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Clean Modern Desk

8. The Art of Study.

Thoughts are Things. There is an art of study. We were told in youth to study. We were never told properly how to study, or, in other words, how to get ideas. Committing to memory words, sentences, and rules, is not getting ideas. It is simply memorizing. It is simply using, exercising, and training that part of the mind which learns to remember sounds. If you commit to memory a great many words and sentences, you are simply overstraining a part or function of your mind. You are putting on it a burden to carry. As, if you gave every tack in your carpet a name, and thought it your duty to remember every tack by its name, would you have time or strength to think of much else?

Words are not ideas. They are only the signs by means of which, through the senses of sight or sound, a printed word or a spoken word may represent an idea to a mind. A word or sentence full of meaning or thought to one person may mean nothing to another.

The more that is committed to memory, the greater the burden placed on the department of memory. How many things of the hour can you easily recollect on going out to the day’s business? A dozen matters involving household cares, mixed with your own business, with strict injunctions from Mrs. A. “not to forget them,” is a load to carry. It frets, perplexes, and confuses you. So are children treated in our so‑called modern system of education. They are burdened with a thousand “facts,” which they are told “may be useful for them to know.” This is like teaching you to shoot by strapping a load of rifles on your back. You may carry the rifles all your life without becoming a marksman.

The memory is useful only to hold what is grasped by the spirit. No amount of “book‑learning” can teach a man to sail a boat well. He must educate himself. When he learns, through practice and many failures, that the rudder must be kept in a certain position to counteract the force of the wind against the sail, his memory at last holds what such practice has taught him.

Committing all the proper directions to memory, will not help him a particle. On the contrary, if he endeavors, while learning this art, to recollect the directions, his mind and strength are put upon a sentence instead of the business in hand, and his learning will be retarded instead of advanced. The remembrance of what memory holds through exercise teaches people how to drive, to shoot, to row, to swim, to skate, to dance, to paint, to carve, to weave, to sew, to do all things. But nothing is learned when you are taught rules before practice. Did you learn to dance by first committing to memory the rules for the guidance of your steps, and trying to remember and follow them? No, you received first the idea from some one who could dance. You absorbed that idea or thought. Then, once having the thought, your mind, your invisible self, taught by degrees the body to move in accordance with the plan in the mind.

Every person, to learn quickly, must learn to throw himself in a certain mood of mind. That is the mood of serenity and repose. It is exactly the opposite to the mood in which children often “study” their lessons. To “study” hard, or to “study” in a hurry, is a vain attempt to force memory to do a certain work in a certain time.

If you would learn any art, learn it in your own way. Learn in the manner your inspiration suggests to you. Don’t mind what is said to you about the necessity of being “well grounded” in certain rules which must be taught you by others. It is true that you must so be “well grounded.” But that is exactly what your spirit can best and quickest teach you. The spirit will make its own rules. Left to itself, it will strike out new and original methods. Rules already made never taught Shakespeare, Byron, Burns, or Napoleon. They trusted to their interior power, the interior suggestions concerning methods. When astonishing results are attained, men call it “genius,” and then go straightway to work to frame from the method adopted by genius a new set of shackles to impose on all successors in the same art. Genius may use a certain method as we may a crutch. When it has served a purpose, we throw it away for something better to walk by. The methods of genius are ever changing. Napoleon revolutionized military science. His was a mind that could have re‑revolutionized his own tactics. Genius alone can see the folly of always travelling the same path, even though it has itself made that path.

Don’t be over‑anxious because you do not learn or advance in any art or calling as fast as you wish. Don’t fret in mind because attempt after attempt fails. Don’t hurry. When you feel in the mood of hurry and fret, stop! That is the state of mind most opposed to learning. That is the mood which wastes your strength. 


You can learn any thing if your mind be persistently set upon it. Then wait in peace. The art will come to you.

If you will, for fifteen minutes or half an hour daily, sit down with a box of colors, and idly daub and make play of trying effects in color by painting one shade over another, you will, if you desire to paint, see skies, mountains, and forest coming in those alternations of light and shade, as one coating of color is placed over another. A rugged, splintered rock will suddenly start out from a splash of paint. You will have it suggested to you how easily tree‑trunks can be simulated by a few straight or curved lines. A splash of blue will serve for a pond or lake, green markings on its edge will represent shrubbery; and, ere you know it, there is a landscape,—more beautiful to you with all its crudeness than the work of the greatest artist, because it is your own seemingly accidental creation, your own child.

This is the foundation of the art. In this it had its origin. From this it grew. A seeming accidental combination of light, shade, and color suggested to some mind ages ago the idea of so representing familiar things to the eye on a flat surface. From this was drawn the idea of perspective and of representing surface, round, flat, or indented, near or far; and every new pupil, teacher or no teacher, must begin where the first painter did, and tread in his footsteps. It is so in all art.

The more free the mind is left to follow its own teaching, its intuition, the guidance of the spirit, the greater the inspiration. If it is put into rules made for it by others, there are produced only imitators and copyists. A rule laid down, with strict injunction to the pupil never to transgress it, is a shackle, a bar to advance in new territory of thought and investigation.

The mood for study—that is, for finding out methods and remembering them—must be the mood of as perfect repose as you can attain. There must be no hurry, no excitement. If you grow too wild over a sudden success, a finding of something in your efforts you have long sought for, beware! or you will temporarily lose it. There must be no sudden startings of body or mind, nor impatience to hurry over any detail that is necessary. If a tool you are using breaks, or a chair is to be moved, or your pen needs cleaning, do it as though that was the only thing to be done for the day. Keep the body in as perfect a state of rest as possible. Be apathetic rather than strained or eager. When your body is in this state of repose, it is in the state best fitted to be used as the instrument of the mind, or spirit. It is then most ruled by your thought, your real self, your invisible self, your spirit.

Because when body and mind are in this condition,—when you suspend all faculties save those concentrated on the work, or when your mind is in the receiving state,—your spirit can best work for you. It can then reach out and bring back the idea, the effect, the method, the conception and means of carrying out that conception; and the more quiet the body, and more tranquil the mind, the sooner will it teach how what you wish to do shall be done. In schooling yourself to this condition, you become more and more the medium through whom new ideas can be transmitted. You then connect yourself with the more exalted regions of mind or currents of thought, and receive of their knowledge and inspiration. Your mind is then the tranquil lake, the clear well, reflecting every thing above.

You study every day, often when you least think you are studying. You study as you walk the street in repose, and look into people’s faces, and are interested and amused by them. You are then learning more and more of the different varieties of human nature. Men and women then are books to you. You open and read them. You learn to recognize in an instant, by the look on people’s faces, how they feel and what are their dispositions. Involuntarily, you are classifying men and women, and putting them down in your mind according to their characters. One specimen so recognized serves as the type for one thousand, for a race. You set down this man as no gentleman, from the manner in which he looks at a lady. You see in this overdressed woman the low pride of mere money. You are studying human nature. Knowledge of human nature has a commercial value in dollars and cents. When you are accomplished in it, you may tell in five seconds whether you can trust a person or not. Trust in people is the corner‑stone of all business success. Even thieves must trust to confederates in order successfully to accomplish a burglary.

Napoleon the First accomplished his great successes through this intuitive, self‑taught knowledge of men, and for what they were best adapted. Christ chose the twelve best fitted to receive his truths, and teach them to others, through the same intuition. Intuition means the inward teaching, and the inward teacher. This teacher resides in all of you. Give it free play, and demand also of the infinite Spirit wisdom, guidance, and suggestion, and it will grow into genius, and your genius. Genius recognizes diamonds in the rough, and the qualities for success in men and women, whether externally they be peer or peasant, cultured or uncultured, according to the worldly standard of learning. Genius may sometimes talk bad grammar, yet remove mountains, build cities, and put railway and telegraphic girdles around this planet. Culture may write and speak elegantly, yet not be able to remove a mole‑hill. Culture often struggles and starves on ten dollars a week in an office, as the mere tool of an ungrammatical, uncultured, and inhuman genius, who makes his thousand to culture’s ten.

The mood of repose, of unruffled and serene mind, is the mood in which all manner of discoveries are made, and ideas grasped or received. The eye on the lookout, ever strained and eager, does not at sea catch sight of the distant sail near as quickly as the one not looking for it. The name of the person temporarily escaped from memory rarely comes when we are “trying hard” to think of it. It is only when we cease trying to think, that the name comes to us.

Indeed, this trying to think causes an unconscious straining of muscle. We try to work our brains. We send the blood to the head in this effort. All this is an obstacle to the spirit. We set its force at work the wrong way. It is made then to pile up obstacles, instead of taking them away. Because, the more quiet is kept all that belongs to the body, the more force is added to the spirit, to use whatever of its own its interior senses and functions it would, to bring us what we desire. Our spirits have their own, their peculiar senses, distinct and apart from the sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch of the body. They are finer, more powerful, more far reaching. Your interior, or spiritual, sense of feeling can, when trained or brought out of its present dormancy, feel or communicate with the same sense of another person, whose body is in London or Pekin, and possibly is now doing so continually: for there may be a spirit whose body is now in London or Pekin, in closer alliance, relationship, and rapport with your own, than is any other spirit in the universe; and with such spirit you may now be in daily and hourly communication, through this interior and far‑reaching sense which scorns the idea of distance as we interpret that word.

The profit of not over‑working or over‑straining the body is proven all about us in the every‑day affairs of life. The most successful man in business is he of the coolest head,—the self‑contained man, who has intuitively learned to keep his body free from fatigue, so that his spirit can work. Yet that same man may not know he has a spirit, or rather a power and a sense, which goes out from his body, and brings him plans and schemes and crafty ideas for his world of getting and gaining. Because spiritual powers can be used for all manner of purposes, no other power is used. Spiritual law is worked in the interest of craft, as well as for higher motive. But the higher motive, when it comes to recognize this force, and use it intelligently, will always command the greater power, the keener thought, and the highest genius.

Successful effort in every phase of life comes of the exercise of this power. It is “being led of the spirit.” If you have lost your way, you will find it much quicker by going very slowly, so keeping the spirit concentrated, instead of rushing the body about hither and thither, without aim or object. The experienced hunter puts himself in this frame of mind, and saunters through the woods; while the ignorant city boy, wild with excitement, rushes over miles of territory and sees no game. In both these cases, when the body is made to a degree apathetic, does a certain power, an unrecognized sense, go out and find for you your way. It finds the hunter his game. There is a great truth in being “led of the spirit;” and it applies to all grades of spirit, and consequent motive, be it high or low, kind or cruel, gentle or harsh.

Sometimes you find yourself, without knowing why, in the self‑contained, satisfied, contented mood of spirit. You are able to walk leisurely. You are in no hurry. No wild or unconquerable desire is upon you. You feel at peace with all the world. You have forgotten your enemies, your cares, your anxieties. It is then you most enjoy the woods, the skies, the passing crowd around you. It is then, when you are amused by them, that you most study them. You see peculiarities of person and manner which would escape you at other times. Your mind, quiet and undisturbed, is constantly receiving agreeable and vivid impressions. You wish such moods could last forever. So they can. This is the mood born of the concentrated spirit. Your spirit is then focused to a state of rest; It is holding its strength in reserve, only expending enough to move your body.

We are, when in this state, absorbing thought. To absorb thought is to absorb lasting power. But if, when in the act of such absorption, any thing annoys or hurries us, this power of absorbing thought is instantly destroyed. Our spirit ceases then to be the open hand receiving ideas. It becomes the clinched fist. It is then combative. It goes straight to whatever annoys or hurries it, and rages and frets around it. When we say “goes,” we mean our thought as an element literally goes out to the place we are hurrying to, or the person who troubles. It is a real thing so going out. It is our strength of both body and mind which is constantly leaving us. We cease then to study. Repose and serenity of mind means a condition of perpetual study; and, with such, a continual in‑drawing of strength. We can discipline ourselves to such repose, until it will accompany and pervade all efforts, so that we shall rest as we work. 

This is the mood of mind proper for study, work, or enjoyment. These three things should mean but one,—enjoyment. Without this mood, nothing can be really enjoyed; with its cultivation, every thing becomes more and more enjoyable. It is the mood of construction. Our unseen forces are then massed together: so massed, they can turn their full strength on any thing at a moment’s notice. It is the mood in which you want to walk into the office of the hard, purse‑proud man who proposes to crush you with a look. Keep in this mood, and you are more than his equal. He will feel your power before you speak. It is the mood of mind which you need to deal with the wily shopkeeper, who makes you feel by his manner that he expects you to buy something, whether you wish to or not, and generally succeeds in making you do so. These people throw their thought‑force on you for this purpose. They are commercial mesmerizers. Their mesmeric control is as genuine as that shown at public exhibitions. They may not recognize it in this form; yet they work it on their customers, unconscious of the law by which they work.

It is in this mood that the spirit becomes as a magnet. As its forces are so drawn to a center, their power of drawing to you ideas becomes greater. This power will increase continually by exercise. If you are so ever drawing to you ideas, you are drawing more and more power; you are drawing to you new plans, schemes, and inventions; you are sharpening all your faculties for any kind of work or business. Your spirit so massed is a power, either for resistance, or a power to draw in strength.

The trouble with many of us learners is that we wish to learn too rapidly. We have little knowledge of the power which really brings us all we do acquire,—the power which reaches out from us when the other faculties are temporarily suspended, and brings back not only ideas, but teaches the muscles how to carry out ideas. New invention comes to the mind which originates it when in this state, not when the mind is straining after its plan. You will make a perfect circle on paper with pen or pencil far easier when you do it idly, and care little whether you succeed or not, than if you are tremulous with anxiety to make one. When you are free from that anxiety, your real power has opportunity to act. That is the power of the spirit. It is the man who throws all thought of success or failure to the winds, who is most likely to accomplish the daring act at which others shrink, or, if they try, try with great dread of failure, which is mistaken for care.

Q's note:

May this reading show you "The Way" to achieve Greater Success and Lasting Enjoyment in the endeavors that you pursue!


Image Credit:


Hoot (n.d.). [Image]. Retrieved June 30, 2021, from


Mulford, P. (1886-1887). The art of study. Your forces and how to use them (pp.75-84). Hollister, Missouri: YOGeBooks by Roger L. Cole. doi: 2015:01:16:10:43:09

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