What are you?
Until you can answer this question promptly and correctly at any time that it is asked, you do not know yourself well enough to trust yourself, to be happy, to be assured of continued safety and well-being.
I meet an intelligent appearing, upstanding young man, and I ask him, "What are you?" He looks puzzled. I repeat the question. Then he smiles pleasantly, thinking that I have not correctly worded the query. He informs me, "I am Johnny Doe." To himself he adds, "Twenty-two years of age; popular; law student; a man you will hear from, later."
The answer that Johnny Doe gives me and the elaborations that he makes to himself do not respond to the question that I asked. He has not understood the question. He has translated it from the impersonal to the personal; his answer corresponds to his lack of understanding. He has answered the question, "Who are you?"
If you have been considering yourself wholly as a personal entity you also will answer the question incorrectly when it is asked you. The error in your mind which causes you to assume the who when you should recognize the what, is the source of every misunderstanding in life that perplexes you.
The chief misapprehension of the world concerning Jesus Christ has been that of considering Him from the personal side of life. Contemporaries,
ignorant of His greatest value, said of Him, "He is the son of the carpenter"; "He is Moses or Elias." Peter, unconfused by the personal, said to Him, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matt. 16:16). The Christ placed His approval on this answer in the significant words, "Blessed art thou ... for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father who is in heaven."
The personal is the seen: body, conduct, situation. The impersonal is the unseen: spirit, mind, revelation. Your intention translates the unseen into the seen, and makes the what of life become the who of life.
The personal, the who, can be changed. You have changed it many times, and you will continue to change it. This is not said to indicate reincarnation. It is said to indicate the changes that come in body, conduct, and situation, in every life. These changes make Baby Doe become Johnny Doe; they make Johnny Doe grow successively into Lawyer Doe, Judge Doe, Governor Doe. In all of Johnny Doe's changes of relationship to the world, only the who is concerned. The what is not affected. That is changeless. It eternally will be what it eternally has been. It is the divinity of which Peter said in a moment of insight, "Thou art the ... Son of the living God."
In the fact that the personal can be changed lies your hope of achievement. In the fact that the impersonal is changeless lies your assurance of an attainable perfection in the realms of conscious being. From glory to glory passes the personal in its search
for the peace-bestowing impersonal, which has its home in the heart of God.
If discouragement assails you because of environment, tradition, or heredity, transfer your consideration from the personal to the impersonal. You are not characterless flesh and blood, unfavorable heredity, spineless nothingness. "Thou art the ... Son of the living God." In your everlasting nature you are impersonal, impregnable. Square your consideration of life by these facts, and you will be supplied with ample courage for every demand.
When you identify yourself solely with the personal you are not satisfied. There is a lack for which you cannot account, but which is very real to you. If you should voice your feeling you perhaps would say, "I want something. I do not know what it is that I want, but when I receive what I want I shall be satisfied." Knowing the personal, only, you have but superficial knowledge of yourself. Beneath the surface the rich deeps of life summon you with overmastering appeal. Not knowing how to respond, you have a sense of confusion and restlessness.
So thin the screen between the personal and the impersonal, so transparent the floor that shuts the superficial from the deeps, your vision now and then is soothed by flashes of your divine identity, and you have momentary peace. But the flash passes, and again the night of nonrecognition closes about you.
Disquieting questions as to the why and the how of life cease when you begin to regard yourself as impersonal being manifesting as personality. You become immune to doubt when you learn that the
impersonal is indestructible. Poise rules your life when you awaken to the fact that the changes which come to the personal are not the work of an agency outside yourself, but the registrations of your mental operations.
You know your starting point for a better manifestation when you see that in your present status of being you are triune. You can observe the three-sided aspect of your being by noticing the ways in which you think of yourself. The following points approximate your thoughts concerning your individuality:
First. You say, "I feel the assuring presence of a vast good, a something indefinably but infinitely desirable. It draws me toward itself with an irresistible sweetness." In this feeling you sense the eternal, changeless character of your being, which, in the language of religion, is called the spiritual you. As spiritual being you have identity with God, and because of identity you feel the presence of God as a vast good.
Second. You say, "I know. I think. I understand." These declarations are evidence that you have a mental character.
Third. You say, "my body"; "my circumstances"; "my life." These phrases show that you recognize a third state of being. This state is the physical you.
You must become acquainted with yourself in these three aspects of identity. You must distinguish between the three, that you may avoid confusion in the relations of cause and effect. You must remember that the three constitute you, and that you embrace all of them. When you have made these facts
permanent in your mind you are properly equipped to begin the study of your identity.
What are you, spiritually?
If you accept some theological teachings on the subject, you will answer that you are a sinner, a lost soul. In so answering you speak in the consciousness of the personal, the changing. You cannot say that the impersonal, the changeless, sins or becomes lost. The impersonal is the spiritual; it is of God, and is identical with Him. If God can sin, so can the spiritual you, but not otherwise.
To become lost you must find a retreat outside of God. He occupies the universe. In any form of identity, there is no place where you can stray and be lost to Him, the Universal. If God can be lost, you can be lost, but under no other circumstances.
What theology calls a lost soul is a soul that has lost sight of God's omnipresence. In the personal you have acted ignorantly. The act of ignorance is the act of sin. In the impersonal you never have acted ignorantly, never have sinned. In the personal you have lost sight of God, but God never has lost sight of you. What is in the sight of God is not lost.
If you accept some metaphysical teachings you will answer the question by saying that you are divine perfection. The statement requires amplification, for it is true only of the impersonal. You must keep our terms accurate. The personal has not reached perfection. If it were perfect there would be no need of your trying to improve it; no need for so much as the affirmation of perfection. Body, conduct, situation, would conform to the absolute standard.
Of the personal, the answer of the theologian is perhaps true. Of the impersonal, the metaphysical answer is undeniably true. You mentally must distinguish as to which part of your nature you are describing. The personal can, and frequently does, act ignorantly -- sinfully. The impersonal never can be ignorant, never can sin.
A man who is in a condition of amnesia does not remember his name, his home, his purposes. Temporarily he is not conscious of his identity. His mind gropes in a fog of forgetfulness. There is a stage of his disorder in which hints, probings, do not help him. Mental oblivion has locked the man's consciousness upon itself. Spurred by the promptings of his submerged self, urged by the anxiety of eager friends, he struggles to remember who he is. Then some day comes a flicker, then comes a beam, and then the full light of recollection returns. The man has recovered consciousness of personal identity.
Spiritually, what are you?
You are a soul that has forgotten its divine identity; a soul now struggling to remember, in the mists of time and in the confusions of experiences, that you are the living son of the living God.
Spiritually you are an idea in the mind of God. That idea must be given expression in you.
You are the son of God, but not always have you acted the part. If you will live in as full accordance with your divine nature as your present state of preparation makes possible, you will be made aware of your true identity. As the victim of amnesia persists in recalling personal identity, so
you must persist in recalling spiritual identity. While you pray, read, meditate, practice spiritual Truth, a flicker, then a beam, then the full light of restored consciousness will dawn, and you will know yourself. In the knowing, the human estimate, in all that it values and in all that it decries, will be supplanted by the divine apprizement,
"Thou art my son;
This day have I begotten thee" (Psalms 2:7).
Mentally, what are you?
If your schooling has been meager, you may respond to this question by saying, "Ignorance. Everyone that I know is brighter than I; has had more opportunities than I; is better prepared to meet the world than I.
No matter what your educational training has been, you never will answer this question in the sentiment of the words quoted unless you speak of the personal. You may become intelligent, even if your schooling has been limited. To be intelligent is to be mentally fit to the degree your of intelligence. Schooling is an aid to intelligence, but lack of schooling does not condemn you to ignorance or to illiteracy. Books and methods of instruction are so numerous that you will become educated if you are sufficiently interested to do the work of educating yourself. Ignorance is found only in the personal, and the personal can be changed.
In declaring your mental identity do you say that you were a star student of some university? Do you rate yourself a philosopher, a poet, a "brainy man"? Do you say that you are wisdom?
If in the personal way you say, "I am ignorance," you may be stating a situation that exists. But if the situation does exist it need not continue to exist. The statement never is true of the impersonal, in which you are justified in saying, "I am wisdom." If you speak in wisdom, not often will you make the statement, "I am wisdom." You will discriminate sharply, to the end that the personal may not slip in and cause confusion. Exalted realizations of wisdom tend to check the use of the statement. The realizations suffice; words become pointless repetition. In the inner depths you know, "I am wisdom."
In your true identity you are the Mind of God. This Mind must be permitted to act in you. It knows all things; it makes no mistakes. In you it recognizes itself as beauty; in you it sustains its perfection. You become aware of its work in you when you do not crowd it aside by the arrogance of the personal mind.
Whence come the revelations that you receive? Why are you able to know anything? Revelation and knowledge come out of the Mind of God. That you have received is assurance that your receiving need not be stayed short of absoluteness.
If you put the Mind of God to uses that do not match the nature of God, you delay your mental growth. When you let the Mind of God act without interference on your part, you prosper in the work of regaining your mental identity. You abandon the habit of putting the Mind of God under the dictatorship of the personal mind. You enter the path of wisdom.
Physically, what are you?
If you believe that the personal is you, your answer to this question may be, "I am a wretched, deformed person; I have been physically unfit all my life." These statements can be true only of the personal, which you constantly are changing. The hurts and the limitations of the personal begin in the mental region. Thoughts of unfitness are defamation of character; they persuade your body to misrepresent you spiritual nature. Thoughts based on the recognition of your true identity will reconstruct your body in a way to make you physically fit. Your personal identity automatically adjusts itself to your thinking.
You may identify yourself with the physical in a statement to this effect, "I am a perfect physical specimen, one who always is physically fit." The perfections that you enumerate are possible; they are sure, if you subject the variable personal to the unvarying impersonal.
To build physical fitness where unfitness appears, more is required than mere wishing. Work is required, a regime of thought training that girds up the muscles of the mind and makes them alert, dependable. You must consciously connect with the Mind of God, and you must stay connected, that your body may be fed His perfect life.
There is a mental operation that will do more for you than the act of ordinary thinking can do. It is the act of making your mind open toward the Mind of God; a making void the personal mind--a state of wonderment concerning the things that are in the
Mind of God. I know a woman who, quite unintentional of consequences, practiced the wondering method, and I know of the changes that the practice wrought in her body. The story is:
"I was studying the Sermon on the Mount. My attention was particularly challenged by the question, 'Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?' (Matt. 6:27). I worked on that question many weeks. I argued that Jesus did not mean to say that change could not be made; He was asking if any of His hearers had power sufficient to produce growth in the adult body. I said to myself that I supposed few persons would wish to add a whole cubit, but who was able to do it? I had no intention of producing a change in my body; I was interested in knowing the import of the question. A few weeks after I had dismissed this question and taken up another, I found that I had grown two inches in height. My dressmaker and the yardstick both attested the increase. Sympathetic friends acknowledged it; grudging friends admitted it. I was then ten years past the age at which bodily growth normally ceases."
In drawing distinctions between the personal and impersonal, do not deny the fact of personality. Your personality reports the progress that you have made in the impersonal. It is the sum of all your former thinking. It is the monitor that keeps before your attention the necessity of doing better. It is the outside of the inside. It informs you, and you are encouraged or warned by its evidence. Denial discourages the
body and ultimately dissolves it. Belief in the necessity of somatic death is denial of personality. Any denial of personality relaxes your grip on manifestation. Never think of personality as the source of life or as the transmitter of life. Never think of it as power, as influence, or as ideal. Remember that it is the observable form of your mental processes.
Physically you are the substance of God, molded in the matrix of your mind. If you are not satisfied with your personality you should remold it. For that purpose you have a mind.
The mental you is born of the spiritual you, and the physical you is your mind's outer translation of God's idea.
"Now are we children of God, and it is not yet made manifest what we shall be. We know that, if he shall be manifested, we shall be like him; for we shall see him even as he is" (I John 3:2). Let God manifest, and you will see that not only are you like Him, but that you are a form of Him.
Body, environment, and even associates are mental fingerprints by which your identity as a mental worker is established.
Your body is the blossom of your mind. Grief marks the face with lines that tell the story of mental suffering. If he who has grieved be baptized into a great joy, the grief lines are washed out and his face takes on the form and the glow of happiness. Mental habits cut deeper than facial lines betray. They mark the body and they influence organic functionings. Your body has consciousness of its own; that consciousness is composes of what you have
taught your body to believe and to demand.
Persons who think alike in important respects may suggest a resemblance not to be defined physically. I know two women who are said by their respective families to picture each other. The women are quite unlike in stature, coloring, featuring. But they are usually of one mind, especially in matters of religious or of moral import.
Family resemblances are produced by the like interests and the like tastes that usually are found in members of the same domestic group. It frequently is noted that as years pass there comes a resemblance between husband and wife which was not to be observed on their wedding day. Mental sympathies draw souls together, and like thinking produces like faces, like bodies. A chiropractor once said to me that the family back is as unmistakable as the family face. Effect is true to cause. What the eyes look upon is impressed on the flesh; the babe, looking into its mother's face, yields to the love curves of her expression, and grows into an image of its mother. I once heard a missionary tell of seeing two girls who had been rescued from a den of wolves in Asia. As babes they had been abandoned, and, in a measure duplicating the young lives of Romulus and Remus, had been mothered by a she-wolf. The children ran fleetly on all fours; they snarled and bit at their captors. The forehead retreated, the lower face protruded in unmistakable likeness to the foster-parent beast that had shown them more of mother love than their human mothers had shown.
What you look upon mentally or visually stamps your flesh with its likeness. Whatever of imperfection has been stamped upon your body can be removed therefrom by contemplation of the perfect. Untrue visioning, foolish thinking about life, cannot hurt the perfect life in you, but they weave a veil that to your eyes obscures the perfect and translates it into the flesh as imperfection. The man who suffers from amnesia does not recognize himself, but he is himself. You are the idea of God, capable of perfect translation. Some day you will become wholly awake to your divine identity, and will begin consciously to take on the image of perfection.
You never will know your true identity until you let the Mind of God instruct you as to what you are. When you become aware of your immortal nature, fear of death leaves you, and with it go all other forms of fear. All fear is based on fear of death. When you fear that your business may fail, you say of it, "The thing is dying." When you fear that a friendship may terminate, you say, "It is dying out of my life." Consciousness of your true identity is awareness that you are as enduring as God. You cannot fear the thing that cannot take place. You know that God's immortality is your immortality, and that there can be no death.
Identity with God does not take away individuality; it enhances individuality, and gives you character superlative. It does not take away personality; it purifies and beautifies personality. It does not take away your joy of life; it refines your joy and increases it.
Perhaps you bewail a condition that you call repression. You say that circumstance or some person makes impossible your self-expression. In other words, you think that something extraneous to yourself has influence in your life greater than your influence; that the extraneous influence is malign, and that therefore you cannot mentally or physically do as well as you feel you should do.
What do you wish to express? Whatever it may be, you will find your wish profited by your knowing what it is to express and how to express.
The word express means, "to set forth ... to the observation or understanding." Previous to expression another act is performed. That act is impression. As used in this connection, the word impress means, "mark by pressure ... To fix, as in the mind."
Your mind is impressed, is marked by the pressure of an idea, or you could have no impulse to express. Have you settled with yourself what it is that you wish to express? This you must do, to get sane action in the matter. If you say that you wish to express yourself you must choose which self you would give dominance in expression—the personal self or the impersonal self. Your genuine success will be fostered by putting the personal self under control of the impersonal self, and then proceeding with expression.
You cannot in an instant reverse the trend of your life as it has been set by your aims through aeons agone. When you begin to cultivate the liberating Mind of God, dreams, fantasies, impulses, which
your mind infolds but of which you are not aware, surge forward. They, too, would express themselves. Therefore, take counsel with God; talk but little; boast not at all. Test your purpose and your meditated act by the rule of unity: If what you would do does not defy the integrity of the universe, you are safe in proceeding with expression. If what you would do falls short of the Golden Rule, abandon it. You have been expressing at variance with the universal good. That expression is the cause of your present distress. To improve conditions you must improve motives.
You express yourself all the time. If you have hypnotized yourself into a state of inertness by believing that agencies other than your own mind control your life, you express that conclusion. But you express.
To suppress means to put down or put an end to by force; to repress means to put back. If you believe that you can be suppressed or repressed, your belief sets forth to your own observation that someone is putting you down, putting you back. And you are right. Someone is putting the impersonal you down, putting the impersonal you back. That someone is the personal you. You are repressing and suppressing the best that is in you while you let its expression wait on the ignorance that makes you think that you are not supreme in your own life.
If you are repressed, suppressed, you are the repressor, the suppresser. Persons and environment welcome all the good that you can give. Try expressing, freely, ungrudgingly, unsuspicious of
ulterior purposes in others. You will find that you can express freedom and good in the very place where you have been expressing bondage to self-imposed inhibitions and to the resentments that have circled about you as birds of prey, incubated in your own mind. Thought and act are expression, whatever the thought, whatever the act.
You consciously contact the Mind of God through prayer. In conscious contact you receive. Prayer can take place at any time, in any environment. You do not have to go to a special place and shut yourself away from others, in order to reach God. If you feel that you must have a certain nook, a certain chair, a certain hour in which to approach God, you will not approach Him when you are denied these settings. You will duplicate the backslidings of the young woman who vindicated her fall from grace by saying, "How can you expect me to pray when Papa is too stingy to buy me a prayer rug?"
You do not have to go to any special place to think, and prayer is thinking toward God. If you wish to reserve a special place, set hours, and other features of formal prayer, there is no valid reason why you should not pray thus formally. But do not depend on special conditions. If, after your prayer is made, you leave God in the special place and shut Him out of your thoughts after the prayer closes, your praying does not greatly benefit you. You will have to learn to contact Him in the open, and at all times. Spiritually you always are connected with Him. To pray, open your mind toward Him. Then, wherever you are,
whatever the hour, you will receive according to your responsiveness to His ever- willing, ever-present power to bestow Himself.
Prayer is not a posture; it is not in a given form of phrases. Prayer is a relationship between you and God. That is, a relationship in which you consent to receive from God, who always is on the giving side.
You are God's manifest and manifesting idea.
Receiving God spiritually, you become aware of your spiritual identity:
I am an idea in the Mind of God. I let God's idea express in me.
Receiving God mentally, you become aware of your mental identity:
I am the Mind of God. I let the Mind of God inform me of my identity.
Receiving God physically, you become aware of your physical identity:
My body is the substance of God, manifesting in correspondence with His idea.