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Right And Wrong Thinking And Their Results


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It is generally believed that man is to a very large extent, if not wholly, subject to his environment, mentally and physically the creature of external circumstances or conditions and their suggestions. While it is substantially true that in man's present state, the stimulus from environment largely decides his course and development, yet a little attention to the statement of basic principles herein set forth will show that this submission is not necessary, and that man may become independent of environment and largely if not completely its master. An examination of historic conditions should convince the most skeptical that too much importance has been attributed to the influence of man's surroundings.

The influence of climate has been held to be largely the reason for the various conditions of human beings in different localities, but it was not a change in climatic conditions which caused the changes in the character of the inhabitants of England. The climate of that country is now substantially what it was centuries ago, and if it has changed at all, that change is vastly less than the changes in the character of the people. Does some one say this is a case of development? Very true; but that development is the result of a mental change, and not of any change in environment except such as the changes in thinking have produced.

Changes of thinking have created the differences between the conditions of the inhabitants of Europe before the time of the Caesars and their condition today, but not change of climate nor any other change in their natural environment. In many points they have demonstrated their superiority over environment, and by artificial means they have modified environment itself. This is true of all Europe.

Look at the varying stages of progress in the different epochs of Greece and Rome – in their earlier days, in the zenith of their prosperity, in the degradation of their downfall, and in these modern times -- each stands out distinct from either of the others. It was changes of thought which wrought the revolutions -- not changes of environment.

The Egypt of the Pharaohs had the same sun and air, the same soil and water, that she has today, but what are her rulers and people now compared with those of the ancient centuries! In the days of their glory their environment was the same as to- day, but the thoughts of that period have been lost. The change that is now going on in that country is not due to climate, but to ideas. Babylonia and Assyria need only to be named as further examples.

The American Indians had inhabited this continent for centuries, but they did not develop along the same lines as the white men who thrust them-selves into that environment; yet the climate and soil remain practically the same. Changes of environment have been made by the new inhabitants, but not changes in the characteristics of the inhabitants by the environment. All the differences here are clearly the result of a change of the inhabitants, bringing different thoughts, ambitions, and aspirations, and these are at the foundation of the new development.

In the great southwest of the United States a second change of inhabitants has taken place. That region was settled by the Spanish earlier than was New England. Its first change in condition was distinctly along certain lines of thinking peculiar to the Spaniard. The last seventy-five years have seen all that revolutionized, not by change of climate, but by the introduction of another people with other characteristics of thought. The climate did not make the changes nor create either of these three kinds of civilization. That was done by thinking alone, and by the actions which that thinking necessitated. The climate is the same that it has been from earth’s history, but, by the domination of a new set of ideas over the environment, even the face of nature has been changed.

It is true that the environment of man in America is very largely different from what it was when Columbus discovered the continent, but man has made those changes in response to the demands of his own thinking. He has modified temperature by erecting houses and providing facilities for warming them. He has modified atmospheric conditions by cutting down trees, constructing irrigating canals, and cultivating the soil. These changes were caused by artificial means in obedience to the mind of man. Nature did none of it except in response to man's action.

When properly considered, history shows that mind modifies, changes, and controls with less regard to external conditions than is usually supposed.

Admit that in the extremes of heat and cold, of fertility and barrenness, environment dominates; but even these have been to a large extent modified and overcome by what mind has done. The arid plains of Arizona and New Mexico, like those of Babylonia and Assyria, were once fertile fields made so by irrigation, while what were once deserts of our own great West are fast becoming fertile fields.

The case is plain. The facts of history already cited apply to the entire environment as well as to each incident or condition of it. Thinking is the initial action, the antecedent and cause of all human actions. Between any external condition or incident and the bodily action which follows stands the person's own thinking. Not the external condition or occurrence, but the thinking, determines what the bodily action shall be and its entire character. This thinking, as has so often been said, may be entirely within man's control; therefore he himself, and not his environment, is responsible for the results, be they good or bad.

Men say that certain circumstances force themselves upon them and make certain lines of conduct necessary; and this declaration appears to be true, but that is because they allow it to be so. Whatever seems to force man out of his way might have been overcome by appropriate mental action, and the difficulty might have been obviated.

The whole world is trying to excuse itself for many of its failures, evil conditions, and actions by charging the responsibility to environment. The blame is attributed to everything contiguous -- not alone to persons, but animals, insensible things, and the most trivial conditions. Nothing is entirely exempt. The weather comes in for a large share, and even the stars are held responsible for our wrongdoing.

It is true that the external incident or condition serves to set in motion certain trains of thought, and these vary in different persons inexact accordance with their varying opinions and habits of thinking, but one is not necessarily subject to these thoughts. He can control them; and, furthermore, a man who has learned to exercise this control can instantly separate the wheat from the tares in his mental kingdom, and discard whatever is worthless or harmful. It is all under his own control.

This is self-activity, and Harris well says: "Self-activity is essentially different from relative and dependent being, because it does not receive its determinations from its environment, but originates them itself in the form of feelings, volitions, and thoughts." All activity other than self-activity may be discarded, and man may thus free himself from the thralldom of environment. No man is ever forced into any course of conduct, though he may fall into it by allowing a change in his thinking.

If this statement of the principle is correct, then the external suggestion, condition, incident, or thing does not decide what a man's action shall be except as he allows it to do so; neither do any one nor all of those things which surround him necessarily give any more than merely incidental tone or direction to his actions. Mind is supreme, even over itself, in that it determines its own activities.

It is not the thing without, but the thought within, which injures. The dyspeptic sitting at the table loaded with viands is not injured by the food he does not eat. Poison does not kill unless it is swallowed and absorbed. The thought suggested by the word one hears or the action one sees – that is, by the environment -- does not injure unless it finds lodgment within a person's own mind. Whether it finds such lodgment or not depends upon the hearer and not upon the speaker. The speaker's words may be entirely without influence upon the hearer, they may not even be consciously audible, and this is decided by the hearer's own course of thinking. Each man is impervious to another's thoughts and uninfluenced by them until he allows his own thoughts to go the same way. The choice is his own, and that choice decides his action.

It makes no difference what knowledge one may have of the underlying principles and methods of any course of action, nor how good one's sentiments and intentions may be, if he does not take advantage of every opportunity to use those principles and methods in the practical application of them to existent conditions. Nor will anything be accomplished by the casual thought which occupies the mind for an instant only, nor by the forced thought which is held for a brief time in contradiction to the settled conviction. Such thinking is but slightly operative, because of its light and transitory character. It is the habitual, determined thinking arising out of settled convictions and opinions which brings results.

By this persistence in right thinking man may rise so superior to his environment that it shall not injure him. This is seen in a thousand small ways, all of which point to the larger possibilities which are within reach, and these to others still beyond. One person's mental attitude toward the weather is such that changes of temperature, drafts, wet feet, damp clothing, and a thousand other minor conditions bring illness of more or less severe character, while another goes through them all with absolute impunity. One person will remain out in the storm of wind, or rain, or snow, wet to the skin, and suffer no inconvenience, while another who has to cross a damp floor must put on over- shoes or risk a cold or influenza. That these are the results of mental conditions is proven by the fact that multitudes of people have emancipated themselves from this servitude by a change of mental habit which they have themselves purposely brought about. If one person can do this, another can; and if it can be done in the lesser conditions, it can in the greater also, and so on and on in greater still, without limit.

It is not claimed that all physical occurrences are now within man's control. The rock falls on a man and crushes him. The fire burns him. The frost freezes him. The water drowns him. He has submitted himself to the influences of the ad- verse forces of nature in minor particulars until, in these extreme conditions, they dominate him utterly. But it has been shown by actual experiment that he is their master within a certain range of circumstances, and that he may still further extend the scope of his control. In the light of the things which have already been accomplished it becomes evident that man shall yet so understand the power of mind and the principles on which it acts as to assume control over all environment, and thus place himself in the position set forth in the story of his creation as we find it in the first chapter of Genesis, wherein he is given dominion over all the things of the earth.

Who dares to say what the conditions will be when all men, as is their right, assume absolute control of their thinking? It rests with man himself to decide whether he will continue to be the creature of his surroundings, molded and shaped and directed by them, or will become absolutely superior to the physical world about him. This is a reversal of present and past opinions, but when accurate reasoning is applied to the principles which govern the actions of mankind, a possibility of achievement in overcoming what are now thought to be dominating external conditions will be opened to view, such as the wildest visionaries of human progress have hardly dared to contemplate. This is to be the special work of the twentieth century.

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