Entering into the Spirit of It

My book club has been running for 9 years now and at the start of every new season, I invite readers to view the story we are reading from a different perspective. I suggest to them that they step out of their shoes (and how they usually see the world) and step into the shoes of one or other of the characters. I add that if they manage to do this (and it’s not always easy), they will get much more out of any book they read!

The other day I was reading some of Thomas Troward’s papers on mental science and I came across one entitled “Entering into the Spirit of It”. What struck me most was that he was saying the same thing I was telling readers of my book club! I would like to share with you here, the passages from this paper which resonate the most with my thinking:

“Entering into the spirit of it.” What a common expression! And yet how much it really means, how absolutely everything! We enter into the spirit of an undertaking, into the spirit of a movement, into the spirit of an author, even into the spirit of a game; and it makes all the difference both to us and to that into which we enter. A game without any spirit is a poor affair; and association in which there is no spirit falls to pieces; and a spiritless undertaking is sure to be a failure. On the other hand, the book which is meaningless to the unsympathising reader is full of life and suggestion to the one who enters into the spirit of the writer; the man who enters into the spirit of the music finds a spring of refreshment in some fine recital which is entirely missed by the cold critic who comes only to judge according to the standard of a rigid rule; and so on in every case that we can think of. If we do not enter the spirit of a thing, it has no invigorating effect upon us, and we regard it as dull, insipid and worthless. This is our everyday experience, and these are the words in which we express it. And the words are well chosen. They show our intuitive recognition of the spirit as the fundamental reality in everything, however small or however great. Let us be right as to the spirit of a thing, and everything else will successfully follow.

By entering into the spirit of anything we establish a mutual vivifying action and reaction between it and ourselves; we vivify it with our own vitality, and it vivifies us with a living interest which we call its spirit; and therefore the more fully we enter into the spirit of all with which we are concerned, the more thoroughly do we become alive. The more completely we do this the more we shall find that we are penetrating into the great secret of Life. It may seem a truism, but the great secret of Life is its Livingness, and it is just more of this quality of Livingness that we want to get hold of; it is that good thing of which we can never have too much.

– Thomas Troward, 1902.

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