Newsletter > Newsletter - 2010
The Philosopher's Stone
Newsletter - 2010
Reprinted from the first issue:
WHAT THIS IS ALL ABOUT
In days of yore, the philosopher's stone was what alchemists sought to transmute base metal into gold. The object of this newsletter is to help to transmute lives, throught higher consciousness and deeper understanding, for more abundant, successful living. One needed mental transmutation is from outmoded ideas, appropriate in a day of Newtonian physics, into views consistent with quantum physics. This calls for replacing notions of changeless substance with a vision of dynamic, developing process. In relation to New Thought, the result is Process New Thought.
Our mission is to teach, in a process perspective, the practice of the presence of God for practical purposes; in other words, to show people how changing their thinking, expectation, and ultimate awareness can bring about desired changes in their lives. We teach the philosophy and psychology of New Thought: the science behind the science of mind.
Alan has described philosophy as an armchair enterprise, one that examines the nature of reality and teaches people to think independently. A peripatetic philosopher, wandering about the world with his mental lantern for illumination, as philosophers are wont to do, might stop to rest upon a stone in place of his habitual armchair; and might address a few thought-provoking remarks to those who happened to be at hand, as philosophers are also wont to do. Such remarks might even be part of the cornerstone rejected by most philosophical builders.
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I (Deb) have been thinking about the various heroes and heroines that I have come across over the years, people whom I have read about or perhaps even met, who serve as role models for me, particularly when going through one of those Red Sea places in life, where "there is no way out, there is no way back, there is no other way but through." One of the most recent ones is Terry McBride. I described his book in my notes last September, and since then, Alan and I have attended his seminar at Unity Church in Clearwater, Florida in October. We bought his set of cds and materials to help internalize the lessons he teaches.
To meet Terry, knowing his horrific medical history, is to be amazed at his obviously outstanding physical condition. He radiates energy and enthusiasm, moving with ease and vigor that make it hard to believe that he once faced the prospect of a short and painful life in a wheelchair. How could anyone who does a little hip wiggle to emphasize various points have ever had back problems? The mental image of his physical presence just won't go away, and I think, "If he could learn to overcome all of that, certainly I can overcome whatever I am facing at the moment." Some of his main points:
- Our beliefs determine our experiences.
- Beliefs--our own and others'--can be changed.
- We can live out our beliefs without making anyone else's wrong.
- God--however conceptualized--is already cocreating with us, empowering us; so, by our beliefs lined up with our intentions, we are--in a sense--controlling God.
You can order Terry's book through Amazon by clicking on the link to be found in our Book Store, or go to Terry's new website, http://www.terrymcbride.net for descriptions or purchase of his book, The Hell I Can't, and his cd program, Everybody Wins.
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If you’re new to New Thought—or even if you’re not—you may wonder where it came from. It came from the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, without getting into the teachings about Jesus of Nazareth. Nineteen centuries later, a New England clockmaker and inventor named Phineas Parkhurst Quimby got interested in mesmerism, the latest scientific wrinkle at the time, decided to try his hand at it, and discovered to his surprise that 1) he was actually healing people, not faking anything, and 2) the explanation he had been given for mesmerism was inaccurate. Word quickly spread, and the world beat a path to the door of "the Portland doctor", who was healing all sorts of ailments, both physical and mental/spiritual. What Quimby did was to argue his patients out of the idea that they needed to be sick: as he put it, "mind acts upon mind" and "my explanation is the cure". It was the beginning of what was to become known as nonlocal healing on any sort of scientific basis, rather than the occasional miracle considered to be the suspension of natural law.
Quimby, puzzled at the terribly negative, self-punitive ideas that his patients had acquired from those he referred to as "the priests and the doctors", had begun his own careful reading of the Bible to see if he could find out where these toxic ideas were coming from. He found that many of the churches had twisted the message of the Bible into these damaging messages, and the real message of Jesus was one of life, love, healing, and prosperity. Quimby believed that he had rediscovered the lost healing methods of Jesus. He healed thousands of patients during his lifetime, but he did not leave any individual or institution able to carry on his work and develop his ideas.
Two of Quimby’s patients met in his office, fell in love, and married. Their eldest son, Horatio W. Dresser, grew up to be the first historian of what became the New Thought movement. He earned his Ph.D. in philosophy at Harvard, studying with William James and becoming a psychologist as well as an author of many books. He was a co-founder of the Metaphysical Club of Boston, arguably the cornerstone of the new movement. He founded and edited two journals, The movement, which was originally referred to as Mental Science, in 1894 acquired the name New Thought. In 1917 Dresser published a collection of speeches and essays by various early leading lights in the movement, including a few of his own, under the title The Spirit of the New Thought. Comments Dresser, "The theory was essentially a "new" thought for most of its devotees, a new attitude towards life, hence the term was in a sense appropriate." He continues,
The New Thought is a theory and method of mental life with special reference to healing, and the fostering of attitudes, modes of conduct and beliefs which make for health and general welfare. The theory in brief is that man leads an essentially mental life, influenced, shaped and controlled by anticipations, hopes and suggestions. . . . Life is largely what we make of it, what we bring to and call out of it. Hence the importance of cultivating optimistic, constructive and productive beliefs. Beliefs lead to attitudes and these determine conduct. . . . The application of these principles to life in general grows naturally out of the success attained in applying them to health. . . . The New Thought fosters individual development, and leads each man to believe he can go to the supreme sources of life. He may make of his theory and method a spiritual gospel by turning afresh to the New Testament to find it a guide to the efficient religious life. The Christ then becomes an inner or universal principle, accessible to every soul.
A century after Quimby, the Philosopher (Alan) also earned a Ph.D. in philosophy, writing his dissertation on Horatio W. Dresser and including much about Quimby. It was later published as the book Healing Hypotheses (now available online at www.ppquimby.com). Lately, we have been rereading The Spirit of the New Thought. The movement has been through so many changes over the years that it is refreshing to return to the viewpoint of the early participants, resting squarely on a foundation of American individual freedoms, Christian principles, and outstanding character as exemplified by the founders of the United States of America. Dresser concludes his introduction:
This is the spirit of the New Thought, the glad tidings it declares to the world—the great revelation of spiritual unity and beneficent evolution by the heeding of which not only disease shall cease, but war and unhappiness. It is another form of the gospel of the Christ. It is a new interpretation of the evangel of love.
It is high time we returned to those magnificent principles of the founders of New Thought and of the founders of the United States of America, the necessary climate into which New Thought could be born. The Spirit of the New Thought is available online by Googling The Spirit of the New Thought.
March 8, 2010
The Winter of our Discontent
At this time of year, winter seems to be dragging on unreasonably long, and everyone in the North is ready to scream. This year, those of us who thought we had escaped from New England to the sunny South find ourselves in the same predicament as we look out at withered ghosts of palm trees and bare stubs of hibiscus bushes. March so far has brought more "breezes loud and shrill" than "dancing daffodils". The only green in our yard is the weeds in the lawn, and the Philosopher hasn’t even poked his head out of the cave long enough to sweep the front walk. The news is full of blizzards and ice storms, earthquakes and bank failures, pirates and cruise ships struck by rogue waves, and flu epidemics even when they fail to materialize. States and even whole countries are facing bankruptcy. Our collective negativity seems to be manifesting itself in myriad ways, not the least of which is the global cooling which for the last fifteen years has rebutted the Big Lie of global warming, which turns out to be a conspiracy to make a few people very rich at the expense of the rest of us.
Let’s add to the pile the latest round of criticisms of New Thought, a book titled Bright-Sided: How the relentless promotion of positive thinking has undermined America, by Barbara Ehrenreich. She claims that "positive thinking" has led people to get mortgages they can’t afford, indulge in magical thinking, fail to guard against terrorists, and put an artificially cheerful face on disease and death, all while blaming the victim for failing to be positive enough. New Thought with its positive thinking is to blame for all the misery we are currently facing. But the distortions of New Thought that are being referred to as positive thinking are not New Thought as outlined by its early founders and proponents. It’s high time we set the record straight. It was Norman Vincent Peale whose famous book, The Power of Positive Thinking, started a lot of the fuss. But the critics neglect to note that it was Peale who also talked about the need to "keep on keeping on" when things aren’t going well, and it was Peale who also wrote The Tough-Minded Optimist. Turning one’s thoughts to God instead of to one’s problems and being optimistic about the outcome in the long run may be simple, but it is anything but easy.
I have said it before and I say it again: New Thought is all about what you say to yourself when everything seems to be going wrong. It has nothing to do with what philosopher Tom Morris calls "chirpy cheerfulness" or what New Thought minister Marianne Williamson calls "pouring pink paint over everything". If life were all sunshine and lollipops, it wouldn’t stay that way for long, because we would lose our hardiness. Most of us are well aware of what happens when we fail to get enough roughage (fiber) in our diet. If there were no darkness, how would we ever know what light is? Worst-case analysis can be a very positive thing to do because it helps ensure that we will reach our goals even if we run into difficulties and have to revise plans, and lucky people therefore tend to be pessimists. Author Robert Ringer in his highly misunderstood book, Winning Through Intimidation describes his Theory of the Sustenance of a Positive Attitude in the Face of a Negative Outcome, and that is more nearly what New Thought teaches.
There are dozens, if not hundreds, of stories about people who made the best of a bad situation and had things turn out all right. Joel Osteen recently recounted the tale of a man who was shipwrecked on a desert island. Weeks passed, and there seemed no hope of his being found and rescued. Then the hut that he had laboriously built caught fire and burned to the ground. This was too much for the man to bear, and he broke down and wept. Just then, a Coast Guard rescue boat landed on the beach. Overjoyed, the man cried, "How did you ever find me?" The Coast Guard officer replied, "We saw the smoke from your signal fire." God frequently comes to our aid at what Emmet Fox calls the thirteenth hour. When you have reached the end of your rope, as the saying goes, tie a knot and hold on. HOPE: Hold On, Praying Expectantly. I wish I’d said that.
April 1, 2010
A Visitor to the Philosopher's Cave
The Philosopher’s cave, which has more features than Snoopy’s doghouse, boasts a large if untidy library. Recently some chance conversation between us impelled the Philosopher to rummage around in it and come up with a copy of The Spirit of the New Thought, edited by Horatio W. Dresser. Browsing through this early New Thought anthology, I noticed a couple of articles by Henry Wood (1834-1909), who was singled out for praise, along with Dresser, as the two New Thought writers that the great philosopher and psychologist William James considered especially admirable in a field of literature that he frequently dismissed as "moonstruck".
I had never read any of Henry Wood’s ten books, but the Philosopher had acquired them all in his travels many years ago. We have begun reading Wood’s works aloud together and are increasingly delighted by them. In fact, we find ourselves frequently visited by the ghost of Wood, so much so that we are all now on a first-name basis. Henry doesn’t care much for the Philosopher’s cave, which he finds too messy, but he, no slouch in the philosophy department himself, occasionally sits on the Philosopher’s stone alongside the Philosopher on sunny days. Henry likes the Garden by the Sea, so on that page I will begin to post various excerpts from his writings suitable for meditation. Henry frequently says things that foreshadow process thought, which impresses the Philosopher, so we will have to begin collecting those as well.
Henry gave an address at the first annual convention of the International Metaphysical League, held in Boston in 1899. That year, he was elected president of the Metaphysical Club, which included many of the leading lights in the early New Thought movement. In his speech, titled "A Rational and Positive Spiritual Philosophy", he wrestled with the various aspects of the new movement, which had just acquired the name New Thought but at the time was also known as the Metaphysical Movement, Practical Idealism, and other names. After acknowledging that "its validity would yet depend upon the personal point of view", he emphasized "its rationality and spirituality".
Wow! What more could one ask than the combination of rationality and spirituality? All too often, those who fancy themselves spiritual pride themselves on being irrational, or those who pride themselves on being rational, particularly in the sciences, dismiss spirituality as irrational. But Henry emphasized common sense and the rule of law in the nonphysical realms as much as in the physical. While respecting the role of mind and deploring philosophical materialism, he stressed the importance of one’s evolving spiritually, following in the footsteps of Jesus. He also insisted on the lawfulness of the realms of mind and spirit just as much as in the physical.
Henry had had a successful career as a businessman, but became seriously ill as a result of stress. He began to study New Thought, and gradually healed himself. He then resolved to devote his life to helping others understand New Thought principles and practices and put them to work in their own lives. He was not a minister or a doctor, but his books were very popular, selling in the tens of thousands. We look forward to many more visits from him, since he deserves a far more prominent place in the New Thought of today than he presently enjoys.
April 15, 2010
New Thought on the Threshold of Postmodern Science
Lately, the Philosopher and I have been preoccupied with the early years of the New Thought movement, even before it had acquired that name. Horatio Dresser included in his anthology, The Spirit of the New Thought, Henry Wood’s answers to criticisms of the New Thought that had appeared in three periodicals. Although we do not have the exact words of the critics before us, we can pretty well guess what they were accusing New Thought of. Wood, approaching New Thought as a philosophy, notes, "This is no cult, in the sense of having any central authoritative creed or specific formulated system. If so, criticism could be more definite. It is rather a great spontaneous trend, an impersonal movement. It is free from dogmatism, and so permeated by an evolutionary optimism that it sees the good even in everything and everybody which most actively opposes it." He goes on to deny "that the ‘all-is-spirit’ philosophy properly belongs to the New Thought", based on his "somewhat extensive acquaintance with its most prominent exponents". Elsewhere in Wood’s writings he makes it quite clear that as an idealist, he is completely opposed to materialism; here he comments, "Matter is regarded as expressive, secondary, and resultant, but by no means as unreal. In its proper place and relation it is good and useful. Man is the normal and rightful executive of his physical organism, and not its subordinate, nor the slave of its sensations." This is a clear repudiation of the view held by Christian Scientists that matter is completely unreal.
At this point (1901), Wood and the other early New Thoughters stood on the threshold of quantum physics and process philosophy, even though that threshold had not yet been crossed. They were looking at the same world that Planck, Whitehead, and other great thinkers were contemplating. Today materialism has been philosophically discredited, but those fleeing that sinking ship have clambered onto the foundering vessel of dualism, which according to process philosopher David Ray Griffin, has even more philosophical flaws than materialism. It was Wood and the other idealists who foreshadowed the cleaned-up idealism known as panexperientialism. Panexperientialism takes into account the immanence of God in each occasion of experience, whereas Wood and the other idealists were not yet able to work at the level of quanta. But Wood would have understood Whitehead’s distinction of "nature lifeless" from "nature alive". He quoted Elizabeth Barrett Browning, "And every common bush afire with God". Wood, who had an excellent liberal arts education before heading for business college, was well grounded in philosophy as well as theology, insisting on a foundation of reason as well as forays into mysticism. He stressed the importance of a universe that operated lawfully in both the physical and non-physical realms, for a Creator who could contradict himself or change his fundamental character was not one worthy of worship. He insisted on the importance of good character, and here he parted company with the many in the New Thought movement and the success literature who ignored it, attracting extensive criticism continuing to this day.
Wood also makes very clear his view of miracles as the orderly operation of laws that we as yet do not understand. He espouses naturalism of the non-supernatural, non-superstitious sort that Griffin later outlined. He was so broad and yet balanced in his interests that every page brings up new topics to pursue in both science and religion, which Wood sought to reunite. At this point, I am still in the process of familiarizing myself with Wood’s writings and accumulating Wood’s thoughts on various topics. The Philosopher and I are reading Wood aloud and finding new delights on every page. Until we familiarize ourselves sufficiently to write at length about him, I wish David Griffin would dip into him.
May 1, 2010
Remarks by the Philosopher himself.
Looking Up and Down
Some of my days seem better than others, and I imagine that this is true of you. But did you ever think that it may be true of whole civilizations? I don’t mean that one civilization is necessarily better than another, although the classification of Western history into ancient, medieval, and modern can be taken to imply that there were high stages before and after the middle period of something like a thousand years that was merely marking time, lacking the greatness of both ancient and modern civilizations.
What I am thinking of is the leveling up and leveling down that have characterized Western civilization (and perhaps all civilizations) on the basis of whether they were (and are) upward-looking or downward looking. I’m speaking here not of optimistic or pessimistic, although those may go along with the upward and downward metaphysical approaches.
The term reductionism has come to be associated with the attempt to explain everything in terms of atoms or even smaller bits of something claimed to be lacking any sort of awareness. The overall term for this is materialism in the metaphysical rather than acquisitive sense. The great opposite to materialism is idealism in the metaphysical sense, not necessarily having anything to do with practical high-mindedness. Since we cannot very well use the term reduce in relation to explaining the lower in terms of the higher, we must settle for something such as resolve: explaining one level in terms of another without necessarily meaning to explain the lower in terms of the higher, as in resolve matter into mind. But as soon as we confront the word mind, most people probably think of a ghostly invisible sort of something that is called a substance. Also, some people distinguish mind from spirit: a century and more ago metaphysical idealism commonly was called spiritualism, although not the sort emphasizing communication with the dead.
Partly perhaps because of the difficulty in choosing between the terms idealism and spiritualism, in recent years there has been a tendency in some quarters to refer not to mind, consciousness, or spirit, but simply to that which characterizes everything on whatever level of being it may exist: experience. Alas, this has produced as a substitute for idealism the jaw-breaking term panexperientialism. Most likely one can live well without ever hearing of or employing that term, unless one wants to stir things up at a party with a dearth of discussion. Even one professing to be a panexperientialist is unlikely to cause anyone to phone 911 to let the police know that there is a panexperientialist at large.
Why do I subject you to a term that is neither illegal nor immoral, but is likely to fatten your vocabulary? Simply because panexperientialism is the latest word to use in characterizing the leveling upward that—in line with Alfred North Whitehead’s Modes of Thought—proclaims nature to be alive. Primitive animists indulged in such believing, but had no such word for it. Now we have, and in New Thought we begin our thought and practice by turning to the ultimate possessor of experience (both his own and ours): God. There is nothing higher than that.
May 15, 2010
The Philosopher is really on a roll lately. Here are his latest thoughts on the basic building blocks of the universe and God’s interaction with them.
What God Does All Day (and Night)
Did you know that God has a job description? Maybe he didn’t before Deb and I gave him one, but he is very patient and didn’t mind waiting countless billions of years before someone got around to making one for him, not that numerous thinkers hadn’t done it without calling it that. Since God never has been unemployed and wouldn’t be applying for a different job (and to whom would he apply?), he really hasn’t needed a job description.
I imagine that all descriptions of God are his job descriptions, although some are woefully incorrect in describing what he does or can do. Possibly the most important characterization of what he does was brought about when someone translated the Greek pantokrator into Latin as omnipotent, changing all-sufficient into all-powerful. People are always saying strange things behind his back.
If you have read as far as page 125 of our New Thought: A Practical American Spirituality, you know that Deb and I say:
The divine job description provides for God to start everything, to finish nothing, and to keep everything. Your job description calls for you to start nothing, to finish very quickly, and to realize that you can’t keep anything for more than a moment. If this seems to violate common sense, keep reading.
Much as I’d like to tell the rest of the story, my typing finger may not be up to it, and the publisher would lose some sales, if I were to reveal the next two hundred pages here. So I’ll summarize mercilessly: God starts everything in the sense that everything is made up of nonmaterial something called more or less synonymously mind, spirit, and experience. Everything is composed of that, so the outlook is metaphysically called an idealistic monism, but philosophers disagree on how many units of it there are. An absolutist, also known as a pantheist, holds that all is mind, which makes him an idealistic qualitative monist; but he also claims that there is only one unit of it, which makes him a quantitative monist. Most idealists, while embracing qualitative monism, stoutly reject quantitative monism, in that there are, it seems to most of us (and some dare to try to prove it) many units of mind, so we are idealistically monists, but quantitatively pluralists.
If there were only God, all seeming else would be no more than an appearance. So God would be out of work in influencing anyone or anything else, for there would be no else.
Possibly the most widely known pluralistic idealist was Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716), but probably likely to outdistance him in fame was Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947), after whom Whiteheadian process thought is named. Leibniz believed that basic units, for which he borrowed the name monad, do not interact, but are somewhat like trains running on parallel tracks. Whitehead’s basic units (called actual entities or occasions of experience) are nothing apart from interaction. So process often is followed by -relational. It is practically impossible to distinguish process philosophy from process theology, so if you are looking for any reference to us in Wikipedia, you will find it at the end of someone’s lengthy entry on process theology.
Getting back to what God does: he presents each actual entity with the perfect (God offers no imperfect merchandise in his store of wisdom) possibility for what exactly would be best for that particular arising actual entity in the context of whatever is the background out of which it is arising. Needless to say, only God could provide such a tailor-made possibilities for the unimaginably great number of entities constantly coming into existence. Estimating the number of stars in existence probably would be simple compared with God’s job.
Contrary to the belief of many, God never condemns, nor especially praises, any entity for the decisions of its predecessors in accepting or rejecting God’s proposals in the past. God and the endless succession of actualities are, as Deb and I emphasize in our domain name, new every moment. Now you see why this outlook is referred to as a process one.
May 31, 2010
One Presence and One Power
Although New Thought has no formal creed that one is required to swear to, there are principles to which nearly everyone in New Thought subscribes. One of these is "There is but one Presence and one Power: God, the good omnipotent". This statement is capable of two interpretations. One is sound philosophy; the other is errant nonsense.
Let’s first get rid of the nonsense. If you believe that God is the only power in the universe, you just dissed yourself. You have free will, and that is a power. Obviously, there is more than one power in the universe. People are forever trying to get around this by turning to some pantheistic notion that "God" is made up of all of us, that all there is, is God; or that God is all there is. Either way, that adds up to what process philosopher David Ray Griffin calls a performative self-contradiction. That means that although you may give lip service to such a notion, your actions belie it. Griffin illustrates performative self-contradiction with the example of a solipsist, a person who believes that he is all there is, that he is the only one out there. The moment he makes that statement aloud, he has shot himself in the foot, for to whom is he speaking? If he then writes it on a word processor, his actions reveal that he acknowledges the existence of the word processor in addition to himself, and the absurdity becomes even more clear.
Some people deny that they have free will, claiming that free will is an illusion and that we are all determined. This is a performative self-contradiction, because the same people turn right around and act as if they have free will; their performance contradicts their claim.
All these are metaphysical issues, pertaining to the nature of the universe. In what sense, then, can we logically and reasonably say that there is only one Presence and Power? For this, we must turn from metaphysics to axiology. Axiology is the study of values, including morals and ethics. Ethical dualism concerns the belief that there are two powers in the universe: good and evil. Most people in New Thought hold that evil is insubstantial, that it is immature good, or good that has somehow gotten off track. God, who is totally good, never created evil. Evil has been described as being like darkness: when you walk into a dark room and turn on the light, you do not have to chase the shadows out; they vanish instantly in the light. Or evil can be described as being like cold: at absolute zero, there is a total absence of heat, but cold has no substance of its own.
Evil can appear in a totally good creation in the same way that a green light can result from the blending of a blue light and a yellow light. Seeking the source of that green light, you will find only blue and yellow, but not green. Evil is real; it does exist, but it has no lasting substance. It represents the misuse of God’s creation and the need for more divine order. It is good somehow run amok. God offers only perfectly good initial aims for each occasion of experience, but experiences don’t always accept those good initial aims. "God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions" (Eccl. 7:29). There are evil entities, beings who use their free will to say no to God’s perfect possibilities. These beings were not created evil, and they may yet eventually choose to say yes to God.
In an ethical sense, then, we can wholeheartedly and reasonably affirm that there is but one Presence and one Power in the universe: the wholly good, all-sufficient God that Jesus called Father.
June 15, 2010
Revision or Restoration
"To every thing there is a season", wrote the author of Ecclesiastes. One of the more important skills we humans need to learn is deciding whether to revise or to restore: should we come up with something new or go back to the tried and true? Every life cycle, be it personal or business, needs a taking-stock stage or season when one evaluates one’s results and chooses to stay the course or change it. Either one is stuck in the mud and needs to do something different, or one has lost one’s way and needs to get back on the path. Which is it?
One illustration of the need for this stock-taking is today’s political situation. The country has ceased to prosper as it is being bled white by assorted special interests, blocked from using its talents and resources, and having its citizens’ freedoms whittled away. Many of our career politicians—and individuals from both political parties are guilty of this—have abandoned the principles of the Founders and are twisting the Constitution to suit their own ends. They rationalize this by calling it "a living document", which to them justifies their undermining it. But the men who drafted the Constitution had learned bitter lessons from their own situation and from studying history and philosophy. They therefore created "a government of laws and not of men", a rule of law carefully divided to allow sufficient central power to get the job of national governing and defending done in accordance with the powers delegated to it by the people, but to leave the greatest possible number of choices to the individual states. The Tea Party movement (TEA stands for Taxed Enough Already) consists of people of integrity from both political parties and of assorted races and faiths who seek to restore, not revise, the Constitution, which already includes provision for amendments and for the making of new laws.
In another arena, economist Julian Simon looked at the same data that other economists—and economics is known as "the dismal science"—had viewed with great pessimism, and viewed it instead as full of opportunity. Here we need to revise our thinking and take another look at the facts. It was Simon who realized that the ultimate resource, the real wealth of any nation, is the ingenuity of its inhabitants. Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee’s show on Fox News this past weekend featured the inventors of various simple and workable methods of cleaning up oil spills such as the one in the Gulf of Mexico, who demonstrated their methods in front of the TV cameras. Some people, instead of wringing their hands in despair, have set to work, using the means available, and mitigated the damage to an astonishing degree.
Then there’s Christianity with its various interpretations of the Bible. Many people may be trying to live good lives according to the interpretation supplied by Calvin or the Inquisition, but they are violating Jesus’s admonishment not to judge by condemning anyone who doesn’t see things the way they do. Here again, we need to pray for wisdom and discernment: can we advance spiritually by changing our current practices in thought, word, or deed, or do we need to be open to something quite different? Should we restore or revise? There are many layers of meaning in the Bible, and to Eastern minds, symbolism is the normal way of communicating, so the authors of the books of the Bible never expected much of what they wrote to be taken literally. On the other hand, the authors of the Gospels were doing their best to record what they had seen and heard, and it is overboard to dismiss it all as mythical.
One of my favorite New Thought affirmations is DIVINE INTELLIGENCE KNOWS ALL I NEED TO KNOW, AND DIVINE INTELLIGENCE TELLS ME ALL I NEED TO KNOW. But first, we have to be still. . .
Summer Memories, Summer Not
The Philosopher has been estivating. He looks so cute sitting on the stone with his colorful beach umbrella raised to keep off the ambient summer breezes. (The Philosopher hates moving air. If we ever have another Pentecostal outpouring, he’s in big trouble.) His main preoccupation has been trying to develop mnemonics for Henry Wood’s 25 mental photography suggestions from Ideal Suggestion Through Mental Photography (1893). Henry occasionally sits on the stone next to him, but Henry takes a dim view of anyone who fails to do the work in consciousness of mentally photographing the suggestions and reading the meditations that elaborate on them.
If he had listened to me, I could have saved him the trouble. Below are the 25 suggestions and how to remember them. Be sure to read the meditation for each, following Henry’s instructions. If you don’t happen to own your own copy, you can download the PDF file to your desktop in two clicks: 1) our Henry Wood tag on the left, and 2) the 1893 title. Invaluable technical assistance in this operation was provided by computer genius and Quimby scholar Ron Hughes. The connection is that Henry’s buddy, Horatio, was the eldest child of Quimby patients Julius and Annetta Dresser. Check out www.ppquimby.com .
For remembering any ten things, you can’t beat associating them with bun, shoe, tree, door, hive, sticks, heaven, gate, vine, hen; so we’ll start with those. (If you don’t get it, read them aloud.) Make up your own associations; the sillier and crazier, the better they work.
1. GOD IS HERE. How about an open hot dog bun upon which is a piece of paper bearing the word GOD in large black letters? God is here, right on this bun.
2. DIVINE LOVE FILLS ME. How about a glamorous high-heeled shoe filled with little pink candy hearts? This would be you as shoe.
3. GOD IS MY LIFE. There’s a wonderful Tree of Life at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and "only God can make a tree". The first three go together as a sort of set.
4. CHRIST IS WITHIN. Just think of "Behold, I stand at the door and knock." I have heard it said that the Christ is actually asking to be let out into the world.
5. I AM SOUL. Hive implies a beehive, and I am comes from to be.
6. I AM PART OF A GREAT WHOLE. Financier Meyer Rothschild supposedly showed his young sons a bundle of sticks. A single stick could be easily broken, but the bundle tied together had enormous power. Or go back to the Roman fasces.
7. ALL THINGS ARE YOURS. Author Andy Andrews in The Traveler’s Gift tells of a warehouse in heaven filled to overflowing with all the things people had wanted but had given up hope of getting before their desires could be delivered.
8. I AM NOT BODY. The gate separates you from the hive.
9. I FEAR NO EVIL. A surrealistic black vine snaking around in the darkness makes me think of evil.
10. I WILL: BE THOU MADE CLEAN. These are the words of Jesus. Beecher was a Christian minister. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. wrote the following limerick about him:
"The Reverend Henry Ward Beecher
Called a hen a remarkable creature.
The hen, pleased with that,
Laid an egg in his hat,
And thus did the hen reward Beecher."
To be continued.
August 29, 2010
This continues our series of mnemonics for remembering Henry Wood’s 25 mental photography Suggestions from Ideal Suggestion Through Mental Photography (1893). In case you tuned in late, Henry Wood (1834-1909) was a successful businessman, early New Thought author, and philanthropist—too modest to call himself a healer—who co-founded and was at one time president of the Metaphysical Club. The Philosopher and I like to refer to him by his Christian name because at this point we feel that we know him really well. The New Thought movement could well follow the example of the inhabitants of Belfast, Maine, who referred in the local newspapers to P.P. Quimby’s son George as "our George". Our Henry was a remarkable person, and I feel blessed to have rediscovered him. All of his books are available online as PDF files, and a few of them are reprinted for sale by various vendors. Even with his business books, what is surprising is how timely they are more than a century later.
Here are a few more of our Henry’s Suggestions along with ways to remember them so that you can rehearse them in bed in the middle of the night if you have trouble falling asleep. However, there is no substitute for doing the work of reading the daily meditations and contemplating the Suggestions. You can access the free online PDF files by clicking on our Henry Wood tag to your left and then clicking on the title Ideal Suggestion Through Mental Photography (1893).
11. SPIRIT IS THE ONLY SUBSTANCE. (Process thinkers will kindly note that spirit-mind-idea-experience all refer to that which is non-physical as the nature of the building blocks of the universe that underlie— sub stare— all that is. What we refer to as physical is a very dense form of it.) Since this is Suggestion 11, take those two numeral 1's and stick S’s on top of them, rather like the symbol for the U.S. dollar. The S’s of course stand for spirit and substance.
12. I AM FREE. Picture a Black Forest cuckoo clock. The bird pops out of its little doors under the 12. In our mnemonic version, it then does a swan dive straight down onto the floor, not understanding what it really means to be free.
13. THERE IS NO DEATH. The number 13 is traditionally associated with bad luck, so let’s turn it 180 degrees and associate it with really good news.
14. I LOOK UPWARD. Make the numeral 1 and the tall stick of the numeral 4 into arrows pointing upward.
15. I AM GOD’S CHILD. True confession time: I have yet to come up with a mnemonic for this one. It always just seems to pop up for me, in a lot better form than the cuckoo. Perhaps at age 16 one starts to leave childhood behind (but of course, we continue to be God’s children.)
We’ll polish off the last 10 Suggestions next time.
September 12, 2010
The Rest of the Mnemonics
Responding to a challenge from the Philosopher, I have been developing mnemonics for remembering early New Thoughter Henry Wood’s 25 mental photography Suggestions from Ideal Suggestion Through Mental Photography (1893). You can read the last two installments of this newsletter below to get caught up, if necessary. We are planning to take a careful look at each of the Suggestions over the next 25 weeks or so to see what we can learn from this remarkable man. Here are my mnemonics for the last ten Suggestions. Most of the mnemonics have little or nothing to do with what our Henry is trying to teach; they are just aids to memory.
The next five mnemonics rely on their numerical order.
16. PAIN IS FRIENDLY. This one is complicated and preposterous, so it works very well for me. If you don’t like it, make up your own complicated preposterous mnemonic.
In Richard Bartlett’s Matrix Energetics, there is a set of 21 frequencies that do amazing things. One of the more amazing is Frequency 16, which somehow delightfully produces dolphins. On one wild occasion, one of the dolphins did a flying leap and landed on a heavy-duty massage table, smashing it to smithereens. There are supposed to be videos of this event. Anyway, dolphins are ordinarily happy-faced, friendly creatures, and smashing a $1,000 massage table was very painful to its owner’s wallet.
17. I LISTEN. Seventeen-year-olds are not much inclined to listen to their parents and teachers.
18. I MAKE HARMONY. Throughout most of the eighteenth century, the harpsichord dominated the musical scene. The music of that era (the Baroque period) was contrapuntal, but later in the century, the emphasis turned to harmony. So I picture a harpsichord (I happen to own one) waiting for me to make harmony on it or with it.
19. I RULE THE BODY. This is one of my favorites. Our Henry lived mostly in the nineteenth century, so I picture him in typical nineteenth-century business garb, holding a ruler in one hand. There is a nice picture of him near the front of Ideal Suggestion, but you can’t see the ruler.
20. HEALTH IS NATURAL. Suggestions 20-22 are similar enough to be hard to keep straight, so you have to spend a little extra time sorting out which is which. In the twentieth century, philosophy turned away from the supernatural to emphasize the natural, appropriately enough. Process philosopher David Ray Griffin has a lot to say about naturalism and how God is present in nature, down and dirty, as well as transcending it.
21. MENTAL HEALING IS SCIENTIFIC. Even now, there is much resistance from scientists to any notion of the power of mind. Elaborating on Suggestion 20, we turn to mental healing (in addition to what Henry says about the importance of good hygiene (food, water, sleep, fresh air, etc.) and note that it is perfectly within the "systemized truth" of science, operating lawfully.
22. HEALING IS BIBLICAL. As our Henry points out, most of the miracles of Jesus involved healings both physical and mental, and Jesus repeatedly indicated that we are expected to emulate him. So in 20-22, we have the progression from nature in general to science, then back to the Bible to remind us that despite what some churches may teach, the healing methods of Jesus are still at work and available to us today.
23. PRAYER IS ANSWERED. It’s a no-brainer to think of the 23rd Psalm, which could be taken as a series of affirmative prayers.
24. I AM HEALED. We have prayed for healing, and our prayer is answered. We can then joyfully affirm, "I am healed!"
25. "BE YE THEREFORE PERFECT." This is the second Suggestion that uses the words of Jesus, who reminded those who had been healed to "sin no more, lest a worse thing befall thee", meaning that you must change whatever habits caused you to miss the mark and end up in need of healing. We are made in the image of God, and are therefore perfect.
Do continue to follow Henry’s instructions and use his meditations to install these Suggestions in your mind. Try to rattle them off several times a day. It’s worth the effort. The more you work with these ideas, the more they become part of you; and the more you read of Henry’s writings, the more you come to appreciate the depth and richness of his thought.
September 19, 2010
God Is Here
Here is the first of a series of reflections/elaborations/kibitzes on meditations by early New Thoughter Henry Wood (1834-1909). The meditations were designed to go with his 25 Suggestions in his book, Ideal Suggestion Through Mental Photography (1893). The Philosopher is presently outside behind the cave struggling to tame a nasty Trojan horse that got into his computer (Beware of Greeks bearing gifts!). He is calling it Bucephalus in honor of the best-known student of the earlier Philosopher, hoping that this meretricious namesake will quickly die of battle wounds. He will no doubt have comments on many of this series.
You can read this first meditation and the directions for the series by clicking on the "Henry Wood" tab to your left on our site. For the rest, if you do not happen to own the book, you can download the Google pdf file to your desktop.
First Suggestion: GOD IS HERE. Our Henry makes it unmistakably clear how important this sense of the presence of God is by putting this Suggestion first. He could not have known that there is a second, holistic route into the brain through the eyes by looking at a page with the eyes slightly out of focus, but at the time he wrote, photography was still a relatively new wrinkle on the scientific scene. As he explains in his Preface, "IDEAL SUGGESTION is the photographing of pure and perfect ideals directly upon the mind through the medium of the sense of sight." In the first meditation he notes,
What we dwell upon we become, or at least grow like. Thought must have an outlet, otherwise it stagnates. God is the great normal Reality for it to rest upon. Consciousness must be open to the divine harmony, else it becomes disorderly and abnormal. It takes on character from that to which it links itself, — God, if it be God; change and discord, if materiality.
Note how elegantly our Henry walks the line between immanence and transcendence, neatly avoiding pantheism: "The vision must be clarified so as to behold God everywhere, within and without, as all Life, all Love, and All in All."
Earlier in the book, Henry comments,
To those who already have some understanding of the laws of spiritual and mental science in their relation to human wholeness, the logic, and rationality of the "Suggestions" will be easily understood. There is nothing super-natural, un-natural, or illogical, about them. The system is only a plain scientific application of well-understood means to ends, and is in perfect accord with law, nature, and practical religion. (Page 99)
Process thinkers will jump for joy at this recognition of God’s presence in the natural, rather than God’s being kicked upstairs into some supernatural penthouse from which he only rarely and with much pleading and coaxing from below intervenes in the affairs of man. For Henry, the healing process begins with God firmly ensconced in one’s consciousness. New Thought did not even have that name yet when Henry wrote,
When the Founder of Christianity gave his great commission, "Preach the gospel and heal the sick," did he not mean all that he said? Is the power of Truth partial, local, and limited to a single age? If God be infinitely good, unchangeable, and orderly in His manifestations, could He withdraw powers and privileges that had been already bestowed? If divine law is not suspended nor violated, the same "gifts of healing" that have once been exercised must be operative to-day, under corresponding spiritual conditions. On the divine side, spiritual law must always be uniform, otherwise God’s methods would be self-contradictory. (Page 18)
In 1892, Henry published God’s Image in Man, in which he wrestles with the problems created by anthropomorphism. He warns, "Unless the term person is enlarged and lifted infinitely above that which it signifies to most minds, it is too circumscribed to describe the All in All." (page 22) He’s right, and that is just what the Philosopher’s beloved personalist philosopher, Borden Parker Bowne, did. Bowne taught at Boston University during Henry’s lifetime, so the Philosopher wonders whether Henry could have known him or read his books. The Bible reflects the struggle over thousands of years to get anything approximating an accurate view of God. Henry continues, "All true religion must have for its basis a right conception of God. This is at once the centre and foundation. If the starting-point be wrong, the problem of man’s relation to his Maker will not be solved." (Page 23)
If we begin with the premise that God is here, we open ourselves to God’s revelation of God’s own nature directly to us. We also prepare ourselves to give God permission to guide us, to work directly in our lives with far more wisdom that we can ever imagine.
September 26, 2010
Divine Love Fills Me
The Philosopher and I are engaged in examining a series of Suggestions with accompanying meditations by early New Thoughter Henry Wood (1834-1909). Even if you do not own the book, Ideal Suggestion Through Mental Photography (1893), you can download the Google pdf file to your desktop and copy the table of contents. It will give you a handy list of the 25 Suggestions, which you can then print out for your own easy reference. The Philosopher may occasionally break in with some comments of his own, but for the moment, I am carrying the ball. Earlier issues of this newsletter have dealt with mnemonic devices for remembering the 25 Suggestions, since it is valuable to rehearse them to yourself frequently.
Second Suggestion: DIVINE LOVE FILLS ME. The first three Suggestions deal with God and our relationship to God. If you come to the list of Suggestions in anything but an uplifted state, this Suggestion gives you a chance to recover. Whether you picture a pink cloud filling you, or imagine a collection of angelic harps playing ethereal music to uplift you, or whatever comes to be associated with this Suggestion for you, here is your restorative, your reminder of "a vast atmosphere in which we live, even though unconsciously", as our Henry puts it. Quoting Prentice Mulford, he reminds us, "Thoughts are things", continuing, "and love is thought-ministration. As we love everything, everything will love us." Henry found his way to what later became known as New Thought because of an illness that forced his early retirement from a very successful business career, and it is therefore very significant that he ends this meditation with the statement, "Divine love cures." Earlier in the book, he told us,
Love is the great healing power of the universe. . . . Love invigorates. Its electric thrill sends new life through sluggish minds, weak bodies, and paralyzed limbs. At the Beautiful temple gate, Peter and John concentrated such a current of healing love upon the lame man, that he at once walked, leaped, and praised God. That wonderful power has not been withdrawn from the world, for God never takes back; and it only needs the same consecration and positive spiritual clearness in some modern Peter and John for like manifestations now. Love is the great universal spiritual law of attraction which binds God and all His creatures into harmonious unity, wipes away all tears, and heals all seeming infelicities. (Pages 93-94)
I remember hearing Unity minister Martha Giudici long ago point out in a taped series that in order to give someone $5.00, you had to have $5.00 in your pocket. By the same token, in order to give love away, we have to be filled with it. God is our unending, unfailing source of supply. Even if we don’t feel loving toward some person or situation, God’s love is always available, and it blesses us on the way through, provided we get out of the way and let it.
I John 4 famously states and repeats, "God is love." In verse 19, the author adds, "We love because he first loved us." This used to puzzle me, because the Philosopher has repeatedly emphasized the point that God is not an abstraction; God is concrete. Then I came across a footnote in the New American Bible, commenting on I John 4:13-21, "Christian love is not abstract but lived in the concrete manner of love for one another." And it hit me: love is one of the names of God. One’s name in the Bible represents one’s character.
The subject of love has been on my mind lately ever since I read Carnelian Sage’s (pseudonym) little book, The Greatest Manifestation Principle in the World. Although the Philosopher grumbles a bit about the lack of philosophical precision of some of her statements, Sage has some important points to make about the current misuse and misunderstanding of the Law of Attraction. Here is her statement of the Greatest Manifestation Principle in the World:
Love is the catalyst by which all good things happen. The effortless way to achieve your heart’s desire is to let go of your attachment to results, and focus on love instead. Bring the power of love to your pursuits and to all the people, relationships, resources and events associated with your pursuits. The outcome you get may be different from what you had in mind, but it will be infinitely better than that which you desired. (Page 68)
Apparently Henry had that figured out nearly 120 years earlier.
October 4, 2010
God Is My Life
What is particularly interesting about this set of 25 Suggestions from one of early New Thought author Henry Wood’s (1834-1909) earliest and most popular books, written after his own healing, is why he chose these particular ideas as being so important that he would advise others to go to considerable trouble to imprint them in their consciousness. Is their order or sequence important? Is there a pattern to the order in which he took them up or the way in which he grouped them? Since we do not know what he read or with whom he studied to arrive at his own cure (or was it an instantaneous revelation?), we can only study them ourselves and work with them as suggested.
The title page of Ideal Suggestion Through Mental Photography includes a quotation from Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius: "The universe is change; our life is what our thoughts make it." But recent psychology lab work reveals that our thoughts pop into our minds before we are conscious of them! So who is producing our thoughts? In a way, it doesn’t matter, because we have the choice of whether or not to entertain them, as exemplified by Emmet Fox’s famous example of a cigar ash lighting on one’s sleeve: it will only burn a hole if we choose not to brush it off at once. So it is with all our thoughts, and by extension, all that we allow into our lives through reading, television, and the people and ideas we hang out with. The other-than-conscious mind has been aptly compared to an open sewer; anything and everything falls into it for better or for worse, and we have a constant mental housekeeping job of attempting to sweep it out and overwrite any bad thoughts or ideas that we come across. It also behooves us to populate it with as many worthy, proven-successful ideas as possible. This is why the Philosopher and I are engaged in this study and inviting you to look over our shoulders and follow along. Marcus Aurelius is one of the Philosopher’s heroes. In our first jointly written book, New Thought: A Practical American Spirituality, we wrote:
Since the days of the ancient Greeks, philosophers have been rumbling back and forth at each other about the basic nature of reality. Most of us don’t lose much sleep over the issue because we don’t see how it relates to our daily lives. Then when we get into a pickle, we frantically search for some understanding of what life is all about. But philosophy is an armchair enterprise pursued calmly and rationally outside of the fray. It’s a dirty job, but somebody has to do it. You won’t find many want ads for philosophers, and many philosophers have to moonlight, as did Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius, whose day job was Roman emperor. Still, philosophers do us the great service of systematically working out how the world has to be in order to be at all. This means that long before we get into difficulties, we can put our belief systems into place to help us get through them, or even avoid them altogether. (Pages 13-14, revised edition)
Remember that science and religion meet on the lap of philosophy. Maybe we should put some arms on the stone.
Our Henry, who had been a successful businessman, had a solid respect for science in addition to his Christian faith. In his Preface, he defines ideal suggestion as "the photographing of pure and perfect ideals directly upon the mind through the medium of the sense of sight. . . .By the cultivated vigor of thought-concentration it develops wonderful power and utility. . . . While they involve laws and forces which extend above and beyond the domain of the pure intellect, they are orderly and have scientific adaptability." (Page 7)
On page 100 he explains, "The grand mission of these great principles [the Suggestions] is the development of the spiritual ego; to roll the stone away from the door of the sepulchre of the lower self; to bring to birth the spiritual consciousness; to free man from the dominion of sin and selfishness, and to enthrone the real divine self,—God’s image,— and put him in possession of his divine heritage."
So what are we seeing thus far? The first three Suggestions appear to go together and to precede any other considerations: God is here, Divine love fills me, and now, God is my life. What our Henry wants us to understand about the nature of God is that God is immanent, that God is love, and that in similar metaphorical fashion, God is life. Henry, although very clear about the personhood of God, is picking up a useful impersonal way of viewing God as a river or flood or ocean teeming with life. As he puts it in his third meditation, "The divine exuberance fills every space not closed against it. Our little stagnant pool must be connected with the surging and purifying tides of the great ocean of abounding vitality. All is at our disposal." This reminded me of a book by Michele O’Donnell, Of Monkeys and Dragons (2000), which the Philosopher and I are hence rereading aloud. O’Donnell is a nurse who left conventional medicine to study the Bible and become a minister, then left that as well to found a holistic clinic that has been going for some 35 years. She writes of her own spiritual journey to understanding the healings of herself and others. She, too, came to view God as love and as life, and those are the keys to healing and staying well. As she states in her beginning "Letter to the Readers",
There truly is a River Of Life that flows around and about us, with healing in its waters, available to all and anyone who wishes to experience it. It is a Spiritual Flow of Divine Life and in moments of silence one can hear it calling to us, saying, "Whosoever will, let him come". "Whosoever thirsteth, let him drink." Gone are the days where we believed we had to earn such an experience, or "qualify" by some man made standards. Gone are the days when God was so far from our reach, when we felt so lost and alone and forsaken. Never has the Spirit of God come so near to men’s hearts as It is now. While we appreciate the efforts of the clergy and doctors and various healers available, this is about you and your Creator, you and the heart and mind of Eternal Love. He is as near as the breath you breathe...you walk and talk, live, love and laugh within the substance of this infinite and holy Life. It contains all that you need now or could ever imagine yourself to need. It will be your teacher, your guide, and your friend. It will show you the face of God in everything that you look upon. It will purify your heart and emotions, TEACHING YOU TO LOVE, in the face of the most abusive and obtrusive circumstances. It will correct and show you the way in every situation.
"Life, says Henry, "is a continuous divine communication."
October 11, 2010
Christ is Within
The views of Henry Wood (1834-1909) on the Christ are pretty much those found throughout New Thought, and he waxes eloquent about them, especially in a major chapter, "Christ and Jesus", included in Life More Abundant (1905). There he states:
The accurate use of terms is very important. . . . The names Christ and Jesus, furnish a striking example of uncertain definition. In common theological usage they are employed interchangeably, or as having the same significance. We will venture to suggest the evident definition of each term, with a just discrimination, and then note some of the reasons for the same. We may think of the name, Christ, as defining the eternal divine sonship in man, a vital and intrinsic oneness, fundamental and universal. It involves an inner quality, life, ideal, and temper. It is the divine image and likeness in the soul. In its essence it is impersonal, and it is latent in man until recognized, awakened, and brought into individualized manifestation. . . . [Jesus] was the prophecy and ideal of what mankind is to be. Men are struggling on and upward toward the Pattern of the human filled with the divine in actuality and articulation. (Pages 151-2)
He begins his meditation to accompany his fourth Suggestion, CHRIST IS WITHIN: "Christ is the name given to the divine human ideal. It represents the type that was manifested through the personality of Jesus. . . . As we embody the Christ-mind we become ‘sons of God’". The closeness and ready availability of the Christ are apparent, and Henry makes it clear that it is vital for us to develop this Christ consciousness.
In The Symphony of Life (1901), our Henry includes a chapter about Jesus’ calming the storm at sea, "Christ was Asleep". In it he comments,
The Christ of the Jesus of 1900 years ago is present even though quiescent, in the deep background of every soul to-day. He is no mere historic character or supernatural visitant from a far-away heaven, but the normal and present divinity, always and every day "on board." He is waiting to be awakened. Bless the psychic storm which alarms the crew, for nothing less than its buffeting would serve the purpose. The tempest is neither evil nor in vain. (Page 56)
The Christ appears frequently in both the Suggestions from 1893 that we are presently considering and a second, shorter set of Suggestive Lessons appearing as an appendix to The New Thought Simplified: How to Gain Harmony and Health (1903). Here are some of the references from the second set:
"In proportion as the Christ is unfolded in us we have a right to speak from the standpoint of the universal."
"[The Christ] was locally and historically expressed in full degree through the personality of Jesus, but by no means limited to him."
"The Christ within shows us the Father. As soon as the prodigal "came to himself"—his real self—he turned toward the Father’s House."
"The Christ method of healing is normal because it is in accord with the laws of being."
"The ‘Christ mind’ " is the full-orbed consciousness of divinity within. It grows in me. I have it. I feel it. I embody it. It soothes. It restores. It heals."
Lagniappe: It is important to us to clarify just what we stand for, what our essential worldview is. We are New Thought Christians. When we write for New Thought organizations, we must stick to a centrist position and only occasionally insert our personal viewpoint. Here we can nail our colors to the mast. This is our philosophical position/worldview, and in New Thought, you are equally entitled to yours. Philosophy is like the Edit mode on the computer: you can correct the way you express/analyze things, but you can’t do anything or get anywhere while in that mode. It is a base to be touched: not the entire game, but a necessary map. The philosopher’s armchair is one part of your overall perspective and one that you neglect at your peril, but you don’t have to be able to take the engine apart in order to drive a car. You just have to know a good mechanic! The Philosopher speaks ex cathedra from the Stone, but the Stone isn’t where the real work of building faith happens. So we have added a verse to a familiar old song:
Oh, you can’t get to heaven
In the philosopher’s chair,
‘Cause the philosopher’s chair
Won’t get you there.
Here’s a quick-and-dirty summary of where we are coming from:
Views of God can be arranged on a continuum with theism at one end, pantheism (all is God or God is all) at the other, and variations in between. Both traditional theism and traditional pantheism have huge philosophical flaws, and interestingly, each largely serves as a corrective for the other. If we take the two poles of the continuum, shake off the philosophical errors from each, and bring what is left together in the middle, we arrive at panENtheism (all is IN God). This synergy comes from a nineteenth-century German philosopher named Krause, who coined the term panentheism and who has remained obscure because his writings were so difficult to understand that they had to be translated into German! Nonetheless, the concept is defensible and very useful. To this we add personalism, meaning that since the highest thing we humans have any knowledge of is personhood (being self-conscious, rational, and value oriented), God as our creator must be the Ultimate Person by definition, although that is a floor rather than a ceiling on our understanding of God. Personalism is not to be confused with anthropomorphism, the notion of God as a giant human being having the disposition of an irascible Oriental potentate with the limitations of human personality. Our third "p" is process, the only constructive postmodern system of metaphysics, which holds that we, along with everything else, are strings of successive experiences, borrowed from the quantum physics concept of quanta (bursts) of energy. In each of these momentary experiences, God is holding out perfect possibilities for us to accept or reject in part or in whole because we have free will. After its momentary existence, each of these experiences becomes part of the past that impinges on us for better or for worse. God, as the loving source of life, wisdom, and order, is persuasive (influencing) rather than coercive (compelling), and never sends illness or misfortune or otherwise "teaches us a lesson". The lawfully operating universe does that, since we are punished by our sins (missing the mark, separating us from God), not for them. God guides, orchestrates and mitigates, if we will only get ourselves out of the way and allow him to operate.
In metaphysics (the branch of philosophy concerned with what is real), there are three basic views of the nature of the building blocks of the universe: all is material stuff (matter), all is mental/spiritual/ideal (mind), or mind and matter are equally real. These views are known as materialism, idealism, and dualism. Process thought is a cleaned-up version of idealism known as panexperientialism (all is experience).
We’ll toss in other such explanations of our position from time to time. We make every effort to read and recommend authors whose views are pretty much in harmony with ours, or we indicate our areas of disagreement. To our joy, our Henry’s beliefs are amazingly in line with our own. Do check the Garden by the Sea (click the blue tab to the left of this text) to read an excerpt from Michele O’Donnell and another from Henry. Michele could use a good editor (her books read as if they had been tape recorded and transcribed, and they are full of sentence fragments); and because she is not a philosopher, what she says, though wonderful, could use some philosophical fine tuning. But her faith is hard won, and she is very inspirational. Her trilogy is well worth reading and rereading multiple times.
October 17, 2010
I am Soul
When I remarked to the Philosopher that I was beginning work on this Suggestion, he disappeared into the cave and emerged carrying Reese’s Dictionary of Philosophy and Religion. My mind suddenly flashed back to a seminar on the topic of self that we attended a decade or so ago at a sylvan retreat. The facilitator foolishly called on the Philosopher when he innocently raised his hand. He basically just took over, and she finally remarked that she might as well go fishing! He can’t help it. Sam Bowman can attest that one can awaken the Philosopher in the middle of the night and still find him in Philosopher mode: the three of us were trying to prepare a presentation, and the Philosopher kept falling asleep.
Anyway, we need to consider the terms soul and self, sometimes used interchangeably, which probably shortchanges both. Reese defines self as "a term which, in a naturalistic context, often replaces soul (q.v) or psyche (q.v). One way of distinguishing self from soul is to regard the former term as referring to a complex of psychical phenomena, and the latter as referring to an entity separable, and at times separate, from the body." He defines soul as "an Anglo-Saxon term referring to the controlling agency, governing center, or vital principle in human beings. The equivalent Greek term is psyche or pneuma and the Latin term is anima. As between soul and psyche, the two terms used in English, there is no fixed pattern of usage; but ‘soul’ is more frequently regarded as superior to or separable from the body than ‘psyche’." Historically, soul is used to mean mind as opposed to body, or emotion as opposed to intellect.
The fifth Suggestion of Henry Wood (1834-1909) is I AM SOUL. We are considering over the weeks just why this popular early New Thought author singled out these particular 25 Suggestions as vital for imprinting on one’s other-than-conscious mind. The fifth meditation makes clear that our Henry is using soul as opposed to body. Elsewhere he notes that he respects the body as "the external sanctuary of the soul . . . built from within", and although he believes in appropriate self-discipline with respect to the body, he is no fan of asceticism. He expands on this topic in Suggestion 19. The fifth meditation summarizes beautifully, "Truth is the Christ-mind in me. . . . Love is God feeling through me. [Sounds like prehension to us process thinkers.] My soul is God’s life finited. The ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ (Harmony) is within me. The real I, or innermost self, cannot be ill, sin, nor suffer. It is perfect and immortal."
Later, in 1908, in The New Old Healing, Henry returns to this subject in an essay, "Saving the Soul", which could have been written yesterday:
The iconoclastic work undertaken by the liberals in the early part of the nineteenth century has been virtually accomplished. The arbitrary and legalized concepts of salvation and retribution which formerly prevailed are well-nigh swept away. And what now remains? A devitalized round of forms and ceremonies on the one hand, and a large amount of definite and indefinite agnosticism on the other. The old controversies are nearly dead, and some new constructive work must be found. Unfortunately the new efforts in this line have been confined largely to the realm of humanitarianism on the material plane. This is well in its place, but it is only the lower and more superficial part of the work that is waiting for accomplishment. It seems difficult for the Church to direct its energies to the development of the higher and more interior planes and potencies of man’s nature. . . . The Church, both liberal and conservative, has been enveloped and permeated by the chilling materialism of conventional science. . . . That concept of the Deity which likened him to an Oriental Sovereign, arbitrary and ruling from without, is fading. The spiritual realm is within man, and this is where God’s beautiful and orderly economy manifests its activity and finds its expression. . . . Human salvation consists of the unfoldment of the higher part of man — or rather of the man himself. Even theology in the ordinary sense is not of it. It involves the emergence of the divine selfhood from latency into self-recognition and manifestation. It requires more than an intellectual belief in the personal Jesus, or an acceptance of his merits vicariously. It must include the normal development of the intrinsic and eternal Christ-mind or quality. While this was most fully expressed through the personality of Jesus, it knows no limitation, local or historic. . . . Full salvation involves the evolution of a divine self-consciousness; the building of a soul-structure of imperishable materials. The ego must form an organic union with eternal and living verities. (Pages 280-287)
Our Henry was very well educated (Barre Academy, Barre, VT) in an environment of high moral and intellectual standing. He was probably more familiar with traditional theology and philosophy than most people today. He was a successful businessman, considered well-to-do when at age 54 he fell ill with neurasthenia and dyspepsia and was forced to retire. He traveled all over Europe seeking a cure. He was finally healed, like Myrtle Fillmore, through self-study of the mind-cure principles and practices that were later known as New Thought. From this background spring the Suggestions, the refinement of all that he had learned the hard way. He has done an amazing job of reconciling his new learnings with the traditional teachings, correcting what needed to be corrected without abandoning what was good from the past.
Lagniappe: Henry was very clear about being a philosophical idealist. Today, we process thinkers would tweak this into panexperientialism, as discussed last time. The idea that the building blocks of the universe are mental/spiritual in nature is not to say that the physical or material world is unreal. This is one of the important distinctions between New Thought and Christian Science. Matter is a particularly dense form of mind and is subject to the laws of mind. Matter also has its own laws, is created by God as good, and is not to be ignored. We humans are responsible for its care, beginning with the care of our own bodies. The big lesson is that evil/disease/darkness are absences of good, not entities in themselves. Our job is to fill those absences with the love, life, wisdom, and order of God by recognizing them as already present.
I am Part of a Great Whole
In the meditation accompanying this Suggestion, our Henry emphasizes the interconnectedness of all humanity. "If I rise", he comments, "I help to lift all about me, and if I fall, I drag others down." This reminds me of Wayne Dyer’s injunction not to succumb to negative thinking because "you could be depressing someone in Uruguay, right now!"
Henry goes on to state, "We cannot be saved disconnected from relations." (Process thinkers will note that the term process is short for process-relational). This is by no means a reference to collective salvation, which is part of liberation theology (a movement with strong Marxist elements that appeared in the Roman Catholic church in Latin America. The Pope has repudiated it.) Jesus was apolitical, riding into town on a donkey, disappointing his Zealot followers. Salvation is individual, one soul at a time, and the hallmark of a "saved" person is that the love of God overflows from that person to others. As Henry puts it, "Our highest privilege and office is to be channels through which the divine life shall flow out to invigorate and inspire. The essence of salvation and of true healing is the death of selfishness." How does this work? "Simple altruism sometimes heals, because it lifts consciousness from the lower inharmonious self and turns it outward and upward." I remember reading somewhere about a woman, a chronic invalid, who was bedridden in Pearl Harbor at the time of the Japanese attack. Because she was clearly staying put, the military asked her to serve as a clearing house for telephone messages. This important work she gladly undertook. By the end of the emergency, she was out of bed and totally well.
Elsewhere, in The Symphony of Life (1901), Henry elaborates on this theme: "The cosmos is a living cosmos, and the mind of man, as a spiritual dynamo, has relations and attractions with every part of the whole macrocosm." He then adds, "What a day it will be for the world when science fully accepts the unity of all force and the underlying oneness of all phenomena, whether physical or spiritual! ("The Oneness of Life and Being", pages 81-82) Later, in "Selfishness and Nervousness", he clarifies: "We are not detached human units, but life is the product of multiform and complex relations. To ignore this great truth causes a sense of separateness and this breeds selfishness and a discordant physical articulation and correspondence. We are living in a social universe and personal mal-adjustment brings penalty." (Page 225)
Even if we are facing health challenges, with God’s help, and by visualizing the flow of God’s life and love into ourselves and all else, we can find the means and the energy to somehow contribute to others. Jesus said that it was more blessed to give than to receive, because even in giving we receive additional blessings; however, in receiving, we keep ourselves in balance and able to give. Best-selling author Stephen Covey writes about the goose that laid golden eggs, stressing that we ignore either the golden eggs or the goose at our peril. Both are vital. Also, our receiving is the fruit of someone else’s giving, which blesses the other.
To recapitulate: our Henry is giving us a tool kit of techniques for building wellness, with the attention on the state of wellness (what God created) rather than the state of illness (absence of good, remedied by allowing the flow of God’s life and love to replenish whatever is lacking). This Suggestion, I AM PART OF A GREAT WHOLE, is reminding us that we are parts of this great give and take of God’s life, love, wisdom, and order. Even when we are feeling lack or absence of some form of God’s goodness in our lives, attention to the flow of this goodness attracts it to us, then allows it to flow on to others as well as letting us receive it from others. The Good Shepherd in Jesus’ parable left the 99 sheep safely in the fold while he went to rescue the one that was lost. This tells the 99 that if they are in need, the Shepherd will be there for them as well. Meanwhile, they need to stick to the script and stay on the path, well clear of the briars.
Lagniappe: If in connection with this Suggestion, you are inclined to go around saying things like "We are all one", you had first better give some thought to what you mean by one. I was once told by a Hebrew scholar that in Hebrew there are two words for one: achad (united one) and yachid (only one). The scholar stated that the great Moses Maimonides was mistaken about this. God is always achad, as in the famous "Shema" (Deut. 6:4). The motto of the United States (appearing on the Great Seal on a ribbon in the mouth of the eagle; look at a dollar bill) is "E pluribus unum" (out of many, one), clearly achad, united one. We are all part (the Philosopher wants me to say parts, but that sounds too anatomical to me) of God’s body, which is the universe. We also have minds of our own, and God has a mind of God’s own. Furthermore, the basic building blocks of the universe are mental/spiritual in nature. So we are all mind (kind), but we are many minds (number). Don’t tie us all up with a ribbon along with the universe and call the whole thing God; that’s pantheism, and that does away with free will. "God is all there is" and "All there is, is God" are equally flawed, philosophically. They are both pantheistic, and they are unnecessary when you can hold that we are all IN God and God is IN us (panENtheism). That’s Biblical: "In him we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28). It continues, "For we are also his offspring." Yes, we are chips off the old block, children of the King, made in his image and likeness. Using some anthropomorphic imagery doesn’t knock us off the other side of the horse into anthropomorphism, but it does give our other-than-conscious minds something else to chew on when we contemplate Henry’s sixth Suggestion.
November 1, 2010
"All Things Are Yours"
Suggestion 7, ALL THINGS ARE YOURS, comes from I Cor. 3:21-23: "For all things are yours; Whether Paul or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; And ye are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s." Our Henry repeats this quotation at the end of the meditation for Suggestion 25, completing the series with it. I was interested to note that the New American Bible translates it, "Everything belongs to you. Paul or Apollos or Cephas, or the world or life or death, or the present or the future: all belong to you, and you to Christ, and Christ to God." By 1893 Henry would have had at least one other translation available to him, but he stuck to the good old King James version. My wayward little mind flashes back to a line from an old song, "Everything I’ve got belongs to you".
His point, made in the meditation, is: "in the divine strength ‘all things’ are ours. In proportion as we recognize its all sufficiency [process philosopher Charles Hartshorne would be so proud!], we have..." and then follows a huge list of lovely abstractions: life, love, help, rest, delight, revelation, completeness, spirituality, etc. "All these are things, and they are contained in the divine promise and fulness." Then comes the kicker: "In the past we have often mistakenly thought that their opposing negations were realities." Now we can see why our Henry considers this important enough to drum into our consciousness. A negation is like darkness: we get rid of it by supplying light, its opposite. Meditating on this list of "things" supplies them to us. We so often focus on lack of something, which gets us nowhere; here is the antidote. "What hast thou in the house?" (II Kings 4:2) The legendary TV character McGyver, whenever he found himself in straitened circumstances, locked in the tool shed or whatever, always looked around to see what resources were available to work with, unlikely as they might seem. This is always important in loaves-and-fishes situations: "But what good are these for so many?" (John 6:9) Henry is reminding us of the abundance of resources we have in consciousness.
Our Henry comes at the theme from the opposite direction in his Tenth Suggestive Lesson in The New Thought Simplified (1903). He begins, "We do not need things, but we need God. To the God-consciousness is added everything needful." This reminds me of the words of Jesus, "Your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things. But rather seek ye the kingdom of God, and all things shall be added unto you." (Luke 12:30-31)
Henry returns to this theme in Life More Abundant (1905):
As soon as the truth is realized, humanity will rise rapidly to the altitude of Spiritual Principle. Every man has his part in the potency of the higher law, and he may exercise it in a way which is orderly and make it available. "All things are yours" is not merely a poetic sentiment but a statement of truth which is practical, psychological, spiritual, and even scientific in an exact sense. The ownership of moral and spiritual verities, including also subordinate blessings, requires only developed capacity. All ideals which one will firmly hold are his, and their actualization is but a matter of time. But ownership is not exclusive, for the same may be possessed by all. Even God, who is our God, actually belongs to all to the degree that a conscious oneness has been developed. (Page 155)
Lagniappe: Here are some excerpts from Henry’s "Socialism as a Political System" in The Political Economy of Humanism (1901):
There are sentimental clergymen, who look upon business from the outside, and know little of its inherent self-regulative and compensatory laws, who wish to see a New Order, from the fact that they are unable to discriminate between the present natural system and its abuses. They forget that everything normal has its negatives and violations. There are "Christian Socialists" who are unmindful that He whom they regard as their perfect and complete Model labored entirely within the domain of human life and character, and not at all in external political affairs, which, in their very nature, are only expressive and resultant. . . .
Yielding to no one in our admiration for socialistic qualities in moral character, socialism is here considered as a political system. . . . The accepted definition of the term involves the fundamental political reconstruction of society. Any such radical change must necessarily be coercive and not evolutionary. Socialism, as a system, means not merely a friendly interest in our neighbor’s welfare, but a formal and forcible one. Instead of natural liberty, it signifies artificial interference, even though imposed in the name of brotherhood. . . . Ignoring spontaneous individual growth, it would furnish universal moulds casting all shapes in stiff and arbitrary form.
Socialism, as a possible political framework, is not only fatal to all evolutionary social development, but is paralyzing to all ideal human brotherhood. If it were possible to make men altruistic by legislation, all its sweetness would vanish with the loss of its voluntary and spontaneous spirit. But legislation piled Ossa on Pelion will not change human character. . . .
The two wings of the socialistic propaganda are very unlike. At one extreme is a small band of earnest souls, sincere and benevolent, though impractical. They are filled with a fraternal spirit themselves and wish every one else to be. But under the same banner, though ten times as numerous, are those to whom socialism means, not more fraternity, but a grand divide. Avarice and envy are covert elements in human character which sway men powerfully, even though often unconsciously. The vast majority of socialists whose ranks shade through different degrees into red anarchism, gather encouragement and strength from the little section of sentimentalists who comprise the wing that is in sight and does the theorizing. The crowded socialistic columns that loom up in the dark background are looking forward to the time, when through the forms of law, the estates of the more thrifty may be confiscated, which they imagine will give them governmental support and an easy time. . . .
Political and coercive socialism is thoroughly materialistic. It minimizes character and manhood, and magnifies the value of externals. When the theoretical socialist indulges in exaggeration about the unequal distribution of wealth, as attributable to the present order, he directly appeals to the envy and avarice of the ignorant and selfish. They are made to believe that the reason why they have not as much wealth as some one else is because they have not had their rights. Socialism is no question of the poor against the rich. It would be as disastrous to the former as to the latter. It is a question of thrift, industry, economy, and character, against dependence, shiftlessness, and avarice. It would prostrate individuality instead of placing it upon its feet. . . .
Through the rosy vision of the theorist, "The State" — which is the all comprehensive agency in socialism — will be a perfect, omnipresent, and omnipotent instrumentality, able not only to cognize every detail, but to control universal equity and righteousness. But the real State would be composed of office-holding politicians. With tenfold greater opportunities than present conditions afford, the probable reign of dictation, jobbery, and favoritism may be faintly imagined. . . . (pages 145-151)
There are places in the world where people risk their lives for the privilege of voting in elections. Although, tragically, the United States of America has departed from much of the vision of the Founders, based on Judeo-Christian principles and tolerance of all religions free from federal control, we still have a chance to take our country back. Please be sure to vote for the candidates of your choice, people of good character who are "principle centered" and "values driven", on November 2.
November 8, 2010
"I am not Body"
This is the first negative Suggestion (denial). In a sense, it is at the heart of the teachings of Henry Wood (1834-1909). It is a means of emphasizing the underlying metaphysical position: idealism, (which process thought most recently has called panexperientialism). Even though I have a body, I am not my body; I am soul or spirit, wearing this space suit we call a body. The point is not that the body is evil or weak or inferior, but as Henry puts it in the meditation, "I deny the rule and tyranny of body, but affirm its utility as a servant and instrument. I will think such things as I wish embodied." Further, he explains that one’s body is the outpicturing of one’s mental pictures of the past. This dovetails well with the process notion of building up the pattern of the past, one experience at a time, each experience lasting about a tenth of a second. Suggestion 8, I AM NOT BODY, is the inverse of Suggestion 5, I AM SOUL.
Our Henry frequently expresses the idea that all things flow from center to circumference. Earlier in Ideal Suggestion, he states, "Two great groups of forces are striving for mastery. On one side is ranged ‘realism,’ pessimism, and the Without; and against them, idealism, optimism, and the Within—a war of ‘Gog and Magog.’ From the dawn of human history, with a local and partial exception in the times of the primitive church, the forces of the Without have held sway; but now the legions of the Within and the Ideal are mustering in unparalleled power." (Pages 48-49)
He has a fascinating description of the subconscious mind:
This stored-up mental reservoir is a submerged personality which thinks, reasons, loves, fears, believes, accepts, and draws conclusions beneath and independent of consciousness. It is this, and not the matter of the body, that takes disease or contagion when the conscious ego is unaware of exposure. It is through this mind that medicines and even poisons, produce their effect, instead of through chemical action, as is usually supposed. The absence of any such "chemical action" when these things are put into a "dead" body (body with mind removed) shows this conclusively. . . . This deeper or trans-conscious mind can only be gradually changed, and that by means of a stream of changed conscious thinking, which must be poured in for a considerable time. It may be compared to a cistern into which a small stream of turbid water has been flowing for a long period, until the process has rendered the whole contents turbid. Now begin to turn in a stream of pure sparkling water, and gradually the character of the whole aggregation will be changed. Just so by a controlled thinking power we can now begin to rectify the reservoir of mind by turning in a stream of pure wholesome thought, until the quality of the whole is purified. When this has been thoroughly accomplished the deeper ego will not accept or fear disease and contagion, but will go among them unscathed. (Pages 50-51)
Now we begin to see how our Henry intends for us to use his Ideal Suggestion process as a form of what I like to call benign brainwashing. It’s something like the old wolf in sheep’s clothing. Henry will return to this theme and elaborate on it in Suggestion 19. For now, he wants us to begin thinking about treating our bodies with a blend of love and discipline. In The New Thought Simplified (1903), he tells us, "The chief cause why our bodies give us so much trouble is that they have been dishonored in thought. Much of the religious teaching of the past has rated them as a hindrance if not an enemy to the soul’s progress. We have blamed the body for our own mistaken thought concerning it." (Page 60) He continues, "The body should be continually honored and consecrated in thought. It should be regarded as a holy temple in which a beautiful soul service is perpetual. It is a graceful living statue modelled [sic] and shaped with transcendent delicacy and grace." (Page 63) He concludes the chapter, "Man should make his conscious home in soul. His body is only the kingdom over which he is to exercise beneficent control. In proportion as this is complete, his corporeal structure will not be open to every discordant wave that is wafted toward him in the sensuous atmosphere." (Page 64)
Since then, psychologists and physicians have done much research on the effects of stress, which is mostly the result of our thoughts about whatever situation we find ourselves in. One man’s stress is often another man’s satisfaction. Yet we can’t quite believe that our thoughts have power to make us ill or well, can’t quite make time for the quiet retreats or simple pleasures that renew both mind and body, can’t quite find the time to discipline our thoughts in the direction of what is good and desirable. Insomnia was one of the ailments that drove Henry into early retirement, so his advice in the chapter on sleeplessness is interesting:
It is in accord with the New Thought to hold that the body and its sensations have a very real reflex or reactionary influence upon the mind, and this is quite consistent with the primacy and positiveness of the latter in their relation. Therefore, in insomnia, as in other negative conditions, where both are concerned, that which is nominally lower should join the higher in a mutual and reciprocal service. We must not think of the material self as relatively base or "common and unclean." Neither is it unreal. . . . Wakefulness is just as much of an evil as we make it, but in itself it is only the rush of recuperative forces to repair our mistakes which makes the feverish disturbance. The friction comes mainly from our resistance. (Pages 116-117)
Henry spells it all out in the eighth meditation:
It is infallible law that we show forth, and are, the total composite of past thinking. Let us put away pride, and admit that all primary causation is from within. We charge our ills to the weather, water, air, climate, draughts, dampness, work, cold, bacteria, malaria, and contagion. These may be occasions, but our receptivity is the primary and real cause.
Lagniappe: Just in case you, like us, are feeling a bit stressed at this time of year with the days getting shorter, the political hullabaloo (even though we were mostly quite pleased with the sharp turn in the direction of restoring honor to our country), and the continuing fiscal challenges to us all, I have added some new passages from healer Agnes Sanford to the "Garden by the Sea" page. For some renewal and refreshment, just click the tab to the left.
November 16, 2010
"I Will Fear No Evil"
The ninth Suggestion, "I WILL FEAR NO EVIL", comes from the twenty-third psalm. In that context: "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death", the reason that I will fear no evil is "for Thou art with me"; in other words, I am aware of the presence of God even as I experience difficulties. Henry’s meditation takes the usual New Thought position: "the highest and purest human perception is that which sees no evil". He points out that God is good and universally manifest, then adds, "Subjective thought and experience is the only lens through which evil can be beheld." He’s right: all perceptions are subjective because otherwise, whose retinas are you going to use? Physicist William Powers pointed that out long ago.
Henry then links fear to the cause of illness: "The roots of illness have their rise in conscious or unconscious fear. Fear is a recoil from the view of mental false images. Their reality is conferred by consciousness." I think it was Mark Twain who commented, "My life has been filled with terrible experiences, most of which never happened." None of this denies the existence of evil, dictionary defined as "the fact of suffering, misfortune, and wrongdoing"; or "something that brings sorrow, distress, or calamity". According to Henry, the point is, "In building our thought-world we should leave out negative material. Our real world is our thought-world and not the ‘things’ that are about us." He then reminds us of Jesus’ numerous repetitions of the Old Testament command, "Fear not". As usual, he stresses that this approach is not only religious, but scientific. He is telling us not to give any more attention than necessary to evil, and since his day, a torrent of research studies on attention has resulted in the conclusion that what we give our attention to grows. Yes, Henry, your approach really is scientific as well as dovetailing with the Judeo-Christian tenets of religion found in the Old and New Testaments.
In terms of a standing order to be sent from the bridge to the engine room, this is an excellent Suggestion. As Anglican bishop Jeremy Taylor put it, "If thou hast a bundle of thorns in thy lot, there is no need to sit down on it!" Earlier in Ideal Suggestion, our Henry tells us
why conventional religion has lost its original and rightful healing power, but also why it has been so unsuccessful and unscientific in dealing with the sin, woe, and degradation of humanity. It has meant well, but relying upon its supernaturalism, it has disregarded orderly law. Instead of dwelling upon the good and the ideal, and letting evil and all its train vanish from human vision, it has mistakenly tried to conquer it by dwelling upon its magnitude and analyzing its heinousness (holding even depravity to be natural and universal), and thus its dark realism has been crowded into human consciousness. Instead of "thinking no evil," it emphasized it. . . . When abnormity is held up and analyzed, even for purposes of warning and condemnation, its pictures are multiplied and its seed scattered. (Pages 105-106)
In his essay "Eden and the Fall", in Life More Abundant (1905), Henry supplies an interesting take on the Adam and Eve story often used to explain the entrance of evil into the world. He describes it as an evolution in consciousness from a paradise in which "its occupant was innocent, irresponsible, and unmoral, being incapable of morality or immorality. His instinct was exact but every rational and spiritual faculty yet was latent. He was the full ripeness of one great evolutionary subdivision and was now ready to cross the line to the next." (Page 34) Further, "As the Adamic soul is left behind and the spiritual self becomes dominant, the ego is lifted to a higher outlook. The divine element in man is his Redeemer, his subjective Christ. It is the leaven which leavens the whole lump. All souls are candidates for such an incarnation." (Page 38) Notice how that foreshadows process thought. "Conventional religious systems are based upon the idea of repair instead of development. ‘The scheme of salvation’ was formulated when the Fall was taken to be literal history, and the Garden a spiritual paradise." (Page 45) To Henry, the story of the Fall is "a beautiful allegory, filled with evolutionary, psychical, and spiritual significance . . . God’s plan and work were eternally perfect and needed no repairs or anxious afterthought." (Page 46)
We need fear no evil because God has our back. If you want black-belt theodicy, try process philosopher David Ray Griffin’s God, Power, and Evil: A Process Theodicy (1976) and Evil Revisited: Responses and Reconsiderations (1991). His position is that God is responsible for the evil in the world but not indictable for it, for reasons well in line with a God worthy of worship. You might also enjoy "God—a Weakie or a Meanie?" in the Philosopher’s The Problem is God (1984). I met him because a mutual friend gave me a copy.
Lagniappe: This is our newsletter. It is a way for us to share with anyone who is interested the ideas that we are pursuing at the moment. It is not a blog or even a monitored list, with which we have had some unfortunate experiences. We are always happy to discuss ideas further in terms of providing more explanation, defending a point, or learning something we didn’t know about; but after a lifetime in the academic community, which is well known for its pronounced statist bias, we now feel free to express our own views. "A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still", and we do not seek unwilling converts. We do seek to alert others to the severe biases in the media, the schools, and the courts in our country; and we rejoice to be part of the movement represented by the various Tea Parties, which revere the freedoms and opportunities provided by the system of government produced by our Founders, who believed "that we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights". Our freedoms have been eroded by many of those who came later. Neither New Thought nor process philosophy can flourish in a climate other than one of freedom. From the earliest days, there have always been those who disagreed, but the opposition was in the open. For the last hundred years it has gone underground, manipulating events with lies and distortions and infecting both political parties. To those who value integrity, we wish to offer encouragement and the knowledge that you are not alone in seeking to uphold traditional Christian values and American freedoms.
November 23, 2010
"I Will: Be Thou Clean"
The tenth Suggestion, "I WILL: BE THOU CLEAN", is a statement by Jesus in Matthew 8:3 in response to the leper who approached him, saying "Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean." Why does Henry Wood (1834-1909) choose this particular passage as a Suggestion that we should be imprinting on our other-than-conscious mind? One hint is that it is the second Suggestion in a row beginning "I will". The accompanying meditation makes this clear: "Those who are doing the most to uplift the world are those whose intensity of faith first reconstructed their own souls. ‘I will’ is a projectile that hits the mark, a power that ‘removes mountains.’ Doubt is disintegration . . . leaden, nerveless, and cowardly. ‘I will’ is the pilot that grasps the helm and steers the human craft Godward."
The real topic, then, is faith. "Faith is absolutely essential. We must believe or we will never move. . . . To live vigorously, we must live by faith. . . . ‘Faith is the substance’ (present realization) of things hoped for.’" The soul that has been "reconstructed" by "intensity of faith" has that projectile will, that "pilot that grasps the helm". Certainly the leper had faith that Jesus could heal him "if thou wilt" and probably did not doubt that Jesus "wilt". The resulting healing was immediate.
If we then go back to the fourth Suggestion, CHRIST IS WITHIN, the ideas start to come together. "The ‘mind that was in Christ’. . . breaks our bonds and sets us free. It heals, restores, invigorates, and harmonizes. In its name and by its strength I am healed." We have this "highest inner consciousness" "that was manifested through the personality of Jesus" already within. The words of Jesus remind us that God is always willing our highest good, and that the Christ mind, "the full-orbed consciousness of divinity within", is our means of obtaining it.
Henry has more to say about faith and will in the Seventh Suggestive Lesson from The New Thought Simplified (1903), I HAVE FAITH:
FAITH is scientific. It is not mere expectation, but present substance. To live vigorously we must live by faith. The illumined will is the divine energy or power exercised in the inner man. Nothing can withstand its might. It takes hold of forces that are infinite. (Page 184)
He then repeats many of his comments from the tenth Suggestion. He concludes, "I have faith in God. I have faith in myself. ‘According to thy faith be it unto thee.’ I HAVE FAITH."
Our Henry returns to the topic of faith in his last book, The New Old Healing (1908) in a chapter titled "THY FAITH HAS MADE THEE WHOLE":
While the Bible is full of what might be called the declarations of faith, the promises which are attached to it and also examples of its exercise, there are few basic principles which were then and are now less understood. The statement so often made by Jesus: "Thy faith hath made thee whole," was simply the declaration of a fact. In that age truth was recognized by a direct intuition or spiritual perception, and little or no exposition of its philosophical processes was made. It was not then demanded. That faith actually had restorative power was sufficient, while the why and wherefore was left to the solution of a more analytical and intellectual era. That period of inquiry and criticism is now here. (Page 299)
He then discusses the advances in practical psychology: "But more wonderful to the earnest seeker for truth, it is found that the subconscious realm registers itself automatically upon the physical organism. By a subtle but well-defined law, its ideals and delineations tend to outpicture themselves in the seen." (Page 300) "An oft-repeated ideal grows into a living force which is called faith. The same is not a faint hope but acquired momentum. That faith restores is neither strange nor miraculous. . . . But it is thy faith which does the work and not that of some one else." (Pages 301-2)
Henry notes that in the Bible "days of a fuller faith":
It is definitely stated that healing included all manner of disease and all manner of sickness. . . . Among the signs which were to follow those who believe are enumerated some of the most positive organic disorders as responsive and curable. . . . This power was not confined to the personality of Jesus but held as an expected accomplishment of all his followers. When Peter and John healed the life-long cripple at the Beautiful gate of the temple we do not read that they said to him: Your disease is organic; we can do nothing for you. But we do read that he entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping and praising God. (Page 303)
There were places in which Jesus was unable to do many miracles because of the lack of faith. If even he was limited by lack of faith, we can only imagine how bad things were in Henry’s day, or even worse now! Frequently the culprits are false beliefs, mistaken ideas from what the father of New Thought P. P. Quimby referred to as "the priests and doctors", in many cases, people who had drawn noxious conclusions from their reading of the Bible and passed these toxic ideas on to others. Quimby healed by disputing with the patient the idea that he or she needed to be sick because of one or more of these toxic beliefs. Henry healed by taking advantage of the findings of psychology about the subconscious mind, seeking to overwrite any toxic ideas with his Ideal Suggestions. In all cases, it is the Father within who does the works.
Lagniappe: As we recall all the abundant blessings we have to be grateful for, we include all those who are open-minded enough to be studying these ideas along with us. Have a wonderful, prosperous Thanksgiving!
November 30, 2010
Spirit is the Only Substance
This is an interesting and important bit of metaphysics in the original, philosophical sense of the term. Metaphysics concerns itself with the nature of the building blocks of the universe. The word substance comes from the Latin sub (under) and stare (to stand); what stands under or supports. The prime Merriam-Webster definition is "essential nature, ESSENCE". The second definition is "ultimate reality that underlies all outward manifestations and change".
We already know that our Henry has nailed his colors to the mast as an idealist, one who believes that the building blocks of the universe are ideas/mind/spirit and that what we call matter is merely a particularly dense form of ideas. In a world in which traditional Christians were dualists, (believing that mind and matter are equally real), idealism was quite surprising and possibly alarming, not to say absurd, particularly as science continued to advance and eclipse the authority of the churches, all too often accompanied by materialism (believing that only material stuff is real). It is therefore not surprising that Henry’s Suggestion 11 is SPIRIT IS THE ONLY SUBSTANCE; in other words, spirit/mind/ideas is the only thing underlying all that is, despite its solid appearance.
Unless you spend much of your time peering through an electron microscope, you probably need reminding from time to time that everything that seems so solid really isn’t, that there is mostly space with whirling, shimmering energy dancing around in it. Henry, coming just ahead of the atomic age, did not have this scientific support for his belief. Small wonder, if we view matter as solid and are seeking to divest ourselves of medieval superstition, that we find it difficult or impossible to believe in any sort of bodily healing by non-physical means. Henry remarks in his meditation, "It is only our dull materialism that confers substantiality upon the seen. Spirit is solid and indestructible. I am spirit. Matter serves me as a temporary correspondence and servant. I am not body, but spirit, NOW." On page 47 of Ideal Suggestion, Henry comments, "While a few seers of keen and intuitive perception have grasped the great fact that thought is the universal substance and basis of all things, never until the present era has this vital truth penetrated the more general consciousness." He likes to describe thought as if it were something to employ tools on: Remember will as "a projectile that hits the mark"? "Thinking is an engraving-tool, and by its skilful [sic] wielding we project ideals into high relief." (The New Thought Simplified, fifth Suggestive Lesson, page 180). "I continually suggest the good to myself. Day by day I extract it from seeming evil. I form it from the infinite supply of spiritual substance which surrounds me." (Page 175) This is particularly true when he turns to the physical body:
In the human physical organism thought is at work, like a carpenter in a house, either building up or pulling down. Thought, or thought-quality, gives tone and character to all the chemical changes and transmutations which continually go on within the bodily structure. Materialism recognizes the mind as a bodily function, thinking as cerebration, and ideas as brain secretion. Were this a fact, mind could never exist apart from its physical base. (Ideal Suggestion, page 49)
His ninth Suggestive Lesson in The New Thought Simplified is I AM BUILDING THE WORLD IN WHICH I MUST LIVE. On page 189, he comments, "Our thoughts are our very near neighbors, with whom we sit face to face. We may shape them gradually either into angels or demons." Again, in the eleventh meditation accompanying our current Suggestion, he states, "To build of enduring material we must build in spirit."
To Henry, the spirit is the real ego: "Only the spiritual self is free, and I recognize that as my real ego." In God’s Image in Man, published the year before Ideal Suggestion, Henry dealt with "Man’s Dual Nature". He explains, "The senses and the sensuous mind constantly pour in testimony favorable to the assumptions of the illusive ego. The spiritual perception, whose voice in the great human majority is so faint as to be almost inaudible, brings into the consciousness the true ego in just that degree of clearness which past unfoldment has enabled it to reach" (page 172). He believes that we have evolved: "The earlier consciousness was only of the body, but there came a gradual evolution of the idea of body and spirit. The former was regarded as far more substantial than the latter, and such is the state of consciousness in which the great majority of the human family are living at the present time" (page 174). What we are really after is "a realized at-one-ment with the Divine Fatherhood. Man has two lives, two minds, two memories, and a double consciousness. He has looked everywhere outside of himself for God, while he can only truly gaze upon the Father by beholding His image within" (page 178). The eleventh Suggestion can remind us to do this.
Lagniappe: The Philosopher has just emerged from the cave, blinking in the sunlight (I keep telling him he ought to get outside more). He wants to comment on the different perspective on the idea of substance that is found in process thought, usually contrasting supposedly solid substance with constantly changing process: "There is a common prejudice in ancient Greek philosophy as well as later that the most basic reality is thing-like, a substance rather than the process of becoming. In process thought, one begins with process, and the outcome of the process is that permanent state of it that is substance. Substance is the past of the immediately preceding process, lovingly preserved by God. In a more general sense, substance is what underlies anything, and in that sense, process is substance." I sent him over to sit on the stone in the sun for a while.
December 7, 2010
I Am Free
Some of our Henry’s Suggestions feel good immediately; others are acquired tastes. Suggestion Twelve: I AM FREE, is one that probably feels good to most of us right away. Who doesn’t enjoy a sense of freedom? Psychologically speaking, we function as control systems, and control is how a control system does what it does, so it gets all bent out of shape if it perceives any loss of control, or restraint on its freedom to do its thing. Control theory is equivalent to systems theory, according to mathematician Norbert Wiener, who ought to know. (I wrote my doctoral dissertation on this stuff.) One of these years I will write a book illustrating the integration of some of these ideas for black-belt experts to play with, since everyone is so isolated in the various academic disciplines that nobody knows how to communicate outside of any one discipline. Actually, this is where Norbert Wiener, who coined the word cybernetics from the Greek word kubernetes, steersman, comes in, because his position is (and he has a lot of support) that mathematics is the universal language that brings the disciplines together. Because I am not fluent in math, I get off the train of thought at that point, but it is worth mentioning that process thinker Alfred North Whitehead definitely stayed on board, since he was co-author with his former student, Bertrand Russell, of Principia Mathematica.
But I am getting ahead of myself. We first need to tie all this to Henry’s twelfth Suggestion, which was around before anybody ever heard of systems theory. Henry begins his meditation by telling us, "Freedom is harmony with Law." He goes on to explain, "I am no longer bound by the chains of appetite, passion, impulse, custom, creed, fashion, societies, politics, traditionalism, or the animal nature." Wow! We may not have noticed how much we are bound—not free—by these things. It has been pointed out that the jailer is just as much a captive as his prisoner. In science there is the concept of degrees of freedom. What this means is that if I start to fix a bacon-and-egg breakfast, and halfway through, I decide that I would rather have pancakes, I am to some extent not free, because I must deal with the result of the bacon-and-eggs decision (throw it out, give it away, etc.). Where Henry is going with this is to say, "Only the spiritual self is free." I keep saying to the Philosopher—and it is high time I said it more publicly—that we all need to cycle among the Three Eyes of the mystics, as outlined by Ken Wilber in Eye to Eye, the only book of his that I can wholeheartedly recommend. In a nutshell, they are the Eye of Flesh (physical knowing; science), the Eye of Reason (philosophy), and the Eye of Revelation (religion or spiritual knowledge). Although the Eye of Revelation is often pictured as higher, because it sees farther, all three eyes are of equal importance. To neglect any one results in "blurred vision". For centuries the church tried to close the Eye of Flesh; then the tables turned, and today much of science is trying to close the Eye of Revelation. The Philosopher and I have taught and demonstrated for years that science and religion meet on the lap of philosophy or the Eye of Reason, whose job is to reconcile the input from the other two Eyes. "In the country of the blind, the one-eyed king can still goof up."
Where I am going with this is that we need the discipline of balancing the Three Eyes. We need to tend to the needs of the flesh, to listen to the still small voice that accompanies the Eye of Revelation, and then to sit in the philosopher’s armchair from time to time and sort it all out and harmonize it, to make sure that we are in balance and not neglecting any one of the Eyes.
Now, what does that have to do with freedom? A quarter of a century ago, I studied Reality Therapy with psychologist Gary Applegate, who was one of psychiatrist William Glasser’s right-hand men at the time. Glasser, working with physicist and Norbert Wiener fan William Powers, had developed a theory to explain why Reality Therapy was so effective: control theory, or what they call it this week, choice theory. The theory rests on a Maslowian hierarchy of needs, the attempts to satisfy which drive the system. Glasser had four basic needs: love and belonging, self worth, fun, and freedom; Gary chose to divide them up into eight needs. Both agreed that it didn’t really matter much, so I use the simpler list of four. Gary developed a set of psychological strengths, one corresponding to each basic need, for us to develop. The psychological strength that enables you to meet your need for freedom is: self-discipline. Surprised? You actually already know that at some level: think of a dog with no obedience training versus a dog who has learned definite skills for which he is frequently rewarded. The dog with the self-discipline of obedience is actually more free, can do more and get more and is hence happier than his untrained fellow. This is true in all areas, including spiritual development (for us; I don’t know about the dog). This is light years away from the Calvinist approach to spiritual discipline; Henry is not into asceticism, although he was a teetotaler.
This takes us back to Henry. Much of what he says sounds very disciplined, which may be off-putting to some of us today, but Henry is on sound psychological and spiritual ground. We are talking about building character, the solid rock on which our spirituality must rest. Henry hints at it in the rest of his meditation:
I open my mind to truth, and welcome it from whatever quarter it may come. I assert my supremacy over outward circumstances, and deny the power of both physical pain and pleasure. My consciousness goes beyond the body and all its belongings, and dwells with the divine and spiritual self.
To continue the practice of "taking captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ" (2Cor 10:5) is to discipline the consciousness.
Henry ends the meditation with three New Testament quotations, all referring to freedom or liberty: 2 Cor 3:17, Isa 61:1 (Luke 4:18), and Rom 8:2. The overall message of his teaching is the development of this freeing self-discipline of building a relationship with our heavenly Father. Once we do this, we recognize that we are indeed free.
Lagniappe: Gary Applegate wrote a book about building psychological strengths: Happiness: It’s Your Choice (1985). On page 30, he states: "Freedom is a state of mind, not a condition of the environment. It comes from knowing we have choices over what we think and do. I feel free when I rethink, rather than when I merely react or wait for things to happen. Freedom is an exhilarating feeling that comes from responsible behavior."
December 13, 2010
There Is No Death
With less than two weeks till Christmas, I don’t know that this is the Suggestion I would have picked, but here it is, so let’s see what we can do with it. We are working our way through the 25 Suggestions chosen by Henry Wood (1834-1909) in his 1893 book, Ideal Suggestion Through Mental Photography. The idea is to imprint these Suggestions onto one’s subconscious mind, which to Henry is rather like a second personality of whose contents we have no clue. We can, however, overwrite whatever junk might be in there by pouring in positive ideas just as one might pour clean, clear water into a polluted cistern until it, too is clean and clear. Suggestion 13 is THERE IS NO DEATH, which Henry in his accompanying meditation appears to be quoting from someone who adds, "What seems so is transition." Henry explains, "The ideal is to spiritualize our bodies so that transition will be as gentle as stepping into an adjoining room." It is interesting that the father of New Thought, P. P. Quimby is quoted by his son George as saying, an hour before his death, "I am more than ever convinced of the truth of my theory. I am perfectly willing for the change myself, but I know you all will feel badly, and think I am dead, but I know that I shall be right here with you, just as I have always been. I do not dread the change any more than if I were going on a trip to Philadelphia." It is extremely unlikely that comedian W. C. Fields had ever read any writings by Quimby or by our Henry when he composed his own epitaph: "All in all, I’d rather be in Philadelphia." This was in turn quoted by President Ronald Reagan as one of a series of one-liners that he delivered to the hospital staff at the time he was shot in an assassination attempt early in his presidency. Quimby, who had a good sense of humor, would probably have enjoyed these coincidences.
Quimby died essentially of overwork, of neglecting the balance of rest and recreation. The best that any of the vast majority of human beings seem to have managed to date is to go "all at once and nothing first", like the wonderful One-Hoss Shay, at a ripe old age (with the possible exception of a couple of Biblical figures who were translated, shoes, socks, and all). We should be able to do this by observing the basic laws of health outlined by our Henry and many others: wholesome food and water, adequate sleep, fresh air and appropriate exercise, and working to "take captive every thought" so that our attention is given to the positive rather than to the negative.
But there is more, and here is where Christmas comes in. In the words of Jesus as reported by John:
God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (3:16)
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. (5:24)
Christmas is necessarily linked with Easter. Our favorite Julie Andrews Christmas album has a couple of old carols that spell this out: "He’s crowned with thorns, spit on . . . So God give you much joy in the year." At first I disliked this, which seemed like such a downer; I have come to love it. No matter what doctrinal niceties you care to dance to, it is apparent that Jesus thoroughly convinced his utterly demoralized disciples that he had somehow survived the worst sort of horrible death, confirmed by details from many witnesses, including the thrusting of the spear into his side. Neither the Philosopher nor I buys into "the mummy walks" notion of resuscitation; it is more likely that the Shroud of Turin represents the truth in some form: the process of vaporizing the physical body somehow left an imprint on the Shroud. The linen wrappings collapsed under the weight of the spices, and the eyewitness description makes clear that there were no grave robbers or those wrappings would have been disturbed. Yet the resurrected body of Jesus by its appearance and conversation convinced Doubting Thomas, who never did accept the invitation to put his hands into the nail prints. It also cooked breakfast, gave instructions for catching a lot of fish, and otherwise established its identity to the followers. The baby whose birth we sing grew up reading the Messianic prophecies, somewhere decided "I’m it", and proceeded to act it out, except that the last act was a humdinger!
Henry explains, "Man lays aside the curtain which, in his servitude to the senses, he has hung between God and himself, and calls the process death." He goes on to point out, "Our sense of life is material. But LIFE is spiritual. Material forms disintegrate, but life never dies. All real life is eternal life." So we are back to metaphysical idealism as opposed to materialism, and this is what Henry has been trying to drum into us. Much of the terror of death comes from the funeral customs with which we have surrounded it. We can choose to skip those. Remember that in the third meditation for GOD IS MY LIFE, Henry states, "Life can never die or diminish. External forms change, but life goes on. Man is a ‘living soul’."
Henry did leave us a Christmas present, which we shall unwrap next week.
Lagniappe: Process thought borrows from Buddhism the concept of one candle lighting another as a description of a soul, an endless series of candle flames, if you will (the Philosopher refers to this as serial selfhood). This is an easier transition to the notion of an immortal soul, which is the essence of who we are ("I AM SOUL".) The body that dies is the last in a long series of bodies that you have occupied since your birth. What dies is not the real and lasting you. My father once peeled off a strip of skin resulting from a bad sunburn and handed it to me, saying, "You might like to have a piece of your father." He was kidding, of course, but that represents the truth. "The blue of Alexander’s eye" turns up as the blue of some stream, eventually. But the essence of Alexander lives on, independent of any material stuff that forms a body.
December 21, 2010
I Look Upward
Henry’s fourteenth meditation, with the accompanying Suggestion, I LOOK UPWARD, is particularly suitable for us this Christmas. Our country, along with probably most of the world, is struggling to rise from serious financial setbacks, business and social conditions, and political efforts that have carried us far off course. Henry reassures us, "Things which we hold in our consciousness soon become our possession." He then supplies something particularly useful to hold in consciousness: "Universal evolution, which sees all things ‘in a state of becoming,’ is the great modern inspiration. The feeling within us, that conditions, social, political, economic, ethical, and religious, are really growing better has a wonderful healing power in itself." What is getting healed is not only the conditions, but also our bodies and minds. Henry is undoubtedly thinking in terms of evolution by intelligent design (whether that term had appeared yet or not), because he adds, "God is infinitely better than we can imagine. . . . An eternal unfolding is going on which shows infinite wisdom, order, foresight, and beneficence."
The "state of becoming" is typical of process thought. I have written at length about the notion that we are creating the pattern of the past by our choices, one experience at a time, with each positive choice bringing us closer to the moment when one more choice brings us to our goal. This certainly means that "conditions . . . are really growing better". If we are looking upward, we are looking in the direction in which we want to go: "on the way toward the ‘Father’s House.’"
Henry returns to the "I look upward" theme in his Twelfth Suggestive Lesson from The New Thought Simplified. There he is trying to clarify concepts of prayer:
Prayer in its highest form is communion and aspiration. Petition is not needed to change God, because he is already perfect. True prayer wields divine forces and makes them ministries of blessing. It discovers and utilizes the higher law. Every prayer for the best is eternally answered, — on God’s part, — but not to us — unless we come into at-one-ment. (Page 194)
He then cites Mark xi. 24., adding, "Note the ‘have received.’" His point is that prayer should involve looking upward both in what we envision and in our looking to God, who is "already perfect".
Our Henry has left us a Christmas present: "A Christmas-Tide Musing", in The Symphony of Life. He begins, "The ringing of Christmas chimes ushers in another joyful season, during which reciprocal love finds its most copious overflow." He then returns to his theme of evolution: "The exuberant spirit of such a season is a temporary object lesson of a coming steady and continual state of consciousness toward which, through moral and spiritual evolution, the world is tending." Once again, we are looking upward. We are heading toward "a coming age, when selfishness, wrong and materialism will have become outgrown, because of the transformation of the spirit which is back of them."
And then he gives us a vision of what we hope for most today:
As is the average individual, so is the mass, and all institutions are secondary and resultant. To turn the hearts of a people, will in due season mold legislation, government and ethical and even political standards into complete correspondence. To hold the best ideals for men, and see their best side, is the most efficient means to bring these into actualized manifestation. (Page 182)
The "effort for character upliftment" and "the spirit of love" will "transform the negative and undeveloped powers of unspiritualized man." "The historic and local incarnation", Henry tells us, "was the first ripened fruit of a great coming harvest. Man was filled with divinity, and nothing less than this in any age can normally round out his complex being." It represents "a goal for which to strive". " If ‘God is Love’, Love must be the substantial principle of the universal economy. . . . Its growing subjective dominance in man, is the prophecy of a general incarnation."
Henry goes on to describe our search:
Each, according to his individual bias, allies himself with that church, institution, creed, or theology wherein to him there seems to be most of the Divine. With "lo here," or "lo there" sounding in his ears, he turns to all these objective things instead of looking directly within himself. . . . The rising tide of the larger Christmas is the brightening dawn of the higher selfhood; the uncovering of the likeness of God. The education of the love faculty is the way leading to that plane of consciousness which constitutes the ‘Father’s House.’" (Page 186)
After some interesting comments on the Holy Spirit and the moral ideals of the Sermon on the Mount and the golden rule as scientific, Henry concludes, "The idea of a general incarnation in no sense renders the historic ideal less impressive or beautiful, while it potentially lifts all mankind toward the same level. The Prince of Peace is yet to set up a nativity in the common heart and life of the human family." Christmas, then, is a time for redoubling our efforts to build our relationship with a God who is to be found within, while at the same time rejoicing in the "copious overflow" of "reciprocal love" characteristic of the season.
Lagniappe: Scholars, at least around our house, frequently get into weird pursuits. We became curious about who had written the familiar carol, "Away in a Manger", speculating that it was either Martin Luther or Isaac Watts. Such curiosity occurs several times a day here, and usually results in one or the other of us pursuing the topic to some point of relative satisfaction, which is what supposedly brought the metaphorical cat back. The Hymnal 1940 supplied a surprisingly noncommittal "Traditional Carol", which drove us to The Hymnal 1940 Companion, which told us a lot more that we really wanted to know about the carol and its 41 tunes:
It is to be hoped that a definitive and exhaustive article by Richard S. Hill entitled "Not so far away in a Manger, forty-one settings of an American carol" in the Music Library Association Notes (second series) III, no. I, for December 1945, will at last put a stop to the fiction that Martin Luther had a hand in the origin of this popular children’s hymn. As Mr. Hill points out, it would be strange indeed that Luther should have written a carol for his children of which no one else knew anything in spite of the voluminous literature about him, until it suddenly turned up in English dress nearly 400 years later in Philadelphia. Certain clues, which Mr. Hill enumerated, seem to indicate that the verses were first printed separately without a musical setting, in a quasi-fictional play or story for children about the life of Martin Luther. "If anyone should find such a story or play containing the words of ‘Away in a manger’, written between the outer limits of 1880 and Christmas 1884, but more probably in 1883 during the 400th Anniversary of Luther’s birth, he will almost certainly have discovered the first edition of this very elusive poem." (Page 34)
The only question that remains is whether "no one else knew anything" about the carol, or about Luther’s children! The dates appear to put Isaac Watts (1674-1748) out of the hunt. Now, don’t you feel better? In any case, the Philosopher and I wish you a peaceful and pleasant Christmas and a prosperous new year. Our Henry, seated on his billowy white cloud, no doubt joins us.
December 28, 2010
I am God’s Child
In his fifteenth Suggestion, our Henry spells it out clearly: I AM GOD’S CHILD. He supports this statement with Acts 17:28, 1 John 3:1, and John 10:30. This understanding is to "rule my consciousness, until, like the rising sun, it dissipates the fogs and mists of ancestral inharmony. In a vastly deeper and more vital sense I am God’s child than that of my parents." The importance of that comes at the end of the meditation: "God is not ill, and His children neither inherit disease nor have it sent upon them."
We do not know precisely what New Thought instructor or literature helped Henry Wood (1834-1909) to heal himself. We can only assume that these Suggestions of his represent the kernel of what he was taught. We do know that his illness forced his retirement from business in 1888, and that in 1890 he published Edward Burton, his novel incorporating the New Thought teachings that he had learned in his healing. These are a far cry from the "miserable worms of the dust" teaching of Jonathan Edwards that he also quotes in the meditation for contrast with the New Thought point of view, although the name New Thought was not applied to the movement until 1895.
In 1886, two years before Henry’s retirement, a "Christian Science practitioner" named Eugene B. Weeks gave a lecture in Kansas City, Missouri. In his audience was Myrtle Fillmore, a woman who believed herself to be dying of hereditary tuberculosis. She emerged from the lecture with a new idea burning within her: "I am a child of God, and therefore I do not inherit sickness." By 1888, she was completely well. She explained to a friend:
I remember with great joy the time when it dawned upon me that God was my Father and that I need not be bound by human limitations. I had been laboring under the belief in inherited ill health, and the Truth of my divine parentage freed and healed me.
To another, she wrote:
It was such a wonderful time for me when I awakened to the Truth that God is my Father and that I inherit from him only that which is Good. It seemed to loosen all the binding thoughts of the race belief in inherited weakness and I breathed so freely and joyously.
Myrtle Fillmore and her husband, Charles, went on to co-found the New Thought denomination known as Unity. Both the letters quoted from above are in the Myrtle Fillmore collection in the Unity archives. In the October 1911 issue of Unity magazine, she explained, "The physical claims that had been considered such a serious nature faded away before the dawning of this new consciousness, and I found that my body temple had been literally transformed through the renewing of my mind."
Scholar Neal Vahle, in his biography of Myrtle Fillmore, Torch-Bearer to Light the Way, supplies some insight into the source of the teachings that healed her, and quite possibly, our Henry as well. Vahle states, "The brand of Christian Science that Weeks taught came not from Mrs. Eddy but from one of the leading Eddy dissidents, Edward J. Arens." (Page 208)
When in Kansas City, Weeks probably taught the "Old Theology" of Edward Arens. In the May, 1889 issue of Modern Thought [the Fillmores] quoted at length from a pamphlet by Arens entitled "Old Theology Healing," describing it as "one of the most interesting and instructive pamphlets we have ever seen." They contrasted the teaching of Arens with that of Mary Baker Eddy on nineteen different topics, making it clear they preferred the "Old Theology" of Arens. (Page 209) [The points of difference are reproduced on pages 231-232.]
Continuing the trail, Vahle explains:
Eddy’s reputation as founder of Christian Science was tarnished in the minds of the Fillmores by the publication in 1895 of a work entitled, The Philosophy of P. P. Quimby, by Annetta Dresser. Dresser, who in the 1860s with her husband Julius had been a student with Eddy of Quimby in Portland, Maine, testified that Phineas P. Quimby, rather than Mrs. Eddy, was the true originator of mental healing. The Fillmores found Dresser’s case compelling. (Page 224)
The work that we have been considering, Ideal Suggestion Through Mental Photography, appeared in 1893, two years before Annetta’s book. Annetta Dresser was the mother of Horatio W. Dresser, who, together with our Henry, were among the founders of the Metaphysical Club and the two New Thought writers mentioned with approval by William James in Varieties of Religious Experience.
Others have pointed out that the child of a king doesn’t have to grovel and beg for favors. The apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:9 points out to us, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness..." Grace is unmerited, given freely to the children of the heavenly King. That sort of belief, that we have the mind of Christ and are heirs with Christ of every good that a loving Father can provide, is what begins the healing process. As Henry explains, we have to get rid of the "worms of the dust" consciousness and claim our inheritance as children of God.
Lagniappe: Here is one of our favorite poems, expressing a marvelous New Year’s wish:
Wonderful, wonderful, fortunate you, This is the year that your dreams come true!
This is the year that your ship comes in; This is the year you find Christ within.
This is the year you are glad to live; This is the year you have much to give.
This is the year when you know the Truth; This is the year when you find new youth.
This is the year that brings happiness; This is the year you will live to bless.
Wonderful, wonderful, fortunate you, This is the year that your dreams come true!
-—Russell A. Kemp, used in the Unity hymnal, Wings of Song.