As Man Thinketh in His Heart…

So is he.

Much as he loved parts of the Hebrew Bible, he preferred to look further East for a more actionable slant on the same concept. Right Thinking, as the Buddhists would put it.

He found it difficult after so many years seeking to recall where it was he had picked certain concepts up, or quite how a practice or discipline first came to his attention. In earlier days he had not realized that he was “seeking” in the first place, let alone what it was he sought.

And yet in retrospect the signs were there and might have been picked up sooner, had he not resolutely decided to focus on Mammon, thanks to insecurities brought about by a father who had never learnt from the travails of Mr Micawber. Would that David Copperfield had featured more prominently in his father’s large library, but the only Dickens his father showed much fondness for was the Pickwick Papers.

In his later years he recalled vividly some of the experiences which had brought peace into his life but he was still learning to come to terms with those ordeals which had had a less benign impact. One abiding memory of the former was an antiquarian bookshop in the 14th Century streets of the mediaeval port of Sandwich. Never happier browsing among the bookshelves, he was equally attracted to the inevitable plainsong with which the owner entertained his clients. The ancient choir stalls of a beautiful Saxon church provided equal satisfaction when, as a prep school boy, he marched up with the rest of the children on blustery Sunday mornings to the obligatory worship of the fierce and antique god of a middle eastern tribe.

Galling then to recall how long he had known the “way” and how tardy he had been in achieving the necessary direction and application to bring to fulfilment the promised fruit of his faint yet obvious path.

He had often mused, much later in life, whether it is possible to change one’s mind. Not in the every day sense of what to eat for breakfast or what gallery to visit but in the far more profound undertaking to changing one’s life, to turn habits and thought patterns inside out and upside down. Permanent change for the better.

He had allowed himself to dwell on the doctrine of determinism which forbade any possibility of free will. In the presence of the former and the absence of the latter, no change is possible. Or at least no “willed” change. After many a false step he had determined (at last) to cast aside the horrific vision of the block universe, and he dared to believe that free will was a reality and Einstein a nonsense.

Those who yearn for a reality beyond the mundane, can do no better than to take this simple phrase and make it their own. Those who wish to change their lives, those who wish to see above the endless struggle of the world, would do well to train their thoughts, to turn inward.

Nature or nurture? The old debate, what makes man as he is? In his own case a bit of the former and a large part of the latter. Leaving all question of “fault” aside, he had been brought up in an atmosphere of endless domestic conflict and in a family which seemingly took delight in viewing others as in some respects “bad”. Class, race, culture even taste in clothing or way of life were all set in stone. This way was right, that way was wrong.

How difficult to break out of such an upbringing, such depth of habit and training, even for an individual who, year by year, was achieving greater “awareness” of his own attitudes and behavior.

He had been aware of the “path” for many years. He had trodden it often enough but never to its end. He determined once again to follow the way and this time to reach a state where all became clear. Where the words of the wise not only made sense but were realized in his daily life. He would enter a place where the world could be seen for what it is, and he would remain there.

He did not seek sainthood (even supposing such a state exists) and he certainly made no claim to it. All he sought was the attainment of that state of peace so often described throughout the ages. A peace expressed in poetry and art, in the writing of sages. A calmness and certainty, a contentment to be found in finding the truth and living it.

The truth, the way for him meant turning inwards in silence and meditation. If a man consists of his thoughts, if thoughts make the man then let him turn inwards and think good thoughts. Above all, let him be aware of his thoughts and let him reject those thoughts he knows to be wrong, until he changes his whole life and that of those around him.

In or out of meditation he must reject those thoughts he knows to be wrong and adopt those he knows to be right. He must lay down new habits, new thought patterns, until he becomes what it is he wants to be.

If he is too opiniated, let him cease to express those opinions, cease to argue, stop telling others they are wrong and he is right. Let each find his own path. If he is quick to anger, his thoughts should dwell not on the affronts he believes he has suffered but on passivity, tranquility. And as for aggression, he should learn to overcome it in himself and others by practicing its opposite, by endlessly meditating on tranquility until his own serenity can begin to melt the harshness so often expressed in a world dominated by self.

As man thinketh, so is he. Man is his thoughts. Right thinking leads to right actions and a better world. Wrong thinking leads to conflict and aggression, to war and torture, to misery and oppression. Greed for power and money, the endless pursuit of mammon. Domination over others, the necessity to be right.

Enlightenment, for him at least, was incremental. Day by day he would meditate on words, phrases and imagery which represented a state he wished to achieve. Peace might be one such word, the phrase “right thinking” another object to contemplate. Images came and went and again he sought to distance the dark and move towards the light. An autumn leaf spiraling gently down through sunlit waters. Gothic forms and the magnificence of stained glass. The sound of gentle music, harmony and consonance. And nature, the beauty of sky and earth, water and wind. The infinity of burgeoning life, the magnificence of the infinite.

Darkness still descended from time to time but the slow abnegation of self seemed to lessen its impact. Who was it who was beset by darkness? Absorption into the one, day by day, made the very concept of self seem doubtful.

And so, there he was. That was his journey and that was the state he found himself in. A slow emergence from dark into light. A struggle still to turn away from a lifetime of negativity and wrong thinking but perhaps it would always be thus. Perhaps right thinking required constant cultivation like a garden.

But at least he had achieved a keen sense of awareness. He knew, with no shade nor shadow nor rag of doubt, what was right. And what was wrong. His path was clear and it only required that he remained upon it.

He would aspire to right thinking. And in his heart he hoped so to be.


  1. Lao Tse:

    What struggles! But now it seems you’re experiencing the same mother lode as Lao Tse, Anthony! :

    “Simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures. Simple in actions and thoughts, you return to the source of being. Patient with both friends and enemies, you accord with the way things are. Compassionate toward yourself.”

    All good wishes,

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow, it’s good to see you in such positive spirits. I love the way you describe seeing the unfolding of the path you’re on, like you weren’t quite aware of it earlier but now it’s clearer…and the direction from here. Wonderful. You deserve great peace and happiness.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. In the autobiography of British-born priest and benedictine monk, Bede Griffiths, he writes:

    “This experience may come, as it came to me, through nature of poetry, or through art and music; or it may come through the adventure of flying or mountaineering, or of war; or it may come simply through falling in love, or through some apparent accident, an illness, the death of a friend, a sudden loss of fortune…however it may be, it is as though a veil has been lifted and we see for the first time behind the facade which the world has built around us. Suddenly we know we belong to another world, that there is another dimension to existence.”

    It truly is very reassuring that such ideas are being shared by others who, after many struggles and challenges in life, finally are able to experience the fullness of the potential available in that dimension to existence, which may have eluded us for many years.

    Wonderful reading here today! All good wishes…John H.


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