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Couple's Shadow

B7. Who Are Our Relations?

The man or woman who is most like you in tastes, motives, and habits of thought, and to whom you feel most attracted, may not be brother, sister, cousin, or any physical relative at all. But such person is to you a very near relation.

Your brothers or sisters may not be like you at all in mind, taste, and inclination. You may associate with them because they are members of the family, but were you not to know them as brothers, sisters, or other relatives, or were you to see elsewhere their exact counterparts in character, you might not like such counterparts at all.

Physical or “blood relationship” has very little bearing on the real or mental relationship. It is possible for a brother or sister, a father or mother to be very closely allied to you in thought and sympathy. Again, it is possible for a father or mother, brother or sister, to be very remote from you in thought and sympathy, and to live in a realm or atmosphere of thought very unlike yours.

You can live neither healthfully or comfortably, unless with those whose thought‑atmosphere (a literal emanation from them) is similar to your own. Physical relationship may or may not furnish such atmosphere. Compel a laboring man, whose thought goes little beyond his eating, drinking and daily round of work, to live exclusively with a company of artists and philosophers, seeing none of his own kind and order of thought, and that man’s spirits would in time be depressed, and his health would suffer. The same law works when the superior mind is compelled to constant association with the inferior. Such may be your position among physical relatives.

Children live, thrive, and are exhilarated by the thought‑atmosphere emanating from their playmates. Cut them entirely off from such association and they droop. As a child, you lived upon this atmosphere of childhood; that is, you lived in the spiritual relationship of childhood, and regarding a certain playful thought nutriment, received it and also gave it to your playmates. You may wonder now why you cannot arouse the old feeling and exhilaration coming either from the associations of childhood or youth. It is because your spirit requires another thought food or atmosphere, which only another, and probably higher order of mind can give. That received, and time would pass as quickly and pleasantly as it did with the associates of your earlier physical existence.

Those who can furnish it are your real relations. But such relationship cannot exist unless you can furnish them with the same quality of thought in return.

The real or spiritual relations of many merchants, mechanics, and those of other callings, are their brother merchants, mechanics, or those of similar occupations. They prove this by their lives. They feel more at home with those whose business is like their own than they do in the places they may call home, to which they resort to eat, sleep, and spend often a tiresome Sunday, longing for Monday’s coming, and the more welcome life of the market‑stall and store. Because there they are amongst their real relations, and are being literally fed and stimulated by the thought‑atmosphere furnished them by these relatives, which they also furnish in turn.

Every order of mind or quality of thought must have association with a corresponding order of mind and quality of thought, or it will suffer. But “blood relationship” has little to do with furnishing such order of thought.

There is a vast amount of unconscious tyranny exercised through the ties of physical relationship. Children often, when grown up, place the mothers or fathers in their minds in a sphere and method of life where they may or may not care to belong. Then thought, seldom if ever expressed, runs in substance thus: “Mother is getting too old to wear bright colors. She must dress more subdued.” “It is ridiculous for mother (if a widow) to marry again” (very hard cash reasons sometimes entering into this sentiment). “Mother, of course, does not want to enter into our gayer life, so she can stay at home and take care of the children.” Or, “It is time father retired from business,” or, “Father’s idea of marrying again is ridiculous.”

No force is more subtle in its workings, nor more powerful to bring results for good or ill than the steady output of thought from one or several minds combined, on one person to effect some desired result, and whether this is done intelligently and consciously, or blindly, the force works the same result.

Now a continual flow of this kind of thought, coming from, possibly, three or four minds to whom “mother” was instrumental in furnishing new bodies, and continually directed on “mother,” is a very powerful force to direct and keep her exactly where the children find it most convenient to have her. The whole conventional current of thought also flows as an aid in this direction. “Mother,” says this unspoken sentiment, “must of course grow old, retire gradually from a more active and gayer life, and retire also to a corner of the household, to associate with other shelved and declining parents, and be useful as a general upper nurse in times of sickness or other family emergency.” Through the action on her of these minds, many mothers cease to have any privileges as individuals, and eventually do exactly as their children desire.

Possibly it is here remarked or thought, “But should I not go to my mother or other near relative with my cares and trials, and receive her help, as I have always been in the habit of doing? Ought not those of my own family, above all others, to help me in time of need?”

Certainly, if the mother or any of your physical relatives are glad and anxious so to do. Certainly, if such service from a relative comes directly from the heart, and is not impelled by the sentiment taking sometimes this form of unspoken expression: “I suppose I must do this because it is my brother, or my son, or other physical relative who asks it.” Asks it? Many, many are these services which are unconsciously demanded, rather than asked, in these cases. Loads are piled upon relatives simply because they are relatives. Favors in money— in the indorsement of notes, are in a sense exacted through sympathy of relatives. Support, food, shelter, maintenance, are expected from relatives when it cannot be procured elsewhere. Hospitality is expected from relatives, when to expect hospitality is to make such entertainment the result of a demand. Presents are expected from relatives, when to expect a gift makes it rather an extortion.

Real gifts are always surprises. No one expects a surprise, since expectation destroys surprise.

Relatives visit and “camp down” on other relatives simply because they are relatives, and a vast amount of grudging, grumbling, but unspoken thought, is always going out when relatives use each other’s houses to save hotel bills.

No real or lasting good comes of any gift bestowed on another unless the heart goes with it, and its bestowal is to the giver an act of unalloyed pleasure. Because something else goes with the material gift, the food, the shelter, the loan, which, though not seen, and little known, is more important than the gift itself. That is the thought which goes with it. That thought strongly affects, for good or ill, the person who receives the gift. If, as giving within your means, you bestow the merest trifle in money upon a person in need, and the thought that goes with it is not only the most sincere desire to help that person, but you feel a keen sense of pleasure in giving such help, then you throw upon that person a certain thought‑element which will never leave them, and benefit them eternally and in proportion to the quality, power and force of your thought. Then you do far more than relieve their present physical necessity. You give them a certain amount of spiritual power. Your wish that their power may be so developed and increased as to enable them to live above beggary, and draw to themselves the goods of this earth (as all will and must, when grown to a certain stature in spiritual power), is a great help for them in time to acquire such power. You have sent and sown in them a seed of thought which will take root and bear fruit at some period of their real or spiritual existence.

But if you give grudgingly, if you give under any sort of compulsion, if you give food, shelter, clothing, money, anything, only because circumstances compel you so to do, or because people might talk unfavorably of you for not giving, or because other people are so giving, then your gift does relatively little good, no matter on whom bestowed, be it even mother, father, brother, sister, son or daughter.

You relieve, then, only a physical necessity, and that only for a time. You may possibly feed a body, shelter it, clothe it. But you do not, and cannot feed properly the spirit that uses that body if the thought going with your gift is not that of the most perfect willingness and hearty pleasure in relieving that body’s necessities. The grudging thought accompanying the gift, the thought common to that position when the recipient of the gift (no matter how near the relationship) is endured rather than enjoyed, the thought accompanying any gift to any person, or relative, that it is given principally because custom and public opinion require it, or because of the recipient’s importunity, is a great damage both to giver and taker. It is the sending to the one who receives a current of thought, evil in its character and result. It brings back to the giver from the one who takes a response in thought of like nature, and this also is harmful. Because, if you receive a gift which you have in any way extorted, your feeling for the giver is not that of warm, glowing gratitude, but something quite different.

“Is it not my duty,” some may ask, “to feed, clothe, shelter, and support a very near relative or parent, if helpless, in their old age?

The term “doing from a sense of duty” does not always imply that the thing done, be it the person helped or the patient nursed through sickness, is done from the impulse of love for that person or love for the doing. It is sometimes done mechanically, or with dislike for the doing. It is sometimes a forced and painful performance. For such reason little good is done, for if physical necessities are temporarily relieved, spiritual necessities are not, and unless the spiritual portion of our natures is fed, there can be no permanent relief or good done the physical. Parents who in old age are supported by their children merely from a sense of duty, have sometimes their spirits wounded and starved—wounded, because they feel they are endured incumbrances—starved, because no real love goes with the gift or service done by these children. Children, who come into the world unwelcomed by the parent and are brought up only because custom, conventionality and public opinion demands their support from that parent, are most unfortunate, and suffer from the blight and starvation thereby caused their spirits. Genuine heartfelt love is literally life giving, and if received by the child is for it a source of cheer, health, strength, and activity.

There is a certain trained conscience whose basis of education is fear of public or private opinion. This sometimes really impels acts which are said to be done from a “sense of duty.” If public opinion should suddenly change, and cast no censure at all on the person who refused to support very near relatives in want or old age, a proportion of such relatives would probably go to the poor‑house, and the son or daughter who sent them there would be acting out their real natures, and not feigning a sentiment they did not possess.

Mothers sometimes say, “I don’t care what becomes of me, so that my children are well brought up and educated.” A mother should care a great deal for her own cultivation. If her cultivation and growth in wisdom is checked, that of her children will be checked. It will be checked if she sinks herself in her endeavor to favor her children. A genuine mother will continually compel the admiration and respect, as well as love of her children. Such admiration and respect can be compelled only by a woman who knows the world, has standing and position in it, and is ever pushing forward to more commanding place and position. Such admiration and respect from son or daughter cannot be compelled by the mother who retires to a household corner, becomes a cross between upper nurse and governess, neglects her dress and personal appearance, and teaches her children that she is at their disposal and use, in all family emergencies, real or fancied. For this very reason are many mothers run over, snubbed, and ridiculed by their grown‑up children.

If mothers so sink themselves, as they falsely imagine, to benefit their children, they pay in cases a terrible penalty. If you allow your will constantly to be overborne by another; if you give up your own preferences and inclinations, and become only another’s echo; if you live about as others desire, you will lose more and more, for this existence, the power of self‑assertion; you will absorb so much of the other mind and thought about you as to become a part of that mind, and so act in accordance even with its silent will and unspoken desire; you will fossilize, and sink into a hopeless servitude; you will lose more and more of both physical and mental power for doing anything; you will become the chimney‑corner encumbrance, the senile parent, the helpless old man or woman, endured rather than loved.

This, in many instances, has been the effect of the grown‑up children’s minds upon a parent.

It is the silent force of those minds, continually working on that of the parent, that helps to break the parent down physically, and the decay and mental weakness, commonly charged to “advancing years,” is due in part to the injurious effect of a mind or group of minds, seeking to usurp and overpower another. This evil is done unconsciously. The son wishes to manage the farm. His will may be strong. He gains power step by step. He takes as rights what at first he took only by the father’s permission or as privileges. He goes on step by step, having his way in all things, great and small, perhaps being aided by others of the children, using their silent force in the same direction. And this may be a combined force almost impossible for one person to withstand, if continually exposed to it. It is a steady, incessant pressure, all in one direction. It works night and day. It works all the more efficaciously, because the parent so exposed to it is utterly ignorant of such a force and its operation upon him. He finds himself growing weak. He becomes inert. He lacks his old vigor, and thinks it is through the approach of old age.

I knew a man over seventy years of age and as sound, active and vigorous in mind and body as one of forty. He had organized and built up a large business. His several children at last took it into their heads that it was time “father retired from business.” Henceforth, the thought spoken and unspoken, bearing month in and month out on father from the children, was this desire and demand that he should retire from business. Confiding his situation to a friend, he said, “Why should I retire from business? I live in it, I like it, and so far as I can see, am able to conduct it properly.” But the persistent demand and force brought to bear on him from these foes of his own blood and household was too great to withstand. He did retire. The sons and daughters were satisfied. The father soon commenced to decline in health. He lived about two years afterward, and one of his last remarks was, “My children have killed me.”

“Ought I not to love my children above all others?” asks one. The term” ought” has no application to the nature of love. Love goes where it will, and to whom it will, and where it is attracted. You cannot force yourself to love anything or anybody. There have been parents who had no real love for their children, and children who had no real love for their parents. Neither party can be blamed for this. They were lacking in the capacity for loving. They were born so lacking. They are no more to be censured for such deficiency than you would censure a person for being born blind or a cripple. 

Some parents fancy they love their children, yet do not. A father who loses his temper and beats his son does not really love that son. It would be better to say that he loved to beat him, or tyrannize over him. Government in the family is necessary; but no sound, loving government is administered on a basis of anger and irascibility. Parents sometimes interfere and seriously affect the future of a child by opposing its desires in the choice of a profession. The parent may be prejudiced against certain walks in life. The child may wish to follow one of these walks. It meets a bitter, uncompromising opposition on the parent’s part. There is no reasoning, discussion, or counselling in the matter— nothing but a stern, positive “No.” Such sentiment and act are not impelled by love for the child on the parent’s part. They are impelled by the parent’s love for his or her own opinion and a love of tyranny. Parents sometimes forget that after the child emerges from the utter physical and mental helplessness of infancy, it is becoming more and more an individual. As an individual it may show decided tastes, preferences and inclinations in some direction. No parent and no person can break or alter these tastes and preferences. No one can make that child’s mind over into something else. For the child’s mind, as we call it, is really a mind or spirit, which has lived other physical lives from infancy to maturity, if not to old age, and as it comes into possession of its new body, and acquires a relative control over that body, it will begin to act out the man or woman as it was in its former life, and that may be a man or woman very closely related to the parent, or hardly related at all. But in any event, the parent is dealing with an individual, who is growing more and more into tastes, preferences, and traits of character which belong to and are a part of it. These must have expression. They will have expression in mind or spirit, whether allowed to physically or not. If the boy is ever longing to go to sea, and the parent forbids, the boy is on the sea in mind; and if so in mind, it is far better that his body should follow, for there is only damage when mind and body are not working in correspondence together. If the mother refuse to allow the boy to go to sea because she fears its dangers for him, still she is loving her own fears and her own way, too, more than she does her son.

The parent sometimes usurps a complete tyranny, not only over the child’s body, but over its mind. The child’s tastes, inclination, tendencies and preferences are held as of no importance whatever. If the boy wants to be a sailor, and the parent wants him something else—that something else the parent may insist that he shall be, but does he succeed? Let the host of mediocrity in all callings in the land answer. And mediocrity means the mechanical following of any pursuit in which there is no live interest.

More than this; where a body is compelled to do one thing, or live in a certain way, and the mind longs to live in another, there is a force set in motion which in many cases tears mind and body apart; and parents sometimes grieve over the loss of a child, when they are responsible for the death of its body from this cause. 

How long, then, should parental control continue over the child—or, rather, over a spirit for which you have been an agency for furnishing with a new body.

Is it unreasonable to say that such control should not continue after such body, emerging from the helplessness of infancy, shall have acquired such control of its organization as shall enable it to meet all physical demands and necessities? To go beyond this, and give food, clothes, shelter, maintenance, to a person, is doing him or her a great injustice, and even cruelty. In so doing, you do not grant exercise to those faculties which must be used in coping successfully with the world. You make the children the less fitted to be self‑sustaining, and earn their own living. You teach them to lie in a soft, luxurious bed, when they should be out in the world exercising and making more strong and dexterous their powers, both of mind and body.

Parents sometimes make themselves unjustly responsible, and inflict needless mental suffering on themselves, for the errors and tendencies of their children. A son or daughter takes a wrong course—or, rather, let us put it, a course where the evil is more prominent or more opposed to conventional ideas of propriety than other habits, more tolerated and deemed reputable, but which may be the subtle, and for the most part unknown, sources of as great ills as those condemned by society. A son takes to drink or reckless associates and commits some crime. The parent condemns herself for not having looked more carefully after her boy. She may accuse herself as having been, through her neglect, the prime agency for her son’s misdeeds.

Madame, you blame yourself far too much. You did not make that son or daughter’s character. It was made long before that spirit had the use of its last new body. What traits, what imperfections were very prominent in its last existence, will appear in its next. If that was a thieving spirit before, it will probably show thieving tendencies now. If it was gross, animal and gluttonous, then similar tendencies will show themselves now. You, if grown to a more refined plane of thought, may do much to modify and lessen these tendencies.

But all that you will do in this respect will be done through the silent force and action of your superior thought on your child’s mind. It will not be done through a great deal of verbal counselor physical punishment or discipline.

Whatever a mind is on entering on a new physical experience, whatever imperfection belongs to it, must appear and be acted out and beget pain and punishment of some kind, until that spirit sees clearly for itself, how, through its errors, it brings these punishments on itself. These lessons can only be learned when that person has full freedom, so far as parental control goes, to live as it pleases. You may for a time control such a life, and make it externally live as you please. But such external life is only a veneer, if the mind be full of lower tastes and inclinations. The sooner these are lived out, the sooner will that person learn the real law, which inflicts pains and penalties for breaking its unchangeable rules, and the sooner will it know the happiness which comes of living in accordance with its rules. That every spirit must do for him or herself.

A parent may mould a false character for a child. It may teach indirectly, through the effect of its own mental condition operating on the child, how to feign what the world calls goodness, how it may seem as regards outward conduct, to be what it is not at all in secret tendency and inclination,—how, in brief, to be a hypocrite.

No person is really reformed by another, in the sense such a term is sometimes used. Reform must come from within. It must be self‑sustaining. It must not depend wholly on another’s presence or influence. If it does, it is only a temporary reform. It will fail when the influence of the person on whom it depends is removed. We hear sometimes the assertion, “such or such a person’s wife has been the making of him” (meaning the husband). By the way, why do we never hear of the man’s being the making of his wife?

A man may be prevented from intemperance, or he may continually be braced up to meet the world through his wife’s influence and mental power. But if in such reform he relies entirely upon her; if he cannot sustain himself without her continual presence and prompting, his is no lasting reformation, and he is also a very heavy and damaging load for her to carry. It is a one‑sided piece of business when one person must supply all the sustaining force for two, and if this is persisted in, the wife, or whoever so supplies it, will at last sink under such burthen, and there will be two wrecked lives instead of one. No person can “make another,” in the highest sense. But one person having the superior mind, can, if in a very close and long‑continued association with one weaker, give temporarily to the weaker their very life and force, if their desire is very strong to help the weaker. If it be the husband who so receives of the wife, and is so dependent on the wife, then he does not represent any character of his own. He represents and is clothed temporarily with his wife’s character, or as much of it as he can appropriate. If she dies, or is removed from him, then he relapses and sinks into his real self, unless he is resolved to be self‑sustaining, and evolve force out of himself instead of using another’s. If she continues to supply him, she is only sustaining his temporary character, which cannot last when its source of supply is removed, and in such continuance she will certainly in time exhaust herself.

Parents often unconsciously teach their children to lie down upon them, to depend upon them too long for moral support. The result of this error is that when the parent’s life is dragged out, through carrying so heavy a load, the child ceases to have any genuine love for its parent. You may pity what is decrepit, weak, and shattered. Love it you cannot. Love is based on admiration, and admiration is not compelled by decay.

The tendency called instinct, which impels the mother bird to turn its young out of the nest, so soon as they have sufficient strength to fly, and the animal in weaning its young to turn them adrift and leave them to shift for themselves, is founded on the natural and divine laws. We may say it is the custom of the brutes, and is therefore “brutal.” But would it be a kindness for the bird to encourage the young to stay in the nest, where it could not gain strength, and when a few weeks will bring the storms and severity of winter, which the parent bird itself cannot withstand? Again, the parent, be it bird, animal, or human mother, needs after these periods of bringing their young into the world and rearing them, a season of entire rest and recuperation, and the duration of such resting season should be proportionate to the complexity of the organization and the force expended by such organization. During such periods, the parent should be freed from any and all demands from the child. Birds and animals in their natural or wild life take such periods of rest. But thousands of human mothers are never free from the demands of their children, until worn out they drop into their graves. They should be as free, so far as their children are concerned, as they were in girlhood, and before they became mothers. Motherhood is a most necessary and an indispensable phase of existence for ripening and developing qualities. But no one experience should be followed and dwelt in forever. Life in its more perfected state will be full of alternations—not a rut, into which if you are once set you must continually travel.

If human children remain with the mother for years after attaining what may be termed a responsible age; if they always look to her for aid, advice, sympathy, and assistance; if the mother allows herself to become the family leaning‑post, she may also be repeating the one‑sided business of supplying too much force to others and getting none back. She may be practicing a false and injurious species of motherhood because it is exacted, begged, or dragged from her. She may be robbing herself of the new life which awaits her, when the brood is reared and their wings are self‑sustaining. She is helping the children to make her a feeble, witless, “old woman.”

Perhaps one remarks: “If your suggestion was literally followed, the streets would be full of children turned by parents out of their homes and unable to provide for themselves.”

So they would. I argue here no literal following of the example set by bird and beast. It would be a great injustice. No custom, when followed for ages, even if based in error, can be suddenly changed without disturbance, injustice, and wrong. Yet it is worth our while to study this principle that we find in nature, from the tree that casts adrift the ripe acorn, to the bird or animal that casts adrift the relatively ripened young. Neither acorn, bird or animal, when cast off or weaned, ever return to the parent for self‑sustaining power. Such power, in these cases, is only given by the parent until the new organization is strong enough to absorb and appropriate of the elements about it, absorb of earth and sunshine, or of flesh or grain, the nourishment necessary to its support.

Are not our streets today full of grown‑up children, quite unable to provide for themselves? Do not thousands leave parental homes with no self‑sustaining power, who are all through life unable to feed, clothe, and shelter themselves, save by long hours of drudging labor at the lowest wages? Does not this life of drudgery exhaust and cut them off prematurely? Are there not thousands of daughters all over the land, who will become “old maids,” and whose parents will not permit them, were they so disposed, to go out in the world and take their chances? These are the birds cuddled in the nest, until their wings, denied exercise, lose at last all power or prompting for flight, and whose mouths, though they become grown‑up birds, are trained only to open and receive the morsels dropped in them.

Q's note:

Let us lead by example – demonstrating what Unconditional Love truly means!


Image Credit:


Fanpop (n.d.). [Image]. Retrieved July 1, 2021, from


Mulford, P. (1886-1887). Who are our relations? Your forces and how to use them (pp. 335-349). Hollister, Missouri: YOGeBooks by Roger L. Cole. doi: 2015:01:16:10:43:09

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