The Power of Suggestion
From a Talk by Robert Crosbie
Theosophy, July, 1922
The power of suggestion means many different things to many minds. It is coupled with the idea of hypnosis, where the operator is able to make the subject think, say, do, or imagine anything he chooses. That is possible through the abnormal condition of the subject. The means and methods of inducing this abnormal condition are not generally known, although some practitioners have hit upon various ways of bringing on hypnosis in some subjects.
But what is to be discussed is the fact of suggestion itself, generally considered, and as it affects all men. People are not aware that they act almost entirely under suggestion. From our birth we are surrounded by those who suggest certain ideas to us as true, and we follow these suggested ideas. There is very little original thought anywhere, and particularly is this true in those lines to which the public pays the most attention—that is, politics, religion, science. Whatever system of thought is presented to us, that we adopt. We follow the suggestion given, with no attempt to reach to the basis of that which is suggested. The foundation upon which the suggestion rests is taken for granted, even in the most important things in life.
Our religion, for example, is stated to be a ‘revelation.” We accepted it in childhood, accepted it as a fact, without looking into it to see what it is and on what it is founded. Our powers of thought and action being based upon a false suggestion does not inhibit their exercise, but as a result all our possibilities of thought and action, all our mental creations, the whole super structure of our existence, are false, because, thinking from false premises, our thinking will inevitably lead to false conclusions.
This is just as truly the fact as in the case of the hypnotized subject. He is thrown into an abnormal condition; he has nothing before his mind; the operator presents a given idea and with it the suggestion of a certain mode of action. Immediately the subject adopts the suggestion, goes to work on it, and will continue working along the suggested line cumulatively until the suggestion is changed.
Those who are born into any particular sect ought to know this. With our first sense of understanding, ideas are presented to us, instilled into our minds as absolute facts. We proceed from that basis, and however long it is followed, no true understanding or conclusion can be reached. What do we know of the truth or falsity of these ideas when presented to us in childhood? Nothing whatever. What do our parents and teachers know of them? Nothing whatever. They have merely passed on to us the suggestions which they received in childhood and which have operated in them cumulatively ever since.
We must learn not to accept statements, no matter by whom made, simply because they are made to us. We must get at the basis of whatever is presented, know what its principles are—whether those principles are self-evident. If they are not self-evident, how can they be basic?
The idea is common to everybody in the Western world that there is a Creator of this universe. What do we know about it? If it is true that a being created the universe and all the beings in it, then we are not responsible. In continuance of that idea other ideas follow it: that man is here but once, that this is his only birth, and that from here he knows not where he goes. We have followed the suggestion that a man lives but one life, that he is fundamentally irresponsible for his being here, and we have built up our thoughts and actions on that basis. Does it make us wiser, happier, while we live? Does it produce peace and happiness for others? Does it bring us to the end of life any wiser, any better off? For we know that when we come to the end of life we leave every earthly thing we have gained while here.
But this earth is only one of many earths. What of the other planets, the other solar systems with which space is filled? Have we any vital knowledge in regard to them or the reason for their existence under the suggestions that have been handed to us?
When our religious impressions are changed, when other suggestions are given us, are they not handed to us in the same way? Whatever they are—Science,” “New Thought,” “Christian Science,” and so on—we adopt them, move along the lines suggested by those who give them to us, and what do we really learn? Nothing. We come to the end of life just as encased in ignorance, despite all the “revelations” ever given us. What do we know of their bases? Are they true or only partially so? We are never asked to look into their fundamentals, to see for ourselves if they are true, self-evident. No; we are asked to accept what is given us and go to work on that. That is suggestion.
Our municipal life, our national life, our political life, are all under suggestion, and few are they who try to go to the root of things and understand what the nature of being is, so that they can know for themselves and thus act with power and knowledge. As we look the field over, we find that we are all prey to the power of suggestion in every direction.
What is the criterion which we should apply to every suggestion presented to us? Just this: If we have the truth, it will explain what was before a mystery. And as we are surrounded by mysteries, the Truth must explain them all.
This power of suggestion must still be used, whatever line may be pointed out to us. If Truth exists and is possible to us—the Truth in religion, science and philosophy—it must first come to us by suggestion from Those who know. If it were not possible for this to be done, were not possible for us to avail ourselves of it, then there would be no use talking of these things. But when the true is suggested to us, there is always a means presented by which we may see and verify it. That means is not in anyone’s authority or endorsement, but in the fact that we can perceive it and test it for ourselves. The final authority is the man himself.
An outside God is an idol. We have to reach into the very recesses of our own being and understand that it is ourself that chooses and determines for itself what it shall accept and what reject. The very power of Divinity—the power of choice—is in each one of us. When we begin to understand that, we get the first clue to our own immortality. So we may see that That which lives and thinks in man is the Eternal Pilgrim. If you prefer to use the term God, you may say, “So many men on earth, so many Gods in heaven.”
There are many beings below man; perhaps some will admit that there may be, that there are, beings greater than man. None of these beings can be omnipresent, none of them can be the Supreme. What is that which is omnipresent and supreme in each and every being—in man, in the beings below man, in the beings above man? is it not this Power to perceive, to think, to choose, to act upon the thinking and the choosing—upon the Intelligence which the being has? That Power transcends all beings, all conceptions. It is that Power which lies at the root of all evolution, and is the very Essence of every being. No one is separate from That. No one is without That. All are rays from and one with That. There is no possibility of any existence apart from That.
Man stands in the midst of a vast and silent evolution—the evolution of Intelligence, of Soul. All the beings below man must be coming up the ladder of being to our stage, and whatever beings may exist beyond man, they must have passed through our stage and gone still farther up the ladder. They are our Elder Brothers and have passed through civilizations before ours—many, many ages before ours—and have reached a point of development far higher than ours. It is They who have carried forward all the knowledge gained in that vast evolution which has preceded ours.
These Elder Brothers of the human family are not spirits in the ordinary sense of the word, nor are they hazy beings, “gods” or “angels They are men, Mahatmas (Great Souls), who are perfected beings physically, mentally, morally, psychically, spiritually—who stand now where we shall one day stand, when we have perfected ourselves in the same way that They have done, through self-induced and self-devised exertions.
These Masters stand to us in Their knowledge and power, in Their ability and efforts to help and guide us, as the greatest and most powerful suggestion that could be made to any human being. They are willing and ready to help whenever and where ever we are willing and ready to receive. They never ask for anything; They are always ready to give to those who may be willing to follow the lines indicated, so that we in our turn may become as They are—may know for ourselves.
If we take Their philosophy as given to us in Theosophy, if we take it as a theory to be examined on its merits, we shall find that it explains. It explains why there are so many different kinds of people; it explains different natures; it explains why some suffer more and others suffer less. It explains why each one is born in a particular place, in that family, in that nation, at that time. It explains every inequality in life, every injustice, every mystery. It will enable a man to realize his own immortality, to live a conscious existence in Spirit, even while incarnated in a body here on this earth. At present we live in matter; we think that we exist in matter and are dependent on matter for our existence. We think in matter. Our religion is materialistic; our science is materialistic; our philosophy is materialistic. All this is due to the misuse of the power of suggestion and to our acceptance of ideas without investigation, without comparison, upon authority. We believe; we do not know.
There is no Divinity, save it has evolved as such from the One Spirit. Every Divine being is an evolution. Where ever divinity is spoken of it means an evolution of a being. All intelligence is based in the Power to perceive, and that exists in every grade of being. Intelligence is the extension of the power to know. This idea sets aside a great many suggestions that we have perhaps depended upon. It would be well for us if we did not depend upon anything save our own inherent power to learn, to extricate ourselves from our difficulties. All our powers are born with us; all our past experiences are with us, but they are crowded out by the suggestions given to us when we were children, and by the false ideas which we still entertain. Nothing but the Truth can ever set us free, and that Truth each one can find and follow, and thus come to know for himself.