This past Sunday morning, I served as guest speaker at Unity of San Marcos. My talk was based on last week’s blog, “Who Do You Think You Are?” which was inspired by the Spirit Groups’ study of Eric Butterworth’s book, Practical Metaphysics. So on the one-hour morning drive to San Marcos, I dialed up an old Unity FM episode from 2011 from Unity Minister Rev. Tom Thorpe’s “Discovering Eric Butterworth” series to get myself prepped and ready for my talk.
I’ve said many times here before that I believe Eric Butterworth is the single best teacher of Unity principles, especially when it comes to their practical application in our lives. That being said, I would add that, in my experience, Rev. Tom Thorpe is also among the best and most articulate Unity teachers, perhaps of all-time. He is an invaluable resource for Unity students or anyone interested in unlocking the practical power of metaphysical principles. To listen to Rev. Thorpe’s commentaries on Eric Butterworth’s teachings is like attending a master class in Unity teachings. If you wish to listen to that particular episode when you have the time, go here.
You Are a Thought Manufacturing Machine
The main topic of this particular episode centered around the activity of our thinking, and much of that material found its way into Chapter 3 of Practical Metaphysics under the title, “The Art of Thinking.” As a reminder, the activity of our thinking is the foundation of Unity’s third principle, which articulates that we are creating our reality through the thoughts and feelings we allow to dominate in our consciousness. As a practical matter, we are what we think we are. However, all too often, what we think we are falls well short of who and what we are…in reality.
Given the foundational importance of “thinking” to the quality of our lives, it is almost inconceivable that we do not place more importance on how to think in the course of our education. As Butterworth puts it, “It is rare in education that we are introduced to the process of how to think. The mind is dealt with, for the most part, as a fact collector, and a word dispenser.” In other words, we are taught what to think, but only rarely how to think. It is especially surprising that we place such a low priority on educating people how to think, since, in Butterworth’s words, we are “thought manufacturing machines.”
As I pointed out in last week’s article, every day we think somewhere around 60,000 thoughts a day, with about 80 percent of the thoughts being redundant or repetitive, and 80 percent of those redundant thoughts being negative or fear-based. Generally speaking, we do this day in and day out. There is no other activity in the course of our lives that is as productive as the number of thoughts we create on a daily basis. So prevalent is the activity of our thinking that Butterworth suggests that anytime someone asks you what you do, your answer should be: “I’m a manufacturer.”
External Events Do Not Cause Thoughts
It is all too easy to believe that the thoughts we are thinking are produced by the external events we experience in the world. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Students of A Course In Miracles will recognize that what happens in the world has no meaning whatsoever, until we decide what it means. Butterworth would agree. “What happens in your mind happens as a result of your attitudes, and your feelings, and your habit patterns. Your mind is your domain.”
In other words, you and I are in charge of what we think. We have dominion. Therefore, we have power over our thoughts. In truth, this may be the only domain where we have any real power. No one outside of you can make you think anything you are not willing to think. By extension, no one can make you believe anything you are unwilling to believe. External events are just that…external events. They have no power whatsoever to create thoughts in our own minds, unless we choose to think on them. We are in charge, and we have dominion. External events do not cause thoughts. We are causing the thoughts, which is why Butterworth suggests that we are “manufacturers” of thoughts.
There Are No Neutral Thoughts
Students of A Course In Miracles will recognize the intersection between its teachings and Butterworth’s teachings. Whatever the content of your own thinking activity, whether you realize it or not, you are the one choosing the thoughts. You are also the one deciding what those thoughts mean, which in reality is just another thought. Even your feelings about those thoughts are still yet another thought, and a choice you are making. The external event itself is neutral, but what you think about it is anything but neutral.
Lesson 16 in A Course In Miracles states: “I have no neutral thoughts.” We tend to think that thoughts have “no effect” in the world. However, in truth, there are no neutral thoughts. Every single thought we have has meaning for us, and we have assigned that meaning. The meaning is not out there, and it does not simply arrive fully formed in our consciousness. We cause the thought. And we assign the meaning. There is no exception to this rule.
The Art of Thinking
There is an art to thinking, and there is a path to mastery of that art. However, to successfully walk that path requires that we assume personal responsibility for the activity of our thinking and that we exercise dominion over our thinking. To exercise dominion over our thinking does not mean we vanquish or eradicate it, but rather that we “see it rightly,” and choose accordingly. As Lesson 16 in A Course In Miracles points out, “Thoughts are not big or little, powerful or weak. They are merely true or false. Those that are true create after their own likeness. Those that are false make theirs.”
To become a master at the art of thinking requires that we first rightly understand the purpose of our thinking. With respect to the activity of our thinking, the purpose of practical metaphysics, or Unity teaching, or A Course In Miracles for that matter, is not to change the world, but rather to change our “perception of the world.” The art of thinking is not concerned with “setting the world right,” but rather “rightly seeing the world.” In this endeavor, we have absolute power, and we have dominion. The only variables are whether and when we choose to become master artists over our own thinking.