3. Energy and Power
by James Allen
HOW WONDERFUL is the universal energy! Never-tiring, inexhaustible, and apparently eternal in its operation, it moves in atom and in star, informing the fleeting shapes of tune with its restless, glowing, pulsating power.
Man is a portion of this creative energy, and in him it manifests, through a combination of mental faculties, as affection, passion, intelligence, morality, reason, understanding, and wisdom. He is not merely a blind conductor of energy, but he consciously uses, controls, and directs it. Slowly, but with certainty, is he gaining control of the forces without, and is making them do obedient service. And just as surely will he gain control of the forces within—the subtle energies of thought—and direct them into channels of harmony and happiness.
Man’s true place in the Cosmos is that of a king, not a slave, a commander under the law of Good and not a helpless tool in the reign of Evil. His own body and mind are the dual dominion over which he is to reign, a Lord of Truth, the master of himself, the wise user and controller of his store of pure, eternal, creative energy. Let him walk the earth unashamed, strong, valiant, tender, and kind; no longer prostrate in self-abasement, but walking erect in the dignity of perfect manhood; not groveling in selfishness and remorse, nor crying for pardon and mercy, but standing firm and free in the sublime majesty of a sinless life.
Long has man regarded himself as vile, weak, and unworthy, and has been content to remain so. But in the new era which has just now burst upon the world, he is to make a glorious discovery that he is pure, powerful, and noble when he rises up and wills. The rising up is not against any outward enemy; not against neighbor, nor governments, nor laws, nor spirits, nor principalities, but against the ignorance, folly, and misery which beset him in the dominion of his own mind. For it is only by ignorance and folly that man is slavish; by knowledge and wisdom his kingdom is restored.
Let them who will, preach man’s weakness and helplessness, but I will teach his strength and power. I write for men, not for babes; for those who are eager to learn, and earnest to achieve; for those who will put away (for the world’s good) a petty personal indulgence, a selfish desire, a mean thought, and live on as though it were not, without craving and regret. The Truth is not for the frivolous and the thoughtless. The Life Triumphant is not for triflers and loiterers.
Man is a master. If he were not, he could not act contrary to law. Thus his so-called weakness is an indication of strength; his sin is the inversion of his capacity for holiness. For what is his weakness and sin but misdirected energy, misapplied power? In this sense, the wrongdoer is strong, not weak; but he is ignorant, and exerts his strength in wrong directions instead of right, against the law of things instead of with it.
Suffering is the recoil of misdirected strength, The bad man becomes good by reversing his conduct. If you are weeping over your sins, cease to commit those sins and establish yourself in their opposing virtues. It is thus that weakness is converted into strength, helplessness into power, and suffering into bliss. By turning his energies from the old channels of vice, and directing them into the new channels of virtue, the sinner becomes a saint.
While the universal energy may be unlimited, in particular forms its sum is strictly limited. A man is possessed of a given amount of energy, and he can use it or misuse it, can conserve and concentrate it, or dissipate and disperse it. Power is concentrated energy; wisdom is that energy adapted to beneficent ends. He is the man of influence and power who directs all his energies towards one great purpose, and patiently works and waits for its fulfillment, sacrificing his desires in other and more pleasant directions. He is the man of folly and weakness who, thinking chiefly of pleasure, gratifies the desire of the hour, or follows the whim and impulse of the moment, and so drifts thoughtlessly into peevishness and poverty of mind.
The energy used in one direction is not available for use in other directions; this is a universal law both in mind and matter. Emerson calls it “the law of compensation.” Gain in a given direction necessitates loss in its opposite direction. The force placed in one scale is deducted from the other scale. Nature is always endeavoring to strike a balance. The energy which is dissipated in idleness is not given to work. The pleasure-seeker cannot also be a Truth-seeker.
The force wasted in a fit of bad temper is drawn from the man’s store of virtue, particularly the virtue of patience. Spiritually, this law of compensation is the law of sacrifice. Selfish pleasure must be sacrificed if purity is to be gained; hatred must be yielded up if love is to be acquired; vice must be renounced if virtue is to be embraced.
Earnest men soon discover that if they are to accomplish anything that is successful, strong, and enduring, in worldly, intellectual, or spiritual channels, they must curb their desires, and sacrifice much that seems sweet; yea, even much that seems important.
Hobbies, bodily and mental indulgences, enticing companionships, alluring pleasures, and all work that does not tend to some central purpose in his life must be sacrificed by the man of strong resolve. He opens his eyes to the fact that time and energy are strictly limited, and so he economizes the one and concentrates the other.
Foolish men waste their energies in swinish ease and gluttonous indulgence, in frivolous pleasures and empty talk, in hateful thoughts and irritable outbursts of passion, in vain controversy and meddlesome interference. They then complain that many are more “fortunately equipped than they are for a useful, successful, or great life, and they envy their honored neighbor who has sacrificed self to duty, and has devoted all his energies to the faithful performance of the business of his life.
“He who is just, speaks the truth, and does what is his own business, him the world will hold dear.” Let a man attend to his own business, concentrating all his energies upon the perfect accomplishment of the task of his life, not stepping aside to condemn or interfere with the duties of others, and he will find life simple, strong, and happy.
The universe is girt with goodness and strength, and it protects the strong and the good. Evil and weakness are self-destructive. Dissipation is annihilation. All nature loves strength. I see no inherent cruelty in “the survival of the fittest.” It is a spiritual as well as a natural law. The stronger qualities of the beast are the fittest to evolve a higher type. The nobler moral qualities in man are his emancipators, and it is well that they should dominate and ultimately crush out the ignoble tendencies.
Most certain it is that he who gives dominion to the lower, courts destruction, and does not survive, either in the struggle of life without or the battle of Truth within. The life given to the lower is lost to the higher; yea, it is finally lost also to the lower, and so all is lost, for evil is ultimately nothingness. But the life given to the higher is preserved, and is not lost to anything, for, while it sacrifices much that the world holds precious, it does not sacrifice anything that is precious in reality.
The untrue and worthless must perish, and he who consecrates himself to the good and the true is content that they should perish, and so at last he stands where sacrifice ends, and all is gain—such a one survives in the struggle of life without, and he conquers in the battle of Truth within.
First, then, be strong. Strength is the firm basis on which is built the temple of the Triumphant Life.
Without a central motive and fixed resolve, your life will be a poor, weak, drifting, unstable thing. Let the act of the moment be governed by the deep abiding purpose of the heart. You will act differently at different times, but the act will not be wrong if the heart is right. You may fall and go astray at times, especially under great stress, but you will quickly regain yourself, and you will grow wiser and stronger, thereby, so long as you guide yourself by the moral compass within, and do not throw it away to gratify indulgence and give yourself up to uncertain drifting.
Follow your conscience. Be true to your convictions. Do at the moment what you regard as right, and put away all procrastination, vacillation, and fear. If you are convinced that in the performance of your duty under certain circumstances the severest measures are necessary, carry out those measures, and let there be no uncertainty about it. Err on the side of strength rather than weakness. The measures you adopt may not be the best, but if they are the best you know, then your plain duty is to carry them out. By so doing you will discover the better way, if you are anxious for progress, and are willing to learn. Deliberate beforehand, but in the tune of action do not hesitate.
Avoid anger and stubbornness, lust and greed. The angry man is the weak man. The stubborn man, who refuses to learn or mend his ways, is the foolish man. He grows old in folly, and grey hairs do not bring him reverence or honor. The sensualist has energy for pleasure only, and reserves none for manliness and self-respect. The greedy man is blind to the nobility of human nature and the glory of a true life; he spends his energies in perpetuating the miseries of hell, instead of enjoying the happiness of heaven.
Your strength is with you, and you can spend it in burrowing downward or in climbing upward. You can dissipate it in selfishness or conserve it in goodness. The same energy will enable you to become a beast or a god. The course along which you direct it will determine its effect. Do not think the thought, “My mind is weak,” but convert weakness into strength, and energy into power by redirecting your mental forces. Turn your thoughts into noble channels. Put away vain longings and foolish regrets; abolish complaint and self-condolence, and have no dalliance with evil. Lift your face upward. Rise up in your divine strength, and spurn from your mind and life all meanness and weakness. Do not live the false life of a whining slave, but live the true life of a conquering master.