As a writer has said: “For some hundreds of years, upon the general plane of self-consciousness, an ascent, to the human eye gradual but from the point of view of cosmic evolution rapid, has been made. In a race large-brained, walking-erect, gregarious, brutal, but king of all other brutes, man in appearance but not in fact, was from the highest simple-consciousness born the basic human faculty, self-consciousness and its twin, language. From these and what went with these, through suffering, toil and war; through bestiality, savagery, barbarism; through slavery, greed, effort, through conquests infinite, through defeats overwhelming, through struggle unending; through ages of aimless semi-brutal existence, through subsistence on berries and roots; through the use of the casually found stone or stick; through life in deep forests, with nuts and seeds, and on the shores of waters with mollusks, crustaceans and fish for food; through that greatest, perhaps, of human victories, the domestication and subjugation of fire; through the invention and art of bow and arrow; through the training of animals and the breaking of them to labor; through the long learning which led to the cultivation of the soil; through the adobe brick and the building of houses therefrom; through the smelting of metals and the slow birth of the arts which rest upon these; through the slow making of alphabets and the evolution of the written work; in short, through thousands of centuries of human life, of human aspiration, of human growth, sprang the world of men and women as it stands before us and within us today with all its achievements and possessions.”
The great difference between thought as we find it in man, and its forms among the lower animals lies in what psychologists have called “progressive thought.” The animals advance but little in their thinking processes but rest content with those of their ancestors–their thought seems to have become set or crystallized during the process of their evolution. The birds, mammals and the insects vary but little in their mental processes from their ancestors of many thousand years ago. They build their nests, or dens, in almost precisely the same manner as did their progenitors in the stone-age. But man has slowly but steadily progressed, in spite of temporary set-backs and failures. He has endeavored to progress and improve. Those tribes which fell back in regard to mental progress and advancement, have been left behind in the race, and in many cases have become extinct. The great natural law of the “survival of the fittest” has steadily operated in the life of the race. The “fittest” were those best adapted to grapple with and overcome the obstacles of their environment, and these obstacles were best overcome by the use of the intellect. Those tribes and those individuals whose intellect was active, tended to survive where others perished, and consequently they were able to transmit their intellectual quality to their descendants.
Halleck says: “Nature is constantly using her power to kill off the thoughtless, or to cripple them in life’s race. She is determined that only the fittest and the descendants of the fittest shall survive. By the ‘fittest’ she means those who have thought and whose ancestors have thought and profited thereby. Geologists tell us that ages ago there lived in England bears, tigers, elephants, lions and many other powerful and fierce animals. There was living contemporaneous with them a much weaker animal, that had neither the claws, the strength, nor the speed of the tiger. In fact this human being was almost defenceless. Had a being from another planet been asked to prophesy, he would undoubtedly have said that this helpless animal would be the first to be exterminated. And yet every one of those fierce creatures succumbed either to the change of climate, or to man’s inferior strength. The reason was that man had one resource denied to the animals–the power of progressive thought. The land sank, the sea cut off England from the mainland, the climate changed, and even the strongest animals were helpless. But man changed his clothing with the changing climate. He made fires; he built a retreat to keep off death by cold. He thought out means to kill or to subdue the strongest animals. Had the lions, tigers or bears the power of progressive thought, they could have combined, and it would have been possible for them to exterminate man before he reached the civilized stage…. Man no longer sleeps in caves. The smoke no longer fills his home or finds its way out through the chinks in the walls or a hole in the roof. In traveling, he is no longer restricted to his feet or even to horses. For all this improvement man is indebted to _thought_. That has harnessed the very vibrations of the ether to do his bidding.”
And thus we see that man owes his present place on earth to his Thought-Culture. And, it certainly behooves us to closely consider and study the methods and processes whereby each and every man may cultivate and develop the wondrous faculties of the mind which are employed in the processes of Thought. The faculties of the Mind, like the muscles of the body, may be developed, trained and cultivated. The process of such mental development is called “THOUGHT-CULTURE,” and forms the subject of this book.