|Vol. 12||MARCH, 1911.||No. 6|
|Copyright, 1911, by H. W. PERCIVAL.|
THERE are comparatively few true friendships in the world, because few men are true enough to themselves to have true friendships. Friendship cannot thrive in an atmosphere of deceit. Friendship requires the nature to express itself truly, and unless there is honesty of expression friendship will not live. Man is his own best friend when he is truest in his friendships.
Mind attracts mind and complements mind. The finding of a friend is like the coming to life of another side of one’s own mental self. When a friend is found the friendship will not be perfect because neither mind is perfect. Both have innumerable faults and shortcomings, and neither can reasonably expect that his friend should show that perfection to which he himself has not attained. Friendship cannot be bargained for like the fit of a garment. Acquaintances may be chosen, but friendships arrange themselves. Friends will be drawn together as naturally as magnet attracts iron.
Friendship forbids the surrender of opinions, the acquiescence to requests, or to a blind following of our friend’s lead. Friendship requires one to value his own beliefs, to be independent in thought, and to offer reasonable remonstrance and resistance to all that is not believed right in his friend. Friendship requires the strength to stand alone if need be.
In reading a good book, a feeling of kindredness is often awakened by the author when he unveils something to us and writes out in living words the thought that we have long harbored. It is our own whispered thought, as though we had voiced it. We are grateful that it has been given form in words. We may not have seen the writer, centuries may have passed since he walked the earth, but he still lives, for he has thought our thought and speaks that thought to us. We feel that he is at home with us and is our friend and we feel at home with him.
With strangers we cannot be ourselves. They will not let us. They do not know. With our friend we cannot help being ourselves, for he knows us. Where friendship exists much explanation is unnecessary for we feel that our friend already understands.
People who speak or think about friendship belong to one of two classes: those who consider it to be a relationship of the senses, and those who speak of it as a relationship of the mind. There is no combination of the two, or a third class. Men who perceive friendship to be of the mind are of two kinds. One knows it to be of the spirit, the spiritual mind, the other thinks of it as mental or intellectual relationship. The men who regard it as being of the senses are also of two kinds. Those who feel it to be a relationship to please sentiment and gratify desires or emotions, and those who reckon it as a physical asset, concerning physical things.
The man who reckons friendship as a physical asset forms his estimate on a strictly physical basis. This he determines by what a man is worth in money and possessions, and the prestige which these give him. He figures his estimate without emotion or sentiment. He looks at the friendship in a matter of fact way, for what it is worth to him. What he calls friendship lasts as long as his “friend” retains his possessions, but it ends if they are lost. Then there is not much feeling about it; he is sorry that his friend has lost his fortune, and he his friend, but he finds another one with money to take the place of the one lost to him. It is almost irreverent to speak thus of friendship.
The greatest number of those who speak of friendship belong to the second kind of the first class. The nature of their friendship is psychic and is of the senses. This applies to those who have a community of interest and seek each other to obtain their particular ends, such as the worshippers of society and to those who are temperamentally sentimental, being governed by their emotions. In this circle are included those who yearn for personalities, those who feel contented only when in the atmosphere of personalities. They call those who so please them their friends, not because of the benefits of intellectual intercourse, but because of the agreeableness of the personal magnetism of their presence. This lasts as long as their sentiments and desires are suited to each other. Psychic or desire friendships change or end when the nature of the particular phase of desire, which is their bond, changes. Such are the natures of the money and the desire friendships.
The mind acts through the desires and has to do with them, yet neither that which is of the physical world nor of the world of desire can understand friendship. The relationship of friendship is essentially of the mind. Those only can understand friendship who regard it as being of the mind and not of the personality, nor of the body, nor relating to the possessions or the desires and emotions of that personality. Things of the physical world and desires of personality may be related by such terms as self interest, or liking, or attraction, or affection, and may be mutually agreeable, but they are not friendship. A perception or understanding of kindredness of mind and mind is the beginning of real friendship, and the relationship between those who thus regard it may be called mental friendship. The friendship of this class is between those who are of similar quality and likeness of mind, or who have the same or a similar ideal in mind. They are attracted to each other by a certain mutual mental appreciation of quality and purpose of thought and ideal, independently of physical possessions, or of attraction by a community of interests, or by emotional tendencies, or by qualities of the magnetism of desire. Friendship stands out from and above personal traits and likes and faults and tendencies. Friendship may be formed between the lowly and the eminent as well as between those of equal education and station in life.
Mental friendship is to be distinguished as being of an intellectual quality and character. This is shown by the action and relation of mind with mind as distinct from the thought of money and the traits and habits of personality. The physical presence of a personality is not necessary to friendship between minds. When the personalities are agreeable to each other and to each mind they are often desirable, as they allow the mind to act without restraint. But personality can also be of service in trying and proving the strength and fidelity of the friendship. By reason of the differences in tastes, habits, mannerisms and expressions of personalities of friends, one will at times seem to be objectionable to the other, or will feel uncomfortable or ill at ease in his company. A personality may be abrupt and his habits objectionable to his friend, who may voice his opinions and these in turn may be objectionable to the other one, but they hold a common ideal and feel kindred in mind. If the friendship is truly understood between both, any rupture due to their jarring personalities may easily be repaired. But if the friendship is not understood and if the dissimilar personalities are too strong, the friendship will be broken or deferred. Many friendships are formed which seem strange. A rough, brusque, sour, bitter or bilious personality of peculiar habits may veil a mind of great power and worth. Another mind of less power perhaps may have a more agreeable and attractive personality, whose manners are trained to the conventionalities of polite society. Where friendship exists between such, the minds will agree, but their personalities will clash. The friendships which are most agreeable, though not always the best, are those where people hold similar positions, have nearly equal possessions, and have a schooling and breeding which have given them a like degree of culture, and whose ideals are alike. These will be attracted to each other, but their friendship may not be as beneficial as if their personalities were of contrary dispositions, because, where natures and conditions are agreeable there will be no exercise of the virtues to maintain and develop friendship.
True mental friendships begin or are formed by the contact and appreciation of mind with mind. This may result from association, or without either one having seen the other. Some of the strongest friendships have been formed where neither friend had seen the other. A noted instance is that of the friendship between Emerson and Carlyle. Kindredness of mind was recognized and appreciated by Emerson when he read “Sartor Resartus.” In the author of that book Emerson at once perceived a friend, and communicated with Carlyle who had an equally keen appreciation for Emerson’s mind. Later Emerson visited Carlyle. Their personalities did not agree, but their friendship continued through life, and it did not end.
Friendship of a spiritual nature, or spiritual friendship, is based on the knowledge of the relationship of mind with mind. This knowledge is not a feeling, not an opinion, nor the result of the cogitations of the mind. It is a calm, firm, deep-seated conviction, as the result of being conscious of it. It is to be distinguished from other kinds of friendship in that, where each of the other kinds may change or end, friendship of the spiritual nature cannot end. It is the result of a long series of relationships between minds in whom knowledge is a spiritual bond of unity. There are few friendships of this class, because few people in life have cultivated the spiritual nature by seeking knowledge above all other things. Friendship of the spiritual nature does not depend upon religious forms. It is not made up of pious thoughts. Spiritual friendship is greater than all religious forms. Religions must pass, but spiritual friendship will live on forever. Those who see into the spiritual nature of friendship are not influenced by the ideals which one may hold, nor by the desires and emotions which may become manifest, nor by any physical possessions, or the lack of them. Friendship based on the spiritual nature of mind lasts through all incarnations. Mental friendship may be severed by the changing of ideals and the antagonisms of contrary personalities. The friendships called psychic and physical are not proper friendships.
The two essentials to friendship are, first, that the thought and action of one are for the best interests and well being of the other; and, second, that each lets the other have freedom in thought and action.
Within the universal mind there is the divine plan, that each mind shall learn its own divinity, and the divinity of other minds, and finally shall know the unity of all. This knowledge commences with friendship. Friendship begins with the feeling or a recognition of kindredness. When friendship is felt for one it extends to two or more, and to wider circles, until one becomes a friend of all. A knowledge of the kindredness of all beings must be learned while man is in the personality. Man learns from his personality. He cannot learn without it. Through his personality man makes and learns friends. Then he learns that friendship is not of the personality, the mask, but of the mind, the wearer and user of the personality. Later, he extends his friendship and knows it in the spiritual nature of the mind; then he knows of universal friendship, and he becomes a friend of all.