The Edinburgh Lectures
Chapter 15, The Soul
by Thomas Troward
Having now obtained a glimpse of the adaptation of the physical organism to the action of the mind we must next realize that the mind itself is an organism which is in like manner adapted to the action of a still higher power, only here the adaptation is one of mental faculty. As with other invisible forces all we can know of the mind is by observing what it does, but with this difference, that since we ourselves are this mind, our observation is an interior observation of states of consciousness. In this way we recognize certain faculties of our mind, the working order of which I have considered earlier; but the point to which I would now draw attention is that these faculties always work under the influence of something which stimulates them, and this stimulus may come either from without through the external senses, or from within by the consciousness of something not perceptible on the physical plane. Now the recognition of these interior sources of stimulus to our mental faculties, is an important branch of Mental Science, because the mental action thus set up works just as accurately through the physical correspondences as those which start from the recognition of external facts, and therefore the control and right direction of these inner perceptions is a matter of the first moment.
The faculties most immediately concerned are the intuition and the imagination, but it is at first difficult to see how the intuition, which is entirely spontaneous, can be brought under the control of the will. Of course, the spontaneousness of the intuition cannot in any way be interfered with, for if it ceased to act spontaneously it would cease to be the intuition. Its province is, as it were, to capture ideas from the infinite and present them to the mind to be dealt with at its discretion. In our mental constitution the intuition is the point of origination and, therefore, for it to cease to act spontaneously would be for it to cease to act at all. But the experience of a long succession of observers shows that the intuition can be trained so as to acquire increased sensitiveness in some particular direction, and the choice of the general direction is determined by the will of the individual.
It will be found that the intuition works most readily in respect to those subjects which most habitually occupy our thought; and according to the physiological correspondences which we have been considering this might be accounted for on the physical plane by the formation of brain-channels specially adapted for the induction in the molecular system of vibrations corresponding to the particular class of ideas in question. But of course we must remember that the ideas themselves are not caused by the molecular changes, but on the contrary are the cause of them: and it is in this translation of thought action into physical action that we are brought face to face with the eternal mystery of the descent of spirit into matter; and that though we may trace matter through successive degrees of refinement till it becomes what, in comparison with those denser modes that are most familiar, we might call a spiritual substance, yet at the end of it it is not the intelligent thinking principle itself. The criterion is in the word "vibrations." However delicately etheric the substance its movement commences by the vibration of its particles, and a vibration is a wave having a certain length, amplitude, and periodicity, that is to say, something which can exist only in terms of space and time; and as soon as we are dealing with anything capable of the conception of measurement we may be quite certain that we are not dealing with Spirit but only with one of its vehicles. Therefore although we may push our analysis of matter further and ever further back—and on this line there is a great deal of knowledge to be gained—we shall find that the point at which spiritual power or thought-force is translated into etheric or atomic vibration will always elude us. Therefore we must not attribute the origination of ideas to molecular displacement in the brain, though, by the reaction of the physical upon the mental which I have spoken of above, the formation of thought-channels in the grey matter of the brain may tend to facilitate the reception of certain ideas. Some people are actually conscious of the action of the upper portion of the brain during the influx of an intuition, the sensation being that of a sort of expansion in that brain area, which might be compared to the opening of a valve or door; but all attempts to induce the inflow of intuitive ideas by the physiological expedient of trying to open this valve by the exercise of the will should be discouraged as likely to prove injurious to the brain. I believe some Oriental systems advocate this method, but we may well trust the mind to regulate the action of its physical channels in a manner suitable to its own requirements, instead of trying to manipulate the mind by the unnatural forcing of its mechanical instrument. In all our studies on these lines we must remember that development is always by perfectly natural growth and is not brought about by unduly straining any portion of the system.
The fact, however, remains that the intuition works most freely in that direction in which we most habitually concentrate our thought; and in practice it will be found that the best way to cultivate the intuition in any particular direction is to meditate upon the abstract principles of that particular class of subjects rather than only to consider particular cases. Perhaps the reason is that particular cases have to do with specific phenomena, that is with the law working under certain limiting conditions, whereas the principles of the law are not limited by local conditions, and so habitual meditation on them sets our intuition free to range in an infinitude where the conception of antecedent conditions does not limit it. Anyway, whatever may be the theoretical explanation, you will find that the clear grasp of abstract principles in any direction has a wonderfully quickening effect upon the intuition in that particular direction.
The importance of recognizing our power of thus giving direction to the intuition cannot be exaggerated, for if the mind is attuned to sympathy with the highest phases of spirit this power opens the door to limitless possibilities of knowledge. In its highest workings intuition becomes inspiration, and certain great records of fundamental truths and supreme mysteries which have come down to us from thousands of generations bequeathed by deep thinkers of old can only be accounted for on the supposition that their earnest thought on the Originating Spirit, coupled with a reverent worship of It, opened the door, through their intuitive faculty, to the most sublime inspirations regarding the supreme truths of the universe both with respect to the evolution of the cosmos and to the evolution of the individual. Among such records explanatory of the supreme mysteries three stand out pre-eminent, all bearing witness to the same ONE Truth, and each throwing light upon the other; and these three are the Bible, the Great Pyramid, and the Pack of Cards—a curious combination some will think, but I hope in another volume of this series to be able to justify my present statement. I allude to these three records here because the unity of principle which they exhibit, notwithstanding their wide divergence of method, affords a standing proof that the direction taken by the intuition is largely determined by the will of the individual opening the mind in that particular direction.
Very closely allied to the intuition is the faculty of imagination. This does not mean mere fancies, which we dismiss without further consideration, but our power of forming mental images upon which we dwell. These, as I have said in the earlier part of this book, form a nucleus which, on its own plane, calls into action the universal Law of Attraction, thus giving rise to the principle of Growth. The relation of the intuition to the imagination is that the intuition grasps an idea from the Great Universal Mind, in which all things subsist as potentials, and presents it to the imagination in its essence rather than in a definite form, and then our image-building faculty gives it a clear and definite form which it presents before the mental vision, and which we then vivify by letting our thought dwell upon it, thus infusing our own personality into it, and so providing that personal element through which the specific action of the universal law relatively to the particular individual always takes place. Whether our thought shall be allowed thus to dwell upon a particular mental image depends on our own will, and our exercise of our will depends on our belief in our power to use it so as to disperse or consolidate a given mental image; and finally our belief in our power to do this depends on our recognition of our relation to God, Who is the source of all power; for it is an invariable truth that our life will take its whole form, tone, and color from our conception of God, whether that conception be positive or negative, and the sequence by which it does so is that now given.
In this way, then, our intuition is related to our imagination, and this relation has its physiological correspondence in the circulus of molecular vibrations I have described above, which, having its commencement in the higher or "ideal" portion of the brain flows through the voluntary nervous system, the physical channel of objective mind, returning through the sympathetic system, the physical channel of subjective mind, thus completing the circuit and being then restored to the frontal brain, where it is consciously modelled into clear-cut forms suited to a specific purpose.
In all this the power of the will as regulating the action both of the intuition and the imagination must never be lost sight of, for without such a central controlling power we should lose all sense of individuality; and hence the ultimate aim of the evolutionary process is to evolve individual wills actuated by such beneficence and enlightenment as shall make them fitting vehicles for the outfiowing of the Supreme Spirit, which has hitherto created cosmically, and can now carry on the creative process to its highest stages only through conscious union with the individual; for this is the only possible solution of the great problem, How can the Universal Mind act in all its fulness upon the plane of the individual and particular?
This is the ultimate of evolution, and the successful evolution of the individual depends on his recognizing this ultimate and working towards it; and therefore this should be the great end of our studies. There is a correspondence in the constitution of the body to the faculties of the soul, and there is a similar correspondence in the faculties of the soul to the power of the All-originating Spirit; and as in all other adaptations of specific vehicles so also here, we can never correctly understand the nature of the vehide and use it rightly until we realize the nature of the power for the working of which it is specially adapted. Let us, then, in conclusion briefly consider the nature of that power.