Leon Denis on “Thought”

Importance of thought

There is no subject more important than the study of thought, its powers and its action. It is the initial cause of our elevation or our abasement. It prepares all the discoveries of science, all the marvels of art, but also all the misery and shamefulness of humanity. Following its given impulse, it founds or destroys institutions, empires, and characters.

Man is only great, save through his thoughts, for by them his works shine and are perpetuated through the centuries.

On Thoughts, Feelings and Expression

To give thought all its force and its amplitude, study great problems. To express freely we must first feel powerfully—to enjoy the high and profound sensations, we must go to the source from which flows all life, harmony, and beauty. All that is noble and elevating in the domain of intellect emanates from the one eternal source of living thought.

Thought and the body:

The influence of thought on the body is revealed to us by occurrences observable about us every moment. Fear paralyses the movements; astonishment, shame, and terror provoke pallor of colour; anguish affects the heart action; grief causes tears to flow, and long continued produces lowering of vital forces. These are all proofs of the powerful action of the mind on the material envelope.

Thought Works

Thought is creative. It not only acts about us, influencing others for good or ill, but above all, it acts in us. It generates our words and our actions, and by them constructs each day the glorious or miserable edifice of our life present and to be. We fashion our soul and its envelope by our thoughts. They produce forms and images which are printed on the subtle material of which our etheric body is composed. So little by little our life is peopled with forms frivolous or austere, gracious or terrible, gross or sublime; and the soul shines with beauty, or grows ugly and repulsive.

Call to artists:

O writers, artists, poets, you whose numbers increase daily, whose productions multiply like a rising tide, often beautiful in form, but weak at the foundation—superficial and material, what talents you expend on mediocre results ! what vast efforts are wasted on evil passions, on inferior and unworthy interests!

Think on these things

We waste our thinking with puerile and sterile studies, with work which blunts the conscience, and the spirit.

Who among you will give the world the epic of the soul striving for the conquest of its destiny in the immense cycle of the ages—its sorrows and its joys, its descent into the abysses of life, its rising on wings of aspiration into the light—its immolations and holocausts which are ransoms for past acts—its redeeming missions and its growing participation in divinity?

Which one of you will give to earth the powerful harmonies of the universe—the gigantic harp vibrating under the thought of God—the song of worlds, the eternal rhythm which rocks the cradle of the stars and the humanities!

Who will tell of the conquests of life —life always growing greater, more serene, more illumined by rays from on high? The march from summit to summit, the pursuit of happiness—of power and pure love?

Who will sing the work of man immortal toiler, lifting through his doubts, anguish, and tears, the sublime and harmonious edifice of his thinking consciousness and personality—always onward—always upward—always higher? Who will teach us these things? The inner voices, and the voices from Beyond!

We are What we think

We are what we think, if we think with force and persistence and will. But almost always our thoughts pass constantly from one subject to another, rarely do we think for ourselves, but instead reflect the thousand incoherent thoughts of the environment where we dwell. Few men know how to think: how to drink from profound sources—from the great reservoir of inspiration which each one carries within himself—even the most ignorant. They make for themselves an envelope peopled with ephemeral forms. Their minds are like a building open to every passer-by. Rays of light are mingled with shadows in perpetual chaos.

On need to Control our thoughts

Before all other things, to learn how to control our thoughts is most important; how to discipline and turn them in one direction toward a noble and dignified goal. The control of thought leads to the control of actions; for if one is good the other will be equally so, and harmony will regulate our lives. If our acts are good and our thoughts are bad, and we carry in ourselves a false centre, sooner or later the influence of our evil thoughts will fall fatally upon us. Sometimes we see a striking contradiction between the thoughts, writings, and actions of certain men, and we are led to doubt the good faith and sincerity of their utterances. But often the acts of these men are but the blind impulsion of accumulated thoughts and forces that will be realized in future actions.

On avoidance of news, noise and discussions

Avoid noisy discussions, vain words, frivolous reading: read daily papers sparingly. Passing lightly as they do from one subject to another, they render the mind unstable. We live in a period of anaemic intellectuality which is caused by the rarity of serious study and the insufficient educative system: let us attach ourselves to substantial works—to works which can enlighten us on the profound laws of life and facilitate our evolution. Little by little we will find growing in us a greater intelligence and consciousness, and our etheric body will shine with reflections of high and pure thoughts.

On reading, thinking and assimilation

It is well to choose our reading with care, then to let our thoughts ripen it until we can assimilate the quintessence. In general, we read too much—too hastily—and meditate not at all! It is better to read less and reflect more on what we read. It is a sure method of fortifying our intelligence to gather the fruits of wisdom and beauty which we find in good books:

In silent, reflective study lies development of the thoughts. The greatest works are elaborated in the silence. In meditation the mind is concentrated: it turns toward the grave and serious side of things: the light spiritual world inundates it. About the thinker, invisible great spirits come, eager to inspire him. It is in the half-light of tranquil hours, or in the discreet shade of his study lamp, that they can best enter into communication with him.

Excerpt from “Life and Destiny”, Leon Denis (1846 – 1927), Translated by Ella Wheeler Wilcox