The Nature of Mind-Power
At this point I am confronted with the question that naturally arises when one begins to consider an unfamiliar object, subject, or principle. the question of: "What is it?" "What is Mind-Power?" is a difficult question to answer, for it implies a knowledge of the thing "in-itself," apart from its activities and manifestations. And this "thing-it-selfness" is something that the candid, scientific thinker admits is beyond the range of his thought and knowledge. Any attempt to answer such a question must involve one in a maze of metaphysical and philosophical speculation regarding something which is by nature unknowable. And so I may as well frankly state here that I do not purpose "guessing" at the "thing-in-itselfness" of Mind-Power. For, at the best, any attempt at an answer would be merely a guess; for I do not know, neither do I know anyone else who knows!
I am acquainted with the numerous speculations of the ancient and modern philosophers and metaphysicians on the subject. I have read and studied them, and have rejected them as mere theories unsupported by facts. And I have made and rejected a dozen or more theories of my own on the subject. all vague, foolish speculations. I have studied the best of what has been written and thought regarding this "thing-in-itselfness" of mind and Mind-Power, so you see my ignorance is not the ignorance that comes from lack of thought, or lack of acquaintance with the thoughts of others. but is rather the ignorance that comes as the result of much thought, and much study of the thoughts of others. the ignorance that is only realized through knowledge. Regarding these ultimate questions, the best thinkers freely confess their ignorance knowing that, as Nordau has said, they "have plucked that supremest fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. the consciousness of our ignorance." Like Pyrrhon, some twenty-five centuries ago, they say "Uden horizo". "I do not decide."
We do not know "things-in-themselves". we cannot know them. If we knew the ultimate truths regarding the tiniest and most insignificant thing in the universe, we would know everything that is. for that tiniest thing is connected with, and related to everything in the universe, and that which underlies the universe. and to know the "thing-in-itself" of anything would be to know the great "Thing-in-Itself" of The All. All that we can do is to know and consider things by what they do; and how they act; and through their manifestations and activities; and the results and effects of the same. rather than by what they are in the abstract, or apart from their activities, manifestations, and the phenomena proceeding from them. Apart from their activities, manifestations and phenomena, things are but abstract no-things so far as our understanding is concerned. airy "words" coined by the metaphysicians and philosophers in order to provide food for speculation, argument, and dispute without end. And we may as well admit the fact that all consideration of ultimate things. things-in-themselves. inevitably leads us to the conclusion that the only real Thing-in-Itself is a Something, underlying all things and yet a No-Thing, and which transcends all of our experience, knowledge, reason, thought, and even imagination.
And therein lies the folly of attempting to tell "just what" anything is. In view of the facts mentioned, and which are held to be correct by the world's best thinkers, how much saner is it to devote our attention to the consideration of things as known through their activities, manifestations, and phenomena. knowing them by what they do, and and how they act; by the laws and principles of the activities and operations; rather than by speculations concerning their nature as abstract thing-in-themselves. This is the method of modern Science, as compared with those of speculative philosophy and metaphysics. But, "a little learning is a dangerous thing"; and "fools rush in where angels fear to tread." And so we shall never be at a loss for ingenious theories and "solutions" of ultimate problems. We have among us some who glibly inform us that they know "just what Mind is!" Such add to the gaiety of the nations, and therefore are useful and interesting. Did you ever hear of the youth at college, who when asked by his professor:
"What is electricity?" answered "Well, sir, I did know, but I have forgotten!" The professor answered, dryly: "Now, isn't that too bad! Here is the only person in the world who ever knew just what electricity is. and he has forgotten! What a loss to the race!" Why do we not have courage enough to leave off this making of the speculative soap-bubbles with which we have been amusing ourselves, and learn to answer honestly, "I do not know!" or, at least like modern Science, learn to frankly state: Here our knowledge of the subject ends; to-morrow we may know more, but sufficient for the day is the knowledge thereof. and an inch of knowledge of facts is worth a mile of unsupported speculation and theory. As Thomas L. Harris has said: "The theorist who dreams a rainbow dream, And calls hypothesis 'philosophy,' At best is but a paper financier who palms his specious promises for gold. Facts are the basis of philosophy; Philosophy, the harmony of facts. Seen in their right relation."
And, now, having confessed your ignorance and mine, let us proceed to a consideration of Mind-Power as known by its activities.
In the first place, let me say that I do not hold that Mind-Power is identical with mind. Rather does it seem to me to be correlated to mind, particularly in the operation of mind known as desire, will, and imagination. If you like, we may consider it to be the acting aspect of mind. Mind has three aspects. the aspect of being, or substance; the aspect of thought, with the sub-divisions of reason, feeling, emotion, desire, will, etc., on both conscious and subconscious planes; and third, the aspect of ACTING. And it is in this aspect of action that mind is known as Mind-Power.
While it is extremely likely that there is a certain employment and manifestation of Mind-Power in the ordinary processes of reasoning, intellectual effort, etc., still Mind-Power seems to be more closely connected with the more elementary phase of mentation, such as feeling, emotion, and particularly desire and will. We know that it is possessed by the lower forms of animal and plant life; even the inorganic forms; all of which existed and employed the force before intellect and reason manifested itself in man. And so I would impress upon you that while Mind-Power may be called into operation by, and still more certainly may be directed by the intellect. still you must not make the mistake of identifying it with that phase of mind or attributing it solely to creatures possessing the same. It is a far more elementary and basic force, as you have seen in the preceding chapter.
Indeed, in order that you may understand the operations of Mind-Power you may as well get into the habit of considering it as correlated to that which we call will, (as distinguished from intellect and reason). By "will" I do not mean that phase or faculty of the mind which decides, determines, or chooses. although this customary use of the term is quite correct as applied to one phase of will. This deciding, choosing, determining faculty is one of the attributes of intellect and Self-consciousness superimposed upon the elemental will in the direction of guiding, directing, turning and restraining. it is the Ego at the wheel, directing the Ship of Life by the Chart of Reason, the motive-power being will, or Mind-Power. Choice in the lower forms of life and activity, simply means yielding to the strongest desire, or aggregate of strongest desires, or average of strongest desires.
No, I did not mean will in the above sense, but in the more elementary sense of the term. the original sense, for the word is derived from the root meaning "to wish; to desire strongly." And, in this elementary sense, the word "will" is used to designate that primitive, original, universal mental principle in life, which manifests in desire for action, and in the response to that desire. In this sense will may be considered as Desire Will, both being held to be phases of the same thing. or rather the two poles of the same thing. The desire-pole of this Desire Will is connected with that which we call emotion, feeling, etc., which arouses it into action. The will-pole of this Desire Will is connected with that principle of mental activity which we are considering under the name of Mind-Power. the dynamic aspect of mind. I ask that you re-read this paragraph, that you may fix this idea firmly in your mind, for upon it depends the correct understanding of much that I shall have to say in this work.
In Desire we find the first step toward Dynamic Mentation. Desire precedes action of will which releases the dynamic force of the mind. the Mind-Power. Desire is the coiling up the steel-spring of Will. there is always a state of "tension" about desire. a state of "coiled-up energy" caused by "feeling," "emotion" or similar state which has been aroused by the sight of, or memory of, or thought of, some attractive object. The feeling inspired by the attractive object coils up the spring of desire, and this "coiled-up" energy supplies the "motive-power" of the will. But, remember this, some desires are acted upon, while others are rejected. neither men nor things act upon every desire. There is the other pole of the Desire Will which must be called into action. and this leads us to a consideration of the matter of choice, determination, or decision, which is so often expressed by the term" "Will, " as I said a little further back.
This choosing or determining phase of will, is little more than an empty name or term, so far as is concerned the relation between desire and will action in the cases of things and creatures lower in the scale than man. For in these cases this choice, determination, or decision is based entirely upon the degree of "feeling," or the degree of attractiveness of the objects presenting themselves to the attention. the strongest feeling, attraction, or motive-interest winning the day. (Fear is one of the strongest feelings influencing desire, and acts usually as a neutralizer of other feelings and desires, and is most potent as a motive influencing choice or decision. in fact, one is justified in regarding fear as the negative form of desire, being really a "desire-not-to.") With the advent of reason, and intellect, particularly when the self-conscious ego appears, new elements are introduced, by reason of which man is enabled to deliberate and weigh motives, desires, feelings, emotions, etc., and thus the will of man is held to contain elements lacking in the general principle of will.
But the aspect of will with which we are much concerned is the aspect of action. the will-pole of Desire Will. Just where desire passes into will is impossible to decide. the chances are that they blend into each other. But this we do know, that "something happens" at a certain stage of the mental operation, whereby the attention of the thing, or ego, passes from the pole of desire to the pole of will. and then, one of two things happens, i. e., (1) either the "coiled-up" spring of desire is released by the will, and the energy of desire is transmuted into the energy of will, which thus releases the Mind-Power or dynamic quality of mind into action; or else: (2) the will refuses to be aroused, and desire slowly uncoils her spring, and the tension is relieved, gradually or at once. The will may be cultivated and developed so as to refuse to release the spring of desire into action. and in this inhibiting quality lies much of that which is called "strength of will". it often requires more will not to do, than to do.
The aspect of "action" is the true dynamic quality of will. And with action all will is intimately and inseparably connected. As Prof. Halleck says: "Will concerns itself with action. The student must keep that fact before him, no matter how complex the matter seems." Action is the "inner meaning" and reason of the will. And it is with this phase that we are concerned in the present work. Action is the essential aspect of Mind-Power. the latter exists for the purpose of Acting. It is the essence of activity.
And so you will see that this "universal dynamic mental principle". which I have called "Mind-Power," is not that phase of mind which manifests as intellectual, reasoning processes; but is that phase of mind which is aroused by desire will. and which acts. It is manifest in the universe among forms of life below the plane of reason, as well as among those on that plane, and therefore precedes Reason in evolution. It also manifests along unconscious and automatic lines, and precedes the self conscious stage of man. It represents an elementary, primitive, fundamental, dynamic, mental force; and may be thought of as a raw, crude, undeveloped force, manifesting along the lines of instinctive action or appetency, rather than along the lines of intellect, reason, or the higher cognitive faculties. It is something far more elemental and basic than intellect. It is more nearly akin to the elemental life forces which we personify under the name of "Nature."
Whether or not that which we know as reason or intellect were evolved from an elemental Mind-Stuff; or whether these higher forms of mentality are something of an entirely higher and distinct nature; or whether, as the occultists hold, intelligence is the result of the influence of a Spiritual Ego (something distinct from mind) upon an elemental Mind-Stuff. these are questions belonging to other phases of the general subject of Being, with which we have nothing to do in the consideration of the subject before us. I have my own opinions and beliefs on these points, and so have each of you. we may differ regarding the same, but may still be able to examine the subject before us as co-workers, in spite of our lack of agreement regarding questions of philosophy, metaphysics, or religion. We are dealing with a natural force. a universal energy. now and here, and should examine and study its principles just as we would were it electricity, magnetism, heat or light that we were studying. I am inviting you to a scientific study, not a metaphysical or philosophical speculation, doctrine or theory. These latter things have their own good places. but they have no place here at this time.