Though no human eye behold thee Odin sees and hears each word.
- Fridthjorfs Saga.
Hush! the sevenfold heavens to the voice of the Spirit Echo: - He that o'er cometh all things shall inherit.
- Owen Merideth.
You laugh at monotones, at men of one idea, but if we look at nearly all heroes we may find the same poverty; and perhaps it is not poverty but power. The secret of power, intellectual or physical, is concentration, and all concentration involves of necessity a certain narrowness. - If you ask what compensation is made for the inevitable narrowness, why, this, that in learning one thing well you learn all things.
"How shall I concentrate?" "I can't concentrate. Will you help me?" "Please tell me how to concentrate!" "I have been a student of the New Thought for years but have not mastered concentration. Will you give me directions?" These and many more questions are among the letters on my desk. Yes. I will help you all by as simple illustrations as possible. But I have already said that you all do concentrate, though upon wrong thoughts.
Every art is the common property of mankind. No faculty can be created. No new power is ever manufactured. If what you desire really exists, then you possess it in common with all persons. The chances are that you have held in connection with your desire, some thought of the mysterious, or the supernatural. If Concentration is "the secret of power," then wherever you find power it must be the result of concentration. Man uses power. You in your Life are Power. Did you not concentrate you were power-less and to the extent that you have voluntarily exercised power, you have to that degree concentrated. So much power in manifestation, so much concentration.
The motto for Concentration is, "One thing at a time!" Concentration is only paying attention. How many times did we as children hear parent or teacher say when our mind was wandering - "Pay attention!" The cat watching at the hole for the mouse and the pointer dog on scent, are types of concentration. Follow na ture's evolution from cat and dog to Newton and Darwin and you find that Success is but materialized attention. Newton expressed it as - "Intending the mind!"
A person naturally concentrates. The mind develops through concentration. The child concentrates but he can hold himself to one thought but a few moments. Upon this fact the kindergarten teacher instructs. Changes are frequent in the school day of her pupils. Parents forget this inability of immature minds and set too hard tasks for children; demand too much of them and then complain that they are not quiet, are restless, fretful, fickle; that they are inattentive and forgetful. All this is true. The wise parent would not have it otherwise lest the child have no childhood, and be old before his time. Wisdom recognizes this native condition and takes advantage of it by not overtaxing the child. As the powers of mind unfold, this power of concentration should increase, but the chances are one hundred to one that it is lessened by false training. The child concentrates at play. Every boy concentrates at his games. Watch how every muscle is tense and every faculty alert in the game of ball; when he is on his skates; or when sliding; or when riding on his bicycle. How still - concentrated - is even the baby when he is "in mischief," which to him is as much business as is the bank, or shop to his father.
Concentration is the one method of accomplishment, and the power to concentrate at will, is the sign of mature mind. The masses of people still have child minds. They have little power to hold to a thought and thus wander in conversation; change constantly the premise in argument and lack logical acumen. The scientist has power over his mind; the pseudo-scientist reaches conclusions that are false because he lacks this power of concentration and cannot hold to all the facts till the result is truth.
The need of present humanity is revealed in this lack of power to concentrate upon chosen and desired thoughts. Few have the power to concentrate at will. The great majority are led through involuntary concentration to illness, failure and misery. They let thoughts pick them up, instead of picking up the thought they wish. They are children in man's guise and estate. Therefore when you tell me you can't, or don't, concentrate you are merely telling me that you are in mental babyhood; are not self-directed; but are the creature of any thought that circumstance happens to throw in your path. For this reason it is expected that beginners in Soul Culture will find difficulty in voluntary concentration. Every New Thought cult is but a method of bringing the individual into more perfect expression of his power of self-control. And the manifestation of this control lies in the power to choose, and to hold, the chosen thought.
Present conditions of mental chaos, weakness, fickleness, sensationalism, wandering and unsettled physical conditions are the result of a false home, school and social education. Too much is attempted; too many things merely skimmed; too much superficial attention given to too many studies. "Beware of the man of one book" is a wise proverb. Too much compulsion is put upon children. They are driven by force, or through competition, as in prizes, at school and Christmas trees, by hopes of promotion, and in college by degrees. The motive is ignoble, selfish, diffusive. The child is not drawn by the love of a noble ideal. What is done by compulsion weakens character. What is done through love strengthens it. The child to become educated should LOVE his school, his teachers. He will then go, drawn by his ideal. He should love to read, to study. The whole duty of parents and teachers is to create this love, to inspire this love of growth, in the child. There is no lack of attention where there is love, no diffusion then over many things. It is the one loved thing. Notice the child at play; the man at congenial task; the man in love with his mistress.
Where this love is not, then through effort, under necessity, a habit of concentration is formed for some particular thing; and the man becomes a machine. There is an equally weak condition of character as balance.
One of the best bookkeepers I ever knew was so perfectly concentrated while at his work that nothing ever disturbed him; but he was one of the most fretful and nervous of men at home and in society. A merchant of my acquaintance, most genial and concentrated upon business in his store, was cross and fickle at home. A professor among my friends, is completely self-posess-ed and absorbed in his study and class, but is a most timid and nervous man elsewhere. I have a friend so concentrated in his base-ball game that he knows no pain when injured, but possesses so little indurance at other times that a cut on his finger while at his work unnerves him. I knew a surgeon most cool and impassive when at the operating table, that would walk the floor all night before an important operation. I know of actors so concentrated upon their part that they do not remember anything that has transpired during the play, but who are so nervous at other times that they break down in insomnia. I had a friend, a most successful orator, so concentrated when talking that he would not sense his body, who was in his home and office the most restless and sensitive of men.
I know a woman who is so fretful and fickle with her children that she spoils them, but who will play croquet with perfect abandon, forgetting everything.
This is the case with many gamesters at cards, and habitues of race-courses. These are all examples of concentration under necessity or habit. This condition is a dangerous one for health and happiness, because uncontrolled. All excitement is concentration, where the person has completely lost self-control. For this reason Emerson says, "When you become interested in a book put it away." Proper development gives one at all times, the power to concentrate in any chosen line and at the same time keep self-control. Understand me, it is not that condition where we call a person cold and unsocial. That is not concentration, but constraint, repression, and is equally dangerous to health. Self-possession is very different from self-repression. This latter is common to find and is the result of a fashionable education and of social etiquette. Because of repression doctors and undertakers are reaping a rich harvest. "Except ye become as little children!" is the true thought of concentration. The only natural concentration is under desire; is in the line we love. The only proper way to concentrate is at will, and not because we have to.
Let there be no "Have to!" in your life, would you be self-centered and self-directed. A friend often replies when asked why he does not do a certain thing, - "I don't have to!" An industrial and social condition that compels a man to do that which he does not love, and which civilization has not taught him to love, which has not inspired him with an ideal that lifts him above the thought of necessity or starvation; is not entitled to the name of civilization. It needs Edward Carpenter's book used upon it as a surgeon. He entitled his book - "Civilization, its Cause and Cure!" Present civilization needs to be cured. The prophet's cry is applicable to the present condition. "These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me!"
Heartlessness must be the case where necessity rules. Never a child loved its parent because it was driven to. No husband ever loved his wife because she demanded, "I am yours and you shall love me!" This demand kills what love there was in the marriage. As water flows down hill, so, naturally, do we concentrate upon that which we love.
The first thing to do as one comes into this New-Thought-life, is to do what he loves - or love what he does. He must abolish the thought of must, of necessity. Any method of concentration is lost upon one who will not cultivate a love for present conditions and let that love lead him out of unpleasant ones. Because every thought of antagonism is a concentration born of weakness and of unhappiness, learn to love present conditions and you will naturally concentrate upon the right thought. Learn to love the Affirmations that lead you out to health and happiness and you will naturally concentrate upon them. Learn to love your neighbor as you love yourself and you will concentrate upon thoughts of helpfulness. Love that which you are trying to do and your love will lead you through concentration to BE that which you desire.