Spiritedness not a fanciful, vague quality, but a real, live, forceful Power in Man. The Assertion of Recognition of Mastery. A wonderful Soul-quality.
To many of you, the title of this lesson—Spiritedness— may seem to have some connection with “spirits,” “disembodied entities,” or else the “soul” or some higher part of it, to which the name Spirit is often applied. But, in this case, we use the word in a different sense, and yet in a sense approved by many advanced teachers and investigators of the occult and spiritual. One of the meanings of the word ”spirit” as given by Webster is as follows: “Energy, vivacity, ardor, enthusiasm, courage,” etc., while the same authority defines the word “spirited” as: “Animated; full of life and vigor, lively,” etc. These definitions will give you a hint of the sense in which we are now using the term, but there is still more to it.
To us the word Spirit expresses the idea of the real essential nature of the Universal Power, and which is also manifested in man as the center of his being—his essential strength and power, from whence proceeds all that renders him an Individual. Spiritedness does not mean the quality of being ethereal, “goody‑goody,” spiritual, otherworldly, or anything of that sort. It means the state of being “animated,” meaning, “possessed of life and vigor”—so that the state is really that of being filled with Power and Life. And that Power and Life comes from the very center of one’s being—the “I am” region or plane of mind and consciousness.
Spiritedness is manifested in different degrees among different men—and even among the animals. It is an elementary, fundamental, primitive quality and expression of Life, and does not depend upon culture, refinement or education— its development seems to depend upon such instinctive or intuitional recognition of the Something Within—the Power of the Individual which is derived from that Universal Power of which we are all expressions. And even some of the animals seem to possess it.
A recent writer on the “Taming of Animals” expresses instinctive realization of Spiritedness among some of the higher animals as follows: “Put two male baboons in the same cage, and they will open their mouths, show all their teeth, and ‘blow’ at each other. But one of them, even though he may possess the uglier dentition, will blow with a difference, with an inward shakiness that marks him as the under dog at once. No test of battle is needed at all. It is the same with the big cats. Put two, or four, or a dozen lions together, and they also, probably without a single contest, will soon discover which one of them possesses the mettle of the master. Thereafter he takes the choice of the meat; if he chooses, the rest shall not even begin to eat until he has finished; he goes first to the fresh pan of water. In short he is ‘king of the cage. ‘Now, then, when a tamer goes into a den with a big cat that has taken a notion to act ‘funny,’ his attitude is almost exactly that of the ‘king beast’ above mentioned would be toward a subject rash and ill advised enough to challenge his kingship.”
You will notice in the above quotation, that the writer states clearly that it is not always the baboon with the fiercest tusks that is the master, neither does the “king lion” necessarily assert his dominion by winning a physical fight—it is something far more subtle than the physical—it is the manifestation of some soul quality of the animal. And so it is with men, it is not always the biggest and strongest physically who rule—the ruler becomes so by reason of the mysterious soul quality which we call Spiritedness, and which men often call “nerve,” or “mettle,” or “sand.”
When two individuals come into contact with each other there is mental struggle—there may not be even a word uttered—and yet soul grapples with soul as the two pairs of eyes gaze into each other, and a subtle something in each engages and grapples with a subtle something in the other. It may be all over in a moment, but the conflict is settled for the time, and each of the mental combatants knows that he is victor or defeated, as the case may be. There may be no feeling of antagonism between the parties engaging, but nevertheless there seems to be an inward recognition on both sides that there is something between them that has to be settled at once. The parties may become the best of friends, and yet one of them always leads. And this leadership does not depend upon physical strength, intellectual attainment, or culture in the ordinary sense, but upon the manifestation and recognition of that subtle quality that we have called Spirit.
People unconsciously assert their recognition of quality in themselves and others, by their use of the term. We often hear of people “lacking spirit”; being “spiritless”; and of others having had “their spirit broken;” etc. The term is used in the sense of “mettle.” A “mettled” horse or man is “high‑spirited,” according to the dictionaries; and the same authorities define “mettlesome” as “full of spirit,” so you see the term is used as we have employed it—but the explanation of the source of the “spiritedness” is not given. Breeders of thoroughbred racing horses will tell you that a horse having “spirit” will run a gamer race and will often outdistance and out‑wind a horse having higher physical characteristics, but less “spirit” or “class.” Horsemen insist that the possession of “spirit” in a horse is recognized by the other horses, who are effected by it and become discouraged and allow themselves to be beaten, although often they may be better racing machines, physically. This spirit is a fundamental vital strength possessed by all living things in degrees—and it may be developed and strengthened in one’s self. In our next lesson we shall recite a few instances of its manifestation among men.
Oliver Wendell Holmes, in one of his books, gives the following vivid description of the conflict of spiritedness between two men: “The Koh‑i‑noor’s face turned so white with rage that his blue‑black mustache and beard looked fearful against it. He grinned with wrath, and caught at a tumbler, as if he would have thrown its contents at the speaker. The young Marylander fixed his clear, steady eye upon him, and laid his hand on his arm, carelessly almost, but the Jewel felt that he could not move it. It was no use. The youth was his master, and in a deadly Indian hug in which men wrestle with their eyes, over in five seconds, but which breaks one of their two backs, and is good for three score years and ten, one trial enough—settles the whole matter—just as when two feathered songsters of the barnyard, game and dunghill, come together. After a jump or two at each other, and a few sharp kicks, there is an end to it; and it is ‘After you, monsieur,’ with the beaten party in all the social relations for all the rest of his days.”
Fothergill says: “Emily Bronte sketched out her ideal of a being possessed of immense willpower in a thorough ruffian— Heathcliff. A massive, muscular brute! Well, it was a girl’s conception of a strong man; but I think I have seen some quiet, inoffensive‑looking men in spectacles, who could very soon have shown the ruffian where the superiority lay.”
A celebrated historical example of Spiritedness, under apparently overwhelming odds, is that of the interview between Hugo, Bishop of Lincoln and Richard Coeur de Lion, in the church of Roche d’Andeli. In his desire to prosecute the war in Normandy, Richard demanded additional supplies and money from his barons and bishops, but Hugo refused to furnish men or money. He claimed that although the See of Lincoln was legally bound to supply men and money for military service within the four seas of Britain, the war in Normandy did not come under that head, and he defied the king.
King Richard, called the Lion‑Hearted, was a dangerous man to defy, and so when he summoned Bishop Hugo to Normandy, and the latter went forth to beard the lion in his den, few doubted the outcome, and the bishop’s downfall was taken as a matter of course. When the bishop landed in Normandy two friendly barons who informed him that the king was in a terrible rage against him, and who advised him to send some humble, conciliatory message to him before entering the royal presence. But the bishop refused to do this, and proceeded boldly to meet his monarch.
Richard was sitting at Mass when the bishop entered. Hugo walked up to him, and disregarding his frown, said, “Kiss me, my lord King!” Richard turned wrathfully away, withholding his salute. But Hugo, gazing into his eyes, and shaking the royal shoulder vigorously, repeated his demand. “Thou hast not deserved it,” roared the king in anger and chagrin. “I have,” retorted Hugo, shaking the royal shoulder the harder. The king gradually dropped his eyes from those of the bishop, and gave the kingly salute and kiss, and the bishop passed on calmly to take part in the service. Hugo afterward defied the king in his council chamber, and persisted in his refusal, and even ventured to rebuke his royal master for infidelity to the queen. The council was astounded, for knowing Richard’s courage and fiery temper they expected to see Hugo crush in a moment—but instead he emerged the victor in the struggle of Spiritedness. The historian says: “The Lion was tamed for the moment. The King acknowledged nothing, but restrained his passion, remarking afterward, ‘If all bishops were like my lord of Lincoln, not a prince among us could lift his head among them.’”
And this was not the first time that this doughty Bishop of Lincoln had vanquished a king. In his earlier days, shortly after King Henry Plantagenet had created him bishop, he became involved in a fierce dispute with that monarch. Henry was at Woodstock Park surrounded by his courtiers when Hugo approached. The king feigned not to see the bishop, taking no notice whatsoever of him.
After a few moments of strained silence, the bishop, pushing aside a powerful earl who was seated by the king’s side, took his place beside the king. The king pretended to be mending his leather glove. The bishop cheerfully and lightly said: “Your Majesty reminds me of your cousin at Falaise.” Falaise was the place at which Henry’s ancestor Duke Robert met Arlotta, the daughter of a tanner of leather, who bore him his illegitimate son who was afterward known as William the Conqueror. The Bishop’s impudent allusion to the king’s ancestry was too much for the latter, and he was badly worsted in the encounter and later acceded to the wishes of the bishop.
But as Fothergill truly says: “It is a great mistake to suppose that this Will is disposed to air itself on all occasions; far from it. It often has a tendency to conceal itself, and is not rarely found under and exterior of much pleasantness. There are men, and women, too, who present an appearance of such politeness that they seem to have no will of their own; they apparently exist merely to do what is agreeable to others; but just wait till the time comes, and then the latent will‑power is revealed, and we find under this velvet glove the iron hand—and no mistake about it. It is the secret of the diplomatist. Talleyrand possessed it to a remarkable degree, and was a cool, bold, successful diplomat; Cavour also possessed this power and used it wisely. The blusterer and bragger are devoid of it.” It is a subtle, tenuous Power, resting latent beneath the surface and out of evidence— but when needed it flashes forth like the dynamic electric spark, driving all before it. It is an elemental force, of irresistible power.