The Edinburgh Lectures ( Audio Book )

The Edinburgh Lectures – Thomas Troward / Chapter One

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The book contains 16 chapters , Total length 3hrs 29min





This book contains the substance of a course of lectures recently given by
the writer in the Queen Street Hall, Edinburgh. Its purpose is to indicate
the _Natural Principles_ governing the relation between Mental Action and
Material Conditions, and thus to afford the student an intelligible
starting-point for the practical study of the subject.


March, 1904.





In commencing a course of lectures on Mental Science, it is somewhat
difficult for the lecturer to fix upon the best method of opening the
subject. It can be approached from many sides, each with some peculiar
advantage of its own; but, after careful deliberation, it appears to me
that, for the purpose of the present course, no better starting-point could
be selected than the relation between Spirit and Matter. I select this
starting-point because the distinction–or what we believe to be such–
between them is one with which we are so familiar that I can safely assume
its recognition by everybody; and I may, therefore, at once state this
distinction by using the adjectives which we habitually apply as expressing
the natural opposition between the two–_living_ spirit and _dead_ matter.
These terms express our current impression of the opposition between spirit
and matter with sufficient accuracy, and considered only from the point of
view of outward appearances this impression is no doubt correct. The
general consensus of mankind is right in trusting the evidence of our
senses, and any system which tells us that we are not to do so will never
obtain a permanent footing in a sane and healthy community. There is
nothing wrong in the evidence conveyed to a healthy mind by the senses of a
healthy body, but the point where error creeps in is when we come to judge
of the meaning of this testimony. We are accustomed to judge only by
external appearances and by certain limited significances which we attach
to words; but when we begin to enquire into the real meaning of our words
and to analyse the causes which give rise to the appearances, we find our
old notions gradually falling off from us, until at last we wake up to the
fact that we are living in an entirely different world to that we formerly
recognized. The old limited mode of thought has imperceptibly slipped away,
and we discover that we have stepped out into a new order of things where
all is liberty and life. This is the work of an enlightened intelligence
resulting from persistent determination to discover what truth really is
irrespective of any preconceived notions from whatever source derived, the
determination to think honestly for ourselves instead of endeavouring to
get our thinking done for us. Let us then commence by enquiring what we
really mean by the livingness which we attribute to spirit and the deadness
which we attribute to matter.

At first we may be disposed to say that livingness consists in the power of
motion and deadness in its absence; but a little enquiry into the most
recent researches of science will soon show us that this distinction does
not go deep enough. It is now one of the fully-established facts of
physical science that no atom of what we call “dead matter” is without
motion. On the table before me lies a solid lump of steel, but in the light
of up-to-date science I know that the atoms of that seemingly inert mass
are vibrating with the most intense energy, continually dashing hither and
thither, impinging upon and rebounding from one another, or circling round
like miniature solar systems, with a ceaseless rapidity whose complex
activity is enough to bewilder the imagination. The mass, as a mass, may
lie inert upon the table; but so far from being destitute of the element of
motion it is the abode of the never-tiring energy moving the particles with
a swiftness to which the speed of an express train is as nothing. It is,
therefore, not the mere fact of motion that is at the root of the
distinction which we draw instinctively between spirit and matter; we must
go deeper than that. The solution of the problem will never be found by
comparing Life with what we call deadness, and the reason for this will
become apparent later on; but the true key is to be found by comparing one
degree of livingness with another. There is, of course, one sense in which
the quality of livingness does not admit of degrees; but there is another
sense in which it is entirely a question of degree. We have no doubt as to
the livingness of a plant, but we realize that it is something very
different from the livingness of an animal. Again, what average boy would
not prefer a fox-terrier to a goldfish for a pet? Or, again, why is it that
the boy himself is an advance upon the dog? The plant, the fish, the dog,
and the boy are all equally _alive_; but there is a difference in the
quality of their livingness about which no one can have any doubt, and no
one would hesitate to say that this difference is in the degree of
intelligence. In whatever way we turn the subject we shall always find that
what we call the “livingness” of any individual life is ultimately measured
by its intelligence. It is the possession of greater intelligence that
places the animal higher in the scale of being than the plant, the man
higher than the animal, the intellectual man higher than the savage. The
increased intelligence calls into activity modes of motion of a higher
order corresponding to itself. The higher the intelligence, the more
completely the mode of motion is under its control: and as we descend in
the scale of intelligence, the descent is marked by a corresponding
increase in _automatic_ motion not subject to the control of a
self-conscious intelligence. This descent is gradual from the expanded
self-recognition of the highest human personality to that lowest order of
visible forms which we speak of as “things,” and from which
self-recognition is entirely absent.

We see, then, that the livingness of Life consists in intelligence–in
other words, in the power of Thought; and we may therefore say that the
distinctive quality of spirit is Thought, and, as the opposite to this, we
may say that the distinctive quality of matter is Form. We cannot conceive
of matter without form. Some form there must be, even though invisible to
the physical eye; for matter, to be matter at all, must occupy space, and
to occupy any particular space necessarily implies a corresponding form.
For these reasons we may lay it down as a fundamental proposition that the
distinctive quality of spirit is Thought and the distinctive quality of
matter is Form. This is a radical distinction from which important
consequences follow, and should, therefore, be carefully noted by the

Form implies extension in space and also limitation within certain
boundaries. Thought implies neither. When, therefore, we think of Life as
existing in any particular _form_ we associate it with the idea of
extension in space, so that an elephant may be said to consist of a vastly
larger amount of living substance than a mouse. But if we think of Life as
the fact of livingness we do not associate it with any idea of extension,
and we at once realize that the mouse is quite as much alive as the
elephant, notwithstanding the difference in size. The important point of
this distinction is that if we can conceive of anything as entirely devoid
of the element of extension in space, it must be present in its entire
totality anywhere and everywhere–that is to say, at every point of space
simultaneously. The scientific definition of time is that it is the period
occupied by a body in passing from one given point in space to another,
and, therefore, according to this definition, when there is no space there
can be no time; and hence that conception of spirit which realizes it as
devoid of the element of space must realize it as being devoid of the
element of time also; and we therefore find that the conception of spirit
as pure Thought, and not as concrete Form, is the conception of it as
subsisting perfectly independently of the elements of time and space. From
this it follows that if the idea of anything is conceived as existing on
this level it can only represent that thing as being actually present here
and now. In this view of things nothing can be remote from us either in
time or space: either the idea is entirely dissipated or it exists as an
actual present entity, and not as something that _shall_ be in the future,
for where there is no sequence in time there can be no future. Similarly
where there is no space there can be no conception of anything as being at
a distance from us. When the elements of time and space are eliminated all
our ideas of things must necessarily be as subsisting in a universal here
and an everlasting now. This is, no doubt, a highly abstract conception,
but I would ask the student to endeavour to grasp it thoroughly, since it
is of vital importance in the practical application of Mental Science, as
will appear further on.

The opposite conception is that of things expressing themselves through
conditions of time and space and thus establishing a variety of _relations_
to other things, as of bulk, distance, and direction, or of sequence in
time. These two conceptions are respectively the conception of the abstract
and the concrete, of the unconditioned and the conditioned, of the absolute
and the relative. They are not opposed to each other in the sense of
incompatibility, but are each the complement of the other, and the only
reality is in the combination of the two. The error of the extreme idealist
is in endeavouring to realize the absolute without the relative, and the
error of the extreme materialist is in endeavouring to realize the relative
without the absolute. On the one side the mistake is in trying to realize
an inside without an outside, and on the other in trying to realize an
outside without an inside; both are necessary to the formation of a
substantial entity.



We have seen that the descent from personality, as we know it in ourselves,
to matter, as we know it under what we call inanimate forms, is a gradual
descent in the scale of intelligence from that mode of being which is able
to realize its own will-power as a capacity for originating new trains of
causation to that mode of being which is incapable of recognizing itself at
all. The higher the grade of life, the higher the intelligence; from which
it follows that the supreme principle of Life must also be the ultimate
principle of intelligence. This is clearly demonstrated by the grand
natural order of the universe. In the light of modern science the principle
of evolution is familiar to us all, and the accurate adjustment existing
between all parts of the cosmic scheme is too self-evident to need
insisting upon. Every advance in science consists in discovering new
subtleties of connection in this magnificent universal order, which already
exists and only needs our recognition to bring it into practical use. If,
then, the highest work of the greatest minds consists in nothing else than
the recognition of an already existing order, there is no getting away from
the conclusion that a paramount intelligence must be inherent in the
Life-Principle, which manifests itself _as_ this order; and thus we see
that there must be a great cosmic intelligence underlying the totality of

The physical history of our planet shows us first an incandescent nebula
dispersed over vast infinitudes of space; later this condenses into a
central sun surrounded by a family of glowing planets hardly yet
consolidated from the plastic primordial matter; then succeed untold
millenniums of slow geological formation; an earth peopled by the lowest
forms of life, whether vegetable or animal; from which crude beginnings a
majestic, unceasing, unhurried, forward movement brings things stage by
stage to the condition in which we know them now. Looking at this steady
progression it is clear that, however we may conceive the nature of the
evolutionary principle, it unerringly provides for the continual advance of
the race. But it does this by creating such numbers of each kind that,
after allowing a wide margin for all possible accidents to individuals, the
race shall still continue:–

“So careful of the type it seems
So careless of the single life.”

In short, we may say that the cosmic intelligence works by a Law of
Averages which allows a wide margin of accident and failure to the

But the progress towards higher intelligence is always in the direction of
narrowing down this margin of accident and taking the individual more and
more out of the law of averages, and substituting the law of individual
selection. In ordinary scientific language this is the survival of the
fittest. The reproduction of fish is on a scale that would choke the sea
with them if every individual survived; but the margin of destruction is
correspondingly enormous, and thus the law of averages simply keeps up the
normal proportion of the race. But at the other end of the scale,
reproduction is by no means thus enormously in excess of survival. True,
there is ample margin of accident and disease cutting off numbers of human
beings before they have gone through the average duration of life, but
still it is on a very different scale from the premature destruction of
hundreds of thousands as against the survival of one. It may, therefore, be
taken as an established fact that in proportion as intelligence advances
the individual ceases to be subject to a mere law of averages and has a
continually increasing power of controlling the conditions of his own

We see, therefore, that there is a marked distinction between the cosmic
intelligence and the individual intelligence, and that the factor which
differentiates the latter from the former is the presence of _individual_
volition. Now the business of Mental Science is to ascertain the relation
of this individual power of volition to the great cosmic law which provides
for the maintenance and advancement of the race; and the point to be
carefully noted is that the power of individual volition is itself the
outcome of the cosmic evolutionary principle at the point where it reaches
its highest level. The effort of Nature has always been upwards from the
time when only the lowest forms of life peopled the globe, and it has now
culminated in the production of a being with a mind capable of abstract
reasoning and a brain fitted to be the physical instrument of such a mind.
At this stage the all-creating Life-principle reproduces itself in a form
capable of recognizing the working of the evolutionary law, and the unity
and continuity of purpose running through the whole progression until now
indicates, beyond a doubt, that the place of such a being in the universal
scheme must be to introduce the operation of that factor which, up to this
point, has been, conspicuous by its absence–the factor, namely, of
intelligent individual volition. The evolution which has brought us up to
this standpoint has worked by a cosmic law of averages; it has been a
process in which the individual himself has not taken a conscious part. But
because he is what he is, and leads the van of the evolutionary procession,
if man is to evolve further, it can now only be by his own conscious
co-operation with the law which has brought him up to the standpoint where
he is able to realize that such a law exists. His evolution in the future
must be by conscious participation in the great work, and this can only be
effected by his own individual intelligence and effort. It is a process of
intelligent growth. No one else can grow for us: we must each grow for
ourselves; and this intelligent growth consists in our increasing
recognition of the universal law, which has brought us as far as we have
yet got, and of our own individual relation to that law, based upon the
fact that we ourselves are the most advanced product of it. It is a great
maxim that Nature obeys us precisely in proportion as we first obey Nature.
Let the electrician try to go counter to the principle that electricity
must always pass from a higher to a lower potential and he will effect
nothing; but let him submit in all things to this one fundamental law, and
he can make whatever particular applications of electrical power he will.

These considerations show us that what differentiates the higher from the
lower degree of intelligence is the recognition of its own self-hood, and
the more intelligent that recognition is, the greater will be the power.
The lower degree of self-recognition is that which only realizes itself as
an entity separate from all other entities, as the _ego_ distinguished from
the _non-ego_. But the higher degree of self-recognition is that which,
realizing its own spiritual nature, sees in all other forms, not so much
the _non-ego_, or that which is not itself, as the _alter-ego_, or that
which is itself in a different mode of expression. Now, it is this higher
degree of self-recognition that is the power by which the Mental Scientist
produces his results. For this reason it is imperative that he should
clearly understand the difference between Form and Being; that the one is
the mode of the relative and, the mark of subjection to conditions, and
that the other is the truth of the absolute and is that which controls

Now this higher recognition of self as an individualization of pure spirit
must of necessity control all modes of spirit which have not yet reached
the same level of self-recognition. These lower modes of spirit are in
bondage to the law of their own being because they do not know the law;
and, therefore, the individual who has attained to this knowledge can
control them through that law. But to understand this we must inquire a
little further into the nature of spirit. I have already shown that the
grand scale of adaptation and adjustment of all parts of the cosmic scheme
to one another exhibits the presence _somewhere_ of a marvellous
intelligence, underlying the whole, and the question is, where is this
intelligence to be found? Ultimately we can only conceive of it as inherent
in some primordial substance which is the root of all those grosser modes
of matter which are known to us, whether visible to the physical eye, or
necessarily inferred by science from their perceptible effects. It is that
power which, in every species and in every individual, becomes that which
that species or individual is; and thus we can only conceive of it as a
self-forming intelligence inherent in the ultimate substance of which each
thing is a particular manifestation. That this primordial substance must be
considered as self-forming by an inherent intelligence abiding in itself
becomes evident from the fact that intelligence is the essential quality of
spirit; and if we were to conceive of the primordial substance as something
apart from spirit, then we should have to postulate some other power which
is neither spirit nor matter, and originates both; but this is only putting
the idea of a self-evolving power a step further back and asserting the
production of a lower grade of undifferentiated spirit by a higher, which
is both a purely gratuitous assumption and a contradiction of any idea we
can form of undifferentiated spirit at all. However far back, therefore, we
may relegate the original starting-point, we cannot avoid the conclusion
that, at that point, spirit contains the primary substance in itself, which
brings us back to the common statement that it made everything out of
nothing. We thus find two factors to the making of all things, Spirit
and–Nothing; and the addition of Nothing to Spirit leaves _only_ spirit:
x + 0 = x.

From these considerations we see that the ultimate foundation of every form
of matter is spirit, and hence that a universal intelligence subsists
throughout Nature inherent in every one of its manifestations. But this
cryptic intelligence does not belong to the particular _form_ excepting in
the measure in which it is physically fitted for its concentration into
self-recognizing individuality: it lies hidden in that primordial substance
of which the visible form is a grosser manifestation. This primordial
substance is a philosophical necessity, and we can only picture it to
ourselves as something infinitely finer than the atoms which are themselves
a philosophical inference of physical science: still, for want of a better
word, we may conveniently speak of this primary intelligence inherent in
the very substance of things as the Atomic Intelligence. The term may,
perhaps, be open to some objections, but it will serve our present purpose
as distinguishing _this_ mode of spirit’s intelligence from that of the
opposite pole, or Individual Intelligence. This distinction should be
carefully noted because it is by the response of the atomic intelligence to
the individual intelligence that thought-power is able to produce results
on the material plane, as in the cure of disease by mental treatment, and
the like. Intelligence manifests itself by responsiveness, and the whole
action of the cosmic mind in bringing the evolutionary process from its
first beginnings up to its present human stage is nothing else but a
continual intelligent response to the demand which each stage in the
progress has made for an adjustment between itself and its environment.
Since, then, we have recognized the presence of a universal intelligence
permeating all things, we must also recognize a corresponding
responsiveness hidden deep down in their nature and ready to be called into
action when appealed to. All mental treatment depends on this
responsiveness of spirit in its lower degrees to higher degrees of itself.
It is here that the difference between the mental scientist and the
uninstructed person comes in; the former knows of this responsiveness and
makes use of it, and the latter cannot use it because he does not know it.



We have now paved the way for understanding what is meant by “the unity of
the spirit.” In the first conception of spirit as the underlying origin of
all things we see a universal substance which, at this stage, is not
differentiated into any specific forms. This is not a question of some
bygone time, but subsists at every moment of all time in the _innermost_
nature of all being; and when we see this, we see that the division between
one specific form and another has below it a deep essential unity, which
acts as the supporter of all the several forms of individuality arising out
of it. And as our thought penetrates deeper into the nature of this
all-producing spiritual substance we see that it cannot be limited to any
one portion of space, but must be limitless as space itself, and that the
idea of any portion of space where it is not is inconceivable. It is one of
those intuitive perceptions from which the human mind can never get away
that this primordial, all-generating living spirit must be commensurate
with infinitude, and we can therefore never think of it otherwise than as
universal or infinite. Now it is a mathematical truth that the infinite
must be a unity. You cannot have two infinites, for then neither would be
infinite, each would be limited by the other, nor can you split the
infinite up into fractions. The infinite is mathematically essential unity.
This is a point on which too much stress cannot be laid, for there follow
from it the most important consequences. Unity, as such, can be neither
multiplied nor divided, for either operation destroys the unity. By
multiplying, we produce a plurality of units of the same scale as the
original; and by dividing, we produce a plurality of units of a smaller
scale; and a plurality of units is not unity but multiplicity. Therefore if
we would penetrate below the outward nature of the individual to that
innermost principle of his being from which his individuality takes its
rise, we can do so only by passing beyond the conception of individual
existence into that of the unity of universal being. This may appear to be
a merely philosophical abstraction, but the student who would produce
practical results must realize that these abstract generalizations are the
foundation of the practical work he is going to do.

Now the great fact to be recognized about a unity is that, _because_ it is
a single unit, wherever it is at all the _whole_ of it must be. The moment
we allow our mind to wander off to the idea of extension in space and say
that one part of the unit is here and another there, we have descended from
the idea of unity into that of parts or fractions of a single unit, which
is to pass into the idea of a multiplicity of smaller units, and in that
case we are dealing with the relative, or the relation subsisting between
two or more entities which are therefore _limited by each other_, and so
have passed out of the region of simple unity which is the absolute. It is,
therefore, a mathematical necessity that, because the originating Life-
principle is infinite, it is a single unit, and consequently, wherever it
is at all, the _whole_ of it must be present. But because it is _infinite_,
or limitless, it is everywhere, and therefore it follows that the _whole_
of spirit must be present at every point in space at the same moment.
Spirit is thus omnipresent _in its entirety_, and it is accordingly
logically correct that at every moment of time _all_ spirit is concentrated
at any point in space that we may choose to fix our thought upon. This is
the fundamental fact of all being, and it is for this reason that I have
prepared the way for it by laying down the relation between spirit and
matter as that between idea and form, on the one hand the absolute from
which the elements of time and space are entirely absent, and on the other
the relative which is entirely dependent on those elements. This great fact
is that pure spirit continually subsists in the absolute, whether in a
corporeal body or not; and from it all the phenomena of being flow, whether
on the mental plane or the physical. The knowledge of this fact regarding
spirit is the basis of all conscious spiritual operation, and therefore in
proportion to our increasing recognition of it our power of producing
outward visible results by the action of our thought will grow. The whole
is greater than its part, and therefore, if, by our recognition of this
unity, we can concentrate _all_ spirit into any given point at any moment,
we thereby include any individualization of it that we may wish to deal
with. The practical importance of this conclusion is too obvious to need
enlarging upon.

Pure spirit is the Life-principle considered apart from the matrix in which
it takes relation to time and space in a particular form. In this aspect it
is pure intelligence undifferentiated into individuality. As pure
intelligence it is infinite responsiveness and susceptibility. As devoid of
relation to time and space it is devoid of individual personality. It is,
therefore, in this aspect a purely impersonal element upon which, by reason
of its inherent intelligence and susceptibility, we can impress any
recognition of personality that we will. These are the great facts that the
mental scientist works with, and the student will do well to ponder deeply
on their significance and on the responsibilities which their realization
must necessarily carry with it.



Neville Goddard, Summa Theologica, Manly P Hall, A Course In Miracles

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