07 Sep How to Think Clearly & Avoid Prejudice | Podcasts
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Today’s reading was edited and adapted from The Eight Pillars of Prosperity, by James Allen, published in 1911.
To get rid of prejudice is a great achievement. Prejudices pile obstacles in our way – obstacles to health, success, happiness, and prosperity, so that we are continually running up against imaginary enemies, who (when prejudice is removed) are seen to be friends.
Life is a sort of obstacle race to the men and women of prejudice, a race wherein the obstacles cannot be negotiated and the goal is not reached. Whereas to the impartial person, life is a day’s walk in a pleasant country, with refreshment and rest at the end of the day.
By clinging to stubborn prejudice what joys are missed, what friends are sacrificed, what happiness is destroyed, what prospects are blighted! And yet freedom from prejudice is a rare thing. There are few people who are not prejudiced partisans upon the subjects which are of interest to them. One rarely meets a person who will dispassionately discuss a subject from both sides, considering all the facts and weighing all the evidence, so as to arrive at some sort of truth on the matter.
Every partisan has their own case to make out. They are not searching for truth, for they are already convinced that their own conclusion is the truth, and that all else is error. Neither do they attempt to prove that they have the truth by a calm array of facts and evidence, but defend their position with more or less heat and agitation.
Prejudice causes you to form a conclusion (sometimes without any basis of fact or knowledge) and then to refuse to consider anything which does not support that conclusion. In this way, prejudice is a complete barrier to your attainment of knowledge. It binds you down to darkness and ignorance, and prevents the development of your mind in the highest and noblest directions. More than this, it also shuts you out from communion with the best minds, and confines you to the dark and solitary cell of your own egotism.
Prejudice is a shutting up of the mind against the entrance of new light, against the perception of more beauty, against the hearing of diviner music. The partisan clings to their little, fleeting, flimsy opinion, and thinks it the greatest thing in the world. They are so in love with their own conclusion (which is really only a form of self-love), that they think all people ought to agree with it, and they regard others as more or less stupid who do not see as they see, while they praise the good judgement of those who share their view.
Such a person cannot have knowledge, cannot have truth. They are confined to the sphere of opinion (to their own self-created illusions), which is outside the realm of reality. They move in a kind of self-infatuation which prevents them from seeing the commonest facts of life, while their own theories – usually more or less groundless – assume, in their mind, overpowering proportions.
They fondly imagine that there is but one side to everything, and that side is their own. However, there are at least two sides to everything, and the person who finds the truth of the matter is the one who carefully examines both sides, free from excitement and without any desire for the dominance of one side over another.
The partisan sees a portion of the truth, and thinks it the whole. But the impartial thinker sees the whole truth which includes all sides. It is therefore necessary that we see truth in sections, as it were, until, having gathered up all the parts, we may piece them together and form the perfect circle — the forming of such a circle is the attainment of impartiality.
The impartial man and woman examines, weighs, and considers, with freedom from prejudice and from likes and dislikes. Their one wish is to discover the truth. They abolish preconceived opinions, and let facts and evidence speak for themselves. They look directly upon the face of Reality, and so become tranquil and peaceful.
So rare is freedom from prejudice that wherever the impartial thinker may be, they are sure to (sooner or later) occupy a very high position in the estimation of their peers, and in the guidance of its destiny — not necessarily an official office in worldly affairs, for that is improbable, but an exalted position in the human sphere of influence. There may be such a person now; they may be a software developer, a cartoonist, or a clerk; they may be in poverty or in the home of a millionaire; they may be short or tall, or of any complexion. But whatever and wherever they may be, they have, though unknown, already begun to move the world, and are becoming a new force and creative center in evolution.
“Beware when the great God lets loose a thinker on this plane,” says Ralph Waldo Emerson. But you are not a thinker if you are bound by prejudice. You are merely the strenuous upholder of an opinion — every idea must pass through the medium of your particular prejudice, and receive its color, so that dispassionate thinking and impartial judgement are rendered impossible. You see everything only in its relation (or imagined relation) to your own opinion, whereas the thinker sees things as they are.
If, however, you purify your mind of prejudice and of all the imperfections of egotism, so as to be able to look directly upon reality, you will have reached the acme of power; you will hold in your hands, the vastest influence, and you will wield your power whether you know it or not. It will be inseparable from your life, and will go from you as perfume from a flower. It will be in your words, your deeds, in your bodily postures and the motions of your mind, even in your silence and the stillness of your frame. Wherever you go — even though you should fly to the desert — you will not escape this lofty destiny, for a great thinker is the center of the world.
The true thinker lives above and beyond the seething whirlpool of passion in which humankind is engulfed. They are not swayed by personal consideration, for they have grasped the import of impersonal principles, and being thus a noncombatant in the clashing warfare of egotistic desires, they can (from the vantage point of an impartial but not indifferent watcher) see both sides equally, and grasp the cause and meaning of the fray.
Not only the Great Teachers, but the greatest figures in literature, are those who are free from prejudice, who, like true mirrors, effect things impartially. Such are Whitman, Shakespeare, Balzac, Emerson, Homer. These minds are not local, but universal. Their attitude is cosmic and not personal. They contain within themselves all things and beings, all worlds and laws. They are the gods who guide the race, and who will bring it at last out of its fever of passion into their own serene land.
The true thinker is the greatest of individuals, and their destiny is the most exalted — for the altogether impartial mind has reached the divine, and it basks in the full daylight of Reality.
The four great elements of impartiality are:
Number 1. Justice. Number 2. Patience. Number 3. Calmness. Number 4. Wisdom.
Justice is the giving and receiving of equal values. The just person does not try to gain an unjust advantage; they consider the true values of things, and mold their affairs and transactions in accordance. They do not seek their own benefit to the disadvantage of another, for they know that a just action benefits (equally and fully) both parties of a transaction.
If “one person’s loss is another one’s gain,” it is only so that the balance may be adjusted later on. Unjust gains cannot lead to prosperity, but are sure to bring failure. A just person could no more take from another an unjust gain by what is called a “shrewd transaction” than they could take it by picking their pocket. They would regard the one as dishonest as the other.
Let us above all avoid meanness, and strive to be ever more and more perfectly just, for if not just, you can be neither honest, nor generous, nor have integrity — because you are like a disguised thief trying to get all you can, while giving back as little as possible. Let us eschew all injustice and conduct our business and personal affairs with that exalted dignity which commands a large and meritorious success.
Patience is the brightest jewel in the character of the impartial man and woman. Not a particular patience with a particular thing (like when trying to master a new skill) but on unswerving considerateness, a sweetness of disposition at all times and under the most trying circumstances, an unchangeable and gentle strength, which no trial can mar and no persecution can break. A rare possession, it is true, and one not to be expected for a long time yet from the bulk of humankind. But it is a virtue that can be reached by degree, and even a partial patience will work wonders in your life and affairs, just as impatience will work devastation.
You must begin to wisely control yourself, and to learn the beautiful lessons of patience, if you are to be highly prosperous, if you are to be a worker of use and power. You must learn to think of others, to act for their good and not alone for yourself. You must study how to have a heart at peace with people who differ from you on those things which you regard as most vital. You must avoid quarrelling as you would avoid drinking a deadly poison. Conflicts from without will be continually overtaking you, but you must fortify yourself against them; you must study how to bring harmonies out of them by the exercise of patience. As soft water wears away the hardest rock, so patience overcomes all opposition. It gains the hearts of men and women. It conquers and controls.
Calmness accompanies patience. You cannot be impartial if you are not calm. Excitement, prejudice, and partiality spring from disturbed passions. When personal feeling is thwarted, it rises and seethes like a stream of water that is dammed. The calm person avoids this disturbance by directing their feeling from the personal to the impersonal channel. They think and feel for others, as well as for themselves. They set the same value on other people’s opinions as on their own. They are not overthrown, like Humpty Dumpty, with a sense of self-importance. They have conquered irritability, and have come to see that there is nothing in itself that should cause irritation. Just as well be irritable with a daffodil because it is not a rose, as with someone else because they do not see as you see. Minds differ, and the calm individual recognizes the differences as facts in human nature.
Calm, impartial men and women are not only the happiest but also the most powerful. They are sure, deliberate, executive — and swiftly and easily accomplish in silence what the irritable person slowly and laboriously toils through much of the day. Their mind is purified, poised, concentrated, and is ready at any moment to be directed upon a given work with unerring power. In the calm mind, all contradictions are reconciled, and there is radiant gladness and perpetual peace. As Emerson puts it: “Calmness is joy fixed and habitual”.
Wisdom abides with the impartial woman and man. Her counsels guide them; her wings shield them; she leads them along pleasant ways to happy destinations.
Every thought, word, and act of wisdom is written on the world at large, for it is fraught with greatness. Wisdom is a well of knowledge and a spring of power. It is profound and comprehensive, and is so exact and all-inclusive as to embrace the smallest details. In its spacious greatness, it does not overlook the small. The wise mind is like the world: it contains all things in their proper place and order, and is not burdened thereby. Like the world also, it is free, and unconscious of any restrictions — yet it is never loose, never erring, never repentant.
The understanding mind needs no external support. It stands of itself on the firm ground of knowledge; not book-knowledge, but ripened experience. It has passed through all minds, and therefore knows them. It has traveled with all hearts, and knows their journeys through joy and sorrow.
When wisdom touches us, we are lifted up and transfigured. We become a new being with new aims and powers, and we inhabit a new universe in which to accomplish a new and glorious destiny.
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