How To Appraise Spiritual Values
FROM any event of life it is possible to extract spiritual values. Whatever occurs, by
taking the proper mental attitude toward it the character may be improved and the
dominant vibration raised. And if the vibrations are sufficiently high they may affect
substance of greater velocity than the astral and contribute to building a form on the
spiritual plane. Course 3 fully explains the technique employed in this, and indicates
that all experiences are the ores of life from which soul values may be extracted.
Yet it also points out that some of these ores are easily handled, that some yield
precious metal only with difficulty, and that still others are so refractory that only the
skilled spiritual alchemist can, with great effort, obtain anything of worth from them.
It seems desirable, therefore, not merely to have a measure of spiritual values such as
is afforded by the amount an experience contributes toward raising the dominant
vibratory rate, but also to list a number of things from which spiritual values can be
acquired with ease, and to indicate how these values may be obtained.
The cosmic alchemist is interested in all three dimensions of life. He is interested in
them not merely as they affect himself, but as also affecting all mankind. It is his
desire, in every way he can, to aid the rest of humanity to attain that superior
development which is his own great aim. But what he can do to influence others to
take the proper highway toward such development, as well as what he can do
properly to direct his own progress, depends upon him having a clear idea of just
what it is he seeks. As we shall presently see, life’s values often are sadly muddled in
the popular mind.
These values, as we have already discovered, have to do with length of life, with the
breadth of its experiences, and with the height, or spirituality, of its experiences.
Length and breadth are valuable in that both afford opportunity to make spiritual
gains. From the standpoint of mankind, therefore, the individual who contributes to
providing the necessities of life performs a spiritual service. But whether or not this
activity contributes to his own spirituality depends entirely upon his motives and
feelings in rendering the services. If he cares only for the physical reward derived
from the service, and dislikes those he serves and perhaps has an inward enmity
toward them, he has gained nothing spiritual. But if he has an actual desire to benefit
others, and feels some glow of satisfaction in the thought of being a useful member of
society, he has raised his vibratory rate at least a little, and thus has made spiritual
In addition to these things which are merely useful in the maintenance of existence,
there are other things which may or may not contribute to length of life, but which do
contribute to its breadth. Religious exercises, poetry, music, dancing, moving
pictures, radio programs, lecture courses, paintings, sculptures, fiction, architecture,
decorative effects, politeness and many other things are not considered necessities of
life; but they each and all add something to existence that makes life broader, and
which may be utilized also to lift life to a higher spiritual level than that occupied by
brute creation. Anyone, therefore, who contributes through these or other channels to
the breadth of life is rendering a valuable service. But the effect on his own
spirituality depends on whether, in performing the service, his motives and emotions
are such as to increase or decrease his dominant vibratory rate.
Greatness is not synonymous with spirituality. It is measured not by the effect of the
individual’s actions on himself, but by their effect on others. We know very little
about the private life and motives of Kepler, who formulated laws by which the
movements of the bodies of the solar system can be measured, or of Einstein who in
the velocity of light found a yard-stick for measuring the universe. Both of these men
are great because each contributed something by which human life can be greatly
broadened, and properly used can also be made to yield spiritual values. The measure
of any individual’s greatness is the degree to which he contributes to the length of
life, breadth of life or height of life of other people.
Yet how often do we find even those who assume to be thinkers either attributing
greatness to the acts of a man whose influence is devastating to others, or magnifying
some small and inconsequential trait that to them seems repugnant, into a mountain
that dwarfs some real and valuable accomplishment.
There are those even yet who look upon Napoleon with admiration. A man whose
abilities, however great, were not devoted to benefiting his fellow man, but toward
turning Europe into a human slaughterhouse for the gratification of his own personal
vanity. Others there are who think of J. Gould, the wrecker of railroads, as a man
worthy of emulation. And the financial giant of Wall Street who is able to corner
some commodity, and thus make living harder for millions of his fellow men, is not
without attractiveness in certain quarters.
Yet so long as selfish men are idealized, so long will people strive to be like them, to
the detriment of the race. It becomes the duty of the cosmic alchemists, therefore, to
set them forth in their true lack of worth; or better still, because the cosmic alchemist
believes whenever feasible to work on the side of construction, it becomes his
pleasure to set forth in the clear light of their great value the acts of those who are
truly noble and great among mankind.
Men exercise their talents under the social conditions by which they find themselves
surrounded. However much we may deplore the concentration of the wealth of the
world in a few hands, we cannot but admire those individuals who acquire wealth in
ways that add to the richness of others, lives, and then with their accumulated wealth
perform vast services for the advancement of the race.
If the youth of our land must worship at the feet of material power, is it better that it
make heroes of George Eastman and Henry Ford than do homage to, and strive to
emulate. Al Capone or some other racketeer who impressed his will upon the public
and long remained immune from punishment?
George Eastman contributed markedly to the education of the public. He made it
possible for almost everyone to take photographs. These photographs are
informative, arouse interest and develop skill in their taking, and lead gradually
toward a discrimination of artistic composition. Artistic effects obtained often
arouse refined emotions in those who look at them, and thus tend to increase the
dominant vibratory rate. The popularity of the camera has contributed to breadth of
life and the spiritual progress of the world.
The development, perfection, and cost reduction in the production of movie film has
given impetus to the motion picture industry. And the motion picture industry has
markedly increased the power of education. It enables twenty million in the United
States alone each day to see and hear the important happenings in all parts of the
world, to see and hear artistic and dramatic presentations, and to have explained to
them visually as well as audibly facts and their relations that otherwise would remain
to them obscure. In slow motion they are able to see just how mechanical
contrivances perform their work and just how growing things unfold. The moving
sound picture is a tremendous force in practical and aesthetic education. By showing
the people in one land just how the peoples of other lands live it assists in developing
a spirit of cooperation among nations, as well as giving greater breadth to the lives of
those who see and hear it.
It lengthens lives through disseminating information on hygienic measures. And it is
a medium through which people are led by gradual steps to an appreciation of beauty
and refinement. It thus can readily be used as an agent through which spiritual values
may be acquired.
Out of the productive activity which has so markedly advanced both still and moving
picture photography, and thus benefited the world, George Eastman made a vast
fortune. And having been keen enough to acquire it, he was also keen enough to
spend it wisely; giving it away to establish educational centers, and to beautify and
otherwise improve the community where live those whose labors, under his
direction, were responsible for his success.
Henry Ford also was the product of the economic system under which he lived; one
of its finest products. The popularity of the automobile has advanced the world
mechanically, and through facilitating travel has greatly broadened life. Whether the
numerous accidents it has brought are offset where length of life is concerned by
otherwise improved health due to the facilities it has afforded for recreation is a moot
question. But it has been an educational agent of great value, increased the enjoyment
of many, and has led to a higher appreciation of the beauties and grandeur of nature.
Those who otherwise would have had little contact with the out-of-doors, now, on
their vacations, take to the open road and visit lakes and mountains and seashore, and
fill themselves for the time being with the spiritual richness stimulated by majestic
settings and glorious vistas.
Contact with nature of itself does not increase the spirituality. The individual,
regardless of glorious out-of-door surroundings, may keep his mind filled with
envious or lewd thoughts, or his desires may be so centered on killing some wild
creature that he is oblivious of the beauties around him. His vibratory rates, and
hence his spirituality, may thus be lowered. But there is more than usual opportunity
for feelings to be stimulated that add to the spirituality. And there is reason to believe
that the majority do make spiritual gain when their recreation takes them closer to
Henry Ford accumulated vast wealth in supplying the world with something
beneficial. But this wealth was not hoarded in idleness. It was used to increase
production and lower the price of the product so that more people could possess and
enjoy it. It was used to shorten the hours and increase the wages of employees. It was
used to give the Ford employee time in which, if he so desired, he could broaden and
heighten his life, and to give others more opportunity also, through possession of
means of travel, to both broaden and heighten their lives.
I have here mentioned two men who became very wealthy; not because they were
wealthy, but because they used their wealth largely for the benefit of society. These
are not isolated examples, as many others come to mind. But there are far more at the
present day probably, who being very wealthy, are making no marked contribution to
human betterment with their affluence. And in the popular mind the mark of
distinction is all too faintly drawn between these two classes of influential men.
But when the people become energetic in their approval of those of wealth who
contribute strikingly to human progress and happiness, and vigorous and
loud-voiced in their disapproval of those who contribute nothing of value to society
while accumulating money, and then use it solely for their selfish ends, we shall be on
the road toward improvement.
Public opinion is a vast force, and so long as it tolerates and admires ruthless
individuals who have no consideration for the welfare of others there will be a new
crop of such monsters with every generation. But when society becomes thoroughly
saturated with the idea that such individuals are ignoble as well as pernicious, and
that the only real greatness is attained through contributing to the common welfare,
the youth of the world will have a different ideal toward which to work. To express
his Drive For Significance he will no longer wish to be a racketeer, or even one who
oppresses others while remaining within the law. Instead, he will aspire to become a
hero after the fashion of those illustrious men who are recognized to have made the
world a better place in which to live.
Stressing the Inconsequential
–Yet now, often, how slight and inconsequential a flaw is made to overshadow
some truly great accomplishment!
George Washington. to the people of the United States, is a great patriot. Although
opposed by almost insuperable obstacles he had the faith and vision to push on
toward the founding of a nation that has contributed, in its ideals of freedom and its
industrial developments, to world welfare. Not perceiving he had accomplished as
much as he really had, toward the end he became somewhat bitter. But he was a man
of true character.
One might think, in the light of the difficulties he surmounted, and the persistence
with which he pursued worthy endeavors even when there seemed but the slightest
hope of success, that trivial matters would have no power to tarnish his reputation.
Yet not many years ago, when an ultra-realistic journalist revealed to a shocked
public that there was no word of truth in the cherry-tree episode, and that following
the custom of his contemporaries, Washington was not averse to a drink of liquor, his
credit fell at least fifty per cent in the eyes of many unthinking people.
His personal habits were discussed by these as if they were the really important
things about his life. Such people utterly fail to grasp the attitude of the cosmic
alchemist, that a man’s worth to society should be measured by what he
accomplishes for the benefit of others.
What George thought and felt raised or lowered his spirituality. But whether he took
a drink or did not take a drink probably neither added to nor detracted from that which
he was able to accomplish. In fact, the personal habits and mode of life that enables
one individual to do his best work, due to the factors mapped in his chart of birth and
their subsequent conditioning, are those that would hamper a differently constituted
person. Washington probably lived according to the customs of his times, and
tempered his method of life with such acts as he had found through experience
enabled him to do his best work. And the really important thing is not whether he did
this or that thing that had little influence over the welfare of the nation, but that he did
something that markedly was to its benefit.
Still later there was a great furor because Dr. Brill, the eminent psychiatrist was going
to read a paper before a meeting of his profession in which he analyzed the character
of Lincoln and attempted to show that because Abe seemed to enjoy jokes which at
present seem out of place in the best circles, there was a split in his personality. Some
of Dr. Brill’s colleagues protested the reading of the paper, and were highly indignant
that he should dare suggest that there was anything not absolutely perfect in the
character of America’s best loved statesman.
Lincoln was a man of the people. His early life was spent among the rugged people
who were carving a place to live from the wilderness. The men with whom he
associated in the Blackhawk war and as a country storekeeper liked rough stories.
They would have been repelled by an expurgated version. Lincoln found that ability
to entertain such men was an avenue to popularity. He told the kind of stories these
men liked, and he told them unusually well. They liked him because he gave them
pleasure. They elected him captain.
As a store keeper, he always had a joke on tap. The people who came to his store liked
rough jokes. They considered him very clever. Consequently, he was appointed
postmaster, and later elected to the Illinois Legislature.
The people of that time had become suspicious of the polished individuals at
Washington who properly had been accused of corruption and graft. Lincoln had
earned a reputation for ability and honesty; and had become famous for the aptitude
with which he could tell a story either to amuse his listeners or to illustrate a point.
His roughness in speech, in dress and in general appearance, as contrasted with those
of the slick individuals they wished to remove from power, gave them confidence in
him. But in addition to confidence, his constituents liked him because he gave them
the kind of pleasure they enjoyed. It is doubtful if Lincoln would have reached the
White House had it not been for his jokes and story telling.
Coarse jokes and rough stories lower the vibratory rate and decrease the spirituality.
On the other hand, the feeling of sympathy for the downtrodden, and the effort to
relieve distress, for which Lincoln was noted, increase the vibratory rate and increase
the spirituality. People commonly have different habit-systems, some of which tend
to decrease the spirituality and some of which tend to increase the spirituality. But we
here are not trying to strike a balance between the lowering and raising influences in
Lincoln’s life to determine the height of his spirituality. Instead, we are interested in
him from the viewpoint of the cosmic alchemist.
Lincoln was an honest man, a sincere man. He was sympathetic and kind to those in
distress, even to his own personal disadvantage. And he was the instrument through
whom the institution of slavery in the U. S. was abolished. The thing of real
importance to all thoughtful people is not whether he had several personalities,
whether some of his jokes were in poor taste, or to what extent he compensated in his
stories for lack of harmony in his domestic life. The thing that really counts, in so far
as others than himself are concerned, is that he contributed by greatness of character,
and by his acts, in a pronounced manner to human welfare.
A lady of my acquaintance once said that she had always thought of Thomas A.
Edison as a great man until she learned that he chewed tobacco. But what has
chewing tobacco to do with it? At worst it contributed some small unpleasantness to
his immediate associates. To paraphrase Lincoln’s remark when he received the
complaint that Grant drank whiskey and made the rejoinder that he wished the other
generals would find out what brand of whiskey Grant used so they could have a few
victories also; I am tempted to say that if it would contribute to their doing something
worth while it might be well for those who criticize the unimportant habits and
actions of great men to acquire these habits.
The really important thing about Edison is that he lightened the burden of labor for
mankind more than any other man who has ever lived, and every civilized person on
earth lives with less hardship because of him.
Nor are such remarks and viewpoints of depreciation confined to the uneducated. A
few years ago I attended a meeting of scientifically inclined persons at a lecture
devoted to the work of Luther Burbank. The speaker holds several scientific titles,
and was personally acquainted with the plant wizard. He gave a very complete
account of the important flowers, vegetables and fruits that we now enjoy that were
developed by that remarkable man. But he took much pains to stress the great
imperfections of Burbank’s character. These great defects, according to this speaker,
were two in number, and detracted seriously from what otherwise would have been
really a worthy life.
These two derogatory traits of Burbank were that he believed in Spiritualism, and
that he used profane language. It never occurred to the lecturer that Burbank’s ability
to use extra-sensory perception not only convinced him of the reality of communion
with those on the inner plane, but also made it possible for him to select from
innumerable seedlings that to those who worked for him looked exactly alike, the
few which when mature would have characteristics in the direction he was seeking.
Instead, he looked upon him as a simple minded, superstitious, vulgar and uncultured
man. Yet Burbank had warm friends in all parts of the world, and he contributed more
than any other man who ever lived toward a better human food supply, and toward
placing in people’s hands new and more beautiful flowers to decorate their gardens.
Who are we to judge his motives? The many with whom he corresponded found him
lovable. Did the profanity which he expressed to release his emotions when all did
not go as he wished lower his vibratory rate more than the stored up irritation which
many others feel? To what extent was the lowering of spirituality due to profanity
offset by the kindness he felt when he sent seeds and other help to acquaintances in
various parts of the world? We cannot accurately judge another’s spirituality,
because we do not know what goes on inside him. But we can judge of his greatness.
That can be appraised by his contribution to human welfare.
It may be that on occasions the sensitive ears of some of Burbank’s associates were
shocked by his language; but such pain could have been experienced only by a few.
Yet everyone who eats vegetables, and everyone who has flowers or looks at the
blossoms of others, in the whole civilized world, has benefited by Burbank’s labors.
I think this tendency to belittle actual accomplishment and magnify the unimportant,
but slightly disagreeable trifles needs energetically to be discouraged. I am inclined
to think that youngsters who have pictured to them a character free from all blemish
— an idealized George Washington or Lincoln — know in their own hearts that they
could not be so perfect in all ways as these men are usually represented. They are
given the impression that no one can be great unless he is a paragon in every respect.
Realizing that they cannot become such examples of perfection, they become
discouraged from attempting worth while accomplishment. If they were given a truer
picture; that in spite of many an unimportant blemish a man often is able to perform a
signal service in the onward march of humanity, they would be heartened to effort.
The Really Important Thing
–As a matter of record, the conditions under which men perform their highest labors
are unusually varied. Astrological influences, the conditioning factors that early in
life give a set to their emotional reactions, their physical responses to certain
environments, and a wide range of other things often contribute in a marked manner
to what men can do.
I know a writer of “best sellers” who spends a long period thinking out the plot and
details of a novel. But when he feels moved to start the actual writing, he hardly stops
to eat or sleep until it is finished. Unquestionably he has injured his health by this
method. He has written on occasions for forty-eight hours without sleep, and with
only a bite to eat now and then; has written until he fainted from exhaustion, fell from
his chair unconscious, and had to be packed off to bed and a physician called. As a
result of this method his health is poor his wife is worried and harried all the time he is
thus writing, and his immediate associates suffer in various ways. But he turns out
reading matter that not only conveys a real message to those who read it, but which
sells often over a million copies. From the standpoint of society it is unimportant that
he is now a millionaire, that his health has failed, or that on the occasions when he is
actually writing he makes himself and several others quite miserable.
The important thing is that he has given enjoyment and a fine outlook upon life to
millions of those who have read his books.
Personally I believe in temperance. Having no use for tobacco, alcohol in any form,
riotous living, or any kind of stimulants, I feel confident their use would cut down the
volume and quality of my work and detract from the quality of my life. But in my
birth chart there is plenty of fire, and enough air to make it burn well. I have never felt
the need of anything artificial to give me the impetus to work. But am I to judge all
others by myself? How about the individual who has little fire in his chart, has a
sluggish circulation, low blood pressure, and a general tendency toward inertia? Or
how about the man who has so much fire he has to quench it to keep from burning
himself out? As to these individuals I cannot say. I would counsel them to the
temperate mode of life that I have found generally best for others and which I know is
best for myself. But if the exceptional individual can add something of value to the
world only under some mode of life that is different from mine, should I grumble if he
lives in that manner, provided he injures no one but himself?
I do not know whether or not James Whitcomb Riley drank to excess. But if it so
chanced that he could write only when under the influence of liquor, and that without
liquor we should have been deprived of his homely verse, I, for one, am glad that he
was occasionally drunk.
Such a statement, I quite realize, places me open to the criticism of the unthinking,
conventional mind. But my point is that whether or not Riley imbibed spirits freely
has no lasting influence on mankind; while the soul-stirring melodies which he left
have lightened the hearts of innumerable people. Whether Riley’s emotions when he
wrote and read them raised his vibratory rate more than enough to offset the other
influences of any dissipation in which he may have indulged relates to the spirituality
of Riley. But the emotions they arouse in others measurably add to their spirituality.
They are a lasting contribution to the advancement of the human race. The thing of
real importance in a person’s life, in so far as others are concerned, is to what extent
he detracts from, or adds to, their welfare.
I think this point can best be illustrated by a story about a Jew. I do not select the Jew
as better or worse than the members of other races, but because it is the custom to use
a Jew in any story of money made by sharp practice.
This particular Jew, the story goes, was asked by a friend who came to visit him, why
he looked so worried. The Jew then went on to explain that twenty years previous,
when still in his youth, he had been tempted, and had fallen from the orthodox faith to
such an extent that he had eaten a piece of pork. Since that day he had been haunted by
the immensity of his transgression, the taste of that one piece of pork still lingering in
his memory; and he could not free himself from remorse.
His friend sympathized with him, and went on to say that he had supposed the
worried look arose from financial troubles. The Jew, at the mention of finances,
brightened immediately, rubbed his hands together in an expression of enjoyment,
and revealed to his friend that on the contrary he had recently been unusually
fortunate. He had purchased a hotel at a very low price because it was infested with
bedbugs; and then, by keeping the knowledge of the bedbugs from a prospective
customer, he had been able to sell it at a profit to himself of fifty thousand dollars.
Many people are similar to the Jew; their conscience would harass them for years at
the breaking of some trivial convention that really injured no one; but within the
conventions and within the laws of the land, any injury to another, howsoever
serious, would be a cause of no regret. They are trained in conventions, and in
obedience to their laws, but all too often they have no training in the appraisal of true
Legislation is valuable in keeping the actions of certain individuals within some
bounds; but no system of legislation can be devised that will prevent an unusually
shrewd man from taking advantage of an unusually dull person. Legislation offers
some protection, but in spite of it the strong can still prey on the weak. To obey the
laws of the land is not sufficient to be spiritual. If by your actions others are injured,
even though you are well within the legal requirements, the motives behind those
actions lower the dominant vibratory rate and decrease the spirituality. To be
spiritual you cannot be callous, but must make a sincere effort to help others.
Spirituality Implies Positive Action
–Do not think, as is the widespread belief in the Orient and in some Christian
circles, that spirituality is a negative quality. To retire from contact with your fellow
man, except through it you are able to benefit him, is not spiritual; it is just plain
selfishness. To wear a frown, to refrain from all pleasure, and to lead a narrow life,
conduce neither to length nor breadth of life, nor does it increase the dominant
vibratory rate and thus the spirituality.
Puritanical Christians strove for a rigid austerity here so they might escape the pain of
hell and enjoy the pleasures of heaven in the hereafter. But if the escape from pain is
good hereafter, why not now? And if enjoyment is good in heaven, why not good on
earth? So long as no one is injured by enjoyment, why should it be shunned? If it is a
type which lowers the dominant vibratory rate it is unspiritual. But if it is of a kind
that adds either length or breadth to life and does not lower the vibratory rates it has
value, and if it tends to refinement of the emotions it is spiritual.
Stimulating the Spiritual
–I have now mentioned a few men who have contributed in a marked manner to
human welfare; and earlier in the course I have made some mention of those things
which tend to increase, through better economic conditions, the length and breadth of
human life. It is time, therefore, that we turn our attention to some details of the
objects and conditions of environment that most readily tend to stimulate and
cultivate the loftier, finer emotions, as distinct from those lower and coarser that we
share with brute creation.
Again it must be pointed out that, in so far as the individual is concerned, a thing is
spiritual or unspiritual as it evokes in him higher or lower vibratory rates. The effect
of any object or situation, therefore, on one person may be entirely different than on
another person. The spiritual alchemist will have thoughts and develop emotions that
contribute to his spirituality under circumstances that beget only gross animal
passions in the common man. Our appraisal of the value of things from the standpoint
of stimulating and assisting man’s spirituality, therefore, will be made on the basis of
the ordinary person’s reactions.
The average run of mankind experience certain sensations, certain emotions and
certain thoughts when brought into contact with stimuli of a definite kind; and these
common reactions determine whether or not the stimuli in question are beneficial or
the reverse to man’s spiritual advancement.
Spirituality Through Recreation
–Let us turn, therefore, from man’s vocation and his other activities through which
he should do something to benefit his fellows, to the various other activities and
contacts which contribute to his experiences with life. At once, because serious and
concentrated application to work calls for it, we think of his recreation. The business
man not only applies himself to his calling, but to find relaxation from it, frequently
turns to sports. He is a golf enthusiast, attends prize fights, drives a car, or goes to
Because of a certain odium attached to them, due to the rough crowd, due to the
gambling and carousing of some who attend them, and because some of them are
conducted in a brutal manner, the unthoughtful person would quickly reply, if asked,
that nothing spiritual can come from our sports. But sports may be conducted in such
a manner, and some of them are, as not to arouse coarse or brutal feelings, but on the
contrary, to stimulate an appreciation of graceful and effective activity, of alert
intelligence, and of fair play toward even a successful rival.
Good sportsmanship has become synonymous with giving the other fellow his just
dues, even if it means the loss of what one is striving to gain. In a contest watched by
others, these others identify themselves and their interests with one side as against its
opposition. If their sympathies and desires are not thus intensely partisan, they get
little pleasure or excitement from the contest. But to the extent they identify
themselves with one side against the other, do they experience, vicariously, the thrills
of the contest.
Under these circumstances they expect the contestants with whom they have merged
interests to conduct themselves in the same manner they would if they had the skill
and were in the contestants, place. Through attending sporting events the public has
become so thoroughly conscious of good sportsmanship that it voices its disapproval
of any unfair practice on the part of its favorite as quickly as if the unfair practice had
been adopted by an opponent.
Let us give some credit to our national sport, baseball, for educating people to a more
spiritual emotional reaction.
And the emotional reactions that have been conditioned toward fair play and
honorable conduct in baseball, football and golf, exert also a powerful influence
toward similar fair play in all the contacts of life. The man who develops a sense of
good sportsmanship during his recreational hours, is likely more and more to adopt
an attitude of good sportsmanship in his domestic relations and in his business life.
Not only does he scorn to take advantage unfairly of others, but he praises true ability
wherever found. Instead of whining or running away when his affairs go wrong and
hardships are at hand, he faces them with resolute courage, because that is the
sporting thing to do.
It is a good sign, I am sure, when some opposing player through phenomenal skill and
brilliance snatches the victory from the home team, to see that not only the visitors,
but also those who most excitedly have been urging the home team to victory, rise in
a great ovation. They are downhearted at their loss, and some of them, no doubt, have
lost money as well as their pride — for sports still have an unspiritual side — but in
spite of such loss and disappointment, the home people rise as a man to do homage to
their opponent who has exhibited superior skill.
Superior ability should receive recognition; for the advance of mankind along every
line is made possible by the exercise of unusual talent. Not only should there be, as
encouraging each individual to develop and use his abilities to the utmost, an
emotion of enthusiastic pleasure when such superior ability is displayed, but the
emotion of joy in a contest is quite appropriate to the forward movement of mankind.
Life is a series of contests; and it becomes far more effective and enjoyable when
these contests are approached as a game, a game to be played fairly according to all
the spiritual rules, to be played with utmost energy to obtain the victory, and without
whining and self-pity when there are temporary, or even more permanent, defeats.
Every situation is a contest in ability to solve the problem of how best to conduct
oneself toward it. Every difficulty and hardship is an opponent to be defeated. Good
sportsmanship, which is encouraged by the right kind of recreational interests, makes
for a more useful and a richer life.
Contests may be, and often are, brutal. In the measure that they engender cruel and
brutal emotions in those who witness them, they are unspiritual. It certainly is
unspiritual to take joy in the suffering of either man or beast. But the individual who
voluntarily and joyfully undergoes some pain and temporary suffering in his effort to
vanquish an opponent is seldom an object of pity. People admire his courage; and
courage is a fine thing to cultivate. Mankind needs plenty of it in its conquest of the
forces of nature.
Almost everything we do is a contest with something or someone. Everywhere there
is competition. The cosmic alchemist competes with others in his efforts to aid
human progress. This spirit of contest is not to be deplored; for competition is the
method Nature has used throughout in the development of more perfect forms. It is
doubtful if any other method is quite so effective. But these contests need not be
struggles in which one individual destroys or punishes another. Instead, they should
be contests to contribute most toward human life and happiness.
There is an aspect of witnessing contest games that is not altogether beneficial. In
some an attitude may be developed in which struggle is experienced, with all its
emotional reactions, only vicariously. That is, experiencing hardship and contest
only through sympathy with others who actually and physically engage in it may,
under certain circumstances, create an attitude toward life in which the actual facing
of difficulties is increasingly avoided. Such an individual may become so engrossed
in his emotional reactions that he feels no need of actual events to satisfy his
This, however, is not the fault of the sport; but that of any individual who lives too
exclusively in his emotions. Emotions should energize appropriate actions. It is
possible to cultivate a condition in which emotions are permitted to pass without
stimulating to accomplishment; but this is due to the formation of inadequate
habit-systems in which the energy that otherwise would drive to accomplishment is
dissipated; much as an auto stalls while the engine is running if the clutch be
Then again, in such sports as are not based upon contest, symmetry, grace,
coordination and harmony of movement are factors to call forth admiration. And
form, as it is called, is essential to success in all athletic pursuits. This so-called form
is an expression of greater perfection; and perfection is that toward which man
should strive. Such activities, therefore, cultivate a habit of striving for superiority, a
habit which readily can be employed for spiritual ends.
Why Gambling Is Unspiritual
–The gambling which is associated with many sports detracts from their usefulness.
Not that taking a chance is unspiritual; for all through life when called upon by
necessity to do so man should have the courage, without flinching, to take whatever
hazards are required. But gambling is not just taking a necessary chance. On the
contrary, it has for foundation, and tends to cultivate one of the basest, and another of
the most pernicious of human traits. When successful, gambling usually takes from
another without giving adequate compensation that which makes the other poorer. It
therefore cultivates the ignoble trait of attempting to benefit at the expense of others.
And even when no one is made poorer by it, it cultivates the tendency which, if it
takes a strong hold, totally unfits the individual to fulfill his responsibilities to
society. It cultivates the pernicious desire to get something for nothing.
As to drinking and coarse talk, these do not of necessity belong to sport. But
wherever found they are decidedly unspiritual. Vulgar language coarsens and
degrades. Liquor, on the whole, tends to the stimulation, not of spiritual tendencies,
but of base propensities and animal desires. It also tends to break down that which
man, throughout his evolution, has been at most pains to build, and upon which rests
most of his superiority. It tends to break down self-control. In so far as liquor
coarsens the thoughts, excites the animal passions rather than the nobler impulses,
and in so far as it lessens self-control, it is unspiritual in its effect. There may be those
who need it in small quantities to do their best work, but any tendency toward
drunkenness is certainly the opposite of spiritual in its common effects.
Education Should Never Cease
–Life differs from death in that the former implies activity and consciousness, and
the latter lack of them. Do not think, consequently, that not to do this and not to do
that is spiritual; for in fact it is but the absence of life. How shall there be spirituality
without life to develop it? No doubt it is true, as so often complained, that some
moderns rush through life at such a tremendous pace that they destroy themselves;
burn themselves out, as it were. But my own observation is that far more people
placidly and passively drift through life, doing very little they are not compelled to
do. They thus fail to gain breadth for their lives that comes only through varied
activities and mental and emotional contacts; breadth that may be employed to
acquire the spiritual treasures that so abundantly are at hand.
There is such a thing as over-work and such a thing as over-play; and dissipation
quickly drains the vital forces, leaving only ashes where spirituality might have
bloomed. Each one must experimentally determine just how much physical, mental
and emotional activity he can stand without detriment to his health and length of life.
To live below this maximum is a sad waste of opportunities. We can only be of
greatest service to others, and can only attain the utmost in our own mental and
spiritual advancement, when we cease to be negative and cultivate habit-systems that
find joy in energetic application to every situation of life.
Just as an example, while an increasing number of people take vacations and travel,
many more could do so but for their listlessness. Do you think listlessness is
spiritual? It is merely a lack of interest in life; and no one can get the most out of life
for himself or others who is bored with it. Nor would I mention this so emphatically
were it not that usually it is the direct result of the development of pernicious
habit-systems and, as explained in detail in Course 14, can be changed by the
development of different habit-systems.
Then again, from the attitude of some at commencement exercises, one might be led
to believe that finishing high school, or finishing college is the completion of
education; when in fact, as the common expression implies, it is but the beginning,
not merely of putting into practice what has been learned, but of learning. One might
think also that education is comprised merely of cramming the head with facts. Facts
are essential, but of quite as much importance is the education of the emotional
reactions. Not only do our feelings more than our intellects determine how we
behave when confronted with each situation, but they influence the fortune or
misfortune the thought-cells attract into our lives and determine the dominant
vibratory rate, and hence our spirituality.
Neither mental nor spiritual education should cease at any period. When we no
longer serve others and no longer gain information and have emotions that broaden
our lives or elevate them we have truly ceased to live. But until the fires of vitality
burn so low that no strength is left and the body is on the road to disintegration there is
no necessity to cease interest in things, no necessity to abandon physical and mental
activity, and no necessity to refrain from joyous emotions. With advancing days the
range of mental comprehension should increase. The type of physical activity, no
doubt, will change from time to time, but there should still be an eagerness to do
something. And because of the long years in which the emotions have been educated
there should be a keener appreciation in age of the things that can be employed to
raise the dominant vibratory rate and thus increase the spirituality; a keener
appreciation, for instance, of all that is beautiful in literature, music, art and nature.