The philosophy of self-help - PDF by Stanton Davis Kirkham

The philosophy of self-help

The philosophy of self-help

An application of practical psychology to daily life


From Preface:

Some fifty years ago, Quimby affirmed that disease was a false belief outwardly picturing itself in the body and that a cure would be effected by substituting in the mind true ideas for false ones. It is probable that this was the first attempt in recent times at a practical application of the forces of the mind to the healing of the body upon the basis that physical ailments are the result of wrong-thinking or moral defection. 

A cure, then, was at the same time a moral regeneration, or at least a mental stimulus to right think- ing: in fact, this was the cure, — the physical benefits followed as a natural result. Fifty years of mental healing in one phase or another have amply demonstrated that there was some truth — if not all of the truth — in Quimby's assertion. The means he employed, consciously or unconsciously, was the power of Suggestion: not a random suggestion, but the suggestion of truth, of metaphysical, ethical, and spiritual principles to the mind whose disorder was revealed in the bodily disturbance. 

The power of suggestion is today generally recognised. Aside from the schools of mental healing, it has been employed in one form or another, usually as a hypnotic suggestion, notably in Europe by Charcot and Bemheim and in America by Dr Mason and others. Whether employed in hypnosis or in normal states, the suggestion is a suggestion, and it is that which accomplishes the work. While it is quite possible that in some cases it may be more effective during hypnosis, and Dr Mason's experiments would seem to indicate this, hypnotism is no more to be lightly used than are anaesthetics and only by very responsible persons. In the hands of the irresponsible, it is a menace. The control of another's will is to be deprecated on general principles.

 A consideration of hypnotism does not come within the scope of the present work wherein we shall confine ourselves to normal suggestion which from one source or another, consciously or unconsciously, is persistently playing upon every mind. When this mental force is systematically controlled and directed upon principles  — upon metaphysical and spiritual truths — the mind is strengthened, the character developed, and bodily conditions improved in consequence. Effective mental action of this kind implies not alone will and intelligence to direct the thought, but the first perception of truth, and understanding of principles upon which to direct it. 

Auto-suggestion is, therefore, the means of ' self-help with which we are here concerned: auto-suggestion with a view, that is, to mental control and development and a strengthening of the will, the results of which must become evident both in character and health. 

The mind, constantly active, is generating force, which uncontrolled or misdirected works harm, as readily and as obviously as any other force ignorantly handled. Systematically and wisely directed, it is a power for good at the disposal of every man, by which he may increase his efficiency and his happiness and may assist others to do so for themselves. 

The working of the mind, the action of suggestion, comes wholly within the province of Psychology. That body of truth, however, upon which it is profitable to direct the mind which we must have as the subject of our thinking —philosophical religions, ethical — is but that ancient wisdom scattered through the sacred books of the world and nowhere more in evidence than in the Bible. 

Consonant with the teaching of Jesus, it is often at variance with the tenets of Theology. In this book, we shall, therefore, first briefly review this body of truth — the normal field of the mind's activity. We shall then consider more at length the nature and activity of the mind itself and its relation to the body; and we shall conclude with such logical deductions and inferences as may be drawn, and such practical suggestions as may occur, with reference to mind building and character-forming, through an application of the principles discussed. In this connection it would be well to emphasise, at the outset, the important truth that all we know is necessarily through our minds; sensation, not less than perception and conception, is mental.

 It all depends, therefore, on the quality and fitness of the mind we possess. By its means, as through a glass, we take cognisance of the world and of life. If the glass is out of focus we see a distorted image. Hence the prime necessity of wise and systematic thought-control and direction in Foreword 5 accordance with true ideals of life and of character. 

Through this agency, we replace error in the mind with truth, discord with harmony, and weak and sickly ideas with strong and wholesome ones. The influence of the mind upon the body is today more fully recognised than the reaction of the quality of thought upon the mind itself. We are now inquiring how and why the mind affects the body. 

The consideration of its modus operandi belongs to Psychology and will in time be incorporated in that expanding science. Suggestion, telepathy, the sub-conscious, are now considered under the caption of the ''New Psychology." Properly there is no new psychology; Psychology is mere, like other sciences, in process of development. 

We do not speak of a New Chemistry and a New Physics because new elements have been discovered and new theories accepted. Yet this would be quite as correct as to speak of a New Psychology.

 New lands and stars have been discovered, and, from time to time, errors are corrected in the results of former observations. So in psychology, unknown fields of mental activity are being explored and relations established, and it would be as absurd for psychologists to ignore 6 Foreword these, as for geographers to treat the world as the Phoenicians knew it. 

While new lands are always not the discovery of geographers or of savants, they nonetheless pertain to Geography and must be shown on the latest maps, provided their existence has been verified and is not merely a sailor's yam. Discoveries in the field of psychology have not all been made by Professors of Psychology, but they must be recognised by them, where- ever bonafide, and must be incorporated in that science. Mental healing is far from lying wholly within the domain of Psychology. It rests on the foundation of metaphysics and of ethics, as the working of a machine depends on fundamental and cosmic laws relating to matter and force. 

As to what are true concepts and what is not, it is not for Psychology to decide and we must invoke, not Metaphysics alone, but Ethics and Philosophy. If we are to help ourselves, or others, it must be in accordance with true ideals. We must know at least cardinal facts of life, and what is more, be able to distinguish fact from appearance, truth from error.

the book details :
  • Author:  Stanton Davis Kirkham
  • Publication date: 1909
  • Company:  New York, London, Putnam

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