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THINGS OF THE MIND. iamo. $1.00.

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A genuine interest in problems of education helps to keep us young,
for it carries us back to our own springtime and to the company of chil-
dren. It is also an evidence that we ourselves have not ceased to grow,
and are therefore not yet old.


OF THE r \






A. D. 1894













To be an interpreter and relater of the best and sagest
things among mine own citizens. MILTON.

WHETHER it be beautiful scenery, or
noble monuments, or venerable ruins,
or painting, or sculpture, or music, or books,
or contact with life, things presented to us
educate us only inasmuch as we react upon
them. Lead the listless savage through all
that is most worth seeing, knowing, admiring,
and loving, and at the end he is what he was
at the start. The general problem of educa-
tion is how best to place instinct and passion
under the control of reason and conscience, of
higher motives and tastes, that men may learn
to find their pleasure and their happiness in
doing what brings health, knowledge, and
virtue. The educator's aim is to create in-


terest, for thus alone is it possible to awaken
mind. How often it happens, where dulness
and listlessness had prevailed, a new-comer
brings joy and fresh thoughts. This the
teacher should do ; when he appears, he should
call forth a sense of glad expectancy, just as
a true actor at once lifts a heavy scene into
the region of active interest. He is wholly
free from the pedant's vanity and conceit, and
in his skill there is the play of life. Mechani-
cal iteration is the radical fault in education.
We pardon our instructors almost anything
if only they be not tiresome. Better not to
teach or preach than to weary. When the
pupil's intercourse with the teacher opens to
him glimpses into higher worlds, he is quick
to believe all that is told him of heroes, saints,
and sages. Sowers, reapers, and gardeners,
hunters, fishermen, and the feeders of flocks
are the best society for boys; they stimulate
an observant interest in the things which are
always around them, and touch the sources of
pure delight in nature in her most beneficent
and pleasant manifestations. To watch, when
one is young, the sun with gradual wheel sink
slowly from sight, or the stars, as one by one
they break upon the view, or the birds when
with gentle flutterings they settle to rest amid
the leaves, or the full-fed cattle as they lie in


wakeful dreams, or the young of animals dis-
porting themselves upon the green, or the
bees plying their task amid the flowers, or
ants providing their hoard, or any of the thou-
sand things nature offers so prodigally to our
gaze, is to drink at the purest and freshest
fountain of knowledge, is to store the mind
with thoughts and images which, as the years
go on, remain with us fragrant and wholesome
as a breath of air from life's fair dawn. To
look on the fierce battles of bulls, of boars,
and of cocks is to feel the might of courage
and endurance. To see the little martens as
they sally forth to attack the hawk is to learn
what pluck and daring, what a union of several
may accomplish. The great source of sym-
pathy with mankind, as with nature, are those
early recollections which bring back to us
fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, and
all the fair, fresh world which circled about
our childhood. Read no book unless it in-
terest thee. When thou readest, or speakest,
or hearest, look steadfastly with the mind at
the things the words symbolize. If there be
question of mountains, let them loom before
thee; if of the ocean, let its billows roll
beneath thy eyes. This habit will give to thy
voice even pliancy and meaning. The more
sources of interest we have, the richer is our


life. To hold any portion of truth in a vital
way is better than to have its whole baggage
stored merely in one's memory. The self-
taught look at the world with their own eyes
and think their own thoughts. Thy own mind
is the first and final court of evidence, and
what it receives it should receive on the
authority of evidence or on the evidence of
authority; in other words, it should accept
only what it sees to be true, or has sufficient
warrant for believing. The more cultivated
a man is, the greater the number of things
which interest him. Where others see nothing
he finds a well-spring of fresh thoughts; he
observes, and attends to what he observes;
he receives much because he brings much ; he
discovers truth and beauty and goodness in
things because he bears them within himself.
His mind is a light which clothes what he
contemplates in well-defined forms and rightly
shaded colors; his heart is an alembic in
which the fine spirit of love is distilled; his
imagination, like a god, calls forth a living
world from the waste and void abyss of matter.
He who thinks for himself is rarely persuaded
by another. Information and inspiration he
gladly receives, but he forms his own judg-
ment. Arguments and reasons which to the
thoughtful sound like mockery satisfy the


superficial and the ignorant. An enlightened
mind sympathizes with the multitude as he
sympathizes with children, not so much for
what they are as for what it is possible to
make of them.

"To be a fool after the fashion, " says Kant,
"is better than to be a downright fool."
Noble thoughts and pure loves inform the
countenance, and give dignity and grace to
one's whole bearing. A fair and luminous
soul makes its body beautiful. Take up anew
each day the task set thee, to make thy-
self more truly a rational, social, and moral


Hasteless, but restless, O my soul, follow after the light
That still gleams as brightly as the stars that follow the night.

Man is not born, he is made by education, -
by the education he receives and by the educa-
tion he gives himself. Imagination rules our
life. It creates the ideals by which we live;
from point to point it beckons us on to the
unattained. Over vulgar reality it throws a
mystic veil; it draws the charmed circle
wherein move friendship, love, and freedom.
It blows the trumpet of honor and fame; it
leads the way to glorious death.

Superficial minds are fond of dwelling upon
the evils religion has wrought; but serious


thinkers know that the ever open and inex-
haustible fountain of faith, hope, and love, is
belief in God, or in gods, if you will.

If men have fought and persecuted and died
for their religion, it is because they have held
it to be a priceless blessing. This breath from
higher worlds, unseen but felt to be real, is
to young unfolding souls what sunshine and
rain are to the growing corn,

When the vital current flows rich and
healthful, as in the young, life is believed,
without the remotest shadow of doubt, to be
good; but this is largely unconscious life, and
the question is, whether consciousness is a
blessing, whether to see things as they are
brings joy and peace. The problem therefore
resolves itself into this, whether, at the
heart of being, behind, within, and above all,
there is truth and love; in other words, whether
the ultimate fact is conscious life. They who
are unable to think that this is so must hold
that to think is to be sad, whereas they who
believe in God cannot but think that the
misery of conscious existence is accidental.
Theism is optimism, atheism is pessimism.
If there were no God, ignorance would be
bliss, and education a crime. Hope and love
are the expression of faith in life's goodness.
He alone is a true pessimist who neither hopes


nor loves. The end of education is the forma-
tion of character; character rests on the basis
of morality; and morality, if it have life and
vigor, is interfused with religion. True reli-
gion is inseparable from morality, and morality
from right life, and therefore from right edu-
cation. Hence religion, morality, and educa-
tion, are a trinity. "Religion," says Herbart,
"will never hold the tranquil place in the
depths of the heart which it ought to have,
if its fundamental ideas are not among the
earliest which belong to recollection, if it is
not bound up and blended with all that chang-
ing life leaves behind in the centre of person-
ality." As we should strive to teach ourselves
to take delight in whatever is fair in nature,
in whatever is true or beautiful in literature
or art, so we should learn to find pleasure in
whatever brings good to men, and first of all
in the welfare and success of those around us,
though they be our foes and rivals. A noble
man feels that no human being, not even his
enemy, is as happy as he would have him be,
and thus he finds satisfaction in what only
embitters and saddens mean and narrow souls.
This enlightened good-will which enables us'
to have genuine sympathy with all men, is the
very soul of the moral character which it is
the aim and end of education to form. Why


do men choose an avocation? To gain a liveli-
hood. But the better sort, whatever their
special occupation, labor to fit themselves for
life in the higher world of thought and love.
Let every faculty be developed in the mild
and wholesome air of religion. Good teachers
feel they are educating themselves as well as
their pupils, and when this belief is not found
the power to educate is lacking. He who is
led by the ideal of intellectual culture con-
cerns himself little with mere questions of
social order and political economy, for he feels
that if he can but make reason prevail it will
put right whatever may need ordering. They
who are able to draw forth the mind and
illumine the soul should be relieved from all
other tasks. In our social gatherings we
ascend from out the true self, to glide on the
surface amid the forms and shows of life.
Hence nothing deeply interesting is ever heard
where men meet to eat and talk. Do what it
is right thou shouldst do now; but strive
ceaselessly that it may become possible for
thee to do the work thou wast born to do.

The craving for applause is as morbid as the
craving for alcohol. He alone is strong who
is self-sufficient, since he is wh^,t he is through
communion with God and the world of truth.
When the great man poet, philosopher, states-


man, orator, or captain has gained recogni-
tion, he becomes indifferent to the praise he
once longed for. Happier is he who dies know-
ing his own worth, himself unknown, "and
what most merits fame in silence hid." Let
the young be made to understand that the
desire to appear, to be seen, to be noticed, to
be talked of, springs from a crude and bar-
barous nature. When we look to changes to
be wrought in the social and religious world,
it may be permitted to feel discouragement,
but when there is question of upbuilding and
transforming our own being we should be filled
with a divine confidence, knowing that the
aids to noble life, like the kingdom of God, lie
within us. Be a man, not a partisan. " Great
moral energy," says Herbart, "is the result of
broad views and of whole unbroken masses of
thought." Every secret, for those who can
see, is an open secret. How any man achieved
any godlike thing, any man may know.

Thou mayst not be an artist who works in
stone or on canvas, or who breathes harmo-
nious numbers, but an artist thou shouldst
become, in the ceaseless effort to fashion thy
own life into the likeness of what is true,
beautiful, and good. Though thou shouldst
think all the world a stage, learn at least, like
Augustus, to play well thy part. For a cen-


' tury now and more, the world resounds with
much speech about the rights of man. His
first and chief right is the right to grow, to
unfold his being on many sides, and to bring
himself into conscious harmony with all that
is. Heed not the tempter's voice, seeking to
persuade thee thou hast done thy best. To
have done the best he can is little for the man
who feels that his ever urgent duty is to make
himself capable of still better things by push-
ing day by day into wider and serener worlds.
Each man is the maker of himself, the power
he uses being God's; and each present moment
bears within itself the future's form and
substance. To be a man is to be a fighter,
a combatant on the world's wide battlefield,
where the cohorts of ignorance and sin wage
ceaseless warfare against the soul. No one is
by nature good or great or wise, but whoever
attains such height reaches it by hard toil and
long struggles with temptations and hindrances
of many kinds. Education lays the foundation,
self-education erects the building. Another
may show the way, but if we would reach the
goal we must ourselves walk therein. What-
ever may strengthen body, mind, or soul, the
educator needs and should make use of. The
strong man, in the right sense, is also wise
and good, helpful and loving. They who


starve the body cannot nourish the mind, and
if the heads of institutions of learning have
not the means to supply copious, wholesome
food, they should be made to withdraw from
the business of education; but if, having the
means, they seek to save money at the expense
of health and life, they should be dealt with as
criminals. To educate to passive obedience
is to predestine to failure.

When Demosthenes was asked what makes
an orator, he replied, "Action, action, action."
Had the question been, "What makes a man? "
the answer should have been the same,
"Action, action, action. " We know what will
is only when we begin to act, for action begets
will. When we clearly see a thing to be pos-
sible we have begun to teach ourselves how to
make it real. The circle of thought which
we create for ourselves and in which we habit-
ually move, makes us what we -are. As the
gardener by engrafting can produce the most
precious fruit from an inferior stock, so the
educator, by implanting fresh thoughts and
principles, new aims and desires in the mind
of his pupil, may recreate and transform his
whole being. The supreme problem for the
individual, the family, the school, the State,
and the Church, is how to harmonize liberty
with order. The higher the source of author-


ity, and the head of rule, the easier the solu-
tion. The rhythmic movement of life is the
mark of health in the physical, the domestic,
and the social body. In every ill-ordered
household there is degeneracy.

The power within and behind nature is the
power within and behind man, and the more
we realize that we are part of nature, that what
we call nature is a force which streams through
us as a type of law and order, of wisdom and
harmony, of strength and goodness, the more
do we advance in dignity of being as rational
and moral men. Endowments are possibilities
merely; each one's self-activity must deter-
mine what for him they shall become.

When we say man is born free we mean
nothing more than that he is born capable of
making himself free by a process of gradual
emancipation from the thraldom of ignorance,
selfishness, and sensuality. This, self-educa-
tion must accomplish for him. In a world
where multitudes strive for knowledge, power,
and wealth, the indolent and the listless are
made use of or thrust back. The law of
affinity, beginning with chemical atoms, runs
upward to souls and God. The mind is drawn
to what is akin to it, as planets are drawn to

Our talents come to us largely from our social


inheritance and environment, and they should
be used for the common good. We begin with
studying how to learn, and we end with learn-
ing how to study. The more we advance the
more conscious we become of obeying ideal
aims and ends. Only he who strives to dis-
tinguish himself, to make himself different
from the crowd around him, .becomes L.wis_e_and
strong. Be many kinds of man, but be sincere
and high... What a wise man knows and loves
is more interesting- than himself, and if he
write he will write of that, not of himself.
The proper attitude of the mind toward the
objective world is that of philosophical indif-
ference. Things are what they are, and we,
too, from moment to moment, are what we
are; let the relation be seen and recognized.
Beware of the will-o'-the-wisp which would
lead thee to defend whatever thou mayst at
any time have said or written. Little of what
the best have written has significance for more
than one generation. They who have learned
most have had most to unlearn.

All the child and youth has been taught, the
man must relearn if he is to arrive at insight.
Possession makes us indifferent or self-satis-
fied; the ceaseless striving after better things
makes us men. When we consider the dis-
eases to which man is subject it seems mar-


vellous that any one should have good health;
and when we attend to the innumerable sources
of his errors, it seems almost incredible that
any one should think and judge rightly ; for
his mind is swayed from the line of truth by
youth and by age, by ignorance and by learn-
ing, by feebleness, as by excessive vigor of
body, by imagination, and by the lack of it,
by love and by hate, by hope and by despair, by
wealth and by poverty, by sluggishness and
by haste, by fear and by envy, by lust and by
greed, by pride and by conceit, by rationalism
and by fanaticism, by cowardice and by hypoc-
risy, by credulity and by incredulity. How
then shall he learn to see things as they are ?
Not malice and self-interest alone, but pity,
sympathy, love, and prudence prompt us to
deceive. The truth is sometimes cruel and
brutal, or shocking in its nakedness, and they
who soften its harshness, or throw a veil over
its hideousness, will not believe they are
wicked. The mother hides it from her child,
the physician from his patient. We soon
learn all our friends have to tell us; our intel-
lectual shocks and surprises come from those
who disagree with us, and they are our best
teachers. The more we know, the more we
doubt. Doubt is the shadow which the splen-
dor of truth as it falls upon the mind always


casts. It is easy to speak or write of what we
know little; they whose know! edge is large
and profound find less to_say. Whoever turns
his mind habitually and strongly in a given
direction will find that, little by little, it
loses the power of taking any other. The
scientist becomes unable to think poetically
or religiously; the poet and the mystic lose
sight of the defmiteness of things. Thus the
soul, like the body, is subdued to what it
works in. No state of things is good, no
theory is practice, the real is never the ideal,
the spirit whereby and wherein thou livest
and workest is the all in all.

O for a thrill of love, a thrill from life's fair prime,

To make my being start and blossom into rhyme,

Bring heaven near and give to stars their appealing light

And to my soul the wings which tempt infinite flight.

By love we live, when love is dead all things are dead,

And in a world we move whence God and the soul have fled.

" Never," says Jean Paul, " has one forgotten
his pure, right-educating mother. On the blue
mountains of our dim childhood toward which
we ever turn and look, stand the mothers who
marked out to us from thence our life ; the most
blessed age must be forgotten ere we can forget
the warmest heart."

At her death Laura appeared to Petrarch, in a
dream, and holding out her hand she asked:


<% Do you not remember her who influenced
your youth and led you out of the common road
of life?"

A woman cannot hope to make a sage or a
saint or a hero of the man who loves her, but
she may, of the child. Contempt for women is
the mark of a crude mind or of a corrupt heart.
What strength is there not in the rich joyfulness
of youth, bursting forth into glad song and
laughter, and passing lightly away from hard-
ship and disappointment, out again to where the
glorious sunshine plays upon the rippling waters
and the happy flowers. The very memory of
it all comes back to us like a message from God
to bid us be stout of heart and to keep growing.
Those we love sanctify for us the places where
they have lived ; the spots even where they have
but passed are sacred. <

The philosophy of life is the philosophy of
education, and sympathy with the race tends to
resolve itself into the desire to give to all a right
culture; for it is plain that in this way better
than in any other we are able to be of help to
our fellows. Our interest in education is the
measure of our interest in the world and in
humanity. He alone is a true believer in the
ideal of culture who is persuaded that culture,
like virtue, is its own reward, that nothing an
enlightened mind may enable him to obtain is


as good as the enlightened mind itself. The
aim of culture, as it is also the aim of religion,
is to create an inner strength and enlightenment
which supersedes and makes superfluous mere

Power of concentration, of persevering appli-
cation of the whole mind to what ought to be
known and done, is a mark of genius, and it is
also one of the best results of right education.
The educational value of the study of physical
science is found in the sense it awakens of the
universal presence of law and order, and also in
the training to close and accurate observation
which it enforces.

It is easy to educate too much, to put one's
own mind and will in the place of the learner's ;
but we are always safe when we help the pupil
to educate himself. " The mind," says Schiller,
" possesses only what it does." All of us, the
most ignorant even, know more than we know
how to put to right use. Prejudices are idols
to which we sometimes sacrifice the most pre-
cious things, the light of the mind, the joy of
the soul, the free play of the imagination, the
love of truth itself, and yet a man without pre-
judices is like a man without a home or a coun-
try. He is a stranger who finds no fellows, no
company in which he will gain recognition, for
nothing makes the crowd so uncomfortable as


dispassionate reason, the pure light of the intel-
lect. It is easy to meet with well-informed
minds, but we seldom find one who has a real
world-view and a circle of thought in which he
is at home, whose life rests upon unity of pur-
pose, whose conduct is controlled by principle,
whose thinking has truth for its single aim. In
former times to assert truth was to risk life, or,
at the least, loss of name and goods ; but now,
when there is no danger and the whole rabble
rush in each with his torch to enlighten the
world, truth, grown ashamed of its nakedness,
hides from the eyes of men.

"Work and enthusiasm," says Goethe, "are
the pinions on which great deeds are borne."
If the pupil see that his teacher is mean or arbi-
trary, the school becomes for him a place of
perversion. Language is interesting because it
is the garb and medium of thought and feeling;
it is a symbol which has educational value only
when it brings us into conscious communion
with the things symbolized. All experience is
first of all a mental fact. The word " matter/*
like matter itself, is the expression of a condition
of mind.

Culture enables us to see how little worth
most of our knowledge has, how little it deserves
the name of knowledge. Learn to know and
feel the soul of goodness, truth, and beauty,


which, however hidden, acts everywhere in man
and in the universe, making the world fair and
life precious. " There is no easy way of learn-
ing what is difficult/' says De Maistre ; " the
unique method is to shut one's door, to say one

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Online LibraryJohn Lancaster SpaldingThings of the mind → online text (page 1 of 13)