Positive thinking, manifestation, and other new expressions of timeless truths.
This editor’s note originally appeared in issue 125-126 of Both Sides Now: A Journal of Lightworking, Peacemaking, and Consciousness. Both Sides Now is a quarterly journal of spiritual, cultural, and political alternatives.
This is a subject Both Sides Now has touched on before, but it is worth revisiting. As a New Age publication, it is worthwhile for us to keep coming back to “first principles” regarding what this concept means. First, there is the realization that we are really entering a new age with a significant difference in consciousness. Secondly, there is the consciousness itself. Her we find a paradox. Much of what is called New Age thinking has been around for as long as we have had the written word—or even longer in the oral tradition. This is why it is called Ageless Wisdom. Nevertheless, for more than a century there have been new expressions of timeless truths. One strain has been called the New Thought movement, which includes Christian Science, Science of Mind, and Unity. There are also independent books which expound on variations of this theme in both universal and religious context.
The theme, by the way, is that reality resides in the mind. For some time we have heard the cliché that we create our own reality (with our thinking). This has been expounded as Law under such designations as the Law of Attraction and the Law of Manifestation, which can be found lumped together. In other words, as has been said, thoughts are things. Whatever we think will manifest in kind in our physical world. Hence, if we indulge in stinking thinking (negative thoughts), that is what we will experience in our everyday lives. On the other hand, if our thoughts are for the good, we are more likely to see the benefits thereof.
This doesn’t mean that everything will come up roses for sure. Great men like Jesus and Gandhi wound up being martyred. The point is that this is a soul-size matter, and this physical existence is far from all of our life. This calls for a sense of propriety. We incarnate into given situations, and our task is to live with integrity in the circumstance we encounter where we are.
However, we are getting away from our initial theme, which is the power of mind to manifest what we experience in physical reality. A primary motive here is to get people to be aware of their thoughts. We see too many surrendering to the notion that “shit happens” as though the crap was coming out of nowhere. It was just noted here that such thinking will of itself bring about negative results. Therefore it is most important that we pay attention to what is going on in our minds and phrase things in terms that should bring about positive results. The power of positive thinking is not a new idea, but how many are clueless when it comes to applying it in our everyday lives?
This brings us to a couple of considerations that have led to controversy in circles that have dealt with these ideas. One is whether we deserve to receive the goodies that are promised if we think the right thoughts. We need to consider what kind of people we are. Are we loving, fair, generous, caring, liberal-minded? Or are we selfish, judgmental, indifferent to injustice, and always looking out for number one? The world’s great spiritual teachings agree that we are indeed our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, as expounded in the story of Cain and Abel. In modern terms this is called having a social consciousness. One of the problems of what passes for conservatism today is the lack of caring for our fellow citizens, like blaming the poor for their poverty and dismissing many as “welfare cheats.” This is certainly an anti-Christian attitude in what some would call a “Christian nation.”
As indicated, we have touched on this issue before. In BSN 75-76* there was a two-page feature called “100 Quotes from The Secret” which summarized the principles of manifestation expounded in both a book and movie of the same name, authored by Rhonda Byrne. As BSN stated in a footnote, The Secret drew considerable criticism because so much of its manifestation was illustrated by materialistic examples. This is quite valid, particularly as it could lead readers and viewers into unrealistic expectations. Therefore, it is appropriate that we repeat such warnings here. What are the motives behind one’s desire to manifest certain things in life, and what is the nature of the things one wishes to manifest? Are the answers materialistic or otherwise?
This brings up some interesting paradoxes. In The Secret we see that some righteous people have indeed become prosperous, like Jack Canfield of the Chicken Soup books, and Neale Donald Walsch. We might note that such have done some very good things with their earnings and they have put a lot of energy into making a better world. On the other hand, when I look at those who have been the greatest heroes in my lifetime, I see that they have lived simply and frugally, with little regard for material matters. These include Albert Schweitzer, Mohandas Gandhi, and Martin Luther Kind, Jr. Theirs were lives of service. For such people abundance meant simply having their basic needs met.
An interesting item to bring into this discussion is the career of movie director Tom Shadyac. He is especially famous for such comedy hits as Bruce Almighty, The Nutty Professor, and Ace Ventura, Pet Detective. In 2007 Shadyac suffered from a life-threatening post-concussion syndrome, which led him to examine the meaning of life. His movies had brought great prosperity and he had an extravagant lifestyle, living in a luxurious mansion. The new thinking led to a re-examination of his values. He scaled back his lifestyle and made a documentary movie of his quest for the real meaning of life. Entitled I Am, the movie includes interviews with some of the foremost scientists, religious leaders, environmentalists, and philosophers, including Desmond Tutu, Noam Chomsky, Lynne McTaggart, Elisabet Sahtouris, David Suzuki, Howard Zinn, and Thom Hartmann. The film asks two central questions: What’s wrong with the world? and What can we do about it? It is about “human connectedness, happiness, and the human spirit,” and explores themes including Darwinism, Western mores, loneliness, the economy, and the drive to war. In short, it goes far beyond material concerns.
BSN does not claim or pretend to have the answers to these fundamental questions. The editor himself lives a simple but cluttered life, mainly on the disability pension he receives from traumas suffered in World War II in the Battle of the Bulge. From this income he is able to support his interests in fine art and the publication of BSN. He hopes the world is a somewhat better place because of these modest contributions.
The point is that we do not need to come up with great or heroic deeds or acts of charity to be an asset to the world. Being a good family member may be the role one has been assigned in this lifetime. What matters in spirit is the consciousness with which we act. A Course in Miracles puts this most profoundly. The miracle is anything motivated by love, and there is no order of miracles. A random act of kindness can carry as much weight as a heroic deed or work of charity. In spirit, it is the energy, or thought, that counts.
And so we come full circle from where we started. Everything takes place according to law, and a main law is cause and effect. Are we motivated by love or contempt? What fruits will come from our thoughts and deeds? Do we think things through, or do we muddle cluelessly through unexamined lives? (I often need to remind myself of these things.) I may well be that the main purpose of Earth life is to wrestle with these questions. We should all be seekers.
* BSN 75-76, like most fairly recent back issues, is available for $2. That issue also contains our most in-depth feature on The New Humans, also known as Indigo Children. There is also quite a bit of literature on using our thoughts positively and the laws of attraction and manifestation. It should be noted that these principles of mind application are also very effective in healing. A Google search can lead to a wealth of material, such as the Abraham/Hicks books and the classic As a Man Thinketh, which is available online. In As a Man’s forward, James Allen writes:
The object of As a Man Thinketh is to stimulate men and women to the discovery and perception of the truth that they themselves are makers of themselves by virtue of the thoughts that they choose to encourage; that mind is the master weaver, both of the inner garment of character and the outer garment of circumstance, and that, as they may hitherto woven in ignorance and pain they may now weave in enlightenment and happiness.
As far back as 1975 David Spangler (whose column appears in BSN) published a book called The Laws of Manifestation based on his experiences at the magical Findhorn community in Scotland. The book has recently been reissued and BSN looks forward to reading and reporting on it. More recent books on the subject are by Jack Canfield and Napoleon Hill, as well as a number of lesser-known authors.