GLEANINGS FROM PROFESSOR JAMES ON THE LAW OF HABIT.
An acquired habit, from the physiological point of view, is nothing
but a new pathway of discharge formed in the brain, by which certain
incoming currents ever often tend to escape.
The great thing is to make our nervous system our ally instead of
our enemy.--Guard against ways that are likely to be disadvantageous
to us, as we should guard against the plague.
The more of the details of our daily life we can hand over to the
effortless custody of automatism, the more our higher powers of mind
will be set free for their own proper work. There is no more miserable
human being than one in whom nothing is habitual but indecision and
for whom (every act) the time of rising and going to bed, the beginning
of every bit of work, are subjects for express volitional deliberation.
Maxim I. In the acquisition of a new thought or the leaving off of
an old one we must take care to launch ourselves with as strong and
decided initiative as possible.
Maxim II. Never suffer an exception to occur until the new habit
is securely rooted in your life.
Each lapse is like letting fall a ball of string which one is carefully
winding up; a single slip means more than a great many turns will wind
Continuity of training is the great means of making the nervous
system act infallibly right. It is necessary above all things never to
lose a battle. Every gain on the wrong side undoes the effect of many
conquests on the right.
The essential precaution is to so regulate the opposing powers that
the one may have a series of uninterrupted success, until repetition has
fortified it to such a degree as to enable it to cope with the opposition
under any circumstances.
The need of securing success at the outset is imperative. To be
habitually successful is the thing.
Be careful not to give the will such a task as to insure its defeat
at the outset, but provided one can stand it, a sharp period of
suffering, and then a free time is the best to aim at, whether in giving
up the opium habit or in simply changing one's hours of rising or of
It is surprising how soon a desire will die of inanition if it be never
Without unbroken advance there is no such thing as accumulation
of the ethical forces possible, and to make this possible and to exercise
and habituate us in it is the sovereign blessing of regular work.
Maxim III. Seize the very first possible opportunity to act on every
resolution you make and on every emotional prompting you may experience
in the direction of habits you aspire to gain.
It is not the moment of their forming but in the moment of their
producing motor effects, that resolves and aspirations communicate the
new 'set' to the brain.
The actual presence of the practical opportunity alone furnishes the
fulcrum upon which the lever can rest, by means of which the moral
will may multiply its strength and raise itself aloft. He who had no
solid ground to press against will never get beyond the stage of empty
When a resolve or a fine glow of feeling is allowed to evaporate
without bearing practical fruit, it is a waste and a chance lost; it
works so as positively to hinder future resolutions and emotions from
taking the normal path of discharge.
If we let our emotions evaporate, they get in a way of evaporating.
WORSHIP OF THE TERRIBLE.
The attitude of the soul which is not to be baffled by the lower nature
or the "Personal Self" should be to seek Death and not life, to hurl
oneself upon the sword's point and become one with the terrible. Those
who are commissioned by the Lord to bear aloft the torch of spirit are
fated to see every joy of the senses turn to ashes and crushing blows
upon their eyes to the unsubstantially of the relative life of Maya.
The lion when stricken to the heart gives out his loudest roar,
When smitten on the head the cobra lifts its hood
And the majesty of the Soul comes out only when a man is wounded to his
The Western ideal is to be doing: the Eastern to be suffering. The
perfect life would be a harmony between (selfless or non-attached) doing
and suffering. Worship the terrible. Worship Death, for its own sake;
despair for its own sake; pain for its own sake. Yet this is not the
coward's or the suicide's or the weakling's morbid love of Death, but it
is the cry of the philosopher who has sounded everything to its depths
and knows intensely the vanity of the desire for happiness on the
relative plane of limitations. Remember the triumphant cry of St. Francis
of Assisi: "WELCOME, SISTER DEATH!" "Be witness"--of all that goes on but
be not entangled. Reserve to yourself the power to remain unattached at
all times. Accept nothing however pleasant, if it conceals a fetter into
thy Soul. At a word stand ready to sever any connection that gives a hint
of soul-bondage. Keep thy mind clear. Keep thy will pure. Attain the
Impersonal Standpoint, O you man! there alone canst thou quench thy
thirst for happiness never on the plane of personal. Who and what dies
and is reborn?--Your lower self, your personality.
"Sometimes naked, sometimes mad,
Now as a scholar, again as a fool
Here a rebel, there a saint,
Thus they appear on the earth
--the Perfect Ones. Paramhamsas"--Viveka Chudamani.
If you accept the report of the senses as final, you will say "soul
for nature"--but if you can gain the spiritual point of view, you will
say "no-nature for soul." Evolution, devolution and involution are all
in nature and will go on cyclically and eternally. All this is merely due
to the wish of the soul to manifest itself. But such expression can come
only when the soul lives on its plane. Say "Money is my slave, not I."
Say "Nature is my slave, not I". Give up life, give up body, give up all
desire for enjoyment on the relative plane. So shall you transcend all
limitation. Your real nature is Infinite and Absolute. Only when you
lower your nature by limiting it to the "particular self," do you become
bound and unhappy. On the relative plane, you are a slave to the pair
of opposites--life and death, pleasure and pain, and so on. Here is
limitation. Here you are a slave to competition, and "Survival of the
Fittest" is the law. Be not blinded by the flashing light of the glare
of modern civilization. Every morsel you eat is ground out of your
brother's blood. Slave to a breath of air, slave to food, slave to
life, slave to Death, slave to a word of praise, slave to a word of
blame--"Slave--Slave--Slave"--that is your condition. The Soul cannot
stoop to any compromise. It refuses to conquer nature by obedience. It
will conquer nature by renouncing the body and by knowing itself. Find
thyself bodiless. Power felt within is soul; without, nature. "We must
crush Law (nature) and become outlaws."
"Deliver thou thyself, by thyself
Ah, do not let thyself sink
For thou art thyself thy greatest friend
And thyself (the relative 'I') thy greatest enemy."
This, student, is not the ravings of a lunatic. It is the secret of
SAT-CHIT-ANANDA--eternal existence, knowledge and bliss. Attainment
of perfection means absolute Freedom. Do you or would you know the
meaning of Life? It is the search after Sat-chit-ananda. But man is
trying to realise this Perfect Existence in the transitory things of
the earth-plane. Only when he knows that not attachment to the things
of the "world, the flesh and the devil" but renunciation of same and the
bringing of the Impersonal Ideal into his everyday life would lead him
to it, then Maya will have fulfilled its purpose--which is to show man
his divinity. "Kill out the desire for life. Kill out Ambition. Kill out
desire for comfort; yet work as those who love life. Respect life as
those who are ambitious. Be happy as those are who live for happiness."
So says Mabel Collins in the Light on the Path. Yes, you must work
constantly, train your intellect, develop your personality but do not do
all this for your own personal self but for the Higher Self, The BRAHMAN,
Eternal--to manifest through. As soon as you lose this view-point your
personal strivings end in Pain and Disappointment. Work as hard as the
ambitious man and the lover of pleasures but remember your actions are
inspired by different motives. Here Spirit is the director.
"To the work thou hast the right, O Partha, but not to the fruits
thereof"--Gita. All clinging to results leads to degeneration. The
soul should cling to nothing. All work and all effort must be dedicated
unto the Higher Self. When you care for the results you are only
worshipping the lower self. Hence the value of selfless labour, thus the
maya-fascinated mind is purified and de-hypnotised and we attain to the
emergence of the personal into the Impersonal. Either say "I am thou, O
Lord!" and thus out at the root of the lower "I" and destroy it for ever
or say "I am nothing, O Eternal One! thou art everything" and thereby
lose the lower into the Higher. The first is for the Gnani--the second
for the Bhakti Yogi. Both mean the same thing. Love everyone but do
not depend upon the love of any one. Give everything. Take nothing.
Serve every one. Do not care for service and gratitude in return. You
are the Heir to the Infinite. All Power is behind you. But so long as
you are a beggar, a beggar shall you remain. Renounce the lower self,
Live for the Higher. What you call Universal Love is the expression
on the lower plane of the subjective reception of ABSOLUTE UNITY
on the Buddhic plane and in SAMADHI (Final Illumination).