I CANNOT believe that life is just one thing after another; this happening because that has happened, and something else going to happen because this is happening. For the purposes of psychology it is said that we do not need to posit a soul; that consciousness is merely the activity of one cell upon another and the passage of impressions from new cells to old, and these growing dimmer and dimmer until they ebb out into the sea of forgetfulness. Account for life in whatever way you will, the fact remains there is “That- In-Us” which not only accepts the impressions that impinge upon us from without and cognizes cell movements within, but also has the ability to choose the nature of its own reaction. It is not the product of its environment but it adjusts itself to its environment in order to survive and to become master in it. This is the real meaning of “adaptiveness.” Moreover, “the soul” has the power of initiating vibration, movement, and change. It can become the causa causans to a whole new stream of impressions and movements. To believe otherwise is to settle into the hopeless waters of Karma and to spin like a dead leaf on the circle of a whirlpool, and you may not escape because you are always having experiences which grow out of the past and which bind you to an inevitable future.
On the other hand, to give to the soul the power of initiation, and to endow it with purpose is to rise on the wings of a bird and settle on other and more favorable waters of experience.
Herein is man’s glory that he is a self-conscious entity with the power of purpose. He can have a goal. He can select an objective. He can decide on a new plan entirely unconnected with past experience and leading into other paths than anything in his former setting could have promised. Witness the glorious rebirth of “Twice Born Men,”14 “Other Sheep,”15 and “Varieties of Religious Experience.”16 Rebirth is a psychological change, it is a reversal of a man’s mental outlook, but it is also a metaphysical change for it means the awakening of the soul to the higher purposes for which it has come into the world. Shall we hesitate to say, in the light of religious experiences like these, that the soul has come into this world with an aim and a goal, and that a definite purpose engages the incarnating consciousness? Certain it is that the Bible and other holy books and teachings of the past lead us to this assumption; and modern psychology gives us corroborative evidence.
14 1 and 2
15 Harold Begbie.
The study of certain types of sickness under the light of psychoanalysis reveals the fact that many men and women are suffering from psychic disturbances which denote that the personality itself is out of harmony with its environment. Many forms of neurosis are due to a “sick psyche,” but the psyche is sick because it is not satisfied with what it is doing. It came to fulfill a different destiny. It is here to work out other problems. It is seeking experiences at another angle. And when its purpose is thwarted it feels dissatisfied, it is determined to “be free or no longer be.” It shakes the body like the tremor of an earthquake, it stabs it with pain, it poisons it with acids, it struggles like a mad thing, and either converts the mind to new issues or withdraws altogether.
The successful psychoanalyst probes the consciousness to find the hidden psychic causes of these physical agitations. He goes back into the history of the patient, he analyzes all his repressed emotions, buried memories, unconscious likes and dislikes, and over and over again, he discovers that the sickness is none other than the failure of the psyche to fulfil itself.17
17 See “The Great Secret” by Maeterlinck, p. 234, showing the experiments of De Rochas
Success therefore can never be fully attained unless we find the purpose which animates our existence. Herein lies the value of vocational psychology that it helps to discover the special genius with which we are endowed and which we are here to express.18
Moreover, as the success of our life here upon the earth is to be determined by the extent to which we fulfill our destiny, so is it true of individual undertakings. It is not an undertaking unless it is a purpose. If it is a purpose, it is a destiny. The star of destiny is indeed the star of purpose, for as we proceed to the purpose we fulfill the destiny. We are our destiny; for if we are progressing toward our goal in a definite and purposeful way, we are at each moment just where we ought to be at that moment; and thus we do not have to wait to get our reward for that is ever with us as we look complacently upon our present situation as the complete fulfillment of destiny up to this point, It is the selection of a purpose that marks the man! No kind or unkind fate marks him, nor man more unkind! He marks himself. Because of his steadfast purpose he lives a different kind of life from others. His attention is on the positive rather than the negative. He worries
18 See Chap. VI, Vol. II, of this Series, “How to Choose a Career.”
less, he ignores more. He is calmer in peril, steadier in suspense, firmer in faith, and philosophic in doubt.
I believe that life has meaning only as it has purpose. It is anticipation that gives us wings to rise above the discouragements and staleness of the present hour.
Today’s reward is often only tomorrow’s gain. Today can be lived because of tomorrow’s goal.
“For acts in hours of insight willed, May be through hours of gloom fulfilled.
Not ’til the hours of light return. All we have reaped can we discern.”
Definiteness of goal is above all to be desired. Says Bulwer Lytton:
“He who seeks one thing in life, and but one, May hope to achieve it before live is done:
But he who seeks all things, wherever he goes.
Only reaps in the hopes which around him he sows.
A harvest of barren regrets: And the worm That crawls on in the dust to the definite term Of his creeping existence, and sees nothing more
Than the half-sage, whose course, fixed by no friendly star, Is by each star distracted in turn, and who knows.
Each will still be as distant, wherever he goes.”