Henry Wood.

Studies in the thought world : or, Practical mind art online

. (page 4 of 15)
Online LibraryHenry WoodStudies in the thought world : or, Practical mind art → online text (page 4 of 15)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Advance a step farther, and note that outward
expression, assuredly when the human plane is
reached, is not a mechanical, but an intelligent man-
ifestation. The embodiment is an index to the
quality of past thought ; for thought is a secondary
creator. That thought sequences are slow in man-



ifestation does not render them any less sure. When
the scientific basis of mental therapeutics and sug-
gestion, which is now but dimly apprehended by the
great majority, comes into general recognition, it
will be seen that the human material organism in
any given instance is an exact, composite, outward
index in rank and* quality of past individual and
collective thinking. Such a conclusion is simply the
logical outcome of the admitted proposition that man
is soul. Prenatal or hereditary influences, which are
powerful, do not disprove, but rather broaden, this
order of causation, which is uniformly from the
within to the without — from the immaterial to the

This simple though unconventional spiritistic phi-
losophy, which has only been briefly outlined, is
shown to be scientific, because it accords with the
highest ascertained laws ; harmonizes and translates
psychological phenomena, and satisfies human aspira-
tion and intuition. It solves a thousand problems,
and dissipates innumerable difficulties that are met
with on every hand in the great domain which has
heretofore been a terra incognita to scientific mate-

Planting our feet on the foundation — practical as
well as theoretical — that man, the ego, even on the
present plane, is soul, and soul only, many things
are brought near and made distinct that have been
dim and distant. It at once furnishes a- broad out-

.::.: a corrected standpoint. 61

look from a standpoint that cannot shift. It renders
superfluous such terms as " supernatural," and even
" supernormal," and enlarges the boundaries of the:
natural and normal beyond all limitation. It renders
the human sense of life spiritual rather than mate-
rial. It lifts man above an earthly gravitation that
is burdensome and enslaving. It unfolds a conscious-
ness in him that he is a "living soul/' and not merely
an animated physical organism. It discovers him as
made in the " image of God ; " because a spirit,
which, though finited in its range, is the natural
offspring of the Universal Spirit. It makes religion
— not dogma, which is quite another thing — not
only spiritual, but natural and scientific. It lifts
order,. law, and inter-relationship from their material
limitations, so that the whole " supernatural " realm
becomes unified and systematic rather than chaotic
and capricious. It interprets " death " as only the
cessation of a false sense of life. It restores to man
(the soul) a consciousness of his primal independence
and divine sonship. It lifts him from the animal
plane, and bids him regard his body as his temporary
and useful servant, instead of his hard and tyranni-
cal master. It interprets pain as a friendly monitor
whose real purpose and discipline are kindly, rather
than as a deadly antagonist. It discloses the divine
in man as the real man, or, in other words, restores
him to himself It reconciles and brings together
those two traditional antagonists, Science and Reli-


gion, which, for so long have suspected and frowned
upon each other. It opens to view Truth as an har-
monious unit, and changes general discord into har-
mony, even though all its vibrations may not yet
be understood. In its last analysis, it does away
with evil, per se, as an entity ; for while admitting it
as an apparent and relative condition, it finds in its
unripened and imperfect stage the potency and prom-
ise of endless progression and unfoldment. Is this
outline visionary ? Not in the least, but rather
scientific in the highest and best sense of that term.
The sidelights and reflections from every possible
direction here converge and come to a focus.

All the factors discovered from this corrected
point of view not only fit each other, but go far
to classify and interpret all the phenomena of the
human soul.



Nature speaks to us in a language of her own.
If her intonations sound harsh or unmusical, we may
infer that our hearing is not attuned to her utter-
ances. If her voices are unknown tongues, we need
carefully to study her rhythm and accent, in order
that we may translate her message. Nature is not
Nature until we awaken the spirit of interpretation.
We are unable to understand her motive until we
take her into our confidence, and make her intimate

What is Nature, and what does she signify to us ?
What is her kingdom, and where its boundaries ?
Do we really see her, or only her signs and outpic-
turings ? Is she essentially color, form, proportion,
length and breadth, or life, mind, and spirit ?

Nature is a revelator. The kingdom of spirit is
co-extensive with her dominion, and shines through
it. Each is the complement of the other, without
boundary line. A poet of keen insight confides to
us that —

' Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees takes off his shoes."


Truth must be a full-orbed unit, else she is un-
truthful. The physicist, while studying forms and
properties, may be color-blind to the presence of a
universal spiritual dominion. Dissociated from her
vital essence, Nature is incongruous and misleading.
The materialist interprets her as mechanical, cold,
and even cruel. The scientist tests her qualities,
and geometrizes her proportions, but does not hear
her voices. The theologian, with eyes turned toward
the supernatural, does not feel her warm, vital sup-
ports and inter-relations to the spiritual realm.
Even the artist often catches only her complexion,
while her warm and friendly temperament is unrec-
ognized. Each thereby makes his own system mis^
leading and unnatural. Only the spiritual chemism
of the poet and idealist divines her affinities, and
penetrates to her true inwardness.

The attempt to turn Religion away from Nature,
into an arbitrary and unrelated realm, has drained
it of its normal and abounding vitality ; and, on the
other hand, the materialism of Science has kept its
gaze turned steadily downward. To the practical
vision of the world the supernatural is unnatural,
and the unnatural, morbid. Nothing unnatural can
be attractive. Religion and science have each 'been
weighted down as they have diverged from the
normality of the established divine order.

Religion, in its normal simplicity, may be defined
as orderly unfoldment which brings into manifesta-


tion the divine pattern. The natural world, in its
methods and trans mutations, is an articulation of
the Father. The genius of Nature is an open gospel
for all who can decipher its unrolled manuscript.
But only the key of the spiritual intuition can unlock
the motives and mysteries of cosmic forces, and dis-
close their beneficent order and rhythm.

The divinity in man recognizes its eternal counter-
part, — God in Nature, — and feels the ecstatic thrill
of the Omnipresent Spirit. Divine monograms and
hieroglyphics are stamped upon all his environment,
and he dwells in a boundless repository of mystery,
harmony, and sanctity. As our spiritual vision
grows clearer, the objective universe takes on in-
trinsic gracefulness and sublimity. The mirror of
an uplifted consciousness reflects new revelations
of cosmic harmony and unity. God is the mind of
Nature. He whispers to us in every leaf, flower,
and blade of grass ; in the air, the clouds, the sun-
shine, the sea. All are eloquent from within. Each
is a glowing sentence in the great open volume of
universal Scripture. As the sea contains all its
waves, so the One Life embraces all finite forms
of vitality. This concept is a warm and living spir-
itual theism, and has no alliance with pantheism.
Everything is soulful. Shapes and colors are de-
lightful to the degree that we grasp their plasticity
to spiritual moulding from within. Pope's familiar
lines are more than poetry : — ■


"All are but parts of one stupendous whole,
Whose hody nature is, and God the soul."

As our physical organism is moulded and directed
by the mind within, so the whole creation is per^
meated and vitalized by the immanent God. Emer-
son, the great modern idealist, thus discburses of
expression : —

"All form is an effect of character ; all condition of the
quality of life. Here we find ourselves, suddenly, not in a
critical speculation, but in a holy place, and should go very
warily and reverently. We stand before the secret of the
world, there where Being passes into Appearance, and Unity
into Variety. The universe is an externalization of the soul.
Since everything in nature answers to a moral power, if any
phenomenon remains brute and dark, it is because the corre-
sponding faculty in the observer is not yet active."

If we delve deeply enough into the laws and con-
stitution of rocks, plants, animals, and man, we every-
where discover the footprints of the unifying and
energizing Presence. The revelations of Deific wis-
dom and spiritual vitality are as scientifically accu-
rate as they are aesthetically transcendent. To feel
our spiritual oneness and relativity to all things, is to
expel infelicity and leanness from our consciousness.
Such a transformation is, in itself, evidence of the
truth of the principle. Nature is friendly. Her
correspondences with us are so intimate and recip-
rocal, that they demonstrate infinite wisdom, unity,
and adaptability. Bryant, in his " Thanatopsis," beau-
tifully moulds this thought in his familiar lines : —


"To him who in the love of Nature holds
Communion with her visible forms, she speaks
A various language; for his gayer hours
She has a voice of gladness, and a smile
And eloquence of beauty, and she glides
Into his darker musings, with a mild
And healing sympathy, that steals away
Their sharpness, ere he is aware."

The barrenness and untruthfulness of atheism are
evident from their utter inability to awaken human
responsiveness. Nothing is abnormal save that
which is created by man's defective and misplaced
consciousness. He alone can cloud his own horizon.
The much-vaunted achievements of material science
cannot lift the load of human woe, or satisfy the
universal soul-hunger. Whatever is unnatural is a
distortion of the divine type. The deadly upas of
artificialism is a blight upon literature, society, and
institutions. A debasing so-called realism, claiming
to be artistic, raises a false and perverted standard
in the measurement of fiction, the drama, and real
life. To paint abnormity in picturesque and vivid
outline is a perversion of true art. Only that which
is divine and normal in type can possess veritable
artistic proportion. Even intellectual development,
as usually defined, is powerless to lift men above the
plane of shadows and illusions.

With an arbitrary and materialistic treatment Na-
ture is severed from her vital relations, and becomes
a caricature, mechanical, cold, and even adverse.
The over-wrought refinements of a hyper-civilization,


which subtly beckon us away from the natural type,
promise much, but finally end in chaotic degenera-
tion. The blandishments of fashion, society, dis-
play and ambition seductively whisper their charms ;
but following close in their train are barrenness, bit-
terness and heartlessness. As institutions take on
abnormal shape and character, they invite decay.
Civilizations, even when most distinguished for mate-
rial grandeur and aesthetic culture, become top-heavy,
and fall, because they lack a simple but broad arche-
typal basis.

We are touched on every side with life. The
outward forms of buds and leaves and flowers may
wither and fade from our sight, but the life which
for a while held them in form is not lost, but con-
served for further expression in yet sweeter and
nobler shapes. New worlds are continually created
before us for fuller revelations of truth. Every
changing season opens fresh vistas, and slips new.
slides into the lenses of subjectivity which open
outwards. Divine laws are engraven all about us,
and each is interpreted through its own chosen and
particular symbol. Nature has its parables and pre-
cepts, its comedies and tragedies. The Decalogue,
psalmody, prophecy, the incarnation, sacrifice, and
resurrection, are objectively written in living charac-
ters all about us, and subjectively inscribed in exact
correspondence in the tablets of man's constitution.
There are platforms and pulpits on every hand, from


each, of which, is expounded the divine completeness
of the established order. Poesy bids us : —

"Find tongues in trees, books in running brooks,
Sermons in stones, and good in everything."

That vision is inspired which beholds mountains,
forests, and rocks as cathedrals and altars, which
enshrine the divine bounty and radiance. We are
walking upon enchanted ground, and bushes are
aflame all about us, and yet are not consumed.

Arcadian simplicity always has been a saving
force, an instinctive feeling after the divine life.
The primitive Aryan made Nature his inspiration,
and its vigorous power was long perceptible during
his migrations and shifting conditions.

A true translation of Nature is not a mental
construction, an allegory, or a fancy, but a vision
of a living reality working out its grand purpose.
We should not read her superficially, as a shallow
critic may read a book, with eyes only for its style
and construction, but with open soul for her vital
meaning and interpretation. But she is shy of her
richness, and must be wooed and followed by sympa-
thetic association, in order that she may respond
with hearty communication. To pursue her with a
mathematical chart, or an intellectual measuring-
stick, is to chill and alienate her, so that from a
warm and loving mother she becomes only a con-
ventional stranger, made up of mechanical powers
and forces.


To the penetrative vision of the Hebrew prophets,
Nature was but a transparent medium, through which
they clearly saw the Infinite. The fervid imagery
of Isaiah gave tongues and voices to every animate
thing, and all joined in a universal anthem of praise.

But, as a whole, a sombre shadow overcasts the
sacred Hebraistic literature. The Deity was infinite
physical force, more than omnipresent Spirit and
Love. With an exuberant poetic and artistic sym-
bolism, there is lacking that broader and grander
consciousness of divine harmony, unity, and good-
ness with which a truer concept thrills the soul.
Human fellowship and oneness with the spirit of
Nature is a later and higher ideal than that of the
Old Testament poets and seers.

During the long and gloomy period between the
decay of classic culture and the Renaissance, inspi-
ration through Nature almost ceased. The rigid
austerity and asceticism which cast their shadows
over the Middle Ages obliterated the beauty and
harmony of the visible creation. Under such a
cloud Nature appeared cold, arbitrary, and forbid-
ding. Men found nothing lovable without, because
they were conscious of no beauty within. Men and
women barred themselves into cells, and lived be-
hind bare walls, and put God's beautiful world out
of sight. The visible universe, stripped of the
living Divinity, was stern and joyless. The Deity
was loveless, Nature a desert, humanity an object-


lesson of deformity, life a bed of spikes, and the
future a rayless gloom. But with the modern awak-
ening, the mind of man puts off its fetters, and
asserts its freedom ; existence becomes joyous, and
Nature soulful and companionable. When life loses
its plasticity, and becomes artificial and conventional,
it hardens into rigid forms, and religion becomes
an institution, and worship a prescribed service in
temples made with hands. The open volume of the
Spirit is pushed to the background by scholastic
definitions and ecclesiastical authority and ritual.
The outward sense is appealed to by imposing cere-
monial, but the divine overflowing in the soul is
smothered amid literal structure and objective dogma.
The forces of Nature are the exponents and min-
isters of righteousness. The man who violates the
moral law ignores the principles of his own being,
and sets at naught the laws which are inscribed in
his inner constitution. It is impossible to cheat or
baffle the established order. There is one orderly
and beautiful pathway of progress, and no climbing
up on the outside. But infinite forces work with
us when we work through them. Nothing is de-
tached, nothing casual, nothing unimportant ; but
all are necessary to the complete unity. The poet
assures us that, —

" The course of Nature is the art of God."

The scale of Nature is boundless. Upward aud
downward her octaves are endless in vibratory har-


mony. When we attempt any intellectual solution
of her mysteries, Ave are confronted with the incom-
prehensibility of the Absolute. But what we cannot
rationally measure, we may become one with. The
spiritual perception may be filled with its love and
goodness, and thoroughly taste its quality.

" Canst thou by searching find out God ? " Through
the intellect never, but through the inner vision thou
mayst see him. God and Nature can only be
known through related unisons. Man can cognize
them because he has their samples in his soul. He
translates them because he has found their subjective
key. Said that great interpreter of Nature, Thoreau,
in speaking of an experience in the woods ; " I was
sensible of such a sweet and beneficent society in
Nature, in the very pattering in the drops, and in
every sight and sound around my house, an infinite
and unaccountable friendliness all at once like an
atmosphere sustaining me, as made the fancied ad-
vantages of human neighborhood insignificant, and
I have never thought of them since. Every little
pine-needle expanded and swelled with sympathy
and befriended me. I was so distinctly made aware
of the presence of something kindred to me, even in
scenes which we are accustomed to call wild and
dreary, and also that the nearest of blood to me,
and humanist, was not a person nor a villager, that
I thought no place could ever seem strange to me


And again : " The indescribable innocence and be-
neficence of Nature — of sun and wind and rain, of
summer and winter — sucli health, such cheer, they
afford forever ! and such sympathy have they ever
with our race, that all Nature would be affected, and
the sun's brightness fade, and the winds would sigh
humanely, and the clouds rain tears, and the woods
shed their leaves and put on mourning in midsum-
mer, if any man should ever for a just cause grieve.
Shall I not have intelligence with the earth ? "

One more thought of his : " In a pleasant spring
morning all men's sins are forgiven. Such a day is a
truce to vice. While such a sun holds out to burn, the
vilest sinner may return. Through our own recovered
innocence we discern the innocence of our neighbors."

Emerson says that Beauty is a creator; a notable
specimen of his divine definitions. Objective loveli-
ness is really soul-reflection. The graceful and per-
fect forms, colors, odors, and harmonies that we see
and feel, are our higher and more ideal thought-
pictures, which are painted by the vibrations of
Divinity upon our responsive souls. The beauty of
a flower consists of the beautiful thought about it.
The peculiar quality of things depends not upon
intellectual observation, nor even interpretation, but
upon the optics of soul.

A potato-patch in full blossom to one means only
coming potatoes, to another an aesthetic revelation
of Divinity.


How exquisitely does Nature do her finishing, pol-
ishing, and shading ! No point-laces, brocades, or
velvets can compare with her embroidery in lichens,
ferns, and mosses. Her shuttles weave more delicate
fabrics than those fashioned by the cunning of the
looms and dyes of the Orient.

Man mars and cuts her fair face ; but she uncom-
plainingly hastens to hide, soften, and repair his rude
angles and scars. Even our beautiful country roads,
which she trims with soft and variegated fringes,
delighting the eye and soul of the wayfarer, are
mowed and squared by crude human artificiality.
But she, the beautifier and healer, follows with her
magic touch of restoration. Everything is beautiful.
The science of the world could not fashion the petal
of a flower, the sting of a bee, nor the point of a
thistle. The polish of a grain of sand is infinite.
Every natural thing is a revelation of the skill and
taste of the Divine Artist.

Various kinds of matter are really different modes
of motion, each having its peculiar vibration. The
most real and solid thing in the universe — if there
be anything other than universal spirit — is the
illimitable ether, which to sense is unknown except
through some of its effects. Paradoxical as it may
seem, while it is the most solid of all things, it is
also the most elastic. John Fisk, in his " Unseen
World," says of it : " It fills all material bodies like
a sea, in which the atoms are as islands, and it occu-

the divinity of nature. 75

pies the whole of what we call empty space. It is
so sensitive, that a disturbance in any part of it
causes a tremor which is felt on the surface of count-
less worlds." But the qualities which we attribute
to objective conditions are really in us, and do not
touch the absolute, or, we may better say, spiritual

Material science in the past has insisted that
mind and spirit can only be known in their activities
and phenomena through or in connection with a
material base or organization. Such a conclusion is
now outlawed, and the latest and highest trend of
physics is now all in the other direction. Spirit is
the reality, and matter its servant and sensuous ex-
pression. The seen universe or world of sense is
only a parable, or a realm of show, like shadow-
pantomime, indicative of the character of realities
behind. Spenser aptly puts this thought : —

"So every spirit, as it is more pure,
And hath in it the more of heavenly light,
So it the fairer body doth procour
To habit in, and it more fairly dight,
With cheerful grace and amiable sight.
/ For of the soul, the body form doth take, /
/ For soul is form, and doth the body make." /

To the degree in which we are spiritually un-
folded, we may penetrate beyond appearance, and
gain glimpses of the real. Our eyes have never
looked upon our friend, nor even upon our very
selves, but only upon manifestations and coverings.


We see but little of the spiritual world in Nature,
because our finer faculties are only in an infantile
stage of development. But even among physical
existences our sensuous and intellectual range is so
limited, that modern science admits that there may
be whole universes of beings who dwell among us, or
pass through us, of whose presence we know nothing.
Their forms, colors, and properties are so subtle,
that only beings whose senses are far more acute
than ours can be introduced into their society.
What ranges of orders upon orders above and below
us ! An eminent scientist has recently made the
startling suggestion, that not only below us may
exist molecular universes, intelligences, and even civ-
ilizations, but that above us perhaps worlds may be
but as molecules of grand systems and organizations.

But such speculations in physical science have
no. especial value, unless by way of analogy they
quicken our perception of the spiritual verities,
of which the visible universe is but the printed
page. man, made in God's image, and linked
to and nourished by Nature, what glorious vistas
are to open before you in the eons of eternal prog-
ress !

Nature is God and love and truth translated.
The world is embellished by spirit, and its inaudible
music is the cadence of the gospel of good-will.
Nature is a vast kindergarten, where easy object-
lessons train our child-like affections so they may

1 2 4 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15

Online LibraryHenry WoodStudies in the thought world : or, Practical mind art → online text (page 4 of 15)