New Thought Editorials > The Magic of Believing


Spring 2011

The Magic of Believing

Claude Bristol was a newspaperman, lawyer, investment banker, and traveler who fought in World War I and provided invaluable assistance to those who had fought in World War II. All of his adult life he was a serious investigator of what he called "mind stuff", no matter where it was to be found or what form it took, whether religion, metaphysics, psychology, or occultism. His studies not only made him wealthy and successful, but also taught him that few people took the subject seriously enough or pursued it far enough to obtain more than transient benefits. His book, The Magic of Believing (1948), summarized all that he had learned:

Gradually I discovered that there is a golden thread that runs through all the teachings and makes them work for those who sincerely accept and apply them, and that thread can be named in the single word—belief. It is this same element or factor, belief, which causes people to be cured through mental healing, enables others to climb high the ladder of success, and gets phenomenal results for all who accept it. . . . there’s genuine magic in believing. (Page 6)

Bristol also discovered a paradox that is as true today as when he wrote:

Many apparently well-educated men and women in their respective fields, will, in their broad ignorance, condemn the idea of thought power and will make no endeavor to learn more about it; and yet every one of them, if successful, has unconsciously made use of it. Again, many people will believe only what they like to believe or what fits into their own scheme of things, summarily rejecting anything to the contrary. (Page 18)

He also learned that belief "can be used with terribly destructive force, as well as for good and constructive results. It is like many natural forces, e.g., water and fire, which are among men’s greatest benefactors. Yet both can be hideously catastrophic, depending upon whether they are used for constructive or destructive purposes." (Page 26)

Don’t confuse Bristol’s "magic of believing" with magical thinking, which is either the attempt to force one’s will upon the world or simply a childish expectation of instant results. This sort of magic is a large part of the charm of the Harry Potter books, but the careful reader soon realizes that the magic of instant results is only superficial; underlying it is a study of the importance of good character and—without its ever being discussed—faith in a higher power for good. Belief is one’s habitual thinking; by the seventh Harry Potter book, Harry is hiding from the forces of evil, living in a tent that he is constantly moving around, with no food. It reminds me of the perils of King David in the Bible, on the run from murderous King Saul. Harry faces a challenging task of retrieving a sword from the bottom of a frozen pond and nearly dies because he hasn’t really thought through the situation. One’s belief, one’s thought, has to be carefully focused. In one book the evil Bellatrix tells Harry, when his attempt at a dangerous and forbidden curse fails, "You have to really mean it!"

Jesus summarized the heart of his beliefs in Mark 12: 29-31: there is one God, whom we are to love with all our heart and soul and mind; and we are to love our neighbor as ourself. He also frequently stated that a person’s belief, or faith, had healed him or her. It is clear that our thought must be focused on the one God, who is the source of wisdom and guidance as well as all good. Love is the crucial ingredient, love of God, of our neighbors, and of ourselves; for if we don’t love ourselves, we won’t be able to love our neighbors. It all starts with God’s love of us and God’s supplying of wisdom through the "still, small voice".

At first, when we experience positive results in negative circumstances, it seems coincidental, serendipitous, like magic. It takes a while for us to realize that our thoughts do indeed influence outcomes. Focusing thought may feel pointless, but it takes discipline. We must act deliberately and as we are guided to act. Focused thought is not "pouring pink paint" on the situation, or "plastering affirmations" all over everything, although it can often be funny. I like the extra beatitude someone once threw in, "Blessed are the debonair." The debonair person has a belief system that expects a good outcome, and the focused thoughts from such beliefs provide a grace under pressure that makes life seem magically blessed.