Character is developed by training all the forces and elements of life to act constructively in those spheres for which they were created, and to express themselves in those actions only that promote the original purpose of the being of man.
Every part of the human system has a purpose of its own–a purpose that it was created to fulfill. When those elements that belong to each part express themselves in such a way that the purpose of that part is constantly promoted, all actions are right; and it is character that causes those actions to be right. Character is therefore indispensable, no matter what one’s object in life may be. Character is the proper direction of all things, and the proper use of all things in the human system. And the proper use of anything is that use that promotes the purpose for which that particular thing was created.
To develop character it is therefore necessary to know what life is for, to know what actions promote the purpose of that life, and to know what actions retard that purpose. When the secret of right action is discovered, and every part of man is steadily trained in the expression of right action, character may be developed. But whatever is done, character must be applied in its fullest capacity. It is only through this full use, right use and constant use that anything may be perpetuated or developed.
Character develops through a constant effort to cause every action in the human system to be a right action; that is, a constructive action, or an action that promotes the purpose of that part of the system in which the action takes place. This is natural because since character is the power of right action, every effort to extend the scope of right action will increase the power of character. To have character is to have the power to promote what you know to be the purpose of life, and to be able to do the right when you know the right. To have character is to know the right, and to be so well established in the doing of the right that nothing in the world can turn you into the wrong.
The first essential is therefore to know the right; to be able to select the right; to have that understanding that can instinctively choose the proper course of action, and that knows how each force and element of life is to be directed so that the original purpose of human life will be fulfilled. The understanding of the laws of life will give this first essential in an intellectual sense, and this is necessary in the beginning; but when character develops, one inwardly knows what is right without stopping to reason about it. The development of character enables one to feel what is right and what course to pursue regardless of exterior conditions or intellectual evidence. The intellect discerns that the right is that which promotes growth and development; character inwardly feels that the right leads to greater things and to better things, and that the wrong leads invariably to the inferior and the lesser.
The presence of character produces a consciousness of growth throughout the system; and the stronger the character, the more keenly one can feel that everything is being reconstructed, refined, perfected and developed into something superior. This is but natural because when the character is strong, everything in the system is expressed in right action, and the right action of anything causes the steady development of that particular thing.
To distinguish between the right and the wrong becomes simplicity itself when one knows that the right promotes growth, while the wrong retards growth. Continuous advancement is the purpose of life; therefore, to live the right life is to live that life that promotes progress and growth, development and advancement in everything that pertains to life. For this reason, that action that promotes growth is in harmony with life itself, and must consequently be right. But that action that retards growth is at variance with life; therefore it is wrong; and wrong for that reason alone. Everything that promotes human advancement is right. Everything that interferes with human advancement is wrong. Here we have the basis of a system of ethics that is thoroughly complete, and so simple to live that no one need err in the least.
An intellectual understanding of the laws of life will enable any one to know what action promotes growth and what action retards growth, but as character develops, one can feel the difference between right and wrong action in his own system, because the consciousness of right becomes so keen that anything that is not right is discerned at once. It is therefore evident that the power to distinguish the right from the wrong in every instance will come only through the development of character. No matter how brilliant one may be intellectually, he cannot truly know the right until he has a strong character. The external understanding of the right can be misled, but the consciousness of the right is never mistaken; and this consciousness develops only as character develops.
The second essential is to create a subconscious desire for the right–a desire so deep and so strong that nothing can tempt the mind to enter into the wrong. When this desire is developed, one feels a natural preference for the right; to prefer the right, under all circumstances becomes second nature, while every desire for the wrong will disappear completely. When every atom in one’s being begins to desire the right, the entire system will establish itself in the right attitude, and right action will become the normal action in every force, function and faculty. In addition, this same desire will produce mental tendencies that contain the power of right action, which always means constructive action.
It is a well known fact that all the forces and energies of the system, and all the movements of mind follow mental tendencies; therefore, when the mental tendencies are right actions, everything that takes place in the system will produce right action; and everything will be properly directed.
The desire for the right may be developed by constantly thinking about the right with deep feeling. Every thought that has depth, therefore, will impress itself upon the subconscious, and when that thought is inspired with a strong desire for the right, the conscious impression will convey the right to the subconscious. Every impression that enters the subconscious will cause the subconscious to bring forth a harvest of that which the impression conveyed; therefore, when the right is constantly held in mind with deep feeling, the right thought will soon become the strongest in the mind; and our desires are the results of our strongest thoughts.
You always desire that which is indicated in your strongest thought. You can therefore change those desires completely by thinking with deep feeling about that which you want to desire. No desire should be destroyed. All desires should be transmuted into the desire for the right, and when you subconsciously desire the right, every action in your being will be a right action.
The two fundamental essentials, therefore, to the development of character are to know the right and to desire the right, but the term “right” as employed here must not be confounded with that conception of right which includes only a few of the moral laws. To be right, according to the viewpoint of completeness, is to be in harmony with all the principles of life, and all the laws of the present sphere of human existence. To know the right, it is necessary not simply to memorize rules that other minds have formulated, but to inwardly discern what life is for, and what mode of thought and action is conducive to the realization of that which is in life. To desire the right, according to this view of the right, the mind must actually feel the very soul of right action, and must be in such perfect touch with the universal movement of right action, that all lesser and imperfect desires are completely swallowed up in the one desire–the desire that desires all that is in life, and all that is in perfect harmony with that which is in life.
It is the truth, that when we come into perfect touch with the greater, we cease to desire the lesser, and the closer we get to the one real desire, the less we care for our mistaken desires. Therefore, to remove an undesirable desire, the course is not to resist that desire, but to cultivate a greater and a better desire along the same line. In this connection, we must remember that the adoption of a greater desire does not compel us to sacrifice those things that we gain from the lesser desires. He who adopts the greater loses nothing, but is on the way to the gaining of everything.
To know the right and to desire the right, according to the complete significance of the right, we must interiorly discern the very right itself. We cannot depend upon another’s definition of the right, but must know fully the spirit of the right with our own faculties. That faculty that knows and feels the right, and that naturally knows and desires the right is character. Therefore, it is through the development of character that each individual will know for himself how to live, think and act in perfect harmony with the laws of all life.
When the consciousness of right action has been attained, a clear mental picture should be deeply impressed upon mind and every desire should be focused upon that picture. This concentration should be made as strong as possible, so that all the energies of the system are not only aroused, but caused to move towards the ideal of right action. And by right action, we mean that action that is thoroughly constructive, that builds for greater things and greater things only. Everything is right that builds for greater things. If it were not right, it could not produce the greater.
To clearly picture upon the mind the image of right action, and to concentrate with strong desire the whole attention upon that mental image, will cause all the tendencies of mind to move in the same direction. There will therefore be perfect harmony of mental action, and that action will be right action, because everything that moves towards the right must be right. This mental picture of right action should always be complete; that is, one’s mental conception of the right should not be confined to certain parts of the system only, but should include every action conceivable in the being of man.
That person who pictures himself as virtuous, but forgets to picture himself above anger, fear and worry, is not forming a complete picture or ideal of the right. He is not giving the creative energies of the system a perfect pattern; the character that those energies are to build will therefore be one-sided and weak.
First ask yourself what you would have all the energies, powers, functions and faculties in your system do. Answer that question in the best manner possible, and upon that answer, base your picture of right action. Whenever a new line of action is undertaken, the mind should continue in that original line of action until the object in view has been reached. To do this in all things, even in trivial matters, will not only cause every action to produce the intended results, but real character will steadily be made stronger thereby.
The habit of giving up when the present task is half finished and try something else is one of the chief causes of failure. The development of a strong character, however, will remove this habit completely. To constantly think of the highest and the greatest results that could possibly follow the promotion of any undertaking or line of action will aid remarkably in causing the mind to keep on. To expect much from what we are doing now is to create a strong desire to press on towards the goal in view. To press on towards the goal in view is to reach the goal, and to reach the goal is to get what we expected.
An essential of great importance in the building of character is the proper conception of the ideal. No mind can rise higher than its ideals, but every mind can realize its ideals no matter how high they may be. Our ideals therefore cannot be too high. The ideal should not only be a little better than the present real, but should be perfection itself. Have nothing but absolute perfection in all things as the standard and the goal, and never think of your goal as anything less. Do not simply aim to improve yourself in just one more degree. Aim to reach absolute perfection in all your attainments and all your achievements, and make that desire so strong that every atom in your being thrills with its power.
To form all one’s ideals in accordance with one’s mental conception of absolute perfection, will cause the mind to live above the world of the ordinary, and this is extremely important in the building of character. A great character cannot be developed so long as the mind continues to dwell on the ordinary, the trivial or the superficial. Neither can true quality and true worth find expression so long as thought continues on the common plane; and the life that does not continue to grow into higher quality and greater worth has not begun to live. When character is highly developed, both the personality and the mentality will feel the stamp of quality and worth. High mental color will be given to every characteristic, and the nature of man will cease to be simply human. It will actually be more.
In building character, special attention must be given to hereditary tendencies or those traits of character that are born in us. But as all such traits are subconscious, they can be changed or removed by directing the subconscious to produce the opposite characteristics or tendencies. It matters not in the least what we may have inherited from our ancestors. If we want to change those things, we can do so. The subconscious will not only respond to any direction that we may make, but is fully capable of doing anything in the world of mind or character that we may desire to have done. Examine the tendencies of your mind and character, and fix clearly in consciousness which ones you wish to remove and which ones you wish to retain. Those that you wish to retain should be made strong by daily directing the subconscious to give those tendencies more life, more power and more stability. To remove those tendencies that you do not wish to retain, forget them. Do not resist them nor try to force them out of the mind. Simply forget them and direct the subconscious to create and establish new tendencies that are directly opposite to the nature of the ones that you wish to remove. Build up those qualities that constitute real character, and every bad trait that you have inherited from your ancestors will disappear.
To build up those qualities, picture in your mind the highest conceptions of those qualities that you can possibly form; then impress those conceptions and ideas upon the subconscious. Such impressions should be formed daily, and especially before going to sleep, as the building process in the subconscious is more perfect during sleep.
By impressing the idea of spotless virtue upon the subconscious every day for a few months, your moral tendencies will become so strong that nothing can tempt you to do what you know to be wrong. Not that physical desire will disappear; we do not want any natural desire to disappear, but your control of those desires will be so complete that you can follow them or refuse to follow them just as you choose. And your desire to remain absolutely free from all wrong will become so strong that nothing can induce you to do what your finer nature does not wish to have done.
There are millions of people who are morally weak in spite of the fact that they do not wish to be, but if these people would employ this simple method, their weakness would soon disappear, because by impressing the idea of spotless virtue upon the subconscious, the subconscious will produce and express in the personality the power of virtue; and if this process is continued for some time, the power of virtue in the person will become so strong that it can overcome and annihilate instantly every temptation that may appear.
Impress upon the subconscious the idea of absolute justice, and your consciousness of justice will steadily develop until you can discriminate perfectly between the right and the wrong in every imaginable transaction. Whatever quality you wish to develop in your character, you can increase its worth and its power steadily by applying this subconscious law; that is, what is impressed upon the subconscious will be expressed through the personality, and since the seed can bring forth ten, thirty, sixty and a hundred fold, one tiny impression, therefore, may have the power to bring forth a great and powerful expression. Everything multiplies in the subconscious, whether it be good or otherwise. Therefore, by taking advantage of this law and giving to the subconscious only those ideas and desires that have quality and worth, we place ourselves in the path of perpetual increase of everything good that the heart may desire.
The two predominating factors in character are justice and virtue. The former gives each element in life its proper place. The latter turns each element to proper use. The consciousness of justice is developed through the realization of the fact that nothing can use what is not its own. To try to use what is not one’s own will result in misuse.
When the consciousness of justice is thoroughly developed, everything in the human system will be properly placed. That very power of the mind that feels justice–the true placing of things–will cause all things within man to be properly placed. And when justice rules among all things in the interior life of man, that man will naturally be just to all things in the exterior life.
It is not possible for any person to deal justly with men and matters in the external world until he has attained the consciousness of justice within himself. He may think he is just, or he may try to be just, but his dealings will not be absolutely just until he can feel justice in his own life. To feel justice within oneself is to keep the entire system in a state of equilibrium. The mentality will be balanced and no force or element will be misplaced. It is therefore something for which we may work with great profit.
To be virtuous in the complete sense of the term, is to use all things properly, and the proper use of things is that use that works for greater things. Virtue is therefore applicable to every force, function and faculty in the being of man, but in its application there must be no desire or effort to suppress or destroy. Virtue means use–right use–never suppression.
When things cannot be used in their usual channels, the energies in action within those things should be turned in their courses and used elsewhere. When creative energy cannot be properly applied physically, it should be employed metaphysically; and all energy can be drawn into mind for the purpose of building up states, faculties, talents or powers. (Practical methods through which this may be accomplished will be given in the next chapter.)
When a certain desire cannot be expressed with good results in its present purpose, the power of that desire should be changed and caused to desire something else–something of value that can be carried out now. The power of that desire therefore is not lost, neither is enjoyment sacrificed, because all constructive forces, give joy to the mind. “And the greatest of joys shall be the joy of going on.”
The desire for complete virtue is developed through the realization of the fact that the greatest good comes only when each part fulfills, physically and metaphysically, what nature intended. In the application of virtue, the purpose of nature may be fulfilled metaphysically when the physical channel does not permit of true expression at the time; though when physical expression may be secured, the metaphysical action should always be in evidence, because the greatest results always follow when physical and metaphysical actions are perfectly combined.
In the building of character, the two principal objects in view should be the strong and the beautiful. The character that is strong but not beautiful may have force, but cannot use that force in the building of the superior. The character that is beautiful but not strong, will not have sufficient power to carry out its lofty ideals. It is the strong and the beautiful combined that builds mind and character, and that brings into being the superior man.
When the creative energies are daily transmuted, and turned into muscle, brain and mind, a virtuous life can be lived without inconvenience. Besides, the body will be healthier, the personality stronger and the mind more brilliant.
Hold yourself constantly in a positive, masterful attitude, and fill that attitude with kindness. The result will be that remarkable something that people call personal magnetism.
Creative energy when retained in the system will give vigor to the body, sparkle to the eye and genius to the brain.
There is enough power in any man to enable him to realize all his desires and reach the highest good he has in view. It is only necessary that all of this power be constructively applied.