let it be said, not through choice, but by reason of not knowing the right, the true one.
The fact that really great, true, and happy lives have been lived in the past and are being lived today gives us our starting-point. Time and again I have examined such lives in a most careful endeavour to find what has made them so, and have found that in each and every individual case, this that we have now come to has been the great central principle upon which they have been built. I have also found that in numbers of lives where it has not been, but where almost every effort apart from it has been made to make them great, true, and happy, they have not been so; and also that no life built upon it in sufficient degree, other things being equal, has failed in being thus.
Let us then to the answer, examine it closely, see if it will stand every test, if it is the true one, and if so, rejoice that we have found it, lay hold of it, build upon it, tell others of it. The last four words have already entered us at the open door. The idea has prevailed in the past, and this idea has dominated the world, that self is the great concern; that if one would find success, greatness, happiness, he must give all attention to self, and to self alone. This has been the great mistake, this the fatal error, this the direct opposite of the right, the true as set forth in the great immutable law that we find our own lives in losing them in the service of others ; in longer form: the more of our lives we give to others, the fuller and the richer, the greater and the grander, the more beautiful and the more happy our own lives become. It is, as that great and sweet soul who when with us lived at Concord said, the generous giving or losing of your life which saves it.
This is an expression of one of the greatest truths, of one of the greatest principles of practical ethics, the world has thus far seen. In a single word, it is service not self but the other self. We shall soon see, however, that our love, our service, our helpfulness to others invariably comes back to us, intensified sometimes a hundred or a thousand or a thousand, thousand fold and this by a great, immutable law.
The Master Teacher in the art of living, He who so many years ago in that far-away Eastern land, now in the hill-country, now in the lake-country, as the people gathered round Him, taught them those great, high-born, and tender truths of human life and destiny, the Christ Jesus, said identically this when He said, and so continually repeated, “He that is greatest among you shall be your servant”; and His whole life was but an embodiment of this principle or truth, with the result that the greatest name in the world today is His. The name of Him who as His life-work healed the sick, clothed the naked, bound up the broken-hearted, sustained the weak, the faltering; befriended and aided the poor, the needy; condemned the proud, the vain, the selfish; and through it all taught the people to love justice and mercy and service, to live in their higher, their diviner selves, in brief, to live His life, the Christ-life, and who has helped in making it possible for this greatest principle of practical ethics the world has thus far seen to be enunciated, to be laid hold of, to be lived by today. “He that is greatest among you shall be your servant;” or, he who would be truly great, and recognized as such, must find it in the capacity of a servant.
And what, let us ask, is a servant? One who renders service. To themselves? No. To others? Yes. Freed of its associations, and looked at in the light of its right and true meaning, than the word ‘servant' there is no greater in the language; and in this right use of the term, as we shall soon see, every life that has been really true, great, and happy has been that of a servant, and apart from this no such life ever has been or ever can be lived .
Oh you who are seeking for power, for place, for happiness, for contentment in the ordinary way, tarry for a moment, see that you are on the wrong track, grasp this great eternal truth, lay hold of it, and you will see that your advance along this very line will be manifold times more rapid. Are you seeking then, to make for yourself a name? Unless you grasp this mighty truth and make your life accordingly, as the great clock of time ticks on and all things come to their proper level according to their merits, as all invariably, inevitably do, you will indeed be somewhat surprised to find how low, how very low, your level is. Your name and your memory will be forgotten long before the minute-hand has passed even a single time across the great dial; while your fellow-man who has grasped this simple but great and all-necessary truth, and who accordingly is forgetting themselves in the service of others, who is making their life a part of a hundred or a thousand or a million lives, thus illimitably intensifying or multiplying their own, instead of living as you in what otherwise would be their own little, diminutive self, will find themselves ascending higher and higher, until they stand as one among the few, and will find a peace, a happiness, a satisfaction so rich and so beautiful, compared to which yours will be but a poor miserable something, and whose name and memory when their life here is finished will live in the minds and hearts of their fellow-men and of mankind fixed and eternal as the stars.
A corollary of the great principle already enunciated might be formulated thus: There is no such thing as finding true happiness by searching for it directly . It must come, if it come at all, indirectly, or by the service, the love, and the happiness we give to others. So, there is no such thing as finding true greatness by searching for it directly . It always, without a single exception, has come indirectly in this same way, and it is not at all probable that this great eternal law is going to be changed to suit any particular case or cases. Then recognize it, put your life into harmony with it, and reap the rewards of its observance, or fail to recognize it, and pay the penalty accordingly; for the law itself will remain unchanged.
The men and women whose names we honour and celebrate are invariably those with lives founded primarily upon this great law. Note if you will every truly great life in the world's history, among those living and among the so-called dead, and tell me if in every case that life is not a life spent in the service of others, either directly or indirectly, as when we say “he served his country.” Whenever one seeks for reputation, for fame, for honour, for happiness directly and for his or her own sake, then that which is true and genuine never comes, at least to any degree worthy the name. It may seem to for a time, but a great law says that such a one gets so far and no further. Sooner or later, generally sooner, there comes an end.
Human nature seems to run in this way, seems to be governed by a great paradoxical law which says, that whenever one is self-centred, thinking of, living for and in themselves, is very desirous for place, for preferment, for honour, the very fact of them being thus is of itself a sufficient indicator that they are too small to have them, and mankind refuses to accord them. While the one who forgets self, and who, losing sight of these things, makes it their chief aim in life to help, to aid, and to serve others, by this vary fact makes it known that they are large enough, great enough, to have them, and their fellow-man instinctively bestows them upon him or her. This is a great law which many would profit by to recognize. That it is true is attested by the fact that the praise of mankind instinctively and universally goes out to a hero; but who ever heard of a hero who became such by doing something for themselves?, always something they have done for others; by the fact that monuments and statues are gratefully erected to the memory of those who have helped and served their fellow-man, not to those who have lived to themselves alone.
I have seen many monuments and statues erected to the memories of philanthropists, but I never yet have seen one erected to a miser; many to generous-hearted, noble-hearted men and women, but never yet to one whose whole life was that of a sharp bargain-driver and who clung with a sort of semi-idiotic grasp to all that came thus into his temporary possession. I have seen many erected to statesman, but never one to mere politicians; many to true orators, but never mere demagogues; many to soldiers and leaders, but never to men who were not willing, when necessary, to risk all in the service of their country. No, you will find that the world's monuments and statues have been erected, and its praises and honours have gone, to those who were large and great enough to forget themselves in the service of others, who have been servants, true servants of mankind, who have been true to the great law that we find our own lives in losing them in the service of others. Not honour for themselves, but service for others. But notice the strange, wonderful and beautiful transformation as it returns upon itself honour for themselves, because of service to others .
It would be a matter of exceeding great interest to verify the truth of what has just been said by looking at a number of those who are regarded as the world's great sons and daughters, those to whom its honours, its praises, its homage go out, to see why it is, upon what their lives have been founded, that they have become so great and are so honoured. Of all this glorious company that would come up, we must be contented to look at but one or two.
There comes to my mind the name and figure of him whom there is no greater, whose praises are sung and whose name and memory are honoured and blessed by millions in all parts of the world today, and will be by millions yet unborn, our beloved and sainted Abraham Lincoln. And then I ask, Why is this? Why is this? One sentence of his tells us what to look to for the answer. During that famous series of public debates in Illinois with Stephen A. Douglas in 1858, speaking at Freeport, Mr. Douglas at one place said, “I care not whether slavery in the Territories be voted up or whether it be voted down, it makes not a particle of difference with me.” Mr. Lincoln, speaking from the fulness of his great and royal heart, in reply said, with emotion, “I am sorry to perceive that my friend Judge Douglas is so constituted that he does not feel the lash the least bit when it is laid upon another man's back.” Thoughts upon self? Not for a moment. Upon others? Always. He at once recognized in those black men four million brothers for whom he had a service to perform.
It would seem almost grotesque to use the word selfish in connection with this great name. He very early, and when still in a very humble and lowly station in life, either consciously or unconsciously grasped this great truth; and in making the great underlying principle of his life to serve, to help his fellow-men, he adopted just that course that has made him one of the greatest of the sons of men, our royal-hearted elder brother. He never spent time in asking what he could do to attain to greatness, to popularity, to power, what to perpetuate his name and memory. He simply asked how he could help, how he could be of service to his fellow-man, and continually did all his hands found to do. He simply put his life into harmony with this great principle; and in so doing he adopted the best means -- the only means, to secure that which countless numbers seek and strive for directly, and every time so woefully fail in finding.
There comes to my mind in this connection another princely soul, one who loved all the world, one whom so many in the world love and delight to honour. There comes to mind also a little incident that will furnish an insight into the reason of it all. On an afternoon not long ago, Mrs. Henry Ward Beecher was telling me of some of the characteristics of Brooklyn's great preacher. While she was yet speaking of some of those along the very lines we are considering, an old gentleman, a neighbour, came into the room bearing in his hands something he had brought from Mr. Beecher's grave. It was the day following Decoration Day. His story was this: As the great procession was moving into the cemetery with its bands of rich music, with its carriages laden with sweet and fragrant flowers, with its waving flags, beautiful in the sunlight, a poor and humble-looking woman with two companions, by her apparent nervousness, attracted the attention of the gate-keeper. He kept her in view for a little while, and presently saw her as she gave something she had partially concealed to one of her companions, who, leaving the procession, went over to the grave of Mr. Beecher, and tenderly laid it there. Reverently she stood for a moment or two, and then, retracing her steps, joined her two companions, who with bowed heads were waiting by the wayside.
It was this that the old gentleman had brought--a gold frame, and in it a poem cut from a volume, a singularly beautiful poem, through which was breathed the spirit of love and service and self-devotion to the good and the needs of others. At one or two places where it fitted, the pen had been drawn across a word and Mr. Beecher's name inserted, which served to give it a still more real, vivid, and tender meaning. At the bottom this only was written, “From a poor Hebrew woman to the immortal friend of the Hebrews.” There was no name, but this was sufficient to tell the whole story. Some poor, humble woman, but one out of a mighty number whom he had at some time befriended or helped or cheered, whose burden he had helped to carry, and soon perhaps had forgotten all about it. When we remember that this was his life, is it at all necessary to seek further why so many delight to honour this, another royal-hearted elder-brother? and, as we think of this simple, beautiful, and touching incident, how true and living becomes the thought in the old, old lines:
“Cast thy bread upon the waters, waft it on with praying breath, In some distant, doubtful moment it may save a soul from death. When you sleep in solemn silence,'neath the morn and evening dew, Stranger hands which you have strengthened may strew lilies over you.”
Our good friend, Henry Drummond, in one of his most beautiful and valuable little works, says--and how admirably and how truly!--that “Love is the greatest thing in the world.” Have you this greatest thing? Yes. How, then, does it manifest itself? In kindliness, in helpfulness, in service to those around you? If so, well and good, you have it. If not, then I suspect that what you have been calling love is something else; and you have indeed been greatly fooled. In fact, I am sure it is; for if it does not manifest itself in this way, it cannot be true love, for this is the one grand and never-failing test. Love is the statics, helpfulness and service the dynamics, the former necessary to the latter, but the latter the more powerful, as action is always more powerful than potentiality; and, were it not for the dynamics, the statics might as well not be. Helpfulness. kindliness, service, is but the expression of love. It is love in action; and unless love thus manifests itself in action, it is an indication that it is of that weak and sickly nature that needs exercise, growth, and development, that it may grow and become strong, healthy, vigorous, and true, instead of remaining a little, weak, indefinite, sentimental something or nothing.
It was but yesterday that I heard one of the world's greatest thinkers and speakers, one of our keenest observers of human affairs, state as his opinion that selfishness is the root of all evil. Now, if it is possible for any one thing to be the root of all evil, then I think there is a world of truth in the statement. But, leaving out of account for the present purpose whether it is true or not, it certainly is true that anyone who cannot get beyond self robs their life of its chief charms, and more, defeats the very ends they have in view.
It is a well-known law in the natural world about us that whatever has not use, that whatever serves no purpose, shrivels up. So it is a law of our own being that they who make themselves of no use, of no service to the great body of mankind, who are concerned only with their own small self, find that self, small as is, growing smaller and smaller, and those finer and better and grander qualities of their nature, those that give the chief charm and happiness to life, shrivelling up. Such a one lives, keeps constant company with their own diminutive and stunted self; while those who, forgetting self, make the object of their lives service, helpfulness, and kindliness to others, find their whole nature growing and expanding, themselves becoming large-hearted, magnanimous, kind, loving, sympathetic, joyous, and happy, their life becoming rich and beautiful. For instead of their own little life alone they have entered into and have part in a hundred, a thousand, in countless numbers of other lives; and every success, every joy, every happiness coming to each of these comes as such to themselves, for they have a part in each and all. And thus it is that one becomes a prince among men, a queen among women.
Why, one of the very fundamental principles of life is so much love, so much love in return; so much love, so much growth; so much love, so much power; so much love, so much life--strong, healthy, rich, exulting, and abounding life. The world is beginning to realize the fact that love, instead of being a mere indefinite something, is a vital and living force, the same as electricity is a force, though perhaps of a different nature. The same great fact we are learning in regard to thought--that thoughts are things, that thoughts are forces, the most vital and powerful in the universe , that they have form and substance and power, the quality of the power determined as it is by the quality of the life in whose organism the thoughts are engendered; and so, when a thought is given birth to, it does not end there, but takes form, and as a force it goes out and has its effect upon other minds and lives, the effect being determined by its intensity and the quality of the prevailing emotions, and also by the emotions dominating the person at the time the thoughts are engendered and given form.
Science, while demonstrating the great facts it is today demonstrating in connection with the mind in its relations to and effects upon the body, is also finding from the very laboratory experiments that each particular kind of thought and emotion has its own peculiar qualities, and hence its own peculiar effects or influences; and these it is classifying with scientific accuracy. A very general classification in just a word would be those of a higher and those of a lower nature.
Some of the chief ones among those of the lower nature are anger, hatred, jealousy, malice, rage. Their effect, especially when violent, is to emit a poisonous substance into the system, or rather, to set up a corroding influence which transforms the healthy and life-giving secretions of the body into the poisonous and the destructive. When one, for example, is dominated, even if for but a moment, by a passion of anger or rage, there is set up in the system what might be justly termed a bodily thunderstorm, which has the effect of souring or corroding the normal and healthy secretions of the body and making them so that instead of life-giving they become poisonous. This, if indulged in to any extent, sooner or later induces the form of disease that this particular state of mind and emotion or passion gives birth to; and it in turn becomes chronic.
We shall ultimately find, as we are beginning to so rapidly today, that practically all disease has its origin in perverted mental states or emotions; that anger, hatred, fear, worry, jealousy, lust, as well as all milder forms of perverted mental states and emotions, has each its own peculiar poisoning effects, and induces each its own peculiar form of disease, for all life is from within out. Then some of the chief ones belonging to the other class mental states and emotions of the higher nature are love, sympathy, benevolence, kindliness, and good cheer. These are the natural and the normal; and their effect, when habitually entertained, is to stimulate a vital, healthy, bounding, purifying, and life-giving action, the exact opposite of the others; and these very forces, set into a bounding activity, will in time counteract and heal the disease-giving effects of their opposites. Their effects upon the countenance and features in inducing the highest beauty that can dwell there are also marked and all-powerful. So much, then, in regard to the effects of one's thought forces upon the self. A word more in regard to their effects upon others.
Our prevailing thought forces determine the mental atmosphere we create around us, and all who come within its influence are affected in one way or another, according to the quality of that atmosphere; and though they may not always get the exact thoughts, they nevertheless get the effects of the emotions dominating the originator of the thoughts, and hence the creator of this particular mental atmosphere; and the more sensitively organized the person, the more sensitive he or she is to this atmosphere, even at times to getting the exact and very thoughts. So even in this the prophecy is beginning to be fulfilled, “There is nothing hid that shall not be revealed.”
If the thought forces sent out by any particular life are those of hatred or jealousy or malice or fault-finding or criticism or scorn, these same thought forces are aroused and sent back from others, so that one is affected not only by reason of the unpleasantness of having such thoughts from others, but they also in turn affect one's own mental states, and through these one's own bodily conditions, so that, so far as even the welfare of self is concerned, the indulgence in thoughts and emotions of this nature are most expensive, most detrimental, most destructive.
If, on the other hand, the thought forces sent out be those of love, of sympathy, of kindliness, of cheer and goodwill, these same forces are aroused and sent back, so that their pleasant, ennobling, warming, and life-giving effects one feels and is influenced by; and so again, so far even as the welfare of self is concerned, there is nothing more desirable, more valuable and life-giving. There comes from others, then, exactly what one sends to, and hence calls forth from them. And would we have all the world love us, we must first then love all the world - merely a great scientific fact. Why is it that all people instinctively dislike and shun the little, the mean, the self-centred, the selfish, while all the world instinctively, irresistibly, loves and longs for the company of the great-hearted, the tender-hearted, the loving, the magnanimous, the sympathetic, the brave? The mere answer because will not satisfy. There is a deep, scientific reason for it; either this, or it is not true.
Much has been said, much written, in regard to what some have been pleased to call personal magnetism, but which, as is so commonly true in cases of this kind, is even today but little understood. But to my mind personal magnetism in its true sense, and as distinguished from what may be termed purely animal magnetism, is nothing more nor less than the thought forces sent out by a great-hearted, tender-hearted, magnanimous, loving, sympathetic man or woman; for, let me ask, have you ever known of any great personal magnetism in the case of the little, the mean, the vindictive, the self-centred? Never, I venture to say, but always in the case of the other.
Why, there is nothing that can stand before this wonderful transmuting power of love . So far even as the enemy is concerned, I may not be to blame if I have an enemy; but I am to blame if I keep them as such, especially after I know of this wonderful transmuting power. Have I then an enemy, I will refuse, absolutely refuse, to recognize them as such; and instead of entertaining the thoughts of them that they entertain of me, instead of sending them like thought forces, I will send them only thoughts of love, of sympathy, of brotherly kindness, and magnanimity. But a short time it will be until they feel these, and are influenced by them. Then in addition I will watch my opportunity, and whenever I can, I will even go out of my way to do them some little kindnesses. Before these forces they cannot stand, and by and by I shall find that he or she who today is my bitterest enemy is my warmest friend, and may be my staunchest supporter. No, the wise man is he who by that wonderful alchemy of love transmutes the enemy into the friend--transmutes the bitterest enemy into the warmest friend and supporter. Certainly this is what the Master teacher meant when He said: “Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you and despitefully use you: thou shalt thereby be heaping coals of fire upon their heads.” For, thou shalt melt them: before this force they cannot stand. Thou shalt melt them, and transmute them into friends.
“You never can tell what your thoughts will do in bringing you hate or love; For thoughts are things, and their airy wings are swifter than carrier dove. They follow the law of the universe--Each thing must create its kind; And they speed o'er the track to bring you back whatever went out from your mind.”
Yes, science today, in the laboratory is discovering and scientifically demonstrating the great, immutable laws upon which the inspired and illuminated ones of all ages have based all their teachings, those who by ordering their lives according to the higher laws of their being get in a moment of time, through the direct touch of inspiration, what it takes the physical investigator a whole lifetime, or a series of investigators a series of lifetimes, to discover and demonstrate.
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