Do We Live In a Mental Universe?

The following is an excerpt from Mitch Horowitz’s new audio program, Miracle: The Ideas of Neville Goddard


Neville Goddard argues, with elegance and suppleness, that we live under one ultimate law of mentation. Is that true? Nothing in his philosophy, or any other, should be taken at face value. When testing a religious or ethical idea we possess only the empiricism of inner experience. Each individual must verify religious or ethical claims for himself. The measures of verification appear in the effects of an idea on one’s conduct and relationships, and in its results across daily life.

It is insufficient, and can even be misleading, to sit in a chair nodding my head in agreement as I read a given principle. Rather, I must know what that applied principle does for me at 3 p.m. on Thursday.

When searching people hear of Neville’s claims, it is entirely natural for them to ask about the existence of personal agonies and tragedies—including those that strike people who evince deep love and zest for life. They wonder about large-scale disasters, such as earthquakes in Haiti and Mexico, and hurricanes in the Philippines and Puerto Rico, which leave behind disease, hunger, maimed victims, and mass fatalities—all without any obvious sense of justice.

These are not weak-minded or conventional questions—they are urgent ones. But please notice how I began this passage—by referring to the questions of “searching people.” When these questions are asked by truly seeking individuals, they are valuable because they arise from a sincere and authentic inquiry. When such dilemmas are raised as rhetorical propositions by the cynic, or the person who has no ethical or religious search, and for whom the spiritual question evokes only eye-rolling, they are of no value: they are simply devices to reinforce preexisting beliefs that our lives are solely material, and that our minds are no more than epiphenomena of brain matter.

So, it is to the true seeker, and not the cynic, that I describe my own struggle with the question of whether we live under one ultimate law of mental creativity. Based on my personal search up to this point, I believe we live under many laws and forces, including accident, natural events, and physical limitations. Mortality alone tells us that. And yet…I am unprepared to say Neville was wrong. In fact, due to a combination of personal experience, and compelling developments in quantum theory, I believe he may very likely be right that consciousness—or awareness, as I prefer it—is the ultimate arbiter of reality.

However—and this is key to what I am arguing—other factors may interrupt or mitigate our experience of the mind’s primacy. We may be unable, most of the time, to experience the fact of consciousness-based reality on the physical scale. Now, a law, in order to be a law, must be consistent. So, if I concede that the mind may be the ultimate arbiter of reality, why do events seem to diverge from, or contradict, our emotionalized thoughts and mental images? A hint may come from considering the law of gravity. Gravitation is consistent. But you are going to experience its effects much differently on the moon, where you can jump ten feet in the air, than, say, on the planet Jupiter, where gravity’s force would crush you. The law is at always work. But gravity is affected by mass. Its absence, such as in space, where there is no mass, does not indicate suspension of the ever-operative law, but rather reflects an alteration of circumstance affecting how it is experienced.

Portrait of Neville

The same phenomenon may occur with our minds, which his why we experience the law of mentation with brilliant clarity at some points, and as a rollercoaster of inconsistent results at others. This apparent schism arises neither from misperception, nor failure of application. You can train your intellect all you like, but I propose that other factors, of which we are either unaware or only fleetingly aware, interfere with the ultimate experience and out-workings of mental causation on our plane of existence. These other factors may include physical forces that operate within their own cosmic framework.

This is why I insist that Neville did not leave us with a doctrine, but with articles of experimentation. Again, everything that I propose in these lessons must be tested in the laboratory of personal experience. Inner empiricism is our one tool on the spiritual path. For that reason, I dislike hearing certain people within the New Age or New Thought culture speak confidently about what was going on, from a metaphysical perspective, in 9/11 or the Holocaust, or in natural calamities, when they haven’t personally gone through such things. Let those who have gone through them teach us about them. Of that which we haven’t experienced, we must remain silent. Certainty is biography, or it is nothing. Hence, self-experiment is imperative; it is our one means of inner knowing.

In medical literature, I am inspired by the example of Australian psychiatrist Ainslee Meares, who died in 1986. In the last two decades of his life, Meares conducted intensive studies of terminal caner patients who had experienced spontaneous remission. About 20 such cases are reported in world medical literature each year. Meares documented a small number of cases in which intensive meditation seemed to correlate with spontaneous remission—but he was exquisitely measured and careful on the question. In the British medical journal The Lancet of November 7, 1981, Meares wrote:

In medicine we no longer expect to find a single cause for a disease; rather we expect to find a multiplicity of factors, organic and psychological. It is not suggested that psychological reactions, either psychosomatic or hysterical, are a direct cause of cancer. But it seems likely that reactions resembling those of psychosomatic illness and conversion hysteria operate as causes of cancer, more so in some cases than in others, and that they operate in connection with the know chemical, viral, and radiational causes of the disease.

A theory of metaphysics is no less elegant for allowing multiple factors, as Meares did, rather than one overarching cause. Never feel bound by the contention that all of life is subject to a single law.

Mitch Horowitz is a widely known writer and speaker on esoteric themes. His new book, The Miracle Club: How Thoughts Become Reality, comes out in October 2018 from Inner Traditions. Follow him @MitchHorowitz.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *