Rosicrucian Writings Online
THOUGHT OF THE MONTH
THE DEVELOPMENT OF PERSONALITY
By THE IMPERATOR
[H. Spencer Lewis]
[From The Rosicrucian Digest September 1931]
RECENTLY that very eminent observer of human nature, President Barbour of Brown University, expressed himself very definitely on the subject of the overflow of personality. A copy of his address was sent to me and I was delighted, as I read it, to think that some one outside of our organization had really started a mild campaign against the present-day bombastic display of personality and the insane desire to make the outer personality of every individual a magnificent asset.
For the past twenty years the country has been flooded with literature telling everyone how to develop a personality that would be so magnetic that if one passed by a wooden house the nails would all be drawn out and shoot wildly at the individual and if such a person went into a steel factory it would disrupt the machinery. I have often wondered how such a person could safely take a trip across the Atlantic or Pacific in a steamship without causing the magnetic needle to fluctuate wildly and cause the ship to lose its course.
I remember, a few years ago, a woman lecturer on the subject, "How to Develop a Super-Personality," told all the persons present at her first lecture that before the third day was past she would show them a demonstration of what personality would do. At the third evening's lecture she appeared on the platform with a very elaborate and costly fur coat which she displayed with great pride to the audience. She said that she had come to California without a heavy overcoat and that the late fall evenings were cool and she found she needed one. She said she depended wholly upon her magnetic personality to attract the overcoat and now she had it and was happy to exhibit it as a demonstration of her magnetism. At just about this point in her lecture a woman arose in the audience and in a loud voice said, "Your attractive personality may have induced my husband to buy that coat for you but I want to assure you that it is going to take more than personality to get the food that we need in our home since my husband has no money left to buy it."
There are those in America and other parts of the world who seem to think that the real magnetism of a personality is some physical, tangible asset that is connected in some way with the objective, material, physical part of the body. Hardly one of the hundreds of free lecturers who offer to teach privately, for large sums of money, the art of developing a magnetic personality, fail to include diet, exercise, beauty preparations, massage, fine clothing, and a superficial tone of voice and enunciation, along with a few ridiculous gestures of the eyes and hands as factors in the display of personality. Naturally ninety per cent who pursue such a course and spend their money on such advice fail to attract anything along the line that they have dreamed about and the other ten per cent either had some personality before they started or learned a very valuable lesson in what really constitutes the personal attractiveness of the real self.
In talking with some eminent master artists regarding the success of their work in portrait painting, I have heard it said many times that the attractiveness noticed in such portraits as they are willing to paint is the result of their effort to put on the canvas the subtle, almost intangible and immaterial attractiveness of the spiritual or soul personality of the sitter. They frankly admit that any good artist can paint a portrait of a man or woman and put all of the physical attractiveness into it that has made some artists unjustly renowned as true portraitists. A long and shapely nose, a long and shapely neck, pearl like ears, delicately formed lips, large and sparkling eyes, delicately curved eyebrows and similar tricks of physical compositions in painting, do not produce a picture that people rave about and stand and look at and wonder what it is that holds them spell-bound. Look at the famous picture of Mona Lisa, by da Vinci, and see if you can tell what it is that has made millions of women envy it while standing fascinated before it, and what it is that has made them feel a pang of jealousy when men have stood long before the picture and said, "There is an attractive personality."
As you analyze the features, the face, the head, the neck, the shoulders, and the entire composition, the coloring, the light and shade, all the small details of the picture, you do not see a single thing that you would want to have as a personal asset in a physical sense, for the face is not pretty, the eyes are not beautiful, and in a purely physical sense the woman in that picture could walk down one of the main boulevards of our city today without having anyone turn his head to look at her. But da Vinci, discovered and then registered and finally revealed in his canvas the real personality within, and it is that personality that is magnetic and attractive to a high degree. I have seen faces of old men and old women, wrinkled and in every way the very opposite of what Miss Arden would consider an excellent example of her cosmetic craftsmanship or physical rejuvenation. Yet there was an attractiveness in these faces that was unmistakable and as easily recognizable by men and women, young and old, as by an expert.
In the first place, the desire for an attractive personality is usually born in the heart or mind of a person who is suffering from some inferiority. Without any doubt it is the inferior mind, the inferior intellect, and the inferior spiritual person who becomes aware of this inferiority and seeks to make up for it by an outer display of an outer show and proceeds to develop a physical attractiveness as a substitute for the real attractiveness.
On the other hand, a majority of those who are attempting to increase their personal attractiveness may have some degree of real attractiveness that has served them well on proper occasions and a consciousness of this has led them to believe an increase of this power or this influence would be of greater service to them. But they have failed to understand what was the real attractiveness which they naturally possessed. In the mad search for the secret of such attractiveness many women and some men have become convinced that if they develop a degree of outstanding strength in appearance and mental domination they will have all portals and all avenues opened to them and change the entire course of their lives.
This leads gradually to a belief that an attractive personality is that something about a person who is domineering, bold, outstanding, and bombastic in action, that attracts attention. Many of these women would hesitate to wear a green dress, with a red sash tied around the waist, and a large yellow hat and purple shoes for the sake of attracting attention by walking down the highway, yet what they are attempting to do in the way of attracting personality is much like wearing garish clothing or outlandish physical adornments.
The real secret of personality lies in the inner self, in the soul or spiritual self. It is a subtle thing that is too indefinite to be described, even by words, and most certainly it is something that cannot be hung upon the body and taken off at will nor developed overnight.
I think that President Barbour did excellently well when he expressed this idea in the following words: "There are two sorts of action in which we are able to indulge: voluntary and involuntary. It is the involuntary action that produces the overflow of personality. This overflow of personality is the thing that we do without thinking about it or knowing that we do it. We all play an accompaniment to our own life. . . . The involuntary expression should always echo the inward character. That is what we call integrity of character. . . . It is the unconscious overflow of personality which is the true index of character and is the force that acts upon and strikes the external world and the people who inhabit it. . . . The thing that determines the overflow of personality is like the overflow of water in a reservoir, the quality of the personality beyond it."
In other words, real personality is built up inwardly through the evolution, growth, and development of the real part of ourselves. First, the spiritual values; secondly, the psychic comprehension, and understanding of things; and thirdly, the fortifying of the strong traits of character will build up and create a continuous flow of subtle personality that becomes so abundant in its quantity and so magnetic in its quality that it simply overflows when we are least conscious of it and attracts and influences others without the least effort on our part.
The very strange thing about all of this is that the very points or principles which are important factors in the building up of a strong inner personality are the very opposite of those which are being wilfully developed outwardly in the hope of attaining a magnetic personality. Among these principal factors are humility, tenderness, toleration, sympathy, universal love, a persistent and consistent desire for justice and fair play, a readiness to serve and give rather than to be served and to receive, an increasing desire to see the beautiful things of life, to express only the beautiful thoughts and to promote only beautiful acts. Are not these factors the very opposite of those which are exploited as assets of an outer personality? Do not all of the public and highly prized courses of instruction on the development of personality insist that first and above all you must "be yourself"? Do they not urge the use of affirmations and the assumption of an attitude that reflects superiority rather than humbleness? Do they not insist that you shall demand rather than command respect, service, attention, gifts, and fictitious love and admiration? Do they not teach that intolerance, aloofness, extreme discrimination, artificial preferences, and a high and mighty attitude, are the things which attract attention and cause others to think well of you?
I hope that the world will be delivered from an increase in this campaign of madness for attractive personality for if it continues the time is not far distant when each and every person we meet will be an individualized god, an ultra supreme being and unapproachable except on bended knees and in utter humility, and yet there will be none to bend on knees or to serve or to pay adoration to others and we shall have a conflict and a contest hourly and daily and on all occasions and in all places among all men and women for the supreme position of personality and dominion of character and kingship of self. What a mess it will be! Probably some of us will then take ourselves away to some South Sea island and try to find a humble little creature living alone who is not only free from the contaminating influences of free lectures and wonderful books on the development of personality but free from the contact with anyone to pay adoration to his personality. And here we may find a man and a woman living humbly and sweetly and yet so attractive in all that really constitutes personality that we will say to ourselves, "At last we have found real children of God and that which we can adore and admire as truly magnetic, attractive, and beautiful."
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