WE are now in a position more definitely to consider the wise attitude by which man may adapt himself to the tendencies of spiritual evolution. For we have seen that the habitual attitude is the determining factor. In the end it is our mode of life that counts. Hence the further we penetrate into the ideal region the more empirical must be our pursuit.
Others may indeed give us the benefit of practical experience, but it is individual experiment that makes clear the reality. Ideals are of incalculable assistance, but the ideal differs with every individual. Hence one must take the present discussion as suggestive rather than adequate. The essential is for each man to come to consciousness of the point attained in evolution, and begin with the opportunities immediately at hand.
The question, What is the ultimate ideal? proves in the light of our investigation to be a large problem for one individual to consider. To some people, the universe is instinct with purpose. Others see no reason in an argument for a world-plan. To some it seems impossible that the world could have been better than it is. Others hold that life could not have been worse. All conclusions and all ideals are relative to the state of development.
Yet for all men life is some sort of adjustment between inner and outer conditions.
To discover that life moves forward and each of us suffers or rejoices according to our dynamic relation to it is perhaps the chief need. And probably the majority of men would agree that the highest aim of life is the full development of the soul. It is character that avails. If we are cast about by every wind that blows it is because we lack the repose that character brings. And to possess character is in some degree to possess one’s soul.
Hence it is not out of place to ask, What is the soul? How difficult it is to answer except in empirical terms! One may as well undertake to state what God is apart from His world, as to define the soul apart from what we have felt and thought and willed. Yet we know fairly well what we mean by the term “soul” until we are asked to define it; and we have some conception of the ideal realm of thought, where dwell the poets and philosophers who speak words of comfort to the soul.
Our own deepest reflection transports us there, and we seem larger as a result of our meditation. There are experiences that call us out of and above ourselves, noticeably those that make us acquainted with grief in its larger sense; and the soul seems to grow with the new experience. We know when, on the one hand, a man’s soul speaks through his words, and when, on the other, he says one thing with his lips and thinks another, thereby trying to conceal his soul.
The whole being speaks through a perfectly genuine act, through truly ethical conduct. We mean something genuine, something honest, appealing, and true, bespeaking that indefinable thing called “personality.” It is a part of what we call ‘’ temperament.’’ It is that which endears one to those who give us a glimpse of God, and makes one feel assured that life, since it produces such a thing as this, is well worth all its hardships.
It is the test of all that is dearest and truest in human experience. It is that which transcends, yet gives unity to the intellectual and moral man. Through it comes that wisdom which leads men to act better than they know, which bids one be calm when there is seemingly reason to fear and grieve, which assures one that all will be well even when one feels profound doubts. It is the meeting-point of the eternal Spirit with the ever-varying experiences of daily life.
Our deepest life, then, is a continuous incoming of renewing, sustaining power welling up from the heart of the universe into the spirit of man, a continuous, divine communication engaged in the rearing of a soul. The deepest self is not physical, nor even intellectual; it is spiritual. We are spirits now, in germ it may be; but, in so far as we are conscious of our life with God, that consciousness will probably never be broken.
Man is not a body with a soul, but a soul or spirit, which in every well-poised person is master of the body and of the powers of thought and action.
If the soul is in reality uppermost in importance, it is our duty to keep the consciousness of the soul supreme. Many people work so hard at their vocations that their souls have no room to grow. They are lawyers, doctors, financiers, with whom business stands first, not men in the spiritual sense of the word.
Anything which subordinates the soul, and prevents man from taking all that belongs to him as a free spirit in a beneficent world, any mistaken sense of humility or self-suppression, has a harmful effect on the whole life, and is evidently as far from a normal attitude as strong self-conceit.
If one constantly feels promptings to do good, and suppresses them, a reaction is sure to follow. It is better to express the impulse, even in a slight way, if one cannot realise one’s deepest and fullest desire. Theological creeds often suppress the soul. One feels a desire to be larger, freer, and to think for one’s self. Want of charity, continued fault-finding, the attempt to do a task that is beneath one, narrows the soul.
Love, of the truer sort, broad thinking, open-heartedness, happiness develops it. Sacrifice of individuality to the control of a stronger mind suppresses the soul. Misdirected education often crushes out originality.
It is well, therefore, to consider wherein we are held down by people and circumstances, and to discover how we are cramping our souls. The soul should be master, and the powers of thought and activity should be free. Do we not yield part of our manhood or womanhood when we worry, when we give way to continued grief or discouragement?
On the other hand, is not the realisation of what we are as living, growing spirits, who use the body as an instrument, and control it by thought, who dwell with God and need never fear any permanent harm—is not this the way to free ourselves most rapidly from all that would hold us down?
We have all experienced those calmer moments when we quietly faced our fears, our doubts, and our wavering opinions, and as calmly dismissed them, henceforth powerless because we saw their utter absurdity. Half the battle is won when we discover our error, and realise the possibilities of the soul. We are momentarily masters of the situation. We are more truly and profoundly ourselves, we discover our inner centre, and become poised, grounded in eternal reason and calm in eternal peace.
This is at once the highest use of the will and the truest spiritual self-possession; for it is in these moments of calm decision, when we realise our relationship to eternal power, that the mind changes, and brings all things round to correspond to our deep desire.
The ideal of daily conduct is to maintain this inward repose, to keep it steadily and persistently in view, to regain it when we lose it, to seek it when we need help, to have a calm centre within which is never disturbed, come what may,—a never-yielding citadel of the higher self.
It is evident, then, that all that we have considered in the foregoing chapters, may be restated with deeper meaning in terms of the soul, of spiritual experience. The soul must learn what it is and why it is here. It must gain this knowledge by actual experience, in order to learn the value of right conduct, in order to learn that there is an immanent Wisdom, a Love, that is equal to all occasions.
It must descend into density, or matter, and become acquainted with darkness, in order to discover the meaning of life and become conscious of itself as an individualisation of God. It struggles upward and forward to completion.
It is ever trying to come forth and express itself; and, when man comes to consciousness of what it means to develop the soul, and of the divine trend in his personal life, he no longer resists this deep moving. He comes to judgment, and sees how he might have acted more wisely. With this deeper consciousness comes readjustment to life and more spiritual freedom.
His soul finds better expression through the body, not in some future existence or in another body, but here and now; for even its experiences in the flesh are soul experiences, and demand, not punishment in the flesh at some distant time, but better and truer conduct in the present.
If anything is purposeful in the universe, then, it is the life, the aspiration and character, the soul of man, as it passes from stage to stage in its progressive experience, unfolding and giving to the light the divinity involved in its very being. It is the knowledge of this permanent factor in so much that is passing and trivial which gives poise and strength to pass through any experience without fear that it may prove too hard.
People disturb us. They narrate their troubles and describe their sensations with painful minuteness of detail. Crowds, city rush and noise, deprive us of our peace. Be as watchful as we may, we find ourselves going off on tangents, on tirades of fear, or on a round of gloomy thoughts. We are misunderstood, ill-used, and wronged. Our faith is tested to the utmost, and we are pushed to the wall.
There is obviously but one wise course to pursue in all such cases, namely, not to be disturbed, not to enter into the painful narration, not to rush with the crowd or countenance gloomy thoughts; not to feel uncharitable, revengeful, or unforgiving—since one will only add more trouble—but to regain one’s poise by the realisation of the Power that is ever with us.
Find your centre, learn to know your home in God, and you can safely let the great world go on, and let nature right all wrongs and heal all hurts.
I need hardly remind the reader that it is not so-called will power that invites this repose, but the higher and truer will explained in the foregoing chapters; for self-assertion defeats one’s object. People who are strong in themselves alone obviously have no poise in this deeper sense, as a soul-experience.
Those who reach out after the ideal as though it were somewhere afar off and not immanent in the real, who look forward to the future with a nervous strain instead of living in the present, where help is alone to be found, lose what little poise they have, and fly aloft in a burst of enthusiasm.
Consciousness is concentrated wherever we send our thought; and, if we reach out or pray to God as a distant being, the thought is sent away from its proper sphere. It were better not to have ideals at all than to strain after them, and assert that they shall become facts at once; for nature’s method of measured transformation through evolution is the only wise and health-giving course to pursue.
To know that everything we need is within, here and now, this is poise. Realisation, not assertion, is the method of this book,—a realisation which teaches through actual communion with it that there is an omnipresent Spirit to whom we may turn at any moment and in any place, of whom our being partakes, who is so near to us that we have no wisdom, no power, no life wholly our own.
We are so accustomed to think of the divine nature as wholly unlike and separated from our own character that it is long before we can make this realisation a power in daily consciousness. We have taken credit to ourselves for qualities which inhere in the Essence itself.
We have limited our worship of God to one day in the week, to one place of prayer, and sought His revelation in one Book. Dogmas have crystallised about us, and we have hardly dared to think for ourselves.
Yet a little reflection shows that we are, that we must be, partakers of the omnipresent Love; that not the Bible alone or any other sacred book, but every book through which the soul of its author speaks untrammelled, all that spurs man on to progress, is a revelation of God, for He is not an exclusive, but an inclusive God. This being so, we obviously do not know ourselves, do not possess ourselves, and have no permanent centre of repose, until we discover the inward kingdom of heaven.
We then learn that there is something within that will teach man better than any mere thought of his own, that he has a wellspring of guidance and inspiration in his own soul. It gives quietness and comfort to know this fact. Nearly everyone has had such guidance at times, sudden warnings of approaching danger and impressions not to do this or that; and help has often come to us during sleep.
But this realisation of the nearness of the Spirit gives a reason for such experiences, and encourages one to believe that they can be cultivated and relied on. Then, too, it gives one confidence and strength of a truer sort, not in self-consciousness, and the products of one’s own intellectual development, but in that larger Self which is ordinarily crowded out of mind by sentiments of pride and self-satisfaction.
One loses fear, one ceases to worry about one’s friends or to suffer for wrongs that one is powerless to prevent, when this realisation becomes a habit; for, if God, and not man, is behind events, we can safely trust the universe to Him, and not only the universe, but our friends, our suffering and ignorant fellow-beings, and our own souls. The sense of officiousness is displaced by a feeling of patient trustfulness, and we spare ourselves a deal of unnecessary suffering.
Education of the truer sort brings poise; for it develops individuality, health, and strength of intellect, which in turn aids in the attainment of health and strength of body. Physical exercise, music, or any line of work which rounds out the character and acts as a balance-wheel, is essential for the same reason, since it draws the activities out of narrow and therefore unhealthy directions of mind.
Those who are intense in disposition often find it necessary to exercise vigorously, in order to counteract this extreme mental activity, until by degrees they become less and less intense, and learn to work moderately and easily. There is an easiest, simplest way of doing everything, with the least degree of strain and nervous anxiety. We do not learn it while we hold ourselves with the grip of will-power, when we try to work our brains, and force the activities into a given channel.
“Self-possession forgets all about the body when it is using it.” It interposes no obstacle to the physical and mental forces. It discovers the easiest method of concentration through inward repose, and finds in this quiet restfulness the greatest protection from nervous reaction and fear.
Poise, then, is an affair of degrees. Many have it on the physical plane, and are apparently seldom disturbed in their physical life. Systematic physical exercise brings control of the muscles of the body, and with this control comes a certain degree of poise. In learning to play a musical instrument, one gains it through long training; and we say of a great musician that he has repose, that he plays or sings without effort.
But one may have bodily repose, yet have no repose of character, and may be the victim of a veritable whirlwind of nervous excitement within. Those who are aware of their own mental development and soul growth are usually conscious of touching a deeper and deeper centre, and with each experience comes added poise and readjustment to life.
Every trying experience demands a strengthening of one’s faith, a deepening of one’s self-possession; for the natural tendency is to fear, worry, and doubt. We are not sure of ourselves until we have undergone the test of severe experience. Any experience, then, that strengthens this inward repose is rather a blessing than a hardship.
Is it too much to say that we may become equal to any experience whatever, and meet it unmoved within, in quiet trust and perfect faith? Surely, the possibility is worthy of consideration.
If we have proved to our satisfaction that two and two make four, and that the result will always be the same, we are undisturbed by those who affirm that the result should be five. So far as we have rationalised experience and discovered certain laws, our conviction is no less certain, because nature, like mathematics, is a system on which we may rely.
If the reader is convinced that God is immanent, or that evolution, so far as science has described it, is a true statement of life’s process of becoming, this knowledge furnishes a basis on which to reason.
It gives poise and inspires trust. To be sure, the conditions may change, and other forces counteract and modify the results in a given case. To the forgetfulness of this fact is due the tenacity with which some people cling to their beliefs, simply because they are unaware of these modifying circumstances and causes.
If the reader has grasped the few great but highly important laws of human life, he is now able to rise superior to moods, troubles and illnesses, which once would have caused great suffering.
Simply to know that every event has an adequate cause, that action and reaction are equal, that experience depends on our attitude towards it, and that with a change of mind, a new directing of the will, the forces of our being are brought round to correspond, this simple knowledge is enough to give us poise, and make us masters.
One’s method of adjustment to life or one’s optimism need not, let us repeat, be identical with the teaching of this book.21 There are as many lines of approaches as there are temperaments; and that is precisely the point of this chapter. Have a method. Have a soul of your own.
Think, realise, until you have a measure of unborrowed conviction, which establishes a centre of repose, and is a source of happiness and contentment, a centre which yields to no outer tumult, but is receptive to the Spirit; which never harbours fear or doubt, no matter what the wavering self may say; which never wavers, never forgets that the individual belongs to the Universal, never relaxes its hold of that which is deepest, truest, most spiritual in life, come what may, be it sorrow, illness, or any calamity which life may bring; a centre which rests at last on the love of God. And, when you lose this poise, regain it, as though you would say, “Sit still, my soul: thou at least must not lose thy composure nor thy awareness of the eternal presence of God.”
Those who are nervously inclined will find it necessary to stop themselves many times a day when they discover that they are under too great pressure. They will find themselves hurrying unnecessarily or becoming inwardly excited.
Oftentimes all that is needed in order to prevent serious mental and physical trouble is to take off this pressure, and find this quiet inward centre. It is wonderfully refreshing and removes fatigue to relieve the pressure. Simply to turn away from self, and all that destroys repose, to the Self which knows the supreme peace, is sufficient to give help and strength at any time and in any place. The wise direction of mind opens the door to help.
If we trust, if we expect it, the help will come, whereas the nervous effort to compel it to come will put an obstacle in its pathway.
To know how to rest, this is the great need of our hurrying age. We are too intense, too active. We have not yet learned the power and supremacy of the Spirit, nor the value of quiet, systematic thinking. We struggle after ideas. We read this book and that, and go about from place to place in search of the latest and most popular lecturer, instead of pausing to make our own the few great but profoundly simple laws and truths of the Spirit.
We are unaware of the power and value of a few moments of silence.
Yet it is in our periods of receptivity that we grow. Not while we actively pursue our ideas do we obtain the greatest light.
Oftentimes, if the way is dark, and we can find no help, it is better to cease striving, and let the thoughts come as they may, let the Power have us; for there is a divine tendency in events, a tendency in our lives which we may fall back on, which will guide us better than we know, if we listen, laying aside all intensity of thought, and letting the activities settle down to a quieter basis.
Here is the vital thought of this book, its most urgent appeal to suffering humanity and the soul in need. Part of its teaching can only be verified by experience, and must seem merely theoretical to many readers. But here is a thought that is for everyone, a simple, practical thought, that leads to and includes all the rest. Let us pause for a time, think slowly and quietly, and not leave it until we have made it our own.
Wise silence invites the greatest power in the world, the supreme Power, the omnipresent Life. Let us be still in the truest and deepest sense of the word, and feel that Power. It is the Spirit in all things. It surrounds us here and now, in this present life, this beautiful world of nature, of law and order, this inner world of thought and the soul. It is supreme wisdom and perfect love.
It knows no opposition. There is naught to disturb its harmonious, measured, and peaceful activity. It is beauty and peace itself. Its love and peace are present here with us. Let us then be still. Peace, peace, there is nothing to fear. In this restful happy moment we have won the peace of eternity, and it is ours forever.
Who that has communed with the Power of silence in this way can do justice to the unspeakable joy of that moment of rest and peace? It is not suggestion alone that brings it. It is something more than mere thought. The experience is one of deep, inner stillness. The receptivity of the soul invites the supreme Love itself, the eternal Peace. Hence the soul’s attitude is all-important. At best, any formula of thought or mental picture is a superficial aid.
Many will find it difficult at first to banish other thoughts; and it is better not to force the stillness to come, but to let the agitation cease by degrees, letting the thoughts come until they quiet down for mere want of conscious attention. When at last the attention no longer wanders here and there, but is poised in the present moment, and the feeling of peace becomes uppermost, it is better to cease definite thought altogether, and simply enjoy the silence.
One will then have a sense of incoming power and of newness of life which no other experience can bring. This may not be the result at first, since it is only after repeated trials that one learns how to become still. One may even be made more nervous by the simple thought of stillness. It is often easier to realise this peace for another than for one’s self, but the result will in time be the same.
The consciousness will be drawn away from self and physical sensation; and this, after all, is the essential—to rise above self into the nobler world of altruism and the Spirit.
Some have found it helpful to set aside fifteen minutes each day for quiet receptivity of this deeper sort. Then, when times of trouble and suffering come, one will not lose one’s self-possession, but will know how and where to find help.
The instance is related of a student in the University of Leipzig who was in such an intense state of nervous strain that the students and professors were much alarmed at his condition. As the result of good advice he took up the habit of sitting quietly by himself for about fifteen minutes each day, in absolute silence, maintaining as nearly as possible a state of perfect composure and muscular rest, banishing all thought and all activity.
In a short time he made a very noticeable improvement, and finally recovered his health. The mere effort of maintaining an easy, relaxed state of mind and body had relieved him of the inner pressure.22
If one fails utterly at first to gain this silent repose, and becomes still more restless, one should not be discouraged. That is the moment to rejoice and to know that one has in part succeeded. The experience is the same in all efforts of reform. The first result is to stir up and encounter opposition.
Suppose for a moment that the reader is impatient, and, seeing the error of his ways, decides to exercise self-control. Very likely he will lose his patience on the first occasion, and act or speak impulsively. Discouragement naturally follows; and the reader forgets one of the great laws of growth,—the law, namely, that a period of darkness, of regeneration, of sharp contact with all that can rouse itself into opposition, follows the reception of new light, of greater power.
Conservatism and habit are ever ready to rise and say that there shall be no reform. All healthy changes are evolutionary, not revolutionary. We forget that an idea, like a seed, has life, and, if sown in the mind, will grow. We forget the outcome. We often falsely accuse ourselves of sin, when the relapse is really due to a firm determination to be better. If we keep the end in view, if we have an ideal outlook, we may let the disturbance be what it may. Quiet persistence is the word.
Each effort to renew our ideal adds to its evolutionary power. “Keep your eye fixed on the eternal, and your intellect will grow,” says Emerson.
One’s first real success in attaining this inner repose sometimes comes alone with nature when, standing in silence under the pines and thinking in harmony with their whispering or awed by some grand mountain scene, one freely and fully yields to the spirit, the calm, the rhythm of one’s surroundings.
Afterwards one may return in thought to the mountain summit, where the eternal silence of the upper air was so deeply impressive. Or one may imagine one’s self by the sea, where the ceaseless ebb and flow of the surf on a sandy shore once quieted the troubled spirit; or afloat at sea on a beautiful June day, listening to the regular play of the waves along the steamer’s side.
Any thought which suggests silence will produce the result, until one acquires the habit of thinking in harmony with the rhythm of nature.
Everything in nature seems to have its ebb and flow, its alternation of day and night, of activity and rest, the one blending with the other throughout the seasons and the centuries. The strains of a grand symphony carry one in thought to this region of rhythmic alternation. One is glad enough at times to lay aside present
problems and everything that is modern, and read the great authors who wrote for all time, or read some history or scientific work which transports one to the past, and gives one a sense of time, of the long ages and the periods through which the earth has passed and man has worked his way.
There seems to be a corresponding rhythm in human life, with its joys and sorrows, its successes and its failures. Yet the interval is often too long for our short-sighted discernment. In the night of trouble and despair we forget that the day will surely dawn again. We occasionally emerge into remembrance of what it all means, and we think that now at last all will go well.
Then comes the descent. We are plunged once more into the depths, where the facts of life are seen at the close, pessimistic range; and once more our memory fails to hold over. But in due time these contrasted experiences fall into a system, if we reflect on their meaning. We are awed by the eternal fitness of things. A stronger hand and a profounder will than our own is revealed in the life of our soul.
It is true we make many relative mistakes. Within certain limits we seem to have infinite choice. We are conscious of wrong-doing and we have much to regret. Yet a time comes when many of these experiences yield their meaning. We justify mistakes in the light of their outcome. Each hour of conflict had its place in teaching part of life’s great lesson.
A world of truth flashes upon us through the memory of some wrong act; and we question the wisdom of the slightest regret, since we have acted so much better than we knew. This soul-experience, this personal evidence that we have been guided, is for many the strongest assurance that our world-order is the best possible order. They are conscious of being led to certain lines of conduct at what they call “the right moment.”
They see their humble place in the world, and await the next step in quiet expectancy. One may as well tell them they have no eyes as to deny this inward guidance, for it leads them from task to task with a certain system.
If it does not tell them what to do, it at least opposes no obstacle. One cannot hasten it. One cannot always discern the proper course until the proper moment. It often comes unexpectedly, causing humility and surprise that so much should be given. But the right thought comes in the fitness of time to those who quietly await it.
Thus one is drawn at last out of the narrow prison of self-consciousness into the larger thought of the whole. It gives rest and trust to feel one’s self part of an organism so wonderfully and systematically adjusted, where the world tendency is not alone concerned with the selfish needs of one man, nor the wrongs which one would like to see swept away because we do not see their meaning, but with the total needs of all as related to the total universe.
One loses all sense of time and space under the power of this thought of the wholeness which shades off into eternity. This transient thought of ours, this divine moment of time, is a part of that eternity. It links the limitless future with the irrevocable past. It is as important, as truly a part of eternity, as any moment could ever be.
We learn that we are in eternity now, not that it is to come. We try to comprehend what it means—in eternity now, in infinite time, in boundless space, or, better, above all time and space, where one Power, one law, holds all events together, where each and all are inseparably related to the Supreme Reality.
If we dwell in eternity, why need we hurry in soul, whatever bodily hurry may be required? Why should we not dwell here in the everlasting present, instead of reaching off somewhere in thought, anticipating the future and death, as though there would ever be a break in the stream of life? If we, as souls, dwell in eternity, is not our life continuous?
In some of us has been born a desire to live forever. It is probable that we are no more responsible for that desire than for our deepest faith in God. In the supremest moments of human life it is He who stands by us, not we by our faith in Him, and we would fain doubt Him if we could; but we never quite persuade ourselves that He will fail to fulfil every earnest desire and justify all the conditions in which we have been placed, though it take forever.
There are times when we seem to dwell in a region where all is good and wise and true; for we have momentary glimpses of the sublime wholeness of things, the sublime reason, the sublime end, a region where, if we have not all power, we at least have as much as we can make our own, and a faith that knows no doubt.
If I display goodness towards another, I partake of the nature of God in some degree. The Love of God speaks through the heart of the mother. It must be a part of the infinite love, since we all belong to Him. Human nature, however individual in its history, is at each moment in some measure dependent on the Supreme Spirit. One’s soul is not one’s self alone.
It is also God’s emphasis of some phase of His own nature, the attention of God fixed on some object. One’s unquenchable faith is ultimately God’s unfailing love. We believe in Him because He knows us, because He possesses us, you and me, and uses, has need of us, because He has made us aware of His presence. He loves us and we trust Him because we must.
This realisation of our relationship with the unthinkably great and eternal, which brings us as near to it and makes us as much part of it here and now in this present moment as though we were this great wholeness, and had lived from all time, is strengthened by considering our indebtedness to the world. Here we are in this beautiful, beautiful world. How wonderfully it is wrought! How systematically it has evolved, governed by exact laws and animated by unvarying forces! It is our home.
We may rely upon it and on that heaven-taught instinct which guides its creatures better than the combined wisdom of all mankind. What a delight to exist! What exceptional pleasures come to us at times among the mountains, by the winding streams, the peaceful valleys, the Great Ocean, inspiring awe alike in storm and calm, and ever suggestive of that Father for whom we all exist, whose love unites us all!
Days are continually recurring which stand out above many others because of some charming scene in nature, some impressive communion with the spirit of the woods or the hills, while the dreariest day in winter or the most barren landscape in nature will yield its gift of beauty if we seek it. The poet and the artist see all this, and live in a diviner world because they are watchful.
But the beauty is there for all, to inspire contentment if we need it, to reveal the good if we look for it, and to make us thankful and trustful when we consider its deep significance, its correspondence to the beauty of law and order, of need and supply in the inner life.
Then, too, the beauty of human character more than all else endears one to life, and gives one joy in existence. Where one’s friends are is one’s home, and where they are is always happiness and contentment. One is constantly touched by little acts of kindness and devotion. Sometimes in the country, especially among a simple folk, one draws very near to the heart of humanity.
One is moved beyond words, for nothing conceals the honest hearts that reach out to one in all their native feeling and sincerity. Such experiences have a wonderful effect upon the recipient when put beside the darker aspects of life—with those undeniable evidences of wickedness which might otherwise almost persuade one that human life is corrupt to the core.
Omit these darker experiences we cannot in trying to cast our thought into some sort of system; but in daily life we are too inclined to dwell on them, especially to enlarge upon our woes. We are apt to contemplate these darker facts, and never pass beyond them. We stay in gloomy surroundings, and then call the world “ugly.”
It is well once in a while to pass in review all that should cause us joy and thankfulness, to ascend the mountain of thought, whence we may look beyond the ugly spots and see their relation—and, after all, it is a beautiful one—to the great landscape beyond.
I do not speak alone as one who has stood on the mountain top, and thought the world beautiful, but as one who has suffered keenly and critically in the darksome vales below, who has met with the severest losses and suffered the deepest disappointments, and has had an intense disposition to overcome. Our poise is worth little if it fails to give strength and composure in any possible experience, and to be itself strengthened by the newest trial.
The experiences and realisations suggested in this chapter prepare the way for the severer tests of actual life.
If we habitually realise what it means to dwell with God, what the soul is, and how it is approaching complete realisation, and keep the ideal of adjustment to life ever before us, pausing in silent receptivity whenever we become too intense, then into the mind will steal the renewing and strengthening Power, which will prepare us for the day of sorrow and the hour of supreme suffering.
 Hence the present inquiry should be supplemented by the poetic and religious literature which most strongly appeals to the reader, by further studies in the life of the soul, by references to Emerson, Amiel, Maeterlinck and other essayists who have interpreted the inner life.
 Of course some readers will explain such cases in purely physiological terms. But it is more important to dwell upon the spiritual values than either the physiological or the psychical data.