Reading Room

The Game of Life and How to Play It – Florence Scovell Shinn

“Most people consider life a battle, but it is not a battle, it is a game. “

“The superconscious mind is the God mind within each man, and is the realm of perfect ideas. In it is the ‘perfect pattern’ spokeReadingRoomShinnn of by Plato, The Divine Design for each person.”

“A person knowing the power of the word becomes very careful in his conversation. He has only to watch the reaction of his words to know that they do not ‘return void’. Through his spoken word, man is continually making laws for himself.”

“God’s plan for each man transcends the limitation of the reasoning mind, and is always the square of life, containing health, wealth, love and perfect self-expression. Many a man is building for himself in imagination a bungalow when he should be building a palace.”

In a nutshell

If life is thought of as a game, we are motivated to learn and apply the rules for our own happiness.

Until now, you may have conceived of life as a battle – your might and will against the rest, or alternatively the pain of constant struggle. However, if you were to see life as a game, you would worry less about the outcomes and focus on the rules and laws that can lead you to success. This is the path of less resistance and more time for world-wonder. By taking it, you choose to be a person of faith instead of fear.

For Florence Scovell Shinn, the rules were to be found in the Old and New Testaments. Much of what is presented in her 100-page classic, however, such as the Laws of Non-resistance, Karma, and Forgiveness, are to be found in eastern holy books. Indeed the stated goal of her work is universal: an individual can achieve the “square of life,” the four points of Health, Wealth, Love, and Perfect Self-Expression, if only they can attune themselves with the unchanging principles that govern life. This total wellbeing was, she believed, our “divine right.” Some of the principles from the book are described below.

The divine design

Do you ever get an inspirational flash across your mind, a picture of what you could achieve or the person you could be? You have received a snapshot of your “divine design” from the universe, showing you that this image is actually within yourself. Plato called it the “perfect pattern,” the place you are to fill that no one else can.

Don’t be like most people and pursue things that really have nothing to do with the real you, and would only make you dissatisfied if you were to achieve them. Ask for a sign or a message to tell you what your divine design is and it will be revealed. Don’t be scared that it won’t be what you want – it will most probably fulfil your deepest longing.

Divine right and selection

We should only ever ask for something if it is to be “by divine right.” A woman was infatuated with a man who from an outsider’s perspective did not treat her very well. Scovell Shinn made her repeat to herself something to the effect of: “If he is divinely selected for me, he will be mine. If he is not, I will not want him anyway.” Sure enough, she fell for someone else who matched all her ideals and promptly forgot the first man.

Another woman had a strong wish to live in a house owned by an acquaintance. This man died and she moved into the house, only to have her own husband die and the house become a white elephant for her. This was the karmic effect of a want that had not first been put before God, or infinite intelligence. It is good that we desire, but it is better that we seek what is ours “by divine right,” for when it is received we will know beyond any doubt that it is ours.


Playing the game of life successfully involves following what works, instead of battling what you don’t like. The book contains this insight, which intuitively we can all recognise: “So long as a man resists a situation, he will have it with him. If he runs away from it, it will run after him.”

The simple change from a view of life in terms of struggle and fight for victory to a simple faith in good outcomes will transform your life. You will get everything you want, and probably very quickly, if you don’t doubt it and you can “wish without worrying.” That is, you know that your wishes are being fulfilled. Fear is “sin,” it goes against nature, whereas faith is real, solid, and is what infinite intelligence or God requires from us in return for delivering our wishes. Faith is what links you to the universe: It expands your cosmic footprint, while fear can only shrink you.

Continually send out messages of goodwill and blessing to those close to you, to your work colleagues, even to your nation. This not only gives you a feeling of great peace, but you will find yourself “protected” from harm and wrath.

Faith over fear

“Cast thy burden upon the Lord.” Many times the Bible says that the battle is not humankind’s but God’s. What we must learn to do is “stand still” and let God, or the superconscious mind within, go to work. This bears a startling resemblance to the sayings of the Tao Te Ching, which suggests to us that if we are in tune with the Tao – or God, or universal intelligence – we need not worry or fear. In stillness we can see what must be done, if anything.

In Scovell Shinn’s world, “man violates law if he carries a burden.” It is actually wrong to fret and be cast down, as this is living by a false reality and can attract disaster and disease. Once we have cast the burden off, however, we are suddenly able to see clearly again. We feel reminded that we must live by faith, not fear.

Real love

A woman came to Scovell Shinn in desperation that the man she loved had left her for other women, and said he had no intention of marrying her. She did not like it when Scovell Shinn said to her, “You are not loving this man, you are hating him. Perfect yourself on this man, give him unselfish love, and bless him wherever he is.” The woman went away and nothing changed, but one day she started thinking of him with more love.

He was a captain and she always called him “the Cap.” She began to say, “God bless the Cap wherever he is.” Sometime later a letter arrived on Scovell Shinn’s desk: At the moment when the woman’s suffering had ceased, the man returned. The two were then very happily married. What the woman had learned was selfless love, a trait that all of us must acquire if we are to succeed in the game of life.

The power of words

Anyone who does not know the power of words, the author said, “is behind the times.” Each of us has an ongoing conversation with ourselves, never realising how it affects, for better or worse, the way we live out our life. Whatever words we say to ourselves fall into the blank slate of our subconscious mind as “fact,” therefore we must take supreme care about the internal and external words we utter.

The people who came to see Scovell Shinn asked her to “speak the word.” She gave them an affirmation for their particular situation that they were to repeat until their “good” manifested itself. She quoted Proverbs 18.21: “Death and Life are in the power of the tongue.”

“God is my supply”

Many of Scovell Shinn’s clients came to her in desperation – one needed $3,000 by the first of the month to repay a debt, another had to find an apartment soon or would be on the streets. She would remind them that “God is my supply,” to stop worrying and fretting.

She made them affirm: “Spirit is never too late. I give thanks that I have received the money on the invisible plain and that it manifests on time.” One woman had only a day to go until a payment was due, and a cousin happened to visit her who asked, as he was leaving, “By the way, how are your finances?” Her payment was made the next day.

Nevertheless, it is not enough merely to say the right words and have faith: We need to demonstrate to our subconscious mind that we seriously expect to receive. “Man must prepare for the thing he has asked for, when there isn’t the slightest sign of it in sight.” Open the bank account, buy the furniture, prepare for rain when there is no cloud in sight – “acting as if” opens the way for the moment of gain. The knowledge that “a feeling of opulence must precede its manifestation” will reinforce to you that God is your supply.

Final comments

Although written in the New York of the 1920s and full of religious references, this shortish book now has cult status. The anecdotes may be of people now long gone but the wisdom is timeless, and the book can have a soothing effect that brings us back to the right principles. To borrow one of the author’s phrases, the book “salutes the divinity” in us and has the knack of restoring a sense of direction and confidence. If you are willing to keep an open mind as you read it, its insights and affirmations can have great effects.

This copy was taken from 50 Self-help Classics, written and compiled by Tom Butler-Bowdon.


About Tom Cottrell

A struggling author, pilgrim and citizen of Planet Earth.
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One Response to Reading Room

  1. Pingback: How to go about thinking | A short stroll to the horizon

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