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The Llewellyn Encyclopedia

Seeing and Believing

This article was written by Keith Randolph on May 29, 2002
posted under Creative Visualization

As Claude M. Bristol puts it in his famous book The Magic of Believing, "The person with a clear goal, a clear picture of his desire, or an ideal always before him, causes it, through repetition, to be buried deeply in his subconscious mind and is thus enabled, thanks to its generative and sustaining power, to realize his goal in a minimum of time and with a minimum of physical effort."

Norman Vincent Peale, well known as a clergyman, writer and advocate of "positive thinking," has told of how he discovered the power of "positive imaging." Some years ago he and his wife Ruth started an inspirational magazine called Guideposts. They had started it on a financial shoestring but had some early success, attracting about 40,000 subscribers before money ran out. The magazine’s demise looked all but inevitable.

The Peales called a meeting of the board of directors. It was a gloomy gathering. Debts were high and spirits low—until a woman named Tessie Durlack spoke up.

"The situation," she said, "is that you lack everything—subscribers, equipment, capital. And why do you lack? Simply because you have been thinking in terms of lack. You have been imaging lack so, therefore, you have accordingly created a condition of lack. What you must do now, at once, is to firmly tell these lack thoughts or images to get out of your minds. You must start imaging prosperity instead."

The directors objected that this sounded like an invitation to lose themselves in unreality, but the woman, clearly impatient with their lack of faith, quoted Plato’s admonition to "take charge of your thoughts. You can do what you will with them." She ordered every one to "flush out these lack thoughts, and do it now."

So as the directors sat there, they imagined that they were flushing the thoughts out and "seeing" them march out the door.

Thinking Prosperity

Then Durlack, obviously a woman of firm and commanding presence, directed the group to start thinking of images of prosperity to replace the old ones of debt and failure. She stressed that if these positive images were let out of mind, they would quickly be replaced by the old negative images.

She asked how many subscribers Guideposts needed to have in order to continue publishing. The directors estimated that it would take 100,000.

"All right," she declared, "I want you to look out there mentally and see or visualize 100,000 persons as subscribers to Guideposts, people who have paid for their subscriptions."

So the group sat, concentrated and soon "saw" the subscribers. "Now that we see them," Durlack went on, "we have them." Then she had them pray to thank God for the 100,000 subscribers he gave them!

The Peales were so struck by the power of this introduction to visualization that they half-expected to look over at the table of unpaid bills and find that they had disappeared. Of course that didn’t happen. What did happen, though, is that the board of directors came to life, enthusiasm returned, and this brought renewed confidence and creativity. Soon they were batting new ideas back and forth.

In the months that followed, all those connected with the magazine kept the positive images uppermost in their minds and did not let themselves consider the possibility that their confidence in a happy future was misplaced. In a short time, the bills began to dwindle. The subscription rate rapidly rose. With amazing swiftness the goal of 100,000 subscribers was reached—and surpassed. Today Guideposts, with over 31¼2 million subscribers, is one of the largest magazines published in the United States.

There is nothing necessarily "supernatural" about this little incident. The visualization exercise helped free the creative potential needed to keep the magazine alive. It also unleashed basic emotional and physical energies that had been paralyzed by the sense of hopelessness associated with what looked like imminent failure. Yet the effect of this psychological liberation was so overwhelming that, in a way almost "magical," it affected the material world.

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