Buchman wrote this letter from a student camp and added, 'This is not without its humorous side. We live a very simple life, and I would have an inspiration, write it out, and then turn out the gas and go to bed, then another one came, then the light out again, then another match. It took a box of matches and a lot of perseverance .. .'3

Buchman was aware that people who tried to listen to God needed safeguards. Human beings had an infinite capacity for self-deception and some of the most dangerous men in history had proclaimed their will as synonymous with God's. To guard against such excesses, he subjected his thoughts to 'a six-fold test'.

The first test was a willingness to obey, without self-interested editing. A second was to watch to see if circumstances intervened - for example, if he felt he should see somebody and that person turned out to be in another country, or if some other more urgent need in another person supervened. A third test was to compare the thought to the highest moral standards known to him: the standards of absolute honesty, purity, unselfishness and love which he had adopted as a rough and ready summary of the moral teaching in the Sermon on the Mount. His fourth testing point was whether any particular thought tallied with the overall teaching of the Scriptures. His fifth was the advice of friends who were also trying to live by God's guidance. If one was uncertain of a course of action, he felt, one should wait and seek out friends and listen with them, picking for the purpose the person least, rather than most, likely to agree with one's own predilections. The sixth was the experience and teaching of the Church.

The moral standards which he used as a test of directing thoughts also became central to Buchman's life and teaching: he took them as measuring rods for daily living. Here again he was indebted to Henry Wright. 'The absolutes' had originally been set out, as a summary of Christ's moral teaching, by Robert E. Speer in his book, The Principles of Jesus. 4Buchman had several times heard Speer preach at Mount Airy, but it was in Wright's book that he first found the summarised standards 'in regard of which', Wright maintained, 'Christ's teaching is absolute and unyielding'. Wright described them as 'the four-fold touchstone of Jesus and the apostles' and maintained that an individual could apply them 'to every problem, great or small, which presents itself ... if (anything) fails to measure up to any one of these four it cannot be God's will'.5*

(* Buchman made one alteration - in the order of the standards. Wright put 'absolute purity' first; Buchman placed 'absolute honesty' in first place.)