THE SCIENCE OF LIFE by Annetta G. Dresser – The Spirit of The New Thought

The Science of Life
Annetta G. Dresser
The Spirit of The New Thought
Edited by Horatio W. Dresser

[The author of the following selections was under Mr. Quimby’s care as a patient, in Portland, in 1863, and has recounted her experience in The Philosophy of P. P. Quimby, 1895. The first selection is from an article contributed to The Higher Law, January, 1900.]

Years ago, when Mr. Quimby said in his writings and to his patients, “The time will come when goodness will be taught as a science,” the statement seemed a strange one. In the light of the present understanding of the effect of thought one has a glimmering of what this science will be — the science of hope, of charity, faith, all that constitutes goodness in the truest sense.* [*Quimby’s term was, “The Science of Life and Happiness.” -Ed.]

To understand this science, it is necessary to know what the inner process is when hope, love, charity, is practically lived and used as a remedy for ills, spiritual and physical. Spoken of as a science, one is apt to think of it at first as cold and impersonal: whereas, when rightly understood, it is found to bring warmth and life into all sciences, whether it be astronomy or chemistry. Like these, it is as exact and accurate in its application as mathematics; and it was this perception which made Quimby say that “even a little child could be taught to know the law.”

We are so exquisitely constructed that every movement in the mind, a thought in one direction or another, sets up vibrations within us as quickly and as surely as an aeolian harp responds to a breath of wind. Let us consider this for a moment. If it is true that a direction of mind has this effect, has not the time come to study into these things more conscientiously and deeply, in order to understand the entire process as an exact science? All progressive thinkers know something of the effect of thought upon the body. They understand its effect to a certain point in daily life, and many are healed through the practice of right thinking. This, however, is a surface consideration in comparison to what I desire to make plain. Since any hopeful thought produces certain and partial effects, many are satisfied to stop there. But in a great emergency they are left to the mercies of the world’s beliefs and practices. They toss about from hope to despair, from faith to doubt, because they have not gone deeply enough into the philosophy to know why and how faith or hope can effect certain results.

It is the same law of action and reaction that proves itself to us in other ways. We need, however, to push the question far enough to give “a reason for the faith that is in us.” Without this only surface work can be done. With it, one knows the way, step by step, until gradually the time will come when “greater works” can be done because we “know the Father.”

The chemist, in order to produce a certain quality, puts together by precise weight or measurement certain materials. There is no uncertainty about it: he knows what to expect, what will result from the combination. Some of these chemical changes are very mild in their action — a little effervescence or other chemical change takes place by the union of two or more substances. This illustrates the effect upon the delicate ethereal substance in the body that lies next to thought,* [That is, the substance called “spiritual matter,” by Quimby. -Ed.] when a change of current is caused by a new direction of mind. All that is needed to make a slight chemical change in the body is a hopeful turn of mind. This is the first step in the right direction, the two and two that make four, the simple problem in the science of life.

Is the process understood even in this early stage? If not, the teacher and healer should seek to understand it If the starting point is thoroughly understood, one can then go on figuring out one’s problems with a faith and a trust in the deeper processes, just as the chemist uses more powerful ingredients to produce the dangerous explosives. The chemist does not venture to experiment with dangerous compounds until he has carefully studied along the way, for he knows what might forces he is handling. The wonderful processes that go on within us can be understood from these earlier experiences on to deeper ones, and can be controlled as conscientiously and carefully as the chemist handles his materials.

This introductory process might better be compared to the experiences of the beginner in violin playing. He knows that his instrument vibrates just according to the handling of the bow and the touch upon the strings. He can make either harmonious or discordant sounds. But, if he is wise, he does not attempt much beyond his knowledge. He works on patiently and carefully, knowing that he will be able to make the delicate shading and exquisite music only through persistent effort with abundant faith in the science of music.

The time is coming when our spiritual perceptions will become so quickened that a practitioner in spiritual healing will know as surely what changes are taking place deep within the human body as the surgeon when he lays bare the delicate tissues and binds up the cords and nerves.

This does not mean that we are not to take things on trust in our daily lives, and have a faith beyond our practice. If this were so, one would lose very much in the unfolding of the soul. It means those who are ignorant of the marvelous changes which take place under mental influences, who do not understand the wonderful law of action and reaction in the inner life, should not have the responsibility they now have, that there should be training schools for healers and teachers, where they may be fitted to work according to their understanding. Never will spiritual healing and the wonderful inner workings of the human mind be understood until each student is willing and ready to begin at the A, B, C’s, and work on carefully and wisely to greater and greater results in their own lives and in the healing of other’s diseases.

One should become like a little child, starting with the simplest effect produced by an uplifting thought, and make sure that one understands the reasons why certain effects are produced. Then the healer assumes nothing. He frankly admits his limitations; and, so far as he goes, he stands on as substantial a basis as the chemist.

What is the process effected by a change of thought from a depressed to a hopeful attitude? To answer this question satisfactorily, one must start from the first principles of life, and study involution and evolution. But to suggest the first simple effects of an uplifting thought, we may picture the following situation. A person is shut into a small dark room, with no light except what comes from the crack of a door ajar, opening into a large light court. The person’s back is turned to the single ray of light. Suddenly he turns about, discovers the source of the light, and moves toward it. He may even open the door and look out. Possibly he crosses the threshold, out into the sunlight, and begins to reflect and compare, and so becomes wise enough not again to enter the dark room. So with the soul imprisoned in the body. The doors are opened a crack or closed by the action of mind, the direction of thought. In the hopeful attitude a process is at once set up like that produced by the movement toward the open door.

The delicate and radiant matter that is the nearest to thought expands, like a veil, becoming thinner. The soul sees through the opening. As this widens, the ever-resident Life fills the space. Every particle responds to this action. The gray matter of the brain sets up different vibrations. The nerves respond to this new life, and a chemical change begins.

Here is something to start with and depend upon, something a beginner in the study of the science can understand. From this beginning one has a glimpse of the wonderful process of the universe, so that a new light dawns upon the mind in regard to the oneness of life. This, indeed, is the science of sciences. This is the essence of all understanding, an all-embracing, warm, loving truth. It is the first realization of our oneness with a mighty force, an inexhaustible supply of life, of health, faith, hope, and charity.

[The writer speaks from the point of view of many years of experience with the sick, according to Quimby’s method, that is, the method of intuitive diagnosis and the endeavor to understand the entire condition of the patient, in contrast with mental healers who, lacking this intuition, have depended on affirmations. Many devotees of the New Thought have, indeed, sought for a spiritual science of life. But the tendency has been to take the clue from abstractions, and ideals that may be realized in the exceedingly distant future, in contrast with the due that may be found in actual knowledge of the real situation, the present condition of the patient. The above is also in contrast with a position held by some of the New Thought writers who have never had the qualifying experience of the actual healing of the sick. That is, in its frank admission that matter possesses chemical qualities. Nothing is likely to be gained by regarding matter as devoid of qualities save such as the mind attributes to it, in the case of food, drugs, and poisons. The real consideration is, granted the God-given qualities of matter, chemical and physical, what is the best use to which they may be put by man in his sure knowledge of himself, his powers of thought, his spiritual openness to divine power? It would be dogmatic to insist that any one point of view contains the whole truth, but it is at least instructive to contrast the above ideal of a science with the belief that finite thought, depending on suggestion, can practically ignore the laws and forces of the natural world. The next selection from the above writer continues the same point of view into another field. It is condensed from The Higher Law. March, 1900.]

Every person’s judgment of another is warped and colored by his own condition or state of development. It is said that every great soul is misunderstood. This must be true, since the soul which has developed beyond the masses perceives the truth from another standpoint. His acts cannot be appreciated by those who have not reached the same level. It is like viewing a landscape from a mountain top. Those who have never stood on the same height criticize and misjudge without knowledge.

Yet how hard it is for the one who is misunderstood, before he has learned to have charity through knowledge of the laws governing the growth of the soul! Is it possible to have charity for the undeveloped until one understands involution and evolution in the spiritual sense? Is it wise to expect another to see things from our own standpoint, until that one has unfolded into the same light? Evidently there is no knowledge sufficient to cover all cases of misjudgment, except the scientific philosophy which gives the reasons why one soul views everything from his own point of view, which is a little different from that of any one else.

Oh, the heartaches to be relieved, the tears to be wiped away, the misunderstandings to be explained away! No one is wholly free from these hard experiences. We all mis-judge and at times we are all misunderstood. Even when one has learned the law and exercises love and charity, one must enter deeply into one’s own kingdom within, and gather new strength and more love. One must see both sides of a question before complete relief comes. If it is a case where the misunderstanding arises because one has reached a higher state of development than the one who has, through ignorance, uttered the unkind word, one must realize that no one can see a truth until one has come to judgment.

I question if any one can fully appreciate the hindrances a soul meets in its unfolding until one has studied the subjective life, until one realizes through experience the mental and physical forces through which the soul struggles for freedom. Shut into its prison, what can be expected of a soul, when that prison is a body composed of such materials as those which constitute the average man? It is no wonder that very few can bear opposition or dictation without excitement or anger. The slightest stirring of such atoms is sufficient to cause disturbance. The soul cannot see through the density surrounding it. When a man feels the pressure of these excited particles, he cannot control his sensations. If he is pushed to the wall, he retaliates according to his state of density and activity.

How often would we say of the murderer, “Forgive him; he knows not what he does,” if we knew the make-up of his body and the darkness of the prison within I Such a man does not know what he is or what he is doing. If we knew the true situation in every difference of opinion, we would have consideration and charity. Never would we condemn.

Remember, then, that each man does the best he can under the immediate, existing circumstance. Just when he yields to temptation, the forces are too strong for him. This is because he is ignorant of those forces. Given another minute, perhaps, just time enough to think, and he would have gained a victory.

On the other side, if one feels that one has attained a degree of development beyond others who have misjudged or who seek to control, if it is true spiritual development, ope has that true humility which refuses to admit any superiority over the other. One can feel a sorrow and a desire to help, but there is a breadth of comprehension which forbids controversy. One knows the other soul is just as pure, just as whole; but it has not yet come to consciousness in this direction.

If the father and mother cannot sympathize with the advanced ideas the daughter has imbibed, they may suffer as much in their fears for the safety of the loved one, even more, perhaps, than the daughter in her loneliness, in her longing to have her parents receive the new light. But the daughter has this advantage: she knows she is progressing out of the old bondage into a broader and freer life. With this knowledge comes, or ought to come,

such an understanding of the situation that she cannot be misunderstood without feeling hurt, with a sweetness and quietness that will convince her parents of the truth she has gained. How little we know of righteous judgment, after all!

We wonder why a friend has withdrawn from active work in a society or club. We judge him from what we see and hear. We may not know that he is passing through a phase of life which requires all of his concentrated efforts, in order to overcome certain conditions, that for a time he must live away from activities and friends. He knows that he is misunderstood; but he must bear it, even if he loses the sympathy and help that a friend might give if the situation were understood. But, if the friends only knew what cannot be told, how different would be their attitude toward him, how different their thoughts and words!

We must be willing — yes, even happy — if we are misunderstood. Sometimes it is because of our higher and deeper insights into life. Sometimes our motives cannot be known.

Our friend has only a partial view of the situation. He puts an entirely wrong interpretation on the case. Even here we can be calm and trusting; for he is not to blame, he did not know. He did as well as he could at the time.

In every case, be the mistaken judgment on one side or the other, one cannot err on the side of charity. Wait! Suspend your opinion! Remember that the walls are thick and dense which surround the soul: it cannot see through except by a gradual unfolding into the light. We are all moving on together; and the only logical view of the situation is to live in the outcome of every experience with a faith and trust in the Infinite Love, which can be relied on as surely as the law of gravitation. It is because we fail to perceive that the law of love is perfect that we have our disturbances and misunderstandings. To trust it implicitly, to wait, have no condemnation, means freedom for the soul and emancipation from misjudgments.

[Comparing the cardinal statements of the foregoing with the propositions laid down by Mr. Wood in the preceding chapter, we find the writer acknowledging the facts of physics and chemistry, and looking beyond these to the ideal of a higher science, one that shall be based on facts, in contrast with mere affirmations. These contentions suggest the importance of more thorough psychological study, if mental healing shall be put upon a scientifically secure basis. On the other hand, some devotees of the New Thought would doubtless say that Mrs. Dresser comes very near determinism in her teaching that people do as well as they can under the circumstances; and the New Thought is unquestionably belief in freedom. Yet if we add the complementary truth that man is morally and spiritually free, despite the conditions of his mental life and of his moral environment, we find all the more reason for the far-reaching charity advocated above. In any case there is reason to avoid all condemnation. This belief in the essential goodness of man, this charitable quest for the good in all men, is surely the very “Spirit of the New Thought.”]

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