Chapter 2 – Concentration

Chapter II
CONCENTRATION
W. John Murray
Mental Medicine
Divine Science Publishing Assoc.
New York, 1923.

[78] It has been said that the development of true personality depends largely, if not altogether, on concentration. By this is meant that the focusing of thought on a specific subject or object is the “one thing needful” to the understanding of the subject or the acquirement of the object.

When Demosthenes, at the close of a brilliant oration to which he had been listening, cried, “I too am an orator,” it was because that which he had heard had created a new idea which swept everything before it. He imagined himself doing what the orator, who had held him spellbound, had done. He was picturing to himself the day when he too would move multitudes by the force of his eloquence; and his picture came true when [79] he became the greatest orator of all time, the model for all who would excel in the art of public speaking. For the encouragement of those who are too easily discouraged by accepted personal limitations, we have only to remember what Demosthenes had to overcome. A feeble constitution had to be strengthened by physical exercise; a voice which could hardly be heard beyond the first few rows of seats in the amphitheatre, had to be developed by shouting above the roar of the sea, as he stood on the beach; an imperfect palate, which he remedied by the heroic method of holding pebbles in his mouth as he practiced his memorized declamations. Visualizing the ideal embodied in his sudden exclamation, “I too am an orator,” Demosthenes eliminated all else. Such elimination is Concentration, or the process by which all that is irrelevant and unnecessary to cast out, so that that which is relevant and essential may be retained.

When a boy wishes to set on fire a piece of paper by means of sunlight he uses a bi-convex [80] lens which he calls a burning-glass. Diffused or universal sunlight must be focused; that is, it must be gathered to a central point and held persistently to that point, if it is to accomplish the object desired. When the marksman wishes to hit the target, he closes one eye so as to exclude from his vision everything except the thing he is aiming at. In like manner the art of concentration consists in focusing thought on the ideal to the exclusion of all else. The mental atmosphere of the world is like diffused sunlight, in this respect; it is universal, and for this reason it is necessary, in order to attain a particular result, to direct it to a particular objective. Given all the sunlight and the most perfect bi-convex lens in the world, and no steadiness of hand, the paper will not burst into flames. Given all the thought and all the intellect in the world and no fixity of purpose, no steadiness of mental attention, a man may be a good encyclopedia but he will never be a creator.

The creative capacity in man is like the [81] creative capacity in God, for it is and must be the result of unwavering direction. “If thine eye be single thy whole body shall be full of light,” said the Master, and James declares that, “A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.” These are short but emphatic statements of the law by which the unmanifest is to be made the manifest, the universal the particular, the invisible the visible. A man’s eye is not single when his attention is easily drawn away from the thing he desires to be, or to do. Hence the innumerable failures in the world. A man is “double-minded” when he has one idea today and another idea tomorrow; therefore he is not only “unstable in all his ways” but he is unproductive in all his endeavors.

It would be as foolish to blame God, the Universal, for our particular limitations, as it is to blame the sunlight for not doing that which it can do only with our intelligent co-operation. To blame nature for not producing the cultivated strawberry or the spineless cactus is folly. Nature and nature’s [82] God alike bring men and things to a certain stage of evolution, at which stage man, the expression of infinite Intelligence, must join forces consciously with Divine Mind if man and things are to be lifted to a higher stage of development.

By unconscious processes we have been evolved from what we were, to what we are. What we are to be depends on conscious co-operation with that law of unfoldment which converts the imperfect into the perfect; the mortal into the immortal; the son of man into the Son of God. We put off mortality by putting on immortality, and we put on immortality by concentrating on the Real instead of the apparent.

Haldane tells us: “What we have to eliminate, if we would get at the nature of reality, is unconscious and illegitimate assumptions.” For instance, it is an unconscious and illegitimate assumption to suppose that a thing which comes and goes and never remains the same while it is here is a reality. Such phenomena are appearances but never [83] realities, in the sense in which the word is used philosophically. The real may be defined as that which is insusceptible of discord and decay, chance or change. The real, therefore, is that “universe of ideas” which Plato distinguishes from the world of deceptions, and which Jesus must have been thinking about when He cautioned His disciples to “Judge not after appearances.” Nothing so successfully interferes with true and constructive concentration as the common tendency to judge after appearances. Appearances may indicate that conditions are greater than man’s capacity to overcome them, and so long as man believes they are, they will be so to him; the believer will be conquered by his own beliefs, which is as foolish as it would be to believe that it is the tail which wags the dog, and not the dog which wags the tail.

When a man thinks or believes that his sins and sicknesses and limitations are larger than his power to overcome them, he is laboring under a delusion; he is concentrating [84] on a falsity, and the falsity is his undoing. It is an “illegitimate assumption” to suppose that imperfection is as real as perfection, sickness as real as health, or death as real as life, for “A thing and its opposite cannot be real.” Either the thing is real or its opposite is real, for both cannot be.

Concentration, then, is the art and the science of discrimination. It is the capacity to separate the wheat of the real from the chaff of the apparent; for it is only as we are able to do this that error can be overcome by Truth, whether it be in the domain of mathematics or metaphysics. The apparent would have us believe that the sky is a solid body and that the stars are like brilliant pins stuck in this solid body, whereas the real assures us that, “There is no sky,” and that the stars are distinct and separate, and incredibly larger than appearances would indicate. The apparent would delude us into thinking as our forefathers thought, that the earth is flat, but the real convinces us of [85] its sphericity; and just so with a thousand other phases of phenomena, all of which have to be corrected by what we now know to be the real in the case. The ignorant man is bewildered by appearances; the wise man is delighted by realities, which he perceives back of all appearances. The wise man distinguishes things that are from things that seem to be, and, by concentrating on things that are, intensifies them.

If the New Psychology is good for anything, it is that it may make practical that which has existed in theory for so many centuries. It is not a New Thought that “Thoughts are Things” and that, “There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so;” but it is a comparatively New Thought that these statements can be demonstrated in what is called mental healing. Theories which have hung in the air for centuries are now being crystallized into forms of health and happiness, peace and prosperity, on the principle that, “The tendency of an idea, or mental picture, is to [86] externalize itself,” unless it is inhibited by negative thinking. There are three classes of thinkers: those who are given to thinking in terms of the negative, and by so doing bringing into their lives negative conditions such as sickness and failure; those who are a mixture of negative thinking today, and positive thinking tomorrow, and who, by such vacillating mental states, swing like pendulums between success and failure, and never really arrive at either extreme. (These last form the great majority,–the great in-between.) Then there are those who are in the great minority, those who have discovered the wisdom of dwelling, “In the secret place of the Most High,” which is only another way of saying, “The art of concentrating on the Positive,” or, “To know the Real is to make it appear.”

The saint who concentrated on the wounds of our Saviour until the appearance of those wounds manifested themselves on His own body in what is called stigmata showed how an uninterrupted mental picture might [87] tend to superimpose itself on the body; and it is also an illustration of what may be accomplished in a more intelligent and constructive manner.

The palsy of the man at the Pool of Bethesda was the result of concentration on the wrong thing, while his cure was the consequence of an intense concentration on the idea of the perfection of man made in the image and likeness of God. Jesus had formed the habit of concentrating on the Real or the things that are made of God, and by so doing it was easy for Him to see through appearances; and, back of appearances, those eternal realities which may be obscured by the mists of ignorance, but which can never be destroyed.

To Jesus, palsy in man was like a barnacle on a ship or a fungus growth on a tree; it was no real part of him; it was an excrescence, an abnormality, a something which could be removed and the man be all the better for its removal. Jesus regarded the normal as the real, and the abnormal as the [88] unreal, while we in our ignorance regard the abnormal as real as the normal; and then we wonder why we are so persistently tormented by the abnormal and the unnatural. So long as we continue in this unscientific state of mind we shall speak of the “awful uncertainty of things.” The “awful uncertainty” is not in things but in ourselves, and it will ever continue to be so until we know the Truth, and the Truth is that only that is real of which God is the Author.

“All things were made by God, and without Him was not any thing made that was made.”

The Truth is that God never made disease any more than nature made a flat earth, and the fact that both disease and a flat earth seem to be, does not change the fact that both are appearances and that appearances are deceptive, and that we are not to judge after them if we take the advice of Jesus. It was no less unscientific for Jesus to repudiate disease than it was for Galileo to repudiate a [89] flat earth; and it is no less unscientific for the New Psychology to concentrate its attention on the “things that were made of God” to the exclusion of the abnormal appearances which present themselves to our disordered senses.

We shall know what are the things that were made by God, when we know that “God is not the author of confusion but of peace.” When we can discern that whatever is confusing (this includes sin and sickness, anxiety and poverty) is not of God, no matter how real these seem to be, we shall have arrived at the place in our spiritual development where we can say with Paul, “None of these things (appearances) moves me.” Then we shall know the meaning of the words, “To them gave He dominion.”

Concentrating on the things that are, the appearances which seem to be, will be eliminated, and being eliminated from consciousness they will cease to have power over us; for it is in consciousness we suffer or we suffer not at all. To fill consciousness, therefore, [90] with the things of God, is to render it empty of all else, and when consciousness is empty of all else, then God manifests Himself as Health and Wholeness, for it is only as such He can be manifested. Just as the sun can manifest itself only in that which is of its own nature, such as light and heat, so God can manifest Himself only in that which reflects Beauty and Harmony, Perfection and Purity.

Whatever, then, we desire,–and we desire only that which is good on the principle that only the good endures,–we should keep on thinking it with the greatest persistency, for by so doing we shall bring good into our experiences according to the eternal law of attraction. Do we desire health? Think it, and let us never allow ourselves to be diverted from thinking it. Concerning all the virtues, and all the blessings we seek and would enjoy, Paul cautions us to “think on these things,” knowing, as every psychologist knows today, that by so doing we evolve them.

[91] As certain insects evolve from their own inner being the webs from which they “rise to higher things” so shall we, by true thinking, evolve those higher capacities which are in us, as the silk is in the worm, and which are only awaiting our co-operation to bring them forth.

It is because health is in us that we are able through thinking health to bring it into manifestation. It is in us as the oak is in the acorn, potentially, but we must externalize it through the intelligent direction of the only force with which God has equipped us for this pleasant and profitable duty. This force is the force of mind, for as James Allen says,

“Man is mind, and evermore
He takes the tool of thought
And, shaping what he wills,
Brings forth a thousand ills,
He thinks in secret and it comes to pass,
Environment is but his looking glass.”
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Chapter 3

Mental Medicine
Table of Contents

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