Christian Larson argues that the defect in many systems of belief is that what are partial truths are taken to be the whole truth. It is in virtue of that portion of truth that the whole “system” or world view is even plausible. As an example of such a half-truth rounded up to a whole falsehood, Larson critiques what sounds like either idealism or the superstitious belief in the Law of Attraction and the power of positive thinking (a la Rhonda Byme’s The Secret). Larson’s critique in this excerpt of that idea — that “thinking makes it so”, that our mental powers in themselves are so potent that they can determine reality — begs questions, since he was, after all, a major proponent of New Thought. What interests me is his more general observation that the shortcoming in many systems of thought is that they are overblown half-truths. Truths are taken for the truth. His words are one entry into an ongoing project along these lines, collected in “Half-Truths“. ~ Nate
Everything in life has two sides. When we view anything from the one side only the result is a half truth. But when the same thing is viewed from both sides the result will be a whole truth. The physical scientist who ignores metaphysics has therefore nothing but half truths to present to the world. And the same is true of the metaphysician who ignores the physical side of that which he attempts to study and understand.
A half truth generally seems plausible, in fact so plausible at times that only a few can detect its incompleteness. But the conclusions of the half truth invariably mislead the mind at every turn. A half truth, however, not only misleads the mind, but gradually eliminates the power of discrimination so that the mind finally becomes incapable of finding the truth when real truth does appear. That person that has followed half truths all his life is unable to know real truth when face to face with it. And as the majority are more or less in this condition this phase of our study of truth becomes extremely important.
Every modern system of belief is filled with half truths, but it will not be necessary here to analyze them all. A general analysis of the most striking illustrations will be sufficient, as through such an analysis anyone will be able to detect the flaws in the others. One of the most striking of these illustrations in the thinking of half truths is found in the statement that mind is the only power. At first sight it may appear that the mind is the cause of everything, and that it does everything, but a deeper study reveals the fact that the mind is only one phase of the only power. There is but one power in the universe; that is, one fundamental force of action, but this power differentiates itself into a vast number of phases, and any one phase is as real as any of the others.
We have recently discovered the fact that the mind exercises great power over the body. And for that reason many have come to the conclusion that the mind is the only power that effects the body. But this is a half truth and comes from viewing the subject from one side only. Many people who accept this view go so far as to say that it is wrong to use anything else but mind whenever we wish to relieve or effect the body. But those who follow half truths are never consistent; and in consequence, while affirming that mind alone can help the body, they continue to protect the body with physical clothes and feed the body with physical food.
As a rule, people who follow half truths forget that it is the same power that has created everything, and that therefore the things that are seen are just as real and good as the things that are not seen, and, of course, vice versa. In brief, all things are real in their own sphere of existence, and all things are good in their own proper places.
In this connection we must remember that the mind always acts through agencies; whether these be muscles, nerves, senses, intellect or thought, they are agencies of mind; and one agency is not inferior to another. If it is right for the mind to use thought in removing a physical condition or disease, it is also right for the mind to use muscle in performing a surgical operation, should it be wise and necessary to perform such an operation. In both instances it is the mind acting upon the body through an agency. On the other hand, if it is wrong to perform a surgical operation when some simple remedy would avail, it would also be wrong to waste precious mental energy in overcoming physical ailments that could just as easily be removed by some simple or natural method.
The question is, not what to discard entirely and what to use exclusively; the question is, to determine what means or methods will produce the best and the quickest results now under present conditions. Use any power when that particular power is needed, and use it well, because every power is but an expression of the one Supreme Power. All is good in its place, and all is made for the service of man; therefore all things can be used in adding to the welfare of man.
When you believe that mind is the only power, you limit yourself more and more to such powers as may be expressed on the mental plane. In consequence you will be compelled to depend almost entirely upon mental force, and will be helpless when that force is weakened, which frequently happens with those who neglect the development of everything but mind. So long as you believe that the mind is the only power you open the mental door to mental powers alone. You eliminate all others and cannot come into possession of those marvelous spiritual powers that alone can make man great.
A study of people who believe that mind is the only power, reveals clearly that their work is conducted entirely upon the mental plane; and in too many instances gives expression to the narrowest phases of mentality. When you carry this idea of the allness of mind to its extreme conclusion, you eliminate all the expressions of the mind to that of what may be called mental force or mind vibrations. You will depend upon such actions of mind for everything. You will expect those vibrations to act upon things directly and to do anything desired without the use of agencies. Ability, mental capacity, character, intelligence, talent and, in brief, all the natural functions and powers of the mind will be neglected. All development, therefore, will be retarded, as the whole of attention is centered upon the efforts of mental vibration; that is, the mind acting with a certain purpose in view without the use of agencies through which to act. Finally the mind becomes so dull that it is even incapable of retaining conscious control of its own mental vibrations. In fact, by narrowing itself down to one thing it becomes so small that even that one thing is neither understood nor controlled.
It is therefore evident that by thinking that the mind is the only power, your mind will become so small and so superficial that it will be incapable of original and individual thought. It will be unable to stand upon its own feet and will have to depend wholly upon some fixed system.
Life is complex and gives expression to many powers. Mind is one of these, but only one of many. And if we would develop the power of the mind we must train ourselves to give a larger and a more perfect expression to all the other powers as well. We add to the power and the capacity of every single function by increasing the power of all the other functions. And the leading faculty of any mind will have the greatest ability and capacity when backed up, so to speak, with a number of other faculties that are also strong and highly developed.
Another statement heard frequently among those who see only the one side of truth is this, that everything is all right if we think so. This idea, of course, is founded upon the belief that wrong thought is the only cause of evil or imperfection. But if we should follow this belief to its extreme and inevitable conclusion, we would have to say that thought is everything, and that all else is nothing. If your thinking makes things right or wrong the things themselves can have neither power nor qualities. And if this were true things could not even have existence, because, to exist, a thing must have powers and qualities of some kind.
According to such a belief the cheapest clothing would be rich and rare if we only thought so; the most homely face would be charmingly beautiful if we only thought so; the most ordinary music would be simply inspiring if we thought so; and the worst meal that was ever prepared would be perfectly delicious if we thought it was. Thousands of other conclusions equally absurd would naturally follow our attempt to describe things according to this belief. But this is always the case with half truths. They seem plausible as long as they are not closely examined.
If we should adopt the belief that everything is all right if we think it is, we would soon be unable to distinguish between degrees of perfection; our judgment would become so poor that we could see no difference between the common and the worthy, between the homely and the beautiful, between the false and the true. To us everything would be lovely, but loveliness would mean nothing more to us than the most superficial sentiment. We would say that all things are good because we think so, but we should be unable to understand what goodness actually means, therefore would fail to grow in the realization of goodness.
The whole truth in this connection is that when things are wrong your thinking they are right will not make them right. But you can through the proper use of your thought cause things to change and become right. The way you think, when in the presence of wrong things, will determine to a very great extent how you are to be affected by those things, and also how much those things may be changed by your action under the circumstances. But the things themselves, as well as their present conditions, are just as real as your thought, though they will obey the power of your thought completely if that power is properly employed.
You may listen to the most beautiful music, but you will fail to enjoy it if you are in a critical frame of mind. The lack of enjoyment will in this instance come not from things, but from your perverted thought about things. Your wrong thought, however, had no effect whatever upon the music. The music was good in spite of what you thought, but your own thought prevented you from getting any good out of the music. On the other hand, you may listen to music that is full of discord, but if you refuse to be disturbed by discord you will remain in harmony. The fact, however, that you remain in harmony will not make the music harmonious, proving conclusively that under such circumstances your state of mind affects only yourself, and does not effect those things that exist outside of yourself.
However, you may try to think that inharmonious music is actually sweet and lovely, and may wholly succeed through this suggestion in rendering yourself unconscious to the discord. You may in consequence enjoy the music to some extent, but your judgment of music will suffer. Should you practice this method frequently the best music would after a while fail to give more enjoyment than ordinary music, and you could not possibly enter into the realization of the soul of music itself.
If you undertake a certain work and think you are going to fail, the confusion of mind and the scattering of forces produced by such a frame of mind, will almost invariably produce failures. On the other hand, if you think you are going to succeed you will concentrate all your forces on success; accordingly, those forces will work together for success and will place success within reach, though of course work and ability must be added before results can be secured. The fact that you think you are going to succeed will not alone produce success, but to think that you are going to succeed is one of the essentials. In fact, it is quite indispensable.
A number of ambitious people at the present time who have no ability, and who do not care to develop themselves, believe that everything will come to them if they simply think success. Success, however, does not come in this way. If you wish to succeed you must have ability and you must apply it thoroughly as well as wisely. You must have confidence in yourself and faith in abundance. You must press on with all the determination that is within you, working constantly in the right states of mind, and turn all the forces of thought, talent and ability upon the goal in view.
The way we think affects to an extraordinary degree everything we do and everything with which we come in contact. But mere thinking is not all that is required to make things right, nor will things turn from bad to good simply because we think they are good. There are methods through which all things can be changed, but such methods will not be employed simply by our saying or thinking that things are what they are not. If we try to make ourselves believe that things are what they are not, we not only delude ourselves, but we carry on a sort of mesmeric process that will sooner or later make invalids of our minds, and so weaken all our faculties or talents that we will soon be incapable of achieving anything worth while.
The real student of life takes things as he finds them, regardless of what they may be. If things are not right he admits it, and goes to work doing something to make them right. On the other hand, if they are good he is fully able to enjoy them to the fullest extent because his appreciation is not clouded by self delusions. The strong soul is never disturbed or made unhappy when meeting things out of place. He does not have to suggest to himself that all is well, when it is not, in order to keep himself composed. He knows that he is ready for any emergency, that he is equal to any occasion, that he has the power to overcome any adversity, and that he has the ability to make all things right. He is therefore composed in the presence of wrong and fully ready to do something definite to make the wrong right. Such a mind can see the whole truth about the subject of right and wrong. The undeveloped side or the exterior side, with its possibilities, is recognized and understood. And that power within that can develop these possibilities is recognized and applied. Thus the imperfect is changed into some degree of perfection, and evil is transformed into actual good.
The mind that meets life in this way will constantly make things better and will develop superiority in himself through that mode of thinking alone. On the other hand, the person who thinks that everything is lovely will leave things the way they are, improving nothing, not even himself; thus he will continue to remain in the same small selfdeluded state. He may have health, peace and happiness in a measure in his little world, but how small that little world will be. And nothing in the world at large will be better off because he has lived.
In this connection we must remember that it is of the first importance to recognize and learn to apply the immense power of thought, but that power is not applied simply by thinking that things are as we wish them to be. The power of thought works through methods; that is, through the living of what we think, and through the doing of those things that make for growth, quality and worth.
Another half truth that has deceived thousands of well-meaning minds is expressed in the statement, “If you see evil in others it is because you are evil yourself.” There is, however, some truth back of this idea though this truth would be better expressed if we should say, “There is a tendency of the human mind to believe that others have the same weaknesses that we have.” Though here we must remember that this is only a tendency and is by no means the rule in every mind. We know that if a man is selfish he finds it difficult to think of others as unselfish; but the cause in his case is simply a narrow viewpoint.
So long as we live in a certain mental attitude we are inclined to look at all things through the colored glasses of that attitude; in consequence our judgment is biased. However, when the judgment is unbiased and the mind can see all things from all points of view, all things will be seen as they are. Such a mind can see the wrong in others without being wrong himself, because he can see all things from all points of view. The higher we ascend in the scale the more clearly we can see the mistakes of the world and the less mistakes we ourselves will make. But we not only see the mistakes, we also see the cause and the remedy; and we do not condemn.
Though we see all wrong we can forgive all wrong because we can see the cause of it all, remembering the great truth, “To know all is to forgive all.” Thousands of well meaning idealists condemn themselves for seeing evil in others, believing that they are in bondage to the same wrongs, but this is simply a delusion coming from viewing only one side of the truth in the matter. When you can see everything, you can see the imperfect as well as the perfect, both in others and in yourself. It is not wrong to see the mistakes of others, but it is wrong to condemn. For it is certainly a fact that when we condemn wrong we perpetuate wrong, and also tend to produce that same wrong in ourselves.
When you actually believe that you have a certain failing you tend to create that failing through your own thinking. The mind has the power to create any sort of condition in the system and employs all deep seated beliefs, ideas or impressions as models. Therefore, by believing that you are a sinner you make sin the pattern for your thinking, and all your thoughts will be created more or less in the likeness of sin. When we understand this law we understand what a horrible mistake it is to think of ourselves as sinners; and we also discover why the majority continue to remain weaklings from the cradle to the grave.
If you wish to eliminate sin, evil and worry from your life study metaphysics and psychology. Learn to give the creative powers of your life more ideal patterns. Learn to create your thoughts after the likeness of purity, truth, goodness, strength, wholeness and virtue. You will gradually become more and more like those thoughts because, “As a man thinketh in his heart so is he.”
The belief that we have the same sins or evils that we see in others is a belief that is self-contradictory at every point. For if we see evil in others simply because that same evil is in ourselves it is the evil in ourselves that we see. If that evil was not in ourselves we would not see it in others: but if it is only in ourselves it does not exist at all in the others. And if this be true, why do others see sin in us? They must according to the theory be just the same kind of sinners as we are. The fact that they see wrong in us proves that the same wrong exists in them, while according to our belief the wrong does not exist in them, but exists only in ourselves. We must admit, therefore, that the wrong we see is not simply in ourselves, but also in others, otherwise the belief would not hold good all around. Nevertheless, if we admit this we contradict the very idea upon which the belief is based, proving that the whole thing is but an illusion. We may imagine that others have certain wrongs that they have not, but the fact that we imagine these wrongs existing in others does not prove that these wrongs exist at all, either in others or in ourselves. For, suppose we see in others what is not there; suppose we imagine others having certain failings because we have them; suppose some of us at times do this; does that prove that the pure mind is unable to see what is not pure? It does not. It simply proves that when the imagination is not under control we may imagine many things that do not have existence anywhere.