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 FIRST and most conspicuous evidential fact is voluntary bodily action; that is to say, bodily action resulting from the exercise of the conscious will.
If you will a bodily movement and that movement immediately follows, you are certainly justified in concluding that your mind has caused the bodily movement. Every conscious, voluntary movement that you make, and you are making thousands of them every hour, is a distinct example of mind activity causing bodily action. In fact, the very will to make any bodily movement is itself nothing more nor less than a mental state.
The will to do a thing is simply the belief, the conviction, that the appropriate bodily movement is about to occur. The whole scientific world is agreed on this.
For example, in order to bend your forefinger do you first think it over, then deliberately put forth some special form of energy? Not at all: The very thought of bending the finger, if unhindered by conflicting ideas, is enough to bend it.
Note this general law: The idea of any bodily action tends to produce the action.
This conception of thought as impellent - that is to say, as impelling bodily activity - is of absolutely fundamental importance. The following simple experiments will illustrate its working.
Ask a number of persons to think successively of the letters "B," "O," and "O," They are not to pronounce the letters, but simply to think hard about the sound of each letter.
Now, as they think of these letters, one after the other, watch closely and you will see their lips move in readiness to pronounce them. There may be some whose lip-movements you will be unable to detect. If so, it will be because your eye is not quick enough or keen enough to follow them in every case.
Have a friend blindfold you and then stand behind you with his hands on your shoulders. While in this position ask him to concentrate his mind upon some object in another part of the house. Yield yourself to the slightest pressure of his hands or arms and you will soon come to the object of which he has been thinking. If he is unfamiliar with the impelling energy of thought, he will charge the result to mind-reading.
The same law is illustrated by a familiar catch. Ask a friend to define the word "spiral." He will find it difficult to express the meaning in words. And nine persons out of ten while groping for appropriate words will unconsciously describe a spiral in the air with the forefinger.
Swing a locket in front of you, holding the end of the chain with both hands. You will soon see that it will swing in harmony with your thoughts. If you think of a circle, it will swing around in a circle. If you think of the movement of a pendulum, the locket will swing back and forth.
These experiments not only illustrate the impelling energy of thought and its power to induce bodily action, but they indicate also that the bodily effects of mental action are not limited to bodily movements that are conscious and voluntary.
The fact is, every mental state, whether you consider it as involving an act of the will or not, is followed by some kind of bodily effect, and every bodily action is preceded by some distinct kind of mental activity. From the practical science point of view every thought causes its particular bodily effects.
This is true of simple sensations. It is true of impulses, ideas and emotions. It is true of pleasures and pains. It is true of conscious mental activity. It is true of unconscious mental activity. It is true of the whole range of mental life.
Since the mental conditions that produce bodily effects are not limited to those mental conditions in which there is a conscious exercise of the will, it follows that the bodily effects produced by mental action are not limited to movements of what are known as the voluntary muscles.
On the contrary, they include changes and movements in all of the so-called involuntary muscles, and in every kind of bodily structure. They include changes and movements in every part of the physical organism,, from changes in the action of heart, lungs, stomach, liver and other viscera, to changes in the secretions of glands and in the caliber of the tiniest bloodvessels. A few instances such as are familiar to the introspective experience of everyone will illustrate the scope of the mind's control over the body.
Emotion always causes numerous and intense bodily effects. Furious anger may cause frowning brows, grinding teeth, contracted jaws, clenched fists, panting breath, growling cries, bright redness of the face or sudden paleness. None of these effects is voluntary; we may not even be conscious of them.
Fright may produce a wild beating of the heart, a death-like pallor, a gasping motion of the lips, an uncovering or protruding of the eye-balls, a sudden rigidity of the body as if u rooted " to the spot.
Grief may cause profuse secretion of tears, swollen, reddened face, red eyes and other familiar symptoms.
Shame may cause that sudden dilation of the capillary blood-vessels of the face known as "blushing."
The sight of others laughing or yawning makes us laugh or yawn. The sound of one man coughing will become epidemic in an audience. The thought of a sizzling porter-house steak with mushrooms, baked potatoes and rich gravy makes the mouth of a hungry man "water."
Suppose I show you a lemon cut in half and tell you with a wry face and puckered mouth that I am going to suck the juice of this exceedingly sour lemon. As you merely read these lines you may observe that the glands in your mouth have begun to secrete saliva. There is a story of a man who wagered with a friend that he could stop a band that was playing in front of his office. He got three lemons and gave half of a lemon to each of a number of street urchins. He then had these boys walk round and round the band, sucking the lemons and making puckered faces at the musicians. That soon ended the music.
A distinguished German scientist, named Pavlov, has recently demonstrated in a series of experiments with dogs that the sight of the plate that ordinarily bears their food, or the sight of the chair upon which the plate ordinarily stands, or even the sight of the person who commonly brings the plate, may cause the saliva to flow from their salivary glands just as effectively as the food itself would do if placed in their mouths.
There was a time, and that not long ago, when the contact of food with the lining of the stomach was supposed to be the immediate cause of the secretion of the digestive fluids. Yet recent observation of the interior of the stomach through an incision in the body, has shown that just as soon as the food is tasted in the mouth, a purely mental process, the stomach begins to well forth those fluids that are suitable for digestion.
The press recently contained an account of a motorcycle race in Newark, New Jersey. The scene was a great bowl - shaped motor - drome. In the midst of cheering thousands, when riding at the blinding speed of ninety-two miles an hour, the motorcycle of one of the contestants went wrong. It climbed the twenty-eight-foot incline, hurled its rider to instant death and crashed into the 'packed grandstand. Before the whirling mass of steel was halted by a deep-set iron pillar four men lay dead and twenty-two others unconscious and severely injured. Then the twisted engine of death rebounded from the post and rolled down the saucer-rim of the track.
Around the circular path, his speed scarcely less than that of his ill-fated rival, knowing nothing of the tragedy, hearing nothing of the screams of warning from the crowd, came another racer. The frightened throng saw the coming of a second tragedy. The sound that came from the crowd was a low moaning, a sighing, impotent, unconscious prayer of the thousands for the mercy that could not come. The second motorcycle struck the wreck, leaped into the air, and the body of its rider shot fifty feet over the handlebars and fell at the bottom of the track unconscious. Two hours later he was dead.
What was the effect of this dreadful spectacle upon the onlookers? Confusion, cries of fright and panic, while throughout the grandstand women fainted and lay here and there unconscious. Many were afflicted with nausea. With others the muscles of speech contracted convulsively, knees gave way, hearts "stopped beating." Observe that these were wholly the effects of mental action, effects of sight and sound sensations.
Why multiply instances? All that you need to do to be satisfied that the mind is directly responsible for any and every kind of bodily activity is to examine your own experiences and those of your friends. They will afford you innumerable illustrations.
You will find that not only is your body constantly doing things because your mind wills that it should do them, but that your body is incessantly doing things simply because they are the expression of a passing thought.
The law that Every idea tends to express itself in some form of bodily activity, is one of the most obviously demonstrable principles of human life.
Bear in mind that this is but another way of expressing the second of our first two fundamental principles of mental efficiency, and that we are engaged in a scientific demonstration of its truih so that you will not confuse it with mere theory or speculation.
To recall these fundamental principles to your mind and further impress them upon you, we will restate them:
I. All human achievement comes about through some form of bodily activity.
II. All bodily activity is caused, controlled and directed by the mind.