Headwork, mindscape––to keep track of powerful, commonsense notions as well as unusual, esoteric ideas.
Item. One’s life is defined not by the number of years, not by its fleeting rank, title, or status, but by its guiding idea. Some, perhaps many, pass their years without an awareness of what form that idea might take. To ask––what’s my guiding idea?––is probably the most basic, self-determinative question. The best answer is that which enables one to accomplish something not thought remotely possible.
And this deep power in which we exist, and whose beatitude is all accessible to us, is not only self-sufficing and perfect in every hour, but the act of seeing and the thing seen, the seer and the spectacle, the subject and the object, are one.
Item. A reading life, a life of reading. Ideally, what you read should in some way change your life––and that does not imply reading only those things most within reach, most agreeable. To look closely while reading––almost as if you’re examining a distant star, searching for its secret message.
We see the world piece by piece, as the sun, the moon, the animal, the tree; but the whole, of which these are the shining parts, is the soul.
Item. Childhood, adolescence, adulthood––for just about everyone, there’s been some dark clouds. But remember: dark energy is still a form of energy. It can still be a source of growth, renewal, and accomplishment.
Of this pure nature every man is at some time sensible. Language cannot paint it with his colors. It is too subtile. It is undefinable, unmeasurable, but we know that it pervades and contains us. We know that all spiritual being is in man.
Item. When a stone is dropped into the center of still water, its waves are not limited to one area––they reverberate to the shore. Some may assert the waves do not exist, but they most certainly do. We can see them; we can feel them. They persist long after the event. Don’t think for one minute that others are not aware of what’s occurring. They are. They’re watching the tide of events, closely.
Justice we see and know, Love, Freedom, Power. These natures no man ever got above, but they tower over us, and most in the moment when our interests tempt us to wound them.
Item. Power does not conform to the law of reason or faith, intellect or expectation. It conforms to the law of power. It sets its own terms; it follows its own will. This explains power’s unique hold and allure, exerting its grip, oblivious to the needs of others, serving only itself.
See how the deep, divine thought reduces centuries, and millenniums, and makes itself present through all ages.
Item. Yet another underlying source of psychic disquiet––seeking to maintain spiritual faith in what looks to be nothing more than an arid, non-spiritual reality. A problem remedied once the entirely spiritual nature of the physical world is recognized.
This is the law of moral and of mental gain. The simple rise as by specific levity, not into a particular virtue, but into the region of all the virtues. They are in the spirit which contains them all. The soul requires purity, but purity is not it; requires justice, but justice is not that; requires beneficence, but is somewhat better; so that there is a kind of descent and accommodation felt when we leave speaking of moral nature, to urge a virtue which it enjoins.
Item. Coming to terms with your own source of inner resiliency and strength. You need no one else’s permission. It’s entirely yours, bestowed to you as a birthright. You were unaware of its presence until it made itself known to you. Now you can draw upon it at will.
The soul gives itself, alone, original, and pure, to the Lonely, Original, and Pure, who, on that condition, gladly inhabits, leads, and speaks through it. Then is it glad, young, and nimble. It is not wise, but it sees through all things. It is not called religious, but it is innocent. It calls the light its own, and feels that the grass grows and the stone falls by a law inferior to, and dependent on, its nature. Behold, it saith, I am born into the great, the universal mind. I, the imperfect, adore my own Perfect. I am somehow receptive of the great soul, and thereby I do overlook the sun and the stars, and feel them to be the fair accidents and effects which change and pass. More and more the surges of everlasting nature enter into me, and I become public and human in my regards and actions. So come I to live in thoughts, and act with energies, which are immortal. Thus revering the soul, and learning, as the ancient said, that “its beauty is immense,” man will come to see that the world is the perennial miracle which the soul worketh, and be less astonished at particular wonders; he will learn that there is no profane history; that all history is sacred; that the universe is represented in an atom, in a moment of time. He will weave no longer a spotted life of shreds and patches, but he will live with a divine unity. He will cease from what is base and frivolous in his life, and be content with all places and with any service he can render.
All quotations from Ralph Waldo Emerson, The Over-Soul, Essays: First Series (1841)