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HOW MANY times have you heard it said, “Just believe you can do it and you can?” Whatever the task, if begun with the belief that you can do it, it will be done perfectly. Often belief empowers a person to do what others consider impossible. The act of believing is the starting force, the generating power that leads to accomplishment.
“Come on, fellows, we can beat them,” shouts someone in command, whether in a football game, on the battlefield, or in the strife of the business world. That sudden voicing of belief, challenging and electrifying, reverses the tide and – Success! From defeat to victory – and all because some mighty believer knew that it could be done.
You may be shipwrecked and tossed into the water near a rocky shore. Momentarily, you may fear that there isn’t a chance for you. Suddenly a feeling comes that you will be saved – or that you can save yourself. The moment you have that feeling, it begins to take the form of belief. And along with the belief comes the power to assist you.
You may be in a fire, surrounded by flames and enveloped in smoke, and frantic with fear. This same power asserts itself – and you may be saved. Emerson explains it by saying that in a difficult situation or a sudden emergency, our spontaneous action is always the best. Many stories have been told of the great reserves of the subconscious mind, how under its direction (and by imparting its superhuman strength), frail men and women have been able to perform feats far beyond their normal powers. Speakers, stand-up comedians, and writers are often amazed at the subconscious mind’s power to furnish them with a steady flow of thoughts that their audiences enjoy.
After studying the various mystical religions and different teachings and systems of mind-stuff, I’m impressed that they all have the same basic modus operandi. That is, they achieve success through repetition – the repeating of certain mantras, words, or formulas. William Seabrook declared that witch doctors, Voodoo high priests, “hexers,” and many other followers of strange cults use just plain mumbo jumbo to invoke the spirits or work black magic. One finds the same principle at work in the chants, incantations, litanies, daily lessons (to be repeated at frequently as possible during the week), and the frequent praying of the Buddhists and Moslems alike. Or consider the affirmations of the Theosophists and the followers of Unity, the Absolute, Truth, New Thought, Divine Science. In fact, it is basic in all religions, although here it is white magic instead of black.
When you seek further, you find the same principle at work in the beating of tom-toms or kettledrums by primitive peoples in all parts of the globe. The sound vibrations arouse similar vibrations in the psychic nature of these so-called “primitives,” so that they become stimulated, excited, and emotionalized to the point where they can defy death. The war dances of the American Indians, with their repeated rhythmic physical movements; the tribal ceremonies to bring rain; the dancing of the whirling dervishes – even the playing of martial music at critical times, and the soothing background music played for the workers in industrial plants – all embody the same principle.
In his book, Penthouse of the Gods, published in 1939, Theos Bernard recounts some interesting facts as to the repetition of certain mystical chants and prayers. When he wrote it, he claimed to be the first white person to enter the mysterious Tibetan city of Lhasa, high in the Himalayas, where the monasteries contained thousands of lamas – followers of Buddha. On reading the book, you get the impression that when the lamas, and monks are not eating or attending to the material wants of their bodies, they are constantly and continuously engaged in their mystical chants, using their prayer wheels. Bernard declared that in one temple, the monks started at daybreak and spent the entire day repeating prayers. The exact number of their repetitions was 108,000. He told also of how lamas accompanying him repeated certain fixed chants in order to give him additional strength.
In all religions, cults, and orders, there is an obvious, prescribed ritual in which the repetition of words (mystical or otherwise) plays an important part. And this brings us to the law of suggestion. Forces operating within its limits are capable of producing phenomenal results. That is, the power of suggestion – either autosuggestion (your own to yourself) or heterosuggestion (coming to you from outside sources) – starts the machinery into operation, causing the subconscious mind to begin its creative work – and right here is where the affirmations and repetitions play their part. Repetition of the same chant, the same incantations, the same affirmations leads to belief, and once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.
A builder or contractor looks over a set of plans and specifications for a bridge or a building, and, urged by a desire to get the contract for the work, declares to himself, “I can do that. Yes, I can do that.” He may repeat it silently to himself a thousand times without being conscious of doing it. Nevertheless, the suggestion finds a place in which to take root, he gets the contract, and the structure is eventually built. Conversely, he may say that he can’t do it – and he never does.
Hitler used the identical force and the same mechanics in inciting the German people to attack the world. A reading of his Mein Kampf will verify that. Dr. Rene Fauvel, a famous French psychologist, explained it by saying that Hitler had a remarkable understanding of the law of suggestion and its different forms of application, and that he mobilized every instrument of propaganda in his mighty campaign of suggestion with uncanny skill and masterly showmanship. Hitler openly stated that the psychology of suggestion was a terrible weapon in the hands of anyone who knew how to use it.
Let’s see how he worked it to make the Germans believe what he wanted them to. Slogans, posters, huge signs, massed flags appeared throughout Germany. Hitler’s picture was everywhere. “One Reich, one People, one Leader” became the chant. It was heard everywhere that a group gathered. “Today we own Germany, tomorrow the entire world,” the marching song of the German youths, came from thousands of throats daily. Such slogans as “Germany has waited long enough,” “Stand up, you are the aristocrats of the Third Reich,” “Germany is behind Hitler to a man,” and hundreds of others, bombarded them twenty-four hours a day from billboards, sides of buildings, the radio, and the press.
Every time they moved, turned around, or spoke to one another, they got the idea that they were a superior race, and once that belief took hold, they started their campaign of terror. Under the hypnotic influence of this belief, strengthened by repeated suggestion, they started out to prove it. Unfortunately for them, other nations also had strong national beliefs that eventually became the means of bringing defeat to the Germans.
Mussolini, too, used the same law of suggestion in an attempt to give Italy a place in the sun. Signs and slogans such as “Believe, Obey, Fight,” “Italy must have its great place in the world,” “We have some old scores and new scores to settle,” covered the walls of thousands of buildings, and similar ideas were dinned into the people via the radio and every other means of direct communication.
Joseph Stalin, too, used the same science to build Russia into what she is today. In November, 1946, the Institute of Modern Hypnotism, recognizing that Stalin had been using the great power of the repeated suggestion in order to make the Russian people believe in their strength, named him as one of the ten persons with the “most hypnotic eyes in the world,” and rated him as a “mass hypnotist.”
The Japanese warlords used it to make fanatical fighters out of their people. From the very day of their birth, Japanese children were fed the suggestion that they were direct descendants of Heaven and destined to rule the world. They prayed it, chanted it, and believed it; but here again, it was used wrongly.
For forty-four years, ever since the Russo-Japanese war, the Japanese immortalized Naval Warrant Officer Magoshichi Sugino, one of Japan’s early suicide fighters and greatest heroes. Thousands of statues were erected to his memory. In repeated song and story, young Nipponese were taught to believe that they could die in no more heroic manner than by following his example Millions of them believed it, and during the war thousands of them did die as Kamikaze pilots. Yet Sugino, who was supposed to have gone to his death while scuttling a ship to bottle up the Russian fleet at Port Arthur, didn’t die in battle! He was picked up by a Chinese boat. Upon learning that he was being lauded by his people as a great martyr, he decided to remain obscure and became an exile in Manchuria.
Although he was alive and well, it continued to be dinned into the ears of young Nipponese that there was no greater heroic act than to die as Sugino had. This terrible, persistent and deeply founded belief, though based entirely on a fable, caused thousands of Japanese to throw away their lives during the war. Finally, Associated Press dispatches from Tokyo in November, 1946, told how he was discovered after many years and was being returned home.
Americans, too, were subjected to the power of suggestion long before World War I, and got it again in a big way under the direction of General Hugh Johnson with his N.R.A. plan. In World War II, we were constantly told that Germany and Japan had to be defeated unconditionally. Under the constant repetition of the same thought, all individual thinking was paralyzed and the mass mind became grooved to a certain pattern – win the war unconditionally. As one writer so ably said, “In war, the voice of dissension becomes the voice of treason.”
Again we see the terrific force of thought repetition – it is our master, and we do as we are ordered. This subtle force of the repeated suggestion overcomes our reason, acting directly on our emotions and our feelings, finally penetrating to the very depths of our subconscious minds. This is the basic principle of all successful advertising – the continued and repeated suggestion that first makes you believe, after which you are eager to buy. In recent years we have enjoyed a vitamin spree. Vitamins, minerals, and various “natural” and “organic” foods have come to us from all sides, and millions buy them, so potent is the repeated suggestion of their value.
For centuries tomatoes were looked upon as poisonous. People dared not eat them until some fearless person tried them and lived. Today millions of people eat tomatoes, not knowing that they were considered unfit for human consumption. Conversely, the lowly spinach nearly went into the garbage pail after the United States Government declared that it did not contain the food values attributed to it for decades. Millions believed this and refused to honor Popeye’s favorite dish any longer.
Clearly, the founders of all great religious movements knew much about the power of the repeated suggestion and gained far-reaching results with it. Religious teachings have been hammered into us from birth, into our mothers and fathers before us and into their parents and their parents before them. There’s certainly white magic in that kind of believing.
Such statements as “What we don’t know won’t hurt us” and “Ignorance is bliss” take on greater significance when you realize that only the things you become conscious of can harm or bother you. We have all heard the story of the man who didn’t know it couldn’t be done and went ahead and did it. Psychologists tell us that as babies we have only two fears: the fear of loud noises and the fear of falling. All of our other fears are passed on to us or develop as a result of our experiences; they come from what we are taught or what we hear and see. I like to think of men and women as staunch oak trees that can stand firm amid the many crosscurrents of thought that whirl around them. But far too many people are like saplings that, swayed by every little breeze, ultimately grow in the direction of some strong wind of thought that blows against them.
The Bible is filled with examples of the power of thought and suggestion. Read Genesis, Chapter 30, verses 36 to 43, and you’ll learn that even Jacob knew their power. The Bible tells how he developed spotted and speckled cattle, sheep, and goats by placing rods from trees, partially stripping them of their bark so they would appear spotted and marked, in the watering troughs where the animals came to drink. As you may have guessed, the flocks conceived before the spotted rods and brought forth cattle, “ring-straked, speckled, and spotted,” and incidentally, Jacob waxed exceedingly rich.
Moses, too, was a master at suggestion. For forty years he used it on the Israelites, and it took them to the promised land of milk and honey. David, following the suggestive forces operating on him, slew the mighty, heavily armed Goliath with a pebble from a slingshot.
Joan of Arc, the frail little Maid of Orleans, heard voices and under their suggestive influences became imbued with the idea that she had a mission to save France. She was able to transmit her indomitable spirit to the hearts of her soldiers and she defeated the superior forces of the English at Orleans.
William James, father of modern psychology in America, declared that often our faith in advance of a doubtful undertaking is the only thing that can assure its successful conclusion. Man’s faith, according to James, acts on the powers above him as a claim and creates its own verification. In other words, the thought becomes literally father to the fact. For further illumination of faith and its power, I suggest that you read the General Epistle of James in the New Testament.
Actually everyone who has ever witnessed a football or baseball game has seen this power of suggestion at work. Knute Rockne, the famous coach at Notre Dame, knew the value of suggestion and used it repeatedly, but always suited his method of applying it to the temperament of the individual team. On one Saturday afternoon, Notre Dame was playing in a particularly grueling game, and at the end of the first half was trailing badly. The players were in their dressing room nervously awaiting Rockne’s arrival. Finally the door opened, and Rockne came in slowly. His eyes swept inquiringly over the squad – “Oh, excuse me, I made a mistake. I thought these were the quarters of the Notre Dame team.” The door closed, and Rockne was gone.
Puzzled and then stung with fury, the team went out for the second half – and won the game.
Other writers, too, have explained the psychological methods Rockne used and have told how Fielding Yost of Michigan, Dan McGuin of Vanderbilt, Herbert Crisler of Princeton, and dozens of others used the “magic” of suggestion to arouse their teams to great emotional heights. Before the Rose Bowl game of 1934, the “wise” tipsters rated the Columbia team as underdogs. They hadn’t counted on Coach Lou Little and his stirring talks to his players day after day. When the whistle blew for the end of the game, the Columbia men were the top dogs over the “superior” Stanford team.
In 1935, Gonzaga University beat powerful Washington State 13 to 6 in one of the biggest upset games ever seen in the West. Gonzaga was a nonconference team, while the Washington State team, because of its great record, was thought to be unbeatable. Newspapers at the time reported assistant coach Sam Dagley as having declared that Gonzaga played inspired football. He revealed that for half an hour before the game, Coach Mike Pecarovich played “over and over” a phonograph record of one of Rockne’s most rousing pep talks.
Years ago, Mickey Cochrane of the Detroit Tigers literally drove a second-division-minded group of baseball players to the top of the American League by using the power of the repeated suggestion. I quote from a newspaper dispatch: “Day after day, through the hot, hard grind, [Cochrane] preached the gospel of victory, impressing on the Tigers the ‘continued thought’ that the team which wins must go forward.”
You see the same force actively at work in the fluctuations of the stock market. Unfavorable news immediately depresses prices, while favorable news raises them. The intrinsic values of stocks are not changed, but there is an immediate change in the thinking of the market operators, which is reflected at once in the minds of the holders. Not what will actually happen, but what security holders believe will happen causes them to buy or sell.
In the Depression years – and there may be years like them in the future – we saw this same suggestive force working overtime. Day after day we heard expressions such as, “Times are hard,” “Business is poor,” “The banks are failing,” “Prosperity hasn’t a chance,” and wild stories about business failures on every hand, until they became the national chant. Millions believed that prosperous days would never return. Hundreds, yes thousands, of strong-willed men go down under the constant hammering, the continuous tap-tapping of the same fearful thoughts. Money, always sensitive, runs to cover when fear suggestions begin to circulate, and business failures and unemployment quickly follow. We hear thousands of stories of bank failures, huge concerns going to the wall, etc., and people readily believe them and act accordingly.
There will never be another business depression if people generally realize that their own fearful thoughts literally create hard times. They think hard times, and hard times follow. So it is with wars. When peoples of the world stop thinking of depressions and wars, they will become nonexistent, for nothing comes into our economic sphere unless we first create it with our emotional thinking.
Dr. Walter Dill Scott, eminent psychologist and long president of Northwestern University, told the whole story when he said, “Success or failure in business is caused more by mental attitudes even than by mental capacities.”
You may have read of the night of October 20, 1938, when Orson Welles and his Mercury Theater players broadcast a dramatization of H. G. Wells’ novel, The War of the Worlds. It was a story of an invasion by some strange warriors from the planet Mars, but it caused fright among thousands of people. Some rushed out-of-doors, police stations were besieged, eastern telephone exchanges were blocked, New Jersey highways were dogged. In fact, for a few hours following the broadcast, there was genuine panic among millions of listeners who believed our earth was being attacked by invaders from Mars. Yes, indeed, belief does cause some strange and unusual happenings!
Human beings are human beings the world over, all subject to the same emotions, the same influences, and the same vibrations. And what is a big business, a village, a city, a nation but merely a collection of individual humans controlling and operating it with their thinking and believing? As individuals think and believe, so they are. As a whole city of them thinks, so it is; and as a nation of them think, so it is. This is an inescapable conclusion. Every person is the creation of themselves, the image of their own thinking and believing. As King Solomon put it, “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.”
Rallies held in schools and colleges just before important athletic contests are based on the same principles – speeches, songs, and yells become the means of creating suggestion and arousing the will to win. Many sales managers employ the same principle in their morning sales meetings when frequently music is used to emotionalize the salesmen and to get the idea over to them that they can beat all their previous sales records. The same principle with varying technique is basic in the Army – in fact, all armies. The commands and formations constantly repeated in close-order drill develop in the men instant obedience, which ultimately becomes instinctive. The commands and formations become so fixed in their minds and bodies that their movements are almost automatic – all of which in turn creates that self-confidence which is absolutely necessary in active conflict.
It is very important to remember that the subconscious will go into action at once under the impetus of the commands or suggestions it receives from the conscious mind (or which come from outside sources and are transmitted to it via the conscious mind). But it gets results quicker if the conscious mind accompanies its message with a mental picture of the desired goal. It may be faint, sketchy, or even unfinished, but even if only an outline, it will be enough for the subconscious to act upon.
And this brings us to the rituals and ceremonies performed amid dramatic settings in churches and secret orders, all designed to appeal to the emotions and to create a mystical picture in the beholders’ minds. These rituals, no matter what the setting, are there to hold your attention and link these symbols’ hidden meanings with the particular ideas to be implanted in your mind. Various lighting arrangements, different paraphernalia, often a special garb for those directing the operations, all to the accompaniment of soft, often religious, music, all help to put you in the proper emotional (and incidentally, receptive) state.
The idea is as old as history. Not only the most civilized peoples but also the most primitive tribes have their characteristic ceremonials. Similar methods for impressing the individual are employed at mediumistic stances and crystalgazing performances; even the gypsy phrenologist considers it a part of her “props.” Without this atmosphere, which tends to make our conscious mind drowsy and even puts it temporarily to sleep, we would not be so easily convinced, for by itself, the desire to satisfy completely our longings for the mystical and miraculous is often not strong enough to permit conviction.
This is not said with any idea of being sacrilegious, but to present a picture of the historic method of appealing to the masses. Appeal by drama is the first step in arousing people’s emotions, no matter for what purpose. Awakening and stirring their emotional interest prepares the way to approach their reasoning minds.
Could Aimee Semple McPherson, with the long flowing white robe and picturesque auburn hairdo, have put over her great act of saving souls as well as achieving healings, without her superb understanding of the power of the dramatic? It’s something to wonder about, because Billy Sunday in his best table-sliding act was a novice compared to Aimee when it came to showmanship and plain impressiveness. She with her many artifices and stage settings put on a most solemn performance, and her followers – on the Pacific Coast at least – declare that the results she got were real and lasting. This is no reflection on Mrs. McPherson, for her followers were very sincere and believed in her work, her teachings, and the results – and that’s all that matters.
However, men and women with strong personal magnetism and great orators can get the same emotional effect without props or stage settings to aid them. They are masters of tone effects, emotional appeal, gesticulations, bodily movements, eye magnetism, etc., by which your attention is held and you yourself are thrown wide open to their driving appeal.
Let’s consider charms, talismans, amulets, good-luck pieces, four-leaf clovers, old horseshoes, rabbits’ feet, and countless other trinkets which thousands of people believe in. By themselves, they are harmless inanimate objects with no power. But when people breathe life into them by their thinking, they do have power, even though the power isn’t in them per se. The power comes only with the believing – which alone makes them effective.
An outstanding illustration of this is found in the story of Alexander the Great and Napoleon. In Alexander’s day, an oracle proclaimed that whoever unloosened the Gordian knot would become ruler of all Asia. Alexander cut the knot with one stroke of his sword – and rose to tremendous heights and power. Napoleon was given a star sapphire when a child, with the prophecy that it would bring him luck and some day make him Emperor. Could anything but the supreme belief in the prophecy have carried this great man to become Emperor of France? He and Alexander became supermen because they had supernormal beliefs.
A cracked or broken mirror isn’t going to bring you bad luck unless you believe in it. But as long as the belief is fertilized, nurtured, and made a part of your inner self, believe it or not, it is going to bring you bad luck – because the subconscious mind always brings to reality what it is led to believe.
Bird and Tompkins’ The Secret Life of Plants claimed there are people with certain mind powers which, when directed at plant life such as grain, vegetables, flowers, and trees, can make them grow more abundantly. A number of years ago we had an old Swiss gardener who insisted that we replace a number of small trees and shrubs in our yard. At first I couldn’t see the reason for digging up the old ones and replanting others, but the old man’s insistence prevailed. I observed that while planting them, just after he got the small trees in the soil and covered the roots, he engaged in some sort of audible Mumbo Jumbo. He did the same with the shrubs.
One day, my curiosity piqued, I asked him what he was mumbling about as he placed the trees and shrubs in the ground. He looked at me searchingly for a moment, then said, “You may not understand, but I’m talking to them, telling them they must live and bloom. It’s something I learned as a boy from my teacher in the old country. Anything that grows should have encouragement, and I’m giving it to them.” Certain humans appear to have a kind of affinity for plants, which the plants seem to feel. Thousands of professional gardeners will plant seeds only at certain times of the moon. Superstition, you say? Perhaps it is practical mysticism. The Yale investigators concluded that electrical fields play a major part in plant life, and certainly that is a scientific observation.
It is a long way from Switzerland to British Columbia, but in that Canadian province is a tribe of Indians, the members of which always talk to their lines and hooks before actually starting to fish, claiming that if they didn’t, the halibut and salmon wouldn’t bite. Many are the tales of South Sea Islanders who offer food to their tools and implements, talking to them as though they were alive and beseeching them to get results. It isn’t a great jump from those customs to the blessings offered at ship launchings or at sailing times of large fishing fleets in civilized countries, where prayers are offered even today, for successful voyages or ventures.