IT is not control of the self we should seek but control by the self. We have already seen how many there are whose self is controlled by the emotions, by the senses, by bodily ailments. It is bound in chains by its own creation and led into miserable captivity. To one who has broken the bonds and come to live in the freedom of the self, it seems as though there never could have been a time when any other state was thought desirable. Yet we find many who think that self-control will mean merely self-denial, restraint, a lackluster life. They feel that as they live in a world of sensational experience, they will suffer loss if they can no longer be swayed by the appetites of the flesh, the passions of love and resentment. But control by the self does not mean self-denial. On the contrary, it means self- satisfaction; that is, the satisfaction which the self feels and should feel in its own dominance and priority.

To one who exults in conquest and the spirit of it, what greater appeal can there be than in the high adventure of self-mastery? Here is no mean battle, for it is a battle in which the forces of sense, myriad in number, are pitted against the self. The most thrilling story of this struggle that was ever told is that of the Bhagavad Gita. That majestic tale is understood only as we recognize

Arjuna as the “self,” the ego or spirit, going into battle against the forces of the physical nature.

This is not the ascetic destruction of the natural emotions of the physical life, but merely the story of the ascendency of the spirit within and the necessity of self-control, or control by the self.

While lecturing in Morosco Theatre in New York some years ago, I was approached by a young man who told me, a propos of some illustrations I had been giving, how he had a short time before become very angry with another man. He had spoken heatedly and furiously. Suddenly his face froze into a distorted and disagreeable posture, and it was a week before he could control the muscles and bring the expression to normal.

Possibly the golf course affords as good an object lesson in the futility of the indulgence of the passions as any place on earth, because after all it is a game, and one would not look to see men take themselves so seriously in a game. Yet I have seen them pound the ground with their clubs, throw their clubs after their ball, throw their balls after the club, seize the club and bend it around a convenient tree, swear like the seven demons, fall into a silent rage from which they would not emerge for the balance of the game.

In the old days when a man’s muscle was the self- starter of a Ford, I have seen men kick the car because the engine would not start.

But one need not extend the illustrations. The reader will possibly be able to add some of his own. The great necessity is to establish the procedure for self-control.

In cultivating self-control by the use of mental laws, it should be borne in mind that the subconscious is neutral or impersonal. It is a “good” mind and a “bad” one according to the nature of the dominant mental impression or the ruling ideas and ideals of the personality. Conversion, as we have seen, merely means the withdrawal of old mental pictures, ideals, and aspirations, and the substitution of newer and higher ones. Even as the soil of Mother Earth does not protest if we uproot the weeds and plant lilies, so the subconscious mind makes no protest when we change the seed of thought and plant nobler and finer words and ideas. The subconscious becomes to us what we become to it.

Accordingly we should put our minds on the highest and best things. We must shut our eyes from looking on those things which create faulty mental pictures and suggestions. We should be constantly on the lookout for that which will help and upbuild. We see in this world just about what we are looking for. If we are

looking for the bad, we shall see it. If for the good, there is always some to find.

A teacher in one of our public schools told the children to bring a picture to school with something in it representing “light.” A little fellow from the East Side brought a card portraying a filthy and indecent scene. The teacher looked at it with disgust. “How dare you bring that filthy thing here?” “Why, teacher,” said the boy with tears streaming down his cheeks, “don’t you see de moon, shinin’ in de winder?” And sure enough there was the crescent moon sending its pure, white ray through the dirty pane and into the mind of the child who saw it because he was looking for it.

The cultivation of self-control is largely a matter of controlling the direction of our attention. Those whose passions are easily aroused cannot afford to listen to “suggestive plays,” or look at sensuous pictures, or yield to “seductive music with its sensuous decoy.21 Nor can they afford companionship which exercises negative suggestions.


21 Note, p. 74, in the author’s “Songs of the Silence.”

The mind must be placed “on higher things.” Every effort should be made toward the environment of cultivated influences, literature, and associations.

It is wise to make it a daily habit to read the teachings of Jesus in the New Testament, or the fine, inspiring books of the “New Philosophy.” Wiser still to take time each day and mentally picture oneself in the setting of mental and spiritual refinement. See yourself ideally. Dream yourself into nobility. Seat yourself on a throne—the throne of the House of David. Fill the mind with the picture of yourself as you really are, a master of life, a master of the passions—the self in all its divine nobility in ascension. Mentally create the concept of that high spiritual self you are as a real person, clothed in the regal garments which become one who, though he has traveled far, still is an honored son in his father’s house.

Fenwicke Lindsay Holmes

Fenwicke Lindsay Holmes

Fenwicke Lindsay Holmes was an American author, former Congregational minister, and Religious Science leader.

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