The complete works of Ralph Waldo Emerson: Natural history of intellect, and other papers [Vol. 12]
Emerson, Ralph Waldo, 1803-1882., Emerson, Edward Waldo, 1844-1930.
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BACON's perfect law of inquiry after truth was that nothing should be in the globe of matter which was not also in the globe of crystal; that is, nothing should take place as event in life which did not also exist as truth in the mind.

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POWER that by obedience grows,
Knowledge that its source not knows,
Wave which severs whom it bears
From the things which he compares.
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I HAVE used such opportunity as I have had, and lately in London and Paris, to attend scientific lectures; and in listening to Richard Owen's masterly enumeration of the parts and laws of the human body, or Michael Faraday's explanation of magnetic powers, or the botanist's descriptions, one could not help admiring the irresponsible security and happiness of the attitude of the naturalist; sure of admiration for his facts, sure of their sufficiency. [1] They ought to interest you; if they do not, the fault lies with you.

Then I thought—could not a similar enumeration be made of the laws and powers of the Intellect, and possess the same claims on the student? Could we have, that is, the exhaustive accuracy of distribution which chemists use in their nomenclature and anatomists in their descriptions, applied to a higher class of facts; to Page  4 those laws, namely, which are common to chemistry, anatomy, astronomy, geometry, intellect, morals and social life;—laws of the world?

Why not? These powers and laws are also facts in a Natural History. They also are objects of science and may be numbered and recorded, like stamens and vertebrae. At the same time they have a deeper interest, as in the order of Nature they lie higher and are nearer to the mysterious seat of power and creation. [1]

For at last, it is only that exceeding and universal part which interests us, when we shall read in a true history what befalls in that kingdom where a thousand years is as one day, and see that what is set down is true through all the sciences; in the laws of thought as well as of chemistry. [2]

In all sciences the student is discovering that Nature, as he calls it, is always working, in wholes and in every detail, after the laws of the human mind. Every creation, in parts or in particles, is on the method and by the means which our mind approves as soon as it is thoroughly acquainted with the facts; hence the delight. No matter how far or how high science explores, it adopts the method of the universe as fast as it appears; and this discloses that the Page  5 mind as it opens, the mind as it shall be, comprehends and works thus; that is to say, the Intellect builds the universe and is the key to all it contains. It is not then cities or mountains, or animals, or globes that any longer commands us, but only man; not the fact, but so much of man as is in the fact.

In astronomy, vast distance, but we never go into a foreign system. In geology, vast duration, but we are never strangers. Our metaphysics should be able to follow the flying force through all transformations, and name the pair identical through all variety.

I believe in the existence of the material world as the expression of the spiritual or the real, 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. [1]

Every object in Nature is a word to signify some fact in the mind. But when that fact is not yet put into English words, when I look at the tree or the river and have not yet definitely made out what they would say to me, they are by no means unimpressive. I wait for them, I enjoy them before they yet speak. I feel as if I stood by an ambassador charged with the Page  6 message of his king, which he does not deliver because the hour when he should say it is not yet arrived.

Whilst we converse with truths as thoughts, they exist also as plastic forces; as the soul of a man, the soul of a plant, the genius or constitution of any part of Nature, which makes it what it is. The thought which was in the world, part and parcel of the world, has disengaged itself and taken an independent existence.

My belief in the use of a course on philosophy is that the student shall learn to appreciate the miracle of the mind; shall learn its subtle but immense power, or shall begin to learn it; shall come to know that in seeing and in no tradition he must find what truth is; that he shall see in it the source of all traditions, and shall see each one of them as better or worse statement of its revelations; shall come to trust it entirely, as the only true; to cleave to God against the name of God. [1] When he has once known the oracle he will need no priest. And if he finds at first with some alarm how impossible it is to accept many things which the hot or the mild sectarian may insist on his believing, he will be armed by his insight and brave to meet all Page  7 inconvenience and all resistance it may cost him. He from whose hand it came will guide and direct it. [1]

Yet these questions which really interest men, how few can answer. Here are learned faculties of law and divinity, but would questions like these come into mind when I see them? Here are learned academies and universities, yet they have not propounded these for any prize.

Seek the literary circles, the stars of fame, the men of splendor, of bon-mots, will they afford me satisfaction? I think you could not find a club of men acute and liberal enough in the world. Bring the best wits together, and they are so impatient of each other, so vulgar, there is so much more than their wit,—such follies, gluttonies, partialities, age, care, and sleep, that you shall have no academy.

There is really a grievous amount of unavailableness about men of wit. A plain man finds them so heavy, dull and oppressive, with bad jokes and conceit and stupefying individualism, that he comes to write in his tablets, Avoid the great man as one who is privileged to be an unprofitable companion. For the course of things makes the scholars either egotists or worldly and jocose. In so many hundreds of Page  8 superior men hardly ten or five or two from whom one can hope for a reasonable word. [1]

Go into the scientific club and harken. Each savant proves in his admirable discourse that he, and he only, knows now or ever did know anything on the subject: "Does the gentleman speak of anatomy? Who peeped into a box at the Custom House and then published a drawing of my rat?" Or is it pretended discoveries of new strata that are before the meeting? This professor hastens to inform us that he knew it all twenty years ago, and is ready to prove that he knew so much then that all further investigation was quite superfluous;—and poor Nature and the sublime law, which is all that our student cares to hear of, are quite omitted in this triumphant vindication.

Was it better when we came to the philosophers, who found everybody wrong; acute and ingenious to lampoon and degrade mankind? And then was there ever prophet burdened with a message to his people who did not cloud our gratitude by a strange confounding in his own mind of private folly with his public wisdom?

But if you like to run away from this besetting sin of sedentary men, you can escape all this insane egotism by running into society, where Page  9 the manners and estimate of the world have corrected this folly, and effectually suppressed this overweening self-conceit. Here each is to make room for others, and the solidest merits must exist only for the entertainment of all. We are not in the smallest degree helped. Great is the dazzle, but the gain is small. Here they play the game of conversation, as they play billiards, for pastime and credit.

Yes, 't is a great vice in all countries, the sacrifice of scholars to be courtiers and diners-out, to talk for the amusement of those who wish to be amused, though the stars of heaven must be plucked down and packed into rockets to this end. What with egotism on one side and levity on the other, we shall have no Olympus.

But there is still another hindrance, namely, practicality. We must have a special talent, and bring something to pass. Ever since the Norse heaven made the stern terms of admission that a man must do something excellent with his hands or feet, or with his voice, eyes, ears, or with his whole body, the same demand has been made in Norse earth. [1]

Yet what we really want is not a haste to act, but a certain piety toward the source of action and knowledge. In fact we have to say that Page  10 there is a certain beatitude,—I can call it nothing less,—to which all men are entitled, tasted by them in different degrees, which is a perfection of their nature, and to which their entrance must be in every way forwarded. Practical men, though they could lift the globe, cannot arrive at this. Something very different has to be done,—the availing ourselves of every impulse of genius, an emanation of the heaven it tells of, and the resisting this conspiracy of men and material things against the sanitary and legitimate inspirations of the intellectual nature. [1]

What is life but the angle of vision? A man is measured by the angle at which he looks at objects. What is life but what a man is thinking of all day? This is his fate and his employer. Knowing is the measure of the man. By how much we know, so much we are. [2]

The laws and powers of the Intellect have, however, a stupendous peculiarity, of being at once observers and observed. So that it is difficult to hold them fast, as objects of examination, or hinder them from turning the professor out of his chair. The wonder of the science of Intellect is that the substance with which we deal is of that subtle and active quality that it Page  11 intoxicates all who approach it. Gloves on the hands, glass guards over the eyes, wire-gauze masks over the face, volatile salts in the nostrils, are no defence against this virus, which comes in as secretly as gravitation into and through all barriers.

Let me have your attention to this dangerous subject, which we will cautiously approach on different sides of this dim and perilous lake, so attractive, so delusive. We have had so many guides and so many failures. And now the world is still uncertain whether the pool has been sounded or not.

My contribution will be simply historical. I write anecdotes of the intellect; a sort of Farmer's Almanac of mental moods. I confine my ambition to true reporting of its play in natural action, though I should get only one new fact in a year. [1]

I cannot myself use that systematic form which is reckoned essential in treating the science of the mind. But if one can say so without arrogance, I might suggest that he who contents himself with dotting a fragmentary curve, recording only what facts he has observed, without attempting to arrange them within one outline, follows a system also,—a system as Page  12 grand as any other, though he does not interfere with its vast curves by prematurely forcing them into a circle or ellipse, but only draws that arc which he clearly sees, or perhaps at a later observation a remote curve of the same orbit, and waits for a new opportunity, well assured that these observed arcs will consist with each other.

I confess to a little distrust of that completeness of system which metaphysicians are apt to affect. 'T is the gnat grasping the world. All these exhaustive theories appear indeed a false and vain attempt to introvert and analyze the Primal Thought. That is upstream, and what a stream! Can you swim up Niagara Falls?

We have invincible repugnance to introversion, to study of the eyes instead of that which the eyes see; and the belief of men is that the attempt is unnatural and is punished by loss of faculty. I share the belief that the natural direction of the intellectual powers is from within outward, and that just in proportion to the activity of thoughts on the study of outward objects, as architecture, or farming, or natural history, ships, animals, chemistry,—in that proportion the faculties of the mind had a Page  13 healthy growth; but a study in the opposite direction had a damaging effect on the mind.

Metaphysics is dangerous as a single pursuit. We should feel more confidence in the same results from the mouth of a man of the world. The inward analysis must be corrected by rough experience. Metaphysics must be perpetually reinforced by life; must be the observations of a working man on working men; must be biography,—the record of some law whose working was surprised by the observer in natural action.

I think metaphysics a grammar to which, once read, we seldom return. 'T is a Manila full of pepper, and I want only a teaspoonful in a year. I admire the Dutch, who burned half the harvest to enhance the price of the remainder.

I want not the logic, but the power, if any, which it brings into science and literature; the man who can humanize this logic, these syllogisms, and give me the results. The adepts value only the pure geometry, the aërial bridge ascending from earth to heaven with arches and abutments of pure reason. I am fully contented if you tell me where are the two termini.

My metaphysics are to the end of use. I Page  14 wish to know the laws of this wonderful power, that I may domesticate it. I observe with curiosity its risings and its settings, illumination and eclipse; its obstructions and its provocations, that I may learn to live with it wisely, court its aid, catch sight of its splendor, feel its approach, hear and save its oracles and obey them. But this watching of the mind, in season and out of season, to see the mechanics of the thing, is a little of the detective. The analytic process is cold and bereaving and, shall I say it? somewhat mean, as spying. There is something surgical in metaphysics as we treat it. Were not an ode a better form? The poet sees wholes and avoids analysis; the metaphysician, dealing as it were with the mathematics of the mind, puts himself out of the way of the inspiration; loses that which is the miracle and creates the worship.

I think that philosophy is still rude and elementary. It will one day be taught by poets. The poet is in the natural attitude; he is believing; the philosopher, after some struggle, having only reasons for believing. [1]

What I am now to attempt is simply some sketches or studies for such a picture; Mémoires Page  15 pour servir toward a Natural History of Intellect.

First I wish to speak of the excellence of that element, and the great auguries that come from it, notwithstanding the impediments which our sensual civilization puts in the way.

Next I treat of the identity of the thought with Nature; and I add a rude list of some by-laws of the mind.

Thirdly I proceed to the fountains of thought in Instinct and Inspiration, and I also attempt to show the relation of men of thought to the existing religion and civility of the present time.

I. We figure to ourselves Intellect as an ethereal sea, which ebbs and flows, which surges and washes hither and thither, carrying its whole virtue into every creek and inlet which it bathes. To this sea every human house has a water front. But this force, creating nature, visiting whom it will and withdrawing from whom it will, making day where it comes and leaving night when it departs, is no fee or property of man or angel. It is as the light, public and entire to each, and on the same terms.

What but thought deepens life, and makes us better than cow or cat? The grandeur of the Page  16 impression the stars and heavenly bodies make on us is surely more valuable than our exact perception of a tub or a table on the ground.

To Be is the unsolved, unsolvable wonder. To Be, in its two connections of inward and outward, the mind and Nature. The wonder subsists, and age, though of eternity, could not approach a solution. But the suggestion is always returning, that hidden source publishing at once our being and that it is the source of outward Nature. Who are we, and what is Nature, have one answer in the life that rushes into us.

In my thought I seem to stand on the bank of a river and watch the endless flow of the stream, floating objects of all shapes, colors and natures; nor can I much detain them as they pass, except by running beside them a little way along the bank. But whence they come or whither they go is not told me. Only I have a suspicion that, as geologists say every river makes its own valley, so does this mystic stream. It makes its valley, makes its banks and makes perhaps the observer too. Who has found the boundaries of human intelligence? Who has made a chart of its channel, or approached the fountain of this wonderful Nile? [1]

I am of the oldest religion. Leaving aside the Page  17 question which was prior, egg or bird, I believe the mind is the creator of the world, and is ever creating;—that at last Matter is dead Mind; that mind makes the senses it sees with; that the genius of man is a continuation of the power that made him and that has not done making him.

I dare not deal with this element in its pure essence. It is too rare for the wings of words. Yet I see that Intellect is a science of degrees, and that as man is conscious of the law of vegetable and animal nature, so he is aware of an Intellect which overhangs his consciousness like a sky, of degree above degree, of heaven within heaven.

Every just thinker has attempted to indicate these degrees, these steps on the heavenly stair, until he comes to light where language fails him. Above the thought is the higher truth,—truth as yet undomesticated and therefore unformulated.

It is a steep stair down from the essence of Intellect pure to thoughts and intellections. As the sun is conceived to have made our system by hurling out from itself the outer rings of diffuse ether which slowly condensed into earths Page  18 and moons, by a higher force of the same law the mind detaches minds, and a mind detaches thoughts or intellections. These again all mimic in their sphericity the first mind, and share its power.

Life is incessant parturition. There are viviparous and oviparous minds; minds that produce their thoughts complete men, like armed soldiers, ready and swift to go out to resist and conquer all the armies of error, and others that deposit their dangerous unripe thoughts here and there to lie still for a time and be brooded in other minds, and the shell not be broken until the next age, for them to begin, as new individuals, their career.

The perceptions of a soul, its wondrous progeny, are born by the conversation, the marriage of souls; so nourished, so enlarged. They are detached from their parent, they pass into other minds; ripened and unfolded by many they hasten to incarnate themselves in action, to take body, only to carry forward the will which sent them out. They take to themselves wood and stone and iron; ships and cities and nations and armies of men and ages of duration; the pomps of religion, the armaments of war, the codes and heraldry of states; agriculture, trade, commerce; Page  19 —these are the ponderous instrumentalities into which the nimble thoughts pass, and which they animate and alter, and presently, antagonized by other thoughts which they first aroused, or by thoughts which are sons and daughters of these, the thought buries itself in the new thought of larger scope, whilst the old instrumentalities and incarnations are decomposed and recomposed into new.

Our eating, trading, marrying, and learning are mistaken by us for ends and realities, whilst they are properly symbols only; when we have come, by a divine leading, into the inner firmament, we are apprised of the unreality or representative character of what we esteemed final.

So works the poor little blockhead manikin. He must arrange and dignify his shop or farm the best he can. At last he must be able to tell you it, or write it, translate it all clumsily enough into the new sky-language he calls thought. [1] He cannot help it, the irresistible meliorations bear him forward.

II. Whilst we consider this appetite of the mind to arrange its phenomena, there is another fact which makes this useful. There is in Nature Page  20 a parallel unity which corresponds to the unity in the mind and makes it available. This methodizing mind meets no resistance in its attempts. The scattered blocks, with which it strives to form a symmetrical structure, fit. This design following after finds with joy that like design went before. Not only man puts things in a row, but things belong in a row.

It is certain that however we may conceive of the wonderful little bricks of which the world is builded, we must suppose a similarity and fitting and identity in their frame. It is necessary to suppose that every hose in Nature fits every hydrant; so only is combination, chemistry, vegetation, animation, intellection possible. Without identity at base, chaos must be forever. [1]

And as mind, our mind or mind like ours, reappears to us in our study of Nature, Nature being everywhere formed after a method which we can well understand, and all the parts, to the most remote, allied or explicable,—therefore our own organization is a perpetual key, and a well-ordered mind brings to the study of every new fact or class of facts a certain divination of that which it shall find.

This reduction to a few laws, to one law, is Page  21 not a choice of the individual, it is the tyrannical instinct of the mind. There is no solitary flower and no solitary thought. It comes single like a foreign traveller,—but find out its name, and it is related to a powerful and numerous family. Wonderful is their working and relation each to each. We hold them as lanterns to light each other and our present design. Every new thought modifies, interprets old problems. The retrospective value of each new thought is immense, like a torch applied to a long train of gunpowder. To be isolated is to be sick, and in so far, dead. The life of the All must stream through us to make the man and the moment great. [1]

Well, having accepted this law of identity pervading the universe, we next perceive that whilst every creature represents and obeys it, there is diversity, there is more or less of power; that the lowest only means incipient form, and over it is a higher class in which its rudiments are opened, raised to higher powers; that there is development from less to more, from lower to superior function, steadily ascending to man.

If man has organs for breathing, for sight, for locomotion, for taking food, for digesting, for Page  22 protection by house-building, by attack and defence, for reproduction and love and care of his young, you shall find all the same in the muskrat. There is a perfect correspondence; or 't is only man modified to live in a mud-bank. A fish in like manner is man furnished to live in the sea; a thrush, to fly in the air; and a mollusk is a cheap edition with a suppression of the costlier illustrations, designed for dingy circulation, for shelving in an oyster-bank or among the seaweed.

If we go through the British Museum or the Jardin des Plantes in Paris, or any cabinet where is some representation of all the kingdoms of Nature, we are surprised with occult sympathies; we feel as if looking at our bone and flesh through coloring and distorting glasses. Is it not a little startling to see with what genius some people take to hunting, with what genius some people fish,—what knowledge they still have of the creature they hunt? The robber, as the police reports say, must have been intimately acquainted with the premises. How lately the hunter was the poor creature's organic enemy; a presumption inflamed, as the lawyers say, by observing how many faces in the street still remind us of visages in the forest,—the escape Page  23 from the quadruped type not yet perfectly accomplished. [1]

From whatever side we look at Nature we seem to be exploring the figure of a disguised man. How obvious is the momentum, in our mental history! The momentum, which increases by exact laws in falling bodies, increases by the same rate in the intellectual action. Every scholar knows that he applies himself coldly and slowly at first to his task, but, with the progress of the work, the mind itself becomes heated, and sees far and wide as it approaches the end, so that it is the common remark of the student, Could I only have begun with the same fire which I had on the last day, I should have done something.

The affinity of particles accurately translates the affinity of thoughts, and what a modern experimenter calls "the contagious influence of chemical action" is so true of mind that I have only to read the law that its application may be evident: "A body in the act of combination or decomposition enables another body, with which it may be in contact, to enter into the same state." And if one remembers how contagious are the moral states of men, how much we are Page  24 braced by the presence and actions of any Spartan soul, it does not need vigor of our own kind, but the spectacle of vigor of any kind, any prodigious power of performance wonderfully arms and recruits us. There are those who disputing will make you dispute, and the nervous and hysterical and animalized will produce a like series of symptoms in you, though no other persons ever evoke the like phenomena, and though you are conscious that they do not properly belong to you, but are a sort of extension of the diseases of this particular person into you.

The idea of vegetation is irresistible in considering mental activity. Men seems a higher plant. What happens here in mankind is matched by what happens out there in the history of grass and wheat. [1] This curious resemblance repeats, in the mental function, the germination, growth, state of melioration, crossings, blight, parasites, and in short all the accidents of the plant. Under every leaf is the bud of a new leaf, and not less under every thought is a newer thought. The plant absorbs much nourishment from the ground in order to repair its own waste by exhalation, and keep itself good. Increase its food and it becomes fertile. Page  25 The mind is first only receptive. Surcharge it with thoughts in which it delights and it becomes active. The moment a man begins not to be convinced, that moment he begins to convince.

In the orchard many trees send out a moderate shoot in the first summer heat, and stop. They look all summer as if they would presently burst into bud again, but they do not. The fine tree continues to grow. The same thing happens in the man. Every man has material enough in his experience to exhaust the sagacity of Newton in working it out. We have more than we use. I never hear a good speech at caucus or at cattle-show but it helps me, not so much by adding to my knowledge as by apprising me of admirable uses to which what I know can be turned. The commonest remark, if the man could only extend it a little, would make him a genius; but the thought is prematurely checked, and grows no more. All great masters are chiefly distinguished by the power of adding a second, a third, and perhaps a fourth step in a continuous line. Many a man had taken the first step. With every additional step you enchance immensely the value of your first.

The botanist discovered long ago that Nature Page  26 loves mixtures, and that nothing grows well on the crab-stock, but the blood of two trees being mixed a new and excellent fruit is produced. And not less in human history aboriginal races are incapable of improvement; the dull, melancholy Pelasgi arrive at no civility until the Phoenicians and Ionians come in. The Briton, the Pict, is nothing until the Roman, the Saxon, the Norman, arrives. [1]

It is observed that our mental processes go forward even when they seem suspended. Scholars say that if they return to the study of a new language after some intermission, the intelligence of it is more and not less. A subject of thought to which we return from month to month, from year to year, has always some ripeness of which we can give no account. We say the book grew in the author's mind.

In unfit company the finest powers are paralyzed. No ambition, no opposition, no friendly attention and fostering kindness, no wine, music or exhilarating aids, neither warm fireside nor fresh air, walking or riding, avail at all to resist the palsy of mis-association. Genius is mute, is dull; there is no genius. Ask of your flowers to open when you have let in on them a freezing wind.

Page  27 The mechanical laws might as easily be shown pervading the kingdom of mind as the vegetative. A man has been in Spain. The facts and thoughts which the traveller has found in that country gradually settle themselves into a determinate heap of one size and form and not another. That is what he knows and has to say of Spain; he cannot say it truly until a sufficient time for the arrangement of the particles has elapsed.

These views of the source of thought and the mode of its communication lead us to a whole system of ethics, strict as any department of human duty, and open to us the tendencies and duties of men of thought in the present time.

Wisdom is like electricity. There is no permanent wise man, but men capable of wisdom, who, being put into certain company or other favorable conditions, become wise, as glasses rubbed acquire power for a time.

An individual body is the momentary arrest or fixation of certain atoms, which, after performing compulsory duty to this enchanted statue, are released again to flow in the currents of the world. An individual mind in like manner is a fixation or momentary eddy in which Page  28 certain services and powers are taken up and minister in petty niches and localities, and then, being released, return to the unbounded soul of the world.

In this eternal resurrection and rehabilitation of transitory persons, who and what are they? 'T is only the source that we can see;—the eternal mind, careless of its channels, omnipotent in itself, and continually ejaculating its torrent into every artery and vein and veinlet of humanity. Wherever there is health, that is, consent to the cause and constitution of the universe, there is perception and power. [1]

Each man is a new power in Nature. He holds the keys of the world in his hands. No quality in Nature's vast magazines he cannot touch, no truth he cannot see. Silent, passive, even sulkily, Nature offers every morning her wealth to man. She is immensely rich; he is welcome to her entire goods, but she speaks no word, will not so much as beckon or cough; only this, she is careful to leave all her doors ajar,—towers, hall, storeroom and cellar. If he takes her hint and uses her goods she speaks no word; if he blunders and starves she says nothing. To the idle blockhead Nature is poor, sterile, inhospitable. To the gardener her loam Page  29 is all strawberries, pears, pineapples. To the miller her rivers whirl the wheel and weave carpets and broadcloth. To the sculptor her stone is soft; to the painter her plumbago and marl are pencils and chromes. To the poet all sounds and words are melodies and rhythms. In her hundred-gated Thebes every chamber is a new door. [1]

But he enters the world by one key. Herein is the wealth of each. His equipment, though new, is complete; his prudence is his own; his courage, his charity, are his own. He has his own defences and his own fangs; his perception and his own mode of reply to sophistries. Whilst he draws on his own he cannot be overshadowed or supplanted.

There are two mischievous superstitions, I know not which does the most harm, one, that "I am wiser than you," and the other that "You are wiser than I." The truth is that every man is furnished, if he will heed it, with wisdom necessary to steer his own boat,—if he will not look away from his own to see how his neighbor steers his.

Every man is a new method and distributes things anew. If he could attain full size he would take up, first or last, atom by atom, all Page  30 the world into a new form. And our deep conviction of the riches proper to every mind does not allow us to admit of much looking over into one another's virtues. Let me whisper a secret; nobody ever forgives any admiration in you of them, any overestimate of what they do or have. I acquiesce to be that I am, but I wish no one to be civil to me.

Strong men understand this very well. Power fraternizes with power, and wishes you not to be like him but like yourself. Echo the leaders and they will fast enough see that you have nothing for them. They came to you for something they had not.

There is always a loss of truth and power when a man leaves working for himself to work for another. Absolutely speaking, I can only work for myself. All my good is magnetic, and I educate not by lessons but by going about my business. When, moved by love, a man teaches his child or joins with his neighbor in any act of common benefit, or spends himself for his friend, or rushes at immense personal sacrifice on some public, self-immolating act, it is not done for others, but to fulfil a high necessity of his proper character. The benefit to others is contingent and not contemplated by the doer. [1]

Page  31 The one thing not to be forgiven to intellectual persons is that they believe in the ideas of others. From this deference comes the imbecility and fatigue of their society, for of course they cannot affirm these from the deep life; they say what they would have you believe, but what they do not quite know. Profound sincerity is the only basis of talent as of character. The temptation is to patronize Providence, to fall into the accepted ways of talking and acting of the good sort of people.

Each has a certain aptitude for knowing or doing somewhat which, when it appears, is so adapted and aimed on that, that it seems a sort of obtuseness to everything else. Well, this aptitude, if he would obey it, would prove a telescope to bring under his clear vision what was blur to everybody else. 'T is a wonderful instrument, an organic sympathy with the whole frame of things. There is no property or relation in that immense arsenal of forces which the earth is, but some man is at last found who affects this, delights to unfold and work it, as if he were the born publisher and demonstrator of it.

As a dog has a sense that you have not, to find the track of his master or of a fox, and as Page  32 each tree can secrete from the soil the elements that form a peach, a lemon, or a cocoa-nut, according to its kind, so individual men have secret senses, each some incommunicable sagacity. And men are primary or secondary as their opinions and actions are organic or not.

I know well what a sieve every ear is. Teach me never so much and I hear or retain only that which I wish to hear, what comports with my experience and my desire. Many eyes go through the meadow, but few see the flowers. A hunter finds plenty of game on the ground you have sauntered over with idle gun. White huckleberries are so rare that in miles of pasture you shall not find a dozen. But a girl who understands it will find you a pint in a quarter of an hour.

Though the world is full of food we can take only the crumbs fit for us. The air rings with sounds, but only a few vibrations can reach our tympanum. Perhaps creatures live with us which we never see, because their motion is too swift for our vision. The sun may shine, or a galaxy of suns; you will get no more light than your eye will hold. What can Plato or Newton teach, if you are deaf or incapable? A mind does not receive truth as a chest receives jewels that are Page  33 put into it, but as the stomach takes up food into the system. It is no longer food, but flesh, and is assimilated. The appetite and the power of digestion measure our right to knowledge. He has it who can use it. As soon as our accumulation overruns our invention or power to use, the evils of intellectual gluttony begin,—congestion of the brain, apoplexy and strangulation.

III. In reckoning the sources of our mental power it were fatal to omit that one which pours all the others into its mould;—that unknown country in which all the rivers of our knowledge have their fountains, and which, by its qualities and structure, determines both the nature of the waters and the direction in which they flow.

The healthy mind lies parallel to the currents of Nature and sees things in place, or makes discoveries. Newton did not exercise more ingenuity but less than another to see the world. Right thought comes spontaneously, comes like the morning wind; comes daily, like our daily bread, to humble service; comes duly to those who look for it. It does not need to pump your brains and force thought to think rightly. Oh no, the ingenious person is warped by his ingenuity and mis-sees.

Page  34 Instinct is our name for the potential wit. Each man has a feeling that what is done anywhere is done by the same wit as his. All men are his representatives, and he is glad to see that his wit can work at this or that problem as it ought to be done, and better than he could do it. We feel as if one man wrote all the books, painted, built, in dark ages; and we are sure that it can do more than ever was done. It was the same mind that built the world. That is Instinct. [1]

Ask what the Instinct declares, and we have little to say. He is no newsmonger, no disputant, no talker. 'T is a taper, a spark in the great night. Yet a spark at which all the illuminations of human arts and sciences were kindled. This is that glimpse of inextinguishable light by which men are guided; though it does not show objects, yet it shows the way. This is that sense by which men feel when they are wronged, though they do not see how. This is that source of thought and feeling which acts on masses of men, on all men at certain times with resistless power. Ever at intervals leaps a word or fact to light which is no man's invention, but the common instinct, making the revolutions that never go back.

Page  35 This is Instinct, and Inspiration is only this power excited, breaking its silence; the spark bursting into flame. Instinct is a shapeless giant in the cave, massive, without hands or fingers or articulating lips or teeth or tongue; Behemoth, disdaining speech, disdaining particulars, lurking, surly, invincible, disdaining thoughts, always whole, never distributed, aboriginal, old as Nature, and saying, like poor Topsy, "never was born; growed." Indifferent to the dignity of its function, it plays the god in animal nature as in human or as in the angelic, and spends its omniscience on the lowest wants. The old Hindoo Gautama says, "Like the approach of the iron to the loadstone is the approach of the new-born child to the breast." There is somewhat awful in that first approach.

The Instinct begins at this low point, at the surface of the earth, and works for the necessities of the human being; then ascends step by step to suggestions which are when expressed the intellectual and moral laws. [1]

The mythology cleaves close to Nature; and what else was it they represented in Pan, god of shepherds, who was not yet completely finished in godlike form, blocked rather, and wanting the extremities; had emblematic horns and Page  36 feet? Pan, that is, All. His habit was to dwell in mountains, lying on the ground, tooting like a cricket in the sun, refusing to speak, clinging to his behemoth ways. He could intoxicate by the strain of his shepherd's pipe,—silent yet to most, for his pipes make the music of the spheres, which, because it sounds eternally, is not heard at all by the dull, but only by the mind. He wears a coat of leopard spots or stars. He could terrify by earth-born fears called panics. Yet was he in the secret of Nature and could look both before and after. He was only seen under disguises, and was not represented by any outward image; a terror sometimes, at others a placid omnipotence. [1]

Such homage did the Greek—delighting in accurate form, not fond of the extravagant and unbounded—pay to the unscrutable force we call Instinct, or Nature when it first becomes intelligent.

The action of the Instinct is for the most part negative, regulative, rather than initiative or impulsive. But it has a range as wide as human nature, running over all the ground of morals, of intellect and of sense. In its lower function, when it deals with the apparent world, it is common sense. It requires the performance of Page  37 all that is needful to the animal life and health. Then it requires a proportion between a man's acts and his condition, requires all that is called humanity; that symmetry and connection which is imperative in all healthily constituted men, and the want of which the rare and brilliant sallies of irregular genius cannot excuse.

If we could retain our early innocence, we might trust our feet uncommanded to take the right path to our friend in the woods. But we have interfered too often; the feet have lost, by our distrust, their proper virtue, and we take the wrong path and miss him. 'T is the barbarian instinct within us which culture deadens.

We find ourselves expressed in Nature, but we cannot translate it into words. But Perception is the armed eye. A civilization has tamed and ripened this savage wit, and he is a Greek. His Aye and No have become nouns and verbs and adverbs. Perception differs from Instinct by adding the Will. Simple percipiency is the virtue of space, not of man.

The senses minister to a mind they do not know. At a moment in our history the mind's eye opens and we become aware of spiritual facts, of rights, of duties, of thoughts,—a thousand Page  38 faces of one essence. We call the essence Truth; the particular aspects of it we call thoughts. These facts, this essence, are not new; they are old and eternal, but our seeing of them is new. Having seen them we are no longer brute lumps whirled by Fate, but we pass into the council-chamber and government of Nature. In so far as we see them we share their life and sovereignty.

The point of interest is here, that these gates, once opened, never swing back. The observers may come at their leisure, and do at last satisfy themselves of the fact. The thought, the doctrine, the right hitherto not affirmed is published in set propositions, in conversation of scholars and philosophers, of men of the world, and at last in the very choruses of songs. The young hear it, and as they have never fought it, never known it otherwise, they accept it, vote for it at the polls, embody it in the laws. And the perception thus satisfied reacts on the senses, to clarify them, so that it becomes more indisputable.

This is the first property of the Intellect I am to point out; the mind detaches. A man is intellectual in proportion as he can make an Page  39 object of every sensation, perception and intuition; so long as he has no engagement in any thought or feeling which can hinder him from looking at it as somewhat foreign.

A man of talent has only to name any form or fact with which we are most familiar, and the strong light which he throws on it enhances it to all eyes. People wonder they never saw it before. The detachment consists in seeing it under a new order, not under a personal but under a universal light. To us it had economic, but to the universe it has poetic relations, and it is as good as sun and star now. Indeed, this is the measure of all intellectual power among men, the power to complete this detachment, the power of genius to hurl a new individual into the world. [1]

An intellectual man has the power to go out of himself and see himself as an object; therefore his defects and delusions interest him as much as his successes. He not only wishes to succeed in life, but he wishes in thought to know the history and destiny of a man; whilst the cloud of egotists drifting about are only interested in a success to their egotism.

The senses report the new fact or change; the mind discovers some essential copula binding Page  40 this fact or change to a class of facts or changes, and enjoys the discovery as if coming to its own again. A perception is always a generalization. It lifts the object, whether in material or moral nature, into a type. The animal, the low degrees of intellect, know only individuals. The philosopher knows only laws. That is, he considers a purely mental fact, part of the soul itself. We say with Kenelm Digby, "All things that she knoweth are herself, and she is all that she knoweth." Insight assimilates the thing seen. Is it only another way of affirming and illustrating this to say that it sees nothing alone, but sees each particular object in just connections,—sees all in God? In all healthy souls is an inborn necessity of presupposing for each particular fact a prior Being which compels it to a harmony with all other natures. The game of Intellect is the perception that whatever befalls or can be stated is a universal proposition; and contrariwise, that every general statement is poetical again by being particularized or impersonated.

A single thought has no limit to its value; a thought, properly speaking,—that is a truth held not from any man's saying so, or any accidental benefit or recommendation it has in our Page  41 trade or circumstance, but because we have perceived it is a fact in the nature of things, and in all times and places will and must be the same thing,—is of inestimable value. Every new impression on the mind is not to be derided, but is to be accounted for, and, until accounted for, registered as an indisputable addition to our catalogue of natural facts.

The first fact is the fate in every mental perception,—that my seeing this or that, and that I see it so or so, is as much a fact in the natural history of the world as is the freezing of water at thirty-two degrees of Fahrenheit. My percipiency affirms the presence and perfection of law, as much as all the martyrs. A perception, it is of a necessity older than the sun and moon, and the Father of the Gods. It is there with all its destinies. It is its nature to rush to expression, to rush to embody itself. It is impatient to put on its sandals and be gone on its errand, which is to lead to a larger perception, and so to new action. For thought exists to be expressed. That which cannot externize itself is not thought. [1]

Do not trifle with your perceptions, or hold them cheap. They are your door to the seven heavens, and if you pass it by you will miss your Page  42 way. Say, what impresses me ought to impress me. I am bewildered by the immense variety of attractions and cannot take a step; but this one thread, fine as gossamer, is yet real; and I hear a whisper, which I dare trust, that it is the thread on which the earth and the heaven of heavens are strung.

The universe is traversed by paths or bridges or stepping-stones across the gulfs of space in every direction. To every soul that is created is its path, invisible to all but itself. Each soul, therefore, walking in its own path walks firmly; and to the astonishment of all other souls, who see not its path, it goes as softly and playfully on its way as if, instead of being a line, narrow as the edge of a sword, over terrific pits right and left, it were a wide prairie.

Genius is a delicate sensibility to the laws of the world, adding the power to express them again in some new form. The highest measure of poetic power is such insight and faculty to fuse the circumstances of to-day as shall make transparent the whole web of circumstance and opinion in which the man finds himself, so that he releases himself from the traditions in which he grew,—no longer looks back to Hebrew or Greek or English use or tradition in religion, Page  43 laws or life, but sees so truly the omnipresence of eternal cause that he can convert the daily and hourly event of New York, of Boston, into universal symbols. I owe to genius always the same debt, of lifting the curtain from the common and showing me that gods are sitting disguised in every company.

The conduct of Intellect must respect nothing so much as preserving the sensibility. My measure for all subjects of science as of events is their impression on the soul. That mind is best which is most impressionable. [1] There are times when the cawing of a crow, a weed, a snow-flake, a boy's willow whistle, or a farmer planting in his field is more suggestive to the mind than the Yosemite gorge or the Vatican would be in another hour. In like mood an old verse, or certain words, gleam with rare significance.

But sensibility does not exhaust our idea of it. That is only half. Genius is not a lazy angel contemplating itself and things. It is insatiable for expression. Thought must take the stupendous step of passing into realization. A master can formulate his thought. Our thoughts at first possess us. Later, if we have good heads, we come to possess them. We believe that certain persons add to the common vision a certain Page  44 degree of control over these states of mind; that the true scholar is one who has the power to stand beside his thoughts or to hold off his thoughts at arm's length and give them perspective.

It is not to be concealed that the gods have guarded this privilege with costly penalty. This slight discontinuity which perception effects between the mind and the object paralyzes the will. If you cut or break in two a block or stone and press the two parts closely together, you can indeed bring the particles very near, but never again so near that they shall attract each other so that you can take up the block as one. That indescribably small interval is as good as a thousand miles, and has forever severed the practical unity. Such is the immense deduction from power by discontinuity. [1]

The intellect that sees the interval partakes of it, and the fact of intellectual perception severs once for all the man from the things with which he converses. Affection blends, intellect disjoins subject and object. For weal or woe we clear ourselves from the thing we contemplate. We grieve but are not the grief; we love but are not love. If we converse with low things, with Page  45 crimes, with mischances, we are not compromised. And if with high things, with heroic actions, with virtues, the interval becomes a gulf and we cannot enter into the highest good. Artist natures do not weep. Goethe, the surpassing intellect of modern times, apprehends the spiritual but is not spiritual. [1]

There is indeed this vice about men of thought, that you cannot quite trust them; not as much as other men of the same natural probity, without intellect; because they have a hankering to play Providence and make a distinction in favor of themselves from the rules they apply to the human race. [2]

The primary rule for the conduct of Intellect is to have control of the thoughts without losing their natural attitudes and action. They are the oracle; we are not to poke and drill and force, but to follow them. [3] Yet the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. You must formulate your thought or 't is all sky and no stars. There are men of great apprehension, discursive minds, who easily entertain ideas, but are not exact, severe with themselves, cannot connect or arrange their thoughts so as effectively to report them. A blending of these Page  46 two—the intellectual perception of truth and the moral sentiment of right—is wisdom. All thought is practical. Wishing is one thing; will another. Wishing is castle-building; the dreaming about things agreeable to the senses, but to which we have no right. Will is the advance to that which rightly belongs to us, to which the inward magnet ever points, and which we dare to make ours. The revelation of thought takes us out of servitude into freedom. So does the sense of right.

Will is the measure of power. To a great genius there must be a great will. If the thought is not a lamp to the will, does not proceed to an act, the wise are imbecile. He alone is strong and happy who has a will. The rest are herds. He uses; they are used. He is of the Maker; they are of the Made. [1]

Will is always miraculous, being the presence of God to men. When it appears in a man he is a hero, and all metaphysics are at fault. Heaven is the exercise of the faculties, the added sense of power.

All men know the truth, but what of that? It is rare to find one who knows how to speak it. A man tries to speak it and his voice is like the hiss of a snake, or rude and chiding. The truth is not Page  47 spoken but injured. The same thing happens in power to do the right. His rectitude is ridiculous. His organs do not play him true.

There is a meter which determines the constructive power of man,—this, namely, the question whether the mind possesses the control of its thoughts, or they of it. The new sect stands for certain thoughts. We go to individual members for an exposition of them. Vain expectation. They are possessed by the ideas but do not possess them. One meets contemplative men who dwell in a certain feeling and delight which are intellectual but wholly above their expression. They cannot formulate. They impress those who know them by their loyalty to the truth they worship but cannot impart. Sometimes the patience and love are rewarded by the chamber of power being at last opened; but sometimes they pass away dumb, to find it where all obstruction is removed.

By and by comes a facility; some one that can move the mountain and build of it a causeway through the Dismal Swamp, as easily as he carries the hair on his head. Talent is habitual facility of execution. We like people who can do things. The various talents are organic, or each related to that part of nature it is to explore and utilize. Page  48 Somewhat is to come to the light, and one was created to fetch it,—a vessel of honor or of dishonor. 'T is of instant use in the economy of the Cosmos, and the more armed and biassed for the work the better.

Each of these talents is born to be unfolded and set at work for the use and delight of men, and, in the last results, the man with the talent is the need of mankind; the whole ponderous machinery of the state has really for its aim just to place this skill of each.

But idea and execution are not often intrusted to the same head. There is some incompatibility of good speculation and practice, for example, the failure of monasteries and Brook Farms. To hammer out phalanxes must be done by smiths; as soon as the scholar attempts it, he is half a charlatan.

The grasp is the main thing. Most men's minds do not grasp anything. All slips through their fingers, like the paltry brass grooves that in most country houses are used to raise or drop the curtain, but are made to sell, and will not hold any curtain but cobwebs. I have heard that idiot children are known from their birth by the circumstance that their hands do not close round anything. Webster naturally and always grasps, Page  49 and therefore retains something from every company and circumstance.

As a talent Dante's imagination is the nearest to hands and feet that we have seen. He clasps the thought as if it were a tree or a stone, and describes as mathematically. I once found Page the painter modelling his figures in clay, Ruth and Naomi, before he painted them on canvas. Dante, one would say, did the same thing before he wrote the verses.

I have spoken of Intellect constructive. [1] But it is in degrees. How it moves when its pace is accelerated! The pace of Nature is so slow. Why not from strength to strength, from miracle to miracle, and not as now with this retardation—as if Nature had sprained her foot—and plenteous stopping at little stations?

The difference is obvious enough in Talent between the speed of one man's action above another's. In debate, in legislature, not less in action; in war or in affairs, alike daring and effective. But I speak of it in quite another sense, namely, in the habitual speed of combination of thought.

The same functions which are perfect in our quadrupeds are seen slower performed in palaeontology. Page  50 Many races it cost them to achieve the completion that is now in the life of one. Life had not yet so fierce a glow. [1]

Shakspeare astonishes by his equality in every play, act; scene or line. One would say he must have been a thousand years old when he wrote his first line, so thoroughly is his thought familiar to him, and has such scope and so solidly worded, as if it were already a proverb and not hereafter to become one. Well, that millennium in effect is really only a little acceleration in his process of thought.

But each power is commonly at the expense of some other. When pace is increased it will happen that the control is in a degree lost. Reason does not keep her firm seat. The Delphian prophetess, when the spirit possesses her, is herself a victim. The excess of individualism, when it is not corrected or subordinated to the Supreme Reason, makes that vice which we stigmatize as monotones, men of one idea, or, as the French say, enfant perdu d'une conviction isolée, which give such a comic tinge to all society. Every man has his theory, true, but ridiculously overstated. We are forced to treat a great part of mankind as if they were a little deranged. We detect their mania and humor it, Page  51 so that conversation soon becomes a tiresome effort.

You laugh at the monotones, at the men of one idea, but if we look nearly at heroes we may find the same poverty; and perhaps it is not poverty, but power. The secret of power, intellectual or physical, is concentration, and all concentration involves of necessity a certain narrowness. It is a law of Nature that he who looks at one thing must turn his eyes from every other thing in the universe. The horse goes better with blinders, and the man for dedication to his task. If you ask what compensation is made for the inevitable narrowness, why, this, that in learning one thing well you learn all things. [1]

Immense is the patience of Nature. You say thought is a penurious rill. Well, we can wait. Nature is immortal, and can wait. Nature having for capital this rill, drop by drop, as it trickles from the rock of ages,—this rill and her patience,—she husbands and hives, she forms reservoirs, were it only a phial or a hair-tube that will hold as it were a drop of attar. Not having enough to support all the powers of a race, she thins all her stock and raises a few individuals, or only a pair. Not sufficing to Page  52 feed all the faculties synchronously, she feeds one faculty and starves all the rest. I am familiar with cases, we meet them daily, wherein the vital force being insufficient for the constitution, everything is neglected that can be spared; some one power fed, all the rest pine. 'T is like a withered hand or leg on a Hercules. It makes inconvenience in society, for we presume symmetry, and because they know one thing, we defer to them in another, and find them really contemptible. We can't make a half bow and say, I honor and despise you. But Nature can; she whistles with all her winds, and does as she pleases. [1]

It is much to write sentences; it is more to add method and write out the spirit of your life symmetrically. But to arrange general reflections in their natural order, so that I shall have one homogeneous piece,—a Lycidas, an Allegro, a Hamlet, a Midsummer Night's Dream,—this continuity is for the great. The wonderful men are wonderful hereby. Such concentration of experiences is in every great work, which, though successive in the mind of the master, were primarily combined in his piece.

But what we want is consecutiveness. 'T is Page  53 with us a flash of light, then a long darkness, then a flash again. Ah! could we turn these fugitive sparkles into an astronomy of Copernican worlds. [1]

I must think this keen sympathy, this thrill of awe with which we watch the performance of genius, a sign of our own readiness to exert the like power. I must think we are entitled to powers far transcending any that we possess; that we have in the race the sketch of a man which no individual comes up to.

Every sincere man is right, or, to make him right, only needs a little larger dose of his own personality. Excellent in his own way by means of not apprehending the gift of another. When he speaks out of another's mind, we detect it. He can't make any paint stick but his own. No man passes for that with another which he passes for with himself. The respect and the censure of his brother are alike injurious and irrelevant. We see ourselves; we lack organs to see others, and only squint at them.

Don't fear to push these individualities to their farthest divergence. Characters and talents are complemental and suppletory. The world stands by balanced antagonisms. The more the Page  54 peculiarities are pressed, the better the result. The air would rot without lightning; and without the violence of direction that men have, without bigots, without men of fixed idea, no excitement, no efficiency.

The novelist should not make any character act absurdly, but only absurdly as seen by others. For it is so in life. Nonsense will not keep its unreason if you come into the humorist's point of view, but unhappily we find it is fast becoming sense, and we must flee again into the distance if we would laugh.

What strength belongs to every plant and animal in Nature. The tree or the brook has no duplicity, no pretentiousness, no show. It is, with all its might and main, what it is, and makes one and the same impression and effect at all times. All the thoughts of a turtle are turtles, and of a rabbit, rabbits. But a man is broken and dissipated by the giddiness of his will; he does not throw himself into his judgments; his genius leads him one way, but 't is likely his trade or politics in quite another. He rows with one hand and with the other backs water, and does not give to any manner of life the strength of his constitution. Hence the perpetual loss of power and waste of human life.

Page  55 The natural remedy against this miscellany of knowledge and aim, this desultory universality of ours, this immense ground-juniper falling abroad and not gathered up into any columnar tree, is to substitute realism for sentimentalism; a certain recognition of the simple and terrible laws which, seen or unseen, pervade and govern.

You will say this is quite axiomatic and a little too true. I do not find it an agreed point. Literary men for the most part have a settled despair as to the realization of ideas in their own time. There is in all students a distrust of truth, a timidity about affirming it; a wish to patronize Providence.

We disown our debt to moral evil. To science there is no poison; to botany no weed; to chemistry no dirt. The curses of malignity and despair are important criticism, which must be heeded until he can explain and rightly silence them.

"Croyez moi, l'erreur aussi a son mérite," said Voltaire. We see those who surmount by dint of egotism or infatuation obstacles from which the prudent recoil. The right partisan is a heady man, who, because he does not see many things, sees some one thing with heat and exaggeration; and if he falls among other narrow men, or Page  56 objects which have a brief importance, prefers it to the universe, and seems inspired and a godsend to those who wish to magnify the matter and carry a point. 'T is the difference between progress by railroad and by walking across the broken country. Immense speed, but only in one direction.

There are two theories of life; one for the demonstration of our talent, the other for the education of the man. One is activity, the busy-body, the following of that practical talent which we have, in the belief that what is so natural, easy and pleasant to us and desirable to others will surely lead us out safely; in this direction lie usefulness, comfort, society, low power of all sorts. The other is trust, religion, consent to be nothing for eternity, entranced waiting, the worship of ideas. This is solitary, grand, secular. They are in perpetual balance and strife. One is talent, the other genius. One is skill, the other character. [1]

We are continually tempted to sacrifice genius to talent, the hope and promise of insight to the lust of a freer demonstration of those gifts we have; and we buy this freedom to glitter by the loss of general health.

Page  57 It is the levity of this country to forgive everything to talent. If a man show cleverness, rhetorical skill, bold front in the forum or senate, people clap their hands without asking more. We have a juvenile love of smartness, of showy speech. We like faculty that can rapidly be coined into money, and society seems to be in conspiracy to utilize every gift prematurely, and pull down genius to lucrative talent. Every kind of meanness and mischief is forgiven to intellect. All is condoned if I can write a good song or novel.

Wide is the gulf between genius and talent. The men we know, poets, wits, writers, deal with their thoughts as jewellers with jewels, which they sell but must not wear. Like the carpenter, who gives up the key of the fine house he has built, and never enters it again.

There is a conflict between a man's private dexterity or talent and his access to the free air and light which wisdom is; between wisdom and the habit and necessity of repeating itself which belongs to every mind. Peter is the mould into which everything is poured like warm wax, and be it astronomy or railroads or French revolution or theology or botany, it comes out Peter. But there are quick limits to our interest in the Page  58 personality of people. They are as much alike as their barns and pantries, and are as soon musty and dreary. They entertain us for a time, but at the second or third encounter we have nothing more to learn. [1]

The daily history of the Intellect is this alternating of expansions and concentrations. The expansions are the invitations from heaven to try a larger sweep, a higher pitch than we have yet climbed, and to leave all our past for this enlarged scope. Present power, on the other hand, requires concentration on the moment and the thing to be done.

The condition of sanity is to respect the order of the intellectual world; to keep down talent in its place, to enthrone the instinct. There must be perpetual rallying and self-recovery. Each talent is ambitious and self-asserting; it works for show and for the shop, and the greater it grows the more is the mischief and the misleading, so that presently all is wrong.

No wonder the children love masks and costumes, and play horse, play soldier, play school, play bear, and delight in theatricals. The children have only the instinct of the universe, Page  59 in which becoming somewhat else is the perpetual game of Nature, and death the penalty of standing still. 'T is not less in thought. I cannot conceive any good in a thought which confines and stagnates. The universe exists only in transit, or we behold it shooting the gulf from the past to the future. We are passing into new heavens in fact by the movement of our solar system, and in thought by our better knowledge. [1] Transition is the attitude of power. A fact is only a fulcrum of the spirit. It is the terminus of a past thought, but only a means now to new sallies of the imagination and new progress of wisdom. The habit of saliency, of not pausing but proceeding, is a sort of importation and domestication of the divine effort into a man. Routine, the rut, is the path of indolence, of cows, of sluggish animal life; as near gravitation as it can go. But wit sees the short way, puts together what belongs together, custom or no custom; in that is organization.

Inspiration is the continuation of the divine effort that built the man. The same course continues itself in the mind which we have witnessed in Nature, namely the carrying-on and completion of the metamorphosis from grub to worm, from worm to fly. In human thought Page  60 this process is often arrested for years and ages. The history of mankind is the history of arrested growth. This premature stop; I know not how, befalls most of us in early youth; as if the growth of high powers, the access to rare truths, closed at two or three years in the child, while all the pagan faculties went ripening on to sixty.

So long as you are capable of advance, so long you have not abdicated the hope and future of a divine soul. That wonderful oracle will reply when it is consulted, and there is no history or tradition, no rule of life or art or science, on which it is not a competent and the only competent judge.

Man was made for conflict, not for rest. In action is his power; not in his goals but in his transitions man is great. Instantly he is dwarfed by self-indulgence. The truest state of mind rested in becomes false.

The spiritual power of man is twofold, mind and heart, Intellect and morals; one respecting truth, the other the will. One is the man, the other the woman in spiritual nature. One is power, the other is love. These elements always coexist in every normal individual, but one predominates. And as each is easily exalted Page  61 in our thoughts till it serves to fill the universe and become the synonym of God, the soul in which one predominates is ever watchful and jealous when such immense claims are made for one as seem injurious to the other. Ideal and practical, like ecliptic and equator, are never parallel. Each has its vices, its proper dangers, obvious enough when the opposite element is deficient.

Intellect is skeptical, runs down into talent, selfish working for private ends, conceited, ostentatious and malignant. On the other side the clear-headed thinker complains of souls led hither and thither by affections which, alone, are blind guides and thriftless workmen, and in the confusion asks the polarity of intellect. But all great minds and all great hearts have mutually allowed the absolute necessity of the twain. [1]

If the first rule is to obey your genius, in the second place the good mind is known by the choice of what is positive, of what is advancing. We must embrace the affirmative. But the affirmative of affirmatives is love. Quantus amor tantus animus. Strength enters as the moral element enters. Lovers of men are as safe as the sun. Good will makes insight. Sensibility Page  62 is the secret readiness to believe in all kinds of power, and the contempt of any experience we have not is the opposite pole. The measure of mental health is the disposition to find good everywhere, good and order, analogy, health and benefit,—the love of truth, tendency to be in the right, no fighter for victory, no cockerel. [1]

We have all of us by nature a certain divination and parturient vaticination in our minds of some higher good and perfection than either power or knowledge. Knowledge is plainly to be preferred before power, as being that which guides and directs its blind force and impetus; but Aristotle declares that the origin of reason is not reason, but something better.

The height of culture, the highest behavior, consists in the identification of the Ego with the universe; so that when a man says I hope, I find, I think, he might properly say, The human race thinks or finds or hopes. And meantime he shall be able continually to keep sight of his biographical Ego,—I have a desk, I have an office, I am hungry, I had an ague,—as rhetoric or offset to his grand spiritual Ego, without impertinence, or ever confounding them. [2]

Page  63 I may well say this is divine, the continuation of the divine effort. Alas! it seems not to be ours, to be quite independent of us. Often there is so little affinity between the man and his works that we think the wind must have writ them. Also its communication from one to another follows its own law and refuses our intrusion. It is in one, it belongs to all; yet how to impart it?

We need all our resources to live in the world which is to be used and decorated by us. Socrates kept all his virtues as well as his faculties well in hand. He was sincerely humble, but he utilized his humanity chiefly as a better eye-glass to penetrate the vapors that baffled the vision of other men.

The superiority of the man is in the simplicity of his thought, that he has no obstruction, but looks straight at the pure fact, with no color of option. Profound sincerity is the only basis of talent as of character. The virtue of the Intellect is its own, its courage is of its own kind, and at last it will be justified, though for the moment it seem hostile to what it most reveres.

Page  64 We wish to sum up the conflicting impressions by saying that all point at last to a unity which inspires all. Our poetry, our religion are its skirts and penumbrae. Yet the charm of life is the hints we derive from this. They overcome us like perfumes from a far-off shore of sweetness, and their meaning is that no tongue shall syllable it without leave; that only itself can name it; that by casting ourselves on it and being its voice it rushes each moment to positive commands, creating men and methods, and ties the will of a child to the love of the First Cause. [1]

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IN reckoning the sources of our mental power, it were fatal to omit that one which pours all the others into mould—that unknown country in which all the rivers of our knowledge have their fountains, which by its qualities and structure determines both the nature of the waters, and the direction in which they flow. We have a certain blind wisdom, a brain of the brain, a seminal brain, which has not yet put forth organs, which rests in oversight and presence, but which seems to sheathe a certain omniscience; and which, in the despair of language, is commonly called Instinct.

This is that which never pretends: nothing seems less, nothing is more. Ask what the Instinct declares, and we have little to say; he is no newsmonger, no disputant, no talker. Consciousness is but a taper in the great night; but the taper at which all the illumination of human arts and sciences was kindled. And in each man's experience, from this spark torrents of light have once and again streamed and revealed the dusky landscape of his life. 'T is very certain Page  66 that a man's whole possibility is contained in that habitual first look which he casts on all objects. Here alone is the field of metaphysical discovery, yes, and of every religion and civil order that has been or shall be. All that we know is flakes and grains detached from this mountain. None of the metaphysicians have prospered in describing this power, which constitutes sanity; and is the corrector of private excesses and mistakes; public in all its regards, and of a balance which is never lost, not even in the insane.

All men are, in respect to this source of truth, on a certain footing of equality, equal in original science, though against appearance; and 't is incredible to them. There is a singular credulity which no experience will cure us of, that another man has seen or may see somewhat more than we, of the primary facts; as, for example, of the continuity of the individual, and, eye for eye, object for object, their experience is invariably identical in a million individuals. I know, of course, all the grounds on which any man affirms the immortality of the Soul. Fed from one spring, the water-tank is equally full in all the gardens: the difference is in the distribution by pipes and pumps Page  67 (difference in the aqueduct), and fine application of it. Its property is absolute science and an implicit reliance is due to it. [1]

All true wisdom of thought and of action comes of deference to this instinct, patience with its delays.

To make a practical use of this instinct in every part of life constitutes true wisdom, and we must form the habit of preferring in all cases this guidance, which is given as it is used. To indicate a few examples of our recurrence to instinct instead of to the understanding: we can only judge safely of a discipline, of a book, of a man, or other influence, by the frame of mind it induces, as whether that be large and serene, or dispiriting and degrading. Then we get a certain habit of the mind as the measure; as Haydon found Voltaire's tales left him melancholy. The eye and ear have a logic which transcends the skill of the tongue. The ear is not to be cheated. A continuous effect cannot be produced by discontinuous thought, and when the eye cannot detect the juncture of the skilful mosaic, the spirit is apprised of disunion, simply by the failure to affect the spirit. Objection and loud denial not less prove the reality and conquests of an idea than the friends Page  68 and advocates it finds. One often sees in the embittered acuteness of critics snuffing heresy from afar, their own unbelief, that they pour forth on the innocent promulgator of new doctrine their anger at that which they vainly resist in their own bosom. Again, if you go to a gallery of pictures, or other works of fine art, the eye is dazzled and embarrassed by many excellences. The marble imposes on us; the exquisite details, we cannot tell if they be good or not: but long after we have quitted the place, the objects begin to take a new order; the inferior recede or are forgotten and the truly noble forms reappear to the imagination.

The Instinct begins at this low point at the surface of the earth, and works for the necessities of the human being; then ascends, step by step, to suggestions, which are, when expressed, the intellectual and moral laws. [1]

And what is Inspiration? It is this Instinct, whose normal state is passive, at last put in action. We attributed power and science and good will to the Instinct, but we found it dumb and inexorable. If it would but impart itself! To coax and woo the strong Instinct to bestir itself, and work its miracle, is the end of all Page  69 wise endeavor. It is resistless, and knows the way, is the inventor of all arts, and is melodious, and at all points a god. Could we prick the sides of this slumberous giant; could we break the silence of this oldest angel, who was with God when the worlds were made! The whole art of man has been an art of excitation, to provoke, to extort speech from the drowsy genius. We ought to know the way to our nectar. We ought to know the way to insight and prophecy as surely as the plant knows its way to the light; the cow and sheep to the running brook; or the feaster to his wine. We believe (the drop of blood has latent power and organs) that the rudest mind has a Delphi and Dodona—predictions of Nature and history—in itself, though now dim and hard to read. All depends on some instigation, some impulse. Where is the yeast that will leaven this lump? Where the wine that will warm and open these silent lips? Where the fire that will light this combustible pile? That force or flame is alone to be considered; 't is indifferent on what it is fed.

Here are we with all our world of facts and experience, the spontaneous impressions of Nature and men, and original oracles,—all Page  70 ready to be uttered, if only we could be set aglow. How much material lies in every man! [1] Who knows not the insufficiency of our forces, the solstice of genius? The star climbs for a time the heaven, but never reaches the zenith; it culminates low, and goes backward whence it came. [2]

The human faculty only warrants inceptions. Even those we call great men build substructures, and, like Cologne Cathedral, these are never finished. Lord Bacon begins; Behmen begins; Goethe, Fourier, Schelling, Coleridge, they all begin: we, credulous bystanders, believe, of course, that they can finish as they begun. If you press them, they fly to a new topic, and here, again, open a magnificent promise, which serves the turn of interesting us once more, and silencing reproaches, but they never complete their work. Inspiration is vital and continuous. It is also a public or universal light, and not particular. [3] But genius is as weary of his personality as others are, and he has the royal expedient to thrust Nature between him and you, and perpetually to divert attention from himself, by the stream of thoughts, laws and images.

In the healthy mind, the thought is not a Page  71 barren thesis, but expands, varies, recruits itself with relations to all Nature, paints itself in wonderful symbols, appears in new men, in institutions, in social arrangements, in wood, in stone, in art, in books. The mark and sign of it is newness. The divine energy never rests or repeats itself, but casts its old garb, and reappears, another creature; the old energy in a new form, with all the vigor of the earth; the Ancient of Days in the dew of the morning.

Novelty in the means by which we arrive at the old universal ends is the test of the presence of the highest power, alike in intellectual and in moral action. How incomparable beyond all price seems to us a new poem—say Spenser—or true work of literary genius! In five hundred years we shall not have a second. We brood on the words or works of our companion, and ask in vain the sources of his information. He exhibits an exotic culture, as if he had his education in another planet. The poet is incredible, inexplicable.

The poet works to an end above his will, and by means, too, which are out of his will. Every part of the poem is therefore a true surprise to the reader, like the parts of the plant, and legitimate as they. The muse may be defined, Page  72Supervoluntary ends effected by supervoluntary means. No practical rules for the poem, no working-plan was ever drawn up. It is miraculous at all points. The poetic state given, a little more or a good deal more or less performance seems indifferent. It is as impossible for labor to produce a sonnet of Milton, or a song of Burns, as Shakspeare's Hamlet, or the Iliad. There is much loss, as we say on the railway, in the stops, but the running time need be but little increased, to add great results. One master could so easily be conceived as writing all the books of the world. They are all alike. For it is a power to convert all Nature to his use. It is a tap-root that sucks all the juices of the earth. [1]

It is this employment of new means—of means not mechanical, but spontaneously appearing for the new need, and as good as the end—that denotes the inspired man. This is equally obvious in all the fine arts; and in action as well as in fine arts. We must try our philanthropists so. The reformer comes with many plans of melioration, and the basis on which he wishes to build his new world, a great deal of money. But what is gained? Certain young men or maidens are thus to be screened from the evil influences of trade by force of Page  73 money. Perhaps that is a benefit, but those who give the money must be just so much more shrewd, and worldly, and hostile, in order to save so much money. I see not how any virtue is thus gained to society. It is a mere transference. But he will instruct and aid us who shows us how the young may be taught without degrading the old; how the daily sunshine and sap may be made to feed wheat instead of moss and Canada thistle; and really the capital discovery of modern agriculture is that it costs no more to keep a good tree than a bad one.

But how, cries my reformer, is this to be done? How could I do it, who have wife and family to keep? The question is most reasonable,—yet proves that you are not the man to do the feat. The mark of the spirit is to know its way, to invent means. It has been in the universe before, of old and from everlasting, and knows its way up and down. Power is the authentic mark of spirit. …

What a revelation of power is music! Yet, when we consider who and what the professors of that art usually are, does it not seem as if music falls accidentally and superficially on its artists? Is it otherwise with poetry? … Here is a famous Ode, which is the first performance of the Page  74 British mind and lies in all memories as the high-water mark in the flood of thought in this age. What does the writer know of that? Converse with him, learn his opinions and hopes. He has long ago passed out of it, and perhaps his only concern with it is some copyright of an edition in which certain pages, so and so entitled, are contained. When a young man asked old Goethe about Faust, he replied, "What can I know of this? I ought rather to ask you, who are young, and can enter much better into that feeling." Indeed, I believe it is true in the experience of all men,—for all are inspirable, and sometimes inspired,—that, for the memorable moments of life, we were in them, and not they in us. "… How they entered into me, let them say if they can; for I have gone over all the avenues of my flesh, and cannot find by which they entered," said Saint Augustine. And the ancient Proclus seems to signify his sense of the same fact, by saying, "The parts in us are more the property of wholes, and of things above us, than they are our property."

Yes, this wonderful source of knowledge remains a mystery; and its arts and methods of working remain a mystery: it is untamable; the ship of heaven guides itself, and will not Page  75 accept a wooden rudder. It must be owned that what we call Inspiration is coy and capricious; we must lose many days to gain one; and in order to win infallible verdicts from the inner mind, we must indulge and humor it in every way, and not too exactly task and harness it. Also its communication from one to another follows its own law, and refuses our intrusion. It is one, it belongs to all: yet how to impart it? This makes the perpetual problem of education. How shall I educate my children? Shall I indulge, or shall I control them? Philosophy replies, Nature is stronger than your will, and were you never so vigilant, you may rely on it, your nature and genius will certainly give your vigilance the slip though it had delirium tremens, and will educate the children by the inevitable infusions of its quality. You will do as you can. Why then cumber yourself about it, and make believe be better than you are? Our teaching is indeed hazardous and rare. Our only security is in our rectitude, whose influences must be salutary. That virtue which was never taught us, we cannot teach others. They must be taught by the same schoolmaster. And in spite of our imbecility and terrors, in spite of Boston and London, and universal decay of religion, etc., Page  76 etc., the moral sense reappears forever with the same angelic newness that has been from of old the fountain of poetry and beauty and strength. Nature is forever over education; our famous orchardist once more: Van Mons of Belgium, after all his experiments at crossing and refining his fruit, arrived at last at the most complete trust in the native power. "My part is to sow, and sow, and re-sow, and in short do nothing but sow."

It is not in our will. That is the quality of it, that it commands, and is not commanded. And rarely, and suddenly, and without desert, we are let into the serene upper air. Is it that we are such mountains of conceit that Heaven cannot enough mortify and snub us,—I know not; but there seems a settled determination to break our spirit. We shall not think of ourselves too highly. We cannot even see what or where our stars of destiny are. [1] … The inexorable Laws, the Ideas, the private Fate, the Instinct, the Intellect, Memory, Imagination, Fancy, Number, Inspiration, Nature, Duty;—'t is very certain that these things have been hid as under towels and blankets, most part of our days, and, at certain privileged moments, they emerge unaccountably into light. I know not Page  77 why, but our thoughts have a life of their own, independent of our will. We call genius, in all our popular and proverbial language, divine; to signify its independence of our will. Intellect is universal not individual. [1] … I think this pathetic,—not to have any wisdom at our own terms, not to have any power of organizing victory. The only comfort I can lay to my own sorrow is that we have a higher than a personal interest, which, in the ruin of the personal, is secured. I see that all beauty of discourse or of manners lies in launching on the thought, and forgetting ourselves; and though the beatitude of the Intellect seems to lie out of our volition, and to be unattainable as the sky, yet we can take sight beforehand of a state of being wherein the will shall penetrate and control what it cannot now reach. The old law of science, Imperat parendo, we command by obeying, is forever true; and by faithful serving, we shall complete our noviciate to this subtle art. Yes, and one day, though far off, you will attain the control of these states; you will enter them at will; you will do what now the muses only sing. That is the nobility and high prize of the world.

And this reminds me to add one more trait Page  78 of the inspired state, namely, incessant advance,—the forward foot. For it is the curious property of truth to be uncontainable and ever enlarging. Truth indeed! We talk as if we had it, or sometimes said it, or knew anything about it,—that terrific re-agent. 'T is a gun with a recoil which will knock down the most nimble artillerists, and therefore is never fired. The ideal is as far ahead of the videttes of the van as it is of the rear. And before the good we aim at, all history is symptomatic, and only a good omen.

And the practical rules of literature ought to follow from these views, namely, that all writing is by the grace of God; [1] that none but a writer should write; that he should write affirmatively, not polemically, or should write nothing that will not help somebody,—as I knew of a good man who held conversations, and wrote on the wall, "that every person might speak to the subject, but no allusion should be made to the opinions of other speakers;"—that we must affirm and affirm, but neither you nor I know the value of what we say; that we must be openers of doors and not a blind alley; that we must hope and strive, for despair is no muse, and vigor always liberates.

Page  79 The whole ethics of thought is of this kind, flowing out of reverence of the source, and is a sort of religious office. If there is inspiration let there be only that. You shall not violate its conditions, but we will by all means invite it. It is a sort of rule in Art that you shall not speak of any work of art except in its presence; then you will continue to learn something, and will make no blunder. It is not less the rule of this kingdom that you shall not speak of the mount except on the mount; [1] that there are certain problems one would not willingly open, except when the irresistible oracles broke silence. He needs all his health and the flower of his faculties for that. All men are inspirable. Whilst they say only the beautiful and sacred words of necessity, there is no weakness, and no repentance. But the moment they attempt to say these things by memory, charlatanism begins. I am sorry that we do not receive the higher gifts justly and greatly. The reception should be equal. The thoughts which wander through our mind, we do not absorb and make flesh of, but we report them as thoughts; we retail them as news, to our lovers and to all Athenians. At a dreadful loss we play this game; for the secret Power will not impart Page  80 himself to us for tea-table talk; he frowns on moths and puppets, passes by us, and seeks a solitary and religious heart.

All intellectual virtue consists in a reliance on Ideas. It must be carried with a certain magnificence. We must live by our strength, not by our weakness. It is the exhortation of Zoroaster, "Let the depth, the immortal depth of your soul lead you." It was the saying of Pythagoras, "Remember to be sober, and to be disposed to believe; for these are the nerves of wisdom."

Why should we be the dupes of our senses, the victims of our own works, and always inferior to ourselves. We do not yet trust the unknown powers of thought. The whole world is nothing but an exhibition of the powers of this principle, which distributes men. Whence came all these tools, inventions, books, laws, parties, kingdoms? Out of the invisible world, through a few brains. Nineteen twentieths of their substance do trees draw from the air. Plant the pitch-pine in a sand-bank, where is no food, and it thrives, and presently makes a grove, and covers the sand with a soil by shedding its leaves. Not less are the arts and institutions of men created out of thought. The Page  81 powers that make the capitalist are metaphysical, the force of method and the force of will makes trade, and builds towns. "All conquests that history tells of will be found to resolve themselves into the superior mental powers of the conquerors," and the real credentials by which man takes precedence of man, and lays his hand on those advantages which confirm and consolidate rank, are intellectual and moral. The men are all drugged with this liquor of thought, and thereby secured to their several works. It is easy to see that the races of men rise out of the ground preoccupied with a thought which rules them, divided beforehand into parties ready armed and angry to fight for they know not what. They all share, to the rankest Philistines, the same belief. The haberdashers and brokers and attorneys are idealists and only differ in the amount and clearness of their perception. Whether Whiggery, or Chartism, or Church, or a dream of Wealth, fashioned all these resolute bankers, merchants, lawyers, landlords, who administer the world of to-day, as leaves and wood are made of air, an idea fashioned them, and one related to yours. A stronger idea will subordinate them. Yours, if you see it to be nearer and truer. A man Page  82 of more comprehensive view can always see with good humor the seeming opposition of a powerful talent which has less comprehension. 'T is a strong paddy, who, with his burly elbows, is making place and way for him. Trust entirely the thought. Lean upon it, it will bear up thee and thine, and society, and systems, like a scrap of down.

The world is intellectual; and the man is. Every man comes into Nature impressed with his own polarity or bias, in obeying which his power, opportunity and happiness reside. … He is strong by his genius, gets all his knowledge only through that aperture. Society is unanimous against his project. He never hears it as he knows it. Nevertheless he is right; right against the world. All excellence is only an inflamed personality. If he is wrong, increase his determination to his aim, and he is right again. What is the use of trying to be somewhat else? He has a facility, which costs him nothing, to do somewhat admirable to all men. He is strong by his genius, and happy also by the same. The secret of power is delight in one's work. He takes delight in working, not in having wrought. His workbench he finds everywhere, and his workbench is home, education, Page  83 power and patron. Whilst he serves his genius, he works when he stands, when he sits, when he eats and when he sleeps. The dream which lately floated before the eyes of the French nation—that every man shall do that which of all things he prefers, and shall have three francs a day for doing that—is the real law of the world; and all good labor, by which society is really served, will be found to be of that kind.

All we ask of any man is to be contented with his own work. An enthusiastic workman dignifies his art and arrives at results. Him we account the fortunate man whose determination to his aim is sufficiently strong to leave him no doubt. I am aware that Nature does not always pronounce early on this point. Many men are very slow in finding their vocation. It does not at once appear what they were made for. Nature has not made up her mind in regard to her young friend, and when this happens, we feel life to be some failure. Life is not quite desirable to themselves. It uniformly suggests in the conversation of men the presumption of continued life, of which the present is only one term. We must suppose life to such is a kind of hibernation, and 't is to be hoped they will Page  84 be very fat and energetic in the spring. They ripen too slowly than that the determination should appear in this brief life. As with our Catawbas and Isabellas at the eastward, the season is not quite long enough for them.

This determination of Genius in each is so strong that, if it were not guarded with powerful checks, it would have made society impossible. As it is, men are best and most by themselves: and always work in society with great loss of power. They are not timed each to the other: they cannot keep step, and life requires too much compromise. Men go through the world each musing on a great fable dramatically pictured and rehearsed before him. If you speak to the man, he turns his eyes from his own scene, and, slower or faster, endeavors to comprehend what you say. When you have done speaking, he returns to his private music. Men generally attempt, early in life, to make their brothers, afterwards their wives, acquainted with what is going forward in their private theatre; but they soon desist from the attempt, in finding that they also have some farce, or, perhaps, some ear- and heart-rending tragedy forward on their secret boards, on which they are intent; and all parties acquiesce, at last, Page  85 each in a private box, with the whole play performed before himself solus.

The source of thought evolves its own rules, its own virtues, its own religion. Its whole equipment is new, and it can only fight with its own weapons. Is there only one courage, one gratitude, one benevolence? No, but as many as there are men. Every constitution has its own health and diseases. A new constitution, a new fever, say the physicians. I think the reason why men fail in their conflicts is because they wear other armor than their own. Each must have all, but by no means need he have it in your form. Each must be rich, but not only in money or lands, he may have instead the riches of riches,—creative supplying power. [1]

Within this magical power derived from fidelity to his nature, he adds also the mechanical force of perseverance. He shall keep the law which shall keep him. … In persistency, he knows the strength of Nature, and the immortality of man to lie. A man must do the work with that faculty he has now. But that faculty is the accumulation of past days. That you have done long ago helps you now. No rival can rival backward. What you have learned and done, is safe and fruitful. Work and learn Page  86 in evil days, in barren days, in days of depression and calamity. "There is but one only liberator in this life from the demons that invade us, and that is, Endeavor,—earnest, entire, perennial endeavor."

Follow this leading, nor ask too curiously whither. To follow it is thy part. And what if it lead, as men say, to an excess, to partiality, to individualism? Follow it still. His art shall suffice this artist, his flame this lover, his inspiration this poet. The artist must be sacrificed. Take it sadly home to thy heart,—the artist must pay for his learning and doing with his life. The old Herschel must choose between the night and the day, and draw on his night-cap when the sun rises, and defend his eyes for nocturnal use. Michael Angelo must paint Sistine ceilings till he can no longer read, except by holding the book over his head. Nature deals with all her children so. See the poor flies, lately so wanton, now fixed to the wall or the tree, exhausted and presently blown away. Men likewise, they put their lives into their deed. [1]

There is a probity of the Intellect, which demands, if possible, virtues more costly than any Page  87 Bible has consecrated. It consists in an absolute devotion to truth, founded in a faith in truth. … The virtue of the Intellect is its own, as its courage is of its own kind: and at last, it will be justified, though for the time it seem hostile to that which it most reveres. … I will speak the truth in my heart, or think the truth against what is called God. [1]

One polarity is impressed on the universe and on its particles. As the whole has its law, so each individual has his genius. Obedience to its genius (to speak a little scholastically) is the particular of faith; perception that the tendency of the whole is to the benefit of the individual is the universal of faith. Do not truck for your private immortality. If immortality, in the sense in which you seek it, is best, you shall be immortal. If it is up to the dignity of that order of things you know, it is secure. The sky, the sea, the plants, the rocks, astronomy, chemistry, keep their word. Morals and the genius of humanity will also. In short, the whole moral of modern science is the transference of that trust which is felt in Nature's admired arrangements, to the sphere of freedom and of rational life. [2]

These studies seem to me to derive an importance Page  88 from their bearing on the universal question of modern times, the question of Religion. It seems to me, as if men stood craving a more stringent creed than any of the pale and enervating systems to which they have had recourse. The Buddhist who finds gods masked in all his friends and enemies, and reads the issue of the conflict beforehand in the rank of the actors, is calm. The old Greek was respectable and we are not yet able to forget his dramas,—who found the genius of tragedy in the conflict between Destiny and the strong should, and not like the moderns, in the weak would. [1]

Our books are full of generous biographies of Saints, who knew not that they were such; of men and of women who lived for the benefit and healing of nature. But one fact I read in them all,—that there is a religion which survives immutably all persons and fashions, and is worshipped and pronounced with emphasis again and again by some holy person;—and men, with their weak incapacity for principles, and their passion for persons, have run mad for the pronouncer, and forgot the religion. But there is surely enough for the heart and the imagination in the religion itself. [2]

Page  89 The joy of knowledge, the late discovery that the veil which hid all things from him is really transparent, transparent everywhere to pure eyes, and the heart of trust which every perception fortifies,—renew life for him. He finds that events spring from the same root as persons; the universe understands itself, and all the parts play with a sure harmony.

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MEMORY is a primary and fundamental faculty, without which none other can work; the cement, the bitumen, the matrix in which the other faculties are embedded; or it is the thread on which the beads of man are strung, making the personal identity which is necessary to moral action. Without it all life and thought were an unrelated succession. As gravity holds matter from flying off into space, so memory gives stability to knowledge; it is the cohesion which keeps things from falling into a lump, or flowing in waves.

We like longevity, we like signs of riches and extent of nature in an individual. And most of all we like a great memory. The lowest life remembers. The sparrow, the ant, the worm, have the same memory as we. If you bar their path, or offer them somewhat disagreeable to their senses, they make one or two trials, and then once for all avoid it.

Every machine must be perfect of its sort. It is essential to a locomotive that it can reverse its movement, and run backward and forward Page  91 with equal celerity. The builder of the mind found it not less needful that it should have retroaction, and command its past act and deed. Perception, though it were immense and could pierce through the universe, was not sufficient.

Memory performs the impossible for man by the strength of his divine arms; holds together past and present, beholding both, existing in both, abides in the flowing, and gives continuity and dignity to human life. It holds us to our family, to our friends. Hereby a home is possible; hereby only a new fact has value.

Opportunities of investment are useful only to those who have capital. Any piece of knowledge I acquire to-day, a fact that falls under my eyes, a book I read, a piece of news I hear, has a value at this moment exactly proportioned to my skill to deal with it. To-morrow, when I know more, I recall that piece of knowledge and use it better.

The Past has a new value every moment to the active mind, through the incessant purification and better method of its memory. Once it joined its facts by color and form and sensuous relations. Some fact that had a childish significance to your childhood and was a type in the nursery, when riper intelligence recalls it means Page  92 more and serves you better as an illustration; and perhaps in your age has new meaning. What was an isolated, unrelated belief or conjecture, our later experience instructs us how to place in just connection with other views which confirm and expand it. The old whim or perception was an augury of a broader insight, at which we arrive later with securer conviction. This is the companion, this the tutor, the poet, the library, with which you travel. It does not lie, cannot be corrupted, reports to you not what you wish, but what really befell. You say, "I can never think of some act of neglect, of selfishness, or of passion without pain." Well, that is as it should be. That is the police of the Universe: the angels are set to punish you, so long as you are capable of such crime. But in the history of character the day comes when you are incapable of such crime. Then you suffer no more, you look on it as heaven looks on it, with wonder at the deed, and with applause at the pain it has cost you. [1]

Memory is not a pocket, but a living instructor, with a prophetic sense of the values which he guards; a guardian angel set there within you to record your life, and by recording to animate you to uplift it. It is a scripture Page  93 written day by day from the birth of the man; all its records full of meanings which open as he lives on, explaining each other, explaining the world to him and expanding their sense as he advances, until it shall become the whole law of Nature and life.

As every creature is furnished with teeth to seize and eat, and with stomach to digest its food, so the memory is furnished with a perfect apparatus. There is no book like the memory, none with such a good index, and that of every kind, alphabetic, systematic, arranged by names of persons, by colors, tastes, smells, shapes, likeness, unlikeness, by all sorts of mysterious hooks and eyes to catch and hold, and contrivances for giving a hint.

The memory collects and re-collects. We figure it as if the mind were a kind of looking-glass, which being carried through the street of time receives on its clear plate every image that passes; only with this difference, that our plate is iodized so that every image sinks into it, and is held there. But in addition to this property it has one more, this, namely, that of all the million images that are imprinted, the very one we want reappears in the centre of the plate in the moment when we want it.

Page  94 We can tell much about it, but you must not ask us what it is. On seeing a face I am aware that I have seen it before, or that I have not seen it before. On hearing a fact told I am aware that I knew it already. You say the first words of the old song, and I finish the line and stanza. But where I have them, or what becomes of them when I am not thinking of them for months and years, that they should lie so still, as if they did not exist, and yet so nigh that they come on the instant when they are called for, never any man was so sharp-sighted, or could turn himself inside out quick enough to find.

'T is because of the believed incompatibility of the affirmative and advancing attitude of the mind with tenacious acts of recollection that people are often reproached with living in their memory. Late in life we live by memory, and in our solstices or periods of stagnation; as the starved camel in the desert lives on his humps. Memory was called by the schoolmen vespertina cognitio, evening knowledge, in distinction from the command of the future which we have by the knowledge of causes, and which they called matutina cognitio, or morning knowledge. [1]

Page  95 Am I asked whether the thoughts clothe themselves in words? I answer, Yes, always; but they are apt to be instantly forgotten. Never was truer fable than that of the Sibyl's writing on leaves which the wind scatters. The difference between men is that in one the memory with inconceivable swiftness flies after and recollects the flying leaves,—flies on wing as fast as that mysterious whirlwind, and the envious Fate is baffled.

This command of old facts, the clear beholding at will of what is best in our experience, is our splendid privilege. "He who calls what is vanished back again into being enjoys a bliss like that of creating," says Niebuhr. The memory plays a great part in settling the intellectual rank of men. We estimate a man by how much he remembers. A seneschal of Parnassus is Mnemosyne. This power will alone make a man remarkable; and it is found in all good wits. Therefore the poets represented the Muses as the daughters of Memory, for the power exists in some marked and eminent degree in men of an ideal determination. Quintilian reckoned it the measure of genius. Tantum ingenii quantum memoriae.

We are told that Boileau having recited to Page  96 Daguesseau one day an epistle or satire he had just been composing, Daguesseau tranquilly told him he knew it already, and in proof set himself to recite it from end to end. Boileau, astonished, was much distressed until he perceived that it was only a feat of memory.

The mind disposes all its experience after its affection and to its ruling end; one man by puns and one by cause and effect, one to heroic benefit and one to wrath and animal desire. This is the high difference, the quality of the association by which a man remembers. In the minds of most men memory is nothing but a farm-book or a pocket-diary. On such a day I paid my note; on the next day the cow calved; on the next I cut my finger; on the next the banks suspended payment. But another man's memory is the history of science and art and civility and thought; and still another deals with laws and perceptions that are the theory of the world.

This thread or order of remembering, this classification, distributes men, one remembering by shop-rule or interest; one by passion; one by trifling external marks, as dress or money. And one rarely takes an interest in how the facts really stand, in the order of cause and effect, Page  97 without self-reference. This is an intellectual man. Nature interests him; a plant, a fish, time, space, mind, being, in their own method and law. Napoleon is such, and that saves him.

But this mysterious power that binds our life together has its own vagaries and interruptions. It sometimes occurs that Memory has a personality of its own, and volunteers or refuses its informations at its will, not at mine. One sometimes asks himself, Is it possible that it is only a visitor, not a resident? Is it some old aunt who goes in and out of the house, and occasionally recites anecdotes of old times and persons which I recognize as having heard before, and she being gone again I search in vain for any trace of the anecdotes?

We can help ourselves to the modus of mental processes only by coarse material experiences. A knife with a good spring, a forceps whose lips accurately meet and match, a steel-trap, a loom, a watch, the teeth or jaws of which fit and play perfectly, as compared with the same tools when badly put together, describe to us the difference between a person of quick and strong perception, like Franklin or Swift or Webster or Richard Owen, and a heavy man who witnesses the same facts or shares experiences like theirs. 'T is Page  98 like the impression made by the same stamp in sand or in wax. The way in which Burke or Sheridan or Webster or any orator surprises us is by his always having a sharp tool that fits the present use. He has an old story, an odd circumstance, that illustrates the point he is now proving, and is better than an argument. The more he is heated, the wider he sees; he seems to remember all he ever knew; thus certifying us that he is in the habit of seeing better than other people; that what his mind grasps it does not let go. 'T is the bull-dog bite; you must cut off the head to loosen the teeth.

We hate this fatal shortness of Memory, these docked men whom we behold. We gathered up what a rolling snow-ball as we came along,—much of it professedly for the future, as capital stock of knowledge. Where is it now? Look behind you. I cannot see that your train is any longer than it was in childhood. The facts of the last two or three days or weeks are all you have with you,—the reading of the last month's books. Your conversation, action, your face and manners report of no more, of no greater wealth of mind. Alas! you have lost something for everything you have gained, and cannot grow. Only so much iron will the loadstone draw; it Page  99 gains new particles all the way as you move it, but one falls off for every one that adheres.

As there is strength in the wild horse which is never regained when he is once broken by training, and as there is a sound sleep of children and of savages, profound as the hibernation of bears, which never visits the eyes of civil gentlemen and ladies, so there is a wild memory in children and youth which makes what is early learned impossible to forget; and perhaps in the beginning of the world it had most vigor. Plato deplores writing as a barbarous invention which would weaken the memory by disuse. The Rhapsodists in Athens it seems could recite at once any passage of Homer that was desired.

If writing weakens the memory, we may say as much and more of printing. What is the newspaper but a sponge or invention for oblivion? the rule being that for every fact added to the memory, one is crowded out, and that only what the affection animates can be remembered.

The mind has a better secret in generalization than merely adding units to its list of facts. The reason of the short memory is shallow thought. [1] As deep as the thought, so great is the attraction. An act of the understanding will marshal Page  100 and concatenate a few facts; a principle of the reason will thrill and magnetize and redistribute the whole world.

But defect of memory is not always want of genius. By no means. It is sometimes owing to excellence of genius. Thus men of great presence of mind who are always equal to the occasion do not need to rely on what they have stored for use, but can think in this moment as well and deeply as in any past moment, and if they cannot remember the rule they can make one. Indeed it is remarked that inventive men have bad memories. Sir Isaac Newton was embarrassed when the conversation turned on his discoveries and results; he could not recall them; but if he was asked why things were so or so, he could find the reason on the spot.

A man would think twice about learning a new science or reading a new paragraph, if he believed the magnetism was only a constant amount, and that he lost a word or a thought for every word he gained. But the experience is not quite so bad. In reading a foreign language, every new word mastered is a lamp lighting up related words and so assisting the memory. Apprehension of the whole sentence aids to fix the Page  101 precise meaning of a particular word, and what familiarity has been acquired with the genius of the language, and the writer, helps in fixing the exact meaning of the sentence. So is it with every fact in a new science: they are mutually explaining, and each one adds transparency to the whole mass.

The damages of forgetting are more than compensated by the large values which new thoughts and knowledge give to what we already know. If new impressions sometimes efface old ones, yet we steadily gain insight; and because all Nature has one law and meaning,—part corresponding to part,—all we have known aids us continually to the knowledge of the rest of Nature. Thus, all the facts in this chest of memory are property at interest. And who shall set a boundary to this mounting value? Shall we not on higher stages of being remember and understand our early history better?

They say in Architecture, "An arch never sleeps;" I say, the Past will not sleep, it works still. With every new fact a ray of light shoots up from the long buried years. Who can judge the new book? He who has read many books. Who, the new assertion? He who has heard many the like. Who, the new man? He that Page  102 has seen men. The experienced and cultivated man is lodged in a hall hung with pictures which every new day retouches, and to which every step in the march of the soul adds a more sublime perspective.

We learn early that there is great disparity of value between our experiences; some thoughts perish in the using. Some days are bright with thought and sentiment, and we live a year in a day. [1] Yet these best days are not always those which memory can retain. This water once spilled cannot be gathered. There are more inventions in the thoughts of one happy day than ages could execute, and I suppose I speak the sense of most thoughtful men when I say, I would rather have a perfect recollection of all I have thought and felt in a day or a week of high activity than read all the books that have been published in a century.

The memory is one of the compensations which Nature grants to those who have used their days well; when age and calamity have bereaved them of their limbs or organs, then they retreat on mental faculty and concentrate on that. The poet, the philosopher, lamed, old, blind, sick, yet disputing the ground inch by inch against fortune, finds a strength against Page  103 the wrecks and decays sometimes more invulnerable than the heyday of youth and talent.

I value the praise of Memory. And how does memory praise? By holding fast the best. A thought takes its true rank in the memory by surviving other thoughts that were once preferred. Plato remembered Anaxagoras by one of his sayings. If we recall our own favorites, we shall usually find that it is for one crowning act or thought that we hold them dear.

Have you not found memory an apotheosis or deification? The poor short lone fact dies at the birth. Memory catches it up into her heaven, and bathes it in immortal waters. Then a thousand times over it lives and acts again, each time transfigured, ennobled. In solitude, in darkness, we tread over again the sunny walks of youth; confined now in populous streets you behold again the green fields, the shadows of the gray birches; by the solitary river hear again the joyful voices of early companions, and vibrate anew to the tenderness and dainty music of the poetry your boyhood fed upon. At this hour the stream is still flowing, though you hear it not; the plants are still drinking their accustomed life and repaying it with their beautiful forms. But you need not Page  104 wander thither. It flows for you, and they grow for you, in the returning images of former summers. In low or bad company you fold yourself in your cloak, [1] withdraw yourself entirely from all the doleful circumstance, recall and surround yourself with the best associates and the fairest hours of your life:—

"Passing sweet are the domains of tender memory." [2]
You may perish out of your senses, but not out of your memory or imagination.

The memory has a fine art of sifting out the pain and keeping all the joy. The spring days when the bluebird arrives have usually only few hours of fine temperature, are sour and unlovely; but when late in autumn we hear rarely a bluebird's notes they are sweet by reminding us of the spring. [3] Well, it is so with other tricks of memory. Of the most romantic fact the memory is more romantic; and this power of sinking the pain of any experience and of recalling the saddest with tranquillity, and even with a wise pleasure, is familiar. The memory is as the affection. Sampson Reed says, "The true way to store the memory is to develop the affections." A souvenir is a token of love. Remember me means, Do not cease to love me. Page  105 We remember those things which we love and those things which we hate. The memory of all men is robust on the subject of a debt due to them, or of an insult inflicted on them. "They can remember," as Johnson said, "who kicked them last."

Every artist is alive on the subject of his art. The Persians say, "A real singer will never forget the song he has once learned." Michael Angelo, after having once seen a work of any other artist, would remember it so perfectly that if it pleased him to make use of any portion thereof, he could do so, but in such a manner that none could perceive it.

We remember what we understand, and we understand best what we like; for this doubles our power of attention, and makes it our own. Captain John Brown, of Ossawatomie, said he had in Ohio three thousand sheep on his farm, and could tell a strange sheep in his flock as soon as he saw its face. One of my neighbors, a grazier, told me that he should know again every cow, ox, or steer that he ever saw. Abel Lawton knew every horse that went up and down through Concord to the towns in the county. And in higher examples each man's memory is in the line of his action.

Page  106 Nature trains us on to see illusions and prodigies with no more wonder than our toast and omelet at breakfast. Talk of memory and cite me these fine examples of Grotius and Daguesseau, and I think how awful is that power and what privilege and tyranny it must confer. Then I come to a bright school-girl who remembers all she hears, carries thousands of nursery rhymes and all the poetry in all the readers, hymn-books, and pictorial ballads in her mind; and 't is a mere drug. She carries it so carelessly, it seems like the profusion of hair on the shock heads of all the village boys and village dogs; it grows like grass. 'T is a bushel-basket memory of all unchosen knowledge, heaped together in a huge hamper, without method, yet securely held, and ready to come at call; so that an old scholar, who knows what to do with a memory, is full of wonder and pity that this magical force should be squandered on such frippery.

He is a skilful doctor who can give me a recipe for the cure of a bad memory. And yet we have some hints from experience on this subject. And first, health. It is found that we remember best when the head is clear, when we are thoroughly awake. When the body is Page  107 in a quiescent state in the absence of the passions, in the moderation of food, it yields itself a willing medium to the intellect. For the true river Lethe is the body of man, with its belly and uproar of appetite and mountains of indigestion and bad humors and quality of darkness. And for this reason, and observing some mysterious continuity of mental operation during sleep or when our will is suspended, 't is an old rule of scholars, that which Fuller records, "'T is best knocking in the nail overnight and clinching it next morning." Only I should give extension to this rule and say, Yes, drive the nail this week and clinch it the next, and drive it this year and clinch it the next.

But Fate also is an artist. We forget also according to beautiful laws. Thoreau said, "Of what significance are the things you can forget. A little thought is sexton to all the world."

We must be severe with ourselves, and what we wish to keep, we must once thoroughly possess. Then the thing seen will no longer be what it was, a mere sensuous object before the eye or ear, but a reminder of its law, a possession for the intellect. Then we relieve ourselves of all task in the matter, we put the onus of being remembered on the object, Page  108 instead of on our will. We shall do as we do with all our studies, prize the fact or the name of the person by that predominance it takes in our mind after near acquaintance. I have several times forgotten the name of Flamsteed, never that of Newton; and can drop easily many poets out of the Elizabethan chronology, but not Shakspeare.

We forget rapidly what should be forgotten. The universal sense of fables and anecdotes is marked by our tendency to forget name and date and geography. "How in the right are children," said Margaret Fuller, "to forget name and date and place."

You cannot overstate our debt to the past, but has the present no claim? This past memory is the baggage, but where is the troop? The divine gift is not the old but the new. The divine is the instant life that receives and uses, the life that can well bury the old in the omnipotency with which it makes all things new. [1]

The acceleration of mental process is equivalent to the lengthening of life. If a great many thoughts pass through your mind, you will believe a long time has elapsed, many hours or days. In dreams a rush of many thoughts, Page  109 or seeming experiences, of spending hours and going through a great variety of actions and companies, and when we start up and look at the watch, instead of a long night we are surprised to find it was a short nap. The opium-eater says, "I sometimes seemed to have lived seventy or a hundred years in one night." You know what is told of the experience of some persons who have been recovered from drowning. They relate that their whole life's history seemed to pass before them in review. They remembered in a moment all that they ever did.

If we occupy ourselves long on this wonderful faculty, and see the natural helps of it in the mind, and the way in which new knowledge calls upon old knowledge—new giving undreamed-of value to old; every relation and suggestion, so that what one had painfully held by strained attention and recapitulation now falls into place and is clamped and locked by inevitable connection as a planet in its orbit (every other orb, or the law or system of which it is a part, being a perpetual reminder),—we cannot fail to draw thence a sublime hint that thus there must be an endless increase in the power of memory only through its use; that Page  110 there must be a proportion between the power of memory and the amount of knowables; and since the Universe opens to us, the reach of the memory must be as large.

With every broader generalization which the mind makes, with every deeper insight, its retrospect is also wider. With every new insight into the duty or fact of to-day we come into new possession of the past.

When we live by principles instead of traditions, by obedience to the law of the mind instead of by passion, the Great Mind will enter into us, not as now in fragments and detached thoughts, but the light of to-day will shine backward and forward.

Memory is a presumption of a possession of the future. Now we are halves, we see the past but not the future, but in that day will the hemisphere complete itself and foresight be as perfect as aftersight.

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