Affirmations and Denials
The Path, March, 1892
In the PATH of January a discussion on the subjects of “Mind Cure” and the like was begun. Since then we have had some letters from and conversations with those who think that the article is not right, or that it takes a wrong view, or that it does not state all the views of all the schools, and when we referred the enquirers to publications of “professors” of these schools we were told that they do not represent the thing properly, and so on. In this article it is purposed to refer to some of these published utterances of the said professors, so that they may be examined.
In a journal called Christian Science for the month of January, published in Boston apparently under the auspices of a college of the cult, is the following from an article entitled “My Healing Message,” by Minna Peckham:
“I now declare all pain, sickness, or death to be nothing—nothing. There is no sickness. I deny that there ever was any sickness. I do not believe in poverty; I know there is no poverty; there never was any poverty; There never will be any poverty. We have great stores of wealth; every man, woman, and child is rich. They want for nothing. I do not believe in storms. I know there are no storms. There never were any storms; there never will be any. I deny the reality of storms henceforth and forevermore. I do not believe in accidents, I know there never were any accidents and there never never shall be any.”
And all this raving is uttered in serious earnest, winding through many more paragraphs, and ending as follows:
“I am a messenger of God’s love and a bearer of good tidings of what is true.”
But we are told by some that this sort of thing “is not the Simon pure straight; it is not representative.” The difficulty is that the different “metaphysicians” say the same of each other, and when they are cornered by something like this they say “O that is not the proper thing.” But a still greater difficulty is that the folly just quoted is the exact outcome of the other systems, for they all have a system of affirming and denying that must, if carried to its logical conclusion, lead to just what Miss Peckham says. She is evidently not afraid to boldly go to the end and reduce herself and all other things and beings on this plane to nothing. Indeed, it is quite proper to go still further than her “message” in order to carry out the line of argument laid down, in the way: “There is nothing; I do not think, I never did, I never will, and the thoughts I have just uttered have no existence, and therefore all that I have said is nothing, and hence all that I have denied is just the opposite.” This is quite logical and proper, and reduces the whole matter to its right position. The whole set of affirmations and denials reminds one of the passages in the writings of the great Seer Swedenborg, where he describes those souls who affirm and deny anything at all and reduce any statement to the very opposite of what may have been said. We are not joking, but are in sober earnest and call on all forms of argument and all schools of real literature to support our position. Of course some will not agree, but we are willing to rest the case with those who have been educated to understand the true course of an argument. There are rules of logic which must be followed unless we are come upon an age when all these things have passed away. And the “Healing Message” has been taken up now because the publication appeals to theosophists and advertises theosophical books.
As soon as the Absolute began to manifest itself, or, if you like, immediately that Almighty God created things and beings, relativity begins, and all minds are caught in its net and are obliged to look at things relatively. And so it comes about that we have to say “good” and “evil,” as well as all the other words that connote these relative things and ideas. If there were no evil there would be no good. It is therefore wrong in logic and common sense to say there is no evil. It is only the desire of the optimist, who will not look at things as they are, that causes people to affirm that all is good or that there is no evil. It is all relative, and there is both evil and good, just as light and darkness exist. For if there were not the one we would never know anything about the other, since these ideas arise from contrasts.
In the so-called metaphysical arts or “sciences” the relativity of things and ideas is constantly ignored from the desire to have everything right and just as we want it. But how can these optimists know they are right when they sweep away relativity? and how shall any of us say that sorrow and poverty do not exist? Poverty is a fact—the fact of being without means or the things that can be bought with means, and this is so whether the general wants of the nation you live in are small or large. It is in no sense a sentiment or due to imagination. Hence poverty here will be riches for the man in India, and so on, but all the time there is poverty in any land, no matter how the relativity in respect to that sort of poverty alters in another.
So it is against the experience of all to say there is no poverty, and it is also contrary to logic. But it is not wrong to say that the effect on your mind may alter as you look at the matter; and so you may be poor yet at the same time be contented. This, though spiritual or moral richness, is none the less actual poverty. But proper contentment does not come from violations of logic and fact, but from a right view of this universe of relativity. And such right view will never be attained by denials that con not be sustained.
Many of the objections made to the views in the January article were wide of the mark, for they took the ground that the writer held, as they said other members of the Society do, the opinion that we should go on thinking we are sick when we are not, and that we are miserable when it is only a result of morbidity of mind. Such is not the position at all. Much of our misery is due to discontent and to selfishness, and will disappear as we grow contented and whole-souled. Many of our bodily complaints fade away when we have restored the mind to normal action. But this normal action is not secured by bad logic and worse statistics. It is done by recognizing the fact that “the mind is its own place, and can make a hell of heaven, a heaven of hell.” As we see that one set of circumstances make one man happy and another the very opposite, we know that much depends on the way in which we look at our surroundings; but this is an old idea, one always held by the most ancient of the ancients. What right have the “metaphysicians” to arrogate it to themselves? All good physicians have said that much depends on the mind of the patient, but that does not do away with the necessity for good physicians; it only calls for more sense on the part of the patients.
Let us suppose a nation imbued from birth to death with the absurd denials and affirmations we have quoted, and try to imagine what would be the effect on the next incarnation of such a people. Probably Miss Peckham does not believe in reincarnation, but, if she did, might say the effect would be good. But would all the poverty and the storms and earthquakes have come to an end? Hardly, since in the case of the natural throes of mother Earth what thoughts may cause them are beyond our purview and unaffected by our denials. Would the contrasts that really constitute poverty, no matter what the sphere of being, cease to have existence? We think not, unless everything by the remarkable process outlined in the paper quoted from had been reduced to one dead level. But we know at least this, that evolution is the law of nature in all departments and that no dead level is possible, and under the law of evolution there must be these contrasts, no matter how high we go or how long continue in the great stream. Hence if these affirmations and denials should have the effect of removing us from this sphere to another, there the deniers and affirmers would have to begin the weary process over again of plunging themselves into a sea of illusionary thought devoid of logic and merely optimistic. If this picture be correct, is it wise to continue the system or in any way to give it moral support?