Complete Works of RWE X - Lectures and Biographical Sketches

The Man of Letters

ON bravely through the sunshine and the showers,
Time hath his work to do, and we have our*

So nigh is grandeur to our dust,
So near is God to man ;
When Duty whispers low 'Thou must,'
The youth replies, I can.'



Some of you are to-day saying your farewells to each other, and tomorrow will receive the parting honors of the College. You go to be teachers, to become physicians, lawyers, divines; in due course, statesmen, naturalists, philanthropists; I hope, some of you, to be the men of letters, critics, philosophers; perhaps the rare gift of poetry already sparkles, and may yet burn. At all events, before the shadows of these times darken over your youthful sensibility and candor, let me use the occasion which your kind request gives me, to offer you some counsels which an old scholar may without pretension bring to youth, in regard to the career of letters, – the power and joy that belong to it, and its high office in evil times. I offer perpetual congratulation to the scholar ; he has drawn the white lot in life. The very disadvantages of his condition point at superiorities. He is too good for the world ; he is in advance of his race ; his function is prophetic, He belongs to a superior society, and is born one or two centuries too early for the rough and sensual population into which he is thrown. But the Heaven which sent him hither knew that well enough, and sent him as a leader to lead. Are men perplexed with evil times? The inviolate soul is in perpetual telegraphic communication with the source of events. He has earlier information, a private despatch which relieves him of the terror which presses on the rest of the community. He is a learner of the laws of nature and the experiences of history ; a prophet surrendered with self-abandoning sincerity to the Heaven which pours through his its will to mankind. This is the theory, but you know how far this is from the fact, that nothing has been able to resist the tide with which the material prosperity of America in years past has beat down the hope of youth, the piety of learning. The country was full of activity, with its wheat, coal, iron, cotton ; the wealth of the globe was here, too much work and not men enough to do it. Britain, France, Germany, Scandinavia sent millions of laborers; still the need was more. Every kind of skill was in demand, and the bribe came to men of intellectual culture, – Come, drudge in our mill. America at large exhibited such a confusion as California showed in 1849, when the cry of gold was first raised. All the distinctions of profession and habit ended at the mines. All the world took off their coats and worked in shirt-sleeves. Lawyers went and came with pick and wheelbarrow ; doctors of medicine turned teamsters ; stray clergymen kept the bar in saloons ; professors of colleges sold cigars, mince-pies, matches, and so on. It is the perpetual tendency of wealth to draw on the spiritual class, not in this coarse way, but in plausible and covert ways. It is charged that all vigorous nations, except our own, have balanced their labor by mental activity, and especially by the imagination, – the cardinal human power, the angel of earnest and believing ages. The subtle Hindoo, who carried religion to ecstasy and philosophy to idealism, produced the wonderful epics of which, in the present century, the translations have added new regions to thought. The Egyptian built Thebes and Karnak on a scale which dwarfs our art, and by the paintings on their interior walls invited us into the secret of the religious belief whence he drew such power. The Greek was so perfect in action and in imagination, his poems, from Homer to Euripides, so charming in form and so true to the human mind, that we cannot forget or outgrow their mythology. The Hebrew nation compensated for the insignificance of its members and territory by its religious genius, its tenacious belief ; its poems and histories cling to the soil of this globe like the primitive rocks. On the south and east shores of the Mediterranean Mahomet impressed his fierce genius how deeply into the manners, language and poetry of Arabia and Persia ! See the activity of the imagination in the Crusades : the front of morn was full of fiery shapes ; the chasm was bridged over ; heaven walked on earth, and Earth could see with eyes the Paradise and the Inferno. Dramatic " mysteries " were the entertainment of the people. Parliaments of Love and Poesy served them, instead of the I louse of Commons, Congress and the newspapers. In Puritanism, how the whole Jewish history be-came flesh and blood in those men, let Bunyan show. Now it is agreed that we are utilitarian ; that we are skeptical, frivolous; that with universal cheap education we have stringent theology, but religion is low. There is much criticism, not on deep grounds, but an affirmative philosophy is wanting. Our profoundest philosophy (if it were not contradiction in terms) is skepticism. The great poem of the age is the disagreeable poem of Faust," – of which the " Festus " of Bailey and the " Paracelsus " of Browning are English variations. We have superficial sciences, restless, gossiping, aimless activity. We run to Paris, to London, to Rome. to Mesmerism, Spiritualism, to Pusey, to the Catholic Church, as if for the want of thought, and those who would cheek and guide have a dreary feeling that in the change and decay of the old creeds and motives there was no offset to supply their place. Our industrial skill, arts ministering to convenience and luxury, have made life expensive, and there-fore greedy, careful, anxious; have turned the eyes downward to the earth, not upward to thought.

Ernest Renan finds that Europe has thrice assembled for exhibitions of industry, and not a poem graced the occasion ; and nobody remarked the defect. A French prophet of our age, Fourier, predicted that one (lay, instead of by battles and Ecumenical Councils, the rival portions of humanity would dispute each other's excellence in the manufacture of little cakes.

"In my youth," said a Scotch mountaineer, " a Highland gentleman measured his importance by the number of men his domain could support. After some time the question was, to know how many great cattle it would feed. To-day we are come to count the number of sheep. I suppose posterity will ask how many rats and mice it will feed."

Dickens complained that in America, as soon as he arrived in any of the Western towns, a committee waited on him and invited him to deliver a temperance lecture. Bowditch translated Laplace, and when he removed to Boston, the Hospital Life Assurance Company insisted that he should make their tables of annuities. Napoleon knows the art of war, but should not be put on picket duty. Linnaeus or Robert Brown must not be set to raise gooseberries and cucumbers, though they be excellent botanists. A shrewd broker out of State Street visited a quiet countryman possessed of all the virtues, and in his glib talk said,  "With your character now I could raise all this money at once, and make an excellent thing of it."

There is an oracle current in the world, that nations die by suicide. The sign of it is the decay of thought. Niebuhr has given striking examples of that fatal portent ; as in the loss of power of thought that followed the disasters of the Athenians in Sicily.

I cannot forgive a scholar his homeless despondency. He represents intellectual or spiritual force. I wish him to rely on the spiritual arm ; to live by his strength, not by his weakness. A scholar defending the cause of slavery, of arbitrary government, of monopoly, of the oppressor, is a traitor to his profession. He has ceased to be a scholar. He is not company for clean people. The worst times only show him how independent he is of times ; only relieve and bring out the splendor of his privilege. Disease alarms the family, but the physician sees in it a temporary mischief, which he can check and expel. The fears and agitations of men who watch the markets, the crops, the plenty or scarcity of money, or other superficial events, are not for him. Ile knows that the world is always equal to itself ; that the forces which uphold and pervade it are eternal. Air, water, fire, iron, gold, wheat, electricity, animal fibre, have not lost a particle of power, and no decay has crept over the spiritual force which gives bias and period to bound-less nature. Bad times, – what are bad times ? Nature is rich, exuberant, and mocks at the puny forces of destruction. Man makes no more impression on her wealth than the caterpillar or the cankerworm whose petty ravage, though noticed in an orchard or a village, is insignificant in the vast exuberance of the summer. There is no unemployed force in Nature. All decomposition is re-composition. War disorganizes, but it is to reorganize. Weeks, months pass – a new harvest ; trade springs up, and there stand new cities, new homes, all rebuilt and sleepy with permanence. Italy, France – a hundred times those countries have been trampled with armies and burned over : a few summers, and they smile with plenty and yield new men and new revenues.

If churches are effete, it is because the new Heaven forms. You are here as the carriers of the power of Nature, – as Roger Bacon, with his secret of gunpowder, with his secret of the balloon and of steam ; as Copernicus, with his secret of the true astronomy ; as Columbus, with America in his log book ; as Newton, with his gravity ; Harvey, with his circulation ; Smith, with his law of trade ; Franklin, with lightning; Adams, with Independence; Kant, with pure reason ; Swedenborg, with his spiritual world. You are the carriers of ideas which are to fashion the mind and so the history of this breathing world, so as they shah be, and not other-wise.

Every man is a scholar potentially, and does not need any one good so much as this of right thought

"Calm pleasures here abide, majestic pains."

Coleridge traces " three silent revolutions," of which the first was " when the clergy fell from the Church." A scholar was once a priest. But the Church clung to ritual, and the scholar clung to joy, low as well as high, and thus the separation was a mutual fault. But I think it is a schism which must be healed. The true scholar is the Church. Only the duties of Intellect must be owned. Down with these dapper trimmers and sycophants! let us have masculine and divine men, formidable lawgivers, Pythagoras, Plato, Aristotle, who warp the churches of the world from their traditions, and penetrate them through and through with original perception. The intellectual man lives in perpetual victory. As certainly as water falls in rain on the tops of mountains and runs down into valleys, plains and pits, so does thought fall first on the best minds, and run down, from class to class, until it reaches the masses, and works revolutions.

Nature says to the American: "I understand mensuration and numbers ; I compute the ellipse of the moon, the ebb and flow of waters, the curve and the errors of planets, the balance of attraction and recoil. I have measured out to you by weight and tally the powers you need. I give you the land and sea, the forest and the mine, the elemental forces, nervous energy. When I add difficulty, I add brain. See to it that you hold and ad-minister the continent for mankind. One thing you have rightly done. You have offered a patch of land in the wilderness to every son of Adam who will till it. Other things you have begun to do, – to strike off the chains which snuffling hypocrites had bound on the weaker race. You are to imperil your lives and fortunes for a principle. The ambassador is held to maintain the dignity of the Republic which he represents. But what does the scholar represent ? The organ of ideas, the subtle force which creates Nature and men and states ;consoler, upholder, imparting pulses of light and shocks of electricity, guidance and courage. So let his habits be formed, and all his economies heroic; no spoiled child, no drone, no epicure, but a stoic, formidable, athletic, knowing how to be poor, loving labor, and not flogging his youthful wit with tobacco and wine ; treasuring his youth. I wish the youth to be an armed and complete man ; no help-less angel to be slapped in the face, but a man dipped in the Styx of human experience, and made invulnerable so, – self-helping. A redeeming trait of the Sophists of Athens, Hippias and Gorgias, is that they made their own clothes and shoes. Learn to harness a horse, to row a boat, to camp down in the woods, to cook your supper. I chanced lately to be at West Point, and, after attending the examination in scientific classes, I went into the barracks. The chamber was in perfect order; the mattress on the iron camp-bed rolled up, as if ready for removal. I asked the first Cadet, " Who makes your bed?
"I do." " Who fetches your water ? " "I do." " Who blacks your shoes?" "I do." It was so in every room. These are first steps to power. Learn of Samuel Johnson or David Hume, that it is a primary duty of the man of letters to secure his independence.

Stand by your order. 'T is some thirty years since the days of the Reform Bill in England, when on the walls in Loudon you read everywhere placards, " Down with the Lords." At that time, Earl Grey, who was leader of Reform, was asked, in Parliament, his policy on the measures of the Radicals. He replied, " I shall stand by my order." Where there is no vision, the people perish. The fault lies with the educated class, the men of study and thought. There is a very low feeling of duty : the merchant is true to the merchant, the noble in England and Europe stands by his order, the politician believes in his arts and combinations; but the scholar does not stand by his order, but defers to the men of this world.

Gentlemen, I am here to commend to you your art and profession as thinkers. It is real. It is the secret of power. It is the art of command. All superiority is this, or related to this. " All that the world admires comes from within." Thought makes us men ; ranks its ; distributes society ; distributes the work of the world ; is the prolific source of all arts, of all wealth, of all delight, of all grandeur. Men are as they believe. Men are as they think, and the man who knows any truth not yet discerned by other men, is master of all other men so far as that truth and its wide relations are concerned.

Intellect measures itself by its counteraction to any accumulation of material force. There is no mass which it cannot surmount and dispose of. The exertions of this force are the eminent experiences, – out of a long life all that is worth remembering. These are the moments that balance years. Does any one doubt between the strength of a thought and that of an institution ? Does any one doubt that a good general is better than a park of artillery ? See a political revolution dogging a book. See armies, institutions, literatures, appearing in the train of some wild Arabian's dream.

There is a proverb that Napoleon, when the Mameluke cavalry approached the French lines, ordered the grenadiers to the front, and the asses and the savans to fall into the hollow square. It made a good story, and circulated in that day. But how stands it now ? The military expedition was a failure. Bonaparte himself deserted, and the army got home as it could, all fruitless ; not a trace of it re-mains. All that is left of it is the researches of those savans on the antiquities of Egypt, including the great work of Denon, which led the way to all the subsequent studies of the English and German scholars on that foundation. Pytheas of �gina was victor in the Pancratium of the boys, at the Isthmian games. He came to the poet Pindar and wished him to write an ode in his praise, and inquired what was the price of a poem. Pindar re-plied that he should give him one talent, about a thousand dollars of our money. " A talent! " cried Pytheas ; " why, for so much money I can erect a statue of bronze in the temple." " Very likely" On second thoughts, he returned and paid for the poem. And now not only all the statues of bronze in-the temples of Aegina are destroyed, but the temples themselves, and the very walls of the city are utterly gone, whilst the ode of Pindar, in praise of Pytheas, remains entire.

The treachery of scholars ! They are idealists, and should stand for freedom, justice, and public good. The scholar is bound to stand for all the virtues and all the liberties, – liberty of trade, liberty of the press, liberty of religion, – and he should open all the prizes of success and all the roads of Nature to free competition.

The country complains loudly of the inefficiency of the army. It was badly led. But, before this, it was not the army alone, it was the population that was badly led. The clerisy, the spiritual guides, the scholars, the seers have been false to their trust.

Rely on yourself. There is respect due to your teachers, but every age is new, and has problems to solve, insoluble by the last age. Men over forty are no judges of a book written in a new spirit. Neither your teachers, nor the universal teachers, the laws, the customs or dogmas of nations, neither saint nor sage, can compare with that counsel which is open to you. No, it is not nations, no, nor even masters, not at last a few individuals or any heroes, but himself only, the huge equality to truth of a single mind, – as if, in the narrow walls of a human heart, the wide realm of truth, the world of morals, the tribunal by which the universe is judged, found room to exist.

Our people have this levity and complaisance, they fear to offend, do not wish to be misunderstood ; do not wish, of all things, to be in the minority. God and Nature are altogether sincere, and Art should be as sincere. H t is not enough that the work should show a skilful hand, ingenious contrivance and admirable polish and finish ; it should have a commanding motive in the time and condition in which it was made. We should see in it the great belief of the artist, which caused him to make it so as he did, and not otherwise ; nothing frivolous, nothing that he might do or not do, as he chose, but somewhat that must be done then and there by him ; he could not take his neck out of that yoke, and save his soul. And this design must shine through the whole performance. Sincerity is, in dangerous times, discovered to be an immeasurable advantage. I distrust all the legends of great accomplishments or performance of unprincipled men. Very little reliance mist be put on the common stories that circulate of this great senator's or that great barrister's learning, their Greek, their varied literature. That ice won't bear. Reading! – do you mean that this senator or this lawyer, who stood by and allowed the passage of infamous laws, was a reader of Greek books ? That is not the question ; but to what purpose (lid they read ? I allow them the merit of that reading which appears in their opinions, tastes, beliefs, and practice. They read that they might know, did they not ? Well, these men (lid not know. They blundered ; they were utterly ignorant of that which every boy or girl of fifteen knows perfectly, – the rights of men and women. And this big-mouthed talker, among his dictionaries and Leipzie editions of Lysias, had lost his knowledge. But the President of the Bank nods to the President of the Insurance Office, and relates that at Virginia Springs this idol of the forum exhausted a trunkful of classic authors. There is always the previous question, How came you on that side? You are a very elegant writer, but you can't write up what gravitates down.

It is impossible to extricate oneself from the questions in which our age is involved. All of us have shared the new enthusiasm of country and of liberty which swept like a whirlwind through all souls at the outbreak of war, and brought, by ennobling us, an offset for its calamity.

War, seeking for the roots of strength, comes upon the moral aspects at once. In quiet times, custom stifles this discussion as sentimental, and brings in the brazen devil, as by immemorial right. The war uplifted us into generous sentiments. War ennobles the age. We do not often have a moment of grandeur in these hurried, slipshod lives, but the behavior of the young men has taught us much. We will not again disparage America, now that we have seen what men it will bear. Battle, with the sword, has cut many a Gordian knot in twain which all the wit of East and West, of Northern and Border statesmen could not untie.

I learn with joy and with deep respect that this college has sent its full quota to the field. I learn with grief, but with honoring pain, that you have had your sufferers in the battle, and that the noble youth have returned wounded and maimed. The times are dark, but heroic. The times develop the strength they need. Boys are heroes. Women have shown a tender patriotism and inexhaustible charity. And on each new threat of faction, the ballot of the people has been unexpectedly right. But the issues already appearing overpay the cost. Slavery is broken, and, if we use our advantage, irretrievably. For such a gain, to end once for all that pest of all our free institutions, one generation might well be sacrificed ; perhaps it will ; that this continent be purged and a new era of equal rights dawn on the universe. Who would not, if it could be made certain that the new morning of universal liberty should rise on our race by the perishing of one generation, – who would not consent to die?

Complete Works of RWE X - Lectures and Biographical Sketches

The Preacher

ASCENDING thorough just degrees
To a consummate holiness,
As angel blind to trespass done,
And bleaching all souls like the sun.


In the history of opinion, the pinch of falsehood shows itself first, not in argument and formal protest, but in insincerity, indifference and abandonment of the Church or the scientific or political or economic institution for other better or worse forms.

The venerable and beautiful traditions in which we were educated are losing their hold on human belief, day by day ; a restlessness and dissatisfaction in the religious world marks that we are in a moment of transition ; as when the Roman Church broke into Protestant and Catholic, or, earlier, when Paganism broke into Christians and Pagans. The old forms rattle, and the new delay to appear; material and industrial activity have materialized the age, and the mind, haughty with its sciences, disdains the religious forms as childish.

In consequence of this revolution of opinion, it appears, for the time, as the misfortune of this period that the cultivated mind has not the happiness and dignity of the religious sentiment. We are born too late for the old and too early for the new faith. I see in those classes and those persons in whom I am accustomed to look for tendency and progress, for what is most positive and most rich in human nature, and who contain the activity of to-day and the assurance of tomorrow, — I see in them character, but skepticism ; a clear enough perception of the inadequacy of the popular religious statement to the wants of their heart and intellect, and explicit declarations of this fact. They have insight and truthfulness ; they will not mask their convictions; they hate cant; but more than this I do not readily find. The gracious motions of the soul, — piety, adoration, — I do not find. Scorn of hypocrisy, pride of personal character, elegance of taste and of manners and pursuit, a boundless ambition of the intellect, willingness to sacrifice personal interests for the integrity of the character, — all these they have ; but that religious submission and abandonment which give man a new element and being, and make him sublime, — it is not in churches, it is not in houses. I see movement, I hear aspirations, but I see not how the great God prepares to satisfy the heart in the new order of things. No Church, no State emerges ; and when we have extricated ourselves from all the embarrassments of the social problem, the oracle does not yet emit any light on the mode of individual life. A thousand negatives it utters, clear and strong, on all sides ; but the sacred affirmative it hides in the deepest abyss.

We do not see that heroic resolutions will save men from those tides which a most fatal moon heaps and levels in the moral, emotive and intellectual nature. It is certain that many dark hours, many imbecilities, periods of inactivity, — solstices when we make no progress, but stand still, — will occur. In those hours, we can find comfort in reverence of the highest power, and only in that. We never do quite nothing, or never need. It looks as if there were much doubt, much waiting, to be endured by the best. Perhaps there must be austere elections and determinations before any clear vision.

No age and no person is destitute of the sentiment, but in actual history its illustrious exhibitions are interrupted and periodical, — the ages of belief, of heroic action, of intellectual activity, of men cast in a higher mould.

But the sentiment that pervades a nation, the nation must react upon. It is resisted and corrupted by that obstinate tendency to personify and bring under the eyesight what should be the contemplation of Reason alone. The Understanding will write out the vision in a Confession of Faith. Art will embody this vanishing Spirit in temples, pictures, sculptures and hymns. The senses instantly transfer the reverence from the vanishing Spirit to this steadfast form. Ignorance and passion alloy and degrade. In proportion to a man's want of goodness, it seems to him another and not himself ; that is to say, the Deity becomes more objective, until finally flat idolatry prevails.

Of course the virtuous sentiment appears arrayed against the nominal religion, and the true men are hunted as unbelievers, and burned. Then the good sense of the people wakes up so far as to take tacit part with them, to cast off reverence for the Church ; and there follows an age of unbelief.

This analysis was inevitable and useful. But the sober eye finds something ghastly in this empiricism. At first, delighted with the triumph of the intellect, the surprise of the results and the sense of power, we are like hunters on the scent and soldiers who rush to battle : but when the game is run down, when the enemy lies cold in his blood at our feet, we are alarmed at our solitude, we would gladly recall the life that so offended us; the face seems no longer that of an enemy.

I say the effect is withering ; for, this examination resulting in the constant detection of errors, the flattered understanding assumes to judge all things, and to anticipate the same victories. In the activity of the understanding, the sentiments sleep. The understanding presumes in things above its sphere, and, because it has exposed errors in a church, concludes that a church is an error ; because it has found absurdities to which the sentiment of veneration is attached, sneers at veneration; so that analysis has run to seed in unbelief. There is no faith left. We laugh and hiss, pleased with our power ill making heaven and earth a howling wilderness.

Unlovely, nay, frightful, is the solitude of the soul which is without God in the world. To wan-der all day in the sunlight among the tribes of animals, unrelated to anything better ; to behold the horse, cow and bird, and to foresee an equal and speedy end to him and them ; – no, the bird, as it hurried by with its bold and perfect flight, would disclaim his sympathy and declare him an outcast. To see men pursuing in faith their varied action, warm-hearted, providing for their children, loving their friends, performing their promises, – what are they to this chill, houseless, fatherless, aimless Cain, the man who hears only the sound of his own footsteps in God's resplendent creation ? To him, it is no creation ; to him, these fair creatures are hapless spectres : he knows not what to make of it. To him, heaven and earth have lost their beauty. How gloomy is the day, and upon yonder shining pond what melancholy light ! I cannot keep the sun in heaven, if you take away the purpose that animates him. The ball, indeed, is there, but his power to cheer, to illuminate the heart as well as the atmosphere, is gone forever. It is a lamp-wick for meanest uses. The words, great, venerable, have lost their meaning; every thought loses all its depth and has become mere surface.

But religion has an object. It does not grow thin or robust with the health of the votary. The object of adoration remains forever unhurt and identical. We are in transition, from the worship of the fathers which enshrined the law in a private and personal history, to a worship which recognizes the true eternity of the law, its presence to you and me, its equal energy in what is called brute nature as in what is called sacred. The next age will behold God in the ethical laws – as mankind be-gins to see them in this age, self-equal, self-executing, instantaneous and self-affirmed ; needing no voucher, no prophet and no miracle besides their own irresistibility, – and will regard natural history, private fortunes and politics, not for them-selves, as we have done, but as illustrations of those laws, of that beatitude and love. Nature is too thin a screen ; the glory of the One breaks in everywhere.

Every movement of religious opinion is of pro-found importance to politics and social life ; and this of to-day has the best omens as being of the most expansive humanity, since it seeks to find in every nation and creed the imperishable doctrines. I find myself always struck and stimulated by a good anecdote, any trait of heroism, of faithful service. I do not find that the age or country makes the least difference ; no, nor the language the actors spoke, nor the religion which they professed, whether Arab in the desert, or Frenchman in the Academy. I see that sensible men and conscientious men all over the world were of one religion, – the religion of well-doing and daring, men of sturdy truth, men of integrity and feeling for others. My inference is that there is a statement of religion possible which makes all skepticism absurd.

The health and welfare of man consist in ascent from surfaces to solids ; from occupation with de-tails to knowledge of the design ; from self-activity of talents, which lose their way by the lust of display, to the controlling and reinforcing of talents by the emanation of character. All that we call religion, all that saints and churches and Bibles from the beginning of the world have aimed at, is to suppress this impertinent surface-action, and an imate man to central and entire action. The human race are afflicted with a St. Vitus' dance ; their fingers and toes, their members, their senses, their talents, are superfluously active, while the torpid heart gives no oracle. When that wakes, it will revolutionize the world. Let that speak, and all these rebels will fly to their loyalty. Now every man de-feats his own action, – professes this but practises the reverse; with one hand rows, and with the other backs water. A man acts not from one motive, but from many shifting fears and short motives ; it is as if he were ten or twenty less men than himself, acting at discord with one another, so that the result of most lives is zero. But when he shall act from one motive, and all his faculties play true, it is clear mathematically, is it not, that this will tell in the result as if twenty men had co-operated, – will give new senses, new wisdom of its own kind ; that is, not more facts, nor new combinations, but divination, or direct intuition of the state of men and things ?

The lessons of the moral sentiment are, once for all, an emancipation from that anxiety which takes the joy out of all life. It teaches a great peace. It comes itself from the highest place. It is that, which being in all sound natures, and strongest in the best and most gifted men, we know to be implanted by the Creator of Men. It is a commandment at every moment and in every condition of life to do the duty of that moment and to abstain from doing the wrong. And it is so near and inward and constitutional to each, that no commandment can compare with it in authority. All wise men regard it as the voice of the Creator himself.

I know there are those to whom the question of what shall be believed is the more interesting be-cause they are to proclaim and teach what they believe.

All positive rules, ceremonial, ecclesiastical, distinctions of race or of person, are perishable ; only those distinctions hold which are in the nature of things, not matters of positive ordinance. As the earth we stand upon is not imperishable, but is chemically resolvable into gases and nebula, so is the universe an infinite series of planes, each of which is a false bottom ; and, when we think our feet are planted now at last on adamant, the slide is drawn out from under us.

We must reconcile ourselves to the new order of things. But is it a calamity ? The poet Words-worth greeted even the steam-engine and railroads ; and when they cane into his poetic Westmoreland, bisecting every delightful valley, deforming every consecrated grove, yet manned himself to say : –

" In spite of all that Beauty may disown
In your harsh features,
Nature doth embrace
Her lawful offspring in man's art, and Time,
Pleased with your triumphs o'er his brother Space,
Accepts from your hold hands the proffered crown
Of hope, and smiles on you with cheer sublime."

And we can keep our religion, despite of the violent railroads of generalization, whether French or German, that block and intersect our old parish highways.

In matters of religion, men eagerly fasten their eyes on the differences between their creed and yours, whilst the charm of the study is in finding the agreements and identities in all the religious of men. What is essential to the theologian is, that whilst he is select in his opinions, severe in his search for truth, he shall be broad in his sympathies,- not to allow himself to be excluded from any church. He is to claim for his own whatever eloquence of St. Chrysostom or St. Jerome or St. Bernard he has felt. So not less of Bishop Taylor or George Herbert or Henry Seougal. He sees that what is most effective in the writer is what is dear to his, the reader's, mind.

Be not betrayed into undervaluing the churches which annoy you by their bigoted claims. They too were real churches. They answered to their times the same need as your rejection of them does to ours. The Catholic Church has been immensely rich in men and influences. Augustine, a Kempis, Fenelon, breathe the very spirit which now fires you. So with Cudworth, More, Runyan. I agree with them more than I disagree. I agree with their heart and motive ; my discontent is with their limitations and surface and language. Their statement is grown as fabulous as Dante's Inferno. Their purpose is as real as Dante's sentiment and hatred of vice. Always put the best interpretation on a tenet. Why not on Christianity, wholesome, sweet and poetic ? It is the record of a pure and holy soul, humble, absolutely disinterested, a truth-speaker and bent on serving, teaching and uplifting men. Christianity taught the capacity, the element, to love the All-perfect without a stingy bargain for personal happiness. It taught that to love him was happiness, – to love him in other's virtues.

An era in human history is the life of Jesus ; and the immense influence for good leaves all the per-version and superstition almost harmless. Mankind have been subdued to the acceptance of his doctrine, and cannot spare the benefit of so pure a servant of truth and love.

Of course a hero so attractive to the hearts of millions drew the hypocrite and the ambitious into his train, and they used his name to falsify his history and undo his work. I fear that what is called religion, but is perhaps pew-holding, not obeys but conceals the moral sentiment. I put it to this simple test: Is a rich rogue made to feel his roguery among divines or literary men? No ? Then 't is rogue again under the cassock. What sort of respect can these preachers or newspapers inspire by their weekly praises of texts and saints, when we know that they would say just the same things if Beelzebub had written the chapter, provided it stood where it does in the public opinion?

Anything but unbelief, anything but losing hold of the moral intuitions, as betrayed in the clinging to a form of devotion or a theological dogma ; as if it was the liturgy, or the chapel, that was sacred, and not justice and humility and the loving heart and serving hand.

But besides the passion and interest which pervert, is the shallowness which impoverishes. The opinions of men lose all worth to him who perceives that they are accurately predictable from the ground of their sect. Nothing is more rare, in any man, than an act of his own. The clergy are as like as peas. I cannot tell them apart. It was said : They have bronchitis because they read from their papers sermons with a near voice, and then, looking at the congregation, they try to speak with their far voice, and the shock is noxious. I think they do this, or the converse of this, with their thought. They look into Plato, or into the mind, and then try to make parish mince-meat of the amplitudes and eternities, and the shock is noxious. It is the old story again : once we had wooden chalices and golden priests, now we have golden chalices and wooden priests.

The clergy are always in danger of becoming wards and pensioners of the so-called producing classes. Their first duty is self-possession founded on knowledge. The man of practice or worldly force requires of the preacher a talent, a force, like his own ; the same as his own, but wholly applied to the priest's things. e does not forgive an application in the preacher to the merchant's things. He wishes him to be such a one as he himself should have been, had he been priest. e is sincere and ardent in his vocation, and plunged in it. Let priest or poet be as good in theirs.

The simple fact that the pulpit exists, that all over this country the people are waiting to hear a sermon on Sunday, assures that opportunity which is inestimable to young men, students of theology, for those large liberties. The existence of the Sunday, and the pulpit waiting for a weekly sermon, give him the very conditions, the pou orw he wants. That must be filled, and he is armed to fill it. Let him value his talent as a door into Nature. Let him
see his performances only as limitations. Then, over all, let him value the sensibility that receives, that loves, that dares, that affirms.

There are always plenty of young, ignorant people, – though some of them are seven, and some of them seventy years old, – wanting peremptorily instruction ; but, in the usual averages of parishes, only one person that is qualified to give it. It is only that person who concerns me, – him only that I see. The others are very amiable and promising, but they are only neuter.. in the hive, – every one a possible royal bee, but not now significant. It does not signify what they say or think to-day ; 't is the cry and the babble of the nursery, and their only virtue, docility. Buckminster, (Channing. Dr. Lowell, Edward Taylor, Parker, Bushnell, Chapin, – it is they who have been necessary, and the opinions of the floating crowd of no importance whatever.

I do not love sensation preaching, – the personalities for spite, the hurrah for our side, the review of our appearances and what others say of us! That you may read in the gazette. We come to church properly for self-examination, for approach to principles to see how it stands with us, with the deep and dear facts of right and love. At the same time it is impossible to pay no regard to the day's events, to the public opinion of the times, to the stirring shouts of parties, to the calamities and prosperities of our town and country ; to war and peace, new events, great personages, to good harvests, new resources, to bankruptcies, famines and desolations. We are not stocks or stones, we are not thinking machines, but allied to men around us, as really though not quite so visibly as the Siamese brothers. And it were inhuman to affect ignorance or indifference on Sundays to what makes our blood beat and our countenance dejected Saturday or Monday. No, these are fair tests to try our doctrines by, and see if they are worth any-thing in life. The value of a principle is the number of things it will explain ; and there is no good theory of disease which does not at once suggest a cure.

Man proposes, but God disposes. We shall not very long have any part or lot in this earth, in whose affairs we so hotly mix, and where we feel and speak so energetically of our country and our cause. It is a comfort to reflect that the gigantic evils which seem to us so mischievous and so in-curable will at last end themselves and rid the world of their presence, as all crime sooner or later must. But be that event for us soon or late, we are not excused from playing our short part in the best manner we can, no matter how insignificant our aid may be. Our children will be here, if we are not ; and their children's history will be colored by our action. But if we have no children, or if the events in which we have taken our part shall not see their solution until a distant future, there is yet a deeper fact ; that as much justice as we can see and practise is useful to men, and imperative, whether we can see it to be useful or not.

The essential ground of a new book or a new sermon is a new spirit. The author has a new thought, sees the sweep of a more comprehensive tendency than others are aware of ; falters never, but takes the victorious tone. For power is not so much shown in talent as in tone. And if I had to counsel a young preacher, I should say : When there is any difference felt between the foot-board of the pulpit and the floor of the parlor, you have not yet said that which you should say.

Inspiration will have advance, affirmation, the forward foot, the ascending state; it will be an opener of doors ; it will invent its own methods : the new wine will make the bottles new. Spirit is motive and ascending. Only let there be a deep observer, and he will make light of new shop and new circumstance that afflict you ; new shop, or old cathedral, it is all one to him. He will find the circumstance not altered, as deep a cloud of mystery on the cause, as dazzling a glory on the invincible law. Given the insight, and he will find as many beauties and heroes and strokes of genius close by him as Dante or Shakspeare beheld. A vivid thought brings the power to paint it ; and in proportion to the depth of its source is the force of its projection. We are happy and enriched ; we go away invigorated, assisted each in our own work, however different, and shall not forget to come again for new impulses.

The supposed embarrassments to young clergy-men exist only to feeble wills. They need not consider them. The differences of opinion, the strength of old sects or timorous literalists, since it is not armed with prisons or fagots as in ruder times or countries, is not worth considering except as furnishing a needed stimulus. That gray deacon or respectable matron with Calvinistic antecedents, you can readily see, could not have presented any obstacle to the march of St. Bernard or of George Fox, of Luther or of Theodore Parker. And though I observe the deafness to counsel among men, yet the power of sympathy is always great; and affirmative discourse, presuming assent, will often obtain it when argument would fail. Such, too, is the active power of good temperament. Great sweetness of temper neutralizes such vast amounts of acid! As for position, the position is always the same,- insulting the timid, and not taken by storm, but flanked, I may say, by the resolute, simply by minding their own affair. Speak the affirmative ; emphasize your choice by utter ignoring of all that you reject ; seeing that opinions are temporary, but convictions uniform and eternal, – seeing that a sentiment never loses its pathos or its persuasion, but is youthful after a thousand years.

The inevitable course of remark for us, when we meet each other for meditation on life and duty, is not so much the enjoining of this or that cure or burning out of our errors of practice, as simply the celebration of the power and beneficence amid which and by which we live, not critical, but affirmative.

All civil mankind have agreed in leaving one day for contemplation against six for practice. I hope that day will keep its honor and its use. A wise man advises that we should see to it that we read and speak two or three reasonable words, every day, amid the crowd of affairs and the noise of trifles. I should say boldly that we should astonish every day by a beam out of eternity ; retire a moment to the grand secret we carry in our bosom, of inspiration from heaven. But certainly on this seventh let us be the children of liberty, of reason, of hope; refresh the sentiment ; think as spirits think, who belong to the universe, whilst our feet walk in the streets of a little town and our Lands work in a small knot of affairs. We shall find one result, I am sure, – a certain originality and a certain haughty liberty proceeding out of our retirement and self-communion, which streets can never give, infinitely removed from all vaporing and bravado, and which yet is more than a match for any physical resistance. It is true that which they say of our New England oestrum, which will never let us stand or sit, but drives us like mad through the world. The calmest and most protected life can-not save us. We want some intercalated days, to bethink us and to derive order to our life from the heart. That should be the use of the Sabbath, – to check this headlong racing and put us in possession of ourselves once more, for love or for shame.

The Sabbath changes its forms from age to age, but the substantial benefit endures. We no longer recite the old creeds of Athanasius or Arius, of Calvin or Hopkins. The forms are flexible, but the uses not less real. The old heart remains as ever with its old human duties. The old intellect still lives, to pierce the shows to the core. Truth is simple, and will not be antique ; is ever present, and insists on being of this age and of this moment. Here is thought and love and truth and duty, new as on the first day of Adam and of angels.

"There are two pairs of eyes in man; and it is requisite that the pair which are beneath should be closed when the pair that are above them perceive; and that when the pair above are closed, those which are beneath are opened." The lower eyes see only surfaces and effects, the upper eyes behold causes and the connection of things. And when we go alone, or cone into the house of thought and worship, we come with purpose to be disabused of appearances, to see realities, the great lines of our destiny, to see that life has no caprice or fortune, is no hopping squib, but a growth after immutable laws under beneficent influences the most immense. The Church is open to great and small in all nations; and how rare and lofty, how unattainable, arc the aims it labors to set before men! We come to educate, come to isolate, to be abstractionists; in fine, to open bravely the upper eyes to the deep mystery of  cause and effect, to know that though ministers of justice and power fail, Justice and Power fail never. The open secret of the world is the art of subliming a private soul with inspirations from the great and public and divine Soul front which we live.

Complete Works of RWE X - Lectures and Biographical Sketches

The Sovereignty of Ethics

THESE rules were writ in human heart
By Him who built the day ;
The columns of the universe
Not firmer based than they.

Thou shalt not try
To plant thy shrivelled pedantry On the shoulders of the sky.


SINCE the discovery of Oersted that galvanism and electricity and magnetism are only forms of one and the same force, and convertible each into the other, we have continually suggested to us a larger generalization : that each of the great departments of Nature – chemistry, vegetation, the animal life -exhibits the same laws on a different plane; that the intellectual and moral worlds are analogous to the material. There is a kind of latent omniscience not only in every man but in every particle. That convertibility we so admire in plants and animal structures, whereby the repairs and the ulterior uses are subserved, when one part is wounded or deficient, by another this self-help and self-creation proceed from the same original power which works remotely in grandest and meanest structures by the same design, – works in a lobster or a mite-worm as a wise man would if imprisoned in that poor form. 'T is the effort of God, of the Supreme Intellect, in the extremest frontier of his universe.
           1 Reprinted from the North American Review, of May, 1878.

As this unity exists in the organization of insect, beast and bird, still ascending to man, and from lower type of man to the highest yet attained, so it does not less declare itself in the spirit or intelligence of the brute. In ignorant ages it was common to vaunt the human superiority by underrating the instinct of other animals ; but a better discernment finds that the difference is only of less and more. Experiment shows that the bird and the dog reason as the hunter does, that all the animals show the same good sense in their humble walk that the man who is their enemy or friend does ; and, if it be in smaller measure, yet it is not diminished, as his often is, by freak and folly. St. Pierre says of the animals that a moral sentiment seems to have determined their physical organization.

I see the unity of thought and of morals running through all animated Nature ; there is no difference of quality, but only of more and less. The animal who is wholly kept down in Nature has no anxieties. By yielding, as he must do, to it, he is enlarged and reaches his highest point. The poor grub, in the hole of a tree, by yielding itself to Nature, goes blameless through its low part and is rewarded at last, casts its filthy hull, expands into a beautiful form with rainbow wings, and makes a part of the summer day. The Greeks called it Psyche, a manifest emblem of the soul. The man down in Nature occupies himself in guarding, in feeding, in warming and multiplying his body, and, as long as he knows no more, we justify hum ; but presently a mystic change is wrought, a new perception opens, and he is made a citizen of the world of souls : he feels what is called duty ; he is aware that he owes a higher allegiance to do and live as a good member of this universe. In the measure in which he has this sense he is a man, rises to the universal life. The high intellect is absolutely at one with moral nature. A thought is embosomed in a sentiment, and the attempt to detach and blazon the thou ht is like a show of cut flowers. The moral is the measure of health, and in the voice of Genius I hear invariably the moral tone, even when it is disowned in words ;- health, melody and a wider horizon be-long to moral sensibility. The finer the sense of justice, the better poet. The believer says to the skeptic : –

" One avenue was shaded from thine eyes
Through which I wandered to eternal truth."

Humility is the avenue. To be sure, we exaggerate when we represent these two elements as disunited ; every man shares them both : but it is true that men generally are marked by a decided predominance of one or of the other element.

In youth and in age we are moralists, and in mature life the moral element steadily rises in the regard of all reasonable men.

'T is a sort of proverbial dying speech of scholars (at least it is attributed to many) that which Anthony Wood reports of Nathaniel Carpenter, an Oxford Fellow. " It did repent him," he said, " that he had formerly so much courted the maid instead of the mistress," (meaning philosophy and mathematics to the neglect of divinity ). This, in the language of our time, would be ethics.

And when I say that the world is made up of moral forces, these arc not separate. All forces are found in Nature united with that which they move : heat is not separate, light is not massed aloof, nor electricity, nor gravity, but they are always in combination. And so moral powers ; they are thirsts for action, and the more you accumulate, the more they mould and form.

It is in the stomach of plants that development begins, and ends in the circles of the universe. 'T is a long scale from the gorilla to the gentleman – from the gorilla to Plato, Newton, Shakspeare – to the sanctities of religion, the refinements of legislation, the summits of science, art and poetry. The beginnings are slow and infirm, but it is an always-accelerated march. The geologic world is chronicled by the growing ripeness of the strata from lower to higher, as it becomes the abode of more highly-organized plants and animals. The civil history of men might be traced by the successive meliorations as marked in higher moral generalizations ; – virtue meaning physical courage, then chastity and temperance, then justice and love ; -bargains of kings with peoples of certain rights to certain classes, then of rights to masses, – then at last came the day when, as the historians rightly tell, the nerves of the world were electrified by the proclamation that all men are born free and equal.

Every truth leads in another. The bud extrudes the old leaf, and every truth brings that which will supplant it. In the court of law the judge sits over the culprit, but in the court of life in the same hour he judge also stands as culprit before a true tribunal. Every judge is a culprit, every law an abuse. Montaigne kills off bigots as cowhage kills worms ; but there is a higher muse there sitting where he durst not soar, of eye so keen that it can report of a realm in which all the wit and learning of the Frenchman is no more than the cunning of a fox.

It is the same fact existing as sentiment and as will in the mind, which works in Nature as irresistible law, exerting influence over nations, intelligent beings, or down in the kingdoms of brute or of chemical atoms. Nature is a tropical swamp in sun-shine, on whose purlieus we hear the song of summer birds, and see prismatic dew-drops-but her interiors are terrific, full of hydras and crocodiles. In the pre-adamite she bred valor only; by-and-by she gets on to man, and adds tenderness, and thus raises virtue piecemeal.

When we trace from the beginning, that ferocity has uses ; only so are the conditions of the then world met, and these monsters are the scavengers, executioners, diggers, pioneers and fertilizers, destroying what is more destructive than they, and making better life possible. We see the steady aim of Benefit in view from the first. Melioration is the law. The cruelest foe is a masked benefactor. The wars which make history so dreary, have served the cause of truth and virtue. There is always an instinctive sense of right, an obscure idea which animates either party and which in long periods vindicates itself at last. Thus a sublime confidence is fed at the bottom of the heart that, in spite of appearances, in spite of malignity and blind self-interest living for the moment, an eternal, beneficent necessity is always bringing things right; and, though we should fold our arms, – which we cannot do, for our duty requires us to be the very hands of this guiding sentiment, and work in the present moment, – the evils we suffer will at last end themselves through the incessant opposition of Nature to everything hurtful.

The excellence of men consists in the completeness with which the lower system is taken up into the higher – a process of much time and delicacy, but in which no point of the lower should be left untranslated ; so that the warfare of beasts should be renewed in a finer field, for more excellent victories. Savage war gives place to that of Turenne and Wellington, which has limitations and a code. This war again gives place to the finer quarrel of property, where the victory is wealth and the defeat poverty.

The inevitabilities are always sapping every seeming prosperity built on a wrong. No matter how you seem to fatten on a crime, that can never be good for the bee which is bad for the hive. See how these things look the page of history. Nations come and go, cities rise and fall, all the instincts of man, good and bad, work, – and every wish, appetite, and passion, rushes into act and em-bodies itself in usages, protects itself with laws. Some of them are useful and universally acceptable, hinder none, help all, and these are honored and perpetuated. Others are noxious. Community of property is tried, as when a Tartar horde or an Indian tribe roam over a vast tract for pasturage or hunting ; but it is found at last that some establishment of property, allowing each on some distinct terms to fence and cultivate a piece of land, is best for all.

" For my part," said Napoleon, " it is not the mystery of the incarnation which 1 discover in religion, but the mystery of social order, which associates with heaven that idea of equality which pre-vents the rich from destroying the poor."

Shall I say then it were truer to see Necessity calm, beautiful, passionless, without a smile, covered with ensigns of woe, stretching her dark warp across the universe? These threads are Natures pernicious elements, her deluges, miasma, disease, poison ; her curdling cold, her hideous reptiles and worse men, cannibals, and the depravities of civilization ; the secrets of the prisons of tyranny, the slave and his master, the proud man's scorn, the orphan's tears, the vices of men, lust, cruelty and pitiless avarice. These make the gloomy warp of ages. Humanity sits at the dread loom and throws the shuttle and fills it with joyful rainbows, until the sable ground is flowered all over with a woof of human industry and wisdom, virtuous examples, symbols of useful and generous arts, with beauty and pure love, courage and the victories of the just and wise over malice and wrong.

Nature is not so helpless but it can rid itself at last of every crime. An Eastern poet, in describing the golden age, said that God had made justice so dear to the heart of Nature that, if any injustice lurked anywhere under the sky, the blue vault would shrivel to a snake-skin and cast it out by spasms. But the spasms of Nature are years and centuries, and it will tax the faith of man to wait
so long.

Man is always throwing his praise or blame on events, and does not see that he only is real, and the world his mirror and echo. He imputes the stroke to fortune, which in reality himself strikes. The student discovers one day that he lives in enchantment : the house, the works, the persons, the days, the weathers – all that he calls Nature, all that he calls institutions, when once his mind is active are visions merely, wonderful allegories, significant pictures of the laws of the mind ; and through this enchanted gallery he is led by unseen guides to read and learn the laws of heaven. This discovery may come early, – sometimes in the nursery, to a rare child ; later in the school, but oftener when the mind is more mature ; and to multitudes of men wanting in mental activity it never comes – any more than poetry or art. But it ought to come ; it belongs to the human intellect, and is an insight which we cannot spare.

The idea of right exists in the human mind, and lays itself out in the equilibrium of Nature, in the equalities and periods of our system, in the level of seas, in the action and reaction of forces. Nothing .is allowed to exceed or absorb the rest; if it do, it is disease, and is quickly destroyed. It was an early discovery of the mind, – this beneficent rule. Strength enters just as much as the moral element prevails. The strength of the animal to eat and to be luxurious and to usurp is rudeness and imbecility. The law is : To each shall be rendered his own. As thou sowest, thou shalt reap. Smite, and thou shalt smart. Serve, and thou shalt he served. If you love and serve men, you cannot, by any hiding or stratagem, escape the remuneration. Secret retributions are always restoring the level, when disturbed, of the Divine justice. It is impossible to tilt the beam. All the tyrants and proprietors and monopolists of the world in vain set their shoulders to heave the bar. Settles for evermore the ponderous equator to its line, and man and mote and star and sun must range with it, or be pulverized by the recoil.

It is a doctrine of unspeakable comfort. He that plants his foot here, passes at once out of the kingdom of illusions. Others may well suffer in the hideous picture of crime with which earth is filled and the life of society threatened, but the habit of respecting that great order which certainly contains and will dispose of our little system, will take all fear from the heart. It did itself create and distribute all that is created and distributed, and, trusting to its power, we cease to care for what it will certainly order well. To good men, as we call good men, this doctrine of Trust is an unsounded secret. They use the word, they have accepted the notion of a mechanical supervision of human life, by which that certain wonderful being whom they call God does take up their affairs where their intelligence leaves them, and somehow knits and co-ordinates the issues of them in all that is beyond the reach of private faculty. They do not see that He, that It, is there, next and within ; the thought of the thought ; the affair of affairs ; that he is existence, and take him from them and they would not be. They do not see that particulars are sacred to him, as well as the scope and outline ; that these passages of daily life are his work ; that in the moment when they desist from interference, these particulars take sweetness and grandeur, and become the language of mighty principles.

A man should be a guest in his own house, and a guest in his own thought. He is there to speak for truth ; but who is he? Some clod the truth has snatched from the ground, and with fire has fashioned to a momentary man. Without the truth, he is a clod again. Let him find his superiority in not wishing superiority ; find the riches of love which possesses that which it adores ; the riches of poverty ; the height of lowliness, the immensity of to-day; and, in the passing hour, the age of ages. Wondrous state of man ! never so happy as when he has lost all private interests and regards, and exists only in obedience and love of the Author.

The fiery soul said : " Let me be a blot on this fair world, the obscurest, the loneliest sufferer, with one proviso,-that I know it is His agency. I will love him, though he shed frost and darkness on every way of mine." The emphasis of that blessed doctrine lay in lowliness. The new saint gloried in infirmities. Who or what was he ? His rise and his recovery were vicarious. He has fallen in another ; he rises in another.

We perish, and perish gladly, if the law remains. I hope it is conceivable that a man may go to ruin gladly, if he see that thereby no shade falls on that he loves and adores. We need not always be stipulating for our clean shirt and roast joint per diem. We do not believe the less in astronomy and vegetation, because we are writhing and roaring in our beds with rheumatism. Cripples and invalids, we doubt not there are bounding fawns in the forest, and lilies with graceful, springing stem ; so neither do we doubt or fail to love the eternal law, of which we are such shabby practisers. Truth gathers itself spotless and unhurt after all our surrenders and concealments and partisanship-never hurt by the treachery or ruin of its best defenders, whether Luther, or William Penn, or St. Paul. We answer, when they tell us of the bad behavior of Luther or Paul : " Well, what if he did ? Who was more pained than Luther or Paul'? " Shall we attach ourselves violently to our teachers and historical personalities, and think the foundation shaken if any fault is shown in their record? But how is the truth hurt by their falling from it ? The law of gravity is not hurt by every accident, though our leg be broken. No more is the law of justice by our departure from it.

We are to know that we are never without a pi-lot. When we know not how to steer, and dare not hoist a sail, we can drift. The current knows the way, though we do not. 'When the stars and sun appear, when we have conversed with navigators who know the coast, we may begin to put out an oar and trim a sail. The ship of heaven guides itself, and will not accept a wooden rudder.

Have you said to yourself ever : 'I abdicate all choice, I see it is not for me to interfere. I see that I have been one of the crowd ; that I have been a pitiful person, because I have wished to be my own master, and to dress and order my whole way and system of living. I thought I managed it very well. I see that my neighbors think so. I have heard prayers, I have prayed even, but I' have never until now dreamed that this undertaking the entire management of my own affairs was not commendable. I have never seen, until now, that it dwarfed me. I have not discovered, until this blessed ray flashed just now through my soul, that there dwelt any power in Nature that would relieve we of my load. But now I see.'  What is this intoxicating sentiment that allies this scrap of dust to the whole of Nature and the whole of Fate, – that makes this doll a dweller in ages, mocker at time, able to spurn all outward ad-vantages, peer and master of the elements? I am taught by it that what touches any thread in the vast web of being touches me. I am representative of the whole ; and the good of the whole, or what I call the right, makes me invulnerable.

How came this creation so magically woven that nothing can do me mischief but myself, – that an invisible fence surrounds my being which screens me from all harm that I will to resist? If I will stand upright, the creation cannot bend me. But if I violate myself, if I commit a crime, the lightning loiters by the speed of retribution, and every act is not hereafter but instantaneously rewarded according to its quality. Virtue is the adopting of this dictate of the universal mind by the individual will. Character is the habit of this obedience, and Religion is the accompanying emotion, the emotion of reverence which the presence of the universal mind ever excites in the individual.

We go to famous books for our examples of character, just as we send to England for shrubs which grow as well in our own door-yards and cow-pastures. Life is always rich, and spontaneous graces and forces elevate it in every domestic circle, which are overlooked while we are reading something less excellent in old authors. From the obscurity and casualty of those which I know, I infer the obscurity and casualty of the like balm and consolation and immortality in a thousand homes which I do not know, all round the world. And I see not why to these simple instincts, simple yet grand, all the heights and transcendencies of virtue and of enthusiasm are not open. There is power enough in them to move the world ; and it is not any sterility or defect in ethics, but our negligence of these fine monitors, of these world-embracing sentiments, that makes religion cold and life low.

While the immense energy of the sentiment of duty and the awe of the supernatural exert incomparable influence on the mind, – yet it is often perverted, and the tradition received with awe, but without correspondent action of the receiver. Then you find so many men infatuated on that topic ! Wise on all other, they lose their head the moment they talk of religion. It is the sturdiest prejudice in the public mind that religion is something by Itself ; a department distinct from all other experiences, and to which the tests and judgment men are ready enough to show on other things, do not apply. You may sometimes talk with the gravest and best citizen, and the moment the topic of religion is broached, he runs into a childish superstition. His face looks infatuated, and his conversation is. When I talked with an ardent missionary, and pointed out to him that his creed found no support in my experience, he replied, It is not so in your experience, but is so in the other world." I answer : Other world ! there is no other world. God is one and omnipresent ; here or nowhere is the whole fact. The one miracle which God works evermore is in Nature, and imparting himself to the mind. When we ask simply, " What is true in thought? what is just in action?" it is the yielding of the private heart to the Divine mind, and all personal preferences, and all requiring of wonders, are profane.

The word miracle, as it is used, only indicates the ignorance of the devotee, staring with wonder to see water turned into wine, and heedless of the stupendous fact of his own personality. Here he stands, a lonely thought harmoniously organized into correspondence with the universe of mind and matter. What narrative of wonders coming down from a thousand years ought to charm his attention like this ? Certainly it is human to value a general consent, a fraternity of believers, a crowded church ; but as the sentiment purifies and rises, it leaves crowds. It makes churches of two, churches of one. A fatal disservice does this Swedenborg or other who oilers to do my thinking for me. It seems as if, when the Spirit of God speaks so plainly to each soul, it were an impiety to be listening to one or another saint. Jesus was better than others, because he refused to listen to others and listened at home.

You are really interested in your thought. You have meditated in silent wonder on your existence in this world. You have perceived in the first fact of your conscious life here a miracle so astounding, – a miracle comprehending all the universe of miracles to which your intelligent life gives you access,- as to exhaust wonder, and leave you no need of hunting here or there for any particular exhibitions of power. Then up comes a man with a text of 1 John v. 7, or a knotty sentence from St. Paul, which he considers as the axe at the root of your tree. You cannot bring yourself to care for it. You say: " Cut away ; my tree is Ygdrasil – the tree of life." He interrupts for the moment your peaceful trust in the Divine Providence. Let him know by your security that your conviction is clear and sufficient, and if he were Paul himself, you also are here, and with your Creator.

We all give way to superstitions. The house in which we were born is not quite mere timber and stone ; is still haunted by parents and progenitors. The creeds into which we were initiated in child hood and youth no longer hold their old place in the minds of thoughtful men, but they are not nothing to us, and we hate to have them treated with contempt. There is so much that we do not know, that we give to these suggestions the benefit of the doubt.

It is a necessity of the human mind that he who looks at one object should look away from all other objects. He may throw himself upon some sharp statement of one fact, some verbal creed, with such concentration as to hide the universe from him: but the stars roll above ; the sun warms him. With patience and fidelity to truth he may work his way through, if only by coming against somebody who believes more fables than he does and, in trying to dispel the illusions of his neighbor, he opens his own eyes.

In the Christianity of this country there is wide difference of opinion in regard to inspiration, prophecy, miracles, the future state of the soul : every variety of opinion, and rapid revolution in opinions, in the last half-century. It is simply impossible to read the old history of the first century as it was read in the ninth ; to do so you must abolish in your mind the lessons of all the centuries from the ninth to the nineteenth.

Shall I make the mistake of baptizing the day-light, and time, and space, by the name of John or Joshua, in whose tent I chance to behold daylight, and space, and time ? What anthropomorphists we are in this, that we cannot let moral distinctions be, but must mould them into human shape! "Mere morality" means, – not put into a personal master of morals. Our religion is geographical, belongs to our time and place : respects and mythologizes some one time and place and person and people. So it is occasional. It visits us only on some exceptional and ceremonial occasion, on a wedding or a baptism, on a sick-bed, or at a funeral, or perhaps on a sublime national victory or a peace. But that be sure is not the religion of the universal unsleeping providence, which lurks in trifles, in still, small voices, in the secrets of the heart and our closest thoughts, as efficiently as in our proclamations and successes.

Far be it from me to underrate the men or the churches that have fixed the hearts of men and organized their devout impulses or oracles into good institutions. The Church of Rome had its saints, and inspired the conscience of Europe – St. Augustine, and Thomas � Kempis, and Fenelon ; the piety of the English Church in Crammer, and Herbert, and Taylor ; the Reformed Church, Scougal ; the mystics, Behmen and Swedenborg ; the Quakers, Fox and James Nay ion I confess our later generation appears ungirt, frivolous, compared with the religions of the last or Calvinistic age. There was in the last century a serious habitual reference to the spiritual world, running through diaries, let-. ters and conversation – yes, and into wills and le-gal instruments also, compared with which our liberation looks a little foppish and dapper.

The religion of seventy years ago was an iron belt to the mind, giving it concentration and force. A rude people were kept respectable by the determination of thought on the eternal world. Now men fall abroad, – want polarity, – suffer in character and intellect. A sleep creeps over the great functions of man. Enthusiasm goes out. In its stead a low prudence seeks to hold society staunch, but its arms are too short, cordage and machinery never supply the place of life.

Luther would cut his hand off sooner than write theses against the pope if he suspected that he was bringing on with all his might the pale negations of Boston Unitarianism. I will not now go into the metaphysics of that reaction by which in history a period of belief is followed by an age of criticism, in which wit takes the place of faith in the leading spirits, and an excessive respect for forms out of

which the heart has departed becomes most obvious in the least religious minds. I will not now explore the causes of the result, but the fact must be con-ceded as of frequent recurrence, and never more evident than in our American church. To a self-denying, ardent church, delighting in rites and ordinances, has succeeded a cold, intellectual race, who analyze the prayer and psalm of their forefathers, and the more intellectual reject every yoke of authority and custom with a petulance unprecedented. It is a sort of mark of probity and sincerity to declare how little you believe, while the mass of the community indolently follow the old forms with childish scrupulosity, and we have punctuality for faith, and good taste for character.

But I hope the defect of faith with us is only apparent. We shall find that freedom has its own guards, and, as soon as in the vulgar it runs to license, sets all reasonable men on exploring those guards. I do not think the summit of this age truly reached or expressed unless it attain the height which religion and philosophy reached in any former age. If I miss the inspiration of the saints of Calvinism, or of Platonism, or Buddhism, our times are not up to theirs, or, more truly, have not yet their own legitimate force.

Worship is the regard for what is above us. Men are respectable only as they respect. We delight in children because of that religious eye which belongs to them ; because of their reverence for their seniors, and for their objects of belief. The poor Irish laborer one sees with respect, because ho believes in something, in his church, and in his employers. Superstitious persons we see with respect, because their whole existence is not bounded by their hats and their shoes, but they walk attended by pictures of the imagination, to which they pay homage. You cannot impoverish man by taking away these objects above him without ruin. It is very sad to see men who think their goodness made of themselves ; it is very grateful to see those who hold an opinion the reverse of this.

All ages of belief have been great ; all of unbelief have been mean. The Orientals believe in Fate. That which shall befall them is written on the iron leaf ; they will not turn on their heel to avoid famine, plague, or the sword of the enemy. That is great, and gives a great air to the people. We in America are charged with a great deficiency in worship ; that reverence does not belong to our character ; that our institutions, our polities, and our trade, have fostered a self-reliance which is small, liliputian, full of fuss and bustle ; we look at and will bear nothing above us in the state, and do exceedingly applaud and admire ourselves, and believe in our senses and understandings, while our imagination and our moral sentiment are desolated. In religion too we want objects above ; we are fast losing or have already lost our old reverence ; new views of inspiration, of miracles, of the saints, have supplanted the old opinions, and it is vain to bring them again. Revolutions never go backward, and in all churches a certain decay of ancient piety is lamented, and all threatens to lapse into apathy and indifferentism. It becomes us to consider whether we cannot have a real faith and real objects in lieu of these false ones. The human mind, when it is trusted, is never false to itself. If there be sincerity and good meaning – if there be really in us the wish to seek for our superiors, for that which is lawfully above us, we shall not long look in vain.

Meantime there is great centrality, a centripetence equal to the centrifugence. The mystic or theist is never scared by any startling materialism. He knows the laws of gravitation and of repulsion are deaf to French talkers, be they never so witty. If theology shows that opinions are fast changing, it is not so with the convictions of men with regard to conduct. These remain. The most daring heroism, the most accomplished culture, or rapt holiness, never exhausted the claim of these lowly duties, – never penetrated to their origin, or was able to look behind their source. We cannot disenchant, we cannot impoverish ourselves, by obedience ; but by humility we rise, by obedience we command, by poverty we are rich, by dying we live.

We are thrown back on rectitude forever and ever, only rectitude, – to mend one ; that is all we can do. But that the zealot stigmatizes as a sterile chimney-corner philosophy. Now the first position I make is that natural religion supplies still all the facts which are disguised under the dogma of popular creeds. The progress of religion is steadily to its identity with morals.

How is the new generation to be edified ? How should it not? The life of those once omnipotent traditions was really not in the legend, but in the moral sentiment and the metaphysical fact which the legends enclosed – and these survive. A new Socrates, or Zeno, or Swedenborg, or Pascal, or a new crop of geniuses like those of the Elizabethan age, may be born in this age, and, with happy heart and a bias for theism, bring asceticism, duty, and magnanimity into vogue again.

It is true that Stoicism, always attractive to the intellectual and cultivated, has now no temples, no academy. no commanding Zeno or Antoninus. It accuses us that it has none : that pure ethics is not now formulated and concreted into a coitus, a fraternity with assemblings and holy-days, with song and book, with brick and stone. Why have not those who believe in it and live it left all for this, and dedicated themselves to write out its scientific scriptures to become its Vulgate for millions ? I answer for one that the inspirations we catch of this law are not continuous and technical, but joyful sparkles, and are recorded for their beauty, for the delight they give, not for their obligation ; and that is then priceless good to men, that they charm and uplift, not that they are imposed. It has not yet its first hymn. But, that every line and word may he coals of true fire, ages must roll, ere these casual wide-falling cinders can be gathered into broad and steady altar-flame.

It does not yet appear what forms the religious feeling will take. It prepares to rise out of all forms to an absolute justice and healthy perception. Here is now a new feeling of humanity infused into public action. Here is contribution of money on a more extended and systematic scale than ever before to repair public disasters at a distance, and of political support to oppressed parties. Then there are the new conventions of social science, before which the questions of the rights of women, the laws of trade, the treatment of crime, regulation of labor, come for a bearing. If these are tokens of the steady currents of thought and will in these directions, one might well anticipate a new nation.

I know how delicate this principle is, – how difficult of adaptation to practical and social arrangements. It cannot be profaned ; it cannot be forced ; to draw it out of its natural current is to lose at once all its power_ Such experiments as we recall are those in which some sect or dogma made the tie, and that was an artificial element, which chilled and checked the union. But is it quite impossible to believe that men should be drawn to each other by the simple respect which each man feels for another in whom he discovers absolute honesty ; the respect he feels for one who thinks life is quite too coarse and frivolous, and that he should like to lift it a little, should like to be the friend of some man's virtue'? for another who, underneath his compliances with artificial society, would dearly like to servo somebody, – to test his own reality by making him-self useful and indispensable?

Man does not live by bread alone, but by faith, by admiration, by sympathy. 'T is very shallow to say that cotton, or iron, or silver and gold are kings of the world ; there are rulers that will at any moment make these forgotten. Fear will. Love Character will. Men live by their credence, Governments stand by it, – by the faith that the people share, – whether it comes from the religion in which they were bred, or from an original conscience in themselves, which the popular religion echoes. if government could only stand by force, if the instinct of the people was to resist the government, it is plain the government must be two to one in order to be secure, and then it would not be safe from desperate individuals. But no ; the old commandment, " Thou shalt not kill," holds down New York, and London, and Paris, and not a police or horse-guards.

The credence of men it is that moulds them, and creates at will one or another surface. The mind as it opens transfers very fast its choice from the circumstance to the cause ; from courtesy to love, from inventions to science, from London or Washington law, or public opinion, to the self-revealing idea ; from all that talent executes to the sentiment that fills the heart and dictates the future of nations. The commanding fact which I never do not see, is the sufficiency of the moral sentiment. We but-tress it up, in shallow hours or ages, with legends, traditions and forms, each good for the one moment in which it was a happy type or symbol of the Power; but the Power sends in the next moment a new lesson, which we lose while our eyes are reverted and striving to perpetuate the old.

America shall introduce a pure religion. Ethics are thought not to satisfy affection. But all the religion we have is the ethics of one or another holy person ; as soon as character appears, be sure love will, and veneration, and anecdotes and fables about him, and delight of good men and women in him. And what deeps of grandeur and beauty are known to us in ethical truth, what divination or in-sight belongs to it ! For innocence is a wonderful electuary for purging the eyes to search the nature of those souls that pass before it. What armor it is to protect the good from outward or inward harm, and with what power it converts evil accidents into benefits ; the power of its countenance ; the power of its presence ! To it alone comes true friendship ; to it come grandeur of situation and poetic perception, enriching all it deals with.

Once men thought Spirit divine, and Matter diabolic ; one Ormuzd, the other Ahriman. Now science and philosophy recognize the parallelism, the approximation, the unity of the two : how each re. fleets the other as face answers to face in a glass: nay, how the laws of both are one, or how one is the realization. We are learning not to fear truth.

The man of this age must be matriculated in the university of sciences and tendencies flowing from all past periods. He must not be one who can be surprised and shipwrecked by every bold or subtile word which malignant and acute men may utter in his hearing, but should be taught all skepticisms and unbeliefs, and made the destroyer of all card-houses and paper walls, and the sifter of all opinions, by being put face to face from his infancy with Reality.

A man who has accustomed himself to look at all his circumstances as very mutable, to carry his possessions, his relations to persons, and even his opinions, in his hand, and in all these to pierce to the principle and moral law, and everywhere to find that, – has put himself out of the reach of all skepticism ; and it seems as if whatever is most affecting and sublime in our intercourse, in our happiness, and in our losses, tended steadily to uplift us to a life so extraordinary, and, one might say, super-human.

Complete Works of RWE X - Lectures and Biographical Sketches

The Superlative

WHEN wrath and terror changed Jove's regal port
And the rash-leaping thunderbolt fell short.

For Art, for Music overthrilled,
The wine-cup shakes, the wine is spilled


THE doctrine of temperance is one of many degrees. It is usually taught on a low platform, but one of great necessity, – that of meats and drinks, and its importance cannot be denied and hardly exaggerated. But it is a long way from the Maine Law to the heights of absolute self-command which respect the conservatism of the entire energies of the body, the mind, and the soul. I wish to point at some of its higher functions as it enters into mind and character.

There is a superlative temperament which has no medium range, but swiftly oscillates from the freezing to the boiling point, and which affects the manners of those who share it with a certain desperation. Their aspect is grimace. They go tearing, convulsed through life, – wailing, praying, ex-claiming, swearing. We talk, sometimes, with people whose conversation would lead you to suppose that they had lived in a museum, where all the objects were monsters and extremes. Their good people are ph�nixes ; their naughty are like the prophet's figs. They use the superlative of gram-mar : " most perfect," " most exquisite," " most horrible." Like the French, they are enchanted, they are desolate, because you have got or have not got a shoe-string or a wafer you happen to want, – not perceiving that superlatives are diminutives, and weaken ; that the positive is the sinew of speech, the superlative the fat. If the talker lose a tooth, he thinks the universal thaw and dissolution of things has come. Controvert his opinion and he cries "Persecution! " and reckons himself with Saint Barnabas, who was sawn in two.

Especially we note this tendency to extremes in the pleasant excitement of horror-mongers. Is there something so delicious in disasters and pain ? Bad news is always exaggerated, and we may challenge Providence to send a fact so tragical that we cannot contrive to make it a little worse in our gossip.

All this comes of poverty. We are unskilful definers. From want of skill to convey quality, we hope to move admiration by quantity. Language should aim to describe the fact. It is not enough to suggest it and magnify it. Sharper sight would indicate the true line. ' T is very wearisome, this straining talk, these experiences all exquisite, intense and tremendous, – " The best I ever saw ; " " I never in my life ! " One wishes these terms gazetted and forbidden. Every favorite is not a cherub, nor every cat a griffin, nor each� unpleasing person a dark, diabolical intriguer ; nor agonies, excruciations nor ecstasies our daily bread.

Horace Walpole relates that in the expectation, current in London a century ago, of a great earthquake, some people provided themselves with dresses for the occasion. But one would not wear earthquake dresses or resurrection robes for a working jacket, nor make a codicil to his will whenever he goes out to ride ; and the secrets of death, judgment and eternity are tedious when recurring as minute-guns. Thousands of people live and die who were never, on a single occasion, hungry or thirsty, or furious or terrified. The books say, " It made my hair stand on end ! " Who, in our municipal life, ever had such an experience ? Indeed, I believe that much of the rhetoric of terror, – " It froze my blood," It made my knees knock," etc.- most men have realized only in dreams and nightmares.

Then there is an inverted superlative, or superlative contrary, which shivers, like Demophoon, in the sun : wants fan and parasol on the cold Friday ; is tired by sleep ; feeds on drugs and poisons ; finds the rainbow a discoloration; hates birds and flowers.

The exaggeration of which I complain makes plain fact the more welcome and refreshing. It is curious that a face magnified in a concave mirror loses its expression. All this overstatement is needless. A little fact is worth a whole limbo of dreams, and I can well spare the exaggerations which appear to me screens to conceal ignorance. Among these glorifiers, the coldest stickler for names and dates and measures cannot lament his criticism and coldness of fancy. Think how much pains astronomers and opticians have taken to pro-cure an achromatic lens. Discovery in the heavens has waited for it ; discovery on the face of the earth not less. I hear without sympathy the complaint of young and ardent persons that they find life no region of romance, with no enchanter, no giant. no fairies, nor even muses. I am very much indebted to my eyes, and am content that they should see the real world, always geometrically finished with-out blur or halo. The more I am engaged with it the more it suffices.

How impatient we are, in these northern latitudes, of looseness and intemperance in speech! Our measure of success is the moderation and low level of an individual's judgment. Doctor Channing's piety and wisdom Lad such weight that, in Boston, the popular idea of religion was whatever this eminent divine held. But I remember that his best friend, a man of guarded lips, speaking of him in a circle of his admirers, said : I have known him long, I have studied his character, and I believe him capable of virtue." An eminent French journalist paid a high compliment to the Duke of Wellington, when his documents were published : ' Here are twelve volumes of military dispatches, and the word glory is not found in them."

The English mind is arithmetical, values exactness, likes literal statement ; stigmatizes any heat or hyperbole as Irish, French, Italian, and infers weakness and inconsequence of character in speakers who use it. It does not love the superlative but the positive degree. Our customary and mechanical existence is not favorable to flights ; long nights and frost hold us pretty fast to realities. The people of English stock, in all countries, are a solid people, wearing good hats and shoes, and owners of land whose title-deeds are properly recorded. Their houses are of wood, and brick, and stone, not designed to reel in earthquakes, nor blow about through the air much in hurricanes, nor to be lost under sand-drifts, nor to be made bonfires of by whimsical viziers ; but to stand as commodious, rentable tenements for a century or two. All our manner of life is on a secure and moderate pattern, such as can last. Violence and extravagance are, once for all, distasteful ; competence, quiet, cam. fort, are the agreed welfare.

Ever a low style is best. "1 judge by every man's truth of his degree of understanding," said Chesterfield. And I do not know any advantage more conspicuous which a man owes to his experience in markets and the Exchange, or politics, than the caution and accuracy he acquires in his report of facts. " Uncle Joel's news is always true," said a person to me with obvious satisfaction, and said it justly ; for the old head, after deceiving and being deceived many times, thinks, " What 's the use of having to unsay to-day what I said yesterday? I will not be responsible ; I will not add an epithet. I will be as moderate as the fact, and will use the same expression, without color, which I received ; and rather repeat it several times, word for word, than vary it ever so little."

The first valuable power in a reasonable mind, one would say, was the power of plain statement, or the power to receive things as they befall, and to transfer the picture of them to another mind unaltered. 'T is a good rule of rhetoric which Schlegel gives, – " In good prose, every word is under scored ; " which, I suppose, means, Never italicize.

Spartans, stoics, heroes, saints and gods use a short and positive speech. They are never off their centres. As soon as they swell and paint and find truth not enough for them, softening of the brain has already begun. It seems as if inflation were a disease incident to too much use of words, and the remedy lay in recourse to things. I am daily struck with the forcible understatement of people who have no literary habit. The low expression is strong and agreeable. The citizen dwells in delusions. His dress and draperies, house and stables, occupy him. The poor countryman, having no circumstance of carpets, coaches, dinners, wine and (lancing in his head to confuse him, is able to look straight at you, without refraction or prismatic glories, and he sees whether you see straight also, or whether your head is addled by this mixture of wines.

The common people diminish : " a cold snap ; "it rains easy ; " good haying weather." When a farmer means to tell you that he is doing well with his farm, he says, " I don't work as hard as I did, and I don't mean to." When he wishes to condemn any treatment of soils or of stock, he says, " It won't do any good." Under the Catskill Mountains the boy in the steamboat said, " Come up here, Tony ; it looks pretty out-of-doors." The farmers in the region (lo not call particular summits, as Killington, Camel's Hump, Saddle-back, etc., mountains, but only " them 'ere rises," and reserve the word mountains for the range.

I once attended a dinner given to a great state functionary by functionaries, – men of law, state, and trade. The guest was a great man in his own country and an honored diplomatist in this. His health was drunk with some acknowledgment of his distinguished services to both countries, and followed by nine cold hurrahs. There was the vicious superlative. Then the great official spoke and beat his breast, and declared that he should remember this honor to the latest moment of his existence. He was answered again by officials. Pity, thought I, they should lie so about their keen sensibility to the nine cold hurrahs and to the commonplace compliment of a dinner. Men of the world value truth, iii proportion to their ability ; not by its sacredness, but for its convenience. Of such, especially of diplomatists, one has a right to expect wit and ingenuity to avoid the lie if they must comply with the form. Now, I had been present, a little before, in the country at a cattle-show dinner, which followed an agricultural discourse delivered by a farmer : the discourse, to say the truth, was bad ; and one of our village fathers gave at the dinner this toast : " The orator of the day : his subject deserves the attention of every farmer." The caution of the toast did honor to our village father. I wish great lords and diplomatists had as much respect for truth.

But whilst thus everything recommends simplicy and temperance of action ; the utmost directness, the positive degree, we mean thereby that " rightly to be great is not to stir without great argument." Whenever the true objects of action appear, they are to be heartily sought. Enthusiasm is the height of man ; it is the passing from the human to the divine.

The superlative is as good as the positive, if it be alive. If man loves the conditioned, he also loves the unconditioned. We don't wish to sin on the other side, and to be purists, nor to check the invention of wit or the sally of humor. 'T is very different, this weak and wearisome lie, from the stimulus to the fancy which is given by a romancing talker who does not mean to be exactly taken, – like the gallant skipper who complained to his owners that he had pumped the Atlantic Ocean three times through his ship on the passage, and 't was common to strike seals and porpoises in the hold. Or what was similarly asserted of the late Lord Jeffrey, at the Scottish bar, – an attentive auditor declaring on one occasion after an argument of three hours, that he had spoken the whole English language three times over in his speech.

The objection to unmeasured speech is its lie. All men like an impressive fact. The astronomer shows you in his telescope the nebula of Orion, that you may look on that which is esteemed the farthest-off land in visible nature. At the Bank of England they put a scrap of paper that is worth a million pounds sterling into the hands of the visitor to touch. Our travelling is a sort of search for the superlatives or summits of art, – much more the real wonders of power in the human form. The arithmetic of Newton, the memory of Magliabeechi or Miirandola, the versatility of Julius Caesar, the concentration of Bonaparte, the inspiration of Shakspeare, are sure of commanding interest and awe in every company of men.
The superlative is the excess of expression. We are a garrulous, demonstrative kind of creatures, and cannot live without much outlet for all our sense and nonsense. And fit expression is so rare that mankind have a superstitious value for it, and it would seem the whole human race agree to value a man precisely in proportion to his power of expression ; and to the most expressive man that has existed, namely, Shakspeare, they have awarded the highest place.

The expressors are the gods of the world, hut the men whom these expressors revere are the solid, balanced, undemonstrative citizens who make the reserved guard, the central sense, of the world. For the luminous object wastes itself by its shining, — is luminous because it is burning up ; and if the powers are disposed for display, there is all the less left for use and creation. The talent sucks the substance of the man. Superlatives must be bought by too many positives. Gardens of roses must be stripped to make a few drops of otto. And these raptures of fire and frost, which indeed cleanse pedantry out of conversation and make the speech salt and biting, would cost me the days of well-being which are now so cheap to me, yet so valued. I like no deep stakes. I am a coward at gambling. I will bask in the common sun a while longer.

Children and thoughtless people like exaggerated event and activity ; like to run to a house on fire, to a fight, to an execution ; like to talk of a marriage, of a bankruptcy, of a debt, of a crime. The wise man shims all this. I knew a grave man who, being urged to go to a church where a clergy-man was newly ordained, said " he liked him very well, but he would go when the interesting Sundays were over."

All rests at last on the simplicity of nature, or real being. Nothing is for the most part less es-teemed. We are fond of dress, of ornament, of accomplishments, of talents, but distrustful of health, of soundness, of pure innocence. Yet nature measures her greatness by what she can spare, by what remains when all superfluity and accessories are shorn off.

Nor is there in nature itself any swell, any brag, any strain or shock, but a firm common sense through all her elephants and lions, through all her ducks and geese ; a true proportion between her means and her performance. Semper sibi similis. You shall not catch her in any anomalies, nor swaggering into any monsters. In all the years that I have sat in town and forest, I never saw a winged dragon, a flying man, or a talking fish, but ever the strictest regard to rule, and an absence of all surprises. No ; nature encourages no looseness, pardons no errors ; freezes punctually at 32 degrees, boils punctually at 212 degrees ; crystallizes in water at one in-variable angle, in diamond at one, in granite at one ; and if you omit the smallest condition the experiment will not succeed. Her communication obeys the gospel rule, yea or nay. She never expatiates, never goes into the reasons. Plant beech-mast and it comes up, or it does not come up. Sow grain, and it does not come up : put lime into the soil and try again, and this time she says yea. To every question an abstemious but absolute reply. The like staidness is in her dealings with us. Nature is always serious, – does not jest with us. Where we have begun in folly, we are brought quickly to plain dealing. Life could not be carried on except by fidelity and good earnest and she brings the most heartless trifler to determined purpose presently. The men whom she admits to her confidence, the simple and great characters, are uniformly marked by absence of pretension and by understatement. The old and the modern sages of clearest insight are plain men, who have held them selves hard to the poverty of nature.

The firmest and noblest ground on which people can live is truth ; the real with the real ; a ground on which nothing is assumed, but where they speak and think and do what they must, because they are so and not otherwise.

But whilst the basis of character must be simplicity, the expression of character, it must be re-membered, is, in great degree, a matter of climate. In the temperate climates there is a temperate speech, in torrid climates an ardent one. Whilst in Western nations the superlative in conversation is tedious and weak, and in character is a capital defect, nature delights in showing us that in the East it is animated, it is pertinent, pleasing, poetic. Whilst she appoints us to keep within the sharp boundaries of form as the condition of our strength, she creates in the East the uncontrollable yearning to escape from limitation into the vast and bound-less ; to use a freedom of fancy which plays with all the works of nature, great or minute, galaxy or grain of dust, as toys and words of the mind ; inculcates the tenet of a beatitude to be found in escape from all organization and all personality, and makes ecstasy an institution.

Religion and poetry are all the civilization of the Arab. " The ground of Paradise," said _Mohammed, " is extensive, and the plants of it are hallelujahs." Religion and poetry : the religion teaches an inexorable destiny; it distinguishes only two days in each man's history, the day of his lot, and the day of judgment. The religion runs into asceticism and fate. The costume, the articles in which wealth is displayed, arc in the same extremes. Thus the diamond and the pearl, which are only accidental and secondary in their use and value to us, are proper to the oriental world. The diver dives a beggar and rises with the price of a kingdoms in his hand. A bag of sequins, a jewel, a balsam, a single horse, constitute an estate in countries where insecure institutions make every one desirous of concealable and convertible property. Shall I say, further, that the orientals excel in costly arts, in the cutting of precious stones, in working in gold, in weaving on hand-looms costly stuffs from silk and wool, in spices, in dyes and drugs, henna, otto and camphor, and in the training of slaves, elephants and camels, – things which are the poetry and superlative of commerce.

On the other hand, – and it is a good illustration of the difference of genius, – the European nations, and, in general, all nations in proportion to their civilization, understand the manufacture of iron. One of the meters of the height to which any civility rose is the skill in the fabric of iron. Universally, the better gold, the worse man. The political economist defies us to show any gold-mine country that is traversed by good roads : or a shore where pearls are found on which good schools are erected. The European civility, or that of the positive degree, is established by coal-mines, by ventilation, by irrigation and every skill – in having water cheap and pure, by iron, by agriculture for bread-stuffs, and manufacture of coarse and family cloths. Our modern improvements have been in the invention of friction matches of India-rubber shoes; of the famous two parallel bars of iron ; then of the air-chamber of "-ati, and of the judicious tubing of the engine, by Stephenson, in order to the construction of locomotives.

Meantime, Nature, who loves crosses and mixtures, makes these two tendencies necessary each to the other, and delights to re-enforce each peculiarity by imparting the other. The Northern genius finds itself singularly refreshed and stimulated by the breadth and luxuriance of Eastern imagery and modes of thinking, which go to cheek the pedantry of cur inventions and the excess of our detail. fhere is no writing which has more electric power to unbind and animate the torpid intellect than the bold Eastern muse.

If it come back however to the question of final superiority, it is too plain that there is no question that the star of empire rolls est : that the warm sons of the Southeast have bent the neck under the yoke of the cold temperament and the exact understanding of the Northwestern races.

Complete Works of RWE X - Lectures and Biographical Sketches



With the key of the secret he marches faster
From strength to strength, and for night brings day,
While classes or tribes too weak to master
The flowing conditions of life, give way.
NEW degree of intellectual power seems cheap at any price. The use of
the world is that man may learn its laws. And the human race have
wisely signified their sense of this, by calling wealth, means, – Man
being the end. Language is always wise.

Therefore I praise New
England because it is the country in the world where is the freest
expenditure for education. We have already taken, at the planting of
the Colonies, (for aught I know for the first time in the world,) the
initial step, which for its importance might have been resisted as the
most radical of revolutions, thus deciding at the start the destiny of
this country,- this, namely, that the poor man, whom the law does not
allow to take an ear of corn when starving, nor a pair of shoes for his
freezing feet, is allowed to put his hand into the pocket of the rich,
and say, You shall educate me, not as you will, but as I will : not
alone in the elements, but, by further provision, in the languages, in
sciences, in the useful and in elegant arts. The child shall be taken
up by the State, and taught, at the public cost, the rudiments of
knowledge, and, at last, the ripest results of art and science.

speaking, the school, the college, society, make the difference between
men. All the fairy tales of Aladdin or the invisible Gyges or the
talisman that opens kings' palaces or the en-chanted halls under-ground
or in the sea, are only fictions to indicate the one miracle of
intellectual enlargement. When a man stupid becomes a man inspired,
when one and the same man passes out of the torpid into the perceiving
state, leaves the din of trifles, the stupor of the senses, to enter
into the quasi-omniscience of high thought, – up and down, around, all
limits disappear. No horizon shuts down. He sees things in their
causes, all facts in their connection.

One of the problems of
history is the beginning of civilization. The animals that accompany
and serve man make no progress as races. Those called domestic are
capable of learning of man a few tricks of utility or amusement, but
they cannot communicate the skill to their race. Each individual must
be taught anew. The trained dog cannot train another dog. And Man
himself in many races retains almost the unteachableness of the beast.
For a thousand years the islands and forests of a great part of the
world have been filledwith savages who made no steps of advance in art
or skill beyond the necessity of being fed and warmed. Certain nations
with a better brain and usually in more temperate climates, have made
such progress as to compare with these as these compare with the bear
and the wolf.

Victory over things is the office of man. Of
course, until it is accomplished, it is the war and insult of things
over him. His continual tendency, his great danger, is to overlook the
fact that the world is only his teacher, and the nature of sun and
moon, plant and animal only means of arousing his interior activity.
Enamored of their beauty, comforted by their convenience, he seeks them
as ends, and fast loses sight of the fact that they have worse than no
values, that they become noxious, when he becomes their slave.

apparatus of wants and faculties, this craving body, whose organs ask
all the elements and all the functions of Nature for their
satisfaction, educate the wondrous creature which they satisfy with
light, with heat, with water, with wood, with bread, with wool. The
necessities imposed by this most irritable and all-related texture have
taught Man hunting, pasturage, agriculture, commerce, weaving, joining,
masonry, geometry, astronomy. Here is a world pierced and belted with
natural laws, and fenced and planted with civil partitions and
properties, which all put new restraints on the young inhabitant. He
too must come into this magic circle of relations, and know health and
sickness, the fear of injury, the desire of external good, the charm of
riches, the charm of power. The house-hold is a school of power. There,
within the door, learn the tragi-comedy of human life. Here is the
sincere thing, the wondrous composition for which day and night go
round. In that routine are the sacred relations, the passions that bind
and sever. Here is poverty and all the wisdom its hated necessities can
teach, here labor drudges, here affections glow, here the secrets of
character are told, the guards of man, the guards of woman, the
compensations which, like angels of justice, pay every debt the opium
of custom, whereof all drink and many go mad. Here is Economy, and
Glee, and Hospitality, and Ceremony, and Frankness, and Calamity, and
Death, and Hope.

Every one has a trust of power, – every man,
every boy a jurisdiction, whether it be over a cow or a rood of a
potato-field, or a fleet of ships, or the laws of a state. And what
activity the desire of power inspires! What toils it sustains! How it
sharpens the perceptions and stores the memory with facts. Thus a man
may well spend many years of life in trade. It is a constant teaching
of the laws of matter and of mind. No dollar of property can be created
without some direct communication with nature, and of course some
acquisition of knowledge and practical force. It is it constant contest
with the active faculties of men, a study of the issues of one and
another course of action, an accumulation of power, and, if the higher
faculties of the individual be from time to time quickened, he will
gain wisdom and virtue from his business.

As every wind draws
music out of the Aeolian harp, so doth every object in Nature draw music
out of his mind. Is it not true that every landscape I behold, every
friend I meet, every act I perform, every pain I suffer, leaves me a
different being from that they found me ? That poverty, love,
authority, anger, sickness, sorrow, success, all work: actively upon
our being and unlock for us the concealed faculties of the mind ?
Whatever private or petty ends are frustrated, this end is always
answered. Whatever the man does, or whatever befalls him, opens another
chamber in his soul, – that is, he has got a new feeling, a new
thought, a new organ. Do we not see how amazingly for this end man is
fitted to the world ?

What leads him to science? Why does he
track in the midnight heaven a pure spark, a luminous patch wandering
from age to age, but because he acquires thereby a majestic sense of
power ; learning that in his own constitution he can set the shining
maze in order, and finding and carrying their law in his mind, can, as
*it were, see his simple idea realized up yonder in giddy distances and
frightful periods of duration. If Newton come and first of men perceive
that not alone certain bodies fall to the ground at a certain rate, but
that all bodies in the Universe, the universe of bodies, fall always,
and at one rate ; that every atom in nature draws to every other atom,
– he extends the power of his mind not only over every cubic atom of
his native planet, but he reports the condition of millions of worlds
which his eye never saw. And what is the charm which every ore, every
new plant, every new fact touching winds, clouds, ocean currents, the
secrets of chemical composition and decomposition possess for Humboldt
? What but that much revolving of similar facts in his mind has shown
him that always the mind contains in its transparent chambers the means
of classifying the most refractory phenomena, of depriving them of all
casual and chaotic aspect, and subordinating them to a bright reason of
its own, and so giving to man a sort of property, – yea, the very
highest property in every district and particle of the globe.

the permanence of Nature, minds are trained alike, and made
intelligible to each other. In our condition are the roots of language
and communication, and these instructions we never exhaust.

some sort the end of life is that the man should take up the universe
into himself, or out of that quarry leave nothing unrepresented. Yonder
mountain must migrate into his mind. Yonder magnificent astronomy he is
at last to import, fetching away moon, and planet, solstice, period,
comet and binal star, by comprehending their relation and law. Instead
of the timid stripling he was, he is to be the stalwart Archimedes,
Pythagoras, Columbus, Newton, of the physic, metaphysic and ethics of
the design of the world.

For truly the population of the globe
has its origin in the aims which their existence is to serve; and so
with every portion of them. The truth takes flesh in forms that can
express it ; and thus in history an idea always overhangs, like the
moon, and rules the tide which rises simultaneously in all the souls of
a generation.

Whilst thus the world exists for the mind ; whilst
thus the man is ever invited inward into shining realms of knowledge
and power by the shows of the world, which interpret to him the
infinitude of his own consciousness, – it becomes the office of a just
education to awaken him to the knowledge of this fact.

We learn
nothing rightly until we learn the symbolical character of life. Day
creeps after day, each full of facts, dull, strange, despised things,
that we cannot enough despise, -call heavy, prosaic, and desert. The
time we seek to kill: the attention it is elegant to divert from things
around us. And presently the aroused intellect find, gold and gems in
one of these scorned facts, – then finds that the day of facts is a
rock of diamonds ; that a fact is an Epiphany of God.

We have
our theory of life, our religion, our philosophy; and the event of each
moment, the shower, the steamboat disaster, the passing of a beautiful
face, the apoplexy of our neighbor, are all tests to try our theory,
the approximate result we call truth, and reveal its defects. If I have
renounced the search of truth, if I have come into the port of some
pretending dogmatism, solve new church or old church, some Schelling or
Cousin, I have died to all use of these new events that are born out of
prolific time into multitude of life every hour. I am as a bankrupt to
whom brilliant opportunities offer in vain. He has just foreclosed his
freedom, tied his hands, locked himself up and given the key to another
to keep.

When I see the doors by which God enters into the
mind ; that there is no sot or fop, ruffian or pedant into whom
thoughts do not enter by passages which the individual never left open,
I can expect any revolution in character. I have hope," said the great
Leibnitz, " that society may be reformed, when I see how much education
may be reformed."

It is ominous, a presumption of crime, that
this word Education has so cold, so hopeless a sound. A treatise on
education, a convention for education, a lecture, a system, affects us
with slight paralysis and a certain yawning of the jaws. We are not
encouraged when the law tonches it with its, fingers. Education should
be as broad as man. Whatever elements are in him that should foster and
demonstrate. If he be dexterous, his tuition should make it appear; if
he be capable of dividing men by the trenchant sword of his thought,
education should unsheathe and sharpen it ; if he is one to cement
society by his all-reconciling affinities, oh!  hasten their
action , If he is jovial, if he is mercurial, if he is great-hearted, a
cunning artificer, a strong commander, a potent ally, ingenious,
useful, elegant, witty, prophet, diviner, – society has need of all
these. The imagination must be addressed. Why always coast on the
surface and never open the interior of nature, not by science, which is
surface still, but by poetry ? Is not the Vast an element of the mind ?
Yet what teaching, what book of this day appeals to the Vast ?

culture has truckled to the times, – to the senses. It is not
manworthy. If the vast and the spiritual are omitted, so are the
practical and the moral. It does not make us brave or free. We teach
boys to be such men as we are. We do not teach them to aspire to be all
they can. We do not give them a training as if we believed in their
noble nature. We scarce educate their bodies. We do not train the eye
and the hand. We exercise their understandings to the apprehension and
comparison of some facts, to a skill in numbers, in words ; we aim to
make accountants, attorneys, engineers ; but not to make able, earnest,
great-hearted men. The great object of Education should be commensurate
with the object of life. It should be a moral one ; to teach self-trust
: to inspire the youthful man with an interest in himself ; with a
curiosity touching his own nature ; to acquaint him with the resources
of his mind, and to teach him that there is all his strength, and to
inflame him with a piety towards the Grand Mind in which he lives. Thus
would education conspire with the Divine Providence. A man is a little
thing whilst he works by and for himself, but, when he gives voice to
the rules of love and justice, is godlike, his word is current in all
countries ; and all men, though his enemies, are made his friends and
obey it as their own.

In affirming that the moral nature of man
is the predominant element and should therefore be mainly consulted in
the arrangements of a school, I am very far from wishing that it should
swallow up all the other instincts and faculties of man. It should be
enthroned in his mind, but if it monopolize the man he is not yet
sound, he does not yet know his wealth. He is in danger of becoming
merely devout, and wearisome through the monotony of his thought. It is
not less necessary that the intellectual and the active faculties
should be nourished and matured. Let us apply to this subject the light
of the same torch by which we have looked at all the phenomena of the
time ; the infinitude, namely, of every man. Everything teaches that.

fact constitutes all my satisfaction, inspires all my trust, viz., this
perpetual youth, which, as long as there is any good in us, we cannot
get rid of. It is very certain that the coining age and the departing
age seldom understand each other. The old man thinks the young man has
no distinct purpose, for he could never get anything intelligible and
earnest out of him. Perhaps the young man does not think it worth his
while to explain himself to so hard and inapprehensive a confessor. Let
him be led up with a long-sighted forbearance, and let not the sallies
of his petulance or folly be checked with disgust or indignation or

I call our system a system of despair, and I find all
the correction, all the revolution that is needed and that the best
spirits of this age promise, in one word, in Hope. Nature, when she
sends a new mind into the world, fills it beforehand with a desire for
that which she wishes it to know and do. Let us wait and see what is
this new creation, of what new organ the great Spirit had need when it
incarnated this new Will. A new Adam in the garden, he is to name all
the beasts in the field, all the gods in the sky. And jealous provision
seems to have been made in his constitution that you shall not invade
and contaminate him with the worn weeds of your language and opinions.
The charm of life is this variety of genius, these contrasts and
flavors by which Heaven has modulated the identity of truth, and there
is a perpetual hankering to violate this individuality, to warp his
ways of thinking and behavior to resemble or reflect your thinking and
behavior. A low self-love in the parent desires that his child should
repeat his character and fortune ; an expectation which the child, if
justice is done him, will nobly disappoint. By working on the theory
that this resemblance exists, we shall do what in us lies to defeat his
proper promise and produce the ordinary and mediocre. I suffer whenever
I see that common sight of a parent or senior imposing his opinion and
way of thinking and being on a young soul to which they are totally
unfit. Cannot we let people be themselves. and enjoy life in their own
way ? You are trying to make that man another you. One's enough.
we sacrifice the genius of the pupil, the unknown possibilities of his
nature, to a neat and safe uniformity, as the Turks whitewash the
costly mosaics of ancient art which the Greeks left on their temple
walls. Rather let us have men whose man-hood is only the continuation
of their boyhood, natural characters still; such are able and fertile
for heroic action : and not that sad spectacle with which we are too
familiar, educated eyes in uneducated bodies.

I like boys, the
masters of the playground and of the street, – boys, who have the same
liberal ticket of admission to all shops, factories, armories,
town-meetings. caucuses, mobs, target-shootings, as flies have ; quite
unsuspected, coming in as naturally as the janitor, – known to have no
money in their pockets, and themselves not suspecting the value of this
poverty : putting nobody on his guard, but seeing the inside of the
show, – hearing all the asides. There are no secrets from them, they
know everything that befalls in the fire-company, the merits of every
engine and of every man at the brakes, how to work it, and are swift to
try their hand at every part ; so too the merits of every locomotive on
the rails, and will coax the engineer to let them ride with him and
pull the handles when it goes to the engine-house. They are there only
for fun, and not knowing that they are at school, in the court-house,
or the cattle-show, quite as much and more than they were, an hour ago,
in the arithmetic class.

They know truth from counterfeit as
quick as the chemist does. They detect weakness in your eye and
behavior a week before you open your mouth, and have given you the
benefit of their opinion quick as a wink. They make no mistakes, have
no pedantry, but entire belief on experience. Their elections at base –
ball or cricket are founded on merit, and are right. They don't pass
for swimmers until they can swim, nor for stroke-oar until they can
row: and I desire to be saved from their contempt. If I can pass with
them, I can manage well enough with their fathers.

delights in the energy with which boys deal and talk with each other ;
the mixture of fun and earnest, reproach and coaxing, love and wrath,
with which the game is played ; – the good-natured yet defiant
independence of a leading boy's behavior in the school-yard. How we
envy in later life the happy youths to whom their boisterous games and
rough exercise furnish the precise element which frames and sets off
their school and college tasks, and teaches them, when least they think
it, the use and meaning of these. In their fun and extreme freak they
hit on the topmost sense of Horace. The young giant, brown from his
hunting-tramp, tells his story well, interlarded with lucky allusions
to Homer, to Virgil, to college-songs, to Walter Scott ; and Jove and
Achilles, partridge and trout, opera and binomial theorem, Caesar in
Gaul, Sherman in Savannah, and hazing in Holworthy, dance through the
narrative in merry confusion, yet the logic is good. If he can turn his
books to such picturesque account in his fishing and hunting, it is
easy to see how his reading and experience, as he has more of both,
will interpenetrate each other. And every one desires that this pure
vigor of action and wealth of narrative, cheered with so much humor and
street rhetoric, should be carried into the habit of the young man,
purged of its uproar and rudeness, but with all its vivacity entire.
His hunting and campings-out have given him an indispensable base : I
wish to add a taste for good company through his impatience of bad.
That stormy genius of his needs a little direction to games, charades,
verses of society, song, and a correspondence year by year with his
wisest and best friends. Friendship is an order of nobility ; from its
revelations we come more worthily into nature. Society he must have or
he is poor indeed ; he gladly enters a school which forbids conceit,
affectation, emphasis and dulness, and requires of each only the flower
of his nature and experience ; requires good-will, beauty, wit, and
select information ; teaches by practice the law of conversation,
namely, to hear as well as to speak.

Meantime, if circumstances
do not permit the high social advantages, solitude has also its
lessons. The obscure youth learns there the practice instead of the
literature of his virtues ; and, because of the disturbing effect of
passion and sense, which by a multitude of trifles impede the mind's
eye from the quiet search of that fine horizon-line which truth keeps,
– the way to knowledge and power has ever been an escape from too much
engagement with affairs and possessions; a way, not through plenty and
superfluity, but by denial and renunciation, into solitude and
privation ; and, the more is taken away, the more real and inevitable
wealth of being is made known to us. The solitary knows the essence of
the thought, the scholar in society only its fair face. There is no
want of example of great men, great benefactors, who have been monks
and hermits in habit. The bias of mind is sometimes irresistible in
that direction. The man is, as it were, born deaf and dumb, and
dedicated to a narrow and lonely life. Let him study the art of
solitude, yield as gracefully as he can to his destiny. Why can-not he
get the good of his doom. and if it is from eternity a settled fact
that he and society shall be nothing to each other, why need he blush
so, and , make wry faces to keep up a freshman's seat in the fine world
? Heaven often protects valuable souls charged with great secrets,
great ideas, by long shutting them up with their own thoughts. And the
most genial and amiable of men must alternate society with solitude,
and learn its severe lessons.

There comes the period of the
imagination to each, a later youth ; the power of beauty, the power of
books, of poetry. Culture makes his books realities to him, their
characters more brilliant, more effective on his mind, than his actual
mates. Do not spare to put novel:; into the hands of young people as an
occasional holiday and experiment; but, above all, good poetry in all
kinds, epic, tragedy, lyric. If we can touch the imagination, we serve
them, they will never forget it. Let him read "Tom Brown at Rugby,"
read " Tom Brown at Oxford,"- better yet, read " Hodson's Life "-Hodson
who took prisoner the king of Delhi. They teach the same truth, – a
trust, against all appearances, against all privations, in your own
worth, and not in tricks, plotting, or patronage.

I believe that
our own experience instructs us that the secret of Education lies in
respecting the pupil. It is not for you to choose what he shall know,
what he shall do. It is chosen and foreordained, and he only holds the
key to his own secret. By your tampering and thwarting and too much
governing he may be hindered from his end and kept out of his own.
Respect the child. Wait and see the new product of Nature. Nature loves
analogies, but not repetitions. Respect the child. Be not too much his
parent. Trespass not on his solitude.

But I hear the outcry
which replies to this suggestion : – Would you verily throw up the
reins of public and private discipline ; would you leave the young
child to the mad career of his own passions and whimsies, and call this
anarchy a respect for the child's nature ? I answer, – Respect the
child, respect him to the end, but also respect yourself. Be the
companion of his thought, the friend of his friendship, the lover of
his virtue, – but no kinsman of his sin. Let him find you so true to
yourself that you are the irreconcilable hater of his vice and the
imperturbable slighter of his trifling.

The two points in a boy's training are, to keep his naturel and train off all but that : – to keep his naturel,
but stop off his uproar, fooling and horse-play ; – keep his nature and
arm it with knowledge in the very direction in which it points. Here
are the two capital facts, Genius and Drill. The first is the
inspiration in the well-born healthy child, the new perception he has
of nature. Somewhat he sees in forms or hears in music or apprehends in
mathematics, or believes practicable in mechanics or possible in
political society, which no one else sees or hears or believes. This is
the perpetual romance of new life, the invasion of God into the old
dead world, when he sends into quiet houses a young soul with a thought
which is not met, looking for something which is not there, but which
ought to be there : the thought is dim but it is sure, and he casts
about restless for means and masters to verify it ; he makes wild
attempts to ex-plain himself and invoke the aid and consent of the
bystanders. Baffled for want of language and methods to convey his
meaning, not yet clear to himself, he conceives that though not in this
house or town, yet in some other house or town is the wise master who
can put him in possession of the rules and instruments to execute his
will. Happy this child with a bias, with a thought which entrances him,
leads him, now into deserts now into cities, the fool of an idea. Let
him follow it in good and in evil report, in good or bad company ; it
will justify itself ; it will lead him at last into the illustrious
society of the lovers of truth.

In London, in a private company,
I became acquainted with a gentleman, Sir Charles Fellowes, who, being
at Xanthus, in the Aegean Sea, had seen a Turk point with his staff to
some carved work on the corner of a stone almost buried in the soil.
Fellowes scraped away the dirt, was struck with the beauty of the
sculptured ornaments, and, looking about him, observed more blocks and
fragments like this. He returned to the spot, procured laborers and
uncovered many blocks. He went back to England, bought a Greek grammar
and learned the language ; he read history and studied ancient art to
explain his stones ; he interested Gibson the sculptor ; he invoked the
assistance of the English Government ; he called in the succor of Sir
Humphry Davy to analyze the pigments ; of experts in coins, of scholars
and connoisseurs ; and at last in his third visit brought home to
England such statues and marble reliefs and such careful plans that he
was able to reconstruct, in the British Museum where it now stands, the
perfect model of the Ionic trophy-monument, fifty years older than the
Parthenon of Athens, and which had been destroyed by earthquakes, then
by iconoclast Christians, then by savage Turks. But mark that in the
task he had achieved an excellent education, and become associated with
distinguished scholars whom he had interested in his pursuit ; in
short, had formed a college for himself ; the enthusiast had found the
master, the masters, whom he sought. Always genius seeks genius,
desires nothing so much as to be a pupil and to find those who can lend
it aid to perfect itself.

Nor are the two elements, enthusiasm
and drill, incompatible. Accuracy is essential to beauty. The very
definition of the intellect is Aristotle's : "that by which we know
terms or boundaries." Give a boy accurate perceptions. Teach him the
difference between the similar and the same. Make him call things by
their right names. Pardon in him no blunder. Then he will give you
solid satisfaction as long as he lives. It is better to teach the child
arithmetic and Latin grammar than rhetoric or moral philosophy, because
they require exactitude of performance ; it is made certain that the
lesson is mastered, and that power of performance is worth more than
the knowledge. He can learn anything which is important to him now that
the power to learn is secured: as mechanics say, when one has learned
the use of tools, it is easy to work at a new craft.

Letter by
letter, syllable by syllable, the child learns to read, and in good
time can convey to all the domestic circle the sense of Shakspeare. By
many steps each just as short, the stammering boy and the hesitating
collegian, in the school debate, in college clubs, in mock court, comes
at last to full, secure, triumphant unfolding of his thought in the
popular assembly, with a fullness of power that makes all the steps

But this function of opening and feeding the human
mind is not to be fulfilled by any mechanical or military method ; is
not to be trusted to any skill less large than Nature itself. You must
not neglect the form, but you must secure the essentials. It is curious
how perverse and intermeddling we are, and what vast pains and cost we
incur to do wrong. Whilst we all know in our own experience and apply
natural methods in our own business, – in education our common sense
fails us, and we are continually trying costly machinery against
nature, in patent schools and academies and in great colleges and

The natural method forever confutes our
experiments, and we must still come back to it. The whole theory of the
school is on the nurse's or mother's knee. The child is as hot to learn
as the mother is to impart. There is mutual delight. The joy of our
childhood in hearing beautiful stories from some skilful aunt who loves
to tell them, must be repeated in youth. The boy wishes to learn to
skate, to coast, to catch a fish in the brook, to hit a mark with a
snowball or a stone ; and a boy a little older is just as well pleased
to teach him these sciences. Not less delightful is the mutual pleasure
of teaching and learning the secret of algebra, or of chemistry, or of
good reading and good recitation of poetry or of prose, or of chosen
facts in history or in biography.

Nature provided for the
communication of thought, by planting with it in the receiving mind a
fury to impart it. It is so in every art, in every science. One burns
to tell the new fact, the other burns to hear it. See how far a young
doctor will ride or walk to witness a new surgical operation. I have
seen a carriage-maker's shop emptied of all its workmen into the
street, to scrutinize a new pattern from New York. So in literature,
the young man who has taste for poetry, for fine images, for noble
thoughts, is insatiable for this nourishment, and forgets all the world
for the more learned friend, – who finds equal joy in dealing out his

Happy the natural college thus self-instituted around
every natural teacher : the young men of Athens around Socrates ; of
Alexandria around Plotinus ; of Paris around Abelard ; of Germany
around Fichte. Niebuhr, or Goethe : in short the natural sphere of
every leading mind. But the moment this is organized, difficulties
begin. The college was to be the nurse and home of genius ; but, though
every young man is born with some determination in his nature, and is a
potential genius; is at last to be one ; it is, in the most, obstructed
and delayed, and, whatever they may hereafter be, their senses are now
opened in advance of their minds. They are more sensual than
intellectual. Appetite and indolence they have, but no enthusiasm.
These come in numbers to the college : few geniuses : and the teaching
comes to be arranged for these many, and not for those few. Hence the
instruction seems to require skilful tutors, of accurate and systematic
mind, rather than ardent and inventive masters. Besides, the youth of
genius are eccentric, won't drill, are irritable, uncertain, explosive,
solitary, not men of the world, not good for every-day association. You
have to work for large classes instead of individuals; yon must lower
your flag and reef your sails to wait for the dull sailors; you grow
departmental, routinary, military almost with your discipline and
college police. But what doth such a school to form a great and heroic
character? What abiding Hope can it inspire? What Reformer will it
nurse? What poet will it breed to sing to the human race? What
discoverer of Nature's laws will it prompt to enrich us by disclosing
in the mind the statute which all matter must obey ? What fiery soul
will it send out to warm a nation with his charity ? What tranquil mind
will it have fortified to walk with meekness in private and obscure
duties, to wait and to suffer? Is it not manifest that our academic
institutions should have a wider scope : that they should not be timid
and keep the ruts of the last generation, but that wise men thinking
for themselves and heartily seeking the good of mankind, and counting
the cost of innovation, should dare to arouse the young to a just and
heroic life; that the moral nature should be addressed in the
school-room, and children should be treated as the high-born candidates
of truth and virtue ?

So to regard the young child, the young
man, requires, no doubt, rare patience : a patience that nothing but
faith in the remedial forces of the soul can give. You see his
sensualism ; you see his want of those tastes and perceptions which
make the power and safety of your character. Very likely. But he has
something else. If he has his own vice, he has its correlative virtue.
Every mind should be allowed to make its own statement in action, and
its balance will appear. In these judgments one needs that foresight
which was attributed to an eminent reformer, of whom it was said his
patience could see in the bud of the aloe the blossom at the end of a
hundred years." Alas for the cripple Practice when it seeks to come up
with the bird Theory, which flies before it. Try your design on the
best school. The scholars are of all ages and temperaments and
capacities. It is difficult to class them, some are too young, some are
slow, some perverse. Each requires so much consideration, that the
morning hope of the teacher, of a day of love and progress, is often
closed at evening by despair. Each single case, the more it is
considered, shows more to be done; and the strict conditions of the
hours, on one side, and the number of tasks, on the other. Whatever
becomes of our method, the conditions stand fast, – six hours, and
thirty, fifty, or a hundred and fifty pupils. Something must be done,
and done speedily, and in this distress the wisest are tempted to adopt
violent means, to proclaim martial law, corporal punishment, mechanical
arrangement, bribes, spies, wrath, main strength and ignorance, in lieu
of that wise genial providential influence they had hoped, and yet hope
at some future day to adopt. Of course the devotion to details reacts
injuriously on the teacher. He cannot indulge his genius, he cannot
delight in personal relations with young friends, when his eye is
always on the clock, and twenty classes are to be dealt with before the
day is done. Besides, how can he please himself with genius, and foster
modest virtue ? A sure proportion of rogue and dunce finds its way into
every school and requires a cruel share of time, and the gentle
teacher, who wished to be a Providence to youth, is grown a martinet,
sore with suspicions ; knows as much vice as the judge of a police
court, and his love of learning is lost in the routine of grammars and
books of elements.

A rule is so easy that it does not need a man
to apply it ; an automaton, a machine, can be made to keep a school so.
It facilitates labor and thought so much that there is always the
temptation in large schools to omit the endless task of meeting the
wants of each single mind, and to govern by steam. But it is at
frightful cost. Our modes of Education aim to expedite, to save labor ;
to do for masses what cannot be done for masses, what must be done
reverently, one by one : say rather, the whole world is needed for the
tuition of each pupil. The advantages of this system of emulation and
display are so prompt and obvious, it is such a time-saver, it is so
energetic on slow and on bad natures, and is of so easy application,
needing no sage or poet, but any tutor or schoolmaster in his first
term can apply it, – that it is not strange that this calomel of
culture should be a popular medicine. On the other hand, total
abstinence from this drug. and the adoption of simple discipline and
the following of nature, involves at once immense claims on the time,
the thoughts, on the life of the teacher. It requires time, use,
insight, event, all the great lessons and assistances of God ; and only
to think of using it implies character and profoundness ; to enter on
this course of discipline is to be good and great. It is precisely
analogous to the difference between the use of corporal punishment and
the methods of love. It is so easy to bestow on a bad boy a blow,
overpower him, and get obedience without words, that in this world of
hurry and distraction, who can wait for the returns of reason and the
conquest of self ; in the uncertainty too whether that will ever come?
And yet the familiar observation of the universal compensations might
suggest the fear that so summary a stop of a bad humor was more
jeopardous than its continuance.

Now the correction of this
quack practice is to import into Education the wisdom of life. Leave
this military hurry and adopt the pace of Nature. Her secret is
patience. Do you know how the naturalist learns all the secrets of the
forest, of pants, of birds, of beasts, of reptiles, of fishes, of the
rivers and the sea ? When he goes into the woods the birds fly before
him and he finds none ; when he goes to the river bank, the fish and
the reptile swim away and leave him alone. His secret is patience ; he
sits down, and sits still ; he is a statue ; he is a log. These
creatures have no value for their time, and he must put as low a rate
on his. By dint of obstinate sitting still, reptile, fish, bird and
beast, which all wish to return to their haunts, begin to return. He
sits still ; if they approach, he remains passive as the stone he sits
upon. They lose their fear. They have curiosity too about him. By and
by the curiosity masters the fear, and they come swimming, creeping and
flying towards him ; and as he is still immovable, they not only resume
their haunts and their ners, show themselves trim, but also volunteer
some towards fellowship and good a biped who behaves so civilly not
baffle the impatience and by your tranquillity? Can you not wait for
him, as Nature and Providence do ? Can you not keep for his mind and
ways, for his secret, the same curiosity you give to the squirrel,
snake, rabbit, and the sheldrake and the deer? He has a secret ;
wonderful methods in him ; he is, – every child, – a new style of man ;
give him time and opportunity. Talk of Columbus and Newton ! I tell you
the child just born in yonder hovel is the be-ginning of a revolution
as great as theirs. But you must have the believing and prophetic eye.
Have the self-command you wish to inspire. Your teaching and discipline
must have the reserve and taciturnity of Nature. Teach them to hold
their tongues by holding your own. Say little ; do not snarl ; do not
chide ; but govern by the eye. See what they need, and that the right
thing is done.

I confess myself utterly at a loss in suggesting
particular reforms in our ways of teaching. No discretion that can be
lodged with a school-committee, with the overseers or visitors of an
academy, of a college, can at all avail to reach these difficulties and
perplexities, but they solve themselves when we leave institutions and
address individuals. The will, the male power, organizes, imposes its
own thought and wish on others, and makes that military eye which
controls boys as it controls men ; admirable in its results, a fortune
to him who has it, and only dangerous when it leads the workman to
overvalue and overuse it and precludes him from finer means. Sympathy,
the female force, – which they must use who have not the first, –
deficient in instant control and the breaking down of resistance, is
more subtle and lasting and creative. I advise teachers to cherish
mother-wit. I assume that you will keep the grammar, reading, writing
and arithmetic in order ; 't is easy and of course you will. But
smuggle in a little contraband wit, fancy, imagination, thought. If you
have a taste which you have suppressed because it is not shared by
those about you, tell them that. Set this law up, whatever becomes of
the rules of the school : they must not whisper, much less talk ; but
if one of the young people says a wise thing, greet it, and let all the
children clap their hands. They shall have no book but school-books in
the room ; but if one has brought in a Plutarch or Shakspeare or Don
Quixote or Goldsmith or any other good book, and understands what he
reads, put him at once at the head of the class. Nobody shall be
disorderly, or leave his desk without permission, but if a boy runs
from his bench, or a girl, because the fire falls, or to check some
injury that a little dastard is inflicting behind his desk on some
helpless sufferer, take away the medal from the head of the class and
give it on the instant to the brave rescuer. If a child happens to show
that he knows any fact about astronomy, or plants birds, or rocks, or
history, that interests him and you, hush all the classes and encourage
him to tell it so that all may hear. Then you have made your
school-room like the world. Of course you will insist on modesty in the
children, and respect to their teachers, but if the boy stops you in
your speech, cries out that you are wrong and sets you right, hug him !

whatsoever upright mind, to whatsoever beating heart I speak, to you it
is committed to educate men. By simple living, by an illimitable soul,
you inspire, you correct, you instruct, you raise, you embellish all.
By your own act you teach the beholder how to do the practicable.
Ac-cording to the depth from which you draw your life, such is the
depth not only of your strenuous effort, but of your manners and

The beautiful nature of the world has here blended
your happiness with your power. Work straight on in absolute duty, and
you lend an arm and an encouragement to all the youth of the universe.
Consent yourself to be an organ of your highest thought, and lo !
suddenly you put all men in your debt, and are the fountain of an
energy that goes pulsing on with waves of benefit to the borders of
society, to the circumference of things.

Complete Works of RWE X - Lectures and Biographical Sketches


Shun passion, fold the hands of thrift,
Sit still, and Truth is near ;
Suddenly it will uplift
Your eyelids to the sphere :
Wait a little, you shall see
The portraiture of things to be.

For what need I of book or priest
Or Sibyl from the mummied East
When every star is Bethlehem Star,
I count as many as there are
Cinquefoils or violets in the grass,
So many saints and saviours,
So many high behaviours.


MORALS respects what men call goodness, that which all men agree to honor as justice, truth-speaking, good-will and good works. Morals respects the source or motive of this action. It is the science of substances, not of shows. It is the what, and not the how. It is that which all men profess to regard, and by their real respect for which recommend themselves to each other.

There is this eternal advantage to morals, that, in the question between truth and goodness, the moral cause of the world lies behind all else in the mind. It was for good, it is to good, that all works. Surely it is not to prove or show the truth of things, – that sounds a little cold and scholastic, – no, it is for benefit, that all subsists. As we say in our modern politics, catching at last the language of morals, that the object of the State is the greatest good of the greatest number, – so, the reason we must give for the existence of the world is, that it is for the benefit of all being.

Morals implies freedom and will. The will constitutes the man. He has his life in Nature, like a beast : but choice is born in him ; here is he that chooses ; here is the Declaration of Independence, the July Fourth of zoology and astronomy. He chooses, – as the rest of the creation does not. But will, pure and perceiving, is not wilfulness. When a man, through stubbornness, insists to do this or that, something absurd or whimsical, only because he will, he is weak ; he blows with his lips against the tempest, he clams the incoming ocean with his cane. It were an unspeakable calamity if any one should think he had the right to impose a private will on others. That is the part of a striker, an assassin. All violence, all that is dreary and repels, is not power but the absence of power.

Morals is the direction of the will on universal ends. He is immoral who is acting to any private end. He is moral, – we say it with Marcus Aurelius and with Kant, -whose aim or motive may become a universal rule, binding on all intelligent beings; and with Vauvenargues, the mercenary sacrifice of the public good to a private interest is the eternal stamp of vice.”

All the virtues are special directions of this motive ; justice is the application of this good of the whole to the affairs of each one ; courage is contempt of danger in the determination to see this good of the whole enacted ; love is delight in the preference of that benefit redounding to another over the securing of our own share ; humility is a sentiment of our insignificance when the benefit of the universe is considered.

If from these external statements we seek to come a little nearer to the fact, our first experiences in moral as in intellectual nature force us to discriminate a universal mind, identical in all men. Certain biases, talents, executive skills, are special to each individual ; but the high, contemplative, all-commanding vision, the sense of Right and Wrong, is alike in all. Its attributes are self-existence, eternity, intuition and command. It is the mind of the mind. We belong to it, not it to us. It is in all men, and constitutes them men. In bad men it is dormant, as health is in men entranced or drunken ; but, however inoperative, it exists underneath whatever vices and errors. The extreme simplicity of this intuition embarrasses every at-tempt at analysis. We can only mark, one by one, the perfections which it combines in every act. It admits of no appeal, looks to no superior essence. It is the reason of things.

The antagonist nature is the individual, formed into a finite body of exact dimensions, with appetites which take from everybody else what they appropriate to themselves, and would enlist the entire spiritual faculty of the individual, if it were possible, in catering for them. On the perpetual conflict between the dictate of this universal mind and the wishes and interests of the individual, the moral discipline of life is built. The one craves a private benefit, which the other requires him to renounce out of respect to the absolute good. Every hour puts the individual in a position where his wishes aim at something which the sentiment of duty forbids him to seek. He that speaks the truth executes no private function of an individual will, but the world utters a sound by his lips. He who doth a just action seeth therein nothing of his own, but an inconceivable nobleness attaches to it, because it is a dictate of the general mind. We have no idea of power so simple and so entire as this. It is the basis of thought, it is the basis of being. Compare all that we call ourselves, all our private and personal venture in the world, with this deep of moral nature in which we lie, and our private good becomes an impertinence, and we take part with hasty shame against ourselves : –

“High instincts, before which our mortal nature
Doth tremble like a guilty thing surprised, –
Which, be they what they may,
Are yet the fountain-light of all our day,
Are yet the master-light of all our seeing, –
Uphold its, cherish, and have power to make
Our noisy years seem moments in the being
Of the eternal silence, – truths that wake To perish never.”

The moral element invites man to great enlargements, to find his satisfaction, not in particulars or events, but in the purpose and tendency ; not in bread, but in his right to his bread ; not in much corn or wool, but in its communication.

Not by adding, then, does the moral sentiment help us ; no, but in quite another manner. It puts us in place. It centres, it concentrates us. It puts us at the heart of Nature, where we belong, in the cabinet of science and of causes, there where all the wires terminate which hold the world in magnetic unity, and so converts us into universal beings.

This wonderful sentiment, which endears itself as it is obeyed, seems to be the fountain of intellect ; for no talent gives the impression of sanity, if wanting this ; nay, it absorbs everything into itself. Truth, Power, Goodness, Beauty, are its varied names, – faces of one substance, the heart of all. Before it, what are persons, prophets, or seraphim but its passing agents, momentary rays of its light ?

The moral sentiment is alone omnipotent. There is no labor or sacrifice to which it will not bring a man, and which it will not make easy. Thus there is no man who will bargain to sell his life, say at the end of a year, for a million or ten millions of gold dollars in hand, or for any temporary pleasures, or for any rank, as of peer or prince ; but many a man who does not hesitate to lay down his life for the sake of a truth, or in the cause of his country, or to save his son or his friend. And under the action of this sentiment of the Right, his heart and mind expand above himself, and above Nature.

Though Love repine, and Reason chafe,
There came a voice without reply,-”
‘T is man’s perdition to be safe,
When for the truth he ought to die.”

Such is the difference of the action of the heart within and of the senses without. One is enthusiasm, and the other more or less amounts of horse-power.

Devout men, in the endeavor to express their convictions, have used different images to suggest this latent force ; as, the light, the seed, the Spirit, the Holy Ghost, the Comforter, the Daemon, the still, small voice, etc., – all indicating its power and its latency. It is serenely above all mediation. In all ages, to all men, it saith, I ant ; and he who hears it feels the impiety of wandering from this revelation to any record or to any rival. The poor Jews of the wilderness cried : ” Let not the Lord speak to us ; let Moses speak to us.” But the simple and sincere soul makes the contrary prayer : Let no intruder come between thee and me ; deal THOU with me ; let me know it is thy will, and I ask no more.’ The excellence of Jesus, and of every true teacher, is, that he affirms the Divinity in him and in us, – not thrusts himself between it and us. It would instantly indispose us to any person claiming to speak for the Author of Nature, the setting forth any fact or law which we did not find in our consciousness. We should say with Heraclitus : ” Come into this smoky cabin ; God is here also : approve yourself to him.”

We affirm that in all men is this majestic perception and command ; that it is the presence of the Eternal in each perishing man ; that it distances and degrades all statements of whatever saints, heroes, poets, as obscure and confused stammerings before its silent revelation. They report the truth. It is the truth. When I think of Rea-son, of Truth, of Virtue, I cannot conceive them as lodged in your soul and lodged in my soul, but that you and I and all souls are lodged in that ; and I may easily speak of that adorable nature, there where only I behold it in my dim experiences, in such terms as shall seem to the frivolous, who dare not fathom their consciousness, as profane. How is a man a man? How can he exist to weave relations of joy and virtue with other souls, but because he is inviolable, anchored at the centre of Truth and Being? In the ever-returning hour of reflection, he says : ` I stand here glad at heart of all the sympathies I can awaken and share, clothing myself with them as with a garment of shelter and beauty, and yet knowing that it is not in the power of all who surround me to take from me the smallest thread I call mine. If all things are taken away, I have still all things in my relation to the Eternal.’

We pretend not to define the way of its access to the private heart. It passes understanding. There was a time when Christianity existed in one child. But if the child had been killed by Herod, would the clement have been lost ? God sends his message, if not by one, then quite as well by another. When the Master of the Universe has ends to fulfill, he impresses his will on the structure of minds.

The Divine Mind imparts itself to the single person : his whole duty is to this rule and teaching. The aid which others give us is like that of the mother to the child, – temporary, gestative, a short period of lactation, a nurse’s or a governess’s care ; but on his arrival at a certain maturity, it ceases, and would be hurtful and ridiculous if pro-longed. Slowly the body conies to the use of its organs ; slowly the soul unfolds itself in the new man. It is partial at first, and honors only some one or some few truths. In its companions it sees other truths honored, and successively finds their foundation also in itself. Then it cuts the cord, and no longer believes ” because of thy saying,” but because it has recognized them in itself.

The Divine Mind imparts itself to the single person : but it is also true that men act powerfully on us. There are men who astonish and delight, men who instruct and guide. Some men’s words I remember so well that I must often use them to express my thought. Yes, because I perceive that we have heard the same truth, but they have heard it better. That is only to say, there is degree and gradation throughout Nature ; and the Deity does not break his firm laws in respect to imparting truth, more than in imparting material heat and light. Men appear from time to time who receive with more purity and fulness these high communications. But it is only as fast as this hearing from another is authorized by its consent with his own, that it is pure and safe to each ; and all receiving from abroad must be controlled by this immense reservation.

It happens now and then, in the ages, that a soul is born which has no weakness of self, which offers no impediment to the Divine Spirit, which comes down into Nature as if only for the benefit of souls, and all its thoughts are perceptions of things as they are, without any infirmity of earth. Such souls are as the apparition of gods among men, and simply by their presence pass judgment on them. Men are forced by their own self-respect to give them a certain attention. Evil men shrink and pay involuntary homage by hiding or apologizing for their action.

When a man is born with a profound moral sentiment, preferring truth, justice and the serving of all men to any honors or any gain, men readily feel the superiority. They who deal with him are elevated with joy and hope ; he lights up the house or the landscape in which he stands. his actions are poetic and miraculous in their eyes. In his presence, or within his influence, every one believes in the immortality of the soul. They feel that the invisible world sympathizes with him. The Arabians delight in expressing the sympathy of the unseen world with holy men.

When Omar prayed and loved,
Where Syrian waters roll,
Aloft the ninth heaven glowed and moved
To the tread of the jubilant soul.

A chief event of life is the day in which we have encountered a mind that startled ns by its large scope. I am in the habit of thinking, – not, I hope, out of a partial experience, but confirmed by what I notice in many lives, – that to every serious mind Providence sends from time to time five or six or seven teachers who are of the first importance to him in the lessons they have to impart. The highest of these not so much give particular knowledge, as they elevate by sentiment and by their habitual grandeur of view.

Great men serve us as insurrections do in bad governments. The world would run into endless routine, and forms incrust forms, till the life was gone. But the perpetual supply of new genius shocks us with thrills of life, and recalls us to principles. Lucifer’s wager in the old drama was, ” There is no steadfast man on earth.” He is very rare. “A man is already of consequence in the world when it is known that we can implicitly rely on him.” See how one noble person dwarfs a whole nation of underlings. This steadfastness we indicate when we praise character.

Character denotes habitual self-possession, habitual regard to interior and constitutional motives, a balance not to be overset or easily disturbed by outward events and opinion, and by implication points to the source of right motive. We some-times employ the word to express the strong and consistent will of men of mixed motive, but, when used with emphasis, it points to what no events can change, that is, a will built on the reason of things. Such souls do not come in troops : oftenest appear solitary, like a general without his command, be. cause those who can understand and uphold such appear rarely, not many, perhaps not one, in a generation. And the memory and tradition of such a leader is preserved in some strange way by those who only half understand him, until a true disciple comes, who apprehends and interprets every word.

The sentiment never stops in pure vision, but will be enacted. It affirms not only its truth, but its supremacy. It is not only insight, as science, as fancy, as imagination is ; or an entertainment, as friendship and poetry are ; but it is a sovereign rule : and the acts which it suggests – as when it impels a man to go forth and impart it to other men, or sets him on some asceticism or some practice of self-examination to hold him to obedience, or some zeal to unite men to abate some nuisance, or establish some reform or charity which it commands – are the homage we render to this sentiment, as compared with the lower regard we pay to other thoughts : and the private or social practices we establish in its honor we call religion.

The sentiment, of course, is the judge and measure of every expression of it, – measures Judaism, Stoicism, Christianity, Buddhism, or whatever philanthropy, or politics, or saint, or seer pretends to speak in its name. The religious we call false were once true. They also were affirmations of the conscience correcting the evil customs of their times. The populace drag down the gods to their own level, and give them their egotism ; whilst in Nature is none at all, God keeping out of sight, and known only as pure law, though resistless. Chateaubriand said, with some irreverence of phrase, If God made man in his image, man has paid him well back. ” Si Dieu a fait l’homme son image, l’homme l’a bien rendu.” Every nation is degraded by the goblins it worships instead of this Deity. The Dionysia and Saturnalia of Greece and Rome, the human sacrifice of the Druids, the Sadder of Hindoos, the Purgatory, the Indulgences, and the Inquisition of Popery, the vindictive mythology of Calvinism, are examples of this perversion.

Every particular instruction is speedily embodied in a ritual, is accommodated to humble and gross minds, and corrupted. The moral sentiment is the perpetual critic on these forms, thundering its pro-test, sometimes in earnest and lofty rebuke ; but sometimes also it is the source, in natures less pure, of sneers and flippant jokes of common people, who feel that the forms and dogmas are not true for them, though they do not see where the error lies.

The religion of one age is the literary entertainment of the next, We use in our idlest poetry and discourse the words Jove, Neptune, Mercury, as mere colors, and can hardly believe that they had to the lively Greek the anxious meaning which, in our towns, is given and received in churches when our religious names are used : and we read with surprise the horror of Athens when, one morning, the statues of Mercury in the temples were found broken, and the like consternation was in the city as if, in Boston, all the Orthodox churches should be burned in one night.

The greatest dominion will be to the deepest thought. The establishment of Christianity in the world does not rest on any miracle but the miracle of being the broadest and most humane doctrine. Christianity was once a schism and protest against the impieties of the time, which had originally been protests against earlier impieties, but had lost their truth. Varnhagen von Ense, writing in Prussia in 1848, says : ” The Gospels belong to the most aggressive writings. No leaf thereof could attain the liberty of being printed (in Berlin) to-day. What Mirabeaus, Rousseaus, Diderots, Fichtes, Heines, and many another heretic, one can detect therein !”

But before it was yet a national religion it was alloyed, and, in the hands of hot Africans, of luxu, riot’s Byzantines, of fierce Gauls, its creeds were tainted with their barbarism. In Holland, in England, in Scotland, it felt the national narrowness. How unlike our habitual turn of thought was that of the last century in this country ! Our ancestors spoke continually of angels and archangels with the same good faith as they would have spoken of their own parents or their late minister. Now the words pale, are rhetoric, and all credence is gone. Our horizon is not far, say one generation, or thirty years : we all see so much. The older see two generations, or sixty years. But what has been running on through three horizons, or ninety years, l’ks to all the world like a law of Nature, and ‘t is an impiety to doubt. Thus, ‘t is incredible to us, if we look into the religious books of our grand-fathers, how they held themselves in such a pinfold. But why not ? As far as they could see, through two or three horizons, nothing but ministers and ministers. Calvinism was one and the same thing in Geneva, in Scotland, in Old and New England. If there was a wedding, they had a sermon ; if a funeral, then a sermon ; if a war, or small-pox, or a comet, or canker-worms, or a deacon died, still a sermon : Nature was a pulpit ; the church-warden or tithing-man was a petty persecutor ; the presbytery, a tyrant ; and in many a house in country places the poor children found seven sabbaths in a week. Fifty or a hundred years ago, prayers were said, morning and evening, in all families ;grace was said at table ; an exact observance of the Sunday was kept in the houses of laymen as of clergymen. And one sees with some pain the disuse of rites so charged with humanity and aspiration. But it by no means follows, because those offices are much disused, that the men and women are irreligious ; certainly not that they have less integrity or sentiment, but only, let us hope, that they see that they can omit the form without loss of real ground ; perhaps that they find some violence, some cramping of their freedom of thought, in the constant recurrence of the form.

So of the changed position and manners of the clergy. They have dropped, with the sacerdotal garb and manners of the last century, many doctrines and practices once esteemed indispensable to their order. But the distinctions of the true clergy-man are not less decisive. Men ask now, Is he serious? Is he a sincere man, who lives as he teaches ? Is he a benefactor ? ” So far the religion is now where it should be. Persons are discriminated as honest, as veracious, as illuminated, as helpful, as having public and universal regards, or otherwise ; – are discriminated according to their aims, and not by these ritualities.

The changes are inevitable ; the new age cannot see with the eyes of the last. But the change is in what is superficial ; the principles are immortal, and the rally on the principle must arrive as people become intellectual. I consider theology to be the rhetoric of morals. The mind of this age has fallen away from theology to morals. I conceive it an advance. I suspect, that, when the theology was most florid and dogmatic, it was the barbarism of the people, and that, in that very time, the best men also fell away from theology, and rested in morals. I think that all the dogmas rest on morals, and that it is only a question of youth or maturity, of more or less fancy in the recipient ; that the stern determination to do justly, to speak the truth, to be chaste and humble, was substantially the same, whether under a self-respect, or under a vow made on the knees at the shrine of Madonna.

When once Selden had said that the priests seemed to him to be baptizing their own fingers, the rite of baptism was getting late in the world. Or when once it is perceived that the English missionaries in India put obstacles in the way of schools, (as is alleged,) – do not wish to enlighten but to Christianize the Hindoos, – it is seen at once how wide of Christ is English Christianity.

Mankind at large always resemble frivolous children : they are impatient of thought, and wish to be amused. Truth is too simple for us ; we do not like those who unmask our illusions. Fontenelle said : ” If the Deity should lay bare to the eyes of men the secret system of Nature, the causes by which all the astronomic results are effected, and they finding no magic, no mystic numbers, no fatalities, but the greatest simplicity, I am persuaded they would not be able to suppress a feeling of mortification, and would exclaim, with disappointment, ‘ Is that all ?’ ” And so we paint over the bareness of ethics with the quaint grotesques of theology.

We boast the triumph of Christianity over Paganism, meaning the victory of the spirit over the senses ; but Paganism hides itself in the uniform of the Church. Paganism has only taken the oath of allegiance, taken the cross, but is Paganism still, outvotes the true men by millions of majority, carries the bag, spends the treasure, writes the tracts, elects the minister, and persecutes the true believer.

There is a certain secular progress of opinion, which, in civil countries, reaches everybody. One service which this age has rendered is, to make the life and wisdom of every past man accessible and available to all. Socrates and Marcus Aurelius are allowed to be saints ; Mahomet is no longer accursed ; Voltaire is no longer a scarecrow ; Spinoza has come to be revered. ” The time will come,” says Varnhagen von Ense, ” when we shall treat the jokes and sallies against the myths and church-rituals of Christianity – say the sarcasms of Voltaire, Frederic the Great, and D’Alembert – good-naturedly and without offence : since, at bottom, those men mean honestly, their polemics proceed out of a religious striving, and what Christ meant and willed is in essence more with them than with their opponents, who only wear and misrepresent the name of Christ. . . . Voltaire was an apostle of Christian ideas ; only the names were hostile to him, and he never knew it otherwise. He was like the son of the vine-dresser in the Gospel, who said No, and went ; the other said Yea, and went not. These men preached the true God, – Him whom men serve by justice and uprightness ; but they called themselves atheists.”

When the highest conceptions, the lessons of religion, are imported, the nation is not culminating, has not genius, but is servile. A true nation loves its vernacular tongue. A completed nation will not import its religion. Duty grows everywhere, like children, like grass ; and we need not go to Europe or to Asia to learn it. I am not sure that the English religion is not all quoted. Even the Jeremy Taylors, Fullers, George Herberts, steeped, all of them, in Church traditions, are only using their fine fancy to emblazon their memory. ‘T is Judea, not England, which is the ground. So with the mordant Calvinism of Scotland and America. But this quoting distances and disables them : since with every repeater something of creative force is lost, as we feel when we go back to each original moralist. Pythagoras, Socrates, the Stoics, the Hindoo, Behmen, George Fox, – these speak originally ; and how many sentences and books we owe to unknown authors, – to writers who were not careful to set down name or date or titles or cities or postmarks in these illuminations!

We, in our turn, want power to drive the ponderous State. The constitution and law in America must be written on ethical principles, so that the en-tire power of the spiritual world can be enlisted to hotel the loyalty of the citizen, and to repel every enemy as by force of Nature. The laws of old empires stood on the religions convictions. Now that their religions are outgrown, the empires lack strength. Romanism in Europe does not represent the real opinion of enlightened men. The Lutheran Church does not represent in Germany the opinions of the universities. In England, the gentlemen, the journals, and now, at last, churchmen and bishops, have fallen away from the Anglican Church. And in America, where are no legal ties to churches, the looseness appears dangerous.

Our religion has got on as far as Unitariansm. But all the forms grow pale. The walls of the temple are wasted and thin, and, at last, only a film of whitewash, because the mind of our culture has already left our liturgies behind. “Every age,” says Varnhagen, “has another sieve for the religious tradition, and will sift it out again. Something is continually lost by this treatment, which posterity cannot recover.”

But it is a capital truth that Nature, moral as well as material, is always equal to herself. Ideas always generate enthusiasm. The creed, the leg-end, forms of worship, swiftly decay. Morals is the incorruptible essence, very heedless in its richness of any past teacher or witness, heedless of their lives and fortunes. It does not ask whether you are wrong or right in your anecdotes of them ; but it is all in all how you stand to your own tribunal.

The lines of the religious sects are very shifting; their platforms unstable ; the whole science of theology of great uncertainty, and resting very much on the opinions of who may chance to be the leading doctors of Oxford or Edinburgh, of Princeton or Cambridge, to-day. No man can tell what religious revolutions await us in the next years ; and the education in the divinity colleges may well hesitate and vary. But the science of ethics has no mutation ; and whoever feels any love or skill for ethical studies may safely lay out all his strength and genius in working in that mine. The pulpit may shake, but this platform will not. All the victories of relies on belong to the moral sentiment. Some poor soul beheld the Law blazing through such impediments as he had, and yielded himself to humility and joy. What was gained by being told that it was justification by faith ?

The Church, in its ardor for beloved persons, clings to the miraculous, in the vulgar sense, which has even an immoral tendency, as one sees in Greek, Indian and Catholic legends, which are used to gloze every crime. The soul, penetrated with the beatitude which pours into it on all sides, asks no interpositions, no new laws, – the old are good enough for it, – finds in every cart-path of labor ways to heaven, and the humblest lot exalted. Men will learn to put back the emphasis peremptorily on pure morals, always the same, not subject to doubtful interpretation, with no sale of indulgences no massacre of heretics, no female slaves, no disfranchisement of woman, no stigma on race ; to make morals the absolute test, and so uncover and drive out the false religions. There is no vice that has not skulked behind them. It is only yesterday that our American churches, so long silent on Slavery, and notoriously hostile to the Abolitionist, wheeled into line for Emancipation.

I am far from accepting the opinion that the revelations of the moral sentiment are insufficient, as if it furnished a rule only, and not the spirit by which the rule is animated. For I include in these, of course, the history of Jesus, as well as those of every divine soul which in any place or time delivered any grand lesson to humanity ; and I find in the eminent experiences in all times a substantial agreement. The sentiment itself teaches unity of source, and disowns every superiority other than of deeper truth. Jesus has immense claims on the gratitude of mankind, and knew how to guard the integrity of his brother’s soul from himself also; but, in his disciples, admiration of him runs away with their reverence for the human soul, and they ham-per us with limitations of person and text. Every exaggeration of these is a violation of the soul’s right, and inclines the manly reader to lay down the New Testament, to take up the Pagan philosophers. It is not that the Upanishads or the Maxims of Antoninus are better, but that they do not invade his freedom because they are only suggestions, whilst the other adds the inadmissible claim of positive authority, -of an external command, where command cannot be. This is the secret of the mischievous result that, in every period of intellectual expansion, the Church ceases to draw into its clergy those who best belong there, the largest and freest minds, and that in its most liberal forms, when such minds enter it, they are coldly received, and find themselves out of place. This charm in the Pagan moralists, of suggestion, the charm of poetry, of mere truth, (easily disengaged from their historical accidents which nobody wishes to force on us,) the New Testament loses by its connection with a church. Mankind cannot long suffer this loss, and the office of this age is to put all these writings on the eternal footing of equality of origin in the instincts of the human mind. It is certain that each inspired master will gain instantly by the separation from the idolatry of ages.

To their great honor, the simple and free minds among our clergy have not resisted the voice of Nature and the advanced perceptions of the mind : and every church divides itself into a liberal and expectant class, on one side, and an unwilling and conservative class on the other. As it stands with us now, a few clergymen, with a more theological east of mind, retain the traditions, but they carry them quietly. In general discourse, they are never obtruded. If the clergyman should travel in France, in England, in Italy, he might leave them locked up in the same closet with his ” occasional sermons” at home, and, if he did not return, would never think to send for them. The orthodox clergymen hold a little firmer to theirs, as Calvinism has a more tenacious vitality ; but that is doomed also, and will only die last ; for Calvinism rushes to be Unitarianism, as Unitarianism rushes to be pure Theism.

But the inspirations are never withdrawn. In the worst times, men of organic virtue are born, – men and women of native integrity, and indifferently in high and low conditions. There will al-ways be a class of imaginative youths, whom poetry, whom the love of beauty, lead to the adoration of the moral sentiment, and these will provide it wit]: new historic forms and songs. Religion is as inexpugnable as the use of lamps, or of wells, or of chimneys. We must have days and temples and teachers. The Sunday is the core of our civilization, dedicated to thought and reverence. It invites to the noblest solitude and the noblest society, to whatever means and aids of spiritual refreshment. Men may well come together to kindle each other to virtuous living. Confucius said, ” If in the morning I hear of the right way, and in the evening (lie, I can be happy.”

The churches already indicate the new spirit in adding to the perennial office of teaching, beneficent activities, – as in creating hospitals, ragged schools, offices of employment for the poor, appointing almoners to the helpless, guardians of foundlings and orphans. The power that in other times inspired crusades, or the colonization of New England, or the modern revivals, flies to the help of the deaf-mute and the blind, to the education of the sailor and the vagabond boy, to the reform of convicts and harlots, – as the war created the Hilton Head and Charleston missions, the Sanitary Commission, the nurses and teachers at Washington.

In the present tendency of our society, in the new importance of the individual, when thrones are crumbling and presidents and governors are forced every moment to remember their constituencies ; when counties and towns are resisting centralization, and the individual voter his party, – society is threatened with actual granulation, religious as well as political. How many people are there in Boston ? Some two hundred thousand. Well, then so many sects. Of course each poor soul loses all his old stays ; no bishop watches him, no confessor reports that he has neglected the confessional, no class-leader admonishes him of absences, no fagot, no penance, no fine, no rebuke. Is not this wrong? is not this dangerous ? ‘T s not wrong, but the law of growth. It is not dangerous, any more than the mother’s withdrawing her hands from the tottering babe, at his first walk across the nursery-floor : the child fears and cries, but achieves the feat, instantly tries it again, and never wishes to be assisted more. And this infant soul must learn to walk alone. At first he is forlorn, home-less ; but this rude stripping him of all support drives him inward, and he finds himself unhurt; he finds himself face to face with the majestic Presence, reads the original of the Ten Commandments, the original of Gospels and Epistles ; nay, his narrow chapel expands to the blue cathedral of the sky, where he

“Looks in and sees each blissful deity,
Where he before the thunderous throne doth lie.”

To nations or to individuals the progress of opinion is not a loss of moral restraint, but simply a change from coarser to finer checks. No evil can come from reform which a deeper thought will not correct. If there is any tendency in national expansion to form character, religion will not be a loser. There is a fear that pure truth, pure morals, will not make a religion for the affections. When-ever the sublimities of character shall be incarnated in a many, we may rely that awe and love and insatiable curiosity will follow his steps. Character is the habit of action from the permanent vision of truth. It carries a superiority to all the accidents of life. It compels right relation to every other man, – domesticates itself with strangers and enemies. ” But I, father,” says the wise Prahlada, in the Vishnu Purana, “know neither friends nor foes, for I behold Kesava in all beings as in my own soul.” It confers perpetual insight. It sees that a man’s friends and his foes are of his own house-hold, of his own person. What would it avail me, if I could destroy my enemies? There would be as many to-morrow. That which I hate and fear is really in myself, and no knife is long enough to reach to its heart. Confucius said one day to he Kang : ” Sir, in carrying on your government, why should you use killing at all? Let your evinced desires be for what is good, and the people will be good. The grass must bend, when the wind blows across it.” Ke Kang, distressed about the number of thieves in the state, inquired of Confucius how to do away with them. Confucius said. “If you, sir, were not covetous, although you should reward them to do it, they would not steal.”

Its methods are subtle, it works without means. It indulges no enmity against any, knowing, with Prahlada that ” the suppression of malignant feeling is itself a reward.” The more reason, the less government. In a sensible family, nobody ever hears the words ” shall ” and ” sha’n’t ; ” nobody commands, and nobody obeys, but all conspire and joyfully co-operate. Take off the roofs of hundreds of happy houses, and you shall see this order with-out ruler, and the like in every intelligent and moral society. Command is exceptional, and marks some break in the link of reason ; as the electricity goes round the world without a spark or a sound. until there is a break in the wire or the water chain. Swedenborg said, that, ” in the spiritual world, when one wishes to rule, or despises others, he is thrust out of doors.” Goethe, in discussing the characters in ” Wilhelm Meister,” maintained his belief that “pure loveliness and right good-will are the highest manly prerogatives, before which all energetic hero-ism, with its lustre and renown, must recede.” In perfect accord with this, Henry James affirms, that “to give the feminine element in life its hard-earned but eternal supremacy over the masculine has been the secret inspiration of all past history.”

There is no end to the sufficiency of character. It can afford to wait ; it can do without what is called success ; it cannot but succeed. To a well-principled man existence is victory. He defends himself against failure in his main design by making every inch of the road to it pleasant. There is no trifle, and no obscurity to him : he feels the immensity of the chain whose last link he holds in his hand, and is led by it. Having nothing, this spirit bath all. It asks, with Marcus Aurelius, “What matter by whom the good is done ? ” It extols humility, – by every self-abasement lifted higher in the scale of being. It makes no stipulations for earthly felicity, – does not ask, in the absoluteness of its trust. even for the assurance of continued life.

Complete Works of RWE X - Lectures and Biographical Sketches

Perpetual Forces

"MORE servants wait on man
Than he'11 take notice of."

EVER the Rock of Ages melts
Into the mineral air,
To be the quarry whence is built
Thought and its mansions fair.


THE hero in the fairy tales has a servant who can eat granite rocks, another who can hear the grass grow, and a third who can run a hundred leagues in half an hour; so man in nature is surrounded by a gang of friendly giants who can accept harder stints than these, and help him in every kind. Each by itself has a certain omnipotence, but all, like contending kings and emperors, in the presence of each other, are antagonized and kept polite and own the balance of power.

We cannot afford to miss any advantage. Never was any man too strong for his proper work. Art is long, and life short, and he must supply this disproportion by borrowing and applying to his task the energies of Nature. Reinforce his self-respect, show him his means, his arsenal of forces, physical, metaphysical, immortal. Show him the riches of the poor, show him what mighty allies and helpers he has. And though King David had no good from making his census out of vain-glory, yet I find it wholesome and invigorating to enumerate the re-sources we can command, to look a little into this arsenal, and see how many rounds of ammunition, what muskets, and how many arms better than Springfield muskets, we can bring to bear.

Go out of doors and get the air. Ah, if you knew what was in the air. See what your robust neighbor, who never feared to live in it, has got from it; strength, cheerfulness, power to convince, heartiness and equality to each event.

All the earths are burnt metals. One half the avoirdupois of the rocks which compose the solid crust of the globe consists of oxygen. The adamant is always passing into smoke ; the marble column, the brazen statue burn under the day-light, and would soon decompose if their molecular structure, disturbed by the raging sunlight, were not restored by the darkness of the night. What agencies of electricity, gravity, light, affinity combine to make every plant what it is, and in a manner so quiet that the presence of these tremendous powers is not ordinarily suspected. Faraday said, " A grain of water is known to have electric relations equivalent to a very powerful flash of lightning." The ripe fruit is dropped at last with-out violence, but the lightning fell and the storm raged, and strata were deposited and uptorn and bent back, and Chaos moved from beneath, to create and flavor the fruit on your table to-day. The winds and the rains come back a thousand and a thousand times. The coal on your grate gives out in decomposing to-day exactly the same amount of light and heat which was taken from the sunshine in its formation in the leaves and boughs of the antediluvian tree.

Take up a spadeful or a buck-load of loam ; who can guess what it holds? But a gardener knows that it is full of peaches, full of oranges, and he drops in a few seeds by way of keys to unlock and combine its virtues ; lets it lie in sun and rain, and by and by it has lifted into the air its full weight in golden fruit.

The earliest hymns of the world were hymns to these natural forces. The Vedas of India, which have a date older than Homer, are hymns to the winds, to the clouds, and to fire. They all have certain properties which adhere to them, such as conservation, persisting to be themselves, impossibility of being warped. The sun has lost no beams, the earth no elements ; gravity is as adhesive, heat as expansive, light as joyful, air as virtuous, water as medicinal as on the first day. There is no loss, only transference. When the heat is less here it is not lost, but more heat is there. When the rain exceeds on the coast, there is drought on the prairie. When the continent sinks, the opposite continent, that is to say, the opposite shore of the ocean, rises. When life is less here, it spawns there.

These forces are in an ascending series, but seem to leave no room for the individual ; man or atom, he only shares them ; he sails the way these irresistible winds blow. But behind all these are finer elements, the sources of them, and much more rapid and strong ; a new style and series, the spiritual. Intellect and morals appear only the material forces on a higher plane. The laws of material nature run up into the invisible world of the mind, and hereby we acquire a key to those sublimities which skulk and hide in the caverns of human consciousness. And in the impenetrable mystery which hides – and hides through absolute transparency – the mental nature, I await the insight which our advancing knowledge of material laws shall furnish.

But the laws of force apply to every form of it. The husbandry learned in the economy of heat or light or steam or muscular fibre applies precisely to the use of wit. What I have said of the inexorable persistence of every elemental force to remain itself, the impossibility of tampering with it or warping it, – the same rule applies again strictly to this force of intellect ; that it is perception, a seeing, not making, thoughts. The man must bend to the law, never the law to him.

The brain of man has methods and arrangements corresponding to these material powers, by which he can use them. See how trivial is the use of the world by any other of its creatures. Whilst these forces act on us from the outside and we are not in their counsel, we call them Fate. The animal instincts guide the animal as gravity governs the stone, and in man that bias or direction of his constitution is often as tyrannical as gravity. We call it temperament, and it seems to be the remains of wolf, ape, and rattlesnake in him. While the reason is yet dormant, this rules ; as the reflective faculties open, this subsides. We come to reason and knowledge ; we see the causes of evils and learn to parry them and use them as instruments, by knowledge, being inside of them and dealing with them as the Creator does. It is curious to see how a creature so feeble and vulnerable as a man, who, unarmed, is no match for the wild beasts, tiger, or crocodile, none for the frost, none for the sea, none for a fog, or a damp air, or the feeble fork of a poor worm, – each of a thousand petty accidents puts him to death every day, – is yet able to subdue to his will these terrific forces, and more than these. His whole frame is responsive to the world, part for part, every sense, every pore to a new element, so that he seems to have as many talents as there are qualities in nature. No force but is his force. He does not possess them, he is a pipe through which their currents flow. If a straw be held still iii the direction of the ocean-current, the sea will pour through it as through Gibraltar. If he should measure strength with them, if he should fight the sea and the whirlwind with his ship, he would snap his spars, tear his sails, and swamp his bark ; but by cunningly dividing the force, tapping the tempest for a little side-wind, he uses the monsters, and they carry him where he would go. Look at him ; you can give no guess at what power is in him. It never appears directly, but follow him and see his effects, see his productions. He is a planter, a miner, a shipbuilder, a machinist, a musician, a steam-engine, a geometer, an astronomer, a persuader of men, a lawgiver, a builder of towns ; – and each of these by dint of a wonderful method or series that resides in him and enables him to work on the material elements.

We are surrounded by human thought and labor. Where are the farmer's days gone? See, they are hid in that stone-wall, in that excavated trench, in the harvest grown on what was shingle and pine-barren. He put his days into carting from the distant swamp the mountain of muck which has been trundled about until it now makes the cover of fruitful soil. Labor hides itself in every mode and form. It is massed and blocked away in that stone house, for five hundred years. It is twisted and screwed into fragrant hay which fills the barn. It surprises m the perfect form and condition of trees clean of caterpillars and borers, rightly pruned, and loaded with grafted fruit. It is under the house in the well ; it is over the house in slates and copper and water-spout ; it grows in the corn ; it delights us in the flower-bed ; it keeps the cow out of the gar-den, the rain out of the library, the miasma out of the town. It is in dress, pictures, in ships, in cannon ; in every spectacle, in odors, in flavors, in sweet sounds, in works of safety, of delight, of wrath, of science.

The thoughts, no man ever saw, but disorder becomes order where he goes ; weakness becomes power ; surprising and admirable effects follow him like a creator. All forces are his ; as the wise merchant by truth in his dealings finds his credit unlimited, – he can use in turn, as he wants it, all the property iii the world, – so a man draws on all the air for his occasions, as if there were no other breather ; on all the water as if there were no other sailor ; he is warmed by the sun, and so of every element ; he walks and works by the aid of gravitation ; he draws on all knowledge as his province, on all beauty for his innocent delight, and first or last he exhausts by his use all the harvests, all the powers of the world. For man, the receiver of all, and depositary of these volumes of power, I am to say that his ability and performance are ac-cording to his reception of these various streams of force. We define Genius to be a sensibility to all the impressions of the outer world, a sensibility so equal that it receives accurately all impressions, and can truly report them, without excess or loss, as it received. It must not only receive all, but it must render all. And the health of man is an equality of inlet and outlet, gathering and giving. Any hoarding is tumor and disease.

If we were truly to take account of stock before the last Court of Appeals, – that were an inventory .1 What are my resources? " Our stock in life, our real estate, is that amount of thought which we have had," – and which we have applied, and so domesticated. The ground we have thus created is forever a fund for new thoughts. A few moral maxims confirmed by much experience would stand high on the list, constituting a supreme prudence. Then the knowledge unutterable of our private strength, of where it lies, of its accesses and facilitations, and of its obstructions. My conviction of principles, – that is great part of my possessions. Certain thoughts, certain observations, long familiar to me in night-watches and daylights, would be my capital if I removed to Spain or China, or, by stranger translation, to the planet Jupiter or Mars, or to new spiritual societies. Every valuable person who joins in an enter-prise, – is it a piece of industry, or the founding of a colony or a college, the reform of some public abuse, or some effort of patriotism,- what he chiefly brings, all he brings, is not his land or his money or body's strength, but his thoughts, his way of classifying and seeing things, his method. And thus with every one a new power. In proportion to the depth of the insight is the power and reach of the kingdom he controls.

It would be easy to awake wonder by sketching the performance of each of these mental forces ; as of the diving-bell of the Memory, which descends into the deeps of our past and oldest experience and brings up every lost jewel ; or of the Fancy, which sends its gay balloon aloft into the sky to catch every tint and gleam of romance ; of the Imagination, which turns every dull fact into pictures and poetry, by making it an emblem of thought. What a power, when, combined with the analyzing understanding, it makes Eloquence ; the art of compelling belief, the art of making peoples' hearts dance to his pipe! And not less, method, patience, self-trust, perseverance, love, desire of knowledge, the passion for truth. These are the angels that take us by the hand, these our immortal, invulnerable guardians. By their strength we
are strong, and on the signal occasions in our career their inspirations flow to us and make the selfish and protected and tenderly-bred person strong for his duty, wise in counsel, skilful in action, competent to rule, willing to obey.

I delight in tracing these wonderful powers, the electricity and gravity of the human world. The power of persistence, of enduring defeat and of gaining victory by defeats, is one of these forces which never loses its charm. The power of a man increases steadily by continuance in one direction. He becomes acquainted with the resistances, and with his own tools ; increases his skill and strength and learns the favorable moments and favorable accidents. He is his own apprentice, and more time gives a great addition of power, just as a falling body acquires momentum with every foot of the fall. l low we prize a good continuer ! I knew a manufacturer who found his property in-vested in chemical works which were depreciating in value. He undertook the charge of them him-self, began at the beginning, learned chemistry and acquainted himself with all the conditions of the manufacture. His friends dissuaded him, advised him to give up the work, which was not suited to the country. Why throw good money after bad? But he persisted, and after many years succeeded in his production of the right article for commerce, brought up the stock of his mills to par, and then sold out his interest, having accomplished the re-form that was required.

In each the talent is the perception of an order and series in the department he deals with, – of an order and series which pre-existed in nature, and which this mind sees and conforms to. The geometer shows us the true order in figures ; the painter in laws of color; the dancer in grace. Bonaparte, with his celerity of combination, mute, unfathomable, reads the geography of Europe as if his eyes were telescopes ; his will is an immense battery discharging irresistible volleys of power always at the right point iii the right time.

There was a story in the journals of a poor prisoner in a Western police-court who was told he might be released if he would pay his fine. He had no money, he had no friends, but he took his flute out of his pocket and began to play, to the surprise, and, as it proved, to the delight of all the company ; the jurors waked up, the sheriff forgot his duty, the judge himself beat time, and the prisoner was by general consent of court and officers allowed to go his way without any money. And I suppose, if he could have played loud enough, we here should have beat time, and the whole population of the globe would beat time, and consent that he should go without his fine.

I knew a stupid young farmer, churlish, living only for his gains, and with whom the only inter-course you could have was to buy what he had to sell. One day I found his little boy of four years dragging about after him the prettiest little wooden cart, so neatly built, and with decorations too, and learned that Papa had made it ; that hidden deep in that thick skull was this gentle art and taste which the little fingers and caresses of his son had the power to draw out into day ; he was no peasant after all. So near to us is the flowering of Fine Art in the rudest population. See in a circle of school-girls one with no beauty, no special viva-city, – but she can so recite her adventures that she is never alone, but at night or at morning wherever she sits the inevitable circle gathers around her, willing prisoners of that wonderful memory and fancy and spirit of life. Would you know where to find her ? Listen for the laughter, follow the cheerful hum, see where is the rapt attention, and a pretty crowd all bright with one electricity ; there in the centre of fellowship and joy is Scheherazade again.

See how rich life is ; rich in private talents, each of which charms us in turn and seems the best. If we hear music we give up all to that ; if we fall in with a cricket-club and see the game masterly played, the best player is the first of men ; if we go to the regatta, we forget the bowler for the stroke oar ; and when the soldier comes home from the fight, he fills all eyes. But the soldier has the same admiration of the great parliamentary debater. And poetry and literature are disdainful of all these claims beside their own. Like the boy who thought in turn each one of the four seasons the best, and each of the three hundred and sixty-five days in the year the crowner. The sensibility is all.

Every one knows what are the effects of music to put people in gay or mournful or martial mood. But these are the effects on dull subjects, and only the hint of its power on a keener sense. It is a stroke on a loose or tense cord. The story of Orpheus, of Arion, of the Arabian minstrel, are not fables, but experiments on the same iron at white beat.

By this wondrous susceptibility to all the impressions of Nature the man finds himself the receptacle of celestial thoughts, of happy relations to all men. The imagination enriches him, as if there were no other ; the memory opens all her cabinets and archives ; Science her length and breadth ; Poetry her splendor and joy and the august circles of eternal law. These are means and stairs for new ascensions of the mind. But they are nowise impoverished for any other mind, not tarnished, not breathed upon ; for the mighty Intellect did not stoop to him and become property, but he rose to it and followed its circuits. " It is ours while we use it, it is not ours when we do not use it."

And so, one step higher, when he comes into the realm of sentiment and will. e sees the grandeur of justice, the victory of love, the eternity that belongs to all moral nature. e does not then in-vent his sentiment or his act, but obeys a pre-existing right which he sees. We arrive at virtue by taking its direction instead of imposing ours.

The last revelation of intellect and of sentiment is that in a manner it severs the man from all other men ; makes known to him that the spiritual powers are sufficient to him if no other being existed ; that he is to deal absolutely in the world, as if he alone were a system and a state, and though all should perish could make all anew.

The forces are infinite. Every one has the might of all, for the secret of the world is that its energies are solidaires; that they work together on a system of mutual aid, all for each and each for all ; that the strain made on one point bears on every arch and foundation of the structure. But if you wish to avail yourself of their might, and in like manner if you wish the force of the intellect, the force of the will, you must take their divine direction, not they yours. Obedience alone gives the right to command. It is like the village operator who taps the telegraph-wire and surprises the secrets of empires as they pass to the capital. So this child of the dust throws himself by obedience into the circuit of the heavenly wisdom, and shares the secret of God.

Thus is the world delivered into your hand, but on two conditions, – not for property, but for use, use according to the noble nature of the gifts ; and not for toys, not for self-indulgence. Things work to their ends, not to yours, and will certainly defeat any adventurer who fights against this ordination.

The effort of men is to use them for private ends. They wish to pocket land and water and fire and air and all fruits of these, for property, and would like to have Aladdin's lamp to compel darkness, and iron-bound doors, and hostile armies, and lions and serpents to serve them like footmen. And they wish the same service from the spiritual faculties. A man has a rare mathematical talent, inviting him to the beautiful secrets of geometry, and wishes to clap a patent on it ; or has the fancy and invention of a poet, and says, ' I will write a play that shall be repeated in London a hundred nights; or a military genius, and instead of using that to defend his country, he says, ' I will fight the battle so as to give me place and political consideration ;' or Canning or Thurlow has a genius of debate, and says, ' I will know how with this weapon to defend the cause that will pay best and make me Chancellor or Foreign Secretary.' But this per-version is punished with instant loss of true wisdom and real power.

I find the survey of these cosmical powers a doctrine of consolation in the dark hours of private or public fortune. It shows us the world alive, guided, incorruptible ; that its cannon cannot be stolen nor its virtues misapplied. It shows us the long Providence, the safeguards of rectitude. It animates exertion ; it warns us out of that despair into which Saxon men are prone to fall, – out of an idolatry of forms, instead of working to simple ends, in the belief that Heaven always succors us in working for these. This world belongs to the energetical. It is a fagot of laws, and a true analysis of these laws, showing how immortal and how self-protecting they are, would be a wholesome lesson for every time and for this time. That band which ties them together is unity, is universal good, saturating all with one being and aim, so that each translates the other, is only the same spirit applied to new departments. Things are saturated with the moral law. There is no escape from it. Violets and grass preach it ; rain and snow, wind and tides, every change, every cause in Nature is nothing but a disguised missionary.

All our political disasters grow as logically out of our attempts in the past to do without justice, as the sinking of some part of your house comes of de-feet in the foundation. One thing is plain ; a certain personal virtue is essential to freedom ; and it begins to be doubtful whether our corruption in this country has not gone a little over the mark of safety, so that when canvassed we shall be found to be made up of a majority of reckless self-seekers. The divine knowledge has ebbed out of us and we do not know enough to be free.

I hope better of the state. Half a man's wisdom goes with his courage. A boy who knows that a bully lives round the corner which he must pass on his daily way to school, is apt to take sinister views of streets and of school-education. And a sensitive politician suffers his ideas of the part New York or Pennsylvania or Ohio are to play in the future of the Union, to be fashioned by the election of rogues in some counties. But we must not gratify the rogues so deeply. There is a speedy limit to profligate politics.

Fear disenchants life and the world. If I have not my own respect I am an impostor, not entitled to other men's, and had better creep into my grave, I admire the sentiment of Thoreau, who said, "Nothing is so much to be feared as fear ; God himself likes atheism better." For the world is a battle-ground ; every principle is a war-note, and the most quiet and protected life is at any moment exposed to incidents which test your firmness. The illusion that strikes me as the masterpiece in that ring of illusions which our life is, is the timidity with which we assert our moral sentiment. We are made of it, the world is built by it, things endure as they share it ; all beauty, all health, all intelligence exist by it ; yet we shrink to speak of it or to range ourselves by its side. Nay, we presume strength of him or them who deny it. Cities go against it ; the college goes against it, the courts snatch at any precedent, at any vicious form of law to rule it out ; legislatures listen with appetite to declamations against it, and vote it down. Every new asserter of the right surprises us, like a man joining the church, and we hardly dare believe he is in earnest.

What we do and suffer is in moments, but the cause of right for which we labor never dies, works in long periods, can afford many cheeks, gains by our defeats, and will know how to compensate our extremest sacrifice. Wrath and petulance may have their short success, but they quickly reach their brief date and decompose, whilst the massive might of ideas is irresistible at last. Whence does the knowledge come? Where is the source of power? The soul of God is poured into the world through the thoughts of men. The world stands on ideas, and not on iron or cotton ; and the iron of iron, the fire of. fire, the ether and source of all the elements is moral force. As cloud on cloud, as snow on snow, as the bird on the air, and the planet on space in its flight, so do nations of men and their institutions rest on thoughts.

Complete Works of RWE X - Lectures and Biographical Sketches


But if thou do thy best,
Without remission, without rest,
And invite the sunbeam,
And abhor to feign or seem
Even to those who thee should love
And thy behavior approve ;
If thou go in thine own likeness, –
Be it health or be it sickness, –
If thou go as thy father's son,
If thou wear no mask or lie,
Dealing purely and nakedly, –


THERE is an attractive topic, which never goes out of vogue and is impertinent in no community, – the permanent traits of the Aristocracy. It is an interest of the human race, and, as I look at it, inevitable, sacred and to be found in every country and in every company of men. My concern with it is that concern which all well-disposed persons will feel, that there should be model men, – true instead of spurious pictures of excellence, and, if possible, living standards.

I observe that the word gentleman is gladly heard in all companies ; that the cogent motive with the best young men who are revolving plans and forming resolutions for the future, is the spirit of honor, the wish to be gentlemen. They do not yet covet political power, nor any exuberance of wealth, wealth that costs too much ; nor do they wish to be saints; for fear of partialism ; but the middle term, the reconeiling element, the success of First read as a lecture – in England – in 1848 ; here printed with additions from other papers. the manly character, they find in the idea of gentle-man. It is not to be a man of rank. but a man of honor, accomplished in all arts and generosities, which seems to them the right mark and the true chief of our modern society. A reference to society is part of the idea of culture ; science of a gentle-man ; art of a gentleman ; poetry in a gentleman intellectually held, that is, for their own sake, for what they are ; for their universal beauty and worth ;- not for economy, which degrades them, but not over-intellectually, that is, not to ecstasy, entrancing the man, but redounding to his beauty and glory.

In the sketches which I have to offer I shall not be surprised if my readers should fancy that I am giving them, under a gayer title, a chapter on Education. It will not pain me if I am found now and then to rove from the accepted and historic, to a theoretic peerage : or if it should turn out, what is true, that I am describing a real aristocracy, a chap-ter of Templars who sit indifferently in all climates and under the shadow of all institutions, but so few, so heedless of badges, so rarely convened, so little in sympathy with the predominant politics of nations, that their names and doings are not re-corded in any Book of Peerage, or any Court Journal, or even Daily Newspaper of the world.

I find the caste in the man. The Gulden Book of Venice, the scale of European chivalry, the Barons of England, the hierarchy of India with its impassable degrees, is each a transcript of the decigrade or centigraded Man. A many-chambered Aristocracy lies already organized in his moods and faculties. Room is found for all the departments of the State in the moods and faculties of each human spirit, with separate function and difference of dignity.

The terrible aristocracy that is in nature. Real people dwelling with the real, face to face undaunted : then, far down, people of taste, people dwelling in a relation, or rumor, or influence of good and fair, entertained by it, superficially touched, yet charmed by these shadows : – and, far below these, gross and thoughtless, the animal man, billows of chaos, down to the dancing and menial organizations.

I observe the inextinguishable prejudice men have in favor of a hereditary transmission of qualities. It is in vain to remind them that Nature appears capricious. Some qualities she carefully fixes and transmits, but some, and those the finer, she exhales with the breath of the individual, as too costly to perpetuate. But I notice also that they may become fixed and permanent in any stock, by painting and repainting them on every individual, until at last Nature adopts them and bakes them into her porcelain.

At all events I take this inextinguishable persuasion in men's minds as a hint from the outward universe to man to inlay as many virtues and superiorities as he can into this swift fresco of the day, which is hardening to an immortal picture.

If one thinks of the interest which all men have in beauty of ocharacter and manners ; that it is of the last importance to the imagination and affection, inspiring as it does that loyalty and worship so essential to the finish of character,- certainly, if culture, if laws, if primogeniture, if heraldry, if money could secure such a result as superior and finished men, it would be the interest of all mankind to see that the steps were taken, the pains ineurred. No taxation, no concession, no conferring of privileges never so exalted would be a price too large.

The old French Revolution attracted to its first movement all the liberality, virtue, hope and poetry in Europe. By the abolition of kingship and aristocracy, tyranny, inequality and poverty would end. Alas! no ; tyranny, inequality, poverty, stood as fast and fierce as ever. We likewise put faith in Democracy ; in the Republican principle carried out to the extremes of practice in universal suffrage, in the will of majorities. The young adventurer finds that the relations of society, the position of classes, irk and sting him, and Ile lends himself to each malignant party that assails what is eminent. He will one day know that this is not removable, but a distinction in the nature of things ; that neither the caucus, nor the newspaper, nor the Congress, nor the mob, nor the guillotine, nor fire, nor all together, can avail to outlaw, cut out, burn, or destroy the offense of superiority in persons. The manners, the pretension, which annoy me so much, are not superficial, but built on a real distinction in the nature of my companion. The superiority in him is inferiority in me, and if this particular companion were wiped by a sponge out of nature, my inferiority would still be made evident to me by other persons everywhere and every day.

No, not the hardest utilitarian will question the value of an aristocracy if he love himself. For every man confesses that the highest good which the universe proposes to him is the highest society. If a few grand natures should come to us and weave duties and offices between us and them, it would make our bread ambrosial.

I affirm that inequalities exist, not in costume, but in the powers of expression and action ; a primitive aristocracy ; and that we, certainly, have not come here to describe well-dressed vulgarity. I cannot tell how English titles are bestowed, whether on pure blood, or on the largest holder in the threeper-cents. The English government and people, or the French government, may easily make mistakes ;but Nature makes none. Every mark and seutcheon of hers indicates constitutional qualities. In science, in trade, in social discourse, as in the state, it is the same thing. Forever and ever it takes a pound to lift a pound.

It is plain that all the deference of modern society to this idea of the Gentleman, and all the whimsical tyranny of Fashion which has continued to en-graft itself on this reverence, is a secret homage to reality and love which ought to reside in every man. This is the steel that is hid under gauze and lace, under flowers and spangles. And it is plain that instead of this idolatry, a worship ; instead of this impure, a pure reverence for character, a new respect for the sacredness of the individual man, is that antidote which must correct in our country the disgraceful deferenee to public opinion, and the in-sane subordination of the end to the means. From the folly of too much association we must come back to the repose of self-reverence and trust.

The game of the world is a perpetual trial of strength between man and events. The common man is the victim of events. Whatever happens is too much for him, he is drawn this way and that way, and his whole life is a hurry. The superior man is at home in his own mind. We like cool people, who neither hope nor fear too much, but seem to have many strings to their bow, and can survive the blow well enough if stock should rise or fall, if parties should be broken up, if their money or their family should be dispersed ; who can stand a slander very well ; indeed on whom events make little or no impression, and who can face death with firmness. In short, we dislike every mark of a superficial life and action, and prize whatever mark of a central life.

What is the meaning of this invincible respect for war, here in the triumphs of our commercial civilization, that we can never quite smother the trumpet and the drum ? How is it that the sword runs away with all the fame from the spade and the , wheel ? How sturdy seem to us in the history, those Merovingians, Guelphs, Dorias, Sforzas, Burgundies and Guesclins of the old warlike ages! We can hardly believe they were all such speedy shadows as we ; that an ague or fever, a drop of water or a crystal of ice ended them. We give soldiers the same advantage to-day. From the most accumulated culture we are always running back to the sound of any drum and fife. And in any trade, or in law-courts, in orchard and farm, and even in saloons, they only prosper or they prosper best who have a military mind, who engineer in sword and cannon style, with energy and sharpness. Why, but because courage never loses its high price? Why, but because we wish to see those to whom existence is most adorned and attractive, foremost to peril it for their object, and ready to answer for their actions with their life.

The existence of an upper class is not injurious, as long as it is dependent on merit. For so long it is provocation to the bold and generous. These distinctions exist, and they are deep, not to be talked or voted away. If the differences are organic, so are the merits, that is to say the power and excellence we describe are real. Aristocracy is the class eminent by personal qualities, and to them belongs without assertion a proper influence. Men of aim must lead the aimless ; men of invention the uninventive. I wish catholic men, who by their science and skill are at home in every latitude and longitude, who carry the world in their thoughts ; men of universal politics, who are interested in things in proportion to their truth and magnitude ; who know the beauty of animals and the laws of their nature, whom the mystery of botany allures, and the mineral laws ; who see general effects and are not too learned to love the Imagination, the power and the spirits of Solitude ;-men who see the dance in men's lives as well as in a ball-room, and can feel and convey the sense which is only collectively or totally expressed by a population men who are charmed by the beautiful Nemesis as well as by the dire Nemesis, and dare trust their inspiration for their welcome ; who would find their fellows in persons of real elevation of whatever kind of speculative or practical ability. We are fallen on times so acquiescent and traditionary that we are in danger of forgetting so simple a fact as that the basis of all aristocracy must be truth, – the doing what elsewhere is pretended to be done. One would gladly see all our institutions rightly aristocratic in this wise.

I enumerate the claims by which men enter the superior class.

1. A commanding talent. In every company one finds the best man ; and if there be any question, it is decided the instant they enter into any practical enterprise. If the finders of glass, gun-powder, printing, electricity, – if the healer of small-pox, the contriver of the safety lamp, of the aqueduct, of the bridge, of the tunnel ; if the finders of parallax, of new planets, of steam power for boat and carriage, the finder of sulphuric ether and the electric telegraph, – if these men should keep their secrets, or only communicate them to each other, must not the whole race of mankind serve them as gods ? It only needs to look at the social aspect of England and America and France, to see the rank which original practical talent commands.

Every survey of the dignified classes, in ancient or modern history, imprints universal lessons, and establishes a nobility of a prouder creation. And the conclusion which Roman Senators, Indian Brahmins, Persian Magians, European Nobles and great Americans inculcate, – that which they preach out of their material wealth and glitter, out of their old war and modern land-owning, even out of sensuality and sneers, is, that the radical and essential distinctions of every aristocracy are moral. Do not hearken to the men, but to the Destiny in the institutions. An aristocracy is composed of simple and sincere men for whom nature and ethics are strong enough, who say what they mean and go straight to their objects. It is essentially real.

The multiplication of monarchs known by telegraph and daily news from all countries to the daily papers, and the effect of freer institutions in England and America, has robbed the title of king of all its romanee, as that of our commercial consuls as compared with the ancient Roman. We shall come to add " Kings " in the " Contents" of the Directory, as we do " Physicians," " Brokers," etc. In simple communities, in the heroic ages, a man was chosen for his knack ; got his name, rank and living for that ; and the best of the best was the aristocrat or king. In the Norse Edda it appears as the curious but excellent policy of con-tending tribes, when tired of war, to exchange hostages, and in reality each to adopt from the other a first-rate man, who thus acquired a new country ; was at once made a chief. And no wrong was so keenly resented as any fraud in this transaction In the heroic ages, as we call them, the hero uniformly has some real talent. Ulysses in Homer is represented as a very skilful carpenter. e builds the boat with which he leaves Calypso's isle, and in his own palace carves a bedstead out of the trunk of a tree and inlays it with gold and ivory. Epeus builds the wooden horse. The English nation down to a late age inherited the reality of the Northern stock. In 1373, in writs of summons of members of Parliament, the sheriff of every county is to cause "two dubbed knights, or the most worthy esquires, the most expert in feats of arms, and no others ; and of' every city, two citizens, and of every borough, two burgesses, such as have greatest skill in shipping and merchandising, to be returned."

The ancients were fond of ascribing to their nobles gigantic proportions and strength. The hero must have the force of ten men. The chief is taller by a head than any of his tribe. Douglas can throw the bar a greater cast. Richard can sever the iron bolt with his sword. The horn of Roland, in the romance, is heard sixty miles. The Cid has a prevailing health that will let him nurse the leper, and share his bed without harm. And since the body is the pipe through which we tap all the succors and virtues of the material world, it is certain that a sound body must be at the root of any excellence in manners and actions ; a strong and supple frame which yields a stock of strength and spirits for all the needs of the day, and generates the habit of relying on a supply of power for all extraordinary exertions. When Nature goes to create a national man, she puts a symmetry between the physical and intellectual powers. She moulds a large brain, and joins to it a great trunk to sup-ply it ; as if a fine alembic were fed with liquor for its distillations from broad full vats in the vaults of the laboratory.

Certainly, the origin of most of the perversities and absurdities that disgust us is, primarily, the want of health. Genius is health and Beauty is health and Virtue is health. The petty arts which we blame in the half-great seem as odious to them also ; – the resources of weakness and despair. And the manners betray the like puny constitution. Temperament is fortune, and we must say it so often. In a thousand cups of life, only one is the right mixture, – a fine adjustment to the existing elements. When that befalls, when the well-mixed man is born, with eves not too dull nor too good, with fire enough and earth enough, capable of impressions from all things, and not too susceptible, – then no gift need be bestowed on him, he brings with him fortune, followers, love, power.

" I think he'll be to Rome
As is the osprey to the fish, who takes it
By sovereignty of nature."

Not the phrenologist but the philosopher may well say, Let me see his brain, and I will tell you if he shall be poet, king, founder of cities, rich, magnetic, of a secure hand, of a scientific memory, a right classifier ; or whether he shall be a bungler, driveller, unlucky, heavy, and tedious.

It were to dispute against the sun, to deny this difference of brain. I see well enough that when I bring one man into an estate, he sees vague capabilities, what others might, could, would, or should do with it. If I bring another man, he sees what he should do with it. He appreciates the water-privilege, land fit for orchard, tillage, pasturage, wood-lot, cranberry-meadow ; but just as easily he foresees all the means, all the steps of the process, and could lay his hand as readily on one as on an-other point in that series which opens the capability to the last point. The poet sees wishfully enough the result ; the well-built head supplies all the steps, one as perfect as the other, in the series. Seeing this working head in him, it becomes to me as certain that he will have the direction of estates, as that there are estates. If we see tools in a magazine, as a file, an anchor, a plough, a pump, a paint-brush, a cider-press, a diving-bell, we can predict well enough their destination ; and the man's associations, fortunes, love, hatred, residence, rank, the books he will buy, the roads he will traverse are predetermined in his organism. Men will need him, and he is rich and eminent by nature. That man cannot be too late or too early. Let him not hurry or hesitate. Though millions are already arrived, his seat is reserved. Though millions at-tend, they only multiply his friends and agents. It never troubles the Senator what multitudes crack the benches and bend the galleries to hear. He who understands the art of war, reckons the hostile battalions and cities, opportunities and spoils.

An aristocracy could not exist unless it were organic. Alen are born to command, and – it is even so-"come into the world booted and spurred to ride." The blood royal never pays, we say. It obtains service, gifts, supplies, furtherance of all kinds from the love and joy of those who feel themselves honored by the service they render.

Dull people think it Fortune that makes one rich and another poor. Is it ? Yes, but the for-tune was earlier than they think, namely, in the balance or adjustment between devotion to what is agreeable to-day and the forecast of what will be valuable to-Morrow.

Certainly I am not going to argue the merits of gradation in the universe ; the existing order of more or less. Neither do I wish to go into a vindication of the justice that disposes the variety of lot. I know how steep the contrast of condition looks ; such excess here and such destitution there; like entire chance, like the freaks of the wind, heaping the snow-drift in gorges, stripping the plain ; such despotism of wealth and comfort in banquet-halls, whilst death is in the pots of the wretched, – that it behooves a good man to walk with tenderness and heed amidst so much suffering. I only point in passing to the order of the universe, which makes a rotation, – not like the coarse policy of the Greeks, tell generals, each commanding one day and then giving place to the next, or like our democratic polities, my turn now, your turn next,- but the constitution of things has distributed a new quality or talent to each mind, and the revolution of things is always bringing the need, now of this, now of that, and is sure to bring home the opportunity to every one.

The only relief that I know against the invidiousness of superior position is, that you exert your faculty ; for whilst each does that, he excludes hard thoughts from the spectator. All right activity is amiable. I never feel that any man occupies my place, but that the reason why I do not have what I wish, is, that I want the faculty which entitles. All spiritual or real power makes its own place.

We pass for what we are, and we prosper or fail by what we are. There are men who may dare much and will be justified in their daring. But it is because they know they are in their place. As long as I am in my place, I am safe. The best lightning-rod for your protection is your own spine." Let a man's social aims be proportioned to his means and power. I do not pity the misery of a man uuderplaced : that will right itself presently : but I pity the man overplaced. A certain quantity of power belongs to a certain quantity of faculty. Whoever wants more power than is the legitimate attraction of his faculty, is a politician, and must pay for that excess ; must truckle for it. This is the whole game of society and the politics of the world. Being will always seem well ; – but whether possibly I cannot contrive to seem, without the trouble of being? Every Frenchman would have a career. We English are not any better with our love of making a figure. " I told the Duke of Newcastle," says Bubb Doddington in his Memoirs, " that it must end one may or an-other, it must not remain as it was ; for I was determined to make some sort of a figure in life ; I earnestly wished it might be under his protection, but if that could not be, I must make some figure; what it would be I could not determine yet ; I must look round me a little and consult my friends, but some figure I was resolved to make."

It will be agreed everywhere that society must have the benefit of the best leaders. How to obtain them ? Birth has been tried and failed. Caste in India has no good result. Ennobling of one family is good for one generation ; not sure beyond. Slavery had mischief enough to answer for, but it had this good in it, – the pricing of men. In the South a slave was bluntly but accurately valued at five hundred to a thousand dollars, if a good field-hand ; if a mechanic, as carpenter or smith, twelve hundred or two thousand. In Rome or Greece what sums would not be paid for a superior slave, a confidential secretary and manager, an educated slave : a man of genius, a Moses educated in Egypt ? I don't know how much Epietetus was sold for, or Aesop, or Toussaint l'Ouverture, and perhaps it was not a good market-day. Time was, in England, when the state stipulated beforehand what price should be paid for each citizen's life, if he was killed. Now, if it were possible, I should like to see that appraisal applied to every man, and every man made acquainted with the true number and weight of every adult citizen, and that he be placed where he belongs, with so much power con. fided to him as he could carry and use.

In the absence of such anthropometer I have a perfect confidence in the natural laws. I think that the community, – every community, if obstructing laws and usages are removed, – will be the best measure and the justest judge of the citizen, or will in the long run give the fairest verdict and reward ; better than any royal patronage ; bet-ter than any premium on race ; better than any statute elevating families to hereditary distinction, or any class to sacerdotal education and power. The verdict of battles will best prove the general ; the town-meeting, the Congress, will net fail to find out legislative talent. The prerogatives of a right physician are determined, not by his diplomas, but by the health he restores to body and mind ; the powers of a geometer by solving his problem ; of a priest by the act of inspiring us with a sentiment which disperses the grief from which we suffered. When the lawyer tries his ease in court he himself is also on trial and his own merits appear as well as his client's. When old writers are consulted by young writers who have written their first book, they say, Publish it by all means ; so only can you certainly know its quality.

But we venture to put any man in any place. It is curious how negligent the public is of the essential qualifications of its representatives. They ask if a man is a republican, a democrat ? Yes. Is he a man of talent ? Yes. Is he honest and not looking for an office or any manner of bribe ? He is honest. Well then choose him by acclamation. And they go home and tell their wives with great satisfaction what a good thing they have done. But they forgot to ask the fourth question, not less important than either of the others, and without which the others do not avail. Has he a will ? Can he carry his points against opposition ? Probably not. It is not sufficient that your work follows your genius, or is organic, to give you the magnetic power over men. More than taste and talent must go to the Will. That must also be a gift of nature. It is in some ; it is not in others. But I should say, if it is not in you, you had bet-ter not put yourself in places where not to have it is to be a public enemy.

The expectation and claims of mankind indicate the duties of this class. Some service they must pay. We do not expect them to be saints, and it is very pleasing to see the instinct of mankind on this matter, – how much they will forgive to such as pay substantial service and work energetically after their kind ; but they do not extend the same indulgence to those who claim and enjoy the same prerogative but render no returns. The day is darkened when the golden river runs down into mud ; when genius grows idle and wanton and reckless of its fine duties of being Saint, Prophet, Inspirer to its humble fellows, baulks their respect and confounds their understanding by silly extravagances. To a right aristocracy, to Hercules, to Theseus, Odin, the Cid, Napoleon ; to Sir Robert Walpole, to Fox, Chatham, Mirabeau, Jefferson, O'Connell ; – to the men, that is, who are incomparably superior to the populace in was agreeable to the populace, showing them the way they should go, doing for them what they wish done and cannot do ;- of course everything will be permitted and pardoned, – gaming, drinking, fighting, luxury. These are the heads of party, who can do no wrong, – everything short of infamous crime will pass. But if those who merely sit in their places and are not, like them, able ; if the dressed and per-fumed gentleman, who serves the people in no wise and adorns them not, is not even not afraid of them, if such an one go about to set ill examples and corrupt them, who shall blame them if they burn his barns, insult his children, assault his per-son, and express their unequivocal indignation and contempt ? He eats their bread, he does not scorn to live by their labor, and after breakfast he can-not remember that there are human beings. To live without duties is obscene.

2. Genius, what is so called in strictness, – the power to affect the Imagination, as possessed by the orator, the poet, the novelist, or the artist, – has a royal right in all possessions and privileges, being itself representative and accepted by all men as their delegate. It has indeed the best right, because it raises men above themselves, intoxicates them %with beauty. They are honored by rendering it honor, and the reason of this allowance is that Genius unlocks for all men the chains of use, temperament and drudgery, and gives them a sense of delicious liberty and power.

The first example that occurs is an extraordinary gift of eloquence. A luau who has that possession of his means and that magnetism that he can at all times carry the convictions of a public assembly, we must respect, and he is thereby ennobled. He has the freedom of the city. He is entitled to neglect trifles. Like a great general, or a great poet, or a millionaire, he may wear his coat out at el-bows, and his hat on his feet, if he will. He has established relation, representativeness. The best feat of genius is to bring all the varieties of talent and culture into its audience ; the mediocre and the dull are reached as well as the intelligent. I have seen it conspicuously shown in a village. Here are classes which day by day have no inter-course, nothing beyond perhaps a surly nod in passing. But I have seen a luau of teeming brain come among these men, so full of his facts, so unable to suppress them, that he has poured out a river of knowledge to all comers, and drawing all these men round him, all sorts of men, interested the whole village, good and bad, bright and stupid, in his facts ; the iron boundary lines had all faded away; the stupid had discovered that they were not stupid ; the coldest had found themselves drawn to their neighbors by interest in the same things. This was a naturalist.

The more familiar examples of this power certainly are those who establish a wider dominion over men's minds than any speech can ; who think, and paint, and laugh, and weep, in their eloquent closets, and then convert the world into a huge whispering gallery, to report the tale to all men, and win smiles and tears from many generations. The eminent examples are Shakspeare, Cervantes, Bunyan, Burns, Scott, and now we must add Dickens. In the fine arts, I find none in the present age who have any popular power, who have achieved any nobility by ennobling the people.
3. Elevation of sentiment, refining and inspiring the manners, must really take the place of every distinction whether of material power or of intellectual gifts. The maulers of course must have that depth and firmness of tone to attest their centrality in the nature of the man. I mean the things themselves shall be judges, and determine.

In the presence of this nobility even genius must stand aside. For the two poles of nature are Beauty and Meanness, and noble sentiment is the highest form of Beauty. He is beautiful in face, in port, in manners, who is absorbed in objects which he truly believes to be superior to himself. Is there any parchment or any cosmetic or ally blood that can obtain homage like that security of air presupposing so undoubtingly the sympathy of men iii his designs? What is it that makes the true knight ? Loyalty to his thought. That makes the beautiful scorn, the elegant simplicity, the directness, the commanding port which all men admire and which men not noble affect. For the thought has no debts, no hunger, no lusts, no low obligations or relations, no intrigue or business, no murder, no envy, no crime, but large leisures and an inviting future.

The service we receive from the great is a mutual deference. If you deal with the vulgar, life is reduced to beggary indeed. The astronomers are very eager to know whether the moon has an atmosphere ; I am only concerned that every man have one. I observe however that it takes two to make an atmosphere. I am acquainted with per-sons who go attended with this ambient cloud. It is sufficient that they came. It is not important what they say. The sun and the evening sky are not calmer. They seem to have arrived at the fact, to have got rid of the show, and to be serene. Their manners and behavior in the house and in the field are those of men at rest : what have they to conceal? what have they to exhibit? Others I meet, who have no deference, and who denude and strip one of all attributes but material values. As much health and muscle as you have, as much land, as much house-room and dinner, avails. Of course a man is a poor bag of bones. There is no gracious interval, not an inch allowed. Bone rubs against bone. Life is thus a Beggar's Bush. I know nothing which induces so base and forlorn a feeling as when we are treated for our utilities, as economists do, starving the imagination and the sentiment. In this impoverishing animation, I seem to meet a Hunger, a wolf. I Rather let us be alone whilst we live, than encounter these lean kine. Man should emancipate man. He does so, not by jamming him, but by distancing him. The nearer my friend, the more spacious is our realm, the more diameter our spheres have. It is a measure of culture, the number of things taken for granted. When a man begins to speak. the churl will take him up by disputing his first words, so he cannot come at his scope. The wise man takes all for granted until he sees the parallelism of that which puzzled hint with his own view. I will not protract this discourse by describing the duties of the brave and generous. And yet I will venture to name one, and the same is almost the sole condition on which knighthood is to be won ; this, namely, loyalty to your own order. The true aristocrat is he who is at the head of his own order, and disloyalty is to mistake other chivalries for his own. Let hint not divide his homage, but stand for that which he was born and set to maintain. It was objected to Gustavus that he did not better distinguish between the duties of a carabine and a general, but exposed himself to all dangers and was too prodigal of a blood so precious. For a soul on which elevated duties are laid will so realize its special and lofty ditties as not to be iii danger of assuming through a low generosity those which do not belong to it.

There are all degrees of nobility, but amid the levity and giddiness of people one looks round, as for a tower of strength, on some self -dependent mind, who does not go abroad for an estimate, and has long ago made up its conclusion that it is impossible to fail. The great Indian sages had a lesson for the Brahmin, which every day returns to mind, " All that depends on another gives pain ; all that depends on himself gives pleasure ; in these few words is the definition of pleasure and pain." The noble mind is here to teach us that failure is a part of success. Prosperity and pound-cake are for very young gentlemen, whom such things con-tent ; but a hero's, a man's success is made up of failures, because he experiments and ventures every day, and the more falls he gets. moves faster on; defeated all the time and yet to victory born. I have heard that in horsemanship he is not the good rider who never was thrown, but rather that a man never will be a good rider until he is thrown ; then he will not be haunted any longer by the terror that he shall tumble, and will ride : – that is his business, – to ride, whether with falls or whether with none. to ride unto the place whither be is bound. And I know no such unquestionable badge and ensign of a sovereign mind, as that tenacity of purpose which, through all change of companions, of parties, of fortunes, – changes never, bates no jot of heart or hope, but wearies out opposition, and arrives at its port. In his consciousness of de-serving success, the caliph Ali constantly neglected the ordinary means of attaining it ; and to the grand interests, a superficial success is of no ac-count. It prospers as well in mistake as in luck, in obstruction and nonsense, as well as among the angels; it reckons fortunes mere paint ; difficulty is its delight: perplexity is its noonday : minds that make their way without winds and against tides. But these are rare and difficult examples, we can only indicate them to show how high is the range of the realm of Honor.

I know the feeling of the most ingenious and excellent youth in America ; I hear the complaint of the aspirant that we have no prizes offered to the ambition of virtuous young men ; that there is no Theban Band; no stern exclusive Legion of Honor, to be entered only by long and real service and patient climbing up all the steps. We have a rich men's aristocracy, plenty of bribes for those who like them ; but a grand style of culture, which, without injury, an ardent youth can propose to himself as a Pharos through long dark years, does not exist, and there is no substitute. The youth, having got through the first thickets that oppose his entrance into life, having got into decent society, is left to himself, and falls abroad with too much free-dom. But in the hours of insight we rally against this skepticism. We then see that if the ignorant are around us, the great are much more near ; that there is an order of men, never quite absent, who enroll no names in their archives but of such as are capable of truth. They are gathered iii no one chamber ; no chamber would hold them ; but, out of the vast duration of man's race, they tower like mountains, and are present to every mind in pro-portion to its likeness to theirs. The solitariest man who shares their spirit walks environed by them ; they talk to him, they comfort him, and happy is he who prefers these associates to profane companions. They also take shape in men, in women. There is no heroic trait, no sentiment or thought that will not sometime embody itself in the form of a friend. That highest good of rational existence is always coming to such as reject mean alliances.
One trait more we must celebrate, the self-reliance which is the patent of royal natures. It is so prized a jewel that it is sure to be tested. The rules and discipline are ordered for that. The Golden Table never lacks members ; all its seats are kept full ; but with this strange provision, that the members are carefully withdrawn into deep niches, so that no one of them can see any other of them, and each believes himself alone. In the presence of the Chapter it is easy for each member to carry himself royally and well ; but in the absence of his colleagues and in the presence of mean people he is tempted to accept the low customs of towns. The honor of a member consists in an lndifferency to the persons and practices about him, and in the pursuing undisturbed the career of a Rrother, as if always in their presence, and as if no other existed. Give up, once for all, the hope of approbation from the people in the street, if you are pursuing great ends. How can they guess your designs?

All reference to models, all comparison with neighboring abilities and reputations, is the road to mediocrity. The generous soul, on arriving in a new port, makes instant preparation for a new voyage. By experiment, by original studies, by secret obedience, he has made a place for himself in the world ; stands there a real, substantial, unprecedented person, and when the great come by, as always there are angels walking in the earth, they know hint at sight. Effectual service in his own legitimate fashion distinguishes the true man. For he is to know that the distinction of a royal nature is a great heart ; that not Louis Quatorze, not Chesterfield, nor Byron, nor Bonaparte is the model of the Century, but, wherever found, the old renown attaches to the virtues of simple faith and staunch endurance and clear perception and plain speech, and that there is a master grace and dignity communicated by exalted sentiments to a human form, to which utility and even genius must do homage. And it is the sign and badge of this nobility, the drawing his counsel from his own breast. For to every gentleman, grave and dangerous duties are proposed. Justice always wants champions. The world waits for him as its de-fender, for he will find in the well-dressed crowd, yes, in the civility of whole nations, vulgarity of sentiment. In the best parlors of modern society he will find the laughing devil, the civil sneer ; in English palaces the London twist, derision, coldness, contempt of the masses, contempt of Ireland, dislike of the Chartist. The English House of Commons is the proudest assembly of gentlemen in the world, yet the genius of the House of Commons, its legitimate expression, is a sneer. In America he shall find deprecation of purism on all questions touching the morals of trade and of social customs, and the narrowest contraction of ethics to the one duty of paying money. Pay that, and you may play the tyrant at discretion and never look back to the fatal question, – where had you the money that you paid?

I know the difficulties in the way of the man of honor. The man of honor is a man of taste and humanity. By tendency, like all magnanimity men, he is a democrat. But the revolution comes, and does he join the standard of Chartist and out-law? No, for these have been dragged in their ignorance by furious chiefs to the Red Revolution ; they are full of murder, and the student recoils,-and joins the rich. If he cannot vote with the poor, he should stay by himself. Let him accept the position of armed neutrality, abhorring the crimes of the Chartist, abhorring the selfishness of the rich, and say, ' The time will come when these poor enfans perdus of revolution will have instructed their party, if only by their fate, and wiser counsels will prevail; the music and the dance of liberty will come up to bright and holy ground and will take me in also. Then I shall not have forfeited my right to speak and act for mankind.' Meantime shame to the fop of learning and philosophy' who suffers a vulgarity of speech and habit to blind him to the grosser vulgarity of pitiless selfishness, and to hide from him the current of Tendency ; who abandons his right position of being priest and poet of these impious and unpoctic doers of God's work. You must, for wisdom, for sanity, have some access to the mind and heart of the common humanity. The exclusive excludes himself. No great man has existed who did not rely on the sense and heart of mankind as represented by the good sense of the people, as correcting the modes and over-refinements and class-prejudices of the lettered men of the world.

There are certain conditions in the highest degree favorable to the tranquillity of spirit and to that magnanimity we so prize. And mainly the habit of considering large interests, and things in masses, and not too much in detail. The habit of directing large affairs generates a nobility of thought in every mind of average ability. For affairs themselves show the way in which they should be handled ; and a good head soon grows wise, and does not govern too much.

Now I believe in the closest affinity between moral and material power. Virtue and genius are always on the direct way to the control of the society in which they are found. It is the interest of society that good men should govern, and there is always a tendency so to place them. But, for the day that now is, a man of generous spirit will not need to administer public offices or to direct large interests of trade, or war, or polities, or manufacture, but he will use a high prudence in the con-duct of life to guard himself from being dissipated on many things. There is no need that he should count the pounds of property or the numbers of agents whom his influence touches; it suffices that his aims are high, that the interest of intellectual and moral beings is paramount with him, that he comes into what is called fine society from higher ground, and he has an elevation of habit which ministers of empires will be forced to see and to remember.

I do not know whether that word Gentleman, although it signifies a leading idea in recent civilization, is a sufficiently broad generalization to convey the deep and grave fact of self-reliance. To many the word expresses only the outsides of cultivated men, – only graceful manners, and independence in trifles ; but the fountains of that thought are in the deeps of man, a beauty which reaches through and through, from the manners to the soul; an honor which is only a name for sanctity, a self-trust which is a trust in God himself. Call it man of honor, or call it Man, the American who would serve his country must learn the beauty and honor of perseverance, he must reinforce himself by the power of character, and revisit the margin of that well from which his fathers drew waters of life and enthusiasm, the fountain I mean of the moral sentiments, the parent fountain from which this goodly Universe flows as a wave.

Complete Works of RWE X - Lectures and Biographical Sketches


THE name Demonology covers dreams, omens, coincidences, luck, sortilege, magic and other experiences which shun rather than court inquiry, and deserve notice chiefly because every man has usually in a lifetime two or three hints in this kind which are specially impressive to him. They also shed light on our structure.

The witchcraft of sleep divides with truth the empire of our lives. This soft enchantress visits two children lying locked in each other's arms, and carries them asunder by wide spaces of land and sea, and wide intervals of time:

"There lies a sleeping city, God of dreams!
What an unreal and fantastic world Is going on below!
Within the sweep of yon encircling wall
How many a large creation of the night, Wide wilderness and mountain, rock and sea, Peopled with busy, transitory groups,
Finds room to rise, and never feels the crowd."

'T is superfluous to think of the dreams of multitudes, the astonishment remains that one should dream; that we should resign so quietly this deifying Reason, and become the theatre of delirious shows, wherein time, space, persons, cities, animals, should dance before us in merry and mad confusion; a delicate creation outdoing the prime and flower of actual Nature, antic comedy alternating with horrid pictures. Sometimes the forgotten companions of childhood reappear:

"They come, in dim procession led,
The cold, the faithless, and the dead,
As warm each hand, each brow as gay,
As if they parted yesterday:"

or we seem busied for hours and days in peregrinations over seas and lands, in earnest dialogues, strenuous actions for nothings and absurdities, cheated by spectral jokes and waking suddenly with ghastly laughter, to be rebuked by the cold, lonely, silent midnight, and to rake with confusion in memory among the gibbering nonsense to find the motive of this contemptible cachinnation. Dreams are jealous of being remembered; they dissipate instantly and angrily if you try to hold them. When newly awaked from lively dreams, we are so near them, still agitated by them, still in their sphere,-give us one syllable, one feature, one hint, and we should repossess the whole; hours of this strange entertainment would come trooping back to us; but we cannot get our hand on the first link or fibre, and the whole is lost. There is a strange wilfulness in the speed with which it disperses and baffles our grasp.

A dislocation seems to be the foremost trait of dreams. A painful imperfection almost always attends them. The fairest forms, the most noble and excellent persons, are deformed by some pitiful and insane circumstance. The very landscape and scenery in a dream seem not to fit us, but like a coat or cloak of some other person to overlap and encumber the wearer; so is the ground, the road, the house, in dreams, too long or too short, and if it served no other purpose would show us how accurately Nature fits man awake.

There is one memory of waking and another of sleep. In our dreams the same scenes and fancies are many times associated, and that too, it would seem, for years. In sleep one shall travel certain roads in stage-coaches or gigs, which he recognizes as familiar, and has dreamed that ride a dozen times; or shall walk alone in familiar fields and meadows, which road or which meadow in waking hours he never looked upon. This feature of dreams deserves the more attention from its singular resemblance to that obscure yet startling experience which almost every person confesses in daylight, that particular passages of conversation and action have occurred to him in the same order before, whether dreaming or waking; a suspicion that they have been with precisely these persons in precisely this room, and heard precisely this dialogue, at some former hour, they know not when.

Animals have been called "the dreams of Nature." Perhaps for a conception of their consciousness we may go to our own dreams. In a dream we have the instinctive obedience, the same torpidity of the highest power, the same unsurprised assent to the monstrous as these metamorphosed men exhibit. Our thoughts in a stable or in a menagerie, on the other hand, may well remind us of our dreams. What compassion do these imprisoning forms awaken! You may catch the glance of a dog sometimes which lays a kind of claim to sympathy and brotherhood. What! somewhat of me down there? Does he know it? Can he too, as I, go — of himself, see himself, perceive relations? We fear lest the poor brute should gain one dreadful glimpse of his condition, should learn in some moment the tough limitations of this fettering organization. It was in this glance that Ovid got the hint of his metamorphosis; Calidasa of his transmigration of souls. For these fables are our own thoughts carried out. What keeps those wild tales in circulation for thousands of years? What but the wild fact to which they suggest some approximation of theory? Nor is the fact quite solitary, for in varieties of our own species where organization seems to predominate over the genius of man, in Kalmuk or Malay or Flathead Indian, we are sometimes pained by the same feeling; and sometimes too the sharpwitted prosperous white man awakens it. In a mixed assembly we have chanced to see not only a glance of Abdiel, so grand and keen, but also in other faces the features of the mink, of the bull, of the rat and the barn-door fowl. You think, could the man overlook his own condition, he could not be restrained from suicide.

Dreams have a poetic integrity and truth. This limbo and dust-hole of thought is presided over by a certain reason, too. Their extravagance from nature is yet within a higher nature. They seem to us to suggest an abundance and fluency of thought not familiar to the waking experience. They pique us by independence of us, yet we know ourselves in this mad crowd, and owe to dreams a kind of divination and wisdom. My dreams are not me; they are not Nature, or the Not-me: they are both. They have a double consciousness, at once sub- and objective. We call the phantoms that rise, the creation of our fancy, but they act like mutineers, and fire on their commander; showing that every act, every thought, every cause, is bipolar, and in the act is contained the counteraction. If I strike, I am struck; if I chase, I am pursued.

Wise and sometimes terrible hints shall in them be thrown to the man out of a quite unknown intelligence. He shall be startled two or three times in his life by the justice as well as the significance of this phantasmagoria. Once or twice the conscious fetters shall seem to be unlocked, and a freer utterance attained. A prophetic character in all ages has haunted them. They are the maturation often of opinions not consciously carried out to statements, but whereof we already possessed the elements. Thus, when awake, I know the character of Rupert, but do not think what he may do. In dreams I see him engaged in certain actions which seem preposterous,—- of all fitness. He is hostile, he is cruel, be is frightful, he is a poltroon. It turns — prophecy a year later. But it was already in my mind as character, and the sibyl dreams merely embodied it in fact. Why then should not symptoms, auguries, forebodings be, and, as one said, the moanings of the spirit?

We are let by this experience into the high region of Cause, and acquainted with the identity of very unlike-seeming effects. We learn that actions whose turpitude is very differently reputed proceed from one and the same affection. Sleep takes off the costume of circumstance, arms us with terrible freedom, so that every will rushes to a deed. A skilful man reads his dreams for his self-knowledge; yet not the details, but the quality. What part does be play in them,–a cheerful, manly part, or a poor drivelling part? However monstrous and grotesque their apparitions, they have a substantial truth. The same remark may be extended to the omens and coincidences which may have astonished us. Of all it is true that the reason of them is always latent in the individual. Goethe said: "These whimsical pictures, inasmuch as they originate from us, may well have an analogy with our whole life and fate.

The soul contains in itself the event that shall presently befall it, for the event is only the actualizing of its thoughts. It is no wonder that particular dreams and presentiments should fall out and be prophetic. The fallacy consists in selecting a few insignificant hints when all are inspired with the same sense. As if one should exhaust his astonishment at the economy of his thumb-nail, and overlook the central causal miracle of his being a man. Every man goes through the world attended with innumerable facts prefiguring (yes, distinctly announcing) his fate, if only eyes of sufficient heed and illumination were fastened on the sign. The sign is always there, if only the eye were also; just as under every tree in the speckled sunshine and shade no man notices that every spot of light is a perfect image of the sun, until in some hour the moon eclipses the luminary; and then first we notice that the spots of light have become crescents, or annular, and correspond to the changed figure of the sun. Things are significant enough, Heaven knows; but the seer of the sign, -where is he? We doubt not a man's fortune may be read in the lines of his hand, by palmistry; in the lines of his face, by physiognomy; in the outlines of the skull, by craniology: the lines are all there, but the reader waits. The long waves indicate to the instructed mariner that there is no near land in the direction from which they come. Belzoni describes the three marks which led him to dig for a door to the pyramid of Ghizeh. What thousands had beheld the same spot for so many ages, and seen no three marks.

Secret analogies tie together the remotest parts of Nature, as the atmosphere of a summer morning is filled with innumerable gossamer threads running in every direction, revealed by the beams of the rising sun! All life, all creation, is tell-tale and betraying. A man reveals himself in every glance and step and movement and rest:–

"Head with foot bath private amity,
And both with moons and tides."

Not a mathematical axiom but is a moral rule. The jest and byword to an intelligent ear extends its meaning to the soul and to all time. Indeed, all productions of man are so anthropomorphous that not possibly can he invent any fable that shall not have a deep moral and be true in senses and to an extent never intended by the inventor. Thus all the bravest tales of Homer and the poets, modern philosophers can explain with profound judgment of law and state and ethics. Lucian has an idle tale that Pancrates, journeying from Memphis to Coppus, and wanting a servant, took a door-bar and pronounced over it magical words, and it stood up and brought him water, and turned a spit, and carried bundles, doing all the work of a slave. What is this but a prophecy of the progress of art? For Pancrates write Watt or Fulton, and for "magical words" write "steam;" and do they not make an iron bar and half a dozen wheels do the work, not of one, but of a thousand skilful mechanics?

"Nature," said Swedenborg, "makes almost as much demand on our faith as miracles do." And I find nothing in fables more astonishing than my experience in every hour. One moment of a man's life is a fact so stupendous as to take the lustre out of all fiction. The lovers of marvels, of what we call the occult and unproved sciences, of mesmerism, of astrology, of coincidences, of intercourse, by writing or by rapping or by painting, with departed spirits, need not reproach us with incredulity because we are slow . to accept their statement. It is not the incredibility of the fact, but a certain want of harmony between the action and the agents. We are used to vaster wonders than these that are alleged. In the hands of poets, of devout and simple minds, nothing in the line of their character and genius would surprise us. But we should look for the style of the great artist in it, look for completeness and harmony. Nature never works like a conjuror, to surprise, rarely by shocks, but by infinite graduation; so that we live embosomed in sounds we do not hear, scents we do not smell, spectacles we see not, and by innumerable impressions so softly laid on that though important we do not discover them until our attention is called to them.

For Spiritism, it shows that no man, almost, is fit to give evidence. Then I say to the amiable and sincere among them, these matters are quite too important than that I can rest them on any legends. If I have no facts, as you allege, I can very well wait for them. I am content and occupied with such miracles as I know, such as my eyes and ears daily show me, such as humanity and astronomy. If any others are important to me they will certainly be shown to me.

In times most credulous of these fancies the sense was always met and the superstition rebuked by the grave spirit of reason and humanity. When Hector is told that the omens are unpropitious, he replies,

"One omen is the best, to fight for one's country."

Euripides said, "He is not the best prophet who guesses well, and he is not the wisest man whose guess turns out well in the event, but he who, whatever the event be, takes reason and probability for his guide." "Swans, horses, dogs and dragons," says Plutarch, "we distinguish as sacred, and vehicles of the divine foresight, and yet we cannot believe that men are sacred and favorites of Heaven." The poor shipmaster discovered a sound theology, when in the storm at sea he made his prayer to Neptune, "0 God, thou mayest save me if thou wilt, and if thou wilt thou mayest destroy me; but, however, I will hold my rudder true." Let me add one more example of the same good sense, in a story quoted out of Hecateus of Abdera:–

"As I was once travelling by the Red Sea, there was one among the horsemen that attended us named Masollam, a brave and strong man, and according to the testimony of all the Greeks and barbarians, a very skilful archer. Now while the whole multitude was on the way, an augur called out to them to stand still, and this man inquired the reason of their halting. The augur showed him a bird, and told him, 'If that bird remained where he was, it would be better for them all to remain; if he flew on, they might proceed; but it he flew back, they must return.' The Jew said nothing, but bent his bow and shot the bird to the ground. This act offended the augur and some others, and they began to utter imprecations against the Jew. But he replied, 'Wherefore? Why are you so foolish as to take care of this unfortunate bird? How could this fowl give us any wise directions respecting our journey, when he could not save his own life? Had he known anything of futurity, he would not have come here to be killed by the arrow of Masollam the Jew.' "

It is not the tendency of our times to ascribe importance to whimsical pictures of sleep, or to omens. But the faith in peculiar and alien power takes another form in the modern mind, much more resembling the ancient doctrine of the guardian genius. The belief that particular individuals are attended by a good fortune which makes them desirable associates in any enterprise of uncertain success, exists not only among those who take part in political and military projects, but influences all joint action of commerce and affairs, and a corresponding assurance in the individuals so distinguished meets and justifies the expectation of others by a boundless self-trust. "I have a lucky hand, sir," said Napoleon to his hesitating Chancellor; "those on whom I lay it are fit for anything." This faith is familiar in one form,-that often a certain abdication of prudence and foresight is an element of success; that children and young persons come off safe from casualties that would have proved dangerous to wiser people. We do not think the young will be forsaken ; but he is fast approaching the age when the sub-miraculous external protection and leading are withdrawn and he is committed to his own care. The young man takes a leap in the dark and alights safe. As he comes into manhood he remembers passages and persons that seem, as he looks at them now, to have been supernaturally deprived of injurious influence on him. His eyes were holden that he could not see. But he learns that such risks he may no longer run. He observes, with pain, not that he incurs mishaps here and there, but that his genius, whose invisible benevolence was tower and shield to him, is no longer present and active.

In the popular belief, ghosts are a selecting tribe, avoiding millions, speaking to one. In our traditions, fairies, angels and saints show the like favoritism; so do the agents and the means of magic, as sorcerers and amulets. This faith in a doting power, so easily sliding into the current belief everywhere, and, in the particular lucky days and fortunate persons, as frequent in America to day as the faith in incantations and philters was in old Rome, or the whole some potency of the sign of the cross in modern Rome,-this supposed power

runs athwart the recognized agencies, natural. and moral, which science and religion explore. Heeded though it be in many actions and partnerships, it is not the power to which we build churches, or make liturgies and prayers, or which we regard in passing laws, or found college professorships to expound. Goethe has said in his Autobiography what is much to the purpose:–

"I believe that I discovered in nature, animate and inanimate, intelligent and brute, somewhat which manifested itself only in contradiction, and therefore could not be grasped by a conception, much less. by a word. It was not god-like, since it seemed unreasonable; not human, since it had no understanding; not devilish, since it was beneficent; not angelic, since it is often a marplot. It resembled chance, since it showed no sequel. It resembled Providence, since it pointed at connection. All which limits us seemed permeable to that. It seemed to deal at pleasure with the necessary elements of our constitution; it shortened time and extended space. Only in the impossible it seemed to delight, and the possible to repel with contempt. This, which seemed to insert itself between all other things, to sever them, to bind them, I named the Demoniacal, after the example of the ancients, and of those who had observed the like.

"Although every demoniacal property can manifest itself in the corporeal and incorporeal, yes, in beasts too in a remarkable manner, yet it stands specially in wonderful relations with men, and forms in the moral world, though not an antagonist, yet a transverse element, so that the former may be called the warp, the latter the woof. For the phenomena which hence originate there are countless names, since all philosophies and religions have attempted in prose or in poetry to solve this riddle, and to settle the thing once for all, as indeed they may be allowed to do.

"But this demonic element appears most fruitful when it shows itself as the determining characteristic in an individual. In the course of my life I have been able to observe several such, some near, some farther off. They are not always superior persons, either in mind or in talent. They seldom recommend themselves through goodness of heart. But a monstrous force goes out from them, and they exert an incredible power over all creatures, and even over the elements; who shall say how far such an influence may extend? All united moral powers avail nothing against them. In vain do the clear-headed part of mankind discredit them as deceivers or deceived,-the mass is attracted. Seldom or never do they meet their match among their contemporaries; they are not to be conquered save by the universe itself, against which they have taken up arms. Out of such experiences doubtless arose the strange, monstrous proverb, 'Nobody against God but God.' "

It would be easy in the political history of every time to furnish examples of this irregular success, men having a force which without virtue, without shining talent, yet makes them prevailing. No equal appears in the field against them. A power goes out from them which draws all men and events to favor them. The crimes they commit, the exposures which follow, and which would ruin any other man, are strangely overlooked, or do more strangely turn to their account.

I set down these things as I find them, but however poetic these twilights of thought, I like daylight, and I find somewhat wilful, some play at blind-man's-buff, when men as wise as Goethe talk mysteriously of the demonological. The insinuation is that the known eternal laws of morals and matter are sometimes corrupted or evaded by this gypsy principle, which chooses favorites and works in the dark for their behoof; as if the laws of the Father of the universe were sometimes balked and eluded by a meddlesome Aunt of the universe for her pets. You will observe that this extends the popular idea of success to the very gods; that they foster a success to you which is not a success to all; that fortunate men, fortunate youths exist, whose good is not virtue or the public good, but a private good, robbed from the rest. It is a midsummer madness, corrupting all who hold the tenet. The demonologic is only a fine name for egotism; an exaggeration namely of the individual, whom it is Nature's settled purpose to postpone. "There is one world common to all who are awake, but each sleeper betakes himself to one of his own." Dreams retain the infirmities of our character. The good genius may be there or not, our evil genius is sure to stay. The Ego partial makes the dream; the Ego total the interpretation. Life is also a dream on the same terms.

The history of man is a series of conspiracies to win from Nature some advantage without paying for it. It is curious to see what grand powers we have a hint of and are mad to grasp, yet how slow Heaven is to trust us with such edge-tools. "All that frees talent without increasing self-command is noxious." Thus the fabled ring of Gyges, making the wearer invisible, which is represented in modern fable by the telescope as used by Schlemil, is simply mischievous. A new or private language, used to serve only low or political purposes; the transfusion of the blood; the steam battery, so fatal as to put an end to war by the threat of universal murder; the desired discovery of the guided balloon, are of this kind. Tramps are troublesome enough in the city and in the highways, but tramps flying through the air and descending on the lonely traveller or the lonely farmer's house or the bank-messenger in the country, can well be spared. Men are not fit to be trusted with these talismans.

Before we acquire great power we must acquire wisdom to use it well. Animal magnetism inspires the prudent and moral with a certain terror; so the divination of contingent events, and the alleged second-sight of the pseudo-spiritualists. There are many things of which a wise man might wish to be ignorant, and these are such. Shun them as you would the secrets of the undertaker and the butcher. The best are never demoniacal or magnetic; leave this limbo to the Prince of the power of the air. The lowest angel is better. It is the height of the animal; below the region of the divine. Power as such is not known to the angels.

Great men feel that they are so by sacrificing their selfishness and falling back on what is humane; in renouncing family, clan, country and each exclusive and local connection, to beat with the pulse and breathe with the lungs of nations. A Highland chief, an Indian sachem or a feudal baron may fancy that the mountains and lakes were made specially for him Donald, or him Tecumseh; that the one question for history is the pedigree of his house, and future ages will be busy with his renown; that he has a guardian angel; that he is not in the roll of common men, but obeys a high family destiny; when he acts, unheard – of success evinces the presence of rare agents; what is to befall him, omens and coincidences foreshow; when he dies, banshees will announce his fate to kinsmen in foreign parts. What more facile than to project this exuberant selfhood into the region where individuality is forever bounded by generic and cosmical laws? The deepest flattery, and that to which we can never be insensible, is the flattery of omens.

We may make great eyes if we like, and say of one on whom the sun shines, "What luck presides over him!" But we know that the law of the Universe is one for each and for all. There is as precise and as describable a reason for every fact occurring to him, as for any occurring to any man. Every fact in which the moral elements intermingle is not the less under the dominion of fatal law. Lord Bacon uncovers the magic when lie says, "Manifest virtues procure reputation; occult ones, fortune." Thus the so-called fortunate man is one who, though not gifted to speak when the people listen, or to act with grace or with understanding to great ends, yet is one who, in actions of a low or common pitch, relies on his instincts, and simply does not act where he should not, but waits his time, and without effort acts when the need is. If to this you add a fitness to the society around him, you have the elements of fortune; so that in a particular circle and knot of affairs he is not so much his own man as the hand of Nature and time. Just as his eye and hand work exactly together,-and to hit the mark with a stone he has only to fasten his eye firmly on the mark and his arm will swing true,-so the main ambition and genius being bestowed in one direction, the lesser spirit and in voluntary aids with in his sphere will follow. The fault of most men is that they are busybodies; do not wait the simple movement of the soul, but interfere and thwart the instructions of their own minds.

Coincidences, dreams, animal magnetism, omens, sacred lots. have great interest for some minds. They run into this twilight and say. ''There's more than is dreamed of in your philosophy." Certainly these facts are interesting, and deserve to be considered. But they are entitled only to a share of attention, and not a large share. Nil magnifcum, nil generosum sapit. Let their value as exclusive subjects of attention be judged of by the infallible test of the state of mind in which much notice of them leaves us. Read a page of Cudworth or of Bacon, and we are exhilarated and armed to manly duties, Read demonology or Colquhoun's Report, and we are bewildered and perhaps a little besmirched. We grope. They who love them say they are to reveal to us a world of unknown unsuspected truths. But suppose a diligent collection and study of these occult facts were made, they are merely physiological, semi-medical, related to the machinery of man, opening to our curiosity how we live, and no aid on the superior problems why we live, and what we do. While the dilettanti have been prying into the humors and muscles of the eye, simple men will have helped themselves and the world by using their eyes.

And this is not the least remarkable fact which the adepts have developed. Men who had never wondered at anything, who h a d thought it the most natural thing in the world that t h e y should exist in this orderly and replenished world. have been unable to suppress their amazement at the disclosures of the somnambulist. The peculiarity of the history of Animal Magnetism is that it drew in as inquirers and students a class of persons never on any other occasion known as students and inquirers. Of course the inquiry is pursued on low principles. Animal Magnetism peeps. It becomes in such hands a black art. The uses of the thing, the commodity, the power, at once conic to mind and direct the course of inquiry. It seems to open again that door which was open to the imagination of childhood of magicians and fairies and lamps of Aladdin, the travelling cloak, the shoes of swiftness and the sword of sharpness that were to satisfy the uttermost wish of the senses without danger or a drop of sweat, But as Nature can never be out witted, as in the Universe no man was ever known to get a cent's worth with out paying in some form or other the cent, so this prodigious promiser ends always and always will, as sorcery and alchemy have done before, in very small and smoky performance.

Mesmerism is high life below stairs: Momus playing Jove in the kitchens of Olympus. 'T is a low curiosity or lust of structure, and is separated by celestial diameters from the love of spiritual truths. It is wholly a false view to couple these things in any manner with the religious nature and sentiment, and a most dangerous superstition to raise them to the lofty place of motives and sanctions. This is to prefer halos and rainbows to the sun and moon. These adepts have mistaken flatulency for inspiration. Were this drivel which they report as the voice of spirits really such, we must find out a more decisive suicide. I say to the table rappers:

"I well believe
Thou wilt not utter what thou dust not know,
And so far will I trust thee, gentle Kate."

They are ignorant of all that is healthy and useful to know, and by laws of kind, -dunces seeking dunces in the dark of what they call the spiritual world,-preferring snores and gastric noises to the voice of any muse. I think the rappings a new test, like blue litmus or other chemical absorbent, to try catechisms with. It detects organic skepticism in the very heads of the Church. 'T is a lawless world. We have left the geometry, the compensation, and the conscience of the daily world, and come into the realm or chaos of chance and pretty or ugly confusion; no guilt and no virtue, but a droll bedlam, where everybody believes only after his humor, and the actors and spectators have no conscience or reflection, no police, no foot-rule, no sanity,-nothing but whine and whim creative.

Meantime far be from me the impatience which cannot brook the supernatural, the vast; far be from me the lust of explaining away all which appeals to the imagination, and the great presentiments which haunt us. Willingly I too say, Hail! to the unknown awful powers which transcend the ken of the understanding. And the attraction which this topic has had for me and which induces me to unfold its parts before you is precisely because I think the number less forms in which this superstition has reappeared in every time and every people indicates the inextinguishableness of wonder in man; betrays his conviction that behind all your explanations is a vast and potent and living Nature, inexhaustible and sublime, which you cannot explain. He is sure no book, no man has told him all. He is sure the great Instinct, the circumambient soul which flows into him as into all, and is his life, has not been searched. He is sure the intimate relations subsist between his character and his fortunes, between him and his world; and until he can adequately tell them he will tell them wildly and fabulously. Demonology is the shadow of Theology.

The whole world is an omen and a sign. Why look so wistfully in a corner? Man is the Image of God. Why run after a ghost or a dream? The voice of divination resounds everywhere and runs to waste unheard, unregarded, as the mountains echo with the bleatings of cattle.