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The Power Of Silence



Self-Help




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WE have now considered the general attitude toward life whereby the vital truths of the inner life may become concrete in daily experience. We have found that attitude to consist in the recognition of what man is as a progressive being, and in wise co-operation with the indwelling Life which resistlessly carries him forward to completion. There is a tendency which will carry man onward if he will acknowledge it.

It will guide him in every detail of life, it will help him in every moment of trouble. It is with all men, it is used by all men; for otherwise they could not exist.

But to the majority it is unknown and unrecognised, and to assure them that they can have such guidance seems to them the merest folly. To know it, and to distinguish between the merely personal thought or inclination and this diviner moving, is to live the higher life,—a life which proves to be infinitely better and happier as soon as one makes this most helpful discrimination.

To turn to it in times of doubt and trouble is to regain one’s poise, to become adjusted to life, to gain the truest self-help.

Ordinarily, it is sufficient to maintain this attitude of adjustment and poise, and preserve an ever-deepening consciousness of our life with the Father. Contaminating influences cannot then touch us, fear will have no power over us, we shall respect this inner tendency rather than the opinions of men, and escape a large proportion of the ills which neither the mind nor the flesh is heir to.

This realisation will add a meaning, a depth and beauty to life, which the reader who has not yet made it a factor in daily experience can hardly imagine.

Simply to discover that so much depends on our mental attitude is of itself sufficient to work a wonderful change in the lives of those who bear this great truth in mind; for, if we begin life afresh, with a determination to see the real meaning and spirit of things, it will be impossible for old habits of thought, fears and inherited notions to win their way into consciousness. The road to better health, to unhoped-for happiness and freedom, is open before us.

There are times, however, when one needs more detailed knowledge of the foregoing principles. The habitual attitude is, as it were, the basis of conduct, but one must also know how to act upon that foundation. Hence it is important to give attention to certain specific problems. A leading clue to this detailed knowledge is found in the fact that in general the emotional life is divided into two types.

Fear, jealousy, anger, and all selfish emotions have a tendency to draw the consciousness into self, to shut in and restrict the activities, impede the natural life and restorative power of the body, and develop a condition from which, if it be long maintained, nature can free us only by a violent reaction; whereas a pleasurable emotion, such as one feels when listening to a familiar melody or the strains of a great symphony, causes the whole organism to expand, and sends a thrill to the utmost extremities of the being.

There is a whole vocabulary of words in common use expressing the warmth and coldness of human beings. In fact, the head and the heart, are often taken as types of these fundamental characteristics; and we speak of this church as “cold and intellectual,” that one as “warm and spiritual.”

Again, considering emotion alone, we speak of warm-heartedness. It seems to be out-going, expansive; and, if one give to another or do an act of kindness, that act has a tendency to repeat itself. The person is touched on whom the favour is conferred, and immediately feels a desire to reciprocate, to show kindness to another.

On the contrary, let the emotion be selfish, let the person do a mean act, and there is an instant withdrawing, a narrowing of the soul. Happiness, joy, genuine pleasure, and self-denial are expansive emotions, and oftentimes wonderfully “catching.” With the one emotion comes self-forgetfulness and lack of restraint; with the other comes self-consciousness and painful awareness of sensation. Love is warm; selfishness is cold. Happiness expands; fear contracts.

Thus we might pass in review the whole category of human emotions; and, if we could trace their physical effect on the minuter portions of the body, we might discover that the particles are either drawn together or thrown apart by each emotion.

When the shock is too great, whether the emotion be one of joy or sorrow, death results, There is evidently, then, a state of equilibrium where, on the one side, the body is harmoniously adjusted and free from restrictions; and where, on the other, the mind is also in adjustment or repose.

This emotional effect, with its accompanying physical changes, may be further illustrated by the sudden and marvellous cures which have taken place in all ages, and are occurring today. It is a well-known fact that these wonderful cures usually occur either among people of strong faith or among ignorant and superstitious—in other words. highly emotional—people.

The alleged cures performed through the agency of sacred relies, at holy shrines, at Lourdes, and other well- known wonder-working centres, are wrought almost wholly among strongly superstitious people, who are ready to accept certain beliefs with all the energy of their being.

It is a truism today to affirm that miracles are impossible. The whole fabric of nineteenth century science rests on the knowledge that law is universal. If then, such cures occur—and they are too widely attested to doubt them—they must take place in accordance with a certain principle. This principle is evidently the one already suggested; namely, that the bodily condition changes when the emotions are touched,—not only in sudden cures, but in all that constitutes the emotional life.

The stronger the emotion, other things being equal, the more remarkable the effect or cure. Emotion of a certain sort—noticeably, expectant attention accompanied by implicit faith on the part of an invalid before a sacred relic—has a wonderfully expansive and liberating effect on the body.

The entire attention is concentrated on what is about to occur; the thought is lifted above self by the emotional experience; and the physical forces are no longer hampered by fear, morbid awareness of sensation, and the thousand and one feelings which interfere with the natural restorative power of the body. The emotion frees, “opens” the body; density is broken up; and a process of change which ordinarily would require many weeks or months is completed in a short time.

Here, then, is an important fact underlying the entire process of self-help: a change for the better results when the emotions are touched, when some thought or feeling penetrates to the centre, causing an expansion. Something must quicken the activities and rouse the individual to new life.

Bed-ridden invalids and lame people have been known to rush out of burning buildings, or forget themselves in their eagerness to rescue a person in danger, completely recovering their health through the sudden change. In other cases, where the patient is selfish in disposition, the chief task is to find some way in which the person shall begin to live for other people, some interest which shall take the thought out of self, and open the organism to the healing power.

Whatever be the method employed—the use of physical remedies, prayer, foreign travel—anything that arouses the confidence, the affection, the interest, or even the credulity of the sufferer, will produce the same result. On the other hand, any remedial means which fails to move or touch the centre is of little efficacy.

The problem, then, is to discover the method whereby the individual shall most quickly and easily be touched, so that the healing power shall have full and immediate access to the troubled region.

But what causes the emotional change? Why is it that so many people who receive no benefit from medicine are cured by forgetting self and becoming absorbed in some benevolent work? If ignorant and superstitious people can be cured quickly because they are credulous, is there not some deeper law which governs all cases, by the discovery of which the intelligent man may be cured as quickly as the superstitious?

It is clearly the changed direction of mind, resulting in changed action, that brings about the result. Before the sudden cure can result, there must be faith, expectant attention; and, if the person has implicit faith, the whole being is governed by this one powerful direction of activity. Religiously speaking, the emotional experience unconsciously opens the soul to the Spirit, which enters into the whole being, just as the warm sunlight penetrates the very fibre of the plant.

It is the Spirit that performs the mental part of the cure, not the personal thought or faith. The human part consists in becoming receptive, in withdrawing the consciousness from self and physical sensation, and becoming absorbed in the expected cure. The personal fears and wrong thoughts have stood in the way, and barred the door where the Spirit sought to enter. The new direction of mind changes all this, and makes way for the Spirit.

It is a redirecting of the will; and in the wise use of the will, as we have seen, lies the greatest human power, while its misuse is the most potent cause of trouble.

Of all known forms of life, then, the energy that is set free by this changed attitude is the most important, the most powerful, and, probably, the least understood. Used ignorantly, it brings all our misery; used wisely, its power of developing health and happiness is limitless. It is essential to a just understanding of it, and to the knowledge of how to help one’s self, that the reader bear in mind the central thought of each of the foregoing chapters.

For we have learned that all power acts through something; and, in order to understand how the changed attitude may even affect bodily disease, one must remember how disease is built up.

To many people it seems impossible that a changed inner attitude can affect the bodily condition. Yet there are abundant illustrations of such change in emotional experiences such as those of religious conversion. As we have already seen, the mind is captivated, the new belief becomes a new rule for action. Moreover, the new attitude is accompanied by various subconscious and organic responses. The change is due to the alteration of the centre of equilibrium.23 

The response is not mental alone, but is also physical. The entire organism is stirred. The dormant life is quickened. All this results from a comparatively simple alteration in the life—so far as the active consciousness is concerned.

The point that here concerns us is not the subconscious or organic change, but the decisive state of mind, the new dynamic attitude. The results that ensue in various types of emotional experience may be brought about more gradually by intelligent application of the foregoing principles.

The first fact to note, then, is that the power of self-help is with us, like the air we breathe, ever awaiting our recognition. In the moments of calm decision before referred to, when we master our fears or decide upon this better conduct in preference to an unwise act, we do not have to fix the decision in mind, and say, “This shall be so.”

The decision itself is an act of will, like the desire to move the arm, and is put into effect unconsciously to us. In the same way the ideal of adjustment to life, and the daily effort to gain one’s poise, is effective in proportion to the clearness and strength of our thought and the confidence we put into it. The first essential is a healthier and wiser habit of thought, for the ideas that we have inherited and grown up with narrow and cramp the inner life.

If the reader has carried out the suggestions of Chapter 1., and tried to actualise these vital truths in daily life, to realise the power of silent receptivity, it must already be clear that this is the most direct method of touching the inner centre. For, with the realisation of the presence of the immanent Spirit there comes the conviction that the Spirit is competent to minister to our truest and deepest need.

A quieting influence, a sense of power and restfulness, falls upon the mind as a result of this realisation. The mere effort to become inwardly still is sufficient to awaken this sense of power, as though one were for the moment a magnetic centre toward which radiate streams of energy.

And, if the reader has sought this silence in order to get relief from pain or some other uncomfortable sensation, there was doubtless a consciousness of pressure or activity in some part of the being, as though the resident power were trying to restore equilibrium. To unite in thought with this quickening power is, in general terms, the first step in the process of self-help by the silent method.

There is, obviously, no general rule which should govern the conscious process, because no two troubles and no two individuals are wholly alike. Sometimes one needs mental rousing; and the suggestion should be clear, strong, and decisive. Again, there should be little active thought; and, on general principles, the central thought of this volume—the power of silence—is at once the quickest and surest means of self-help.

It is this power, and the attitude which invites it, which one should be conscious of—not of the pain, the fatigue, or the depression from which one wishes to be free. This power is shut out during trouble.

There is resistance to it, and contraction in some part of the body. In order to overcome this resistance, one should “open out” inwardly, try to find the inward centre where the power is pressing through, or the centre of repose described in the foregoing chapter. Simply to search for it, and to rely upon this quickening power, is sufficient not only to draw the attention away from physical sensation, but to be immensely refreshed by the renewing presence.

For, through this experience of receptivity—it is an experience rather than a process of thought—one becomes connected with a boundless reservoir of life and healing power. The healing process is, in fact, one form of receiving life. We do not originate life. We use it, we are animated by it; for it already exists. Our individual life is a sharing of universal life. We possess it by living it; and to partake of it is the commonest yet the highest privilege of man.

In order to make this experience vivid and clear, let us compare the soul to the budding life which is trying to open its petals and expand into a beautiful flower. The soul has been through a round of experiences in ignorance of their meaning. It has come into rude contact with the world, and has sought to withdraw from the world’s wickedness and misery. In thus withdrawing, it has shut into a narrow space the mental pictures and remembrances of the experiences that were repulsive to it.

It has narrowed and cramped itself into this prison of its own selfhood.

The tendency of the quiet, reposeful realisation of the divine presence is to touch the suppressed inner state and overcome the obstructions. The expanding process may not always be pleasant, and oftentimes one feels restless and impatient to have it completed. It may require long and trustfully persistent effort to overcome a condition of long standing.

At times it is only necessary to open the inner being in silence for a few moments in order to take off the pressure and become wonderfully refreshed. Again, one finds it necessary to try all methods—read a comforting book, think of some friend, or a person in distress to whom one would like to be of service; rouse one’s self with a firm determination to rise above this troublesome difficulty, or push through it with a persistently positive thought.

But in all cases one should approach this experience with a quiet confidence that the resident power is fully equal to the occasion. It is here with the imprisoned soul. Help abounds. The Spirit awaits our co-operation. We belong to it. We need not fear: we only need be open to it, to let it come, to let it have us and heal us. It knows our needs, and is never absent from us. We are not so badly off as we seemed, nor is there any reason for worry or discouragement.

Peace, peace! Let us be still, quiet, restful, and calm. Let us know and feel the eternal Presence which is here to restore us, and to calm the troubled waters with its soothing love and peace.

In due time, if the realisation is repeated until one learns to be still and receptive, one will become conscious of benefit and a quickening of the whole being. The mere form of words is nothing, and the above expressions are simply used in the hope that they may suggest the indescribable; for, once more, it is the Spirit which is the essential, the power behind the words, the experience which all must have in order to know its depth and value.

The ability to concentrate is the secret of self-help by this method of realisation, and this is an art which each man learns in his own way. There must be a certain degree of self-possession, in order to hold the attention in a definite direction; and, if one have not yet developed this ability, it is well to approach this deeper realisation by degrees.

The process of silent help is, in fact, one of adjustment to the actual situation in the moment of trouble—the realisation that, individually, one has little power, even of the will, as compared with this higher Will, but that all that is demanded of the individual will is co-operation.

God seems to need us as much as we need Him. He asks thoughtful receptivity, and readiness to move with the deepest trend of the inner being. The experience is rather a wise directing of the will or attention, a realisation, an attitude, rather than a process of reasoning. The adjustment, the poise, the experience of silence, is a realisation.

The moment comes when the individual has nothing to say: the conscious thought becomes subordinated to the sense of the divine Presence. One cannot speak. One can only observe in silent wonder, in awe at the presence of such power, which the individual feels incompetent to control. This is the highest aspect of the experience, the most effective, the least personal, yet the hardest to describe.24  One can only say: Here is the Life, the Love, the Spirit. I have dwelt with it for a season.

Go thou to the fountain-head, It will speak to you, and be its own evidence.

But sometimes one is unable to penetrate to the Source of all power and connect in thought with the Omnipresent Life. The Spirit seems far from one, and one feels wholly separate from it. In such cases it is better to make the realisation more personal, as one would rely on a friend who is ready to perform the slightest service and be a constant comfort during severe illness. One would naturally be drawn to such a friend in ties of close sympathy and trust.

In moments of weakness and despair the friend would be one’s better self, full of hope and cheer. It is in such times as this that our friends are nearest and dearest to us, that we open our souls to them and show what we really are.

The mother’s love, the friend’s devotion, is thus the means of keeping many a person in this present life when all other means have failed—failed because they could not touch the soul,—whereas the communion of soul with soul through the truest affection opens the door to that higher Love which thus finds a willing object of its unfailing devotion.

Now, if in moments of trouble like these the reader will turn to the Spirit as to an intimate friend, help will surely come. The higher Power is still with one, but it is shut out. It is near, it is ready, like the friend, to help us, to guide, to strengthen, to advise, and to bestow comfort. One is momentarily disconnected from it and unaware of its promptings. One’s personal self and activity stand in the way.

The human will, fear, and all sorts of opinions have intruded, caused the Spirit to withdraw, and placed an obstacle in its pathway. To still the active personal self, to stand aside completely and let the Spirit return and fill the entire being, is, in a word, the secret of self-help in this as in all cases.

This is not easily done at first, and one is apt to force the wrong thoughts out of mind or try to reason them away. One often hears people say that they do not wish to think these wrong thoughts, but they cannot help it.

Suppose, for example, that one has a feeling of ill-will toward another, some unpleasant memory, or feels sensitive in regard to some word or act of a friend. Instead of trying to put away the unpleasant feeling by thinking about it, one should call the friend to mind and think of his or her good qualities, think of something pleasant, some good deed or some happy memory; for there is surely some good quality in every person.

Very soon the unpleasant thought will disappear, and a sense of love and charity will take its place. It was not necessary to force it away, for one cannot hold both love and hatred at the same time.

In endeavouring to find the good side of the person who has said the unkind word or acted impulsively, one seems almost to enter into communion with the friend’s soul, the real, the truest, and deepest person, who did not mean to act unkindly and who now regrets the unkindness. One’s feeling of peace and forgiveness seems to reach the other soul. One is lifted above the petty, belittling self to the higher level of spiritual poise and restfulness.

One has found one’s own soul; and to find this, in moments of trouble, discouragement, sorrow, or sickness—this is self-help.

Here is the inner kingdom of heaven, where dwells all Love, Wisdom, and Peace, whence one may draw power at one’s need and become readjusted to life. Here is where the permanent consciousness should abide. Here is the home of the greatest happiness and the truest health—a happiness and a health which only ask our recognition in order to become fully and consciously ours in daily life, morally, intellectually, and physically.25 

From the point of view of intellectual activity it is more difficult to find the inner centre and realise the power of silence. The intellect is apt to raise objections and to seek all the reasons for such a proceeding. But the experience must come first, then it may be rationalised. The empirical factor is of much more consequence than the theoretical explanation of it.

If one permits the intellect to raise objections before the experience has become a matter of actual life, one may close the door entirely to the higher consciousness.

The ordinary habits and thoughts of life are entirely foreign to any such experience. The generally accepted opinions and education prevent one from getting into this higher state. Its own knowledge, its pride of intellect and assurance, make it difficult for the mind to surrender; and there is consequently much more resistance to be overcome.

One is apt to forget that, so far as one has come into possession of the truth, that truth is universal: it is not the property of the individual alone. The very intellect whereby the truth was discovered is a product or gift of the immanent Life, is an individualisation of the larger Intellect,—just as life is a sharing of the immanent and bountiful Life in which we dwell, and of which we are not in any sense independent.

Only the mere opinion or belief is purely personal; and it is usually just this personal element that stands in the way; it is some harmful or borrowed opinion, which prevents one from getting real wisdom. It is humility, willingness to learn, which opens one to the Spirit; and, if one approaches this experience in a purely intellectual attitude, one is not likely to feel the’ warmth of the Spirit.

In such cases, as, in fact, in all cases of trouble and suffering, the mind revolves in a channel that is too narrow. One needs to escape into a larger life, out of this narrow sphere of consciousness which has dwarfed and limited one’s development. The very principles, and the habits, whereby one becomes devoted to a certain line of work to the exclusion of all others, cause the mind to act in given channels, and never to pass beyond them.

If this process is long continued, with but little rest or recreation, nature is sure to rebel, and to warn us that we must be wiser and broader in our thinking.

And probably the surest way of getting out of ruts, and thereby avoiding the long list of troubles which result from the constant pursuit of one idea, is to realise our relation to the universal Life in which our own qualities of intellect and power in here, and which demands of us all-round development, that we may come into full self-possession and complete soul-freedom.

Rightly used, then, the intellect is the basis, it gives the only firm basis on which to rest the superstructure of the spiritual life.

On the physical plane the first essential is to remember that the healing power is present in the body, ready to restore all hurts, and that, if one will keep still, like the animals, the result will be very different. On this plane one is in need of a wise counsellor to restore confidence and allay fear.

The healing power meets with little or no resistance in the child; and, if medicine is kept away, and no disturbing influence or fear be allowed to interfere with the natural process, the mother can better fill this office than anyone else.

The best, the most lasting process of self-help, then, is the gradual acquirement of the wiser mode of life for which this whole volume pleads; for it is what we think and dwell upon habitually that is effective in the long run. Our inquiry has taught us to look beneath matter to its underlying Reality, and behind physical sensation to the mind by which it is perceived.

We have found the origin of man, first, in the immanent Life of which he is a part, and of which he is an individual expression; and, secondly, in the world of mind, where his beliefs and impressions gather to form his superficial self. To know the one Self from the other, to be adjusted to its resistless tendency, to obey it, to do nothing contrary to it, as far as one knows, is the highest righteousness, the most useful life, and the truest religion.

Here is the essential, the life that is most worthy of the man aware of his own origin and of his own duty.

It is everything to know that such possibilities exist, and to make a step toward their realisation. It is enough at first to be turned in the right direction; to feel that help is for us, and only awaits our receptivity; to have some inkling of the great Power of silence, All else will come in due course if one have a deep desire for it.

And, if we have considered the essential, and begun to realise its deep meaning for ourselves and for our fellow-beings, the larger and more complex life of the outer world will be explained by the light and wisdom from within.



[23]  See the account of religious conversion given by Professor James in “The Varieties of Religious Experience”.

[24]  Hence the reader must make allowances for the inadequate, figurative character of this account of the experience.

[25]  The author does not venture to assign limits to these optimistic methods of assisting nature, nor does he advise neglect of any of the common-sense methods of living. It remains for each reader to discover the practical value of the suggestions here given.











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