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A Beautiful Mind

[1]3,329 words

Infinite Potential: The Greatest Works of Neville Goddard
Introduced and edited by Mitch Horowitz
New York: St. Martin’s, 2019

All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible. — T. E. Lawrence[1] [2]

The universe which we study with such care is a dream, and we the dreamers of the dream, eternal dreamers dreaming non-eternal dreams. — Neville Goddard[2] [3]

This anthology provides the necessary capstone to the contemporary rediscovery of Neville Goddard, the Barbados-born mid-century mystic who became the greatest voice of the American intellectual current known as New Thought, which I have described as our home-ground Hermeticism, our native-born Neoplatonism, and our two-fisted Traditionalism.[3] [4]

It also exemplifies Mitch Horowitz as the leading scholar and historian of Neville (who wrote and lectured professionally under the single name).[4] [5]

I’ve called this book necessary because until now, Neville has suffered from one drawback to a unique and otherwise valuable feature of his lifetime of publishing and lecturing: Neville’s books (booklets, really) were never copyrighted, or else any such copyright has long since lapsed; and his forty years of lectures in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco were given under conditions where audience taping was allowed – even encouraged and facilitated.[5] [6] Horowitz compares him to the Grateful Dead, while I would compare him to the forward-thinking producers of Mystery Science Theatre (1990-2000), who realized that by encouraging viewers to tape episodes and “keep circulating the tapes!” a mass audience could be developed.

Those tapes continue to “circulate” on YouTube and in torrents today, and here’s where Neville’s problem arises: In today’s world of desktop publishing, CreateSpace, YouTube,[6] [7] and so on, Neville’s ten or so books and over three hundred lectures, both recorded and transcribed, are all available, differing only in cover art or price, leaving the “newbie” with the question: Well, just where do I start?

We now have our answer: start here.

Infinite Potential is described by the publisher as a “curated compendium,” but please don’t take this to mean [8] that it is anything like those pretentious selections of craft beers or organic pig knuckles; it has far more to do with what Thomas Moore (and, oddly, Michel Foucault) have called “the care of the soul.” Arranged chronologically, these items are intended to not only introduce the main items of Neville’s teachings in their best formulations, but also to reveal the development of his thought, from what Neville called “The Law” (later ripped off as “The Law of Attraction”) to “The Promise” (attaining union with God); as Neville formulated it in a lecture reprinted here:

One day you will be so saturated with wealth, so saturated with power in the world of Caesar, you will turn your back on it all and go in search for the Word of God.

The first selection is Neville’s first book, At Your Command (1939), reprinted in its entirety.[7] [9] Then, the complete text of Freedom for All: A Practical Application of the Bible, which Horowitz describes as “Neville at the peak of his powers,” extolling “his highest ideals . . . at a time when the world was thrown into war and chaos [1942].”

Then we have the 1946 pamphlet “The Search,” described as “the most complete of Neville’s early mystical visions”:

Neville was one of the few modern writers capable of describing inner experience in a manner that is at once relatable and relevant to the reader.[8] [10]

Neville’s 1948 lecture series in Los Angeles, “Five Lessons,” was published posthumously as a book, and is considered by many to be his most thorough account of his methods.[9] [11] Horowitz gives us the Q&A section, which discusses many of the most frequently asked questions (how modern is that?). We find Neville expounding on his proto-meme creating:

Question: What is the meaning of the insignia on your book covers?

Answer: It is an eye imposed upon a heart which, in turn is imposed upon a tree laden with fruit, meaning that what you are conscious of, and accept as true, you are going to realize. As a man thinketh in his heart, so he is.

And, in answer to the question, “How often should I perform the imaginal act?”, Neville slyly hints at the sexual component – or at least analogy – to his method, firmly proof-texted from both the Old and New Testaments:

In the Book of Genesis, the story is told of Jacob wrestling with an angel. This story gives us the clue we are looking for; that when satisfaction is reached, impotence follows. When the feeling of reality is yours, for the moment at least, you are mentally impotent. The desire to repeat the act of prayer is lost, having been replaced by the feeling of accomplishment. You cannot persist in wanting what you already have. If you assume you are what you desire to be to the point of ecstasy, you no longer want it. Your imaginal act is as much a creative act as a physical one wherein man halts, shrinks and is blessed, for as man creates his own likeness, so does your imaginal act transform itself into the likeness of your assumption. If, however, you do not reach the point of satisfaction, repeat the action over and over again until you feel as though you touched it and virtue went out of you.[10] [12]

Next, Horowitz offers the complete text of the short book Out of This World: Thinking Four-Dimensionally (1949), where Neville “does what few metaphysical philosophers ever attempt: he devises a theory behind why our thoughts are instruments of creation,” which has considerable similarities to elements of quantum theory, as Horowitz discusses in the Introduction:

Scientists will one day explain why there is a Serial Universe. But in practice how we use this Serial Universe to change the future is more important.

The fourth chapter of 1954’s Awakened Imagination presents what Neville calls the one thing he would likely be best remembered for teaching: “the pruning shears of revision”:

It is a most healthy and productive exercise to daily relive the day as you wish you had lived it, revising the scenes to make them conform to your ideals. For instance, suppose today’s mail brought disappointing news. Revise the letter. Mentally rewrite it and make it conform to the news you wish you had received. Then, in imagination, read the revised letter over and over again. This is the essence of revision, and revision results in repeal.

The one requisite is to arouse your attention in a way and to such intensity that you become wholly absorbed in the revised action. You will experience an expansion and refinement of the senses by this imaginative exercise and eventually achieve vision. But always remember that the ultimate purpose of this exercise is to create in you “the Spirit of Jesus”, which is continual forgiveness of sin.

Revision is of greatest importance when the motive is to change oneself, when there is a sincere desire to be something different, when the longing is to awaken the ideal active spirit of forgiveness.

Without imagination, man remains a being of sin. Man either goes forward to imagination or remains imprisoned in his senses. To go forward to imagination is to forgive. Forgiveness is the life of the imagination. The art of living is the art of forgiving.

Forgiveness is, in fact, experiencing in imagination the revised version of the day, experiencing in imagination what you wish you had experienced in the flesh. Every time one really forgives, that is, every time one relives the event as it should have been lived, one is born again.

So far, all this is already out there, though without the curating (or pruning). Now, we start to get what fans of P. G. Wodehouse call “plums.” As mentioned above, Neville hosted 26 episodes of a TV show (on Channel 11 in Los Angeles) in the mid-1950s.[11] [13] Alas, no video survives, but Horowitz has transcribed a rare audio tape of 1955’s “All Things Are Possible.” It’s certainly an interesting experience to “hear” Neville saying, “Now after a moment from my sponsor . . .”

“Be Ye Wise as Serpents” from Seedtime and Harvest: A Mystical View of the Scriptures (1956) gives an extensive analysis of Christ’s advice to his apostles:

Your life expresses one thing, and one thing only, your state of consciousness. Everything is dependent upon that. As you, through the medium of imagination, assume a state of consciousness, that state begins to clothe itself in form, It solidifies around you as the serpent’s skin ossifies around it. But you must be faithful to the state. You must not go from state to state, but, rather, wait patiently in the one invisible state until it takes on form and becomes an objective fact. Patience is necessary, but patience will be easy after your first success in shedding the old and growing the new, for we are able to wait according as we have been rewarded by understanding in the past. Understanding is the secret of patience. What natural joy and spontaneous delight lie in seeing the world, not with, but as Blake says . . . through the eye!

Neville not only availed himself of the contemporary media of radio and TV, but also put out an LP in 1960. Horowitz provides a transcript of both sides:[12] [14] “The Secret of Imagining,” side one, “captures his metaphysical vison in a nutshell,” while the flip side, “A Mystical Experience,” shows Neville transitioning to his later emphasis on mystical revelation (“the Promise”).

And so then we have “The Promise,” a chapter from 1961’s The Law and the Promise, where Neville “describes being reborn from within his skull [i.e., Golgotha] and soon after encountering the Biblical David as his son.” Thus was revealed to him “the secret of creation: realization of yourself as God.”

We then have three late lectures that expand on the transition from The Law to The Promise: “A Lesson in Scripture,” 1967 (whence the passage about Caesar quoted above), then “Power” from 1968, where Neville makes one of his occasional observations about current events:

Tonight’s subject is Power. I do not mean the power of Caesar, I’m speaking tonight of the power of God, for here in this world of Caesar I think all nations would admit that this land of ours is by far the greatest power in the world of Caesar: economic power and military power. And here we are, against a tenth-rate nation, and find on our hands the longest war in our history.[13] [15] We say we have an objective and that we have the means to achieve it, but we are unwilling to use the means that we have. Well, then, modify the objective to fit the means that we are willing to use. That belongs to the world of Caesar. If we do not modify the objective to fit the means we are willing to use, then cut bait and forget it, and forget the so-called “saving face.” But I am not speaking of that kind of power. I am speaking of the power of God, which is called in Scripture, “Jesus Christ.”

Finally, “Enter the Dream” illustrates Neville’s study of William Blake – Neville once said that if stranded on a desert island, he would want to have the Bible, of course, but if allowed one more book, it would be the complete works of Blake.

Everything in the world is yourself pushed out. Every animal there can be entered by you, and you can experience its emotion, for that animal is your very self.

You are the animating power of the universe. All things were made by you and without you was not anything made that was made, for you are life itself. This I know from experience. The universe is alive in you. It has no life on the outside. It is yours to animate, to stop, to let go, and stop again. Blake was right when he said: “God only acts and is in existing beings or men,” for God is the only actor, acting imaginatively in the human imagination.

We also get a mordantly interesting glimpse of the life of a West Indian expatriate, for Neville, like the contemporary hip-hop icon Alexander Hamilton, made his way from Barbados to the United States to make his fortune as a dancer and actor (before he discovered that Your Faith is Your Fortune [1941]). Stateside, what Horowitz describes as “his clipped Anglican accent [and] Romanesque image” made him, as I suggested in Magick for Housewives, a hit among the “ladies who lunch set” that I imagine made up his lecture audiences.[14] [16]

But the Limeys hanging out in Los Angeles wanted no part of him, as he discovered when he met Aldous Huxley and dared to try to discuss Blake:

In a certain social world, if you pronounce a certain word differently you are cataloged as one who is not “in,” as it were, and Huxley would not listen to my visions because I did not speak as he thought everyone should . . . Had Aldous only listened to my message, rather than my English, I could have told him things beyond the wildest dreams of D. H. Lawrence. But I am a Colonial in his eyes and, like all Englishmen; the Colonials are looked down upon. If you don’t speak with the Oxford or Cambridge accent, you are a Colonial in their eyes and not one of the boys.

I was amused today when I looked at my baptismal certificate. My father’s occupation was listed as a meat vendor. He had a butcher shop.[15] [17]

Horowitz then supplies some pages of “Aphorisms by Neville.” He doesn’t say why, but I would think they would make excellent topics for meditation. Readers of Counter-Currents might find them to occasionally strike a rather Nietzschean note:

If the law does not work, its knowledge will not comfort you. And if it is not true, you must discard it . . . I hope you will be bold enough to test me.

Dare to assume you are exactly what you want to be. Dare to assume you are where you want to be even though your reason and senses deny it.

Leave the mirror and change your face.

Fools exploit the world; the wise transfigure it.

The most remarkable feature of man’s future is its flexibility.

Lastly, there is a timeline that summarizes the known facts of Neville’s life and career, many of which have been uncovered by Horowitz himself through tireless research over the last few years.

Of course, Horowitz also provides an Introduction – “Magician of the Beautiful,” referencing a line from “The Search,” which provides a neat summary of Neville’s life and teaching, as well as his attempts to reconcile his profound debt to Neville – “Neville has influenced me more than any other teacher. His image is tattooed on my left forearm. Personal experience has led me to believe in his ideas” – with his equally profound belief that “the highest form of faith is critical in nature.”

Those who find the ideas expressed above to be hard to believe, or absurd, should be critical enough to engage in Mitch Horowitz’s search to understand them. One of Neville’s ideas that he finds particularly important should strike a chord with readers here:

In our typical state of somnambulant half-awareness . . . we are strangers to what we produce. Indeed, I believe that we pass through much of our lives unaware, or marginally aware, of our most deeply held wishes, which we fail to acknowledge because we fear they are selfish, ignoble, reflect poorly on how we believe we ought to appear to others.

And to illuminate this idea of “estrangement from one’s true desires,” Horowitz recommends a viewing of Andrei Tarkovsky’s film Stalker, already a favorite at this site.[16] [18]

In short, readers will find much of interest here, and will, I hope, come to agree with the compiler that “Neville’s ideas are at once spiritually epic and workaday practical. He is one of the few modern spiritual thinkers for whom this is true.” Be bold enough to test him.


[1] [19] The Seven Pillars of Wisdom, “Introductory Chapter” – used, of course, as the title and epigraph of Kevin Coogan’s Dreamer of the Day: Francis Parker Yockey and the Postwar Fascist International (New York: Autonomedia, 1999).

[2] [20] “The Search” (1946).

[3] [21] See “Magick for Housewives: The {Not So New and Really Rather Traditional) Thought of Neville Goddard,” reprinted in my collection of essays on Crowley, Neville, Colin Wilson, and Alan Watts: Magick for Housewives: Essays on Alt-Gurus [22] (Melbourne, Victoria: Manticore, 2018).

[4] [23] His publisher tells us this: “A widely known voice of esoteric ideas, Mitch Horowitz is a writer-in-residence at the New York Public Library, lecturer-in-residence at the University of Philosophical Research in Los Angeles, and the PEN Award-winning author of books including Occult America; One Simple Idea: How Positive Thinking Reshaped Modern Life; and The Miracle Club: How Thoughts Become Reality. Mitch has written on everything from the war on witches to the secret life of Ronald Reagan for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Salon, Time.com, and Politico. The Washington Post says Mitch “treats esoteric ideas and movements with an even-handed intellectual studiousness that is too often lost in today’s raised-voice discussions.” He narrates popular audio books including Alcoholics Anonymous and The Jefferson Bible. Mitch has discussed alternative spirituality on CBS Sunday Morning, Dateline NBC, NPR’s All Things Considered, CNN, and throughout the national media.” As if that wasn’t enough, the Chinese government has censored his work, so you know he must be doing something right.

[5] [24] One devotee (fan? Neville had no devotees or disciples; as Horowitz says, there’s nothing to buy, nothing to join) recalls that tape recorders were lined up at the front of the stage, and before Neville took to the lectern, a man would walk across the stage switching them on.

[6] [25] Neville’s lectures can be heard, but not seen; as Horowitz notes, for some odd reason there’s no video of Neville; even the 26 episodes of his TV show went unrecorded.

[7] [26] As I said, Neville’s books are mostly booklets. See my review of Horowitz’ 2016 edition, “Lord Kek Commands! A Look at the Origins of Meme Magic [27],” also reprinted in Magick for Housewives.

[8] [28] In “Doer of the Word,” the Introduction to his abridged edition of Neville’s 1952 book The Power of Awareness (Gildan Media, 2019), Mitch Horowitz says that, “Of all the writers to emerge from the American metaphysical scene in the last century, Neville was the most elegant as a literary figure and communicator. (In this regard, he’s closely rivaled by Alan Watts.)” I would agree, and offer this pamphlet as an example.

[9] [29] Five Lessons: A Master Class (1948); reissued with a bonus chapter by Mitch Horowitz (New York: Tarcher/Perigree, 2018); reviewed here [30].

[10] [31] For more on this topic, see my “Of Apes, Essence, & the Afterlife [32],” also reprinted in Magick for Housewives.

[11] [33] I like to think of these as sort of a combination of Alan Watts’ public TV and radio broadcasts with Criswell from Plan Nine [34] – but in a good way, of course.

[12] [35] You kids know what a “side” is, right?

[13] [36] Those were the days!

[14] [37] As noted above, no video of Neville survives, but based on his voice and what I would call his “movie star good looks,” Vincent Price as the vaguely Southern aristo in Laura would likely be a good avatar. His opening line, “I’m Shelby Carpenter, wanna dance?” reminds us that Neville was a popular dancer on Broadway, back when white people were allowed to dance, as was Clifton Webb, also in Laura and also the subject of one of my essays: “The Babysitting Bachelor as Aryan Avatar [38],” in which I explore Webb’s incarnation as Krishna.

[15] [39] Using Neville’s methods, his father and older brother built, on that shop, what is today Goddard Enterprises [40], the largest conglomerate based in the Caribbean. Some butcher shop.

[16] [41] See John Morgan’s “Ten Great Films Against the Modern World [42],” and his podcast discussing the film with Frodi Midjord [43].