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.
AH, BUT how to concentrate!" you may say. "So far from being able to concentrate the attention of others, I have never been able to do any concentrating of my own."
Be patient, friend. You shall learn the art of concentration. There are methods and devices that if faithfully; employed put this power within reach of everyone. But first you must realize the wide reach of this mighty weapon. You must know something of the processes and principles underlying its scientific use.
We want you to approach these great truths in a spirit of reverence and awe; this not alone because of their intrinsic worth, but also because of their influence in molding the history of men. For the world owes all that is great in religion, in war, in art, in science, in all noble endeavor, to concentration, the concentration of divine talents with unswerving faith upon a lofty purpose.
It was concentration that made Alexander master of the world, sighing for more worlds to conquer. It was concentration that made Buddha the Light of Asia, that made Confucius devote his life through incalculable suffering to great teachings, and made Socrates prefer the cup of hemlock to the repudiation of his principles. It created Zoroaster, farther back than memory. It created Mohammed, the prophet of Arabia. And with its unwavering light came the Founder of Christianity, the Nazarene.
Here in America, it was concentra-tion that gave us Washington, that inspired Lincoln. It was concentration that built the first steamboat, that invented the cotton gin, that discovered the secret of telegraphy, that made Edison the "wizard of electricity." It was concentration that lifted Rockefeller and Morgan to the pinnacles of opulent power. It was concentration, nation-wide, and based upon an enduring faith, that preserved our national integrity through the scourging fire of internecine strife.
In none of these instances was there any deliberate concentration of mental forces. The vast and overpowering desire was in each case brought about by other influences than the action of the individual will.
Yet the study and practice of deliberate concentration, of voluntary concentration, of concentration as an art, is no new thing. In various guises it has appeared upon the stage of history among all races and nations and in all times since the world was young.
The practice of concentration as an art has heretofore always been shrouded in occultism and mystery. This is because its devotees have had merely an empirical knowledge of the subject. They have observed what could be accomplished by concentrative devices and methods, but they have had no comprehension of the reason for the results they observed. Standing back in astonishment at the wonders they were able to work, and unable to explain these occurrences in any rational way, they have ascribed the results to miraculous or supernatural agencies.
In all ages and in all climes, man has bowed before an Intelligent Power capable of producing or healing diseases in the human body and capable of bestowing or withholding peace and plenty. The character of this unseen and intangible Force has varied with different races of men and different periods of their history. But always and everywhere we find the startling fact that all the peoples of the earth, civilized and uncivilized, have used, and still do use, generically, the same methods of appealing to this invisible Power.
The Chaldean seer gazed into the eye of a glittering gem until a trance ensued in which he could divine the purposes of the Mighty. So did the Egyptian priest, the Persian magi, and the Hindu fakir, all of whom still bring themselves to a trance-like state by fixation of gaze. That strange sect of early Christians known as Tasko-drugites accomplished the same results during prayer by looking fixedly at the forefinger held close before the face and pointing at the nose. The monks of the Greek Church in the convent of Mount Athos sought freedom from the distractions of a noisy world and entered into communion with the Holy-Spirit by gazing steadily at their umbilicus. The fetich worshiper fixes his fascinated eye upon a stick or stone in which dwells for him all Power and Beneficence. The Annamite gazes with wondering trust at two burning sticks fastened behind the left ear of the magician who slowly and impressively revolves upon his heel.
Charms and idolatrous ceremonies, occult "mysteries" and religious practices, witches' incantations and priestly sacrifices, hideous noises and diabolical make-up of "medicine man" and "voodoo doctor," all are but ways and means devised by men to thwart the efforts of evil spirits and conciliate the good.
And all have two elements in common. First, they serve to grip the interest of the faith-full one. Second, having focused his attention, they then direct it toward belief in the realization of a hope; they play it like a calcium light upon the consummation so devoutly wished.
All are but different devices for bringing about that mental concentration which we have defined as the overmastering focusing of consciousness upon the belief in an idea.
The prayer of pious persons, the "Yoga" of the Hindu, the "silence" of the disciple of "New Thought," the meditation of the philosopher, all find their elements of efficacious truth in this basic principle. From the routine telling of beads of orthodox Christians to the "disembodied" soul of the Hindu "adept," all are but manifestations and degrees of mental concentration.
Consider the occultism of the Hindu now in such vogue. "Yoga," literally; translated, means "concentration." It is used symbolically by the Hindu mystic to signify concentration or union with a Supreme Being. According to the fourth chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, many "adepts," in order to be entirely freed from the distraction of bodily sensations, even "sacrifice the sense of hearing and the other senses in the fires of restraint." Others "by abstaining from food, sacrifice life in their life."
There is no difference in principle between these practices and the self-flagellations of the early monks, the Master's forty-day fast in the wilderness, and the asceticism of Simeon Stylites, who passed his life on top of a pillar. All these procedures must be looked upon as devices intended to facilitate mental concentration.
Think, now, of the advantage that you possess over other exponents of the art of concentration. You have learned the exact truth in regard to mental operations and processes. You have taken a vast amount of pains in doing so. But now that it comes time for you to apply these principles by devising easy ways for practicing concentration with a view to attaining specific results, you do not have to go groping about in the darkness of occultism and mystery.
You know the elements with which you have to deal.
You know them as realities, as demonstrable truths of modern science.
And when you come to make use of these devices you will not question their efficacy. You will have no doubts as to your success. You will be inspired with the faith that is born of knowledge, as distinguished from the faith that is artificially created by mystic formulas and priestly authority.
The faith that knows was the faith of the Son of God. Jesus knew the power of the human spirit. He knew how to heal the sick, how to feed the multitude with but a single loaf, how to confer the peace "that passeth understanding." This was the secret of his perfect power.
Yet even Jesus required certain conditions for the "demonstration" of his powers. Even Jesus was unable to perform miracles among the people of Nazareth because of their "unbelief" And it was Jesus who, when he had healed a certain sick man, uttered these words of deep scientific significance "Thy faith hath made thee whole."
Faith, belief in the attainment of a desired end, is as essential to success scientifically sought as sought in any other way, because, as you have seen, it sets in motion actual forces.
But scientific method possesses four exclusive advantages. First, the faith it demands is a faith that all may acquire, because it is a faith that reasoning will create, not destroy; second, it is a faith that is perfect, because based on judg-ment; third, it is a faith that is lasting because truth is immutable; fourth, it is a faith that you may deliberately and scientifically acquire, because you now know that faith in a given idea means nothing more nor less than the dominance of that idea in consciousness.
So, then, you can achieve nothing without faith - faith in the ideals on which your attention dwells.
And through faith and ideals, and your consecration of them, and your concentration upon them, lies the way for you to acquire inner control, to escape wasteful moods and emotions, to master your energies, to become efficient in the highest sense and to the last degree.