Some People We Fear

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

"The man who, outside of pure mathematics, pronounces the word impossible, lacks prudence."— Arago.

ONE Universe there is, essentially the same in all its parts — of the essence of Mind.

To the Universe observed objectively we give the name, matter.

To the Universe observed subjectively we give the name, mind-self.

If the objective Universe is essentially Mind, it knows itself as mind only.

If the human self expresses in body, it knows itself as psycho-physical.

Matter to itself, then, is expressed Mind.

The self-mind is existing and expressing mind.

To the human self the Mind-Universe is objectively expressed as matter, and subjectively in the psychic factor.

All expression, in either case, is conducted by signs — marks, traits, or the like, which are susceptible of interpretation by knowing mind. Both the Universal Mind and the human mind-self can only know either mind and the self through the signs of mind-activities. The discovery and interpretation of such signs bulks so large in the mental life that it has only one other rival, the using of such interpretation in the interest of the completest personal being.


The world we live in, including all other humans besides your self, constitutes, as expressed in external form, a vast and complex system of individual and more or less definitive signs, since that world is a vast and complex expression of mental reality. Nature is like a huge manuscript written by an Unseen Hand, some of the letters of which move about from place to place, while others appear to remain in a stationary position. As the characters on a written page are signs which we have learned to understand, so the world of things consists of signs which suggest or induce in us certain mental activities by way of interpretation. In becoming acquainted with Nature, your mind, your knowing self, does not go out to objects external, nor do the latter pass into the self. Disregarding the body, it is to be understood that nothing goes out of the self or into the self in the act of knowing the external world. The world of objects exists and remains outside the knowing self, exists in the objects as signs which induce or suggest innumerable thoughts and feelings in the observer. What we know of these signs is simply our interpretation of them: it is what we conclude they are and mean.

The successful human life, then, involves, for example, three questions: What are the facts about us—the signs or realities as they actually are? What attitude toward such signs or objects or facts and their sure meanings is best for individual welfare? How shall we successfully apply that attitude?

Personal unfoldment consists in trying to answer these questions in such a practical way as to "make good" for the most truly successful life.

Let us now ask what these object-signs are in the world of Nature.


Our first study concerns movement, one of the things hardest to be explained in the whole Universe. The world seems to consist, as science informs us from its necessary point of view, of matter and force. But the word "matter" is merely a sign, written, printed, thought, spoken, for a certain other sign, the external "matter itself"— which also is to the human mind none other than just a sign of some reality objectively observed. The first sign is, a word; the word-sign stands for the something-sign. We understand the word-sign; we form some notions about the something-sign; but the essence of the' latter sign no one knows, or ever will know, since the sign is of mind-reality, and mind to itself is essentially unknowable save as a system of activities. Nevertheless, we all agree that the something actually exists, for otherwise we should not have the word-sign and the thought-sign at all.

The word "force" is also a sign, and it stands for—simply an idea. Force can no more be explained than can motion. Force in itself is always an inference from observed activity, but no one has discovered the essence of what is called force. Matter and force are inferences,, but movement is beyond doubt, whatever its origin.

The thinkers of the ages, discovering perfectly evident motion everywhere, began thousands of years ago to surmise that things which are apparently inert were nevertheless incessantly active. The birth of chemistry confirmed these surmises, and led to the modern conclusion, which is a scientific re-statement of old Greek guessing, that all things involve absolutely ceaseless movement within themselves. When we run this conclusion down, it is seen that it is only true for science, since in a Universe which is essentially all mind there can really be neither space nor motion, but only conditions and changes in the Universal Mind's Thoughts. For practical purposes, however, the conclusion must be accepted. On examination, the conclusion assumes two forms: the metaphysical, that all things are in a state of flux, are forever be-coming and forever ceasing; and the physical or chemical, that all things are what they are because of molecular activity. Thus the world of material Nature and physical man is simply a huge system of movement.


Formerly we were told that matter is composed of molecules, which in turn consisted of atoms, the smallest divisible particles of matter, and that the molecules were active or moved in grosser matter, or among themselves, while the atoms performed similarly within the molecules. To-day such molecules and atoms are regarded as very "lumpish" affairs, for we now believe that the atom itself is an assemblage of "corpuscles." Yet here also, incessant activity prevails, for the final constituents are forever engaged in movement of inconceivable rapidity, at the rate of from 10,000 miles to 90,000 miles a second.

When we ask science what the corpuscles are, one of the latest answers refers us to electricity. "Any mass of matter is x-molecules, a molecule is y-atom, an atom is z-corpuscles surrounded by positive electricity, and a corpuscle consists of a unit of negative electricity." Matter, then, consists of a certain definite number of established or more or less permanent modes of motion, and the innumerable objects of Nature, so far as concerns their material, are thus seen to be simply varieties or individual specimens of etheric movement.

Nothing exists save as it acts, and it is action that constitutes things themselves. Nature, including man, is a vast complex of movements which, as observed by us, become movement-signs. These movement-signs we investigate and interpret, and with the interpretation, corresponding in a way, and thus varying, with everything that exists, we build our thought and the whole philosophy of life.

If, now, any material object is simply a kind of established motion of the ether within the ether, the human body is precisely the same. And what-ever may be said as to the nature of life, it is also exactly this, so it would seem: a mode of motion within material molecules (since we know it only in connection with matter), and motion of the ether within the ether (since molecules themselves are such modes of motion). Whatever, again, may be said as to the nature of conscious thought, since it takes place within the material brain, it is, as well, precisely a mode of motion involving ether within ether.

The law of inertia forbids that we refer the origin of that motion to the ether itself, for such reference would require that we conceive some original ether without motion, which is inconceivable under the law that a medium not in motion cannot begin motion without the agency of some external force; the original motionless ether can stir "neither hand nor foot" until moved upon by reality apart from itself. Even if life be indeed a mode of motion, the specific character of that motion may differ from other forms of motion, say, gravitation, or heat. We may not affirm that life, a movement within ether, is identical with molecular action, a movement within the ether, simply because we do not know. But we may say, that life, whatever the character of it, emerges in motion of the ether with-in itself. Similarly, the exact kind of etheric movement involved in consciousness and thought would not necessarily, even if we knew it, resolve itself into a motion identical with that represented by molecular action in the brain, for the one movement, though associated with the other, may stand for a very different reality. Our personality involves innumerable etheric movements, but it cannot be set down, offhand as the same in origin and nature with the movements which constitute physical nature. To say that because matter is always associated with life, matter is life, or life is an expression of matter, is equivalent to saying that because houses are associated with men, men are houses, or houses are men, or men are expressions of houses. The conclusion may be true, but it is not demanded by the association, and the reverse may be true as well.


We are justified, therefore, in affirming only: that the human personality consists of a complex system of activities or movements which take place within the material body, so that all such movements are fundamentally activities of the ether within itself, it may be occurring laterally, or in undulations, or in rings, etc., and that of these movements some are induced by the outside world, some by life acting in the body-realm, some by the psychic self.

As we may think of a tree as a system of etheric motions or activities located in one general place, or of a bird as a similar system capable of transfer in toto from place to place, so may we think of human beings as moving systems or centres of activity occurring in the ether and capable of voluntary transfer therein. Personality is a definite, though never clearly limited, sphere of such activities, in which the physical and psychic factors play mutual parts. Be the psychic factor what it may, it dominates more or less, and ought to dominate entirely, the physical. Inasmuch as flesh, bones, nerves and blood are merely forms of etheric action established as forms, the general state of activity in the body influences the surrounding mass of the medium, for a centre of force immersed in a medium of which itself is a part, must disturb that medium by its activities. Personality, then, really involves a complex of motions beyond its constituent ether, setting up many varieties of movement in its immediate surrounding neighborhood by way of transmitted and transformed motion, in straight lines, vibrations, vortices, and so on. Your personal sphere of unseen activities is larger than the bodily outlines, some movements which you originate running "the diameter of the Universe," most of them, how-ever, being condensed, so to speak, within a comparatively small area, and all springing up throughout the physical structure incessantly during life.

In the purely physical functions of the body, as, say, the circulatory system, heart, lungs, stomach, nerves, etc., the activities involving the ether are more or less regular, and are conducted without conscions effort. The movements which indicate volition, thought and feeling, however, while regular in their larger phases because they are the products of psychic habits, are nevertheless incessantly varied and to a degree confused.

The average person, then, represents a system of very complex ether-movements, some of which are automatically regular, some of which are volitionally regular, and very many of which are exceedingly irregular and constantly modified and changed in all sorts of ways under the varying conditions of life.

It is at this point that the difficulties pertaining to personal relations appear.


If you will imagine a sphere several feet in diameter consisting of complex movements of some perfectly transparent jelly-like medium, and if you will suppose yourself occupying that sphere and causing such movements, and then remember that you are surrounded by thousands of other spheres (personalities) each a dweller within a similar sphere and constituting the activities and characteristics of that sphere, you will see that we are all not only causing disturbances in the Universal Medium, but also receiving into our own sphere movements induced by others.

Recalling, now, the thought that Nature is a vast system of sign-objects, that is, of movement-signs, it is evident that, if we are to understand Nature and her objects, we must learn to discover the sure meaning of such signs. Precisely so is it with regard to human beings. A human being is to each of us simply a sign of some existence which we have learned to interpret as "man," or "woman," or "boy," or "girl," or "John," or "Mary,"— this or that kind of individual human. This learning how to interpret personal sign is one of the most important things in life, because it is the first step toward that right adjustment of self to others which insures greatest success in practical and ideal living. Thus we come to;

A PRELIMINARY PRACTICAL REGIME IN THE PRESENT WORK: Reading Personal Signs in General. You are now invited to engage in a study of the people whom you know, trying always to solve this question: What kind of sign is each man or woman I meet to me? A sign, for example, of dullness, brightness; slowness, quickness ; irritability, calmness; close, free-handed; morose, cheerful; tricky, honest; low, honorable; etc., etc. If you will proceed in this way, deciding always why you come to your conclusions, you will ere long develop a clean-cut understanding of the people you meet, so far as their external signs indicate; you will, that is, be able to interpret their personality-signs, and thus learn how the most effectively to adjust yourself to them in practical affairs. For detail methods of adjustment you are referred to the author's work, "Power For Success," which fully discusses this important subject.

The question, now presented a second time, What is the relation which the individual must come into with other people for his own greatest welfare? involves just this matter of interpretation of personality-signs which we have indicated. The truth is that we do not reach our highest attainments, because we do not adequately know the signs of men and women with whom we deal. But the completest relation involves not only correct interpretation, but also right adjustment to the persons whose signs we interpret. If we interpret them incorrectly, our adjustments will be false or misleading. If we interpret them correctly, we may, nevertheless, fail in the best adjustments. It comes out, then, that life is no matter of mere happy-go-lucky, hit-or-miss contact with people, but really a wonderful science requiring the very best in us properly to master. And, since no one is great enough to master the innumerable details of this science, we are left to acquire and practise the great trunk-line principles which human experience has proved to be the most surely calculated to make for development and success. These fundamental principle are the moral laws and the dictates of what we call common sense. And common sense has worked out this universal law: that if you desire to get on with people, you must find out what their personality means — must interpret their self-signs — and so adjust yourself to them as to secure some kind of harmony with them or to repel or control any of the etheric movements which may proceed from their personal spheres and enter or strive to enter your own.

These two phases of every human being's life-work, interpretation of personality-signs and adjustment to personal etheric spheres, either by harmony or control or repulsion, constitute the art of arts which is open to and possible by all who may read these pages.

Fear Means Surrender to Interpretation of Personality-Signs.

It is because you interpret the personality-signs erroneously, or, whether you interpret them incorrectly or correctly, yield to the interpretation, that fear or timidity and nervousness seize upon you in social or business contact. If you would say, in regard to such signs: " These signs may be intended to awaken fear, or they may be merely of a character suggestive of fear to the common run of people, but I refuse to so interpret them, and they do not mean fear to me; now, how shall I adjust myself to them in such a way as either to repel or control the etheric movements which they indicate as seeking to enter my personal sphere?"—if you would say thus, you would find your-self in time altogether free from the fears or nervousness which the signs usually induce. In other words, you have it in your power, first, to learn what personality-signs are; secondly, to repel them if they signify evil of any sort to yourself; and thirdly, to control and use them for your own good, if not of a hostile nature. This brings us to the practical work of the present chapter.


You are therefore invited to practise the following as long-continued regimes in your daily life.

The work now involved I indicate in two sections: The Golden Regimes of the Masterful Self, and, The Iron Regimes of the Self Striving for Mastery. Into the second work must always be carried the first, courageously and confidently.

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