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The Power Of Silence



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THIS volume is the first of a series of studies of the inner life the main purpose of which is twofold. The point of approach is from the side of practical experience, and the first object is the development of a practical method. But, incidentally, it is hoped that the facts and values of this practical study may be of service to philosophy.

In fact, the production of these volumes was begun with the conviction that philosophy and life may be brought nearer, that practical interests put new demands upon philosophy; while the practical man may be greatly benefited by the study of idealistic first principles.

Hence the point of view is midway between the world of exact thinking and the world of actual living. The interest is not primarily psychological; nor is it ethical or religious. Yet all of these interests play a part.

That is to say, aside from one’s particular faith, there seems to be a demand for a new science and a new art: the art and science of the inner life investigated in the freest spirit without regard to specific doctrines. Such a science has become a necessity because of the failure of other inquiries to push through to the heart of reality in the inner world.

The art is needed to solve the problems which remain over when it is a question of the more practical application of the precepts of ethics, religion, and philosophy. For the conventional systems often fail to make clear precisely how a man should begin to live the better life.

It is modern science, with its empirical methods and its minute experimental research, which points the way in this more practical direction.

Scientific methods have already been applied to the psychological study of religion with good results. New interest in religion as a living experience is the outcome.

It remains to carry the investigation a stage farther, that it may cover the entire field of the inner life. The farther the scientific investigation is carried, the more must the individual co-operate. Hence the need of a new art is once more made plain.

For art must precede science, practice must instruct theory. Such an art should come within the reach of all. Every man must be able to grapple more successfully with the issues of actual experience. The devotees of special faiths and scientific interests may then turn the results to theoretical account.

The attempt to investigate the inner life in this practical spirit is no doubt subject to difficulties, and many objections are likely to be raised. For a long time to come such investigations will necessarily be of the nature of pioneer work, in which the art will far surpass the science. But the essential is to propose a method and make a beginning.

The best that can be said of a book on the subject is that by its aid the reader was enabled to pass beyond it. For the more profoundly one catches the idea the more persistently one will investigate—not books, but the living reality itself.

The essential is not the description of experience, nor the theories proposed to account for it; but life as known at first hand, what it means, what one can do with it. It is by recourse to life that one disproves or verifies, as the case may be. To possess life itself is to see that it is primary, while the descriptions of it avail if they send us to the pulsing, surging thing itself.

Some of the volumes in the present series are devoted to the more theoretical bearings of this investigation, others are almost entirely concerned with practical methods. The present volume has brought much evidence that it is of practical value. It is one of the greatest privileges of a lifetime to be able thus to share in the experiences of those who are striving, who are aspiring to live the spiritual life.

Moreover, it is significant that those who have been most helped by the book have paid least attention to its verbal or theoretical defects, but have gone straight to the heart of living experience in the manner advised.

The defects of the original edition were due to the fact that it was a first book, and that it was prepared from lecture notes with comparatively few changes. The subject matter was first used in a brief course of lectures delivered in Boston in 1894.

The second lecture in the course, “The Immanent God,” was then issued in pamphlet form and was incorporated without revision into the volume which was published in May, 1895. The book has been reprinted many times in this country without revision, and a slightly revised edition has been several times reprinted in England.

Since the book was first published a number of important works have appeared by reference to which it is now easier to make the present doctrine clear.

While the general character of the book is the same, the language is so much more explicit, and so many improvements have been made that readers of the earlier work will derive an entirely different impression from the present book, which is more than half new. The changes are too numerous to be mentioned here.

There were but eight chapters in the original edition; the present book contains fourteen. The second chapter has the same general purpose as the earlier discussion, but is now explicitly theistic.

The five following chapters are largely new end are a decided addition to the volume. The theory of suffering has been revised so as to differentiate it more sharply. The chapters on adjustment and poise have been retained with but few changes. The chapter on self-help has been relieved of certain minor teachings.

The following chapter is devoted to a more explicit statement of the method of meditation. The objections which have been raised to this method during the past ten years are also considered. This chapter makes clear the wide distinction between the present theistic philosophy and all mysticisms.

The omission of the Christian aspects of the original discussion has since been made good by the publication of a little volume entitled The Christ Ideal, New York and London, 1901.

A simple statement of the general theory of the inner life is contained in a little book entitled, Living by the Spirit, 1900, also issued in pointed letters for the blind by W. B. Wait, 412 Ninth Avenue, New York, 1902; German translation (Das Leben nach dem Geiste) by L. S.; Leipzig, Lotus Verlag, 1904. That little work is far clearer than the earlier volumes.

Those who prefer to read a simpler statement before taking up the present discussion, will find that book the best introduction. On the other hand, those who are interested to follow the philosophical problems here barely touched upon will find a much more elaborate treatment of these questions in the maturer volume, Man and the Divine Order, 1903.


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