Willpower Development

By Charles G. Leland.

Omitting the many vague indications in earlier writers, as well as those drawn from ancient Oriental sources, we may note that POMPONATIUS or POMPONAZZO, an Italian, born in 1462, declared in a work entitled De naturalium effectuum admirandorum Causis seu de Incantationibus, that to cure disease it was necessary to use a strong will, and that the patient should have a vigorous imagination and much faith in the praê cantator. PARACELSUS asserted the same thing in many passages directly and indirectly. He regarded medicine as magic and the physician as a wizard who should by a powerful will act on the imagination of the patient. But from some familiarity with the works of PARACELSUS the first folio of the first full edition is before me as I write I would say that it would be hard to declare what his marvelous mind did not anticipate in whatever was allied to medicine and natural philosophy. Thus I have found that long before VAN HELMONT, who has the credit of the discovery, PARACELSUS knew how to prepare silicate of soda, or water-glass.

Hypnotism as practiced at the present day, and with regard to its common results, was familiar to JOHANN JOSEPH GASSNER, a priest in Suabia, of whom LOUIS FIGUIER writes as follows in his Histoire du Merveilleux dans les Temps Modernes, published in 1860:

"GASSNER, like the Englishman VALENTINE GREAT-RAKES, believed himself called by divine inspiration to cure diseases. According to the precept of proper charity he began at home, that is to say, on himself. After being an invalid for five or six years, and consulting, all in vain, many doctors, and taking their remedies all for naught, the idea seized him that such an obstinate malady as his must have some supernatural evil origin, or in other words, that he was possessed by a demon.

"Therefore he conjured this devil of a disorder, in the name of Jesus Christ to leave him so it left, and the good GASSNER has put it on record that for sixteen years after he enjoyed perfect health and never had occasion for any remedy, spiritual or otherwise.

"This success made him reflect whether all maladies could not be cured by exorcism . . . The experiment which he tried on the invalids of his parish were so successful that his renown soon opened through all Suabia, and the regions roundabout. Then he began to travel, being called for everywhere."

GASSNER was so successful that at Ratisbon he had, it is said, 6,000 patients of all ranks encamped in tents. He cured by simply touching with his hands. But that in which he appears original was that he not only made his patients sleep or become insensible by ordering them to do so but caused them to raise their arms and legs, tremble, feel any kind of pain, as is now done by the hypnotist. "'In a young lady of good family' he caused laughter and weeping, stiffness of the limbs, absence of sight and hearing, and anesthesia so as to make the pulse beat at his will."

M. FIGUIER and others do not seem to have been aware that a century before GASSNER, a PIETRO PIPERNO of Naples published a book in which there was a special exorcism or conjurations, as he calls them, for every known disorder, and that this possibly gave the hint for a system of cure to the Swabian. I have a copy of this work, which is extremely rare, it having been put on the Roman prohibited list, and otherwise suppressed. But GASSNER himself was suppressed ere long, because the Emperor, Joseph II, cloistered that is to say, imprisoned him for life in the Monastery of Pondorf, near Ratisbon. One must not be too good or Apostle-like or curative even in the Church, which discourages trop de zéle.

But the general accounts of GASSNER give the impression, which has not been justly conveyed, that he owed his remarkable success in curing himself and others not to any kind of theory nor faith in magnetism, or in religion, so much as unconscious suggestion, aided by a powerful Will which increased with successes. To simply pray to be cured of an illness, or even to be cured by prayer, was certainly no novelty to any Catholic or Protestant in those days. The very nature of his experiments in making many people perform the same feats which are now repeated by hypnotizers, and which formed no part of a religious cure, indicate clearly that he was an observer of strange phenomena or a natural philosopher. I have seen myself an Egyptian juggler in Boulak perform many of these as professed tricks, and I do not think it was from any imitation of French clairvoyance. He also pretended that it was by an exertion of his Will, aided by magic forms which he read from a book, that he made two boys obey him. It was probably for these tricks which savored of magic that GASSNER was "retired."

Having in the previous pages indicated the general method by which Will may be awakened and strengthened, that the reader may as soon as possible understand the simple principle of action, I will now discuss more fully the important topic of influencing and improving our mental powers by easily induced Attention, or attention guided by simple Foresight, and pre-resolution aided by simple auto or self-suggestion. And I believe, with reason, that by these very simple processes (which have not hitherto been tested that I am aware of by any writer in the light in which I view them); the Will, which is the power of all powers and the mainspring of the mind, can be by means of persuasion increased or strengthened ad infinitum.

It is evident that GASSNER'S method partakes in equal proportions of the principles of the well-known "Faith Cure," and that of the Will, or of the passive and the active. What is wanting in it is self-knowledge and the very easily awakened forethought which, when continued, leads to far greater and much more certain results. Forethought costs little exertion: it is so calmly active that the weakest minds can employ it; but wisely employed it can set tremendous force in action.

As regards GASSNER, it is admissible that many more cures of disease can be effected by what some vaguely call the Imagination, and others Mental Action, than is generally supposed. Science now proves every year, more and more, that diseases are allied, and that they can be reached through the nervous system. In the celebrated correspondence between KANT and HUFELAND there is almost a proof that incipient gout can be cured by will or determination. But if a merely temporary or partial cure can really be obtained, or a cessation from suffering, if the ill be really curable at all, it is but reasonable to assume that by continuing the remedy or system, the relief will or must correspond to the degree of "faith" in the patient. And this would infallibly be the case if the sufferer had the will. But unfortunately the very people who are most frequently relieved are those of the impulsive imaginative kind, who "soon take hold and soon let go," or who are merely attracted by a sense of wonder which soon loses its charm, and so they react.

Therefore if we cannot only awaken the Will, but also keep it alive, it is very possible that we may not only effect great and thorough cures of diseases, but also induce whatever state of mind we please. This may be effected by the action of the minds or wills of others on our own, which influence can be gradually transferred from the operator to the patient himself, as when in teaching a boy to swim the master holds the pupil up until the latter finds that he is unconsciously moving by his own exertion.

What the fickle and "nervous" patients of any kind need is to have the idea kept before their minds continuously. They generally rush into a novelty without Forethought. Therefore they should be trained or urged to forethink or reflect seriously and often on the cure or process proposed. This is the setting of the nail, which is to be driven in by suggestion. The other method is where we act entirely for ourselves both as regards previous preparation and subsequent training.

I here repeat, since the whole object of the book is that certain facts shall be deeply and clearly impressed on the reader's mind, that if we will that a certain idea shall recur to us on the following, or any other day, and if we bring the mind to bear upon it just before falling asleep, it may be forgotten when we awake, but it will recur to us when the time comes. This is what almost everybody has proved, that if we resolve to awake at a certain hour we generally do so; if not the first time, after a few experiments, apropos of which I would remark that "no one should ever expect full success from any first experiment."

Now it is certainly true that we all remember or recall certain things to be done at certain hours, even if we have a hundred other thoughts in the interval. But it would seem as if by some law which we do not understand Sleep or repose acted as a preserver and reviver, nay, as a real strengthener of Thoughts, inspiring them with a new spirit. It would seem, too, as if they came out of Dreamland, as the children in TIECK'S story did out of Fairyland, with new lives. This is, indeed, a beautiful conception, and I may remark that I will in another place comment on the curious fact that we can add to and intensify ideas by thus passing them through our minds in sleep.

Just by the same process as that which enables us to awake at a given hour, and simply by substituting other ideas for that of time, can we acquire the ability to bring upon ourselves pre-determined or desired states of mind. This is Self-Suggestion or deferred determination, be it with or without sleep. It becomes more certain in its result with every new experiment or trial. The great factor in the whole is perseverance or repetition. By faith we can remove mountains, by perseverance we can carry them away, and the two amount to precisely the same thing.

And here be it noted what, I believe, no writer has ever before observed, that as perseverance depends on renewed forethought and reflection, so by continued practice and thought, in self-suggestion, the one practicing begins to find before long that his conscious will is acting more vigorously in his waking hours, and that he can finally dispense with the sleeping process.  For, in fact, when we once find that our will is really beginning to obey us, and inspire courage or indifference where we were once timid, there is no end to the confidence and power which may ensue.

Now this is absolutely true. A man may will certain things ere he falls asleep. This willing should not be intense, as the old animal magnetizers taught; it ought rather to be like a quiet, firm desire or familiarization with what we want, often gently repeated till we fall asleep in it. So the seeker wills or wishes that he shall, during all the next day, feel strong and vigorous, hopeful, energetic, cheerful, bold or calm or peaceful. And the result will be obtained just in proportion to the degree in which the command or desire has impressed the mind, or sunk into it.

But, as I have said: Do not expect that all of this will result from a first trial. It may even be that those who succeed very promptly will be more likely to give out in the end than those who work up from small beginnings. The first step may very well be that of merely selecting some particular object and calmly or gently, yet determinedly directing the mind to it, to be recalled at a certain hoar. Repeat the experiment, if successful add to it something else. Violent effort is un-advisable, yet mere repetition without thought is time lost. Think while willing what it is you want, and above all, if you can, think with a feeling that the idea is to recur to you.

This acting or working two thoughts at once may be difficult for some readers to understand, though all writers on the brain illustrate it. It may be formulated thus: "I wish to remember tomorrow at four o'clock to visit my bookseller bookseller's four o'clock four o'clock." But with practice the two will become as one conception.

When the object of a state of mind, as, for instance, calmness all day long, is obtained, even partially, the operator (who must, of course, do all to help himself to keep calm, should he remember his wish) will begin to believe in himself sincerely, or in the power of his will to compel a certain state of mind. This won, all may be won, by continued reflection and perseverance. It is the great step gained, the alphabet learned, by which the mind may pass to boundless power.

It may be here interesting to consider some of the states of mind into which a person may be brought by hypnotism. When subject to the will of an operator the patient may believe anything that he is a mouse or a girl, drunk or inspired. The same may result from self-hypnotism by artificial methods which appeal powerfully to the imagination. According to Dr. JAMES R. COCKE many of his patients could induce this by looking at any bright object, a bed of coals, or at smooth running water. It is, of course, to be understood that it is not merely by looking that hypnotism is induced. There must be will or determinate thought; but when once brought about it is easily repeated.

"They have the ability," writes Dr. COCKE, "to resist this state or bring it on at will. Many of them describe beautiful scenes from Nature, or some mighty cathedral with its lofty dome, or the faces of imaginary beings." This writer's own first experience of self-hypnotism was very remarkable. He had been told by a hypnotizer to keep the number twenty-six in his mind. He did so, and after hearing a ringing in his ears and then a strange roaring he felt that spirits were all round him music sounding and a sensation as of expanding.

But self-hypnotizing, by the simple easy process of trusting to ordinary sleep, is better adapted to action delayed, or states of mind. These may be:

A desire to be at peace or perfectly calm. After a few repetitions it will be found that, though irritating accidents may countervene, the mind will recur more and more to calm.

To feel cheerful or merry.

To be in a brave, courageous, hearty or vigorous mood.

To work hard without feeling weary. This I have fully tested with success, and especially mention it for the benefit of students. All of my intimate friends can certify what I here assert.

To keep the faculty of quickness of perception alert, as, for instance, when going out to perceive more than usual in a crowd. A botanist or mineralogist may awaken the faculty with the hope of observing or finding with success.

To be susceptible to beauty, as, for instance, when visiting a scene or gallery. In such cases it means to derive Attention from Will. The habitually trained Forethought or Attention is here a great aid to perception.

To read or study keenly and observantly. This is a faculty which can be very much aided by forethought and self-suggestion.

To forgive and forget enemies and injuries. Allied to it is the forgetting and ignoring of all things which annoy, vex, harass, tease or worry us in any way whatever. To expect perfect immunity in this respect from the unavoidable ills of life is absurd; but having paid great attention to the subject, and experimented largely on it, I cannot resist declaring that it seems to me in very truth that no remedy for earthly suffering was yet discovered equal to this. I generally put the wish into this form: "I will forget and forgive all causes of enmity and anger, and should they arise I determine at once to cast them aside." It is a prayer, as it were, to the Will to stand by me, and truly the will is Deus in nobis to those who believe that God helps those who help themselves. For as we can get into the fearful state of constantly recalling all who have ever vexed or wronged us, or nursing the memory of what we hate or despise, until our minds are like sewers or charnel-houses of dead and poisonous things, so we can resolutely banish them, at first by forethought, then by suggestion, and finally by waking will. And verily there are few people living who would not be the better for such exercise. Many there are who say that they would fain forget and be serene, yet cannot. I do not believe this. We can all exorcise our devils all of them if we will.

To restrain irritability in our intercourse with others. It will not be quite sufficient as regards controlling the temper to merely will, or wish to subdue it. We must also will that when the temptation arises it may be preceded by forethought or followed by regret. As it often happens to a young soldier to be frightened or run away the first time he is under fire, and yet learn courage in the future, so the aspirant resolved to master his passions must not doubt because he finds that the first step slips. Apropos of which I would note that in all the books on Hypnotism that I have read their authors testify to a certain false quantity or amount of base alloy in the most thoroughly suggested patients. Something of modesty, something of a moral conscience always remains. Thus, as Dr. COCKE declares, Hypnotism has not succeeded in cases suffering from what are called imperative conceptions, or irresistible belief. "Cases suffering from various imperative conceptions are, while possessing their reasons, either irresistibly led by certain impulses or they cannot rid themselves of erroneous ideas concerning themselves and others." This means, in fact, that they had been previously hypnotized to a definite conception which had become imperative. As in Witchcraft, it is a law that one sorcerer cannot undo the work of another without extraordinary pains; so in hypnotism it is hard to undo what is already established by a similar agent.

One can will to remember or recall anything forgotten. I will not be responsible that this will invariably succeed at the first time, but that it does often follow continued determination I know from experience. I believe that where an operator hypnotizes a subject it very often succeeds, if we may believe the instances recorded. And I am also inclined to believe that in many cases, though assuredly not in all, whatever is effected by one person upon another can also be brought about in one's self by patience in forethought, self-suggestion, and the continued will which they awaken.

We can revive by this process old well-nigh forgotten trains of thought. This is difficult but possible. It belongs to an advanced stage of experience or may be found in very susceptible subjects. I do not belong at all to the latter, but I have perfectly succeeded in continuing a dream; that is to say, I have woke up three times during a dream, and, being pleased with it, wished it to go on, then fallen asleep and it went on, like three successive chapters in a novel.

We can subdue the habit of worrying ourselves and others needlessly about every trifling or serious cause of irritation which enters our minds. There are many people who from a mere idle habit or self-indulgence and irrepressible loquacity make their own lives and those of others very miserable as all my readers can confirm from experience. I once knew a man of great fortune, with many depending on him, who vented his ill-temper and petty annoyances on almost everyone to whom he spoke. He was so fully aware of this failing that he at once, in confessing it to a mutual friend, shed tears of regret. Yet he was a millionaire man of business, and had a strong will which might have been directed to a cure. All peevish, fretful and talkative, or even complaining people, should be induced to seriously study this subject.

We can cure ourselves of the habit of profanity or using vulgar language. No one doubts that a negro who believes in sorcery, if told that if he uttered an oath, Voodoo would fall upon him and cause him to waste away, would never swear again. Or that a South Sea Islander would not do the same for fear of taboo. Now both these forms of sorcery are really hypnotizing by action on belief, and Forethought aided by the sleep process has precisely the same result it establishes a fixed idea in the mind, or a haunting presence.

We can cure ourselves of intemperance. This was, I believe, first established or extensively experimented on by Dr. CHARLES LLOYD TUCKEY. This can be aided by willing that the liquor, if drunk, shall be nauseating.

We can repress to a remarkable degree the sensations of fatigue, hunger and thirst. Truly no man can defy the laws of nature, but it is very certain that in cases like that of Dr. TANNER, and the Hindu ascetics who were boxed up and buried for many weeks, there must have been mental determination as well as physical endurance. As regards this very important subject of health, or the body, and the degree to which it can be controlled by the mind or will, it is to be observed that of late years physiologists are beginning to observe that all "mental" or corporeal functions are evidently controlled by the same laws or belong to the same organization. If "the emotions, say of anger or love, in their more emphatic forms, are plainly accompanied by varying changes of the heart and blood-vessels, the viscera and muscles," it must follow that changes or excitement in the physical organs must react on the emotions. "All modes of sensibility, whatever their origin," says LUYS, "are physiologically transported into the sensorium. From fiber to fiber, from sensitive element to sensitive element, our whole organism is sensitive; our whole sentient personality, in fact, is conducted just as it exists, into the plexuses of the sensorium commune." Therefore, if every sensation in the body acts on the brain by the aid of secondary brains or ganglions, it must be that the brain in turn can in some way act on the body. And this has hitherto been achieved or attempted by magicians, "miracle-mongers," thaumaturgists, mesmerists, and the like, and by the modern hypnotizer, in which we may observe that there has been at every step less and less mysticism or supernaturalism, and a far easier process or way of working. And I believe it may be fairly admitted that in this work I have simplified the process of physically influencing mental action and rendered it easier. The result from the above conclusions being that we can control many disorders or forms of disease. This is an immense subject, and it would be impossible within a brief sketch to determine its limits or conditions. That what are called nervous disorders, which are evidently the most nearly allied to emotions as, for instance, a headache, or other trouble induced by grief can be removed by joy, or some counteracting emotion or mere faith is very well known and generally believed. But of late science has established that the affinities between the cerebral and other functions are so intimately, extensively and strangely sympathetic or identical that it is becoming impossible to say what disease may not be temporarily alleviated or cured by new discoveries in directing the nervo-mental power or will. The Faith-Cure, Magic, Mesmerism, Religious Thaumaturgy and other systems have given us a vast number of authentic cures of very positive disorders. But from the point of view taken by many people what has been wanting in all is, firstly, a clear and simple scientific method free from all spiritualism or wonder, and, secondly, the art of Perfecting the cures by Perseverance. For what will relieve for an hour can be made to cure forever, if we exercise foresight and make perpetuity a part of our whole plan.

Now, as regards curing disorders, I beg the reader to specially observe that this, like many other works, depends on the state of the mind; nor can it be undertaken with hope of success unless the operator has by previous practice in easy experiments succeeded in perfectly convincing himself that he has acquired control of his will. Thus having succeeded in willing himself to work all day without fatigue, or to pass the day without being irritable, let him begin to consider, reflect and realize that he can make himself do this or that, for the more he simply induces the belief and makes himself familiar with it, the stronger and more obedient his Will will be. However, this is simply true that to any self-suggestionist whatever who has had some little practice and attained to even a moderate command over his will, a very great degree of the power to relieve bodily suffering is easy to develop, and it may be increased by practice to an incredible extent. Thus in case of suffering by pain of any kind in another, begin by calmly persuading him or her that relief has been obtained thousands of times by the process, and endeavor to awaken belief, or, at least, so much attention and interest that the fact will remain as forethought in the mind. The next step should be to promise relief, and then induce sleep by the showing a coin, passes with the hands, etc., or allowing the subject to sink into a natural slumber. If there be no success the first time, repeat the experiment. Gout, headaches, all forms of positive pain, severe colds, anemia, insomnia, melancholia, and dyspepsia appear to be among the ills which yield most readily to, or are alleviated (to the great assistance of a regular cure), by suggestion.

As regards curing disorders, producing insensibility to hunger and thirst, heat or cold, and the like, all are aware that to a man who is under the influence of some great and overpowering emotion, such as rage or surprise, or joy, no pain is perceptible. In like manner, by means of persuasion, sleep, a temporary oblivion, and the skillfully awakened Will, the same insensibility or ignoring can be effected. There is, however, this to be observed, that while in the vast library of books which teach mental medicine the stress is laid entirely on producing merely a temporary cure I insist that by great Forethought, by conducting the cure with a view to permanence, ever persuading the patient to think on the future, and finally by a very thorough continuation and after-treatment many diseases may be radically removed.

To recapitulate and make all clear we will suppose that the reader desires during the following day to be in a calm, self-possessed or peaceful state of mind. Therefore at night, after retiring, let him first completely consider what he wants and means to acquire. This is the Forethought, and it should be as thorough as possible. Having done this, will or declare that what you want shall come to pass on awaking, and repeating this and thinking on it, fall asleep. This is all. Do not wish for two things at once, or not until your mind shall have become familiar with the process. As you feel your power strengthen with success you may will yourself to do whatever you desire.


This is taken from The Mystic Will.





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