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The Building Blocks of Life

Live Youthfully Now front cover

Live Youthfully Now

Russell A. Kemp

Chapter 8
The Building Blocks of Life

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“You Are What You Eat” was the rather sensational title of a book published several years ago. The author of course did not intend that his statement should be taken literally. No one in his right mind would contend that because I eat an egg, I am an egg; or that if I eat a peanut, I am a peanut. What a life of kaleidoscopic changes one would lead if this were true! Since the average male in our country leans heavily to meat and potatoes in his dietary preferences, he would spend much of his time alternating between being roasted, fried, or boiled!

Surely what this author must have had in mind was the fact that the physical body is sustained only by energy. Much of this energy is generated by the body from the digestion, assimilation, and refinement of substances found in various forms of living matter. These substances or food elements are from different sources, and therefore embody differing elements in their composition. Some foods are from the animal kingdom, such as meat, fish, eggs, milk, and cheese. Some are from the vegetable kingdom, such as the cereals, bread, vegetables, nuts, and fruits. A small proportion may be from the mineral kingdom, such as mineral salts in certain foods, and even the water found in living organisms of all kinds.

The undeniable fact is that food does produce energy according to its character. A bowl of bread and warm milk is not calculated to stimulate the one who eats it to physical exertion, but rather to cause sleepiness, induced by comfort and physical gratification. Athletes as a rule prefer thick steaks which stimulate their glands and contribute to explosive energy, in addition to nourishing the tissues.

Anyone who doubts that the nature of the food he eats is directly related to his mental and emotional attitudes could experiment by going on a bland, nonstimulating liquid diet for a few days. He could observe his emotional reactions during this time, and determine whether he was less aggressive, less inclined to irritation and annoyance, than when following his normal diet. He would probably discover that the bland liquid diet tended to make him more placid and even-tempered, less inclined to express annoyance when he felt it.

We are what we eat, to a limited extent. In the most obvious sense, we are more likely to be energetic if we are well and adequately nourished than if we are suffering from famine or pronounced undernourishment. The victims of scurvy in the old sailing-ship days were sick because what they ate did not contain the needed vitamin C. They lacked energy and experienced the other distressing symptoms of this disease because of their diet. When lemon or lime juice was provided, they recovered. They became healthy because of what they ate.

However, in discussing the part that food plays in maintaining youthfulness, we need to stress the fact that how we eat is more important than what we eat. This refers to our mental attitude while eating. It applies even more to our understanding of the relationship between food and the inner life of the body which accepts the food eaten, assimilates it, apportions it, and finally converts it into the vital energy that sustains our physical body and even our personality.

The influence of the mind on the body is very great; of that we are all aware. But perhaps we have much to learn about the influence of the mind on the body’s mysterious assimilative processes, also the various chemical reactions induced in our cell functions not only by substances in foods, but by the direct effect of certain thoughts or emotions.

For instance, scientists have observed that when he was merely reminded of past frustrations or disappointments, strong acid was poured out “by the cupful” into the stomach of a certain man, and the stomach walls became flushed and swelled. Though no food had been taken into the stomach, it reacted just as though it had received something to digest. Does this indicate that a process of digestion also occurs in a symbolic, nonphysical way in man, and that an individual endeavors to “digest” all experiences as they occur, or perhaps that he should digest all significant experiences after they occur?

For example, if, as we say, we cannot “stomach” a certain experience, we really mean that we have not been able to react with mastery to it; we do not know how to handle it. Hence it remains buried and “figuratively speaking” undigested, to plague us.

It seems logical to assume that since emotions totally unconnected with the digestion of food, such as the memory of past frustrations, can cause the physical stomach to act as if it had received food, and make it pour out the powerful acids used in beginning the process of digestion, then there must also be a symbolical form of digestion which occurs on the nonphysical level, and reacts on the physical body. That is, anything experienced by the individual in his outward life, any event or occurrence significant enough to cause a marked feeling reaction, is apparently treated as “food” by his nonphysical organism (which we may call the soul).

The soul is really the master mechanism which energizes both mind and body. It contacts the pure life energy of the Creator, and “steps it down,” so to speak, transforming it into the mental and physical energy used in daily life.

Man’s soul is an infinitely complex and miraculous organism. It is nonphysical in character but is able to manifest and express on the physical or material level, by means of maintaining the flesh body for this purpose. However, the soul, although it permeates the physical organism and energizes it, also maintains an existence of its own on a higher vibrational level than that of the body. The body functions, such as those of digestion, assimilation, and elimination (with which we are so familiar, and which are so vitally necessary to life), are in reality only counterparts of similar faculties that function in identical ways in the soul.

The human body is of course a living organism, but the human soul is even more of a living organism. Apparently, as we have said, it treats earthly experiences as our body treats food. When partaking of physical food we either accept it and digest it, or (if we do not like it or feel it is not good for us) refuse it. In the same way, the soul must accept and digest its earthly experiences, or in some manner reject and refuse them.

The essential thing to understand is that our experiences in daily life are actual food for the soul. The soul requires this “food of experience” in order to grow, just as the body of a child requires food in order to grow. Our soul must digest these experiences, just as our body digests its food.

When we learn that we can call upon the power of our higher Self to digest the essential lesson of any experience, what a tremendous difference this can make in our life! With sufficient understanding, we can even draw upon spiritual power to reject the psychic consequences of a painful or humiliating experience, and emerge from it unharmed, perhaps even stronger.

Some of these experiences are painful, some are distressing, some are shocking to the soul. What adult person has not experienced the pain of humiliation or failure? Who has not been insulted, or felt at some time rejected or unloved? Who has not smarted under what he felt was injustice, or raged secretly or openly when defeated or frustrated? No one can escape such experiences entirely. They are a part of human life, as it is lived by our species on the level of enlightenment we permit ourselves today.

As a rule we do try to do something about unpleasant experiences. We seek to counteract their effect on our self-esteem in many ways. We attempt to discover reasons for them, or we blame other persons for being the cause of them, or we rationalize about them in a way that comforts our hurt feelings. Sometimes we react constructively by analyzing the occurrence, looking at it calmly, and making mental notes of how we might have avoided it, or what attitude to adopt toward it now.

These are all instinctive attempts to duplicate on the mental and emotional level the digestive processes that occur on the physical level. They are prompted by the innate wisdom of the soul, and are the best means for digesting experience that the average person knows.

Here is a valuable suggestion: Why not consciously invoke the power of God to help you spiritually digest the emotional reactions to any trying experience? I know this works, because I have done it. On one occasion when I Was attending a convention a number of things occurred that aroused deep feelings of grief, anger, and shock among those present. A day or two later my eyes seemed to be inflamed. They watered constantly, burned, itched, and were sensitive to light. I could not relieve the situation by prayer or affirmation, perhaps because I was traveling and had no opportunity to be alone. When at length I could go apart and relax, I received this idea:

The power of Spirit digests my emotional reactions to this experience.

At once I began to feel relief. Soon my eyes felt cool and comfortable, and there was no return of the condition. I made a note of the treatment, and passed it on to others when they were reacting emotionally to some unpleasant experience. It is remarkably effective. This treatment could be used in healing any condition rooted in emotional reactions to the actions of others.

We could also take a lesson from our extremely efficient body mechanism, and step up our emotional digestive power to handle experiences. We know that the body, when its vital forces are high, has much greater power to digest food and assimilate it than when it is weak or ill. Can we assume that this principle holds good on the soul level as well? Can we in some way raise the vital forces of the soul and strengthen them, in a manner analogous to the way we use exercise, fresh air, and sleep to step up our body forces? If so, perhaps we will find that just as the healthy body takes hardships, stress, and exposure in its stride, so can the healthy soul take experiences which formerly would have crushed it, or caused humiliation and pain, and successfully assimilate the lessons they are meant to convey, converting the emotional reactions into strength of character.

How can we raise or strengthen the vital force of the soul? Well, we can feed them, nourish them, and exercise them. We can feed them with certain positive ideas and selected emotions. We can nourish them by practice of meditation on spiritual themes. We can exercise them by practicing the expression of wholesome emotions, constructive emotions, in our relationships with other people. In other words, we can stoke up our soul furnace so that it glows with vitally attractive energy, born of such healthful soul foods as love, generosity, joy, good will, forgiveness, and peace. Love of that which is beautiful, good, and true is a potent force in both mental ana physical good health. Therefore we must take care to cultivate the growth and increase of love in our emotional nature.

This does not necessarily mean more love in the erotic sense of the word. Rather, it means the cultivation of those qualities associated with the nonerotic expression of love: good will, a determination to treat others kindly, to be patient with their mistakes, or to be forbearing when they offend us. It means the careful nourishing of an even temper, not envying the gifts or good fortune of others, trying to forgive and forget when we have been wronged.

It has never been suggested to us that one of the reasons Jesus urged us to be loving toward our enemies was because of the remarkable results to be expected in developing our soul muscles.

Like all great mystics, Jesus was a supremely practical person. He is usually pictured as concerned only with the salvation of man’s soul, in order to save it from “endless punishment” in the next world. However we are now rediscovering that the word salvation has a much more practical meaning than its customary theological interpretation.

To quote from the magazine Sharing: “This phrase from Luke 1:77 reading ‘knowledge of salvation,’ in the Latin reads ‘scientia salutis,’ which might quite properly be translated ‘the science of health’ and is so translated in the Wycliffe version of the Bible, though the spelling is Chaucerian.”

Dr. John Gayner Banks, in the same article, also says: “Imagine the consternation of the people if a modern Protestant minister announced his text some fine Sunday morning — ‘Thou shalt go before the face of the Lord, ... to give the science of health unto his people by the remission of their sins.’

“Every Christian — no matter what his church, or background, or religious affiliation might profitably bear in mind that the ‘knowledge of salvation and the ‘science of health’ are interchangeable phrases. Perhaps we will become more zealous in acquiring this sort of ‘knowledge of salvation’ when we realize that it includes also the elements of health and healing.”

No matter how startling it may be to think of the great word salvation having such a practical meaning as this, we must agree that this usage is sanctioned not only by the root meaning of the word itself, but by the constant concern of the Great Physician for the health of people’s bodies. He “saved” people from sickness, deformity, blindness, paralysis, even from death. And He was careful to point out that this was a result of His using the power of God to forgive the sins of those who were saved from these physical conditions.

If sin is a condition of the soul, as the Christian church has always maintained, and if this condition of sin in the soul affects the physical body, resulting in sickness, or some physical defect, as Jesus certainly implied in His healing work, then is it not time we conceded that the only real proof of salvation of the soul is the restoration of the body to its original perfection as a work of God? Certainly the perfection of the body would not include age or decrepitude.

As proof of His power to forgive sin, Jesus told the paralyzed man to get up and walk. The man immediately rose, folded up his quilt bed, and walked in a normal manner. The sin in his soul being forgiven, its outward counterpart, called paralysis, was also forgiven. Therefore it vanished from existence in the sight of man, just as it had ceased to exist in the sight of God.

All this is cited to show the highly practical nature of the religious instruction given by Jesus. When He tells us to forgive the offenses of others against us, it is not only for the health of our soul. It is also for the health of our body, for our peace of mind and happiness. And even more, it is for the purpose of developing spiritual robustness of character, moral muscle. We must have this strength of character if we are going to live as Christians in a world which constantly tries to intimidate us by the power of evil, constantly tries to tempt us by the attractiveness of evil, and constantly tries to hypnotize us by the overwhelming weight of appearances that because “everybody” is in bondage to evil, evil must be good.

If we want to cultivate permanent youth, to escape the sentence of old age, decrepitude, and untimely death already passed upon us by the nearly unanimous consent of humanity to ancient superstitions, we will need all the help we can get. It will take moral muscle and strength of character to defy the widespread, unquestioning acceptance of time as the cause of aging. Well-meaning friends will tell us that everybody must get old, wear glasses, become feeble, and finally die from some ailment. Who are we to defy this accepted order of things?

It reminds me a little of Mrs. Henry’s starling, Birdee. Mrs. Henry had developed the habit of talking to her pet, so one morning she said to the starling, “Hello, Birdee, what would you like?” The answer came loud and clear: “Bread, please.” At first she was unable to believe her ears. As she told her family later, she felt at that moment as though she were a character in a Walt Disney cartoon. Then, trying to be casual, she looked into Birdee’s cage. His food bowl was empty. “I guess you’re right, Birdee,” she said apologetically, and gave him some bird seed. “Thanks,” said Birdee.

From that time Birdee kept on talking, until he became famous. Residents of Bowmanville, Ontario, came to the Henry home to hear the “talking bird.” Scientific authorities were consulted, and they declared, Starlings don’t talk.” However Birdee defied science and kept on talking. “Busy!” he would screech when one of the family picked up the telephone. And he was usually right, since it was a rural party line.

Birdee consistently identified himself with humans, and not with the animal kingdom. When a farm dog sneaked into the living room for a little nap, Birdee would scold, “Get out of here!” But most amusing of all, when he saw other birds flitting around outside, he felt that this was abnormal behavior and all wrong for birds. “Naughty, naughty!” he would shriek. “Get back in your cage! Get back in your cage!”

What are we going to say when well-meaning but “age-conditioned” people scold us: “Get back in your cage of age! Who do you think you are?” Well, I would like to think that I am a spiritual pioneer, just as my hardy ancestors were political, social, and physical pioneers. The age of the covered wagon, the jolting, arduous journeys across prairies, deserts, and mountains has long since gone. Now we can fly across the land and even across the ocean at a speed so great that we can literally “stay in the sun.” Physical science has made this possible.

Should we not expect a spiritual science, if it is truly spiritual and truly scientific, to furnish us with equally startling powers to surmount obstacles in the way of spiritual progress, to transcend time and space in our pursuit of the truth that will make us free from the mind of matter?

I cannot grow old. God’s eternal life force constantly rejuvenates itself in me.

Should not our spiritual science of today, including the science of health, enable us to draw on the best of the spiritual illuminations of the past, even those that have been forgotten, or lost to us by the passage of time? Should it not also anticipate the discoveries certain to be made in the future in the realm of mind and Spirit? And should not these discoveries emancipate us from much that we now believe to be binding in these matters of longevity and health? I think it only reasonable to expect that it should.

These are all highly relevant ideas in connection with the idea of nourishing the soul, in order that it may sustain its physical counterpart in continuing youth and strength. You can feed and exercise and strengthen your soul, you can warm it with love and exercise it with discipline of the feeling reactions, just as surely as you now feed, exercise, and strengthen your body.

We need to understand that this physical body, which human opinion has been taught to consider highly perishable, is made of the same substance as the most durable and long-lived materials known on earth. Science now tells us that the only real difference between one form of material substance and another is in the way the atoms dance around each other. The difference between a diamond and a lump of clay is not that they are of different material, but that the atoms composing both are the same, but dancing to different tunes.

To quote John J. Grebe, nuclear scientist: “It is now recognized that the very tune sung by each electron whirling around the nucleus of its hydrogen atom when the atom is living differs by precisely measured rates from the same structure of the atom when it is dead. This is measured by new instruments which grip the molecule in a magnetic vise and then twang it as though it were a reed, to amplify its natural oscillation. It is called electron spin resonance.”

Can we possibly learn to make the atoms of our flesh dance to a different tune than that of inevitable decay and old age? Spiritual intuition and the logic of mind insist that we can. We have been entrusted, you and I, with some precious gifts from the great creative Force that made us and set us to evolving. A little more knowledge of these gifts, holding in their possession miraculous possibilities far beyond fairy tales, will enable us to perform miracles in the field of mind and spirit, just as our brothers in the fields of physics and mechanics have opened new worlds and hurled us forward by light years, through their discoveries in the world of matter.

It is a little saddening to read some of the metaphysical books of the previous century. What miracles they expected the new spiritual knowledge of the laws of mind to accomplish! In the 1890s the writers were expecting the world to be transformed into the kingdom of heaven in half a century. How shocked they would have been had they been able to see the world racked by the greatest war of all time in just fifty years! Could they have believed that today, nearly a hundred years after the beginning of mental healing on this continent, their wonderful new “science” of healing and transformation through mind would still be struggling for a foothold, still be snubbed and denied by most of the professions?

No doubt today we are ready to proclaim that at last Truth is knocking at the door of our solidly entrenched human beliefs. So it is, but is anybody at home? We must all be a great deal more daring, a great deal more persistent, a great deal more hardy in standing up to conventional human belief, if we are ever to have that golden age our spiritual forefathers predicted.

We must be brave enough, like Ali Baba, to speak the magic words and enter the doors of the treasure cave, which are now partially open to our unbelieving gaze. What are the treasures we see? Gifts of the gods that we have been using without thought and without esteem, such as the mysterious thing called metabolism.

Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines metabolism in part, as “the chemical changes in living cells, by which the energy is provided for the vital processes and activities, and new material is assimilated to repair the waste.”

These chemical changes by which the cells of the body renew themselves are so complicated that it would be impossible (and inadvisable) for me to attempt any description of them. A physicist has said that the renewal of the body cells would have its parallel in a house if old bricks were constantly being removed and new bricks put in. What is even more wonderful, the “body house” manufactures in itself the bricks or building blocks of which it is composed!

If we had a house which constantly repaired and restored and repainted itself, and replaced any worn-out or decayed material in itself, by itself, that house would be the talk of the world. Scientists would come from all nations to observe it, test it, and seek to understand the processes by which it did these miraculous things.

Of course you and I know that we live in such a house right now. In the time it has taken you to read these lines, your body house has taken out and replaced millions of these “bricks” called cells. The great majority of the body cells — the entire molecular cellular structure — is turned over, and replaced at regular intervals, in some cases in an extremely short time. Surely we should be willing to learn more about this wondrous house of the soul which we know as our physical body, since its marvels surpass the mind of man. One of its greatest wonders is the magnificent maintenance service called metabolism.

It is said that in youth, the rate of metabolism is high. In age, it is said to slow down. In other words, a youthful body quickly digests and assimilates required nourishment, and carries on this process of cell replacement at high speed. Thus a youthful person normally has great recuperative power. Energy is restored quickly through food and rest. Resistance to stress in the form of illness is high. Children lost in the wilds sometimes endure exposure, cold, and hunger without harm, because of their superior vitality and reserve forces. Their body heat is a continual surprise to adults. All this is connected with a high rate of metabolism.

In seeking to regain and enjoy what the British Nobel Prize winner Sir George Thomson has called “permanent youth,” we should prayerfully consider whether metabolism with all its marvels is a purely physical process, or whether it derives its being and powers from the intangible but very real part of us called the soul.

If the metabolism of the body is animated and empowered by the soul, then we should be able, through our deeper inner mental processes, to stimulate and restore this metabolism, when it seems to have slowed down or have less recuperative powers.

These building blocks of life called cells, which in turn are created and recreated constantly by the metabolism of the body, need actual physical substances in the form of food and drink to construct themselves. This nourishing material is first taken into the mouth, and (in the case of solid food) reduced to a liquid before being swallowed. There is a teaching that man can impress on any food or drink taken into his mouth, while he is chewing it, certain thoughts that will greatly enhance the energy-producing qualities of the food. In fact, he can, if he chooses, decide at the moment of mastication that this food shall yield increased strength, that it shall be completely satisfying to his appetite — and this thought, impressed upon his food, will in time cause him to have increased energy as well as satisfaction.

The practice of blessing food before eating it is no doubt based upon this principle. Can we experiment with this idea in our cultivation of youthful energies? Yes, but it must be done with discretion. Man never knows what fantastic powers he has at his disposal, and what drastic effects the unwise use of these powers can produce in his body, until he experiments with something like this. Use this great principle of “thought chewing” while physically chewing, with a deep desire to be guided by wisdom in its right use. The results will probably astound you.

What you are really using is a form of mental metabolism. By this “thought chewing” you are impressing on the nonmaterial energies contained in the cells of the food a different rate of vibratory action than they would have in their natural state. Consequently when they are reduced to their final form for absorption by the cells, they will embody a higher vibratory energy than that to which the cells are accustomed.

The effect of this can be very upsetting to the cells unless great moderation is used. Start with “thought chewing” just one mouthful of food at a meal. Gradually increase this to two mouthfuls, then three, then to any proportion of the food taken at one meal. As soon as you experience a feeling of increased energy and well-being, you may increase the extent to which you practice “thought chewing” ... but still with discretion.

What thought should you impress upon your food? If you customarily bless your food, start with:

God blesses and adapts this food to the renewing of my body.

For those who like affirmations, God substance in this food is strength for me would be excellent. If you are not used to the idea of blessing your food, think: I chew this food carefully to produce extra strength.

Different qualities may be selected, such as: I chew this food carefully to produce satisfaction. But here again, much depends on how you do this simple exercise. If you put your thought into it, “mix” the selected thought with the food, so to speak, at the moment you eat it, you will, if you persist, obtain striking results. But if you think this idea is too strange, or that it is too much like “occultism,” or that it is too simple to bother with, naturally you will get no results.

If you want to have the light and buoyant step of youth, if you want to walk as if your feet were cushioned on springs, if you want to restore the gusto for life you had as a youth, to plunge happily into each day just because you are glad to be alive, then you should try this “mental metabolism” method for building up youthful energy.

To be young, yet mature: that is the unspoken desire back of all the fables about the fountain of youth, isn’t it? Many of us can testify that the time of our physical youth was not all pure happiness. We faced so many new experiences, so many unknown quantities, that the years of youth sometimes brought unhappiness and sufferings. Now with our greater experience, we can enjoy our new mature youthfulness more than we ever enjoyed adolescence or the various stages of physical youthfulness.

The word maturity has a different meaning in this context of permanent youth than it had before. For those who are very young, maturity means being old. For the one cultivating permanent youth, maturity implies peak performance in expressing youthfulness. Originally the word mature carried the meaning of being ripe, ready for harvest. We keep this meaning in the sense of seeing our youthfulness always maintained at a peak of enjoyment, energy overflowingly ready for use.

Remember too the well-loved saying: “No one ever grows old. He gets old because he stops growing.” This is true. If you want to live, you must grow. Life will not let you stand still. Grow you must. Why “grow old” when you can grow young? This is a simple choice, but one that cannot be escaped. Either grow or give up. To stay youthful, you should grow in experience, grow in knowledge, grow in livingness. Above all, you should grow in deeper understanding of your identity with life itself.

Gaylord Hauser says, “Mental stimulation is the only way currently known by which our nerve cells can ward off death for themselves.” The constant stimulation of the brain cells by new ideas is a vital necessity if we are to surmount the various forms of belief in age. Keep up those exercises in mind renewal described in Chapter IV.

Remember that it is not Nature that makes us old! If we understood properly our relationship to Nature, it would be impossible for us to grow old. Nature is simply overflowing with vivifying, rejuvenating agencies, a vast, infinite storehouse of vital energy, immortal in essence, immanent in its presence, nonmaterial in its character. Our mind was created to understand, lay hold of, and turn these forces into channels of healing and renewal. We believe that Jesus used them constantly. With a prayer for wisdom, you and I can do likewise.

In 1961 Jesse Cox, age 92, applied for a marriage license in Los Angeles. Mr. Cox, a Cherokee Indian, was a scout with the Seventh Cavalry in 1895-1896. He traveled with Buffalo Bill and Annie Oakley as a rider in their show, and appeared before Queen Victoria in 1901. His bride-to-be was fifty-five. A reporter asked if he planned to carry her over the threshold. “You bet I do, son,” Cox replied, picking up his bride-to-be and carrying her into the license bureau. “I’m still a pretty good man!”

In Bartow, Florida, Charlie Smith celebrated his 125th birthday. Charlie, who believes he is the world’s oldest man, has a little candy store. He is always happy to spin a few yarns of the days when he was a cowboy and rode the range. He does not know the day he was born, but Social Security officials who checked out his stories are satisfied that his age is as claimed. At the age of 113, Charlie was still climbing ladders as a citrus picker.