An Added Word


I notice in your valuable paper of the 12th, an inquiry from Oakland, asking Mrs. S. A. Harris about concentration. Permit me to add a word to the excellent reply by Mrs. Harris.

1. The great and wide-spread defect in the people of the present day is want of concentration.

2. It is this very want that causes them to ask the question, "How am I to acquire it?" For a little concentration of mind upon the question would partly answer it.

3. The defect is in a great measure due to the enormous amount of light literature read by everybody. This is seen every day in the quantities of novels of a superficial sort that are published and read in the daily newspapers which record multitudes of small events transpiring each twenty-four hours, and which the people scan with avidity because it in no way taxes the mind, and may be all at once forgotten. Another cause is to be found in the mad rush and roar of American civilization.

4. This then brings about a weakness of the memory which is apparent in every walk of life. The national mind has been so diverted into a thousand different channels, that the memory fails to enclose an idea, or an object with sufficient power to prevent its slipping out.

5. I suggest to "Oakland" that the experiment be tried of selecting any word, object or idea for consideration, and then holding it firmly before the mind for five minutes, to the exclusion of everything else. If this can be done it should be kept up for six months, always repeating the exercise at the same hour.

6. I predict that "Oakland" will either (a) fail in doing this, or (b) give it up on the third day. This is because of certain tendencies inherent in the human mind. These are in the ancient Hindu systems divided thus:

(a) A tendency to fly away from the point selected.
(b) A tendency to recur to something more pleasant, seemingly more advisable and useful.
(c) A tendency to recur to something else that is unpleasant.
(d) A tendency to total passivity -- a mental blank.

These tendencies are always present potentially and must be controlled, or concentration will not be possible.

I would like to hear how "Oakland" gets on with this. The above ideas are not mine but those of the Hindu philosophers and the real founders of the Theosophical Society.

NEW YORK, Jan. 19, 1889

-- From The Golden Gate, San Francisco, February 3, 1889