In our last lesson (the Tenth Lesson) we called your attention to the wonderful work of the sub-conscious regions of mentation in the direction of the performance of Intellectual work. Great as are the possibilities of this field of mentation in the direction named, they are equaled by the possibilities of building up character by similar methods.
Every one realizes that one may change his character by a strenuous course of repression and training, and nearly all who read these lines have modified their characteristics somewhat by similar methods. But it is only of late years that the general public have become aware that Character might be modified, changed, and sometimes completely altered by means of an intelligent use of the sub-conscious faculties of the mind.
The word “Character” is derived from ancient terms meaning “to mark,” “to engrave,” etc., and some authorities inform us that the term originally arose from the word used by the Babylonian brickmakers to designate the trade mark impressed by them upon their bricks, each maker having his own mark. This is interesting, in view of the recent theories regarding the cultivation of characteristics which may be found in the current Western works on psychology. But these theories are not new to the Yogi teachers of the East, who have employed similar methods for centuries past in training their students and pupils. The Yogis have long taught that a man’s character was, practically, the crude character-stuff possessed by him at his birth, modified and shaped by outside influences in the case of the ordinary man, and by deliberate self-training and shaping by the wise man. Their pupils are examined regarding their characteristics, and then directed to repress the undesirable traits, and to cultivate the desirable ones.
The Yogi practice of Character Building is based upon the knowledge of the wonderful powers of the sub-conscious plane of the mind. The pupil is not required to pursue strenuous methods of repression or cultivation, but, on the contrary, is taught that such methods are opposed to nature’s plans, and that the best way is to imitate nature and to gradually unfold the desired characteristics by means of focusing the will-power and attention upon them. The weeding out of undesirable characteristics is accomplished by the pupil cultivating the characteristics directly opposed to the undesirable ones. For instance, if the pupil desires to overcome Fear, he is not instructed to concentrate on Fear with the idea of killing it out, but, instead, is taught to mentally deny that he has Fear, and then to concentrate his attention upon the ideal of Courage. When Courage is developed, Fear is found to have faded away. The positive always overpowers the negative.
In the word “ideal” is found the secret of the Yogi method of sub-conscious character building. The teachings are to the effect that “ideals” may be built up by the bestowal of attention upon them. The student is given the example of a rose bush. He is taught that the plant will grow and flourish in the measure that care and attention is bestowed upon it and vice versa. He is taught that the ideal of some desired characteristic is a mental rosebush, and that by careful attention it will grow and put forth leaves and flowers. He is then given some minor mental trait to develop, and is taught to dwell upon it in thought–to exercise his imagination and to mentally “see” himself attaining the desired quality. He is given mantrams or affirmation to repeat, for the purpose of giving him a mental center around which to build an ideal. There is a mighty power in words, used in this way, providing that the user always thinks of the meaning of the words, and makes a mental picture of the quality expressed by them, instead of merely repeating them parrot fashion.
The Yogi student is trained gradually, until he acquires the power of conscious direction of the sub-conscious mind in the building up process, which power comes to anyone–Oriental or Occidental–who will take the trouble to practice. In fact, nearly everyone possesses and actively uses this power, although he may not be aware of it. One’s character is largely the result of the quality of thoughts held in the mind, and of the mental pictures or ideals entertained by the person. The man who constantly sees and thinks of himself as unsuccessful and down-trodden is very apt to grow ideals of thought forms of these things until his whole nature is dominated by them, and his every act works toward the objectification of the thoughts. On the contrary, the man who makes an ideal of success and accomplishment finds that his whole mental nature seems to work toward that result–the objectification of the ideal. And so it is with every other ideal. The person who builds up a mental ideal of Jealousy will be very apt to objectify the same, and to unconsciously create condition that will give his Jealousy food upon which to feed. But this particular phase of the subject, properly belongs to our next lesson. This Eleventh Lesson is designed to point out the way by which people may mould their characters in any way they desire–supplanting undesirable characteristics by desirable ones, and developing desirable ideals into active characteristics. The mind is plastic to him who knows the secret of its manipulation.
The average person recognizes his strong and weak points of character, but is very apt to regard them as fixed and unalterable, or practically so. He thinks that he “is just as the Lord made him,” and that is the end of it. He fails to recognize that his character is being unconsciously modified every day by association with others, whose suggestions are being absorbed and acted upon. And he fails to see that he is moulding his own character by taking interest in certain things, and allowing his mind to dwell upon them. He does not realize that he himself is really the maker of himself, from the raw and crude material given him at his birth. He makes himself negatively or positively. Negatively, if he allows himself to be moulded by the thoughts and ideals of others, and positively, if he moulds himself. Everyone is doing one or the other–perhaps both. The weak man is the one who allows himself to be made by others, and the strong man is the one who takes the building process in his own hands.