[This is taken from Charles G. Leland's The Mystic Will.]
"Post fata resurgo."
"What is forethought may sleep 'tis very plain,
But rest assured that it will rise again."
"Forethought is plan inspired by an absolute Will to carry it out."
It may have struck the reader as an almost awful, or as a very wonderful idea, that man has within himself, if he did but know it, tremendous powers or transcendental faculties of which he has really never had any conception. One reason why such bold thought has been subdued is that he has always felt according to tradition, the existence of superior supernatural (and with them patrician) beings, by whose power and patronage he has been effectively restrained or kept under. Hence gloom and pessimism, doubt and despair. It may seem a bold thing to say that it did not occur to any philosopher through the ages that man, resolute and noble and free, might will himself into a stage of mind defying devils and phantasms, or that amid the infinite possibilities of human nature there was the faculty of assuming the Indifference habitual to all animals when not alarmed. But he who will consider these studies on Self-Hypnotism may possibly infer from them that we have indeed within us a marvelous power of creating states of mind which make the idea of Pessimism ridiculous. For it renders potent and grand, pleasing or practically useful, to all who practice it, a faculty which has the great advantage that it may enter into all the relations or acts of life; will give to everyone something to do, something to occupy his mind, even in itself, and if we have other occupations, Forethought and Induced Will may be made to increase our interest in them and stimulate our skill. In other words, we can by means of this Art increase our ability to practice all arts, and enhance or stimulate Genius in every way or form, be it practical, musical or plastic.
Since I began this work there fell into my hands an ingenious and curious book, entitled "Happiness as found in Forethought minus Fearthought," by HORACE FLETCHER, in which the author very truly declares that Fear in some form has become the arch enemy of Man, and through the fears of our progenitors developed by a thousand causes, we have inherited a growing stock of diseases, terrors, apprehensions, pessimisms, and the like, in which he is perfectly right.
But as Mr. FLETCHER declares, if men could take Forethought as their principle and guide they would obviate, anticipate or foresee and provide for so many evil contingencies and chances that we might secure even peace and happiness, and then man may become brave and genial, altruistic and earnest, in spite of it all, by willing away his Timidity.
I have not assumed a high philosophical or metaphysical position in this work; my efforts have been confined to indicating how by a very simple and well-nigh mechanical process, perfectly intelligible to every human being with an intellect, one may induce certain states of mind and thereby create a Will. But I quite agree with Mr. FLETCHER that Forethought is strong thought, and the point from which all projects must proceed. As I understand it, it is a kind of impulse or projection of will into the coming work. I may here illustrate this with a curious fact in physics. If the reader wished to ring a door-bell so as to produce as much sound as possible he would probably pull it as far back as he could and then let it go. But if he would in letting it go simply give it a tap with his forefinger he would actually redouble the noise.
Or, to shoot an arrow as far as possible, it is not enough to merely draw the bow to its utmost span or tension. If just as it goes you will give the bow a quick push, though the effort be trifling, the arrow will fly almost as far again as it would have done without it.
Or, if, as is well known, in wielding a very sharp saber, we make the draw-cut, that is if we add to the blow or chop, as with an axe, a certain slight pull and simultaneously, we can cut through a silk handkerchief or a sheep.
Forethought is the tap on the bell, the push of the bow, the draw on the saber. It is the deliberate yet rapid action of the mind when before falling to sleep or dismissing thought we bid the mind to subsequently respond. It is more than merely thinking what we are to do; it is the bidding or ordering self to fulfill a task before willing it.
Forethought in the senses employed or implied as here described means much more than mere previous consideration or reflection, which may be very feeble. It is, in fact, "constructive," which, as inventive, implies active thought. "Forethought stimulates, aids the success of honest aims." Therefore, as the active principle in mental work, I regard it as a kind of self-impulse, or that minor part in the division of the force employed which sets the major into action. Now, if we really understand this and can succeed in employing Forethought as the preparation for, and impulse to, Self-Suggestion, we shall greatly aid the success of the latter, because the former insures attention and interest. Forethought may be brief, but it should always be energetic. By cultivating it we acquire the enviable talent of those men who take in everything at a glance, and act promptly, like a NAPOLEON. This power is universally believed to be entirely innate or a gift; but it can be induced or developed in all minds in proportion to the will by practice.
Be it observed that as the experimenter progresses in the development of will by suggestion, he can gradually lay aside the latter, or all processes, especially if he work to such an end, anticipating it. Then he simply acts by clear will and strength, and Forethought constitutes all his stock-in-trade, process or aid. He preconceives and wills energetically at once, and by practice and repetition Forethought becomes a marvelous help on all occasions and emergencies.
To make it of avail the one who frequently practices self-suggestion, at first with, and then without sleep, will inevitably find ere long that to facilitate his work, or to succeed he must first write, as it were, or plan a preface, synopsis, or epitome of his proposed work, to start it and combine with it a resolve or decree that it must be done, the latter being the tap on the bell-knob. Now the habit of composing the plan as perfectly, yet as succinctly as possible, daily or nightly, combined with the energetic impulse to send it off, will ere long give the operator a conception of what I mean by Foresight which by description I cannot. And when grown familiar and really mastered its possessor will find that his power to think and act promptly in all the emergencies of life has greatly increased.
Therefore Forethought means a great deal more, as here employed, than seeing in advance, or deliberate prudence it rather implies, like divination or foreknowledge, sagacity and mental action as well as mere perception. It will inevitably or assuredly grow with the practice of self-suggestion if the latter be devoted to mental improvement, but as it grows it will qualify the operator to lay aside the sleep and suggest to himself directly.
All men of great natural strength of mind, gifted with the will to do and dare, the beings of action and genius, act directly, and are like athletes who lift a tree by the simple exertion of the muscles. He who achieves his aim by self-culture, training, or suggestion, is like one who raises the weight by means of a lever, and if he practice it often enough he may in the end become as strong as the other.
There is a curious and very illustrative instance of Forethought in the sense in which I am endeavoring to explain it, given in a novel, the "Scalp-Hunters," by MAYNE REID, with whom I was well acquainted in bygone years. Not having the original, I translate from a French version:
"His aim with the rifle is infallible, and it would seem as if the ball obeyed his Will. There must be a kind of directing principle in his mind, independent of strength of nerve and sight. He and one other are the only men in whom I have observed this singular power."
This means simply the exercise in a second, as it were, of "the tap on the bell-knob," or the projection of the will into the proposed shot, and which may be applied to any act. Gymnasts, leapers and the like are all familiar with it. It springs from resolute confidence and self-impulse enforced; but it also creates them, and the growth is very great and rapid when the idea is much kept before the mind. In this latter lies most of the problem.
In Humanity, mind, and especially Forethought, or reflection, combined in one effort with will and energy, enters into all acts, though often unsuspected, for it is a kind of unconscious reflex action or cerebration. Thus I once discovered to my astonishment in a gymnasium that the extremely mechanical action of putting up a heavy weight from the ground to the shoulder and from the shoulder to the full reach of the arm above the head, became much easier after a little practice, although my muscles had not grown, nor my strength increased during the time. And I found that whatever the exertion might be there was always some trick or knack, however indescribable, by means of which the man with a brain could surpass a dolt at anything, though the latter were his equal in strength. But it sometimes happens that the trick can be taught and even improved on. And it is in all cases Forethought, even in the lifting of weights or the willing on the morrow to write a poem.
For this truly weird power since "the weird sisters" in "Macbeth" means only the sisters who foresee is, in fact, the energy which projects itself in some manner, which physiology can as yet only very weakly explain, and even if the explanation were perfect, it would amount in fact to no more than showing the machinery of a watch, when the main object for us is that it should keep time, and tell the hour, as well as exhibit the ingenuity of the maker which thing is very much lost sight of, even by many very great thinkers, misled by the vanity of showing how much they know.
Yes, Foresight or Forethought projects itself in all things, and it is a serious consideration, or one of such immense value, that when really understood, and above all subjected to some practice such as I have described, and which, as far as I can see, is necessary one can bring it to bear intelligently on all the actions of life, that is to say, to much greater advantage than when we use it ignorantly, just as a genius endowed with strength can do far more with it than an ignoramus. For there is nothing requiring Thought in which it cannot aid us. I have alluded to Poetry. Now this does not mean that a man can become a SHAKESPEARE or SHELLEY by means of all the forethought and suggestion in the world, but they will, if well developed and directed, draw out from the mystic depths of mind such talent as he has doubtless in some or all cases more than he has ever shown.
No one can say what is hidden in every memory; it is like the sounding ocean with its buried cities, and treasures and wondrous relics of the olden time. This much we may assume to know, that every image or idea or impression whichever reached us through any of our senses entered a cell when it was ready for it, where it sleeps or wakes, most images being in the former condition. In fact, every brain is like a monastery of the Middle Ages, or a beehive. But it is built on a gigantic scale, for it is thought that no man, however learned or experienced he might be, ever contrived during all his life to so much as even half fill the cells of his memory. And if any reader should be apprehensive lest it come to pass with him in this age of unlimited supply of cheap knowledge that he will fill all his cells let him console himself with the reflection that it is supposed that Nature, in such a case, will have a further supply of new cells ready, she never, as yet, having failed in such rough hospitality, though it often leaves much to be desired!
Yes, they are all there every image of the past, every face which ever smiled on us the hopes and fears of bygone years the rustling of grass and flowers and the roar of the sea the sound of trumpets in processions grand the voices of the great and good among mankind or what you will. Every line ever read in print, every picture and face and house is there. Many an experiment has shown this to be true; also that by mesmerizing or hypnotizing processes the most hidden images or memories can be awakened. In fact, the idea has lost much of its wonder since the time of Coleridge, now that every sound can be recorded, laid away and reproduced, and we are touching closely on an age when all that lies perdu in any mind can or will be set forth visibly, and all that a man has ever seen be shown to the world. For this is no whit more wonderful than that we can convey images or pictures by telegraph, and when I close my eyes and recall or imagine a form it does not seem strange that there might be some process by means of which it might be photographed.
And here we touch upon the Materialization of Thought, which conception loses a part of the absurdity with which Spiritualists and Occultists have invested it, if we regard all nature as one substance. For, in truth, all that was ever perceived, even to the shadow of a dream by a lunatic, had as real an existence while it lasted as the Pyramids of Egypt, else it could not have been perceived. Sense cannot, even in dreams, observe what is not for the time an effect on matter. If a man imagines or makes believe to himself that he has a fairy attendant, or a dog, and fancies that he sees it, that man does really see something, though it be invisible to others. There is some kind of creative brain-action going on, some employment of atoms and forces, and, if this be so, we may enter it among the Possibilities of the Future that the Material in any form whatever may be advanced, or further materialized or made real.
It is curious that this idea has long been familiar to believers in magic. In more than one Italian legend which I have collected a sorceress or goddess evolves a life from her own soul, as a fire emits a spark. In fact, the fancy occurs in some form in all mythologies, great or small. In one old Irish legend a wizard turns a Thought into a watch-dog. The history of genius and of Invention is that of realizing ideas, of making them clearer and stronger and more comprehensive. Thus it seems to me that the word Forethought as generally loosely understood, when compared to what it has been shown capable of expressing, is almost as much advanced as if like the fairy HERMELINA, chronicled by GROSIUS, it had been originally a vapor or mere fantasy, and gradually advanced to fairy life so as to become the companion of a wizard.
If an artist, say a painter, will take forethought for a certain picture, whether the subject be determined or not, bringing himself to that state of easy, assured confidence, as a matter of course that he will retain the subject he will, if not at the first effort, almost certainly at last find himself possessed of it. Let him beware of haste, or of forcing the work. When he shall have secured suggestive Interest let him will that Ingenuity shall be bolder and his spirit draw from the stores of memory more abundant material. Thus our powers may be gradually and gently drawn into our service. Truly it would seem as if there were no limit to what a man can evolve out of himself if he will take Thought thereto.
Forethought can be of vast practical use in cases where confidence is required. Many a young clergyman and lawyer has been literally frightened out of a career, and many an actor ruined for want of a very little knowledge, and in this I speak from personal experience. Let the aspirant who is to appear in public, or pass an examination, and is alarmed, base his forethought on such ideas as this, that he would not be afraid to repeat his speech to one person or two why should he fear a hundred? There are some who can repeat this idea to themselves till it takes hold strongly, and they rise almost feeling contempt for all in court as did the old lady in Saint Louis, who felt so relieved when a witness at not feeling frightened that she bade judge and jury cease looking at her in that impudent way.
Having read the foregoing to a friend he asked me whether I believed that by Forethought and Suggestion a gentleman could be induced without diffidence to offer himself in marriage, since, as is well known, that the most eligible young men often put off wedding for years because they cannot summon up courage to propose. To which I replied that I had no great experience of such cases, but as regarded the method I was like the Scotch clergyman who, being asked by a wealthy man if he thought that the gift of a thousand pounds to the Kirk would save the donor's soul, replied: "I'm na prepairet to preceesly answer thot question but I wad vara warmly advise ye to try it."
It must be remembered that for the very great majority of cases, if really not for all, the practicer of this process must be of temperate habits, and never attempt after a hearty meal, or drinking freely, to exercise Forethought or Self-Suggestion. Peaceful mental action during sleep requires that there shall be very light labor of digestion, and disturbed or troublesome dreams are utterly incompatible with really successful results. Nor will a single day's temperance suffice. It requires many days to bring the whole frame and constitution into good fit order. Here there can be no evasion, for more than ordinary temperance in food and drink is absolutely indispensable.
It is a principle, recognized by all physiologists, that digestion and fixed thought cannot go on together; it is even unadvisable to read while eating. Thus in all the old magical operations, which were, in fact, self-hypnotism, a perfect fast is insisted on with reason. This is all so self-evident that I need not dwell on it. It will be needless for anyone to take up this subject as a trifling pastime, or attempt self-suggestion and development of will with as little earnestness as one would give to a game of cards; for in such a half-way effort time will be lost and nothing come of it. Unless entered on with the most serious resolve to persevere, and make greater effort and more earnestly at every step, it had better be let alone.
All who will persevere with calm determination cannot fail ere long to gain a certain success, and this achieved, the second step is much easier. However, there are many people who after doing all in their power to get to the gold or diamond mines, hasten away even when in the full tide of success, because they are fickle and it is precisely such people who easily tire who are most easily attracted, be it to mesmerism, hypnotism, or any other wonder. And they are more wearisome and greater foes to true Science than the utterly indifferent or the ignorant.
This work will not have been written in vain should it induce the reader to reflect on what is implied by patient repetition or perseverance, and what an incredible and varied power that man acquires who masters it. He who can lead himself, or others, into a habit can do anything. Even Religion is, in fact, nothing else. "Religion," said the reviewer of "The Evolution of the Idea of God," by GRANT ALLEN, "he defines as Custom or Practice not theory, not theology, not ethics, not spiritual aspirations, but a certain set of more or less similar observances: propitiation, prayer, praise, offerings, the request for Divine favors, the deprecation of Divine anger, or other misfortunes" in short, Ritual. That is to say, it is the aggregate of the different parts of religion, of which many take one for the whole. But this aggregation was the result of earnest patience and had good results. And it is by the careful analysis and all-round examination of Ideas that we acquire valuable knowledge, and may learn how very few there are current which are more than very superficially understood as I have shown in what I have said of the Will, the Imagination, Forethought, and many other faculties which are flippantly used to explain a thousand problems by people who can hardly define the things themselves.
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