Edgar Cayce A.R.E. Dove with Olive Branch

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Ideals Exercise

An ideal is a standard by which one lives. “The ideal gives us a sense of stability, guidance and orientation, as well as a criterion for judgments.” (Puryear & Thurston, 1987, p. 95)

“An ideal is not a goal. It is a motivational standard by which to evaluate our goals and our reasons for pursuing those goals. The goal is what; the ideal is why! A spiritual ideal is not so much a goal toward which we move as it is the spirit in which we grow. It is a living and dynamic standard by which we quicken and measure our daily motivation.” (Puryear, 1982, p. 112)

The readings frequently suggest an ideals exercise designed to examine and modify dysfunctional attitudes and behaviors based upon spiritual considerations. This exercise consists of writing down one’s ideals on paper. The process involves making three columns headed: SPIRITUAL, MENTAL AND PHYSICAL and listing words under each which signify the meaning of each category. The spiritual ideal is a person or concept which conveys the highest sense of purpose or meaning to which one may ascribe. The mental ideal is the mental attitude which is consistent with the spiritual ideal. The physical ideal is the behavior or physical manifestation of the spiritual ideal. Thus, the holistic perspective is maintained by the coordinating of physical, mental and spiritual ideals.

The technique is cognitive-behavioral since it brings to awareness the attitudes and beliefs upon which a person is operating and links the mental dimension to concrete behaviors. The mental and physical ideals are modified to be consistent with the spiritual ideal. The difference between this technique and many contemporary cognitive-behavioral models is the role of the spiritual ideal as the standard for mental and physical processes. The Cayce readings do not advocate a “value-free” approach to healing. However, the values are not to be imposed by an outside agency – each person must work through the process on one’s own to find one’s own balance.

The readings state that ideals will change as one progresses through life. Therefore, the ideals exercise is an ongoing process of reorientation. It may be viewed as a tool for maintaining balance and integration at all phases of one’s life.

The use of ideals has important clinical implications. Persons who have high spiritual ideals, but whose mental attitudes and physical behaviors fall short of these spiritual ideals, may be prone to self-condemnation for failing to live up to their own standards. Or, they may project their perceived shortcomings onto others. Self-blame or blaming of others is likely to lead to psychological and/or interpersonal problems. On the other hand, a person with low spiritual ideals (or the complete absence of them) may find life meaningless, boring and empty.

An obvious benefit of this exercise is its potential for focusing on beliefs which have been unconsciously adopted during childhood and adolescence. The insistence that the ideals be written down and reviewed regularly is critical in this respect.


Puryear, H. B. & Thurston, M. A. Meditation and the Mind of Man. Virginia Beach, VA: A.R.E. Press, 1987.

Excerpts on the Ideals Exercise From the Cayce Readings

While those [therapeutic] administrations as have been and as are being given, will be and are effective in a physical manner, they only are of a temporary or of a putting off of conditions – unless the mental attitude, the nerve and the resultant expressions of same – through impulses to the physical organisms – are stimulated or brought – through the mental body, and through the physical forces – to near a coordination in system, the conditions cannot remain in a normal state though only physically corrected!

… take more time to be holy in thought, in the expression of same. To forgive and not forget is to burden self physically and mentally. To retain suppressions, through grudges, or discontent, is to build for a mental inability of control of self through an ideal that may attempt to be held before self in the mental and spiritual applications of growth. In this direction the body should take thought, not of self so much as of the expression of self’s, through self’s own application of the ideal held, as it may reflect in the lives of others … for when we correct that disturbance mentally, those depressions and improper impulses physically and nervously, and change the vibratory forces in system – we may have a nearer normal body.

Keep the mind pure, and hold to an ideal, working or living better in a manifestation of that ideal. (272-1)

If that towards ideas are in keeping with the ideals, follow those. Have ideals, not ideas! Ideas may be as thoughts, made criminal or miracles. Be sure the ideal is proper. Follow that irrespective of outside influence. Know self is right, and then go straight ahead. So live each and every day that you may look any man in the face and tell him to go to hell! (1739-6)

Q. Is my attitude toward life conducive to good health?
A. The condition of the physical body is not conducive to an attitude towards constructive thinking!
There must be, naturally, innate, a coordination of the body, mind and soul, – which is a necessary force.
The body finds itself body, mind, soul, – these are influences that are active within the experience. And only that which is constructive or creative CAN be everlasting.
These bring, then, with those thoughts, those activities, constructive forces into the experience.
Do that.

Q. In regard to my spiritual life, what do I need to feed my nature, and how may I get it?
A. Analyze self and the purposes, the motives, the influences; and know that they agree with that which is thy ideal. What is thy ideal? spiritually, mentally, physically? Not what you would wish God to do for you, but what may you do in appreciation of the love shown?
Not as to what ye would like to be, but what may ye mentally give that will be conducive to constructive thinking in the experience of others?
In the physical, not what you want others to do for you, but what may you do for them?
These are what we mean by constructive thinking, and as they are applied within the experience we will come to see what a spiritual life means. Not the eliminating of pleasures, for the purpose of life IS pleasure, but that which is constructive and not destructive!

Q. How can I make my husband see this complete spiritual life and also have it!
A. Live it in self, and thus you may induce others and those about you to try it. Not by nagging, not by finding fault. Ye would not want others to find fault with you! Then live so toward others that you do not find fault, but find the good in every experience. (1995-1) 

… ideals are not your mind – ideals are principles acted upon by the mind. (2533-6) 

No soul enters by chance, but that it may fill that it has sought and does seek as its ideal. Hence, as may be the first injunction to this entity: Do not too oft accept what others say, unless it answers to a something deep within self.

Do not, then, merely have a verbal or vocal ideal. Do write what is thy ideal. Begin with that under these three headings: Spiritual, Mental, Material. And write what is thine own ideal. As ye find, these may change from time to time. For, each soul grows in grace, in knowledge, in understanding. Just as the awareness, the unfoldments come to the self as the entity applies that it has chosen and does choose from day to day. (3051-2) 

Q. What do I do that is wrong?
A. Who made us a judge over thee or anyone else? What are thy ideals? Parallel thy activities with thine ideals, not merely in mind but put it on paper so that you may study and take a lesson from same. (3249-1) 

First the entity should study well the ideals and purposes of self as related to the entity as a whole …
For, mental and spiritual guidance should be related to what an individual entity chooses as its ideal, and what it will or should do about that ideal, not ideas but ideals.
In choosing and in analyzing self and the ideal, do not merely carry these in mind but put them, as it were, upon a paper in a manifested form. Write PHYSICAL. Draw a line, write MENTAL. Draw a line, write SPIRITUAL.

Put under each, beginning with the spiritual (for all that is in mind must first come from a spiritual concept), what is thy spiritual concept of the ideas, whether it be Jesus, Buddha, mind, material, God or whatever is the word which indicates to self the ideals spiritual.
Then under the MENTAL heading, write the ideal mental attitude, as may arise from concepts of the spiritual, relationship to self, to home, to friends, to neighbors, to thy enemies, to things, to conditions….

What is the ideal material, then? Not of conditions, but what has brought, what does bring into manifestation the spiritual and mental ideals? What relationships does such bring to things, to individuals, to situations?
Thus an individual entity analyzes itself.

Then set about to apply the knowledge ye have attained, for ye will get ideas and that ideal. Ye may change them from period to period, as ye study them over. For as ye apply them they become thy ideals. To be just as theories they do not belong to thee, they are still theories so far as thy personal being is concerned. It’s the application of same that counts. What do they bring into thine experience? These are well if ye will apply them. (5091-3)

Do first set the ideal. This isn’t the easiest job, either. Not merely saying, “Yes, I believe this,” and “Yes, I believe that.” Put it upon paper. Draw lines. Put headings: “My spiritual ideal”; what is it? “My mental ideal,” as to how the time should be spent in recreation, in study, in work, in social activity, in the various activities necessary for an individual to be well rounded. The ideal way is not, “Well, I can’t do this,” but the ideal way and work towards it. Then, “My ideal physical.” What sort of a church would that church be if every member was just like yourself? What would it look like? What sort of home life would there be, if every husband was just like yourself? What is the ideal attitude of a husband, of a father? What is the ideal attitude of a neighbor? of a rancher? or a brother? of those political or social activities? Set them down under each of the three headings. See what they look like. You will rub them out many times … (5400-1)

Note: As this information is not intended for self-diagnosis or self-treatment, your use of this database of information indicates that you are aware of our recommendation that you consult with a professional healthcare provider before taking any action.