W. John Murray
The Astor Lectures
Divine Science Publishing Assoc.
New York, 1917, 8th ed.
“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits
whether they be of God.” –I John 4:1.
 Have you ever asked yourself how many of your thoughts or beliefs are original with you?
If you have, you have been surprised to discover that most of them have been handed down to you, or that they are mere reflections of popular sentiment which you accept without so much as a question. We echo other men’s opinions as mountains echo voices and delude ourselves into the belief that they are our own. For centuries it was the popular conception that the earth was flat. Individuals accepted this erroneous belief, because it is so much easier to accept things than it is to investigate them. Every great and commanding movement for the betterment of the race has been due to a rejection of some existing superstition, the practice of which has never been questioned before. Galileo questioned a universal opinion, refused to accept it, and the world was blessed by the advent of a new science in consequence.
 Some one has said that one can count the original thinkers of an age on the fingers of one hand. The remainder are imitators. The great majority think other men’s thoughts as unconsciously as they inhale other men’s breath in crowded halls and street cars. We think we are original, when, as a matter of fact, we are expressing suggestions which came to us from people, press or pulpit, as the case may be. We are moved more by external conditions than by internal convictions, as when a mob stampedes in a theater at the first cry of fire, when there is no fire.
A man attracts a crowd by looking up into the heavens at nothing. We imagine he sees something and look in the same direction. Others follow our example. When a sufficient number has gathered to prove to the joker the possibility of arresting the progress of a hundred people, in order to look at nothing, the joker walks off. When the joke is perceived, we look at one another and wonder who started it all. Trying to locate the joker is like trying to account for the “origin of evil,” so we walk on ashamed of the fact that we have been hoodwinked.
Race Belief is responsible for the spread of the most absurd fads, fancies and fashions, as when a woman wears an up-to-date hat which looks like a thimble on an elephant’s back, or a man wears a vest which resembles a barber’s sign. When we are hypnotized by that subtle and indefinable thing called “Style,” we fling  sound judgment to the winds and act like fools for fear of being considered too independent.
Not only does race belief affect men in matters pertaining to wearing apparel, but it influences them in the more important matters of health and happiness. How easy it is for us to become hypnotized by the cry of contagion. One’s memory does not have to be very long in order to remember the abuses which grew out of some epidemic advertised by the various Health Boards throughout the country. For instance, that terror known as infantile paralysis is not a new one. We have medical authority for the statement that it has been known to the disciples of Hippocrates for over 5,000 years; and yet after all these centuries of laboratorical investigation, it is a much mooted question as to whether the disease is contagious or not. If infantile paralysis is not contagious, says one, how is it that there are so many cases of it?
There are two answers to this question; one is that fear is largely responsible and the other is that the majority of so-called cases of infantile paralysis are cases of false diagnosis. “The way to create an epidemic,” says a noted physician, Elmer Lee, “is to alarm the people by threats of contagion from unseen germs, shutting them in rooms, and placarding their doors with warning signs; thus making their lives harder than they are already.” Epidemics come to an end when the public gets tired of epidemic campaigns and publicity, and people get back  their normal courage. The number of deaths and the number of cases of disease from all causes do not vary much, whether an epidemic exists or not. Most epidemics, if not all, are due more to foolish talking than to germs. They are the natural consequences of suggestion and auto-suggestion, and when these subside, as they always do when people get tired of talking of the same things all the time, the malady begins to abate, and the Health Board doctors triumphantly announce: “We now have the epidemic well under control.” How little they realize that it is due largely to the fact that the people have regained control of their minds and nerves!
One can become so accustomed to seeing the same thing in the newspapers day after day, that in time it loses its terrifying aspect, and he can dispel it from the mind. We say and do what others around us say and do; we reflect the mental atmosphere by which we are immediately surrounded. Most of our opinions, religious and political, are borrowed from our ancestors with whose views we have never taken the trouble to disagree, if indeed, we have ever thought it necessary. Why is one man a Catholic and another a Protestant; or one a Republican and another a Democrat? Is it always through mental conviction or moral absorption? For one man who is converted to a religion or a political party other than that to which he has been born, there are a million who have inherited their religion and their political beliefs, just the same  as they have inherited the color of their eyes. How many can say that they have arrived at their present opinions as the result of impartial investigation of other creeds and systems?
We are like so many little barometers hanging out in a mental atmosphere in an ever-changing world of thought. Every change of temperature affects us so that now we are glad and now sad, as the case may be,–and this all too frequently without any specific reason for being one or the other. We feel the effect of general belief as we feel congenial or uncongenial influence of those who are in daily contact with us. It is a telepathic influence which gathers strength from numbers. It is like a London fog, which conceals even the nearest lamp unless one has an unusually penetrating vision.
Race Belief is the accumulated ignorance of all the ages, to which men ignorantly subscribe. It is like Joseph Addison’s Mount of Fancy, to which has been added all the negative thoughts of men from the beginning of time down to the present moment. Each man pours into the sea of negative thinking the particular streams of his own depressions and discouragements, and these, mingling with all the other streams of impurity and unhappiness, create a mental Dead Sea, in which nothing can live or breathe with any comfort. It is bad enough for us to feel discouraged, but it is worse to talk about it, for it increases the weight of testimony against us. In a similar way, it is bad enough for us  to say of a friend, “How ill he looks,” but to address him directly and remind him of an appearance which he would feign forget, is neither kind nor helpful. He might easily rise above the suggestion if it were only one in a day’s travel, but when almost everybody he meets says something similar, life becomes almost unbearable.
Race Belief is like a receptacle for rubbish, into which all men throw accumulated refuse, and which no man ever feels called upon to empty. It pollutes the atmosphere, and men breathe it unsuspectingly. Race consciousness is like a photographic disc, which receives impressions for future reproduction. If we realized that every negative thought, whether it is one of sin, sorrow, or sickness, is registered on the sensitive plate of the subconscious mind of the world, and that others are affected by it as well as ourselves, we would discontinue the practice of negative thinking. If a barrel of distilled water be placed under a barrel of ink, a drop of which falls into the water every hour, it is only a question of time until the water will be displaced by the ink.
When a man injects his sickly and sordid mental atmosphere into the existence of another, he resembles a cuttlefish, which under certain provocative colors the water for yards around by ejecting an inky fluid. When these thoughts are communicated by word of mouth, or spread broadcast by calamity crying newspapers, they create mental pictures which the uninitiated accept  because they know no better, and accepting them, they become translated into terms of personal experience. A man who does not know the Truth is like a chameleon, which takes on the color of its surroundings. He is like a mirror that reflects all that passes before it.
One fact, however, must not be overlooked: –and this is that good thoughts, as well may be injected into the race consciousness. The more that is done, the better it will be for the individual and for the race. If it be possible to transform a barrel of water into a barrel of ink, a drop at a time, it is equally possible to transform a barrel of ink into a barrel of water by a reversal of the process. Just as there are epidemics of negative thinking, so may there be epidemics of positive ones. If negative thinking results in sickly conditions, there is no reason why positive thinking should not externalize itself in terms of sanative consequences. We must learn to think thoughts of health and courage in the Silence, and we must learn to think these thoughts aloud, so that our conversation will be of a character to invigorate rather than to debilitate those to whom we speak. If a discussion of depressive subjects lowers the vitality of our hearers, it is reasonable to suppose that the communication of thoughts of calmness and poise will tend to strengthen and cheer.
Since man is a thinking entity, he must think something. Therefore, let him think thoughts of joy and gladness, and refrain from expressing  anything that is unlike them. If in the past, we have been prone to contribute our complaints to the wails of those who make up the great army of negative thinkers, let us do so no more. If we have added to the sum total of the world’s discouragement and disease by pouring the stream of our thoughts into the great sea of race-belief, let us continue this evil practice no longer. It is as though we stood on the banks of a stream of pure mountain water, from which the people in the valley draw their thirst-quenching supply, and deliberately throw into it germs of typhoid and typhus.
When it becomes better known that we as individuals, have contributed our share to the world’s unhappiness and disease, if we have a grain of decency we shall atone for it assuming a holier and a healthier attitude of mind. If we can do no better than to keep our minds free from the invasion of evil suggestions, we shall at least be protecting ourselves, and to that extent improving race-belief, for no man thinketh unto himself any more than any man liveth unto himself.
Our refuge from the accumulated ignorance of the world is in Truth, for it is written, “God is our refuge and our strength.” When the majority of those about us are breathing into the atmosphere their pestilential fears and false prophecies, let us not be afraid. The majority is rarely ever on the side of Truth, for it is always composed of those who accept fable for  fact. Suppose race-belief is in favor of the reality of evil and the consequences of evil, are we to put our confidence in this doctrine, or in the Living God? Shall the ever changing world of appearance or the never changing goodness of God be the standard by which we solve our difficulties?
In a world of contradictory beliefs and opinions, it is well for us to remember that man is a Spiritual Being, and as such, subject alone to Spiritual Law. We must acquaint ourselves intelligently with God. We must know His Truth and think It, for only in this way can we become free from the hypnotism of popular thought, and the mesmerism of spiritual ignorance. Suggestions of sin and sickness, pain and poverty, all come from the swamp gas of false belief, even as malarial fumes ascend from the lowlands. Get ye up into the mountains, then! On the wings of thought soar above these false beliefs, by knowing that in the universe of God’s creating, there is nothing impure, imperfect, nor impermanent.
Only the creations of God are true. All else is illusion, and the more we are persuaded of this demonstrable Truth, the more we will realize the joy of the Lord in the land of the living. Let God be true, and every mortal belief a lie, and we shall know what it means to feel the presence of Him in whom there is no sickness and no sorrow. Beloved, now are we the children of God. Awake to the Truth of this, and rejoice and be glad.
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The Astor Lectures
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