Chapter 18 – Making Your Self the Master – Science and the Emotional Life


Harvey Hardman
Making Your Self the Master
© Harvey Hardman
Denver, Colorado, 1935.

“Set your affection on things above,
not on things on the earth.”
–St. Paul.

[169] The power of the emotions is one of the greatest forces with which we have to deal in human life. The greatest center of emotional activity is in the affections and, in one way or another, almost the entire range of the emotions relate to this center.

If business trouble is the cause of emotional disturbance, it is related to the effect it will have on those we love. If success or good fortune comes to us, the joy we feel is associated with what it will mean to those who are dear to us as much as it is with our own advantages. Emotion enters in some degree into every experience, and is to the human soul what color is in the natural world.

A life without emotion would be as drab and featureless as deadly monotony or a world of straight lines. Love, friendship, beauty, all fine things in life, stir the emotions, and their real meaning to us may be measured by the effect they have on our feelings. It is therefore of the utmost importance to us, as Scientists, to study this magical power. For it is just as effective in sorrow and despair, as it is in joy and hope.

[170] Emotion is “like the wind, which bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh nor whither it goeth.” Emotion is one of the supreme mysteries of the human soul. Like an unseen musician, it sweeps its fingers over the heart-strings and we are sad, or pensive, or depressed. And again, with no apparent change in the external conditions of life, the load that oppressed the heart like lead is lifted, and we know peace again.

A strain of music, the song of a lark, a country road where we have known the joy of understanding love, or some incident trivial in itself, but charged with the power of memory, may either transport the soul with joy or plunge it into sadness.

The place to begin the study of the law and spiritual meaning of the emotions is within you. Your emotions may differ in degree and in kind from those of other people, but they are made out of the same soul-stuff in all, and the secret of controlling them is an inner secret to be discovered only in the laboratory of your own being. Instruction may help you to discover the secret, but the finding must be the act of your own mind. And even after you have found the law of emotion, and have learned to control its forces, it is possible to [171] lose this mastery if you set your affections too strongly upon “the things on the earth.”

For nothing upon the earth is stable or enduring. What you hold most dear, and that commands the complete ardor of your soul, may, in a moment of time, be snatched from you without a moment of warning, and leave you desolate and broken-hearted. A word, spoken without thought as to its influence on your destiny, may effectively change the current of your life and sweep away from you all that you hold most dear. The most casual act or word may alter your entire life. The whole set-up of life and its associations is subject to forces in the external world that are unstable and as variable as the wind.

We must, if we are to find security from the storms of emotion, set our affections on “things above,” that is, on that which endures–Principle.

The way to begin to study the law of the emotional life is to examine the meaning of your emotional activity, as it affects your life and its tendencies. Certain kinds of influence affect you adversely, cause you unhappiness, and disturb your poise and mental and emotional balance. Other kinds of influence help you to keep a sane and wholesome relation to the world in which you live. You can cultivate [172] any kind of emotion, and the kind you cultivate determines, by and large, the direction of your life.

The time to begin is now, for without this knowledge you will “beat the air,” so far as using the mental Law is concerned. Intellectual perception of the Law is not enough. We must learn to master the emotions if we are to succeed in demonstrating harmonious adjustment to the world of life and its associations.

Emotional power of any particular kind will grow in intensity so long as we contemplate the mental or physical image with which the emotion is associated.

A person who finds pleasure in gratifying his acquisitive instinct will, if he continues to develop it, finally become greedy and avaricious. He will then suffer when anything interferes with the process by which this emotion is fed. In short, whatever feeds the love for the transient “things on the earth,” is sure to result sooner or later in disappointment and disillusionment, in sorrow and loss.

Just what does it mean to “set your affections on things above?” It does not mean a pious renunciation of the joys of life. Nor does it mean the denial of human love and all its precious heritage of joy and service, of companionship and mutual helpfulness.

[173] The spiritual life, to be of any value beyond the questionable value of getting ready for a mythical “heaven,” must enable us to make more perfect and continuous adjustment on the earth, here and now.

The bloodless and emotionless person, who has not enough natural fire to warm his own body, may be good material for the old Christian “heaven,” but he is hardly the ideal of the normal human. No, we must go beyond the ideal of pious renunciation of the joys of earthly life, if we are to find the true answer to our question.

Let us compare a few of the “things above,” and “things on the earth.” Self-respecting independence versus greed and avarice; love versus lust; mental power versus intellectual pride and vain-glory; principles versus particulars; courage versus fear and doubt; loyalty to an ideal versus selfishness and inconstancy; truth versus error, and so on through the list of the high and low aspects of human life in its relation to the outer world.

Since the highest emotion of the soul is love, the supreme test of our knowledge of the Law is in our reactions to this experience. Love comes to us in a human form. Is it the form we love, or the spiritual quality and beauty in the form? The one can be lost, for it is transient; [174] the other endures, for it is eternal. Its essence, the beauty and truth of the soul you love, is within yourself as well as in the one you love. If your affection is for this truth and beauty, it is safe, and you cannot suffer loss. Yes, bereavement, in whatever guise it may come, brings sorrow, but that emotion will add to your spiritual wealth if you accept it as a part of the soul’s education, whereas if you despair–which is a lower emotion–it may wreck your world.

Emotion arises out of the psychic sea, the impersonal force of the soul. It will, if uncontrolled by the I Am, express as readily in hate as love; in fear as courage. By looking at the ideal of mastery, by striving for the highest and best, we tame this mysterious and impersonal power as an engineer harnesses electricity, and by continued study and practice, we come at last to stand above it, and can still the storms, bid the troubled waters of the soul to be at peace, and live the serene life of power.

In the first stages of this mastery, we are likely to develop a certain impersonal attitude toward people that brings, perhaps, the accusation of coldness and hardness and lack of human sympathy. But this is only a phase. At last comes some gentle hand that touches the stored up energy of the heart, and the life [175] that was masterful in its aloofness is brought into the warmer atmosphere of all that is sweet and human in the affections. But still it is free from enslavement to the lower elements of the unstable qualities of human life. Then comes also the realization of the truth of Emerson’s great statement: “The condition which high friendship demands, is the ability to do without it.”

Chapter 19

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