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Chapter VII

The Nature of the Mind

WE have now made the reflective transition from the outer world to the inner. Generally speaking, we have seen that the world is made known to consciousness. This does not mean that the world is unreal, or that it is like our thoughts. For we have found it as necessary as before to distinguish between the permanent and the transient, the world of desire and the world of law and order. It does mean that the universe is of the nature of mind or spirit, in some ultimate sense of the word, but the ultimate reality is obviously far more substantial than our ordinary thinking and far more real than our will. We are all members of a world-system and consciousness is the means whereby the presence of that system is made known. Through our ideas we endeavour to understand experience. But there is a vast difference between the reality that is ultimately the same for all, and the theories which differ so widely among individuals. Furthermore, there is within the general world of consciousness—which may be said to be more or less alike for all—an inner world of great variability, the world of whims, moods, and opinions, some aspects of which we considered in Chapter V.

Having reflectively made the transition to the centre of mental life, we have found that all conscious experience is co-operative. We are not isolated individuals. We do not know of the experience of the simplest perception apart from that which is in a sense the not-self. Perception relates the mind to the world of nature. Through the exercise of will we also learn that life is a co-operative experience. It is only our wildest fancies that are to any degree removed from the world of reality. To attempt to carry out a plan of action is to discover that at best the realisation of will must be matter of adjustment. The mental act known as volition involves a sense of effort, and through this effort we learn that we are immediately environed by powers that exist quite independently of our wills. It is through activity rather than through thought that we come into rough and convincing contact with the world. Hence, in the preceding chapter we have found it necessary sharply to distinguish between the qualities which our activity-experiences reveal and the realm of mere thought, caprice, mood.

As long ago as Buddha’s time it was said that “all that we are is the result of what we have thought; it is founded on our thoughts, it is made up of our thoughts.” In the Maitrayana Upanishad, also, it is said that “ thoughts cause the round of a new birth and a new death. . . . What a man thinks that he is; this is the old secret.” Modern devotees of the same doctrine are fond of quoting the Old Testament passage which states that “as a man thinketh in his heart so is he.” We have seen how profoundly true this is in so far as man’s opinion of himself is concerned. But it is no less clear that it is not what we have thought that has made us what we are; it is what we have done. In the first place, if we had really taken thought our conduct would have been profoundly different; for most of our regrettable actions were impulsive. And in the second place, there is a vast difference between thinking and doing. Buddhism itself is really founded on this fact, for in the long run it is said to be our accumulated actions, that is, our “karma,’’ that make or unmake us. Our accumulated actions are said to affect us in the next “incarnation” even though memory fails to hold over. In other theories of man’s inner life the emphasis is put also upon action instead of on thought. No law is more dreadful for some people to contemplate than the law of action and reaction. From our thoughts there is indeed escape, but when we have once acted the die of fate is cast. The only remedy for a bad action is a good one.

The real test of a theory of human experience, therefore, is its relation to the world of action. It makes all the difference in the world what we agree to call the power, life, or force which experience makes known to us. If we deem it “physical,” we are likely to become materialists. If we denominate it “spiritual,” the outlook upon life is vastly changed. If we cower helplessly before it we become fatalists. If we vainly think we can do with it what we will—we learn the lessons of bitter experience. To call it “love” is to adore. To beat against it, instead of wisely seeking to learn its laws, is to become a pessimist. One of the strangest conclusions at which man ever arrived is expressed in the condemnation of pain as “evil.” Pain, as we shall more clearly see in the following chapter, is due to the ill-adjustment of some part of the bodily organism which nature is seeking to remedy. To meet pain with resistance is to increase it. Hence we see of what vast import it is to arrive at sound conclusions in regard to the powers that play upon us.

In the first place, it is a question of sound psychology. Each man may perform the experiment for himself and learn to distinguish thought from action. To think one’s self into the centre of mental life is to find the mind surrounded by activities. That is a hard-and-fast fact of the greatest significance. The fundamental character of activity clearly recognised, the practical problem is this, Granted all these activities, how may I most wisely adjust myself to them? What kind of thoughts are superficial, and what thoughts are followed by action? Obviously, it is the thoughts that we enter into dynamically that affect our conduct; all others are as fruitless as the theory of a speculative metaphysician who invents his own world-scheme. The important point to consider, therefore, is not the thought as such, but what we do with it and how we react upon it.

Having sufficiently emphasised the fundamental importance of activity, in so far as we are now concerned with it, we may well give attention to the law that is exemplified in the preceding inquiries into our mental life.

If we observe a little child at play, we notice that it turns from this sport to that, from one plaything to another, as rapidly as its attention is attracted. The first indication of definite growth in the baby’s mind is this concentration of its baby eyes and its blossoming consciousness on some attractive object. The observant mother early learns to govern the child largely through its interested and skilfully directed attention. A little later she discovers that it is far better both for the present and the permanent good of the child never to call it “naughty,” and thereby call more attention to its unruliness, but to interest it in some new play, or carefully and persistently to point out the better way, until it shall have become absorbing.

The student absorbed in his book so that he is oblivious of the conversation going on about him illustrates the same power of a fixed direction of mind. The performance of skilled labour consists largely in the cultivation and concentration of the attention, together with the necessary manual accompaniments. The art of remembering well depends largely on the attention one gives to a speaker or book. That speaker or book is interesting which wins and holds our attention. That thought or event influences us which makes an impression, and becomes part of our mental life through the attention. We learn a language, grasp a profound philosophy, or experience the beneficial effect of elevating thought, rid ourselves of morbid, unhealthy, or dispiriting states of mind with their bodily accompaniments, in proportion as we dwell on some ideal or keep before us a fixed purpose, until by persistent effort the goal is won.

What is hypnotism if not an induced direction of mind suggested by the hypnotist? When the subject is under control, and hypnotised, for example, to see a picture on the wall where there is none, the whole mind of the subject is absorbed in seeing the supposed picture, and there is no time or power to detect the deception. Many self-hypnotised people are equally at the mercy of some idea which is the pure invention of their fears. Insanity best of all illustrates the nature of a direction of mind pure and simple, with the wonderful physical strength which sometimes accompanies the domination of a single idea. All strongly opinionated people, those whom we call “cranks,” the narrow-minded, the creed-bound, the strongly superstitious, illustrate the same principle, and from one point of view are insane—insane so far as they allow a fixed state of mind to control their lives and draw the stream of intelligence into a single channel; whereas the wisely rounded-out character, the true philosopher, is one who, while understanding that conduct is moulded by thought, never allows himself to dwell too long on one object.

The point for emphasis, then, is this, namely, that in every experience possible to a human being the direction of mind is the important factor. In health, in disease, in business, in play, in religion, education, art, science, in all that has been suggested in the foregoing, the principle is the same. The directing of the mind, the fixing of the attention or will, lies at the basis of all conduct. The motive, the intent, the impulse or emotion, gives shape to the entire life; for conscious man is always devoted to something. Let the reader analyse any act whatever, and he will prove this beyond all question.

The whole process, the law that, as our direction of mind so is our conduct, seems wonderfully simple when we stop to consider it. Yet we are basely conscious of the great power we exercise every moment of life. We are not aware that, in the fact that the mind can fully attend to but one object at a time, lies the explanation of a vast amount of trouble, and that by the same process in which we make our trouble we may overcome it.

Yet we know from experience that painful sensations increase when we dwell on them, and that we recover most rapidly when we are ill if we live above and out of our trouble. On the other hand, we know that a wise direction of mind persisted in, or the pursuit of an ideal without becoming insanely attached to it and impatient to realise it, marks a successful career. Without the generally hopeful attitudes of mind embodied by our best churches, and expressed in our beliefs about the world, we should hardly know how to live in a universe where there is so much that is beyond our ken.

We are ever choosing and rejecting certain ideas and lines of conduct to the exclusion of certain others, and into our choice is thrown all that constitutes us men and women. The present attitude of the reader is such a direction of mind; and this book, like the world at large, means as much or as little as the reader is large and wise in experience. In the same way this book, or any other, reveals the life and limitations of its author. It cannot transcend them, it cannot conceal them; for in some way, through the written or spoken word or through mental atmosphere, personality ever makes itself known. The world is for us, and for the time being, “what we make it,” because only so much of it is revealed as we can grasp. In whatever direction we turn our mental searchlight, those objects on which it falls are thrown into sudden prominence for the time. The world is dark and full of gloom only so long as we dwell upon its darkest aspects, and do not look beyond them. There are endless sources of trouble about us. On the other hand, there are innumerable reasons to be glad if we will look at them. We may enter into trouble, complaint, worriment; we may make ourselves and our friends miserable, so that we never enjoy the weather or anything else. Or we may be kind, charita-
ble, forgiving, contented, ever on the alert to turn from unpleasant thoughts, and thereby live in a larger and happier world. The choice is ours. If we fear, we open ourselves to all sorts of fancies, which correspond to our thought, and cause them to take shape. If we communicate our fears to friends, their thought helps ours. If we become angry, jealous, or act impetuously, we suffer in proportion to our action. If we pause to reflect, to wait a moment in silence, until we are sure of our duty, we experience the benefit of quiet meditation.

It is the explanation of our actual situation in this well-ordered world, dwelling near the heart of the divine Father, that sets us free, and makes us masters of our conduct. It should not therefore be a new source of terror to learn that we are beset by all sorts of subtle influences, or to be told that thought-directions are instrumental in causing misery and trouble. These wrong influences cannot touch us if we understand them. Our whole being is a protection against them, if we have reached a higher plane. There must be a point of contact in order for one mind to affect another, some channel left open, just as there must be an affinity in order for two persons to form a friendship. Our safety, our strength, lies in knowing our weakness, in discovering that the law of direction of mind is fundamental in every moment of human life. If we continue in the same old way, complaining, fearing, thinking along narrow lines, and submissively accepting the teaching of others, it will not be because we do not see the law.

Out of the mass of impressions and opinions which for the majority of people constitute mental life, we may eliminate those that bring harm, and develop those that are helpful. The economy of cultivating right thoughts is thus at once apparent. Matter is obviously as much of a weight and a prison as we make it by our habitual thought. Looking one way, we enter into matter, or density. Looking in the other, we invite that which is spiritual, quickening. Ideas have power over us in proportion as we dwell on them. It is matter of real economy, then, to view ourselves and our habitual ideas from as many directions as possible, precisely as one goes away from home in order to break out of the ruts into which one inevitably falls by living constantly in one atmosphere.

Man leads a life of mind, then, because he is a conscious being, because the stream of consciousness is turned now into this channel, now into that, and can only take cognisance of a relatively large aspect of the world by the broadest, least prejudiced, and most open-minded turning from one phase of it to another. He has a distinct individuality, for which he is personally responsible, which it is his duty to preserve and to develop. It is through this, if he thinks for himself, that the keenest light is cast upon things; for it is the fundamental direction of consciousness, and is ultimately related with the Self who knows all directions. Next in order comes daily experience, shaped by education, inherited beliefs and tendencies,




and whatever leads the mind into a given channel. After these fixed directions of mind come the mere fleeting influences, mental pictures, fears, atmospheres, perplexities, and troubles, which affect the mind superficially, yet possess a tendency to strike deeper into the being, become fixed habits through subconscious mental activity. The law is everywhere the same, namely, that the conscious direction of mind, supported by the whole personality, is controlling for the time, since the mind can fully attend to but one object at once. Its application to daily life is at once apparent.

The next point to observe is that the idea which wins our attention and upon which we react is not alone effective in the immediate present but is productive of subconscious after-effects. Here again we see the importance of distinguishing between mere thought and thought that is followed by action. The power which thought seems to possess comes from the activity which the attention directs. A thought is more or less influential to the degree that active attention is given to it. It is action and reaction that are equal, not thought and reaction. The attention directs the activity and the subconsciousness responds. It is sufficient for the actively conscious state to establish the direction; it remains for the resulting activity to carry out the decision.*

*For further aspects of attention see Stout, “Analytic Psychology,” i, 189. Stout carefully distinguishes mental attention from its physiological accompaniments. Hence it is made clearer that we are able to direct attention from within.

Consequently, few discoveries are of greater practical value than the disclosure of the law of subconscious mental activity. For this apparently limitless realm below the threshold of our voluntary life exemplifies in unsurpassed degree nature’s law of least resistance. That which we labour and groan to achieve consciously, comes easily and directly in the subconscious world. There friction is at its minimum. There a thousand deflecting tendencies of our personal life are out of the way. There our souls undoubtedly lie close to God from whom power and wisdom come in ways that are only limited by our conscious ability to assimilate and understand the result. For always there is help in the subconscious world. Never do we turn to it in vain.

We mistake if we think that it is the idea or experience which we try to coerce into our selfhood which becomes most truly our own. It is more apt to be an idea of whose power we were but slightly conscious when it dawned upon the mind, but which struck deep into the heart and was brooded upon for weeks and months. After such a period of mental evolution is over we can indeed trace it to a vitalising idea found in a book, heard from a philosopher, or beheld in an intuitive flash. But when it thus struck home we were little aware to what it would lead. Crucial experiences of many kinds are only understood in perspective. We know what people were worth to us when they are gone. We know how deeply we lived when the emotions were touched, when we parted from old associations and began a new career. Our profoundest conclusions are gradually acquired subconscious possessions, inductions from long experience, which one day rose into the region of consciousness. We do not fully know what we believe until a new experience calls scattered notes into a theme or unifies detached themes into a symphony. The music we hear in our most conscious moments is only a note or two out of a great harmony. We live in scattered bars, phrases, and movements, except in those occasional hours when an entire harmony sounds from below, or when the walls are parted and we hear the great oratorio from outside and the celestial hymns from the beyond.

Life is in the profoundest sense rhythmical, a constant waving, a rising and falling over the crests and down into the trough of the sea. If our conscious vision were larger we should look from crest to crest, and behold the harmony of our long evolution. When we descend we should know that it is but to rise. But, absorbed in sensation and self, not even our memory lasts over, until repeated philosophising has made clear the law. It is safe to say that every one of our doubts, fears, and complaints is due to this lack of perspective or memory; yes, that all our suffering is maladjustment to the wave which is carrying us ever forward, forward, whether we are adjusted or not. Our subconscious life is of particular assistance in the solution of the problems of suffering and evil, since it is the convictions which we develop by subconscious induction that finally make clear the law.

Those whose instruments are most intimately attuned to the universal harmony of things agree in the description of it as rhythmical. The heart beats rhythmically, the breath comes in rhythms, every function of the body proceeds in rhythmic sequence. The seasons come and go, the stars fade and re-appear rhythmically, the entire universe is as truly a pulsing harmony as when the angels sang at the creation (which never began).

The poets and musicians feel this universal rhythm and reproduce it in verse and concords of sweet sounds. In them there are fewer conscious and subconscious obstacles. The same harmony exists for all, but owing to mal-adjustment we feel and therefore report it as discord. You will observe that the less a man possesses of that quality which we call the “soul-life” the more prosaic he is. Let a man pursue the pathways of the Spirit, and he will gradually become more refined in voice, manner, language, thought, and feeling. This refinement bespeaks a closer relationship with the rhythm of things. His language becomes more rhythmical.

If we could view the subconscious process we should doubtless find greater receptivity to the inmost vibrations of the universe. We should then see why Julia Ward Howe could rise in the night and write her Battle Hymn of the Republic with scarcely any thought of what she was writing—as it came fresh from the rhythms of the subconscious world. We should know why many spiritually illumined people have written hymns. Perhaps we should learn that the priestesses at the famous Greek oracles gave forth their utterances in hexameter because there was a rhythmical psychic experience of which the utterances were the expression.

We may then be justified in describing the divine spiritual involution itself in terms of rhythm. This may be the ultimate basis of what we call evolution. The different natural forces may be varying rhythms of the one life. The vision of things under the aspect of eternity, or as one whole, would then be an intuition of the great rhythmic play over the great ocean of life whose billows, seen from below, are moments of time.

But no argument is needed in these days to show that there is a relatively boundless subconscious world. The experiments of the French scientists, the splendid work of F. W. H. Myers, the reports of the Society for Psychical Research, and the contributions of writers on suggestive therapeutics, have made us familiar with an endless array of evidences. The question is, granted that there is a subconscious mind, how may we make use of its powers? In the answer to this question we shall develop in this chapter the outline principles of a theory of spiritual psychology, which will serve us in various ways to the end of the present inquiry.

It has been evident from the start that the psychology implied in our discussions is thoroughly practical. It has been evident too that we have widely departed from contemporary physiological psychology. In this chapter we shall follow the same clue, and omit all discussion of side issues as not germane to the present plan. Professor Munsterberg admits that for questions of value, worth, and the ultimate character of psychological states, we must look outside of physiological psychology. And here we are confessedly dealing with values and meanings. We are determined to master our own minds as clues to the worth and reality of life. Our psychology is therefore a part of our general philosophy. We shall do well, then, to regard the mind as an evolution exemplifying a purpose. That is, we may most profitably study it as the realm of realisation of ideals, always active subconsciously and never pausing in its flux during our waking hours.

Professor James thus states the case: “The pursuance of future ends and the choice of means for their attainment are the mark and criterion of the presence of mentality.” The stream of thought ever flows forward, it is always changing, and it always tends to be part of a personal consciousness. As the stream flows, the act of attention is the most striking characteristic, the selection of one thought from the stream which when chosen thereby becomes to some extent an end of action. “My experience is what I agree to attend to.” “Only those items which I notice shape my mind—without selective interest experience is an utter chaos.” Thus the essence of your mental life is largely will, your consciousness is teleological. Martineau defines will as “the act of choice which settles an alternative.” You are hesitating between two courses of action and now at last you decide. The decision is equivalent to pressing a button which sets machinery free. Or, better, the act of will gives a teleological or purposive tendency to the subconscious mind. The volitional tendency thus becomes an embryonic course of action; and the subconscious mind is exceedingly fertile soil for its development. Moreover, it is very discriminative. For it has many functions to perform. Now it is told to awaken you at six o’clock tomorrow morning, and now an ideal is committed to it which you may realise in a year or more. Now it is a minor decision, and now regeneration of character. First you consign to it a mere hint, and then you expect it to assimilate a whole book. But press it as you may it apparently is never weary. The subconscious mind is at least as large, as versatile, and as well trained as the entire series of moods which constitute one’s mental life. Therefore if you would increase your subconscious power begin by training your conscious mind. As much system as you consciously possess you will surely have given back to you. If your conscious self is vague, dreamy, you may expect vague and incoherent subconscious revelations. Your mind grows by what it feeds on; therefore select your mental pabulum. Selection largely depends upon desire. Desires depend upon their choice by will.* Will depends upon attention, or issues in the act of attention. The power of voluntary attention depends upon the degree of self-control, which in turn depends upon the degree of composure and of self-knowledge. Therefore if you would strike at the heart of purposive or evolutionary mental states, begin by acquiring peace, poise, equanimity, as the basis of wise attention.

*Note also the close connection between feeling and will. Wundt paints out that “without the excitations which feeling furnishes we should never will anything. Feeling, therefore, pre-sup-poses will, and will feeling.”

All this seems simple and clear enough when one’s attention is called to it. But are we not apt to say, “This shall be so”; to exert our wills, forget the higher Power, strain after ideals, claim that which is not yet true and can only progressively become so? Do we not dwell in thought somewhere way off in the clouds or in the distant future, instead of wisely adjusting ourselves to the immediately advancing present? Is the will really so powerful that it can abolish time? What is the will, and what is the nature of its power?

When I raise my arm and move my hand, the various motions which I make seem to be controlled by my will. Yet I know very little about that apparently simple process. The hand and arm are moved by certain muscles, the muscles by a certain nervous discharge, which obeys definite laws utterly beyond the power of my will to control. I simply desire my hand to move in a particular way; and, lo! a wonderful mechanism, perfected by nature long ago, is set into activity. The complex motions by which I move my arm and hand are matters of habit rather than of will, and I use nature’s mechanism almost unconsciously. The whole body responds to my thought in the same manner, and the great outside world goes on almost regardless of my will.

What, then, is my will? Has it no power? Assuredly. But its power is seen in the inceptive stage of our most subjective activity. The will-act follows upon the selection of alternatives. When reflection has settled upon this course of conduct in preference to that, the fiat is issued, and the resulting action follows upon the sense of effort. Only the reflective and volitional stages are conscious. When the mind has assumed a certain dynamic attitude, the subconscious mechanism accomplishes the result. Hence, to modify or change conduct one must begin by thinking more wisely. To think is, as we have repeatedly noted, by no means to act. Yet it is what we believe, what we accept, that we act upon.

The first determinant, then, is the direction of mind; the second is the dynamic attitude. The will consists in part of conscious attention, and in part of activity or volition. The act of attention is the direction of mind. The volitional effort sets the machinery in motion. Hence it is in one sense true to say, with Professor James, “that what holds attention determines action.” The child ceases his play, and turns his whole activity in some new direction because his attention has been attracted. We thread our way among the obstructions of a busy thoroughfare because our thought is fixed on some distant object. The hypnotist shapes the conduct of his subject when he has gained control of the subject’s attention.

Will is a direction of mental activity with a definite object in view. It is the conscious side of conduct, and as such it wields great power. Will uses power. It gives definite shape to power. It opens the mind to power, so that ‘’I will’’ is equivalent to “ I am ready.” A man with a strong will is one who persistently keeps a desired object in view. The human power lies in the desire, the natural in that which fulfils it. Here is a very important distinction. By longing for an object we unconsciously put ourselves in an attitude to attain it. We move towards it. We exclude everything else in our efforts to attain it.

Again and again we forget that will gives shape to directive power, and act as though it were a force which we must exert. But my will alone is powerless to move my arm. I will to move it, and at the same time co-operate with nature’s mechanism and my own well-established habits. If I kept saying, “I will move it,” “Now I will move it,” it would remain motionless. By saying, “I will do this,” “ I will have things thus and so,” one is apt to produce a nervous strain, to assert our own power, as though the human will were omnipotent. Self-conceit and ignorance of the larger and diviner life accompany such self-assertion, and close the door to the higher power. The Spirit quietly withdraws at the approach of such assertion.

It is important, therefore, to note that it is not necessarily the most conscious exertion of activity that is most effective.* Absorbed attention, a fixed direction of mind, is itself an act of will. To concentrate upon an idea is to draw power to it. On the other hand, to become free from an undesirable emotion or idea one should not combat it. Do not then try to suppress it or push it out of your mind by an exertion of will; persistently turn your attention to another mental object, each time your thought drifts back into the old channel. Thus you will gradually undermine the old habit and transfer its energy elsewhere. The principle is the same as the law of use and disuse in organic evolution. A function grows with use and falls away if disused. An idea grows if attention is paid to it. To rid your mind of an idea turn vigorously from it to another.

For an account of the various stages of consciousness and self-consciousness as related to the more ethical aspects of mental life, see Professor Palmer’s admirable little book, “The Nature of Goodness,” Houghton, Mifflin & Co., 1903.

In other words, it is a matter of habit. To establish a habit you must launch your energies vigorously and persistently enough in the new direction to overcome the resistance offered by your organism. That is, set up motion in that direction. An object once in motion tends to continue in motion unless impeded by some obstacle or counter motion. In this case the obstacles are most likely to be other habits, your conservatism and accustomed beliefs. To be opinionated, dogmatic, bigoted, is to offer an unyielding front to new ideas. Once win the interested attention of a dogmatic person and you may instil that subtle softening influence which shall melt away the barriers and set the soul free. Our inner life, both mental and cerebral, is a mass of such habits or tendencies; and the art of inner evolution consists largely in the wise adoption of flank movements, or methods of outwitting our unruly and therefore unyielding selves. Professor James advises us to ‘’launch ourselves with as strong and decided an initiative as possible.” We thus arouse vigorous activity in the newly chosen direction.

Note then that to transfer your attention to another set of associations, another group of mental pictures or way of thinking, is to establish a new centre of equilibrium. This means that down through your mental life, including the subconscious, there is a response, a new motion which tends to become a habit. A change of creed or philosophy, a change of heart and of associates, a love affair and a disappointment, are illustrations of marked alterations of equilibrium. But these marked changes are typical of results that are constantly occurring in a small way, whenever we become absorbed in ideas. The same principle which makes us victims of our moods thus becomes our servant when we understand this law of mental equilibrium and the art of attention which is the clue to it. We have greater power over our motor ideas than we have suspected. The difficulty has been that we did not set about character building in the right way. Generally speaking, we find what we look for. Our lives are shaped by what we desire and will to desire. If we would control the after result, we must then start at the centre—by wiser choice between alternatives, keener discrimination, more thoughtfulness, more patience, and withal more trust in our subconscious minds.

If you would know how to further your mental evolution, learn the laws by direct study of your own mind. Thus you learn what you desire by observing yourself in the act of desiring. You learn what you are by what you do. There is no single experience or intuition which tells you what you are; it is by gradual discovery that you become acquainted with your true meaning. The unity of the self, the central will is deep-lying, so deep that it is sometimes hard to believe there is a unity or central purpose. For we know ourselves largely as fragments, as subject and object, inner and outer, conservative yet wasteful, selfish yet unselfish, centripetal and centrifugal. A deep unity is implied, however, in all this in congruity. Every day and hour there is unity amidst all this variety; and this profound relationship is typical of the great One amidst the Many which we call God and His universe.

Just because the unity holds all the variety, it is too great for us to grasp in a single moment. Hence we should not expect to know the full self except progressively. It is not a mere unity on the subjective side, any more than it is an objective or observed unity. The self is both the subject that contemplates and the objective mood, thought, feeling, or action contemplated. What you are in deepest truth is the unity of these moods and you are the moods too. Do not think of yourself, therefore, as merely the observer. You are all these high desires and aspirations. The self that is just now acting, is your soul, in part. The deeper self which attains a receptivity of which you are now consciously incapable is a function of your soul, living on continuously even while you are asleep at night. Do not then expect any miraculous intuition to tell you what you are. You are in part all that you think, and will, and act. If you cannot now realise yourself fully, when you will to be noble and true and great, it is only because the time has not yet come, there is not yet the proper correspondence between inner and outer, the soul and its environment. You must await the occasion.

Most of the problems in our psychological life are due to the sundering of that which is not separated in actual existence. Look within, and if you look truly you will note that every moment your mental life is an evolution. Every moment you are feeling, thinking, willing, and doing. These are not separate parts of your life, they are more or less distinguishable phases of an interchanging whole.* Now you are more conscious of yourself as desiring to realise a great ideal, and now you are painfully toiling in the valley to attain the great height. But you are no less truly your ideal self. You have not lost your hold. Your will is no less strong. The same soul is now seen in the toils of action rather than in the quietude of contemplation. But activity does not cease when you contemplate, and when you act you are still a resident of that eternal realm whose peace knows no waning. You can not think without in a measure being active. You cannot think without willing, that is, paying attention, when you attend you act, and when you act you think. You seem to be mentally disjointed only because the apex of consciousness is so small that you cannot pay attention to your whole self at once. But in reality what you discover in successive moments you are all the way along.

*The term “will,” for example, refers to the whole meaning of our conscious life. See Royce, “Outlines of Psychology,” p, 334 et seq. Professor Royce’s treatise contains many practical suggestions of great value. For example, see his account of inhibition and self-control, pp.70-80. “What, in any situation, we are restrained from doing is as important to us as what we do. . . . ‘Self-control’ is an essential part of health. . . . You teach a man to control or to restrain himself so soon as you teach him what to do in a positive sense. Healthy activity includes self-restraint, or inhibition, as one of its elements. You in vain teach, then, self-control, unless you teach much more than self-control.”


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