The Power of Maybe »

By Mitch Horowitz  |  PEN Award-winning historian and author of “One Simple Idea,” a history of New Thought, and “The Miracle Club: How Thoughts Become Reality.” Horowitz and his column “Real Positivity” are featured monthly in Guide for Spiritual Living: Science of Mind magazine.

Sometimes I attempt a personal experiment, which I invite you to try. I approach a favorite book of mind metaphysics and attempt to free myself of all preconceptions surrounding its ideas. How would these ideas affect me, I ask, if I were encountering them for the first time?

Remarkable things can emerge from a feeling of fresh possibility. William James (1842 – 1910) called it the sense of “maybe.” He wrote this in his 1895 essay “Is Life Worth Living?”:

The “scientific” life itself has much to do with maybes, and human life at large has everything to do with them. So far as man stands for anything, and is productive or originative at all, his entire vital function may be said to deal with maybes.

Not a victory is gained, not a deed of faithfulness or courage is done, except upon a maybe … It is only by risking our persons from one hour to another that we live at all. And often enough our faith beforehand in an uncertified result is the only thing that makes the result come true.

Suppose, for instance, that you are climbing a mountain and have worked yourself into a position from which the only escape is by a terrible leap. Have faith that you can successfully make it, and your feet are nerved to its accomplishment. But mistrust yourself and think of all the sweet things you have heard the scientists say of maybes, and you will hesitate so that, at last, all unstrung and trembling, and launching yourself in a moment of despair, you roll in the abyss.

In such a case … the part of wisdom as well as of courage is to believe what is in the line of your needs, for only by the belief is the need fulfilled.

James saw belief in something as the determining factor as to how or whether you experience its effects. Hence, renewed belief in the power of your mental images can, in itself, increase their efficacy. Try my experiment. The results may surprise you.