This section is from the book "Applications of Psychology to the Problems of Personal and Business Efficiency", by Warren Hilton. Also available from Amazon: Psychology and Achievement - Applied Psychology 12 Volume Set.
THE FACT is, one's opinion as to whether mind controls body or body makes mind-action depends altogether upon the point of view. And the first step for us to take is to agree upon the point of view we shall assume.
Two points of view are possible. One is speculative, the other practical. The speculative point of view is that of the philosopher and religionist, who ponder the tie that binds "soul" and body in an effort to solve the riddle of "creation" and pierce the mystery of the "hereafter."
The practical point of view is that of the modern practical scientist, who deals only with actual facts of human experience and seeks only immediate practical results.
The speculative problem is the historical and religious one of the mortality or immortality of the soul. The practical problem is the scientific one that demands to know what the mental forces are and how they can be used most effectively.
There is no especial need here to trace the historical development of these two problems or enter upon a discussion of religious or philosophical questions.
Our immediate interest in the mind and its relationship to the body is not because we want to be assured of the salvation of our souls after death.
We want to know all we can about the reality and certainty and character of mental control of bodily functions because of the practical use we can make of such knowledge in this life, here and now.
The practical scientist has nothing in common with either spiritualists, soul-believers, on the one hand, or materialists on the other. So far as the mortality of the soul is concerned, he may be either a spiritualist or a materialist.
But spiritualism or materialism is to him only an intellectual pastime. It is not his trade. In his actual work he seeks only practical results, and so confines himself wholly to the actual facts of human experience.
The practical scientist knows that as between two given facts, and only as between these two, one may be the "cause" of the other. But he is not interested in the "creative origin" of material things. He does not attempt to discover "first" causes.
The practical scientist ascribes all sorts of qualities to electricity and lays down many laws concerning it without having the remotest idea as to what, in the last analysis, electricity may actually be. He is not concerned with ultimate truths. He does his work, and necessarily so, upon the principle that for all practical purposes he is justified in using any given assumption as a working hypothesis if everything happens just as if it were true.
The practical scientist applies the term "cause" to any object or event that is the invariable predecessor of some other object or event.
For him a "cause" is simply any object or event that may be looked upon as forecasting the action of some other object or the occurrence of some other event.
The point with him is simply this, Does or does not this object or this event in any way affect that object or that event or determine its behavior?
No matter where you look you will find that every fact in Nature is relatively cause and effect according to the point of view. Thus, if a railroad engine backs into a train of cars it transmits a certain amount of motion to the first car. This imparted motion is again passed on to the next car, and so on. The motion of the first car is, on the one hand, the effect of the impact of the engine, and is, on the other hand, the "cause" of the motion of the second car. And, in general, what is an "effect" in the first car becomes a "cause" when looked at in relation to the second, and what is an " effect" in the second becomes a "cause" in relation to the third. So that even the materialist will agree that "cause" and "effect" are relative terms in dealing with any series of facts in Nature.
A man may be either a spiritualist, believing that the mind is a manifestation of the super-soul, or he may be a materialist, and in either case he may at the same time and with perfect consistency believe, as a practical scientist, that the mind is a "cause" and has bodily action as its "effect."
Naturally this point of view offers no difficulties whatever to the spiritualist. He already looks upon the mind or soul as the "originating cause" of everything.
But the materialist, too, may in accordance with his speculative theory continue to insist that brain-action is the "originating cause" of mental life; yet if the facts show that certain thoughts are invariably followed by certain bodily activities, the materialist may without violence to his theories agree to the great practical value of treating these thoughts as immediate causes, no matter what the history of creation may have been.
Whatever the brand of your materialism or your religious belief, you can join us in accepting this practical-science point of view as a common platform upon which to approach our second fundamental proposition, that " all bodily activity is caused, controlled or directed by the mind."
Ignoring all religious and metaphysical questions, we have, then, to ask ourselves merely:
Can the mind be relied upon to bring about or stop or in any manner influence bodily action? And if it can, what is the extent of the mind's influence?
In answering these questions we shall follow the method of the practical scientist, whose method is invariably the same whatever the problem he is investigating.
This method involves two steps: first, the collection and classification of facts; second, the deduction from those facts of general principles.
The scientist first gathers together the greatest possible array of experiential facts and classifies these facts into sequences - that is to say, he gathers together as many instances as he can find in which one given fact follows directly upon the happening of another given fact.
Having done this, he next formulates in broad general terms the common principle that he finds embodied in these many similar sequences.
Such a formula, if there are facts enough to establish it, is what is known as a scientific law. Its value to the world lies in this, that whenever the given fact shall again occur our knowledge of the scientific law will enable us to predict with certainty just what events will follow the occurrence of that fact.
First, then, let us marshal our facts tending to prove that bodily activities are caused by the mind.