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Chapter 2
The First Three
Habits A Neophyte Should Adopt
THROUGHOUT our studies of the occult the thing we find stressed most is the
importance of character. The character and I the soul are assumed to be identical.
And it is recognized that in the presence of a given inner-plane weather, in the
presence of a certain influence radiated by an object, in the presence of a specific
thought, or in the presence of the same external circumstances, an individual
possessing one kind of character will behave in a very different manner than will an
individual possessing another type of character. The effect either an outer-plane
environment or an inner-plane environment will have upon an individual is
determined by his character. And occult training as well as religious precepts mostly
have for their aim the development of a superior type of character.
Now what is this thing we call character?
This question can be answered by stating that it is the sum total of all the states of
consciousness the soul has experienced as these are organized within the finer form
of the individual. But in addition to such a bare statement of fact, in order to make the
matter clear, there should be added information both as to how the character was
formed, and how it manifests.
It was formed, as is so often repeated in various B. of L. lessons, by the sum total of all
the soul's experiences registering in consciousness and entering, according to the
manner thus registered, into the mental organization, where such registered
experiences persist, either as they were registered or as modified by later experience.
Thus persisting in the finer bodies as an organization of mental factors, the character
determines all the acts of the individual in the presence of whatever environment he
contacts. The character manifests as behavior, and the type of behavior depends upon
the kind of character. In the same kind of environment, if the character is changed, the
behavior also is changed. What we accomplish, therefore, and what we fail to
accomplish, is determined by character. And if we wish to pursue the matter still
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further, taking into consideration the psychokinetic power of the internal harmonies
and internal discords organized as thought-cells and thought structures, to bring
conditions into the life, we find that not only is behavior in the presence of
environment determined by character, but that the kind of environment attracted to
the individual also is determined by his- type of character.
Character determines both the external conditions which call for decision and action,
and the kind of decision and action resulting from the condition thus attracted. Both
to the individual, and to society which tolerates or benefits by the individual,
character is the one thing of paramount importance.
In its manifestation, character is the manner in which we habitually think, feel and
act. And whenever we arrive at a stage where we think, feel and act habitually in a
manner different than we have previously thought, felt and acted, we have clear
evidence that our character, by that much, has changed.
And this is the object of Personal Alchemy; to change the character in such a manner
that the individual lives better than previously, and to keep making changes in the
character, one after another, that will enable him to advance step by step up the ladder
of spiritual attainment until the state of adeptship. the state of the perfect man, is
reached.
As the manifestations of character are the habits of life, the proper method to follow
in thus changing the character beneficially is resolutely to set about the elimination
of such habits as are not conducive to the high spiritual state one wishes to attain, and
as resolutely to set about forming all those habits which are in the direction of
adeptship. For whenever the proper habits have been formed and have been
exercised over a sufficient period of time, they prove that the internal character also
has changed to a corresponding extent. In fact, not only are the habits of life an
accurate index of the character within, but the habits of life also act as forces by
which the internal character is altered.
It will thus be seen that the neophyte who, let us say, has lived much as the world
about him, can hope to make a rapid ascent to a higher type of life only by markedly
changing his habits. If his habits remain as they were, his life will make only such
progress as is customarily made by other people who have similar habits. Yet he is
not content just to drift along, just to gain a little intellectual comprehension of the
truth. He is ambitious to make swift progress. And he can only do this through
adopting a manner of living which, while not making him conspicuous in
eccentricity, nevertheless is really markedly different from the life of the majority of
those by whom he is surrounded.
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There is no occasion that I can see for the one who aspires to the state of adeptship to
withdraw from contact with his fellowman, to shirk the responsibility of making a
living, or to refrain from taking an active part in the management of the affairs of the
community in which he lives. An adept is not one who goes off alone and meditates,
and thereby gains some wonderful power for himself which he never uses to benefit
mankind. On the contrary, an adept is a man or woman who has developed a very
high degree of spirituality, and who has gained both power and knowledge for the
purpose of using them to benefit humanity, and who does so use them to benefit as
many as possible.
In one's own home, or during the lunch hour of a business day, one can go into the
silence, one can meditate, and one can do other things which are desirable in the
matter of developing occult powers. Powers develop fastest when used. And among
people there are always opportunities to use such abilities as develop for some
constructive purpose. In reference to learning, as I have pointed out elsewhere, it is
commonly recognized that quicker progress in knowledge of any subject is made in
the effort to teach it. Undertake to explain something to another, and not only do you
find out whether or not, and how much, you know, but in the process of explanation
you tune in on the source of such knowledge and are surprised at the additional
information, about which otherwise you never would have thought, which comes
streaming into your consciousness. When teaching, especially in teaching any occult
subject, new examples and additional material customarily present themselves to the
mind.
Of course, to do much studying and original research there must be time devoted to
them; but adeptship, which we are now considering, is not merely a matter of
intellectual attainment. It is even more the development of character, a progress from
a less spiritual to a more spiritual state. And the circumstances of everyday life afford
far more opportunity for the development of spirituality and real soul power than is
afforded by a monastery or a wilderness. Everyday life affords just those obstacles by
which we are able best to test whether or not, and how much, we are advancing.
If an individual is capable of living a perfectly spiritual life, such as an adept lives, he
can live it in any environment where he finds himself. If he can only live the perfect
spiritual life when apart from his family and friends and business associates, it is not a
perfect spiritual life he is living, but merely an artificial life which, like a hot-house
plant, seems beautiful only while under special care and protection.
Do not think the real adept lives apart in the mountain fastness. The real spiritual
giants live and work among men, contributing their energies and powers to alleviate
human ignorance and suffering, and in all ways possible aiding in the realization of
God's Great Plan.
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To become such a spiritual giant the neophyte must make a small beginning and
gradually, one step at a time, change his habit-systems until, as a matter of steady
growth he has those habits of life which distinguish the adept. The adept, or perfect
man, must, of course, master all the 21 branches of occult science. He must be an
individual marked for his wisdom. And in the course of his development he must
attain to certain occult powers. Furthermore, his efforts lead him to a refinement of
thoughts, emotions and actions, so that he is a being of superior appreciations and
perceptions. But above all, and at all times, the mark of the adept is his strong
adherence to the perfect moral code: A SOUL IS COMPLETELY MORAL WHEN
IT IS CONTRIBUTING ITS UTMOST TO UNIVERSAL WELFARE.
The real adept has arrived at the state of adeptship, not through any selfish desire to
be superior to other men, and not through a desire to exercise uncommon powers.
Instead, he has arrived at this exalted goal because, as a neophyte, he has realized that
in the attainment of a higher type of spirituality, by the attainment of unusual powers
and abilities, and through the use of more comprehensive knowledge, he could do
more to assist in the furtherance of God's Great Plan. He has arrived at adeptship not
through any "holier than thou', motive, but through his earnest desire and endeavor
to contribute the most possible to cosmic welfare, and perceiving that ability,
wisdom and increasing power would lead him to this objective.
Therefore, the sooner the neophyte adopts this universal and perfect moral code as
the one dominant motive and guiding power in his life the more speedily will he
advance toward adeptship. And never, in this life or in any other, will he attain
adeptship until he does thus become completely moral in this universal sense.
The First Habit to Adopt is to Make All Thoughts, Feelings and Actions Conform to the
Universal Moral Code
--The neophyte should make a permanent habit of analyzing every habit and process
of life as it now exists in the light of his present understanding with a view of
perceiving how much each contributes, in the long run, toward assisting or hindering
universal welfare. Then let him start making the changes in his life that will enable
him to contribute more to, and hinder less, cosmic progress.
Unless the neophyte has had wide experience, and has had the opportunity to observe
the results obtained by many people in their application of theories, he will almost
surely believe certain habits and practices are in the direction of contributing to
universal welfare that his actual experience in time will cause him to abandon. The
literature of the time is redundant with theories on gaining knowledge, with theories
on how tremendous occult powers can be developed, and with theories on what
constitutes spirituality. And it is hardly to be expected that the neophyte at start will
escape being attracted to some of the many highly embellished theories that in
practice do not work.
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And the neophyte who expects to get actual results from some practice, and
diligently follows instructions all to no avail, is apt to feel discouraged. He is led to
expect something that does not happen, and thus feels there must be something
wrong with himself because his expectations are not realized. But far more
frequently than might be supposed he is on a sounder basis of fact and reality than
those who propounded the theory; and the reason he does not get the expected results
is really because he is so sound of nerve and brain that he does not readily yield to
suggestion and suffer delusion.
In saying this I certainly do not wish to disparage the independent development of the
psychic faculties; for their cultivation and the development of the higher states of
consciousness are not abnormal. They are in the direction evolution is moving. They
can be cultivated on as sound a basis as one can cultivate a taste for high class music.
But the awakening of the kundalini, the amazing results to be had by certain postures
and rhythmic breathing, and various types of psychic phenomena, other than the
exercise of extrasensory perception and entering into the higher phases of
consciousness, are not apt to yield the neophyte all that is claimed for them by their
enthusiasts; and they have associated with them some very real dangers.
Unless the neophyte is over zealous and enthusiastic, he usually is aware when things
are not going right for him; and thus is warned before meeting danger or actual
difficulty. And, because the temperaments of people vary so widely, it is hardly wise
to draw the rules too tightly as to what should and what should not be attempted, and
as to what may or may not be expected from following a given practice. What is most
helpful to one often is of no help to another, and what is dangerous to one may hold no
peril to someone else.
About the best general rule that can be laid down is for the neophyte to be constantly
alert and observing, and to note carefully the effect of his practices and his habits as
affecting his life and usefulness. The thing that is best for him is the thing that works
best in practice, whether or not it follows the rules laid down in someone's book.
After trying something out conscientiously for a time, usually some result, either
positive or negative, can be discerned; and this can be used as a gauge of the value of
the exercise or habit which has been adopted.
I have more to say in the next lesson about the development of the psychic senses and
the higher states of consciousness. I merely mention them here to point out that
beginners often get discouraged through not obtaining the results they are led to
expect. Perhaps they need to change the method they are using; perhaps they need to
give the matter careful thought and analysis; but they should not permit themselves
to be discouraged; for the feeling of discouragement is pernicious and a hindrance to
the neophyte's main purpose.
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The Second Habit to Adopt is to Feel Pleased When You Have Done Your Best
--As I have taken much pains to point out in Course XIX, Chapter 4, the soul is educated
through pleasure and pain. The sensation of pain has been developed by the soul to
enable it to become aware of those conditions which threaten the destruction of its
organism or in other ways tend to thwart its desires. And pleasure has been developed
by the soul to enable it to be aware when it has triumphed over the condition which
threatened its form or its desires and thus is being successful.
Now, however, if we continue to register pain, in this instance the pain of discontent
and discouragement, when we do the very best of which we are capable under the
circumstances, the soul reacting in the normal manner from pain loses incentive to
further similar effort. When one has done the very best he can under existing
conditions, no amount of painful prodding will cause the soul to do more. When a
horse is doing its best to pull a heavy load, further prodding will cause him to cease
effort. Most balky horses at some time in their past have been educated, by some
incompetent driver, in this manner to become balky. And the individual who
continues to prod and annoy himself when in reality he is doing his utmost is quite as
apt to become disheartened and cease making as much effort as he previously did.
If you beat a dog when he gives a good performance as well as when he makes a
mistake, in a very short time the dog will no longer give a good performance. And the
best animal trainers find that the less they use the whip on occasions of error, and the
more they rely upon kindness and reward for good performance, the more success
they have with their charges. This means that they have ceased to employ the pain
technique and in its stead have adopted the more superior pleasure technique in the
education of the creatures under their instruction.
If you have the narrow viewpoint that men have souls and that dogs have not, you
may object to illustrating the education of the human soul by referring to the most
successful practice of animal trainers. But in truth your soul and my soul are different
than the souls of animals thus trained not in kind, but only in degree. And
experimental psychology illustrates that the same basic principles of training are
equally effective when applied to any living thing; plant, animal and man included.
Therefore in your effort to become a master, one of the first things you should do is to
make a careful appraisal of yourself as to what, at any given time, you should expect
of yourself. You may have either an inferiority or a superiority complex which will
warp your judgment. Your contacts with life may be such as to cause you habitually
to expect far more from yourself than you have ability to accomplish, or to expect far
too little of yourself. Your temporary standards may be either too high or too low, and
need readjusting.
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I do not mean that the state of adeptship is too high for you. It is not too high for any
earnest person; although those of marked deficiency may not be able to reach it
completely until after they have passed to the next plane of existence. But it is very
easy to expect to do more or less than is possible toward this ultimate end in a given
interval of time. Failures there are bound to be. But a failure to accomplish as much as
hoped for, so far as personal advancement is concerned, is infinitely better than not
trying. We often learn as much by our failures as by our successes. Every failure
should leave us in possession of greater ability for the next attempt.
Because pain, such as discontent and dissatisfaction with oneself, builds discordant
thought-cells within the finer form, and these use their psychokinetic energy to bring
into the life unfortunate events, I do not advocate that when one has not lived up to
what he normally should expect of himself that he should permit any such discord to
persist. Instead, the energies should be centered on the next attempt, and a confidence
built up that the next attempt will be more successful. Instead of dwelling on the
failure, it is far better to picture the success of the next attempt, and to picture with
this success a glow of happiness, and as many other pleasant feelings and emotions in
connection with it as possible.
In this manner, while not permitting the soul to lag in effort toward accomplishment;
it is possible to build up a high degree of satisfaction in the consciousness that,
regardless of temporary results, one is doing the very best he can. And this is the
objective which early in the neophyte's training should earnestly be sought; to build
as many, and as pleasurable, associations around the effort to do one's utmost
regardless of apparent failure and adversity This habit of feeling thus should become
so ingrained in the essential nature that however difficult external environment
becomes, there will be a finer and stronger satisfaction felt in meeting each situation
and problem as it arises in the best manner, and that this satisfaction will outweigh in
pleasure the pain and discomfort caused by the things which, in spite of these efforts,
remain beyond control.
The Third Habit to Adopt is that of an Invincible Will
--It goes without saying that to accomplish anything really worth while requires the
exercise of considerable will-power. And because, in his endeavor to become an
adept, the neophyte must master his own mental processes and a number of studies,
as well as develop his character so that it is superior in nature to the characters of the
mass of mankind by whom he is surrounded, it is essential, to be able to carry out such
an ambitious program, that he should possess a strong and vigorous will.
Occult training in all lands and during all periods has stressed the importance of
developing will-power. And in the Orient are to be found a large variety of artificial
systems which have been devised through which the neophyte can thus gradually,
though effectively, develop his will.
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Although these Eastern systems of will culture undoubtedly do develop will-power,
an analysis of what comprises will-power reveals that, to one who will take the
trouble to avail himself of the opportunities offered, everyday life can be made to
develop will-power quite as rapidly and quite as effectively as can any Oriental or
Occidental artificial system of will culture. And the utilization of everyday life for
this purpose has two additional advantages. It does not crush the soul or stun the finer
emotions, and in the process of its development there is constantly something
constructive accomplished for the benefit of society.
An invincible will, when reduced to its simplest terms, is merely the habit of carrying
out to its completion whatever one sets out to do. And a vigorous will, when thus
reduced to simple terms, is the ability to direct a strong volume of energy steadily into
the accomplishment of predetermined purposes.
A strong and vigorous will implies the ability to direct the energies into some chosen
channel of accomplishment, and the ability not to be deterred from accomplishing
the purpose thus selected. And the only way by which any individual ever learns thus
to direct energy and learns not to be swerved from his purpose is through the gradual
development of a habit-system in which energy is directed strongly to
accomplishment, and in which obstacles which might be permitted to swerve him
from his purpose are battered down, overcome, or circumvented.
I repeat, the only way by which any life-form, man included, gains a powerful will is
though its gradual development in overcoming obstacles and not being swerved from
the predetermined course by difficulties. And I am sure that no one, with all the
things that need to be accomplished in the world, is required to invent artificial
obstacles, such as holding one's arm aloft until it shrivels, or sitting on sharp spikes,
to find difficulties on which to practice. These devices, of course, are not employed
by the more enlightened devotees even in the Orient. But everyday life affords even
better opportunities for the culture of willpower than the other and less painful
artificial devices offered either by East or West.
The essential thing in the culture of will is to make up your mind what you are going
to do, then do it energetically, and let no difficulty nor obstacle deter you until it has
been finished. Each and every time you do this you have increased your will-power.
And if, one time after another, you thus accomplish what you set out to do, you will
gradually develop a powerful will. Other life-forms than man develop their
will-power in the same manner. Will-power is developed by accomplishing
whatever has been determined upon, and it is developed in no other way.
But when man, or any other life-form, determines resolutely to accomplish
something, to do something, and permits himself to be deflected from his objective,
his will-power is weakened. And every time he determines to do something and fails
to do it, or starts something which he expects to finish and fails to accomplish it, he
weakens his will. And if he continues to make resolutions and breaks them, in time
his will becomes so flabby that he is considered by others, and looks upon himself, as
a person of weak character.
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You will now perceive that the development of will is merely a conditioning process
by which the habit is developed of reacting to a decision in a particular way. The
powerful will has gradually conditioned itself to react to a decision by always
accomplishing the thing decided upon, and the weak will has gradually conditioned
itself to react to a decision by seldom accomplishing the thing decided upon.
Will-power is merely a habit-system which has been strongly conditioned to act in a
given way.
Additional information as to the conditioning process is contained in Course XIV, Chapter 5
and Course XIX, Chapter 4. Chiefly it consists of associating as many pleasurable elements
as possible with the thing which is to determine the direction of desire and action in the
future. In the matter of will culture, as many and as strong pleasurable thoughts and
emotions as possible should be associated with the accomplishment of each thing
which is attempted.
Perhaps the greatest obstacle to the proper development of will is the tendency of the
neophyte, moved by the desire to accomplish great things, to undertake more at one
time than he can reasonably expect to carry out. It is quite natural, suffused with
enthusiasm, that he should wish to become a full fledged adept in the short space of
twelve months. He outlines for himself a systematic course of study, certain hours to
be devoted to concentration and other mental practices, and sets for himself high
standards of conduct. The trouble-is that for as many years as he has been alive in
human form he has been cultivating different habits of thought and action. And mere
resolution is insufficient to displace these old habits. They come in and in a short time
he finds that he has fallen deplorably behind what he hoped to accomplish.
To develop the will from a none too vigorous state, the very first thing is to form a
habit of not making a definite decision to do a thing until all its possibilities and
probable obstacles have been fully weighed. It is much better to decide to do less than
later is actually accomplished than to decide to do much in a given space of time and
then fall far below the mark. For every time you do the thing you set out to do your
will is strengthened, and you have a right to have more confidence in yourself in the
future. But every time you fall short of what you set out to accomplish your
confidence in yourself is weakened. Therefore, at start, the greatest caution should be
exercised not to make a definite decision to do something unless it is something you
are sure you can do and are willing to make sufficient sacrifice to do.
Start in with the little things. Make no definite decision about other things, except
that sometime, as soon as possible, you will master all the occult sciences, all the soul
senses and states of consciousness, and arrive at the state of perfect man, the exalted
adept. This you can safely do, because you have set no time limit. And it is good to
have some ideal or objective toward which the whole life and energies are directed. It
leads to the most effectual progress.
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But whatever little thing you decide to do, place the decision in writing, state it
publicly, or in some way set it apart from the various desires and wishes that are half
decisions but have not yet reached a state in which you have decided irrevocably that
you will do them. The thing of importance in this respect is always to have it clear in
your own mind, and not subject to hedging, that you actually have decided to do the
thing. And having decided, always keep faith with yourself and do it. That is really
what it amounts to; it is keeping faith with yourself, it is keeping your own credit
good.
Your soul knows how many times you have promised to do something and then have
failed of performance. Would your grocer, if you had as often failed to pay him as
promised, still consider your credit good? Your decision is your promise to pay,
given to your soul. Your soul, having trusted or mistrusted you since birth, has an
opinion as to your ability to keep your pledges to it, and these opinions are based
upon your past performances.
If your financial credit was poor at the various merchants in your community, how
would you go about it to make that credit good? Would you do it by starting to pay
cash for every purchase? If you always paid cash no one would ever know whether or
not your credit is good. People who always pay cash for purchases seldom can
borrow much without furnishing collateral. It is the man who borrows money or
owes bills, and who always pays when he promises to pay, who has the highest credit
rating. The fact that, over a number of years, he has always met every obligation
squarely induces a confidence that he will meet all obligations squarely in the future.
And your soul knows whether you have kept your promises to it or not.
To establish the confidence of your own soul that you will do what you decide to do,
what virtually you promised it you will do, it is essential that your soul should have
frequent experiences in which both you make promises, and at the appointed time
and in the appointed manner, honor them. Just as you would establish credit in the
purchase of merchandise, you start in with very small promises. The essential thing is
that you do not make decisions, or promises, and then break them. For every decision
not carried out decreases the faith of your soul that you will fulfill your obligations to
it. Therefore, it is essential that matters of formal decision, matters which your soul
regards as a compact with it, should be very easily carried out at first, so that there
may be no slip in the matter of fulfillment.
Every time you make a bargain with your soul and that bargain is carried out to the
letter the soul gains faith in you, that is, in its own power to do what it sets out to do.
But if you promise to do some big thing, something entirely beyond your power of
accomplishment, the inevitable result is non-fulfillment and loss of faith, which
means loss of willpower. Yet by beginning with small things, with promises to your
soul that are easy of accomplishment, and gradually increasing the difficulties which
you promise to overcome, being careful always not to take on something which you
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are not willing and able to carry through to the finish, your credit with yourself may
be increased. And in time, because you have thus formed the habit of paying your
bills to yourself, your soul will have faith that you can do anything that you, after
analyzing its feasibility, decide upon doing. You will then be in possession of an
invincible will.
And that you may be energetic, as well as inflexible, the habit-system should be
formed of concentrating energy in volume and intensity upon the thing which is to be
accomplished. When you have promised your own soul you will do something, made
a formal decision to do it, instead of permitting the matter to drift along and drag in
accomplishment, pour enough energy and intensity into it to do it with proper
expedition. Even though it requires energy drawn from other important things, if you
have formally decided to do something, marshal sufficient energy toward its
accomplishment that it can be put through in a reasonable amount of time. Do this
with everything, small or great, if there has been a formal decision regarding it. Make
it a part of your payment, a part of what your soul always may expect of you when you
have made a promise.
A powerful and energetic will is an essential to great accomplishment, and it should
be the endeavor of every neophyte to cultivate such will-power. And anyone can
develop a powerful and energetic will who will persist in conditioning himself
through the processes just outlined.
Procrastination Weakens and Defeats the Will
-- Procrastination is a habit-system which may be developed from a number of
different factors. It may be just the habit of not doing the thing that should be done
because there is not energy enough, or because of inertia, or in other words laziness.
But more often the habit-system is developed through deciding to do more things
than can possibly be accomplished with the customary energy and time at the
individual's command. It arises from lack of proper management of the time and
energy factors available.
Therefore, the things that one desires to do should be analyzed to find out which are
most important. And the decision should be made to do only those most important.
With the will-power already strengthened through applying it to lesser matters, it
should, after careful consideration of all factors, be decided also when the start will
be made to do some important thing, and adequate time should be set aside in which
to accomplish the important thing. Then, faithfully following the pattern of the
decision thus made, the time that has thus been decided to use for the
accomplishment of this particular thing should be so used until the job, whatever it is,
is finished. This often requires setting aside some given period of each day in which
to study, or work, or practice, until the desired end is reached.
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Because there are so many things in life that seem to call for doing, some, of necessity
must be neglected. But certainly you should not neglect the things which are really
vital to you, merely that you may give attention to other things which are of little
consequence. The first step, thus, in overcoming a habit-system of procrastination, is
to form a habit of, at intervals, analyzing the things that seem to call for doing, with a
view of finding out which are really the most important.
Then to start the new habit-system, select one of the most important things that needs
doing, and for the time being neglect the other things. But be sure to do the one
important thing at the time scheduled. Do not undertake too much at this initial
attempt. Yet do it without fail..
After this select another important thing to be done--say, fifteen minutes, study of B.
of L. lessons at a certain time each day--and do it on schedule. Permit nothing to
block the performance of the job you have decided to do at the time decided on. You
will find satisfaction in this, and the feeling of satisfaction experienced will aid you
further in building the new habit-system. Do not, however, undertake to make too
many changes in your life, or in your work, at one time. Make an easy start. Do the
thing to be done at the time decided upon. Then step at a time add other important
things.
Life should not be all work and no play. But if you will think about your friends you
will, I am sure, agree with me that most people spend too much time and energy on
trivial things, to the neglect of those things which are most important if they are to
attain optimum living.
The Way to Form a Wanted Habit
--Although in Course XIV, Chapters 5-7, I have gone rather thoroughly into the
details of how habits may be formed, just a few words on this vitally important
subject will be said because every change in character which is contemplated in
personal alchemy depends upon the elimination of certain habits and the adoption of
new ones in their stead. In the first Chapter 1 of this course I outlined what I
believe to be the three most important things every neophyte should know. And in
this lesson I point out the three habits which I believe are most essential to any
neophyte who sets his feet upon the pathway leading to adeptship.
The first of these is habitually to reflect upon your various thoughts, feelings and
actions, day by day, with a view of determining whether or not they may be changed
in some way that will increase your power to benefit society. That is, they are
scanned to determine if you are living up to the perfect moral code, if you are
Contributing Your Utmost, under the conditions and circumstances that obtain,
toward the welfare and progress of society. And if not you should take such steps as
are necessary thus to live up to that code. The second is the habit of feeling pleased
and self-satisfied whenever such an analysis reveals that you have done your utmost,
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even though the results are different from those expected and desired. It is the habit of
experiencing a high degree of pleasure in every thought, act and feeling which is
prompted by the effort to aid cosmic welfare. The third is the habit of exercising an
energetic and inflexible will; for without will-power nothing worth while can be
accomplished, either for yourself or for others.
You will perceive that we first considered things a neophyte should know. This is the
proper sequence. For action should be based upon knowledge. First we should know
what to do; and then we should do it. And these habit-systems here advocated first to
be adopted are based upon knowledge. But they are more than knowledge, for they
require definite and predetermined actions. And to be sure that these actions are not
neglected or postponed unduly, they should be built into the personality as
permanent habits.
We have on the shelves of our class-room in Los Angeles, something over 2,000
occult books of different titles. And there are individuals who have read the greater
part of these books, yet who have made practically no advancement in the practice of
occultism, nor received appreciable benefit from such reading. They can tell what
almost any book teaches; but they have never made any of these teachings an integral
part of their lives. For over a quarter of a century to my knowledge, they have been
reading such books; but in that time there has been no change apparent in their
characters. They possess a great mass of information, which can hardly be called
knowledge because it has never been digested. But this information has merely
meant entertainment to them. It has never influenced their conduct.
We must have knowledge, to be sure, and the more knowledge the better. But
knowledge, valuable as it is, accomplishes nothing except when used in action. The
mere studying of the 21 courses of occult science issued under the auspices of The
Brotherhood of Light, or even the passing of examinations on all of them and
becoming a Hermetician, results in no accomplishment unless this knowledge is put
into practice. It is only when we build some great truth into our characters that the
truth becomes of much benefit to us. The information supplied in these 21 courses is
such that it can be, and should be, applied to the problems of life as they arise. And the
way to be sure that the more vital attitudes and acts of life are not neglected in the
hustle and bustle of competitive existence is firmly to establish them as
habit-systems.
As the neophyte progresses, he will find there are many thoughts, feelings and
actions, some of which will be mentioned later in this course which, to insure they are
not neglected, should be made permanent habits. But it is a great mistake to
undertake many such changes all at one time. You may be able, in a friendly contest,
to throw any man in a village in a wrestling match. It is doubtful if you can throw any
two men engaged at one time. And no matter if you are a champion wrestler, you
cannot hope to throw all the men in a village if they are all engaged at once.
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Any new habit adopted really means vanquishing some habit that has already been
established, even if that habit is only the habit of inertia regarding the thing at hand.
And you will do well to route the old habit by displacing it with the new one, if you
take them on one at a time. But if you take on the whole crew of old habits at once you
are vanquished even before you get well started.
Keep in mind that every new habit adopted routes some old habit, and that the one
effective way to break some old habit is to adopt some other habit which, when
entrenched, makes the old habit powerless to operate. The thinking about or paying
attention to any old habit gives it additional energy and makes it that much harder to
overcome.
When lapses occur, feelings of remorse, discouragement, sorrow, or other
disagreeable emotions lend their energy to the very thing which is to be dispossessed.
Therefore it is essential, no matter how much difficulty is caused by the lapse, that as
little attention be paid to it as possible. It should be ignored, and the energies be
mustered for, and the attention given to, the habit which it is desired should shoulder
the old one out.
And right in line with this policy, be sure to give the new habit plenty of attention.
When it is successful in manifesting in place of the old one be sure that you give as
much play as possible to pleasant emotions. The new habit feeds upon attention, and
upon pleasant feelings. Strengthen it through the pleasure technique.
By all means do not lightly decide to adopt a new habit. All that was said in regard to
the development of will-power applies with full force here. Weigh the matter
thoroughly to perceive if you really are prepared to undertake this particular struggle
at this time. For the adoption of any new habit is always a struggle. It is a struggle
between the old habit which resists displacement and the new one which shoulders
in. One who issues a challenge to a formidable antagonist while quite unprepared for
such a contest is commonly considered lacking in wit. And I am sure one who,
without weighing the chance for victory, enters upon the struggle to adopt some new,
even though highly beneficial habit, is lacking in wisdom.
The entering of a contest should be preceded by a careful weighing of the factors both
for and against possible victory. Then, having decided there is a reasonable hope of
success, a plan of campaign should be outlined. Strategy should be developed and the
various assets collected for the struggle.
One of the most powerful weapons of the antagonist in such a contest is neglect and
forgetfulness. If the fact slips from the mind that such a struggle is in progress, the old
habit easily gains the victory. Therefore, some method should be devised which,
whenever the conditions are such that the new habit should manifest, will surely
draw the attention to this fact. And a carefully thought opt campaign will then insure
that sufficient energy, particularly pleasurable feelings and emotions, is associated
with the new habit to carry it over the top to success.
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As I have pointed out, the finer details of developing habit-systems are set forth in
Course XIV, Chapters 5-7. Here I have merely attempted to show that the
adoption of any new and desirable habit follows precisely the lines laid down for the
successful culture of the will. For will-power is merely the habit of accomplishing
what one sets out to do. And other habit-systems, a number of which the neophyte
will adopt, one at a time, on the upward road to attainment, are merely thinking,
feeling and acting customarily in a certain manner under certain circumstances. That
is, they are the habitual accomplishment of definite thinking, feeling and acting
which have been decided upon. They are thus, when decided upon, specific exercises
of will-power, and as such come under the same general rule for cultivation as
will-power itself.
And the sum total of such habit-systems, as they exist at a given time, is a clear index
of how far the neophyte has then advanced; for they express his character as it is
constituted at that time.