spiritual purity, personal redemption, spiritual quest, spiritual nature, spiritual character

Spiritual Character and Good Habits

“Character is largely a matter of the establishment of Habits. ‘And what is the best way to establish habits?’ Becomes our next question. The answer of the Yogi is: ‘Establish a mental image, and then build your Habit around it.’ And in that sentence he has condensed a whole system.
“Everything we see having a form is built around a mental image—either the mental image of some man, some animal, or of the Absolute. This is the rule of the universe, and in the matter of character building we but follow a well established rule. When we wish to build a house, we first think of ‘house’ in a general way. … Then we go into details. Then we consult an architect, and he makes us a plan, which is his mental image, suggested by our mental image. … Make your picture clear and distinct, and fasten it in your mind. Then began to build around it.” ~William Walker Atkinson

Character and Habits

I’m not sure we can say that character building is simply a matter of establishing habits. Perhaps we can say that character building is a matter of intentionally forming good habits, but not habits in general.

Some people form good habits, but without intending to do so. It may have been pushed on them by their parents, teachers, or community. While this does create a person of good character, it is probably not strong character. By that, I mean that a person who has good habits that were forced upon him, rather than by his choice, is often easily convinced to change those habits.

Other people form habits, both intentional and unintentional, that are not good at all. An infant, not understanding the concept of life, will often catch and kill insects. Adults generally allow this. Later, when the child starts killing small animals, the parents may wish to stop it, but it may be too late. The habit has been established. Other may not develop such bad habits until they are somewhat older. In a sense, this is still development of character. Rotten character, which is not what is intended. Like a spoiled brat dictator and a spoiled brat president calling each other names like small children. In public! And thinking such behavior is acceptable! Character, yes, but rotten character. More characters than character.

So I think when Atkinson talks about developing character by developing habits, we can reword that by saying “developing character by the intentional development of good habits.” And there is also a difference between good character on the physical level, and having good spiritual character. Continue reading “Spiritual Character and Good Habits”

reason, material mind, habit mind

Habit Mind: the Good, Bad, and Beautiful

“We allude to what may be called the ‘Habit Mind.’ in order to distinguish it from the instinctive plane. The difference is this: the instinctive plane of mind is made up of the ordinary operations of the mind below the plane of intellect, and yet above the plane of the vegetative mind. … But the ‘Habit Mind’ contains only that which has been acquired by experience, habit, and observation. …
“The text books upon psychology are filled with illustrations and examples of the habit phase or plane of the mental operations, and we do not think it necessary to repeat instances. … Everyone is familiar with the fact that tasks which as first are learned only by considerable work and time soon become fixed in some part of the mind until until their repetition calls for little or no exercise of conscious mental operations.” ~William Walker Atkinson

Habit Mind

Whether or not the mind truly has “plains,” or it is just a convenient way to divide up its activities isn’t really important to most of us. But we will go along with Mr. Atkinson’s view and say that there is a plane of mind which we can call the Habit Mind.

Many people thing that habits are a bad thing. “We should always be aware of what we are doing,” they believe. But they are wrong. Yes, we do sometimes develop bad habits. But most of our habits are good ones. Lets look at some examples.

When we were babies learning to walk, we fell a lot. Eventually, we learned to do it so well, we don’t even think about it. It became a habit, and we are better for it. Likewise, when we first started to feed ourselves, we got much of the food all over our faces. Eventually, we got it in our mouth all the time and it became a habit. Another good habit.

Driving a car is another good example. When we first started to learn, we had to stop and think of everything we were supposed to do. We made lots of mistakes. But eventually, it became habit. If it hadn’t, we would soon have given up of driving.

Writing, reading, eating, walking, running, and more. These are all possible because of that Habit Mind. Imagine trying to get your pants on in the morning if you hadn’t developed an habitual way of doing it. Yet there is a negative side to the habit mind. Continue reading “Habit Mind: the Good, Bad, and Beautiful”