a. Man the Machine. b. Personal Merit
[The Old Man and the Young Man had been conversing. The Old
Man had asserted that the human being is merely a machine, and
nothing more. The Young Man objected, and asked him to go into
particulars and furnish his reasons for his position.]
Old Man. What are the materials of which a steam-engine is made?
Young Man. Iron, steel, brass, white-metal, and so on.
O.M. Where are these found?
Y.M. In the rocks.
O.M. In a pure state?
Y.M. No--in ores.
O.M. Are the metals suddenly deposited in the ores?
Y.M. No--it is the patient work of countless ages.
O.M. You could make the engine out of the rocks themselves?
Y.M. Yes, a brittle one and not valuable.
O.M. You would not require much, of such an engine as that?
Y.M. No--substantially nothing.
O.M. To make a fine and capable engine, how would you
Y.M. Drive tunnels and shafts into the hills; blast out the
iron ore; crush it, smelt it, reduce it to pig-iron; put some of
it through the Bessemer process and make steel of it. Mine and
treat and combine several metals of which brass is made.
Y.M. Out of the perfected result, build the fine engine.
O.M. You would require much of this one?
Y.M. Oh, indeed yes.
O.M. It could drive lathes, drills, planers, punches,
polishers, in a word all the cunning machines of a great factory?
Y.M. It could.
O.M. What could the stone engine do?
Y.M. Drive a sewing-machine, possibly--nothing more,
O.M. Men would admire the other engine and rapturously
O.M. But not the stone one?
O.M. The merits of the metal machine would be far above
those of the stone one?
Y.M. Of course.
O.M. Personal merits?
Y.M. PERSONAL merits? How do you mean?
O.M. It would be personally entitled to the credit of its
Y.M. The engine? Certainly not.
O.M. Why not?
Y.M. Because its performance is not personal. It is the
result of the law of construction. It is not a MERIT that it
does the things which it is set to do--it can't HELP doing them.
O.M. And it is not a personal demerit in the stone machine
that it does so little?
Y.M. Certainly not. It does no more and no less than the
law of its make permits and compels it to do. There is nothing
PERSONAL about it; it cannot choose. In this process of "working
up to the matter" is it your idea to work up to the proposition
that man and a machine are about the same thing, and that there
is no personal merit in the performance of either?
O.M. Yes--but do not be offended; I am meaning no offense.
What makes the grand difference between the stone engine and the
steel one? Shall we call it training, education? Shall we call
the stone engine a savage and the steel one a civilized man? The
original rock contained the stuff of which the steel one was
built--but along with a lot of sulphur and stone and other
obstructing inborn heredities, brought down from the old geologic
ages--prejudices, let us call them. Prejudices which nothing
within the rock itself had either POWER to remove or any DESIRE
to remove. Will you take note of that phrase?
Y.M. Yes. I have written it down; "Prejudices which
nothing within the rock itself had either power to remove or any
desire to remove." Go on.
O.M. Prejudices must be removed by OUTSIDE INFLUENCES or
not at all. Put that down.
Y.M. Very well; "Must be removed by outside influences or
not at all." Go on.
O.M. The iron's prejudice against ridding itself of the
cumbering rock. To make it more exact, the iron's absolute
INDIFFERENCE as to whether the rock be removed or not. Then
comes the OUTSIDE INFLUENCE and grinds the rock to powder and
sets the ore free. The IRON in the ore is still captive. An
OUTSIDE INFLUENCE smelts it free of the clogging ore. The iron
is emancipated iron, now, but indifferent to further progress.
An OUTSIDE INFLUENCE beguiles it into the Bessemer furnace and
refines it into steel of the first quality. It is educated, now
--its training is complete. And it has reached its limit. By no
possible process can it be educated into GOLD. Will you set that
Y.M. Yes. "Everything has its limit--iron ore cannot be
educated into gold."
O.M. There are gold men, and tin men, and copper men, and
leaden mean, and steel men, and so on--and each has the
limitations of his nature, his heredities, his training, and his
environment. You can build engines out of each of these metals,
and they will all perform, but you must not require the weak ones
to do equal work with the strong ones. In each case, to get the
best results, you must free the metal from its obstructing
prejudicial ones by education--smelting, refining, and so forth.
Y.M. You have arrived at man, now?
O.M. Yes. Man the machine--man the impersonal engine.
Whatsoever a man is, is due to his MAKE, and to the INFLUENCES
brought to bear upon it by his heredities, his habitat, his
associations. He is moved, directed, COMMANDED, by EXTERIOR
influences--SOLELY. He ORIGINATES nothing, not even a thought.
Y.M. Oh, come! Where did I get my opinion that this which
you are talking is all foolishness?
O.M. It is a quite natural opinion--indeed an inevitable
opinion--but YOU did not create the materials out of which it is
formed. They are odds and ends of thoughts, impressions,
feelings, gathered unconsciously from a thousand books, a
thousand conversations, and from streams of thought and feeling
which have flowed down into your heart and brain out of the
hearts and brains of centuries of ancestors. PERSONALLY you did
not create even the smallest microscopic fragment of the
materials out of which your opinion is made; and personally you
cannot claim even the slender merit of PUTTING THE BORROWED
MATERIALS TOGETHER. That was done AUTOMATICALLY--by your mental
machinery, in strict accordance with the law of that machinery's
construction. And you not only did not make that machinery
yourself, but you have NOT EVEN ANY COMMAND OVER IT.
Y.M. This is too much. You think I could have formed no
opinion but that one?
O.M. Spontaneously? No. And YOU DID NOT FORM THAT ONE;
your machinery did it for you--automatically and instantly,
without reflection or the need of it.
Y.M. Suppose I had reflected? How then?
O.M. Suppose you try?
Y.M. (AFTER A QUARTER OF AN HOUR.) I have reflected.
O.M. You mean you have tried to change your opinion--as an
O.M. With success?
Y.M. No. It remains the same; it is impossible to change
O.M. I am sorry, but you see, yourself, that your mind is
merely a machine, nothing more. You have no command over it, it
has no command over itself--it is worked SOLELY FROM THE OUTSIDE.
That is the law of its make; it is the law of all machines.
Y.M. Can't I EVER change one of these automatic opinions?
O.M. No. You can't yourself, but EXTERIOR INFLUENCES can
Y.M. And exterior ones ONLY?
O.M. Yes--exterior ones only.
Y.M. That position is untenable--I may say ludicrously
O.M. What makes you think so?
Y.M. I don't merely think it, I know it. Suppose I resolve
to enter upon a course of thought, and study, and reading, with
the deliberate purpose of changing that opinion; and suppose I
succeed. THAT is not the work of an exterior impulse, the whole
of it is mine and personal; for I originated the project.
O.M. Not a shred of it. IT GREW OUT OF THIS TALK WITH ME.
But for that it would not have occurred to you. No man ever
originates anything. All his thoughts, all his impulses, come
FROM THE OUTSIDE.
Y.M. It's an exasperating subject. The FIRST man had
original thoughts, anyway; there was nobody to draw from.
O.M. It is a mistake. Adam's thoughts came to him from the
outside. YOU have a fear of death. You did not invent that--you
got it from outside, from talking and teaching. Adam had no fear
of death--none in the world.
Y.M. Yes, he had.
O.M. When he was created?
O.M. When, then?
Y.M. When he was threatened with it.
O.M. Then it came from OUTSIDE. Adam is quite big enough;
let us not try to make a god of him. NONE BUT GODS HAVE EVER HAD
A THOUGHT WHICH DID NOT COME FROM THE OUTSIDE. Adam probably had
a good head, but it was of no sort of use to him until it was
filled up FROM THE OUTSIDE. He was not able to invent the
triflingest little thing with it. He had not a shadow of a
notion of the difference between good and evil--he had to get the
idea FROM THE OUTSIDE. Neither he nor Eve was able to originate
the idea that it was immodest to go naked; the knowledge came in
with the apple FROM THE OUTSIDE. A man's brain is so constructed
that IT CAN ORIGINATE NOTHING WHATSOEVER. It can only use
material obtained OUTSIDE. It is merely a machine; and it works
automatically, not by will-power. IT HAS NO COMMAND OVER ITSELF,
ITS OWNER HAS NO COMMAND OVER IT.
Y.M. Well, never mind Adam: but certainly Shakespeare's
O.M. No, you mean Shakespeare's IMITATIONS. Shakespeare
created nothing. He correctly observed, and he marvelously
painted. He exactly portrayed people whom GOD had created; but
he created none himself. Let us spare him the slander of
charging him with trying. Shakespeare could not create. HE WAS
A MACHINE, AND MACHINES DO NOT CREATE.
Y.M. Where WAS his excellence, then?
O.M. In this. He was not a sewing-machine, like you and
me; he was a Gobelin loom. The threads and the colors came into
him FROM THE OUTSIDE; outside influences, suggestions,
EXPERIENCES (reading, seeing plays, playing plays, borrowing
ideas, and so on), framed the patterns in his mind and started up
his complex and admirable machinery, and IT AUTOMATICALLY turned
out that pictured and gorgeous fabric which still compels the
astonishment of the world. If Shakespeare had been born and bred
on a barren and unvisited rock in the ocean his mighty intellect
would have had no OUTSIDE MATERIAL to work with, and could have
invented none; and NO OUTSIDE INFLUENCES, teachings, moldings,
persuasions, inspirations, of a valuable sort, and could have
invented none; and so Shakespeare would have produced nothing.
In Turkey he would have produced something--something up to the
highest limit of Turkish influences, associations, and training.
In France he would have produced something better--something up
to the highest limit of the French influences and training. In
England he rose to the highest limit attainable through the
OUTSIDE HELPS AFFORDED BY THAT LAND'S IDEALS, INFLUENCES, AND
TRAINING. You and I are but sewing-machines. We must turn out
what we can; we must do our endeavor and care nothing at all when
the unthinking reproach us for not turning out Gobelins.
Y.M. And so we are mere machines! And machines may not
boast, nor feel proud of their performance, nor claim personal
merit for it, nor applause and praise. It is an infamous
O.M. It isn't a doctrine, it is merely a fact.
Y.M. I suppose, then, there is no more merit in being brave
than in being a coward?
O.M. PERSONAL merit? No. A brave man does not CREATE his
bravery. He is entitled to no personal credit for possessing it.
It is born to him. A baby born with a billion dollars--where is
the personal merit in that? A baby born with nothing--where is
the personal demerit in that? The one is fawned upon, admired,
worshiped, by sycophants, the other is neglected and despised--
where is the sense in it?
Y.M. Sometimes a timid man sets himself the task of
conquering his cowardice and becoming brave--and succeeds. What
do you say to that?
O.M. That it shows the value of TRAINING IN RIGHT
DIRECTIONS OVER TRAINING IN WRONG ONES. Inestimably valuable is
training, influence, education, in right directions--TRAINING
ONE'S SELF-APPROBATION TO ELEVATE ITS IDEALS.
Y.M. But as to merit--the personal merit of the victorious
coward's project and achievement?
O.M. There isn't any. In the world's view he is a worthier
man than he was before, but HE didn't achieve the change--the
merit of it is not his.
Y.M. Whose, then?
O.M. His MAKE, and the influences which wrought upon it
from the outside.
Y.M. His make?
O.M. To start with, he was NOT utterly and completely a
coward, or the influences would have had nothing to work upon.
He was not afraid of a cow, though perhaps of a bull: not afraid
of a woman, but afraid of a man. There was something to build
upon. There was a SEED. No seed, no plant. Did he make that
seed himself, or was it born in him? It was no merit of HIS that
the seed was there.
Y.M. Well, anyway, the idea of CULTIVATING it, the
resolution to cultivate it, was meritorious, and he originated
O.M. He did nothing of the kind. It came whence ALL
impulses, good or bad, come--from OUTSIDE. If that timid man had
lived all his life in a community of human rabbits, had never
read of brave deeds, had never heard speak of them, had never
heard any one praise them nor express envy of the heroes that had
done them, he would have had no more idea of bravery than Adam
had of modesty, and it could never by any possibility have
occurred to him to RESOLVE to become brave. He COULD NOT
ORIGINATE THE IDEA--it had to come to him from the OUTSIDE. And
so, when he heard bravery extolled and cowardice derided, it woke
him up. He was ashamed. Perhaps his sweetheart turned up her
nose and said, "I am told that you are a coward!" It was not HE
that turned over the new leaf--she did it for him. HE must not
strut around in the merit of it--it is not his.
Y.M. But, anyway, he reared the plant after she watered the
O.M. No. OUTSIDE INFLUENCES reared it. At the command--
and trembling--he marched out into the field--with other soldiers
and in the daytime, not alone and in the dark. He had the
INFLUENCE OF EXAMPLE, he drew courage from his comrades' courage;
he was afraid, and wanted to run, but he did not dare; he was
AFRAID to run, with all those soldiers looking on. He was
progressing, you see--the moral fear of shame had risen superior
to the physical fear of harm. By the end of the campaign
experience will have taught him that not ALL who go into battle
get hurt--an outside influence which will be helpful to him; and
he will also have learned how sweet it is to be praised for
courage and be huzza'd at with tear-choked voices as the war-worn
regiment marches past the worshiping multitude with flags flying
and the drums beating. After that he will be as securely brave
as any veteran in the army--and there will not be a shade nor
suggestion of PERSONAL MERIT in it anywhere; it will all have
come from the OUTSIDE. The Victoria Cross breeds more heroes
Y.M. Hang it, where is the sense in his becoming brave if
he is to get no credit for it?
O.M. Your question will answer itself presently. It
involves an important detail of man's make which we have not yet
Y.M. What detail is that?
O.M. The impulse which moves a person to do things--the
only impulse that ever moves a person to do a thing.
Y.M. The ONLY one! Is there but one?
O.M. That is all. There is only one.
Y.M. Well, certainly that is a strange enough doctrine.
What is the sole impulse that ever moves a person to do a thing?
O.M. The impulse to CONTENT HIS OWN SPIRIT--the NECESSITY
of contenting his own spirit and WINNING ITS APPROVAL.
Y.M. Oh, come, that won't do!
O.M. Why won't it?
Y.M. Because it puts him in the attitude of always looking
out for his own comfort and advantage; whereas an unselfish man
often does a thing solely for another person's good when it is a
positive disadvantage to himself.
O.M. It is a mistake. The act must do HIM good, FIRST;
otherwise he will not do it. He may THINK he is doing it solely
for the other person's sake, but it is not so; he is contenting
his own spirit first--the other's person's benefit has to always
take SECOND place.
Y.M. What a fantastic idea! What becomes of self-
sacrifice? Please answer me that.
O.M. What is self-sacrifice?
Y.M. The doing good to another person where no shadow nor
suggestion of benefit to one's self can result from it.
Man's Sole Impulse--the Securing of His Own Approval
Old Man. There have been instances of it--you think?
Young Man. INSTANCES? Millions of them!
O.M. You have not jumped to conclusions? You have examined
Y.M. They don't need it: the acts themselves reveal the
golden impulse back of them.
O.M. For instance?
Y.M. Well, then, for instance. Take the case in the book
here. The man lives three miles up-town. It is bitter cold,
snowing hard, midnight. He is about to enter the horse-car when
a gray and ragged old woman, a touching picture of misery, puts
out her lean hand and begs for rescue from hunger and death. The
man finds that he has a quarter in his pocket, but he does not
hesitate: he gives it her and trudges home through the storm.
There--it is noble, it is beautiful; its grace is marred by no
fleck or blemish or suggestion of self-interest.
O.M. What makes you think that?
Y.M. Pray what else could I think? Do you imagine that
there is some other way of looking at it?
O.M. Can you put yourself in the man's place and tell me
what he felt and what he thought?
Y.M. Easily. The sight of that suffering old face pierced
his generous heart with a sharp pain. He could not bear it. He
could endure the three-mile walk in the storm, but he could not
endure the tortures his conscience would suffer if he turned his
back and left that poor old creature to perish. He would not
have been able to sleep, for thinking of it.
O.M. What was his state of mind on his way home?
Y.M. It was a state of joy which only the self-sacrificer
knows. His heart sang, he was unconscious of the storm.
O.M. He felt well?
Y.M. One cannot doubt it.
O.M. Very well. Now let us add up the details and see how
much he got for his twenty-five cents. Let us try to find out
the REAL why of his making the investment. In the first place HE
couldn't bear the pain which the old suffering face gave him. So
he was thinking of HIS pain--this good man. He must buy a salve
for it. If he did not succor the old woman HIS conscience would
torture him all the way home. Thinking of HIS pain again. He
must buy relief for that. If he didn't relieve the old woman HE
would not get any sleep. He must buy some sleep--still thinking
of HIMSELF, you see. Thus, to sum up, he bought himself free of
a sharp pain in his heart, he bought himself free of the tortures
of a waiting conscience, he bought a whole night's sleep--all for
twenty-five cents! It should make Wall Street ashamed of itself.
On his way home his heart was joyful, and it sang--profit on top
of profit! The impulse which moved the man to succor the old
woman was--FIRST--to CONTENT HIS OWN SPIRIT; secondly to relieve
HER sufferings. Is it your opinion that men's acts proceed from
one central and unchanging and inalterable impulse, or from a
variety of impulses?
Y.M. From a variety, of course--some high and fine and
noble, others not. What is your opinion?
O.M. Then there is but ONE law, one source.
Y.M. That both the noblest impulses and the basest proceed
from that one source?
Y.M. Will you put that law into words?
O.M. Yes. This is the law, keep it in your mind. FROM HIS
CRADLE TO HIS GRAVE A MAN NEVER DOES A SINGLE THING WHICH HAS ANY
FIRST AND FOREMOST OBJECT BUT ONE--TO SECURE PEACE OF MIND,
SPIRITUAL COMFORT, FOR HIMSELF.
Y.M. Come! He never does anything for any one else's
comfort, spiritual or physical?
O.M. No. EXCEPT ON THOSE DISTINCT TERMS--that it shall
FIRST secure HIS OWN spiritual comfort. Otherwise he will not do
Y.M. It will be easy to expose the falsity of that
O.M. For instance?
Y.M. Take that noble passion, love of country, patriotism.
A man who loves peace and dreads pain, leaves his pleasant home
and his weeping family and marches out to manfully expose himself
to hunger, cold, wounds, and death. Is that seeking spiritual
O.M. He loves peace and dreads pain?
O.M. Then perhaps there is something that he loves MORE
than he loves peace--THE APPROVAL OF HIS NEIGHBORS AND THE
PUBLIC. And perhaps there is something which he dreads more than
he dreads pain--the DISAPPROVAL of his neighbors and the public.
If he is sensitive to shame he will go to the field--not because
his spirit will be ENTIRELY comfortable there, but because it
will be more comfortable there than it would be if he remained at
home. He will always do the thing which will bring him the MOST
mental comfort--for that is THE SOLE LAW OF HIS LIFE. He leaves
the weeping family behind; he is sorry to make them
uncomfortable, but not sorry enough to sacrifice his OWN comfort
to secure theirs.
Y.M. Do you really believe that mere public opinion could
force a timid and peaceful man to--
O.M. Go to war? Yes--public opinion can force some men to
Y.M. I don't believe that. Can it force a right-principled
man to do a wrong thing?
Y.M. Can it force a kind man to do a cruel thing?
Y.M. Give an instance.
O.M. Alexander Hamilton was a conspicuously high-principled
man. He regarded dueling as wrong, and as opposed to the
teachings of religion--but in deference to PUBLIC OPINION he
fought a duel. He deeply loved his family, but to buy public
approval he treacherously deserted them and threw his life away,
ungenerously leaving them to lifelong sorrow in order that he
might stand well with a foolish world. In the then condition of
the public standards of honor he could not have been comfortable
with the stigma upon him of having refused to fight. The
teachings of religion, his devotion to his family, his kindness
of heart, his high principles, all went for nothing when they
stood in the way of his spiritual comfort. A man will do
ANYTHING, no matter what it is, TO SECURE HIS SPIRITUAL COMFORT;
and he can neither be forced nor persuaded to any act which has
not that goal for its object. Hamilton's act was compelled by
the inborn necessity of contenting his own spirit; in this it was
like all the other acts of his life, and like all the acts of all
men's lives. Do you see where the kernel of the matter lies? A
man cannot be comfortable without HIS OWN approval. He will
secure the largest share possible of that, at all costs, all
Y.M. A minute ago you said Hamilton fought that duel to get
O.M. I did. By refusing to fight the duel he would have
secured his family's approval and a large share of his own; but
the public approval was more valuable in his eyes than all other
approvals put together--in the earth or above it; to secure that
would furnish him the MOST comfort of mind, the most SELF-
approval; so he sacrificed all other values to get it.
Y.M. Some noble souls have refused to fight duels, and have
manfully braved the public contempt.
O.M. They acted ACCORDING TO THEIR MAKE. They valued their
principles and the approval of their families ABOVE the public
approval. They took the thing they valued MOST and let the rest
go. They took what would give them the LARGEST share of PERSONAL
CONTENTMENT AND APPROVAL--a man ALWAYS does. Public opinion
cannot force that kind of men to go to the wars. When they go it
is for other reasons. Other spirit-contenting reasons.
Y.M. Always spirit-contenting reasons?
O.M. There are no others.
Y.M. When a man sacrifices his life to save a little child
from a burning building, what do you call that?
O.M. When he does it, it is the law of HIS make. HE can't
bear to see the child in that peril (a man of a different make
COULD), and so he tries to save the child, and loses his life.
But he has got what he was after--HIS OWN APPROVAL.
Y.M. What do you call Love, Hate, Charity, Revenge,
Humanity, Magnanimity, Forgiveness?
O.M. Different results of the one Master Impulse: the
necessity of securing one's self approval. They wear diverse
clothes and are subject to diverse moods, but in whatsoever ways
they masquerade they are the SAME PERSON all the time. To change
the figure, the COMPULSION that moves a man--and there is but the
one--is the necessity of securing the contentment of his own
spirit. When it stops, the man is dead.
Y.M. That is foolishness. Love--
O.M. Why, love is that impulse, that law, in its most
uncompromising form. It will squander life and everything else
on its object. Not PRIMARILY for the object's sake, but for ITS
OWN. When its object is happy IT is happy--and that is what it
is unconsciously after.
Y.M. You do not even except the lofty and gracious passion
O.M. No, IT is the absolute slave of that law. The mother
will go naked to clothe her child; she will starve that it may
have food; suffer torture to save it from pain; die that it may
live. She takes a living PLEASURE in making these sacrifices.
SHE DOES IT FOR THAT REWARD--that self-approval, that
contentment, that peace, that comfort. SHE WOULD DO IT FOR YOUR
CHILD IF SHE COULD GET THE SAME PAY.
Y.M. This is an infernal philosophy of yours.
O.M. It isn't a philosophy, it is a fact.
Y.M. Of course you must admit that there are some acts which--
O.M. No. There is NO act, large or small, fine or mean,
which springs from any motive but the one--the necessity of
appeasing and contenting one's own spirit.
Y.M. The world's philanthropists--
O.M. I honor them, I uncover my head to them--from habit
and training; and THEY could not know comfort or happiness or
self-approval if they did not work and spend for the unfortunate.
It makes THEM happy to see others happy; and so with money and
labor they buy what they are after--HAPPINESS, SELF-APPROVAL.
Why don't miners do the same thing? Because they can get a
thousandfold more happiness by NOT doing it. There is no
other reason. They follow the law of their make.
Y.M. What do you say of duty for duty's sake?
O.M. That IS DOES NOT EXIST. Duties are not performed for
duty's SAKE, but because their NEGLECT would make the man
UNCOMFORTABLE. A man performs but ONE duty--the duty of
contenting his spirit, the duty of making himself agreeable to
himself. If he can most satisfyingly perform this sole and only
duty by HELPING his neighbor, he will do it; if he can most
satisfyingly perform it by SWINDLING his neighbor, he will do it.
But he always looks out for Number One--FIRST; the effects upon
others are a SECONDARY matter. Men pretend to self-sacrifices,
but this is a thing which, in the ordinary value of the phrase,
DOES NOT EXIST AND HAS NOT EXISTED. A man often honestly THINKS
he is sacrificing himself merely and solely for some one else,
but he is deceived; his bottom impulse is to content a
requirement of his nature and training, and thus acquire peace
for his soul.
Y.M. Apparently, then, all men, both good and bad ones,
devote their lives to contenting their consciences.
O.M. Yes. That is a good enough name for it: Conscience--
that independent Sovereign, that insolent absolute Monarch inside
of a man who is the man's Master. There are all kinds of
consciences, because there are all kinds of men. You satisfy an
assassin's conscience in one way, a philanthropist's in another,
a miser's in another, a burglar's in still another. As a GUIDE
or INCENTIVE to any authoritatively prescribed line of morals or
conduct (leaving TRAINING out of the account), a man's conscience
is totally valueless. I know a kind-hearted Kentuckian whose
self-approval was lacking--whose conscience was troubling him, to
phrase it with exactness--BECAUSE HE HAD NEGLECTED TO KILL A
CERTAIN MAN--a man whom he had never seen. The stranger had
killed this man's friend in a fight, this man's Kentucky training
made it a duty to kill the stranger for it. He neglected his
duty--kept dodging it, shirking it, putting it off, and his
unrelenting conscience kept persecuting him for this conduct. At
last, to get ease of mind, comfort, self-approval, he hunted up
the stranger and took his life. It was an immense act of SELF-
SACRIFICE (as per the usual definition), for he did not want to
do it, and he never would have done it if he could have bought a
contented spirit and an unworried mind at smaller cost. But we
are so made that we will pay ANYTHING for that contentment--even
another man's life.
Y.M. You spoke a moment ago of TRAINED consciences. You mean
that we are not BORN with consciences competent to guide us aright?
O.M. If we were, children and savages would know right from wrong,
and not have to be taught it.
Y.M. But consciences can be TRAINED?
Y.M. Of course by parents, teachers, the pulpit, and books.
O.M. Yes--they do their share; they do what they can.
Y.M. And the rest is done by--
O.M. Oh, a million unnoticed influences--for good or bad:
influences which work without rest during every waking moment of
a man's life, from cradle to grave.
Y.M. You have tabulated these?
O.M. Many of them--yes.
Y.M. Will you read me the result?
O.M. Another time, yes. It would take an hour.
Y.M. A conscience can be trained to shun evil and prefer good?
Y.M. But will it for spirit-contenting reasons only?
O.M. It CAN'T be trained to do a thing for any OTHER reason.
The thing is impossible.
Y.M. There MUST be a genuinely and utterly self-sacrificing
act recorded in human history somewhere.
O.M. You are young. You have many years before you.
Search one out.
Y.M. It does seem to me that when a man sees a fellow-being
struggling in the water and jumps in at the risk of his life to
O.M. Wait. Describe the MAN. Describe the FELLOW-BEING.
State if there is an AUDIENCE present; or if they are ALONE.
Y.M. What have these things to do with the splendid act?
O.M. Very much. Shall we suppose, as a beginning, that the
two are alone, in a solitary place, at midnight?
Y.M. If you choose.
O.M. And that the fellow-being is the man's daughter?
Y.M. Well, n-no--make it someone else.
O.M. A filthy, drunken ruffian, then?
Y.M. I see. Circumstances alter cases. I suppose that if there
was no audience to observe the act, the man wouldn't perform it.
O.M. But there is here and there a man who WOULD. People,
for instance, like the man who lost his life trying to save the
child from the fire; and the man who gave the needy old woman his
twenty-five cents and walked home in the storm--there are here
and there men like that who would do it. And why? Because they
couldn't BEAR to see a fellow-being struggling in the water and
not jump in and help. It would give THEM pain. They would save
the fellow-being on that account. THEY WOULDN'T DO IT OTHERWISE.
They strictly obey the law which I have been insisting upon. You
must remember and always distinguish the people who CAN'T BEAR
things from people who CAN. It will throw light upon a number of
apparently "self-sacrificing" cases.
Y.M. Oh, dear, it's all so disgusting.
O.M. Yes. And so true.
Y.M. Come--take the good boy who does things he doesn't
want to do, in order to gratify his mother.
O.M. He does seven-tenths of the act because it gratifies
HIM to gratify his mother. Throw the bulk of advantage the other
way and the good boy would not do the act. He MUST obey the iron
law. None can escape it.
Y.M. Well, take the case of a bad boy who--
O.M. You needn't mention it, it is a waste of time. It is
no matter about the bad boy's act. Whatever it was, he had a
spirit-contenting reason for it. Otherwise you have been
misinformed, and he didn't do it.
Y.M. It is very exasperating. A while ago you said that man's
conscience is not a born judge of morals and conduct, but has to
be taught and trained. Now I think a conscience can get drowsy
and lazy, but I don't think it can go wrong; if you wake it up--
A Little Story
O.M. I will tell you a little story:
Once upon a time an Infidel was guest in the house of a
Christian widow whose little boy was ill and near to death. The
Infidel often watched by the bedside and entertained the boy with
talk, and he used these opportunities to satisfy a strong longing
in his nature--that desire which is in us all to better other
people's condition by having them think as we think. He was
successful. But the dying boy, in his last moments, reproached
him and said:
"I BELIEVED, AND WAS HAPPY IN IT; YOU HAVE TAKEN MY BELIEF
AWAY, AND MY COMFORT. NOW I HAVE NOTHING LEFT, AND I DIE
MISERABLE; FOR THE THINGS WHICH YOU HAVE TOLD ME DO NOT TAKE THE
PLACE OF THAT WHICH I HAVE LOST."
And the mother, also, reproached the Infidel, and said:
"MY CHILD IS FOREVER LOST, AND MY HEART IS BROKEN. HOW
COULD YOU DO THIS CRUEL THING? WE HAVE DONE YOU NO HARM, BUT
ONLY KINDNESS; WE MADE OUR HOUSE YOUR HOME, YOU WERE WELCOME TO
ALL WE HAD, AND THIS IS OUR REWARD."
The heart of the Infidel was filled with remorse for what he
had done, and he said:
"IT WAS WRONG--I SEE IT NOW; BUT I WAS ONLY TRYING TO DO HIM
GOOD. IN MY VIEW HE WAS IN ERROR; IT SEEMED MY DUTY TO TEACH HIM
Then the mother said:
"I HAD TAUGHT HIM, ALL HIS LITTLE LIFE, WHAT I BELIEVED TO
BE THE TRUTH, AND IN HIS BELIEVING FAITH BOTH OF US WERE HAPPY.
NOW HE IS DEAD,--AND LOST; AND I AM MISERABLE. OUR FAITH CAME
DOWN TO US THROUGH CENTURIES OF BELIEVING ANCESTORS; WHAT RIGHT
HAD YOU, OR ANY ONE, TO DISTURB IT? WHERE WAS YOUR HONOR, WHERE
WAS YOUR SHAME?"
Y.M. He was a miscreant, and deserved death!
O.M. He thought so himself, and said so.
Y.M. Ah--you see, HIS CONSCIENCE WAS AWAKENED1!
O.M. Yes, his Self-Disapproval was. It PAINED him to see
the mother suffer. He was sorry he had done a thing which
brought HIM pain. It did not occur to him to think of the mother
when he was misteaching the boy, for he was absorbed in providing
PLEASURE for himself, then. Providing it by satisfying what he
believed to be a call of duty.
Y.M. Call it what you please, it is to me a case of
AWAKENED CONSCIENCE. That awakened conscience could never get
itself into that species of trouble again. A cure like that is a
O.M. Pardon--I had not finished the story. We are
creatures of OUTSIDE INFLUENCES--we originate NOTHING within.
Whenever we take a new line of thought and drift into a new line
of belief and action, the impulse is ALWAYS suggested from the
OUTSIDE. Remorse so preyed upon the Infidel that it dissolved
his harshness toward the boy's religion and made him come to
regard it with tolerance, next with kindness, for the boy's sake
and the mother's. Finally he found himself examining it. From
that moment his progress in his new trend was steady and rapid.
He became a believing Christian. And now his remorse for having
robbed the dying boy of his faith and his salvation was bitterer
than ever. It gave him no rest, no peace. He MUST have rest and
peace--it is the law of nature. There seemed but one way to get
it; he must devote himself to saving imperiled souls. He became
a missionary. He landed in a pagan country ill and helpless. A
native widow took him into her humble home and nursed him back to
convalescence. Then her young boy was taken hopelessly ill, and
the grateful missionary helped her tend him. Here was his first
opportunity to repair a part of the wrong done to the other boy
by doing a precious service for this one by undermining his
foolish faith in his false gods. He was successful. But the
dying boy in his last moments reproached him and said:
"I BELIEVED, AND WAS HAPPY IN IT; YOU HAVE TAKEN MY BELIEF
AWAY, AND MY COMFORT. NOW I HAVE NOTHING LEFT, AND I DIE
MISERABLE; FOR THE THINGS WHICH YOU HAVE TOLD ME DO NOT TAKE THE
PLACE OF THAT WHICH I HAVE LOST."
And the mother, also, reproached the missionary, and said:
"MY CHILD IS FOREVER LOST, AND MY HEART IS BROKEN. HOW
COULD YOU DO THIS CRUEL THING? WE HAD DONE YOU NO HARM, BUT ONLY
KINDNESS; WE MADE OUR HOUSE YOUR HOME, YOU WERE WELCOME TO ALL WE
HAD, AND THIS IS OUR REWARD."
The heart of the missionary was filled with remorse for what
he had done, and he said:
"IT WAS WRONG--I SEE IT NOW; BUT I WAS ONLY TRYING TO DO HIM
GOOD. IN MY VIEW HE WAS IN ERROR; IT SEEMED MY DUTY TO TEACH HIM
Then the mother said:
"I HAD TAUGHT HIM, ALL HIS LITTLE LIFE, WHAT I BELIEVED TO
BE THE TRUTH, AND IN HIS BELIEVING FAITH BOTH OF US WERE HAPPY.
NOW HE IS DEAD--AND LOST; AND I AM MISERABLE. OUR FAITH CAME
DOWN TO US THROUGH CENTURIES OF BELIEVING ANCESTORS; WHAT RIGHT
HAD YOU, OR ANY ONE, TO DISTURB IT? WHERE WAS YOUR HONOR, WHERE
WAS YOUR SHAME?"
The missionary's anguish of remorse and sense of treachery
were as bitter and persecuting and unappeasable, now, as they had
been in the former case. The story is finished. What is your
Y.M. The man's conscience is a fool! It was morbid. It
didn't know right from wrong.
O.M. I am not sorry to hear you say that. If you grant
that ONE man's conscience doesn't know right from wrong, it is an
admission that there are others like it. This single admission
pulls down the whole doctrine of infallibility of judgment in
consciences. Meantime there is one thing which I ask you to
Y.M. What is that?
O.M. That in both cases the man's ACT gave him no spiritual
discomfort, and that he was quite satisfied with it and got
pleasure out of it. But afterward when it resulted in PAIN to
HIM, he was sorry. Sorry it had inflicted pain upon the others,
BUT FOR NO REASON UNDER THE SUN EXCEPT THAT THEIR PAIN GAVE HIM
PAIN. Our consciences take NO notice of pain inflicted upon
others until it reaches a point where it gives pain to US. In
ALL cases without exception we are absolutely indifferent to
another person's pain until his sufferings make us uncomfortable.
Many an infidel would not have been troubled by that Christian
mother's distress. Don't you believe that?
Y.M. Yes. You might almost say it of the AVERAGE infidel,
O.M. And many a missionary, sternly fortified by his sense
of duty, would not have been troubled by the pagan mother's
distress--Jesuit missionaries in Canada in the early French
times, for instance; see episodes quoted by Parkman.
Y.M. Well, let us adjourn. Where have we arrived?
O.M. At this. That we (mankind) have ticketed ourselves
with a number of qualities to which we have given misleading
names. Love, Hate, Charity, Compassion, Avarice, Benevolence,
and so on. I mean we attach misleading MEANINGS to the names.
They are all forms of self-contentment, self-gratification, but
the names so disguise them that they distract our attention from
the fact. Also we have smuggled a word into the dictionary which
ought not to be there at all--Self-Sacrifice. It describes a
thing which does not exist. But worst of all, we ignore and
never mention the Sole Impulse which dictates and compels a man's
every act: the imperious necessity of securing his own approval,
in every emergency and at all costs. To it we owe all that we
are. It is our breath, our heart, our blood. It is our only
spur, our whip, our goad, our only impelling power; we have no
other. Without it we should be mere inert images, corpses; no
one would do anything, there would be no progress, the world
would stand still. We ought to stand reverently uncovered when
the name of that stupendous power is uttered.
Y.M. I am not convinced.
O.M. You will be when you think.
Instances in Point
Old Man. Have you given thought to the Gospel of Self-
Approval since we talked?
Young Man. I have.
O.M. It was I that moved you to it. That is to say an
OUTSIDE INFLUENCE moved you to it--not one that originated in
your head. Will you try to keep that in mind and not forget it?
Y.M. Yes. Why?
O.M. Because by and by in one of our talks, I wish to
further impress upon you that neither you, nor I, nor any man
ever originates a thought in his own head. THE UTTERER OF A
THOUGHT ALWAYS UTTERS A SECOND-HAND ONE.
Y.M. Oh, now--
O.M. Wait. Reserve your remark till we get to that part of
our discussion--tomorrow or next day, say. Now, then, have you
been considering the proposition that no act is ever born of any
but a self-contenting impulse--(primarily). You have sought.
What have you found?
Y.M. I have not been very fortunate. I have examined many
fine and apparently self-sacrificing deeds in romances and
O.M. Under searching analysis the ostensible self-sacrifice
disappeared? It naturally would.
Y.M. But here in this novel is one which seems to promise.
In the Adirondack woods is a wage-earner and lay preacher in the
lumber-camps who is of noble character and deeply religious. An
earnest and practical laborer in the New York slums comes up
there on vacation--he is leader of a section of the University
Settlement. Holme, the lumberman, is fired with a desire to
throw away his excellent worldly prospects and go down and save
souls on the East Side. He counts it happiness to make this
sacrifice for the glory of God and for the cause of Christ. He
resigns his place, makes the sacrifice cheerfully, and goes to
the East Side and preaches Christ and Him crucified every day and
every night to little groups of half-civilized foreign paupers
who scoff at him. But he rejoices in the scoffings, since he is
suffering them in the great cause of Christ. You have so filled
my mind with suspicions that I was constantly expecting to find a
hidden questionable impulse back of all this, but I am thankful
to say I have failed. This man saw his duty, and for DUTY'S SAKE
he sacrificed self and assumed the burden it imposed.
O.M. Is that as far as you have read?
O.M. Let us read further, presently. Meantime, in
sacrificing himself--NOT for the glory of God, PRIMARILY, as HE
imagined, but FIRST to content that exacting and inflexible
master within him--DID HE SACRIFICE ANYBODY ELSE?
Y.M. How do you mean?
O.M. He relinquished a lucrative post and got mere food and
lodging in place of it. Had he dependents?
O.M. In what way and to what extend did his self-sacrifice
Y.M. He was the support of a superannuated father. He had
a young sister with a remarkable voice--he was giving her a
musical education, so that her longing to be self-supporting
might be gratified. He was furnishing the money to put a young
brother through a polytechnic school and satisfy his desire to
become a civil engineer.
O.M. The old father's comforts were now curtailed?
Y.M. Quite seriously. Yes.
O.M. The sister's music-lessens had to stop?
O.M. The young brother's education--well, an extinguishing
blight fell upon that happy dream, and he had to go to sawing
wood to support the old father, or something like that?
Y.M. It is about what happened. Yes.
O.M. What a handsome job of self-sacrificing he did do! It
seems to me that he sacrificed everybody EXCEPT himself. Haven't
I told you that no man EVER sacrifices himself; that there is no
instance of it upon record anywhere; and that when a man's
Interior Monarch requires a thing of its slave for either its
MOMENTARY or its PERMANENT contentment, that thing must and will
be furnished and that command obeyed, no matter who may stand in
the way and suffer disaster by it? That man RUINED HIS FAMILY to
please and content his Interior Monarch--
Y.M. And help Christ's cause.
O.M. Yes--SECONDLY. Not firstly. HE thought it was firstly.
Y.M. Very well, have it so, if you will. But it could be
that he argued that if he saved a hundred souls in New York--
O.M. The sacrifice of the FAMILY would be justified by that
great profit upon the--the--what shall we call it?
O.M. Hardly. How would SPECULATION do? How would GAMBLE
do? Not a solitary soul-capture was sure. He played for a
possible thirty-three-hundred-per-cent profit. It was GAMBLING--
with his family for "chips." However let us see how the game
came out. Maybe we can get on the track of the secret original
impulse, the REAL impulse, that moved him to so nobly self-
sacrifice his family in the Savior's cause under the superstition
that he was sacrificing himself. I will read a chapter or so. .
. . Here we have it! It was bound to expose itself sooner or
later. He preached to the East-Side rabble a season, then went
back to his old dull, obscure life in the lumber-camps "HURT TO
THE HEART, HIS PRIDE HUMBLED." Why? Were not his efforts
acceptable to the Savior, for Whom alone they were made? Dear
me, that detail is LOST SIGHT OF, is not even referred to, the
fact that it started out as a motive is entirely forgotten! Then
what is the trouble? The authoress quite innocently and
unconsciously gives the whole business away. The trouble was
this: this man merely PREACHED to the poor; that is not the
University Settlement's way; it deals in larger and better things
than that, and it did not enthuse over that crude Salvation-Army
eloquence. It was courteous to Holme--but cool. It did not pet
him, did not take him to its bosom. "PERISHED WERE ALL HIS
DREAMS OF DISTINCTION, THE PRAISE AND GRATEFUL APPROVAL--" Of
whom? The Savior? No; the Savior is not mentioned. Of whom,
then? Of "His FELLOW-WORKERS." Why did he want that? Because
the Master inside of him wanted it, and would not be content
without it. That emphasized sentence quoted above, reveals the
secret we have been seeking, the original impulse, the REAL
impulse, which moved the obscure and unappreciated Adirondack
lumberman to sacrifice his family and go on that crusade to the
East Side--which said original impulse was this, to wit: without
knowing it HE WENT THERE TO SHOW A NEGLECTED WORLD THE LARGE
TALENT THAT WAS IN HIM, AND RISE TO DISTINCTION. As I have
warned you before, NO act springs from any but the one law, the
one motive. But I pray you, do not accept this law upon my say-
so; but diligently examine for yourself. Whenever you read of a
self-sacrificing act or hear of one, or of a duty done for DUTY'S
SAKE, take it to pieces and look for the REAL motive. It is
Y.M. I do it every day. I cannot help it, now that I have
gotten started upon the degrading and exasperating quest. For it
is hatefully interesting!--in fact, fascinating is the word. As
soon as I come across a golden deed in a book I have to stop and
take it apart and examine it, I cannot help myself.
O.M. Have you ever found one that defeated the rule?
Y.M. No--at least, not yet. But take the case of servant-
tipping in Europe. You pay the HOTEL for service; you owe the
servants NOTHING, yet you pay them besides. Doesn't that defeat it?
O.M. In what way?
Y.M. You are not OBLIGED to do it, therefore its source is
compassion for their ill-paid condition, and--
O.M. Has that custom ever vexed you, annoyed you, irritated you?
Y.M. Well, yes.
O.M. Still you succumbed to it?
Y.M. Of course.
O.M. Why of course?
Y.M. Well, custom is law, in a way, and laws must be
submitted to--everybody recognizes it as a DUTY.
O.M. Then you pay for the irritating tax for DUTY'S sake?
Y.M. I suppose it amounts to that.
O.M. Then the impulse which moves you to submit to the tax
is not ALL compassion, charity, benevolence?
Y.M. Well--perhaps not.
O.M. Is ANY of it?
Y.M. I--perhaps I was too hasty in locating its source.
O.M. Perhaps so. In case you ignored the custom would you
get prompt and effective service from the servants?
Y.M. Oh, hear yourself talk! Those European servants?
Why, you wouldn't get any of all, to speak of.
O.M. Couldn't THAT work as an impulse to move you to pay
Y.M. I am not denying it.
O.M. Apparently, then, it is a case of for-duty's-sake with
a little self-interest added?
Y.M. Yes, it has the look of it. But here is a point:
we pay that tax knowing it to be unjust and an extortion; yet we
go away with a pain at the heart if we think we have been stingy
with the poor fellows; and we heartily wish we were back again,
so that we could do the right thing, and MORE than the right
thing, the GENEROUS thing. I think it will be difficult for you
to find any thought of self in that impulse.
O.M. I wonder why you should think so. When you find
service charged in the HOTEL bill does it annoy you?
O.M. Do you ever complain of the amount of it?
Y.M. No, it would not occur to me.
O.M. The EXPENSE, then, is not the annoying detail. It is
a fixed charge, and you pay it cheerfully, you pay it without a
murmur. When you came to pay the servants, how would you like it
if each of the men and maids had a fixed charge?
Y.M. Like it? I should rejoice!
O.M. Even if the fixed tax were a shade MORE than you had
been in the habit of paying in the form of tips?
Y.M. Indeed, yes!
O.M. Very well, then. As I understand it, it isn't really
compassion nor yet duty that moves you to pay the tax, and it
isn't the AMOUNT of the tax that annoys you. Yet SOMETHING
annoys you. What is it?
Y.M. Well, the trouble is, you never know WHAT to pay, the
tax varies so, all over Europe.
O.M. So you have to guess?
Y.M. There is no other way. So you go on thinking and
thinking, and calculating and guessing, and consulting with other
people and getting their views; and it spoils your sleep nights,
and makes you distraught in the daytime, and while you are
pretending to look at the sights you are only guessing and
guessing and guessing all the time, and being worried and
O.M. And all about a debt which you don't owe and don't
have to pay unless you want to! Strange. What is the purpose of
Y.M. To guess out what is right to give them, and not be
unfair to any of them.
O.M. It has quite a noble look--taking so much pains and using up
so much valuable time in order to be just and fair to a poor servant
to whom you owe nothing, but who needs money and is ill paid.
Y.M. I think, myself, that if there is any ungracious
motive back of it it will be hard to find.
O.M. How do you know when you have not paid a servant fairly?
Y.M. Why, he is silent; does not thank you. Sometimes he
gives you a look that makes you ashamed. You are too proud to
rectify your mistake there, with people looking, but afterward
you keep on wishing and wishing you HAD done it. My, the shame
and the pain of it! Sometimes you see, by the signs, that you
have it JUST RIGHT, and you go away mightily satisfied.
Sometimes the man is so effusively thankful that you know you
have given him a good deal MORE than was necessary.
O.M. NECESSARY? Necessary for what?
Y.M. To content him.
O.M. How do you feel THEN?
O.M. It is my belief that you have NOT been concerning
yourself in guessing out his just dues, but only in ciphering out
what would CONTENT him. And I think you have a self-deluding
reason for that.
Y.M. What was it?
O.M. If you fell short of what he was expecting and
wanting, you would get a look which would SHAME YOU BEFORE FOLK.
That would give you PAIN. YOU--for you are only working for
yourself, not HIM. If you gave him too much you would be ASHAMED
OF YOURSELF for it, and that would give YOU pain--another case of
thinking of YOURSELF, protecting yourself, SAVING YOURSELF FROM
DISCOMFORT. You never think of the servant once--except to guess
out how to get HIS APPROVAL. If you get that, you get your OWN
approval, and that is the sole and only thing you are after. The
Master inside of you is then satisfied, contented, comfortable;
there was NO OTHER thing at stake, as a matter of FIRST interest,
anywhere in the transaction.
Y.M. Well, to think of it; Self-Sacrifice for others, the
grandest thing in man, ruled out! non-existent!
O.M. Are you accusing me of saying that?
Y.M. Why, certainly.
O.M. I haven't said it.
Y.M. What did you say, then?
O.M. That no man has ever sacrificed himself in the common
meaning of that phrase--which is, self-sacrifice for another
ALONE. Men make daily sacrifices for others, but it is for their
own sake FIRST. The act must content their own spirit FIRST.
The other beneficiaries come second.
Y.M. And the same with duty for duty's sake?
O.M. Yes. No man performs a duty for mere duty's sake; the act
must content his spirit FIRST. He must feel better for DOING the
duty than he would for shirking it. Otherwise he will not do it.
Y.M. Take the case of the BERKELEY CASTLE.
O.M. It was a noble duty, greatly performed. Take it to
pieces and examine it, if you like.
Y.M. A British troop-ship crowded with soldiers and their
wives and children. She struck a rock and began to sink. There
was room in the boats for the women and children only. The
colonel lined up his regiment on the deck and said "it is our
duty to die, that they may be saved." There was no murmur, no
protest. The boats carried away the women and children. When
the death-moment was come, the colonel and his officers took
their several posts, the men stood at shoulder-arms, and so, as
on dress-parade, with their flag flying and the drums beating,
they went down, a sacrifice to duty for duty's sake. Can you
view it as other than that?
O.M. It was something as fine as that, as exalted as that.
Could you have remained in those ranks and gone down to your
death in that unflinching way?
Y.M. Could I? No, I could not.
O.M. Think. Imagine yourself there, with that watery doom
creeping higher and higher around you.
Y.M. I can imagine it. I feel all the horror of it. I could
not have endured it, I could not have remained in my place.
I know it.
Y.M. There is no why about it: I know myself, and I know I
couldn't DO it.
O.M. But it would be your DUTY to do it.
Y.M. Yes, I know--but I couldn't.
O.M. It was more than thousand men, yet not one of them
flinched. Some of them must have been born with your
temperament; if they could do that great duty for duty's SAKE,
why not you? Don't you know that you could go out and gather
together a thousand clerks and mechanics and put them on that
deck and ask them to die for duty's sake, and not two dozen of
them would stay in the ranks to the end?
Y.M. Yes, I know that.
O.M. But your TRAIN them, and put them through a campaign
or two; then they would be soldiers; soldiers, with a soldier's
pride, a soldier's self-respect, a soldier's ideals. They would
have to content a SOLDIER'S spirit then, not a clerk's, not a
mechanic's. They could not content that spirit by shirking a
soldier's duty, could they?
Y.M. I suppose not.
O.M. Then they would do the duty not for the DUTY'S sake,
but for their OWN sake--primarily. The DUTY was JUST THE SAME,
and just as imperative, when they were clerks, mechanics, raw
recruits, but they wouldn't perform it for that. As clerks and
mechanics they had other ideals, another spirit to satisfy, and
they satisfied it. They HAD to; it is the law. TRAINING is
potent. Training toward higher and higher, and ever higher
ideals is worth any man's thought and labor and diligence.
Y.M. Consider the man who stands by his duty and goes to
the stake rather than be recreant to it.
O.M. It is his make and his training. He has to content
the spirit that is in him, though it cost him his life. Another
man, just as sincerely religious, but of different temperament,
will fail of that duty, though recognizing it as a duty, and
grieving to be unequal to it: but he must content the spirit
that is in him--he cannot help it. He could not perform that
duty for duty's SAKE, for that would not content his spirit, and
the contenting of his spirit must be looked to FIRST. It takes
precedence of all other duties.
Y.M. Take the case of a clergyman of stainless private
morals who votes for a thief for public office, on his own
party's ticket, and against an honest man on the other ticket.
O.M. He has to content his spirit. He has no public
morals; he has no private ones, where his party's prosperity is
at stake. He will always be true to his make and training.
Young Man. You keep using that word--training. By it do
you particularly mean--
Old Man. Study, instruction, lectures, sermons? That is a
part of it--but not a large part. I mean ALL the outside
influences. There are a million of them. From the cradle to the
grave, during all his waking hours, the human being is under
training. In the very first rank of his trainers stands
ASSOCIATION. It is his human environment which influences his
mind and his feelings, furnishes him his ideals, and sets him on
his road and keeps him in it. If he leave that road he will find
himself shunned by the people whom he most loves and esteems, and
whose approval he most values. He is a chameleon; by the law of
his nature he takes the color of his place of resort. The
influences about him create his preferences, his aversions, his
politics, his tastes, his morals, his religion. He creates none
of these things for himself. He THINKS he does, but that is
because he has not examined into the matter. You have seen
O.M. How did they happen to be Presbyterians and not
Congregationalists? And why were the Congregationalists not
Baptists, and the Baptists Roman Catholics, and the Roman
Catholics Buddhists, and the Buddhists Quakers, and the Quakers
Episcopalians, and the Episcopalians Millerites and the
Millerites Hindus, and the Hindus Atheists, and the Atheists
Spiritualists, and the Spiritualists Agnostics, and the Agnostics
Methodists, and the Methodists Confucians, and the Confucians
Unitarians, and the Unitarians Mohammedans, and the Mohammedans
Salvation Warriors, and the Salvation Warriors Zoroastrians, and
the Zoroastrians Christian Scientists, and the Christian
Scientists Mormons--and so on?
Y.M. You may answer your question yourself.
O.M. That list of sects is not a record of STUDIES,
searchings, seekings after light; it mainly (and sarcastically)
indicates what ASSOCIATION can do. If you know a man's
nationality you can come within a split hair of guessing the
complexion of his religion: English--Protestant; American--
ditto; Spaniard, Frenchman, Irishman, Italian, South American--
Roman Catholic; Russian--Greek Catholic; Turk--Mohammedan; and so
on. And when you know the man's religious complexion, you know
what sort of religious books he reads when he wants some more
light, and what sort of books he avoids, lest by accident he get
more light than he wants. In America if you know which party-
collar a voter wears, you know what his associations are, and how
he came by his politics, and which breed of newspaper he reads to
get light, and which breed he diligently avoids, and which breed
of mass-meetings he attends in order to broaden his political
knowledge, and which breed of mass-meetings he doesn't attend,
except to refute its doctrines with brickbats. We are always
hearing of people who are around SEEKING AFTER TRUTH. I have
never seen a (permanent) specimen. I think he had never lived.
But I have seen several entirely sincere people who THOUGHT they
were (permanent) Seekers after Truth. They sought diligently,
persistently, carefully, cautiously, profoundly, with perfect
honesty and nicely adjusted judgment--until they believed that
without doubt or question they had found the Truth. THAT WAS THE
END OF THE SEARCH. The man spent the rest of his life hunting up
shingles wherewith to protect his Truth from the weather. If he
was seeking after political Truth he found it in one or another
of the hundred political gospels which govern men in the earth;
if he was seeking after the Only True Religion he found it in one
or another of the three thousand that are on the market. In any
case, when he found the Truth HE SOUGHT NO FURTHER; but from that
day forth, with his soldering-iron in one hand and his bludgeon
in the other he tinkered its leaks and reasoned with objectors.
There have been innumerable Temporary Seekers of Truth--have you
ever heard of a permanent one? In the very nature of man such a
person is impossible. However, to drop back to the text--
training: all training is one from or another of OUTSIDE
INFLUENCE, and ASSOCIATION is the largest part of it. A man is
never anything but what his outside influences have made him.
They train him downward or they train him upward--but they TRAIN
him; they are at work upon him all the time.
Y.M. Then if he happen by the accidents of life to be
evilly placed there is no help for him, according to your
notions--he must train downward.
O.M. No help for him? No help for this chameleon? It is a
mistake. It is in his chameleonship that his greatest good
fortune lies. He has only to change his habitat--his
ASSOCIATIONS. But the impulse to do it must come from the
OUTSIDE--he cannot originate it himself, with that purpose in
view. Sometimes a very small and accidental thing can furnish
him the initiatory impulse and start him on a new road, with a
new idea. The chance remark of a sweetheart, "I hear that you
are a coward," may water a seed that shall sprout and bloom and
flourish, and ended in producing a surprising fruitage--in the
fields of war. The history of man is full of such accidents.
The accident of a broken leg brought a profane and ribald soldier
under religious influences and furnished him a new ideal. From
that accident sprang the Order of the Jesuits, and it has been
shaking thrones, changing policies, and doing other tremendous
work for two hundred years--and will go on. The chance reading
of a book or of a paragraph in a newspaper can start a man on a
new track and make him renounce his old associations and seek new
ones that are IN SYMPATHY WITH HIS NEW IDEAL: and the result,
for that man, can be an entire change of his way of life.
Y.M. Are you hinting at a scheme of procedure?
O.M. Not a new one--an old one. One as mankind.
Y.M. What is it?
O.M. Merely the laying of traps for people. Traps baited
with INITIATORY IMPULSES TOWARD HIGH IDEALS. It is what the
tract-distributor does. It is what the missionary does. It is
what governments ought to do.
Y.M. Don't they?
O.M. In one way they do, in another they don't. They
separate the smallpox patients from the healthy people, but in
dealing with crime they put the healthy into the pest-house along
with the sick. That is to say, they put the beginners in with
the confirmed criminals. This would be well if man were
naturally inclined to good, but he isn't, and so ASSOCIATION
makes the beginners worse than they were when they went into
captivity. It is putting a very severe punishment upon the
comparatively innocent at times. They hang a man--which is a
trifling punishment; this breaks the hearts of his family--which
is a heavy one. They comfortably jail and feed a wife-beater,
and leave his innocent wife and family to starve.
Y.M. Do you believe in the doctrine that man is equipped
with an intuitive perception of good and evil?
O.M. Adam hadn't it.
Y.M. But has man acquired it since?
O.M. No. I think he has no intuitions of any kind. He
gets ALL his ideas, all his impressions, from the outside. I
keep repeating this, in the hope that I may impress it upon you
that you will be interested to observe and examine for yourself
and see whether it is true or false.
Y.M. Where did you get your own aggravating notions?
O.M. From the OUTSIDE. I did not invent them. They are
gathered from a thousand unknown sources. Mainly UNCONSCIOUSLY
Y.M. Don't you believe that God could make an inherently
O.M. Yes, I know He could. I also know that He never did
Y.M. A wiser observer than you has recorded the fact that
"an honest man's the noblest work of God."
O.M. He didn't record a fact, he recorded a falsity. It is windy,
and sounds well, but it is not true. God makes a man with honest
and dishonest POSSIBILITIES in him and stops there. The man's
ASSOCIATIONS develop the possibilities--the one set or the other.
The result is accordingly an honest man or a dishonest one.
Y.M. And the honest one is not entitled to--
O.M. Praise? No. How often must I tell you that? HE is
not the architect of his honesty.
Y.M. Now then, I will ask you where there is any sense in
training people to lead virtuous lives. What is gained by it?
O.M. The man himself gets large advantages out of it, and
that is the main thing--to HIM. He is not a peril to his
neighbors, he is not a damage to them--and so THEY get an
advantage out of his virtues. That is the main thing to THEM.
It can make this life comparatively comfortable to the parties
concerned; the NEGLECT of this training can make this life a
constant peril and distress to the parties concerned.
Y.M. You have said that training is everything; that
training is the man HIMSELF, for it makes him what he is.
O.M. I said training and ANOTHER thing. Let that other
thing pass, for the moment. What were you going to say?
Y.M. We have an old servant. She has been with us twenty-
two years. Her service used to be faultless, but now she has
become very forgetful. We are all fond of her; we all recognize
that she cannot help the infirmity which age has brought her; the
rest of the family do not scold her for her remissnesses, but at
times I do--I can't seem to control myself. Don't I try? I do
try. Now, then, when I was ready to dress, this morning, no
clean clothes had been put out. I lost my temper; I lose it
easiest and quickest in the early morning. I rang; and
immediately began to warn myself not to show temper, and to be
careful and speak gently. I safe-guarded myself most carefully.
I even chose the very word I would use: "You've forgotten the
clean clothes, Jane." When she appeared in the door I opened my
mouth to say that phrase--and out of it, moved by an instant
surge of passion which I was not expecting and hadn't time to put
under control, came the hot rebuke, "You've forgotten them
again!" You say a man always does the thing which will best
please his Interior Master. Whence came the impulse to make
careful preparation to save the girl the humiliation of a rebuke?
Did that come from the Master, who is always primarily concerned
O.M. Unquestionably. There is no other source for any
impulse. SECONDARILY you made preparation to save the girl, but
PRIMARILY its object was to save yourself, by contenting the
Y.M. How do you mean?
O.M. Has any member of the family ever implored you to
watch your temper and not fly out at the girl?
Y.M. Yes. My mother.
O.M. You love her?
Y.M. Oh, more than that!
O.M. You would always do anything in your power to please her?
Y.M. It is a delight to me to do anything to please her!
O.M. Why? YOU WOULD DO IT FOR PAY, SOLELY--for PROFIT.
What profit would you expect and certainly receive from
Y.M. Personally? None. To please HER is enough.
O.M. It appears, then, that your object, primarily, WASN'T
to save the girl a humiliation, but to PLEASE YOUR MOTHER. It
also appears that to please your mother gives YOU a strong
pleasure. Is not that the profit which you get out of the
investment? Isn't that the REAL profits and FIRST profit?
Y.M. Oh, well? Go on.
O.M. In ALL transactions, the Interior Master looks to it
that YOU GET THE FIRST PROFIT. Otherwise there is no
Y.M. Well, then, if I was so anxious to get that profit and
so intent upon it, why did I threw it away by losing my temper?
O.M. In order to get ANOTHER profit which suddenly
superseded it in value.
Y.M. Where was it?
O.M. Ambushed behind your born temperament, and waiting for
a chance. Your native warm temper suddenly jumped to the front,
and FOR THE MOMENT its influence was more powerful than your
mother's, and abolished it. In that instance you were eager to
flash out a hot rebuke and enjoy it. You did enjoy it, didn't you?
Y.M. For--for a quarter of a second. Yes--I did.
O.M. Very well, it is as I have said: the thing which will
give you the MOST pleasure, the most satisfaction, in any moment
or FRACTION of a moment, is the thing you will always do. You
must content the Master's LATEST whim, whatever it may be.
Y.M. But when the tears came into the old servant's eyes I
could have cut my hand off for what I had done.
O.M. Right. You had humiliated YOURSELF, you see, you had
given yourself PAIN. Nothing is of FIRST importance to a man
except results which damage HIM or profit him--all the rest is
SECONDARY. Your Master was displeased with you, although you had
obeyed him. He required a prompt REPENTANCE; you obeyed again;
you HAD to--there is never any escape from his commands. He is a
hard master and fickle; he changes his mind in the fraction of a
second, but you must be ready to obey, and you will obey, ALWAYS.
If he requires repentance, you content him, you will always
furnish it. He must be nursed, petted, coddled, and kept
contented, let the terms be what they may.
Y.M. Training! Oh, what's the use of it? Didn't I, and
didn't my mother try to train me up to where I would no longer
fly out at that girl?
O.M. Have you never managed to keep back a scolding?
Y.M. Oh, certainly--many times.
O.M. More times this year than last?
Y.M. Yes, a good many more.
O.M. More times last year than the year before?
O.M. There is a large improvement, then, in the two years?
Y.M. Yes, undoubtedly.
O.M. Then your question is answered. You see there IS use in
training. Keep on. Keeping faithfully on. You are doing well.
Y.M. Will my reform reach perfection?
O.M. It will. UP to YOUR limit.
Y.M. My limit? What do you mean by that?
O.M. You remember that you said that I said training was
EVERYTHING. I corrected you, and said "training and ANOTHER
thing." That other thing is TEMPERAMENT--that is, the
disposition you were born with. YOU CAN'T ERADICATE YOUR
DISPOSITION NOR ANY RAG OF IT--you can only put a pressure on it
and keep it down and quiet. You have a warm temper?
O.M. You will never get rid of it; but by watching it you
can keep it down nearly all the time. ITS PRESENCE IS YOUR
LIMIT. Your reform will never quite reach perfection, for your
temper will beat you now and then, but you come near enough. You
have made valuable progress and can make more. There IS use in
training. Immense use. Presently you will reach a new stage of
development, then your progress will be easier; will proceed on a
simpler basis, anyway.
O.M. You keep back your scoldings now, to please YOURSELF
by pleasing your MOTHER; presently the mere triumphing over your
temper will delight your vanity and confer a more delicious
pleasure and satisfaction upon you than even the approbation of
your MOTHER confers upon you now. You will then labor for
yourself directly and at FIRST HAND, not by the roundabout way
through your mother. It simplifies the matter, and it also
strengthens the impulse.
Y.M. Ah, dear! But I sha'n't ever reach the point where I
will spare the girl for HER sake PRIMARILY, not mine?
O.M. Why--yes. In heaven.
Y.M. (AFTER A REFLECTIVE PAUSE) Temperament. Well, I see
one must allow for temperament. It is a large factor, sure
enough. My mother is thoughtful, and not hot-tempered. When I
was dressed I went to her room; she was not there; I called, she
answered from the bathroom. I heard the water running. I
inquired. She answered, without temper, that Jane had forgotten
her bath, and she was preparing it herself. I offered to ring,
but she said, "No, don't do that; it would only distress her to
be confronted with her lapse, and would be a rebuke; she doesn't
deserve that--she is not to blame for the tricks her memory
serves her." I say--has my mother an Interior Master?--and where
O.M. He was there. There, and looking out for his own
peace and pleasure and contentment. The girl's distress would
have pained YOUR MOTHER. Otherwise the girl would have been rung
up, distress and all. I know women who would have gotten a No. 1
PLEASURE out of ringing Jane up--and so they would infallibly
have pushed the button and obeyed the law of their make and
training, which are the servants of their Interior Masters. It
is quite likely that a part of your mother's forbearance came
from training. The GOOD kind of training--whose best and highest
function is to see to it that every time it confers a
satisfaction upon its pupil a benefit shall fall at second hand
Y.M. If you were going to condense into an admonition your
plan for the general betterment of the race's condition, how
would you word it?
O.M. Diligently train your ideals UPWARD and STILL UPWARD
toward a summit where you will find your chiefest pleasure in
conduct which, while contenting you, will be sure to confer
benefits upon your neighbor and the community.
Y.M. Is that a new gospel?
Y.M. It has been taught before?
O.M. For ten thousand years.
Y.M. By whom?
O.M. All the great religions--all the great gospels.
Y.M. Then there is nothing new about it?
O.M. Oh yes, there is. It is candidly stated, this time.
That has not been done before.
Y.M. How do you mean?
O.M. Haven't I put YOU FIRST, and your neighbor and the
Y.M. Well, yes, that is a difference, it is true.
O.M. The difference between straight speaking and crooked;
the difference between frankness and shuffling.
O.M. The others offer your a hundred bribes to be good,
thus conceding that the Master inside of you must be conciliated
and contented first, and that you will do nothing at FIRST HAND
but for his sake; then they turn square around and require you to
do good for OTHER'S sake CHIEFLY; and to do your duty for duty's
SAKE, chiefly; and to do acts of SELF-SACRIFICE. Thus at the
outset we all stand upon the same ground--recognition of the
supreme and absolute Monarch that resides in man, and we all
grovel before him and appeal to him; then those others dodge and
shuffle, and face around and unfrankly and inconsistently and
illogically change the form of their appeal and direct its
persuasions to man's SECOND-PLACE powers and to powers which have
NO EXISTENCE in him, thus advancing them to FIRST place; whereas
in my Admonition I stick logically and consistently to the
original position: I place the Interior Master's requirements
FIRST, and keep them there.
Y.M. If we grant, for the sake of argument, that your
scheme and the other schemes aim at and produce the same result--
RIGHT LIVING--has yours an advantage over the others?
O.M. One, yes--a large one. It has no concealments, no
deceptions. When a man leads a right and valuable life under it
he is not deceived as to the REAL chief motive which impels him
to it--in those other cases he is.
Y.M. Is that an advantage? Is it an advantage to live a
lofty life for a mean reason? In the other cases he lives the
lofty life under the IMPRESSION that he is living for a lofty
reason. Is not that an advantage?
O.M. Perhaps so. The same advantage he might get out of
thinking himself a duke, and living a duke's life and parading in
ducal fuss and feathers, when he wasn't a duke at all, and could
find it out if he would only examine the herald's records.
Y.M. But anyway, he is obliged to do a duke's part; he puts
his hand in his pocket and does his benevolences on as big a
scale as he can stand, and that benefits the community.
O.M. He could do that without being a duke.
Y.M. But would he?
O.M. Don't you see where you are arriving?
O.M. At the standpoint of the other schemes: That it is
good morals to let an ignorant duke do showy benevolences for his
pride's sake, a pretty low motive, and go on doing them unwarned,
lest if he were made acquainted with the actual motive which
prompted them he might shut up his purse and cease to be good?
Y.M. But isn't it best to leave him in ignorance, as long
as he THINKS he is doing good for others' sake?
O.M. Perhaps so. It is the position of the other schemes.
They think humbug is good enough morals when the dividend on it
is good deeds and handsome conduct.
Y.M. It is my opinion that under your scheme of a man's
doing a good deed for his OWN sake first-off, instead of first
for the GOOD DEED'S sake, no man would ever do one.
O.M. Have you committed a benevolence lately?
Y.M. Yes. This morning.
O.M. Give the particulars.
Y.M. The cabin of the old negro woman who used to nurse me
when I was a child and who saved my life once at the risk of her
own, was burned last night, and she came mourning this morning,
and pleading for money to build another one.
O.M. You furnished it?
O.M. You were glad you had the money?
Y.M. Money? I hadn't. I sold my horse.
O.M. You were glad you had the horse?
Y.M. Of course I was; for if I hadn't had the horse I
should have been incapable, and my MOTHER would have captured the
chance to set old Sally up.
O.M. You were cordially glad you were not caught out and
Y.M. Oh, I just was!
O.M. Now, then--
Y.M. Stop where you are! I know your whole catalog of
questions, and I could answer every one of them without your
wasting the time to ask them; but I will summarize the whole
thing in a single remark: I did the charity knowing it was
because the act would give ME a splendid pleasure, and because
old Sally's moving gratitude and delight would give ME another
one; and because the reflection that she would be happy now and
out of her trouble would fill ME full of happiness. I did the
whole thing with my eyes open and recognizing and realizing that
I was looking out for MY share of the profits FIRST. Now then, I
have confessed. Go on.
O.M. I haven't anything to offer; you have covered the
whole ground. Can you have been any MORE strongly moved to help
Sally out of her trouble--could you have done the deed any more
eagerly--if you had been under the delusion that you were doing
it for HER sake and profit only?
Y.M. No! Nothing in the world could have made the impulse
which moved me more powerful, more masterful, more thoroughly
irresistible. I played the limit!
O.M. Very well. You begin to suspect--and I claim to KNOW
--that when a man is a shade MORE STRONGLY MOVED to do ONE of two
things or of two dozen things than he is to do any one of the
OTHERS, he will infallibly do that ONE thing, be it good or be it
evil; and if it be good, not all the beguilements of all the
casuistries can increase the strength of the impulse by a single
shade or add a shade to the comfort and contentment he will get
out of the act.
Y.M. Then you believe that such tendency toward doing good
as is in men's hearts would not be diminished by the removal of
the delusion that good deeds are done primarily for the sake of
No. 2 instead of for the sake of No. 1?
O.M. That is what I fully believe.
Y.M. Doesn't it somehow seem to take from the dignity of the deed?
O.M. If there is dignity in falsity, it does. It removes that.
Y.M. What is left for the moralists to do?
O.M. Teach unreservedly what he already teaches with one
side of his mouth and takes back with the other: Do right FOR
YOUR OWN SAKE, and be happy in knowing that your NEIGHBOR will
certainly share in the benefits resulting.
Y.M. Repeat your Admonition.
O.M. DILIGENTLY TRAIN YOUR IDEALS UPWARD AND STILL UPWARD
TOWARD A SUMMIT WHERE YOU WILL FIND YOUR CHIEFEST PLEASURE IN
CONDUCT WHICH, WHILE CONTENTING YOU, WILL BE SURE TO CONFER
BENEFITS UPON YOUR NEIGHBOR AND THE COMMUNITY.
Y.M. One's EVERY act proceeds from EXTERIOR INFLUENCES, you think?
Y.M. If I conclude to rob a person, I am not the ORIGINATOR
of the idea, but it comes in from the OUTSIDE? I see him
handling money--for instance--and THAT moves me to the crime?
O.M. That, by itself? Oh, certainly not. It is merely the
LATEST outside influence of a procession of preparatory
influences stretching back over a period of years. No SINGLE
outside influence can make a man do a thing which is at war with
his training. The most it can do is to start his mind on a new
tract and open it to the reception of NEW influences--as in the
case of Ignatius Loyola. In time these influences can train him
to a point where it will be consonant with his new character to
yield to the FINAL influence and do that thing. I will put the
case in a form which will make my theory clear to you, I think.
Here are two ingots of virgin gold. They shall represent a
couple of characters which have been refined and perfected in the
virtues by years of diligent right training. Suppose you wanted
to break down these strong and well-compacted characters--what
influence would you bring to bear upon the ingots?
Y.M. Work it out yourself. Proceed.
O.M. Suppose I turn upon one of them a steam-jet during a
long succession of hours. Will there be a result?
Y.M. None that I know of.
Y.M. A steam-jet cannot break down such a substance.
O.M. Very well. The steam is an OUTSIDE INFLUENCE, but it
is ineffective because the gold TAKES NO INTEREST IN IT. The
ingot remains as it was. Suppose we add to the steam some
quicksilver in a vaporized condition, and turn the jet upon the
ingot, will there be an instantaneous result?
O.M. The QUICKSILVER is an outside influence which gold (by
its peculiar nature--say TEMPERAMENT, DISPOSITION) CANNOT BE
INDIFFERENT TO. It stirs up the interest of the gold, although
we do not perceive it; but a SINGLE application of the influence
works no damage. Let us continue the application in a steady
stream, and call each minute a year. By the end of ten or twenty
minutes--ten or twenty years--the little ingot is sodden with
quicksilver, its virtues are gone, its character is degraded. At
last it is ready to yield to a temptation which it would have
taken no notice of, ten or twenty years ago. We will apply that
temptation in the form of a pressure of my finger. You note the
Y.M. Yes; the ingot has crumbled to sand. I understand,
now. It is not the SINGLE outside influence that does the work,
but only the LAST one of a long and disintegrating accumulation
of them. I see, now, how my SINGLE impulse to rob the man is not
the one that makes me do it, but only the LAST one of a
preparatory series. You might illustrate with a parable.
O.M. I will. There was once a pair of New England boys--
twins. They were alike in good dispositions, feckless morals,
and personal appearance. They were the models of the Sunday-
school. At fifteen George had the opportunity to go as cabin-boy
in a whale-ship, and sailed away for the Pacific. Henry remained
at home in the village. At eighteen George was a sailor before
the mast, and Henry was teacher of the advanced Bible class. At
twenty-two George, through fighting-habits and drinking-habits
acquired at sea and in the sailor boarding-houses of the European
and Oriental ports, was a common rough in Hong-Kong, and out of a
job; and Henry was superintendent of the Sunday-school. At
twenty-six George was a wanderer, a tramp, and Henry was pastor
of the village church. Then George came home, and was Henry's
guest. One evening a man passed by and turned down the lane, and
Henry said, with a pathetic smile, "Without intending me a
discomfort, that man is always keeping me reminded of my pinching
poverty, for he carries heaps of money about him, and goes by
here every evening of his life." That OUTSIDE INFLUENCE--that
remark--was enough for George, but IT was not the one that made
him ambush the man and rob him, it merely represented the eleven
years' accumulation of such influences, and gave birth to the act
for which their long gestation had made preparation. It had
never entered the head of Henry to rob the man--his ingot had
been subjected to clean steam only; but George's had been
subjected to vaporized quicksilver.
More About the Machine
Note.--When Mrs. W. asks how can a millionaire give a single
dollar to colleges and museums while one human being is destitute
of bread, she has answered her question herself. Her feeling for
the poor shows that she has a standard of benevolence; there she
has conceded the millionaire's privilege of having a standard;
since she evidently requires him to adopt her standard, she is by
that act requiring herself to adopt his. The human being always
looks down when he is examining another person's standard; he
never find one that he has to examine by looking up.
The Man-Machine Again
Young Man. You really think man is a mere machine?
Old Man. I do.
Y.M. And that his mind works automatically and is
independent of his control--carries on thought on its own hook?
O.M. Yes. It is diligently at work, unceasingly at work,
during every waking moment. Have you never tossed about all
night, imploring, beseeching, commanding your mind to stop work
and let you go to sleep?--you who perhaps imagine that your mind
is your servant and must obey your orders, think what you tell it
to think, and stop when you tell it to stop. When it chooses to
work, there is no way to keep it still for an instant. The
brightest man would not be able to supply it with subjects if he
had to hunt them up. If it needed the man's help it would wait
for him to give it work when he wakes in the morning.
Y.M. Maybe it does.
O.M. No, it begins right away, before the man gets wide
enough awake to give it a suggestion. He may go to sleep saying,
"The moment I wake I will think upon such and such a subject,"
but he will fail. His mind will be too quick for him; by the
time he has become nearly enough awake to be half conscious, he
will find that it is already at work upon another subject. Make
the experiment and see.
Y.M. At any rate, he can make it stick to a subject if he
O.M. Not if it find another that suits it better. As a
rule it will listen to neither a dull speaker nor a bright one.
It refuses all persuasion. The dull speaker wearies it and sends
it far away in idle dreams; the bright speaker throws out
stimulating ideas which it goes chasing after and is at once
unconscious of him and his talk. You cannot keep your mind from
wandering, if it wants to; it is master, not you.
After an Interval of Days
O.M. Now, dreams--but we will examine that later.
Meantime, did you try commanding your mind to wait for orders
from you, and not do any thinking on its own hook?
Y.M. Yes, I commanded it to stand ready to take orders when
I should wake in the morning.
O.M. Did it obey?
Y.M. No. It went to thinking of something of its own
initiation, without waiting for me. Also--as you suggested--at
night I appointed a theme for it to begin on in the morning, and
commanded it to begin on that one and no other.
O.M. Did it obey?
O.M. How many times did you try the experiment?
O.M. How many successes did you score?
Y.M. Not one.
O.M. It is as I have said: the mind is independent of the
man. He has no control over it; it does as it pleases. It will
take up a subject in spite of him; it will stick to it in spite
of him; it will throw it aside in spite of him. It is entirely
independent of him.
Y.M. Go on. Illustrate.
O.M. Do you know chess?
Y.M. I learned it a week ago.
O.M. Did your mind go on playing the game all night that
Y.M. Don't mention it!
O.M. It was eagerly, unsatisfiably interested; it rioted in
the combinations; you implored it to drop the game and let you
get some sleep?
Y.M. Yes. It wouldn't listen; it played right along. It
wore me out and I got up haggard and wretched in the morning.
O.M. At some time or other you have been captivated by a
Y.M. Indeed, yes!
"I saw Esau kissing Kate,
And she saw I saw Esau;
I saw Esau, he saw Kate,
And she saw--"
And so on. My mind went mad with joy over it. It repeated it
all day and all night for a week in spite of all I could do to
stop it, and it seemed to me that I must surely go crazy.
O.M. And the new popular song?
Y.M. Oh yes! "In the Swee-eet By and By"; etc. Yes, the
new popular song with the taking melody sings through one's head
day and night, asleep and awake, till one is a wreck. There is
no getting the mind to let it alone.
O.M. Yes, asleep as well as awake. The mind is quite
independent. It is master. You have nothing to do with it. It
is so apart from you that it can conduct its affairs, sing its
songs, play its chess, weave its complex and ingeniously
constructed dreams, while you sleep. It has no use for your
help, no use for your guidance, and never uses either, whether
you be asleep or awake. You have imagined that you could
originate a thought in your mind, and you have sincerely believed
you could do it.
Y.M. Yes, I have had that idea.
O.M. Yet you can't originate a dream-thought for it to work
out, and get it accepted?
O.M. And you can't dictate its procedure after it has
originated a dream-thought for itself?
Y.M. No. No one can do it. Do you think the waking mind
and the dream mind are the same machine?
O.M. There is argument for it. We have wild and fantastic
day-thoughts? Things that are dream-like?
Y.M. Yes--like Mr. Wells's man who invented a drug that made
him invisible; and like the Arabian tales of the Thousand Nights.
O.M. And there are dreams that are rational, simple,
consistent, and unfantastic?
Y.M. Yes. I have dreams that are like that. Dreams that
are just like real life; dreams in which there are several
persons with distinctly differentiated characters--inventions of
my mind and yet strangers to me: a vulgar person; a refined one;
a wise person; a fool; a cruel person; a kind and compassionate
one; a quarrelsome person; a peacemaker; old persons and young;
beautiful girls and homely ones. They talk in character, each
preserves his own characteristics. There are vivid fights, vivid
and biting insults, vivid love-passages; there are tragedies and
comedies, there are griefs that go to one's heart, there are
sayings and doings that make you laugh: indeed, the whole thing
is exactly like real life.
O.M. Your dreaming mind originates the scheme, consistently
and artistically develops it, and carries the little drama
creditably through--all without help or suggestion from you?
O.M. It is argument that it could do the like awake without help
or suggestion from you--and I think it does. It is argument that
it is the same old mind in both cases, and never needs your help.
I think the mind is purely a machine, a thoroughly independent
machine, an automatic machine. Have you tried the other
experiment which I suggested to you?
Y.M. Which one?
O.M. The one which was to determine how much influence you
have over your mind--if any.
Y.M. Yes, and got more or less entertainment out of it. I
did as you ordered: I placed two texts before my eyes--one a
dull one and barren of interest, the other one full of interest,
inflamed with it, white-hot with it. I commanded my mind to busy
itself solely with the dull one.
O.M. Did it obey?
Y.M. Well, no, it didn't. It busied itself with the other one.
O.M. Did you try hard to make it obey?
Y.M. Yes, I did my honest best.
O.M. What was the text which it refused to be interested in
or think about?
Y.M. It was this question: If A owes B a dollar and a
half, and B owes C two and three-quarter, and C owes A thirty-
five cents, and D and A together owe E and B three-sixteenths of
--of--I don't remember the rest, now, but anyway it was wholly
uninteresting, and I could not force my mind to stick to it even
half a minute at a time; it kept flying off to the other text.
O.M. What was the other text?
Y.M. It is no matter about that.
O.M. But what was it?
Y.M. A photograph.
O.M. Your own?
Y.M. No. It was hers.
O.M. You really made an honest good test. Did you make a
Y.M. Yes. I commanded my mind to interest itself in the
morning paper's report of the pork-market, and at the same time I
reminded it of an experience of mine of sixteen years ago. It
refused to consider the pork and gave its whole blazing interest
to that ancient incident.
O.M. What was the incident?
Y.M. An armed desperado slapped my face in the presence of
twenty spectators. It makes me wild and murderous every time I
think of it.
O.M. Good tests, both; very good tests. Did you try my
Y.M. The one which was to prove to me that if I would leave
my mind to its own devices it would find things to think about
without any of my help, and thus convince me that it was a
machine, an automatic machine, set in motion by exterior
influences, and as independent of me as it could be if it were in
some one else's skull. Is that the one?
Y.M. I tried it. I was shaving. I had slept well, and my
mind was very lively, even gay and frisky. It was reveling in a
fantastic and joyful episode of my remote boyhood which had
suddenly flashed up in my memory--moved to this by the spectacle
of a yellow cat picking its way carefully along the top of the
garden wall. The color of this cat brought the bygone cat before
me, and I saw her walking along the side-step of the pulpit; saw
her walk on to a large sheet of sticky fly-paper and get all her
feet involved; saw her struggle and fall down, helpless and
dissatisfied, more and more urgent, more and more unreconciled,
more and more mutely profane; saw the silent congregation
quivering like jelly, and the tears running down their faces. I
saw it all. The sight of the tears whisked my mind to a far
distant and a sadder scene--in Terra del Fuego--and with Darwin's
eyes I saw a naked great savage hurl his little boy against the
rocks for a trifling fault; saw the poor mother gather up her
dying child and hug it to her breast and weep, uttering no word.
Did my mind stop to mourn with that nude black sister of mine?
No--it was far away from that scene in an instant, and was
busying itself with an ever-recurring and disagreeable dream of
mine. In this dream I always find myself, stripped to my shirt,
cringing and dodging about in the midst of a great drawing-room
throng of finely dressed ladies and gentlemen, and wondering how
I got there. And so on and so on, picture after picture,
incident after incident, a drifting panorama of ever-changing,
ever-dissolving views manufactured by my mind without any help
from me--why, it would take me two hours to merely name the
multitude of things my mind tallied off and photographed in
fifteen minutes, let alone describe them to you.
O.M. A man's mind, left free, has no use for his help. But
there is one way whereby he can get its help when he desires it.
Y.M. What is that way?
O.M. When your mind is racing along from subject to subject
and strikes an inspiring one, open your mouth and begin talking
upon that matter--or--take your pen and use that. It will
interest your mind and concentrate it, and it will pursue the
subject with satisfaction. It will take full charge, and furnish
the words itself.
Y.M. But don't I tell it what to say?
O.M. There are certainly occasions when you haven't time.
The words leap out before you know what is coming.
Y.M. For instance?
O.M. Well, take a "flash of wit"--repartee. Flash is the
right word. It is out instantly. There is no time to arrange
the words. There is no thinking, no reflecting. Where there is
a wit-mechanism it is automatic in its action and needs no help.
Where the whit-mechanism is lacking, no amount of study and
reflection can manufacture the product.
Y.M. You really think a man originates nothing, creates nothing.
O.M. I do. Men perceive, and their brain-machines
automatically combine the things perceived. That is all.
Y.M. The steam-engine?
O.M. It takes fifty men a hundred years to invent it. One
meaning of invent is discover. I use the word in that sense.
Little by little they discover and apply the multitude of details
that go to make the perfect engine. Watt noticed that confined
steam was strong enough to lift the lid of the teapot. He didn't
create the idea, he merely discovered the fact; the cat had
noticed it a hundred times. From the teapot he evolved the
cylinder--from the displaced lid he evolved the piston-rod. To
attach something to the piston-rod to be moved by it, was a
simple matter--crank and wheel. And so there was a working
One by one, improvements were discovered by men who used
their eyes, not their creating powers--for they hadn't any--and
now, after a hundred years the patient contributions of fifty or
a hundred observers stand compacted in the wonderful machine
which drives the ocean liner.
Y.M. A Shakespearean play?
O.M. The process is the same. The first actor was a
savage. He reproduced in his theatrical war-dances, scalp-
dances, and so on, incidents which he had seen in real life. A
more advanced civilization produced more incidents, more
episodes; the actor and the story-teller borrowed them. And so
the drama grew, little by little, stage by stage. It is made up
of the facts of life, not creations. It took centuries to
develop the Greek drama. It borrowed from preceding ages; it
lent to the ages that came after. Men observe and combine, that
is all. So does a rat.
O.M. He observes a smell, he infers a cheese, he seeks and
finds. The astronomer observes this and that; adds his this and
that to the this-and-thats of a hundred predecessors, infers an
invisible planet, seeks it and finds it. The rat gets into a
trap; gets out with trouble; infers that cheese in traps lacks
value, and meddles with that trap no more. The astronomer is
very proud of his achievement, the rat is proud of his. Yet both
are machines; they have done machine work, they have originated
nothing, they have no right to be vain; the whole credit belongs
to their Maker. They are entitled to no honors, no praises, no
monuments when they die, no remembrance. One is a complex and
elaborate machine, the other a simple and limited machine, but
they are alike in principle, function, and process, and neither
of them works otherwise than automatically, and neither of them
may righteously claim a PERSONAL superiority or a personal
dignity above the other.
Y.M. In earned personal dignity, then, and in personal merit
for what he does, it follows of necessity that he is on the
same level as a rat?
O.M. His brother the rat; yes, that is how it seems to me.
Neither of them being entitled to any personal merit for what he
does, it follows of necessity that neither of them has a right to
arrogate to himself (personally created) superiorities over his
Y.M. Are you determined to go on believing in these
insanities? Would you go on believing in them in the face of
able arguments backed by collated facts and instances?
O.M. I have been a humble, earnest, and sincere Truth-Seeker.
Y.M. Very well?
O.M. The humble, earnest, and sincere Truth-Seeker is
always convertible by such means.
Y.M. I am thankful to God to hear you say this, for now I
know that your conversion--
O.M. Wait. You misunderstand. I said I have BEEN a Truth-Seeker.
O.M. I am not that now. Have your forgotten? I told you
that there are none but temporary Truth-Seekers; that a permanent
one is a human impossibility; that as soon as the Seeker finds
what he is thoroughly convinced is the Truth, he seeks no
further, but gives the rest of his days to hunting junk to patch
it and caulk it and prop it with, and make it weather-proof and
keep it from caving in on him. Hence the Presbyterian remains a
Presbyterian, the Mohammedan a Mohammedan, the Spiritualist a
Spiritualist, the Democrat a Democrat, the Republican a
Republican, the Monarchist a Monarchist; and if a humble,
earnest, and sincere Seeker after Truth should find it in the
proposition that the moon is made of green cheese nothing could
ever budge him from that position; for he is nothing but an
automatic machine, and must obey the laws of his construction.
Y.M. After so--
O.M. Having found the Truth; perceiving that beyond question
man has but one moving impulse--the contenting of his own spirit--
and is merely a machine and entitled to no personal merit for
anything he does, it is not humanly possible for me to seek further.
The rest of my days will be spent in patching and painting and
puttying and caulking my priceless possession and in looking the
other way when an imploring argument or a damaging fact approaches.
1. The Marquess of Worcester had done all of this more than a
Instinct and Thought
Young Man. It is odious. Those drunken theories of yours,
advanced a while ago--concerning the rat and all that--strip Man
bare of all his dignities, grandeurs, sublimities.
Old Man. He hasn't any to strip--they are shams, stolen
clothes. He claims credits which belong solely to his Maker.
Y.M. But you have no right to put him on a level with a rat.
O.M. I don't--morally. That would not be fair to the rat.
The rat is well above him, there.
Y.M. Are you joking?
O.M. No, I am not.
Y.M. Then what do you mean?
O.M. That comes under the head of the Moral Sense. It is a
large question. Let us finish with what we are about now, before
we take it up.
Y.M. Very well. You have seemed to concede that you place
Man and the rat on A level. What is it? The intellectual?
O.M. In form--not a degree.
O.M. I think that the rat's mind and the man's mind are the
same machine, but of unequal capacities--like yours and Edison's;
like the African pygmy's and Homer's; like the Bushman's and Bismarck's.
Y.M. How are you going to make that out, when the lower animals
have no mental quality but instinct, while man possesses reason?
O.M. What is instinct?
Y.M. It is merely unthinking and mechanical exercise of
O.M. What originated the habit?
Y.M. The first animal started it, its descendants have
O.M. How did the first one come to start it?
Y.M. I don't know; but it didn't THINK it out.
O.M. How do you know it didn't?
Y.M. Well--I have a right to suppose it didn't, anyway.
O.M. I don't believe you have. What is thought?
Y.M. I know what you call it: the mechanical and automatic
putting together of impressions received from outside, and
drawing an inference from them.
O.M. Very good. Now my idea of the meaningless term "instinct" is,
that it is merely PETRIFIED THOUGHT; solidified and made inanimate
by habit; thought which was once alive and awake, but it become
unconscious--walks in its sleep, so to speak.
Y.M. Illustrate it.
O.M. Take a herd of cows, feeding in a pasture. Their
heads are all turned in one direction. They do that
instinctively; they gain nothing by it, they have no reason for
it, they don't know why they do it. It is an inherited habit
which was originally thought--that is to say, observation of an
exterior fact, and a valuable inference drawn from that
observation and confirmed by experience. The original wild ox
noticed that with the wind in his favor he could smell his enemy
in time to escape; then he inferred that it was worth while to
keep his nose to the wind. That is the process which man calls
reasoning. Man's thought-machine works just like the other
animals', but it is a better one and more Edisonian. Man, in the
ox's place, would go further, reason wider: he would face part
of the herd the other way and protect both front and rear.
Y.M. Did you stay the term instinct is meaningless?
O.M. I think it is a bastard word. I think it confuses us;
for as a rule it applies itself to habits and impulses which had
a far-off origin in thought, and now and then breaks the rule and
applies itself to habits which can hardly claim a thought-origin.
Y.M. Give an instance.
O.M. Well, in putting on trousers a man always inserts the same old
leg first--never the other one. There is no advantage in that,
and no sense in it. All men do it, yet no man thought it out
and adopted it of set purpose, I imagine. But it is a habit which
is transmitted, no doubt, and will continue to be transmitted.
Y.M. Can you prove that the habit exists?
O.M. You can prove it, if you doubt. If you will take a
man to a clothing-store and watch him try on a dozen pairs of
trousers, you will see.
Y.M. The cow illustration is not--
O.M. Sufficient to show that a dumb animal's mental machine
is just the same as a man's and its reasoning processes the same?
I will illustrate further. If you should hand Mr. Edison a box
which you caused to fly open by some concealed device he would
infer a spring, and would hunt for it and find it. Now an uncle
of mine had an old horse who used to get into the closed lot
where the corn-crib was and dishonestly take the corn. I got the
punishment myself, as it was supposed that I had heedlessly
failed to insert the wooden pin which kept the gate closed.
These persistent punishments fatigued me; they also caused me to
infer the existence of a culprit, somewhere; so I hid myself and
watched the gate. Presently the horse came and pulled the pin
out with his teeth and went in. Nobody taught him that; he had
observed--then thought it out for himself. His process did not
differ from Edison's; he put this and that together and drew an
inference--and the peg, too; but I made him sweat for it.
Y.M. It has something of the seeming of thought about it.
Still it is not very elaborate. Enlarge.
O.M. Suppose Mr. Edison has been enjoying some one's
hospitalities. He comes again by and by, and the house is
vacant. He infers that his host has moved. A while afterward,
in another town, he sees the man enter a house; he infers that
that is the new home, and follows to inquire. Here, now, is the
experience of a gull, as related by a naturalist. The scene is a
Scotch fishing village where the gulls were kindly treated. This
particular gull visited a cottage; was fed; came next day and was
fed again; came into the house, next time, and ate with the
family; kept on doing this almost daily, thereafter. But, once
the gull was away on a journey for a few days, and when it
returned the house was vacant. Its friends had removed to a
village three miles distant. Several months later it saw the
head of the family on the street there, followed him home,
entered the house without excuse or apology, and became a daily
guest again. Gulls do not rank high mentally, but this one had
memory and the reasoning faculty, you see, and applied them
Y.M. Yet it was not an Edison and couldn't be developed into one.
O.M. Perhaps not. Could you?
Y.M. That is neither here nor there. Go on.
O.M. If Edison were in trouble and a stranger helped him
out of it and next day he got into the same difficulty again, he
would infer the wise thing to do in case he knew the stranger's
address. Here is a case of a bird and a stranger as related by a
naturalist. An Englishman saw a bird flying around about his
dog's head, down in the grounds, and uttering cries of distress.
He went there to see about it. The dog had a young bird in his
mouth--unhurt. The gentleman rescued it and put it on a bush and
brought the dog away. Early the next morning the mother bird
came for the gentleman, who was sitting on his veranda, and by
its maneuvers persuaded him to follow it to a distant part of the
grounds--flying a little way in front of him and waiting for him
to catch up, and so on; and keeping to the winding path, too,
instead of flying the near way across lots. The distance covered
was four hundred yards. The same dog was the culprit; he had the
young bird again, and once more he had to give it up. Now the
mother bird had reasoned it all out: since the stranger had
helped her once, she inferred that he would do it again; she knew
where to find him, and she went upon her errand with confidence.
Her mental processes were what Edison's would have been. She put
this and that together--and that is all that thought IS--and out
of them built her logical arrangement of inferences. Edison
couldn't have done it any better himself.
Y.M. Do you believe that many of the dumb animals can think?
O.M. Yes--the elephant, the monkey, the horse, the dog, the
parrot, the macaw, the mocking-bird, and many others. The
elephant whose mate fell into a pit, and who dumped dirt and
rubbish into the pit till bottom was raised high enough to enable
the captive to step out, was equipped with the reasoning quality.
I conceive that all animals that can learn things through
teaching and drilling have to know how to observe, and put this
and that together and draw an inference--the process of thinking.
Could you teach an idiot of manuals of arms, and to advance,
retreat, and go through complex field maneuvers at the word of
Y.M. Not if he were a thorough idiot.
O.M. Well, canary-birds can learn all that; dogs and elephants
learn all sorts of wonderful things. They must surely be able
to notice, and to put things together, and say to themselves,
"I get the idea, now: when I do so and so, as per order,
I am praised and fed; when I do differently I am punished."
Fleas can be taught nearly anything that a Congressman can.
Y.M. Granting, then, that dumb animals are able to think
upon a low plane, is there any that can think upon a high one?
Is there one that is well up toward man?
O.M. Yes. As a thinker and planner the ant is the equal of
any savage race of men; as a self-educated specialist in several
arts she is the superior of any savage race of men; and in one or
two high mental qualities she is above the reach of any man,
savage or civilized!
Y.M. Oh, come! you are abolishing the intellectual frontier
which separates man and beast.
O.M. I beg your pardon. One cannot abolish what does not exist.
Y.M. You are not in earnest, I hope. You cannot mean to
seriously say there is no such frontier.
O.M. I do say it seriously. The instances of the horse, the
gull, the mother bird, and the elephant show that those creatures
put their this's and thats together just as Edison would have
done it and drew the same inferences that he would have drawn.
Their mental machinery was just like his, also its manner of
working. Their equipment was as inferior to the Strasburg clock,
but that is the only difference--there is no frontier.
Y.M. It looks exasperatingly true; and is distinctly
offensive. It elevates the dumb beasts to--to--
O.M. Let us drop that lying phrase, and call them the
Unrevealed Creatures; so far as we can know, there is no such
thing as a dumb beast.
Y.M. On what grounds do you make that assertion?
O.M. On quite simple ones. "Dumb" beast suggests an animal
that has no thought-machinery, no understanding, no speech, no
way of communicating what is in its mind. We know that a hen HAS
speech. We cannot understand everything she says, but we easily
learn two or three of her phrases. We know when she is saying,
"I have laid an egg"; we know when she is saying to the chicks,
"Run here, dears, I've found a worm"; we know what she is saying
when she voices a warning: "Quick! hurry! gather yourselves
under mamma, there's a hawk coming!" We understand the cat when
she stretches herself out, purring with affection and contentment
and lifts up a soft voice and says, "Come, kitties, supper's
ready"; we understand her when she goes mourning about and says,
"Where can they be? They are lost. Won't you help me hunt for
them?" and we understand the disreputable Tom when he challenges
at midnight from his shed, "You come over here, you product of
immoral commerce, and I'll make your fur fly!" We understand a
few of a dog's phrases and we learn to understand a few of the
remarks and gestures of any bird or other animal that we
domesticate and observe. The clearness and exactness of the few
of the hen's speeches which we understand is argument that she
can communicate to her kind a hundred things which we cannot
comprehend--in a word, that she can converse. And this argument
is also applicable in the case of others of the great army of the
Unrevealed. It is just like man's vanity and impertinence to
call an animal dumb because it is dumb to his dull perceptions.
Now as to the ant--
Y.M. Yes, go back to the ant, the creature that--as you
seem to think--sweeps away the last vestige of an intellectual
frontier between man and the Unrevealed.
O.M. That is what she surely does. In all his history the
aboriginal Australian never thought out a house for himself and
built it. The ant is an amazing architect. She is a wee little
creature, but she builds a strong and enduring house eight feet
high--a house which is as large in proportion to her size as is
the largest capitol or cathedral in the world compared to man's
size. No savage race has produced architects who could approach
the air in genius or culture. No civilized race has produced
architects who could plan a house better for the uses proposed
than can hers. Her house contains a throne-room; nurseries for
her young; granaries; apartments for her soldiers, her workers,
etc.; and they and the multifarious halls and corridors which
communicate with them are arranged and distributed with an
educated and experienced eye for convenience and adaptability.
Y.M. That could be mere instinct.
O.M. It would elevate the savage if he had it. But let us
look further before we decide. The ant has soldiers--battalions,
regiments, armies; and they have their appointed captains and
generals, who lead them to battle.
Y.M. That could be instinct, too.
O.M. We will look still further. The ant has a system of
government; it is well planned, elaborate, and is well carried on.
Y.M. Instinct again.
O.M. She has crowds of slaves, and is a hard and unjust
employer of forced labor.
O.M. She has cows, and milks them.
Y.M. Instinct, of course.
O.M. In Texas she lays out a farm twelve feet square, plants it,
weeds it, cultivates it, gathers the crop and stores it away.
Y.M. Instinct, all the same.
O.M. The ant discriminates between friend and stranger.
Sir John Lubbock took ants from two different nests, made them
drunk with whiskey and laid them, unconscious, by one of the
nests, near some water. Ants from the nest came and examined and
discussed these disgraced creatures, then carried their friends
home and threw the strangers overboard. Sir John repeated the
experiment a number of times. For a time the sober ants did as
they had done at first--carried their friends home and threw the
strangers overboard. But finally they lost patience, seeing that
their reformatory efforts went for nothing, and threw both
friends and strangers overboard. Come--is this instinct, or is
it thoughtful and intelligent discussion of a thing new--
absolutely new--to their experience; with a verdict arrived at,
sentence passed, and judgment executed? Is it instinct?--thought
petrified by ages of habit--or isn't it brand-new thought,
inspired by the new occasion, the new circumstances?
Y.M. I have to concede it. It was not a result of habit;
it has all the look of reflection, thought, putting this and that
together, as you phrase it. I believe it was thought.
O.M. I will give you another instance of thought. Franklin
had a cup of sugar on a table in his room. The ants got at it.
He tried several preventives; and ants rose superior to them.
Finally he contrived one which shut off access--probably set the
table's legs in pans of water, or drew a circle of tar around the
cup, I don't remember. At any rate, he watched to see what they
would do. They tried various schemes--failures, every one. The
ants were badly puzzled. Finally they held a consultation,
discussed the problem, arrived at a decision--and this time they
beat that great philosopher. They formed in procession, cross
the floor, climbed the wall, marched across the ceiling to a
point just over the cup, then one by one they let go and fell
down into it! Was that instinct--thought petrified by ages of
Y.M. No, I don't believe it was. I believe it was a newly
reasoned scheme to meet a new emergency.
O.M. Very well. You have conceded the reasoning power in
two instances. I come now to a mental detail wherein the ant is
a long way the superior of any human being. Sir John Lubbock
proved by many experiments that an ant knows a stranger ant of
her own species in a moment, even when the stranger is disguised
--with paint. Also he proved that an ant knows every individual
in her hive of five hundred thousand souls. Also, after a year's
absence one of the five hundred thousand she will straightway
recognize the returned absentee and grace the recognition with a
affectionate welcome. How are these recognitions made? Not by
color, for painted ants were recognized. Not by smell, for ants
that had been dipped in chloroform were recognized. Not by
speech and not by antennae signs nor contacts, for the drunken
and motionless ants were recognized and the friend discriminated
from the stranger. The ants were all of the same species,
therefore the friends had to be recognized by form and feature--
friends who formed part of a hive of five hundred thousand! Has
any man a memory for form and feature approaching that?
Y.M. Certainly not.
O.M. Franklin's ants and Lubbuck's ants show fine
capacities of putting this and that together in new and untried
emergencies and deducting smart conclusions from the
combinations--a man's mental process exactly. With memory to
help, man preserves his observations and reasonings, reflects
upon them, adds to them, recombines, and so proceeds, stage by
stage, to far results--from the teakettle to the ocean
greyhound's complex engine; from personal labor to slave labor;
from wigwam to palace; from the capricious chase to agriculture
and stored food; from nomadic life to stable government and
concentrated authority; from incoherent hordes to massed armies.
The ant has observation, the reasoning faculty, and the
preserving adjunct of a prodigious memory; she has duplicated
man's development and the essential features of his civilization,
and you call it all instinct!
Y.M. Perhaps I lacked the reasoning faculty myself.
O.M. Well, don't tell anybody, and don't do it again.
Y.M. We have come a good way. As a result--as I understand it--
I am required to concede that there is absolutely no intellectual
frontier separating Man and the Unrevealed Creatures?
O.M. That is what you are required to concede. There is no
such frontier--there is no way to get around that. Man has a
finer and more capable machine in him than those others, but it
is the same machine and works in the same way. And neither he
nor those others can command the machine--it is strictly
automatic, independent of control, works when it pleases, and
when it doesn't please, it can't be forced.
Y.M. Then man and the other animals are all alike, as to mental
machinery, and there isn't any difference of any stupendous
magnitude between them, except in quality, not in kind.
O.M. That is about the state of it--intellectuality. There
are pronounced limitations on both sides. We can't learn to
understand much of their language, but the dog, the elephant,
etc., learn to understand a very great deal of ours. To that
extent they are our superiors. On the other hand, they can't
learn reading, writing, etc., nor any of our fine and high
things, and there we have a large advantage over them.
Y.M. Very well, let them have what they've got, and welcome;
there is still a wall, and a lofty one. They haven't got the
Moral Sense; we have it, and it lifts us immeasurably above them.
O.M. What makes you think that?
Y.M. Now look here--let's call a halt. I have stood the
other infamies and insanities and that is enough; I am not going
to have man and the other animals put on the same level morally.
O.M. I wasn't going to hoist man up to that.
Y.M. This is too much! I think it is not right to jest
about such things.
O.M. I am not jesting, I am merely reflecting a plain and
simple truth--and without uncharitableness. The fact that man
knows right from wrong proves his INTELLECTUAL superiority to the
other creatures; but the fact that he can DO wrong proves his
MORAL inferiority to any creature that CANNOT. It is my belief
that this position is not assailable.
Y.M. What is your opinion regarding Free Will?
O.M. That there is no such thing. Did the man possess it
who gave the old woman his last shilling and trudged home in the
Y.M. He had the choice between succoring the old woman and
leaving her to suffer. Isn't it so?
O.M. Yes, there was a choice to be made, between bodily
comfort on the one hand and the comfort of the spirit on the
other. The body made a strong appeal, of course--the body would
be quite sure to do that; the spirit made a counter appeal. A
choice had to be made between the two appeals, and was made. Who
or what determined that choice?
Y.M. Any one but you would say that the man determined it,
and that in doing it he exercised Free Will.
O.M. We are constantly assured that every man is endowed
with Free Will, and that he can and must exercise it where he is
offered a choice between good conduct and less-good conduct. Yet
we clearly saw that in that man's case he really had no Free
Will: his temperament, his training, and the daily influences
which had molded him and made him what he was, COMPELLED him to
rescue the old woman and thus save HIMSELF--save himself from
spiritual pain, from unendurable wretchedness. He did not make
the choice, it was made FOR him by forces which he could not
control. Free Will has always existed in WORDS, but it stops
there, I think--stops short of FACT. I would not use those
words--Free Will--but others.
Y.M. What others?
O.M. Free Choice.
Y.M. What is the difference?
O.M. The one implies untrammeled power to ACT as you please,
the other implies nothing beyond a mere MENTAL PROCESS:
the critical ability to determine which of two things
is nearest right and just.
Y.M. Make the difference clear, please.
O.M. The mind can freely SELECT, CHOOSE, POINT OUT the
right and just one--its function stops there. It can go no
further in the matter. It has no authority to say that the right
one shall be acted upon and the wrong one discarded.
That authority is in other hands.
Y.M. The man's?
O.M. In the machine which stands for him. In his born
disposition and the character which has been built around it by
training and environment.
Y.M. It will act upon the right one of the two?
O.M. It will do as it pleases in the matter. George Washington's
machine would act upon the right one; Pizarro would act upon the wrong one.
Y.M. Then as I understand it a bad man's mental machinery calmly
and judicially points out which of two things is right and just--
O.M. Yes, and his MORAL machinery will freely act upon
the other or the other, according to its make, and be quite
indifferent to the MIND'S feeling concerning the matter--that is,
WOULD be, if the mind had any feelings; which it hasn't.
It is merely a thermometer: it registers the heat and the cold,
and cares not a farthing about either.
Y.M. Then we must not claim that if a man KNOWS which of
two things is right he is absolutely BOUND to do that thing?
O.M. His temperament and training will decide what he shall
do, and he will do it; he cannot help himself, he has no
authority over the mater. Wasn't it right for David to go out
and slay Goliath?
O.M. Then it would have been equally RIGHT for any one else to do it?
O.M. Then it would have been RIGHT for a born coward to attempt it?
Y.M. It would--yes.
O.M. You know that no born coward ever would have attempted it, don't you?
O.M. You know that a born coward's make and temperament
would be an absolute and insurmountable bar to his ever essaying
such a thing, don't you?
Y.M. Yes, I know it.
O.M. He clearly perceives that it would be RIGHT to try it?
O.M. His mind has Free Choice in determining that it would
be RIGHT to try it?
O.M. Then if by reason of his inborn cowardice he simply
can NOT essay it, what becomes of his Free Will? Where is his
Free Will? Why claim that he has Free Will when the plain facts
show that he hasn't? Why content that because he and David SEE
the right alike, both must ACT alike? Why impose the same laws
upon goat and lion?
Y.M. There is really no such thing as Free Will?
O.M. It is what I think. There is WILL. But it has
nothing to do with INTELLECTUAL PERCEPTIONS OF RIGHT AND WRONG,
and is not under their command. David's temperament and training
had Will, and it was a compulsory force; David had to obey its
decrees, he had no choice. The coward's temperament and training
possess Will, and IT is compulsory; it commands him to avoid
danger, and he obeys, he has no choice. But neither the Davids
nor the cowards possess Free Will--will that may do the right or
do the wrong, as their MENTAL verdict shall decide.
Not Two Values, But Only One
Y.M. There is one thing which bothers me: I can't tell
where you draw the line between MATERIAL covetousness and
O.M. I don't draw any.
Y.M. How do you mean?
O.M. There is no such thing as MATERIAL covetousness.
All covetousness is spiritual
Y.M. ALL longings, desires, ambitions SPIRITUAL, never material?
O.M. Yes. The Master in you requires that in ALL cases you
shall content his SPIRIT--that alone. He never requires anything
else, he never interests himself in any other matter.
Y.M. Ah, come! When he covets somebody's money--isn't that
rather distinctly material and gross?
O.M. No. The money is merely a symbol--it represents in
visible and concrete form a SPIRITUAL DESIRE. Any so-called
material thing that you want is merely a symbol: you want it not
for ITSELF, but because it will content your spirit for the moment.
Y.M. Please particularize.
O.M. Very well. Maybe the thing longed for is a new hat.
You get it and your vanity is pleased, your spirit contented.
Suppose your friends deride the hat, make fun of it: at once it
loses its value; you are ashamed of it, you put it out of your
sight, you never want to see it again.
Y.M. I think I see. Go on.
O.M. It is the same hat, isn't it? It is in no way
altered. But it wasn't the HAT you wanted, but only what it
stood for--a something to please and content your SPIRIT. When
it failed of that, the whole of its value was gone. There are no
MATERIAL values; there are only spiritual ones. You will hunt in
vain for a material value that is ACTUAL, REAL--there is no such
thing. The only value it possesses, for even a moment, is the
spiritual value back of it: remove that end and it is at once
worthless--like the hat.
Y.M. Can you extend that to money?
O.M. Yes. It is merely a symbol, it has no MATERIAL value;
you think you desire it for its own sake, but it is not so. You
desire it for the spiritual content it will bring; if it fail of
that, you discover that its value is gone. There is that
pathetic tale of the man who labored like a slave, unresting,
unsatisfied, until he had accumulated a fortune, and was happy
over it, jubilant about it; then in a single week a pestilence
swept away all whom he held dear and left him desolate. His
money's value was gone. He realized that his joy in it came not
from the money itself, but from the spiritual contentment he got
out of his family's enjoyment of the pleasures and delights it
lavished upon them. Money has no MATERIAL value; if you remove
its spiritual value nothing is left but dross. It is so with all
things, little or big, majestic or trivial--there are no
exceptions. Crowns, scepters, pennies, paste jewels, village
notoriety, world-wide fame--they are all the same, they have no
MATERIAL value: while they content the SPIRIT they are precious,
when this fails they are worthless.
A Difficult Question
Y.M. You keep me confused and perplexed all the time by
your elusive terminology. Sometimes you divide a man up into two
or three separate personalities, each with authorities,
jurisdictions, and responsibilities of its own, and when he is in
that condition I can't grasp it. Now when _I_ speak of a man, he
is THE WHOLE THING IN ONE, and easy to hold and contemplate.
O.M. That is pleasant and convenient, if true. When you
speak of "my body" who is the "my"?
Y.M. It is the "me."
O.M. The body is a property then, and the Me owns it.
Who is the Me?
Y.M. The Me is THE WHOLE THING; it is a common property; an
undivided ownership, vested in the whole entity.
O.M. If the Me admires a rainbow, is it the whole Me that
admires it, including the hair, hands, heels, and all?
Y.M. Certainly not. It is my MIND that admires it.
O.M. So YOU divide the Me yourself. Everybody does;
everybody must. What, then, definitely, is the Me?
Y.M. I think it must consist of just those two parts--
the body and the mind.
O.M. You think so? If you say "I believe the world is round,"
who is the "I" that is speaking?
Y.M. The mind.
O.M. If you say "I grieve for the loss of my father,"
who is the "I"?
Y.M. The mind.
O.M. Is the mind exercising an intellectual function when
it examines and accepts the evidence that the world is round?
O.M. Is it exercising an intellectual function when it
grieves for the loss of your father?
Y.M. That is not cerebration, brain-work, it is a matter of FEELING.
O.M. Then its source is not in your mind, but in your MORAL territory?
Y.M. I have to grant it.
O.M. Is your mind a part of your PHYSICAL equipment?
Y.M. No. It is independent of it; it is spiritual.
O.M. Being spiritual, it cannot be affected by physical influences?
O.M. Does the mind remain sober with the body is drunk?
O.M. There IS a physical effect present, then?
Y.M. It looks like it.
O.M. A cracked skull has resulted in a crazy mind. Why
should it happen if the mind is spiritual, and INDEPENDENT of
Y.M. Well--I don't know.
O.M. When you have a pain in your foot, how do you know it?
Y.M. I feel it.
O.M. But you do not feel it until a nerve reports the hurt
to the brain. Yet the brain is the seat of the mind, is it not?
Y.M. I think so.
O.M. But isn't spiritual enough to learn what is happening
in the outskirts without the help of the PHYSICAL messenger? You
perceive that the question of who or what the Me is, is not a
simple one at all. You say "I admire the rainbow," and "I
believe the world is round," and in these cases we find that the
Me is not speaking, but only the MENTAL part. You say, "I
grieve," and again the Me is not all speaking, but only the MORAL
part. You say the mind is wholly spiritual; then you say "I have
a pain" and find that this time the Me is mental AND spiritual
combined. We all use the "I" in this indeterminate fashion,
there is no help for it. We imagine a Master and King over what
you call The Whole Thing, and we speak of him as "I," but when we
try to define him we find we cannot do it. The intellect and the
feelings can act quite INDEPENDENTLY of each other; we recognize
that, and we look around for a Ruler who is master over both, and
can serve as a DEFINITE AND INDISPUTABLE "I," and enable us to
know what we mean and who or what we are talking about when we
use that pronoun, but we have to give it up and confess that we
cannot find him. To me, Man is a machine, made up of many
mechanisms, the moral and mental ones acting automatically in
accordance with the impulses of an interior Master who is built
out of born-temperament and an accumulation of multitudinous
outside influences and trainings; a machine whose ONE function is
to secure the spiritual contentment of the Master, be his desires
good or be they evil; a machine whose Will is absolute and must
be obeyed, and always IS obeyed.
Y.M. Maybe the Me is the Soul?
O.M. Maybe it is. What is the Soul?
Y.M. I don't know.
O.M. Neither does any one else.
The Master Passion
Y.M. What is the Master?--or, in common speech, the
Conscience? Explain it.
O.M. It is that mysterious autocrat, lodged in a man, which
compels the man to content its desires. It may be called the
Master Passion--the hunger for Self-Approval.
Y.M. Where is its seat?
O.M. In man's moral constitution.
Y.M. Are its commands for the man's good?
O.M. It is indifferent to the man's good; it never concerns
itself about anything but the satisfying of its own desires. It
can be TRAINED to prefer things which will be for the man's good,
but it will prefer them only because they will content IT better
than other things would.
Y.M. Then even when it is trained to high ideals it is still
looking out for its own contentment, and not for the man's good.
O.M. True. Trained or untrained, it cares nothing for the man's good,
and never concerns itself about it.
Y.M. It seems to be an IMMORAL force seated in the man's
O.M. It is a COLORLESS force seated in the man's moral constitution.
Let us call it an instinct--a blind, unreasoning instinct, which cannot
and does not distinguish between good morals and bad ones, and cares
nothing for results to the man provided its own contentment be secured;
and it will ALWAYS secure that.
Y.M. It seeks money, and it probably considers that that is
an advantage for the man?
O.M. It is not always seeking money, it is not always
seeking power, nor office, nor any other MATERIAL advantage. In
ALL cases it seeks a SPIRITUAL contentment, let the MEANS be what
they may. Its desires are determined by the man's temperament--
and it is lord over that. Temperament, Conscience,
Susceptibility, Spiritual Appetite, are, in fact, the same thing.
Have you ever heard of a person who cared nothing for money?
Y.M. Yes. A scholar who would not leave his garret and his
books to take a place in a business house at a large salary.
O.M. He had to satisfy his master--that is to say, his temperament,
his Spiritual Appetite--and it preferred books to money. Are there
Y.M. Yes, the hermit.
O.M. It is a good instance. The hermit endures solitude,
hunger, cold, and manifold perils, to content his autocrat, who
prefers these things, and prayer and contemplation, to money or
to any show or luxury that money can buy. Are there others?
Y.M. Yes. The artist, the poet, the scientist.
O.M. Their autocrat prefers the deep pleasures of these
occupations, either well paid or ill paid, to any others in the
market, at any price. You REALIZE that the Master Passion--the
contentment of the spirit--concerns itself with many things
besides so-called material advantage, material prosperity, cash,
and all that?
Y.M. I think I must concede it.
O.M. I believe you must. There are perhaps as many
Temperaments that would refuse the burdens and vexations and
distinctions of public office as there are that hunger after
them. The one set of Temperaments seek the contentment of the
spirit, and that alone; and this is exactly the case with the
other set. Neither set seeks anything BUT the contentment of the
spirit. If the one is sordid, both are sordid; and equally so,
since the end in view is precisely the same in both cases. And
in both cases Temperament decides the preference--and Temperament
is BORN, not made.
O.M. You have been taking a holiday?
Y.M. Yes; a mountain tramp covering a week. Are you ready to talk?
O.M. Quite ready. What shall we begin with?
Y.M. Well, lying abed resting up, two days and nights, I
have thought over all these talks, and passed them carefully in
review. With this result: that . . . that . . . are you
intending to publish your notions about Man some day?
O.M. Now and then, in these past twenty years, the Master
inside of me has half-intended to order me to set them to paper
and publish them. Do I have to tell you why the order has
remained unissued, or can you explain so simply a thing without
Y.M. By your doctrine, it is simplicity itself: outside
influences moved your interior Master to give the order; stronger
outside influences deterred him. Without the outside influences,
neither of these impulses could ever have been born, since a
person's brain is incapable or originating an idea within itself.
O.M. Correct. Go on.
Y.M. The matter of publishing or withholding is still in your
Master's hands. If some day an outside influence shall determine
him to publish, he will give the order, and it will be obeyed.
O.M. That is correct. Well?
Y.M. Upon reflection I have arrived at the conviction
that the publication of your doctrines would be harmful.
Do you pardon me?
O.M. Pardon YOU? You have done nothing. You are an
instrument--a speaking-trumpet. Speaking-trumpets are not
responsible for what is said through them. Outside influences--
in the form of lifelong teachings, trainings, notions,
prejudices, and other second-hand importations--have persuaded
the Master within you that the publication of these doctrines
would be harmful. Very well, this is quite natural, and was to
be expected; in fact, was inevitable. Go on; for the sake of
ease and convenience, stick to habit: speak in the first person,
and tell me what your Master thinks about it.
Y.M. Well, to begin: it is a desolating doctrine; it is
not inspiring, enthusing, uplifting. It takes the glory out of
man, it takes the pride out of him, it takes the heroism out of
him, it denies him all personal credit, all applause; it not only
degrades him to a machine, but allows him no control over the
machine; makes a mere coffee-mill of him, and neither permits him
to supply the coffee nor turn the crank, his sole and piteously
humble function being to grind coarse or fine, according to his
make, outside impulses doing the rest.
O.M. It is correctly stated. Tell me--what do men admire
most in each other?
Y.M. Intellect, courage, majesty of build, beauty of
countenance, charity, benevolence, magnanimity, kindliness,
O.M. I would not go any further. These are ELEMENTALS.
Virtue, fortitude, holiness, truthfulness, loyalty, high ideals--
these, and all the related qualities that are named in the
dictionary, are MADE OF THE ELEMENTALS, by blendings,
combinations, and shadings of the elementals, just as one makes
green by blending blue and yellow, and makes several shades and
tints of red by modifying the elemental red. There are several
elemental colors; they are all in the rainbow; out of them we
manufacture and name fifty shades of them. You have named the
elementals of the human rainbow, and also one BLEND--heroism,
which is made out of courage and magnanimity. Very well, then;
which of these elements does the possessor of it manufacture for
himself? Is it intellect?
Y.M. He is born with it.
O.M. Is it courage?
Y.M. No. He is born with it.
O.M. Is it majesty of build, beauty of countenance?
Y.M. No. They are birthrights.
O.M. Take those others--the elemental moral qualities--
charity, benevolence, magnanimity, kindliness; fruitful seeds,
out of which spring, through cultivation by outside influences,
all the manifold blends and combinations of virtues named in the
dictionaries: does man manufacture any of those seeds, or are
they all born in him?
Y.M. Born in him.
O.M. Who manufactures them, then?
O.M. Where does the credit of it belong?
Y.M. To God.
O.M. And the glory of which you spoke, and the applause?
Y.M. To God.
O.M. Then it is YOU who degrade man. You make him claim
glory, praise, flattery, for every valuable thing he possesses--
BORROWED finery, the whole of it; no rag of it earned by himself,
not a detail of it produced by his own labor. YOU make man a
humbug; have I done worse by him?
Y.M. You have made a machine of him.
O.M. Who devised that cunning and beautiful mechanism, a
O.M. Who devised the law by which it automatically hammers
out of a piano an elaborate piece of music, without error, while
the man is thinking about something else, or talking to a friend?
O.M. Who devised the blood? Who devised the wonderful
machinery which automatically drives its renewing and refreshing
streams through the body, day and night, without assistance or
advice from the man? Who devised the man's mind, whose machinery
works automatically, interests itself in what it pleases,
regardless of its will or desire, labors all night when it likes,
deaf to his appeals for mercy? God devised all these things.
_I_ have not made man a machine, God made him a machine. I am
merely calling attention to the fact, nothing more. Is it wrong
to call attention to the fact? Is it a crime?
Y.M. I think it is wrong to EXPOSE a fact when harm can
come of it.
O.M. Go on.
Y.M. Look at the matter as it stands now. Man has been
taught that he is the supreme marvel of the Creation; he believes
it; in all the ages he has never doubted it, whether he was a
naked savage, or clothed in purple and fine linen, and civilized.
This has made his heart buoyant, his life cheery. His pride in
himself, his sincere admiration of himself, his joy in what he
supposed were his own and unassisted achievements, and his
exultation over the praise and applause which they evoked--these
have exalted him, enthused him, ambitioned him to higher and
higher flights; in a word, made his life worth the living. But
by your scheme, all this is abolished; he is degraded to a
machine, he is a nobody, his noble prides wither to mere
vanities; let him strive as he may, he can never be any better
than his humblest and stupidest neighbor; he would never be
cheerful again, his life would not be worth the living.
O.M. You really think that?
Y.M. I certainly do.
O.M. Have you ever seen me uncheerful, unhappy.
O.M. Well, _I_ believe these things. Why have they not
made me unhappy?
Y.M. Oh, well--temperament, of course! You never let THAT
escape from your scheme.
O.M. That is correct. If a man is born with an unhappy
temperament, nothing can make him happy; if he is born with a
happy temperament, nothing can make him unhappy.
Y.M. What--not even a degrading and heart-chilling system
O.M. Beliefs? Mere beliefs? Mere convictions? They are
powerless. They strive in vain against inborn temperament.
Y.M. I can't believe that, and I don't.
O.M. Now you are speaking hastily. It shows that you have
not studiously examined the facts. Of all your intimates, which
one is the happiest? Isn't it Burgess?
O.M. And which one is the unhappiest? Henry Adams?
Y.M. Without a question!
O.M. I know them well. They are extremes, abnormals; their
temperaments are as opposite as the poles. Their life-histories
are about alike--but look at the results! Their ages are about
the same--about around fifty. Burgess had always been buoyant,
hopeful, happy; Adams has always been cheerless, hopeless,
despondent. As young fellows both tried country journalism--and
failed. Burgess didn't seem to mind it; Adams couldn't smile, he
could only mourn and groan over what had happened and torture
himself with vain regrets for not having done so and so instead
of so and so--THEN he would have succeeded. They tried the law--
and failed. Burgess remained happy--because he couldn't help it.
Adams was wretched--because he couldn't help it. From that day
to this, those two men have gone on trying things and failing:
Burgess has come out happy and cheerful every time; Adams the
reverse. And we do absolutely know that these men's inborn
temperaments have remained unchanged through all the vicissitudes
of their material affairs. Let us see how it is with their
immaterials. Both have been zealous Democrats; both have been
zealous Republicans; both have been zealous Mugwumps. Burgess
has always found happiness and Adams unhappiness in these several
political beliefs and in their migrations out of them. Both of
these men have been Presbyterians, Universalists, Methodists,
Catholics--then Presbyterians again, then Methodists again.
Burgess has always found rest in these excursions, and Adams
unrest. They are trying Christian Science, now, with the
customary result, the inevitable result. No political or
religious belief can make Burgess unhappy or the other man happy.
I assure you it is purely a matter of temperament. Beliefs are
ACQUIREMENTS, temperaments are BORN; beliefs are subject to
change, nothing whatever can change temperament.
Y.M. You have instanced extreme temperaments.
O.M. Yes, the half-dozen others are modifications of the
extremes. But the law is the same. Where the temperament is
two-thirds happy, or two-thirds unhappy, no political or
religious beliefs can change the proportions. The vast majority
of temperaments are pretty equally balanced; the intensities are
absent, and this enables a nation to learn to accommodate itself
to its political and religious circumstances and like them, be
satisfied with them, at last prefer them. Nations do not THINK,
they only FEEL. They get their feelings at second hand through
their temperaments, not their brains. A nation can be brought--
by force of circumstances, not argument--to reconcile itself to
ANY KIND OF GOVERNMENT OR RELIGION THAT CAN BE DEVISED; in time
it will fit itself to the required conditions; later, it will
prefer them and will fiercely fight for them. As instances, you
have all history: the Greeks, the Romans, the Persians, the
Egyptians, the Russians, the Germans, the French, the English,
the Spaniards, the Americans, the South Americans, the Japanese,
the Chinese, the Hindus, the Turks--a thousand wild and tame
religions, every kind of government that can be thought of, from
tiger to house-cat, each nation KNOWING it has the only true
religion and the only sane system of government, each despising
all the others, each an ass and not suspecting it, each proud of
its fancied supremacy, each perfectly sure it is the pet of God,
each without undoubting confidence summoning Him to take command
in time of war, each surprised when He goes over to the enemy,
but by habit able to excuse it and resume compliments--in a word,
the whole human race content, always content, persistently
content, indestructibly content, happy, thankful, proud, NO
MATTER WHAT ITS RELIGION IS, NOR WHETHER ITS MASTER BE TIGER OR
HOUSE-CAT. Am I stating facts? You know I am. Is the human
race cheerful? You know it is. Considering what it can stand,
and be happy, you do me too much honor when you think that _I_
can place before it a system of plain cold facts that can take
the cheerfulness out of it. Nothing can do that. Everything has
been tried. Without success. I beg you not to be troubled.