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Delphi, was copied by the Romans, and has been reiterated in every subsequent age. “Know thyself,” says the poet:
“Presume not God to scan,
The proper study of mankind is man." Self-knowledge implies a knowledge of both the physical and mental constitution of the being we call self. This same being is in most respects a perfect type of every other human being. Human beings in every clime have such a resemblance in their entire structure that they form but one species in the animal kingdom. They constitute one great family. Members of this family may differ in form, in color, in size, and in language, but they are all endowed with reason, sensibility and will. To raise them to a higher life requires for all a similar process of training, modified to suit the various conditions in which the human race exists.
To know ones' self, therefore, is to know every other rational being; and what knowledge we possess of others must, of necessity, depend upon self-knowledge. The anatomist dissects one body and thus learns the constitution of all similar bodies. The philosopher studies his own mind, makes a careful record of its activities and emotions and publishes to the world his theories and speculations in mental science. Hence the origin of psycological books. Every age has had its great thinkers and philosophers. Among the ancients the name of Socrates stands pre-eminent. He devoted himself to self-knowledge and became the great ethical teacher of his times. Plato and Xenophon were his favorite disciples. They garnered up and transmitted much of the instructions of this immortal teacher, and portrayed, as an example to posterity, his illustrious character, his devotion to the welfare and elevation of his countrymen, and his sublime and Godlike patience, while awaiting the execution of the unjust and cruel sentence which doomed him to drink the fatal poison. The Socratic or interrogatory method of teaching, so effective and searching in the practice of the great master and inventor, is, even at this day, ranked among the best methods of stimulating and eliciting thought.
Two thousand years intervened between Socrates and Locke; meanwhile sixty generations had come and gone ; the world had been peopled and revolutionized ; the dismal night of the dark ages had for a long period eclipsed the light of science and philosophy; the Messiah had appeared ; a new world had been discovered ; still, amid all these great changes of condition, amid all the fluctuations in the vast ocean of human life, the nature of the human mind alone remained unchanged.
It was not possible that Locke, or other metaphysicians of his age, could make any new discoveries in mental science. The self-conscious
ness of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, which revealed to them the faculties, emotions and passions of their own minds, and therefore of every other mind, was the same as the self-consciousness of Locke and other great thinkers and investigators in the science of mind. But the writings of Locke, of Cudworth, of Kant and Descartes are but links in the chain of mental science. They have transmitted the same principles and axioms about which Socrates and Plato discoursed, but too much encumbered with impracticable theories and speculations.
During the past century, works on mental and moral science have been so multiplied and simplified, that they are now accessible to students in nearly every stage of education. In all our higher seminaries of learning the course of study would be incomplete with these branches excluded. The works of Brown, of Upham, of Alexander and Wayland are replete with practical instruction in mental and ethical science. These, with the inestimable treatise of Dr. Isaac Watts, on the Improvement of the Mind, written more than a century ago, should have a place in every teacher's library. But none of these aids in the attain. ment of self-knowledge can supersede the necessity of self-examination. They are suggestive; they mark out a course of thought; they abound in pertinent facts and illustrations; but to the reflective student these works are only the unification of his own consciousnessthe results reached by self-examination. Gifted teachers and disciplinarians are often credited with some extraordinary knowledge of human nature. They are reputed to have an intuitive insight—a sort of introspection into the activities, motives and purposes of their pupils. They seem able to inspire a love of knowledge, a love of virtue and obedience. They are quick in detecting peculiarities; in interpreting the motives of conduct, and in observing and encouraging noble aspirations. They seem to know intuitively the gauge and dimensions of the capacities under their charge, and mete out a just measure to all. In discipline, though strict, systematic and exacting, they temper authority with kindness, and shrink from wounding tender sensibilities, or from crushing out self-respect and the spirit of manliness. Such are not ideal teachers; though few in numbers they actually exist. They owe their power, their skill and success, in a high degree, to their self-knowledge. Without the pretension, they are philosophers in the highest sense. By studying their own nature they know the nature of others; they judge rightly of character, because by their own reflection and consciousness, they find within themselves corresponding traits.
Common sense, the rarest of all sense, is only another term for self knowledge. For he that knows most of himself knows most that is common to humanity-knows most of the wants, characteristics, frailties and necessities of others. He knows himself, his weaknesses, his temptations, his love of life and happiness, and his relations and responsibilities to society. As in a faithful mirror, face answers to face and form to form, so all the susceptibilities of his own nature responsive to the heart and soul of every other human being. Common sense is not hereditary, is not a gift. It implies no extraordinary mental endowments. It is acquired; it is the result of self-examination, of study, reflection, of observation and experience.
In no other occupation is common sense so beautifully displayed as in that of the teacher. His peculiar relations, his success, his usefulness demand the constant exercise of this acquirement. Without it a man may have the talents of an angel and yet in the common walks of life be accounted as a fool. Without it the teacher has no common sympathy with his pupils, is heedless of their perplexities and troubles, exacts more or requires less than a just estimate of their capacities would dictate, and being unreflective and ignorant of his own mental processes, like an automaton, he performs his little round of duties, has his full reward in the miserable pittance he receives, and in his self-complacence which is inevitably the offspring of self-ignorance and empiricism.
Of the natural agencies in the developement and improvement of the mind, the objects of nature are the most direct and obvious in their effects. How they exert this influence, is one of the mysteries of our being. But who can explain how light paints the blossoms of the unconscious plant, or tints with countless hues the leaves of autumn? So inexplicable is the operation of nature upon mind. The objects of nature furnish to the mind the aliment of thought, at the same time they stimulate the growth of the intellect. Removed from natural objects, the human mind, even in the maturity of age, retains its infancy, and is more ignorant, helpless and dependent than the most stupid of brute animals.
It is through the senses of sight and hearing that the mind is the most strongly and permanently affected by external objocts. Taste and smell are more limited and transient in their effect, while feeling is the result of contact or contiguity of objects; or, in a wider sense, it is the general impression upon the mind made by the exercise of each of the other senses. By means of the senses the mind is constantly kept in a state of activity. In our wakeful hours there is always something to be seen or heard. And every object or quality or sound recognized by the senses, produces instantly in the mind a sensation which is feeble or strong; which may seem to create emotion
or thought, or stimulate curiosity; which may cause pleasure or pain. Or the effect may be transient and apparently uncoticed. Through organs
of sense nature draws out the human mind to the contemplation of her beauties and her wonders.
But for the perversion of the mental faculties they would be in sympathy with the works of Nature. In the midst of the creations of the God of Nature the uncorrupted soul might sit as queen, and on her throne receive homage of the universe. Man has changed, but the works of nature are the same. They are still open to his view, and offer the same attractions as when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy. To restore the human mind to its original dignity, honor and purity, to inspire a love of knowledge, truth and justice, to awaken the moral sense to its obligations to God and our fellow-creaturcs, are the true ends of all instruction and education.
Education, then, is a great work. It begins in infancy under parental guidance. Its subsequent stages are as variable as the different conditions of the human race. Its ends, even with the light of civilisation, are too often misunderstood and perverted.
“How few are the teachers who seem to comprehend the power of natural agencies in the development and improvement of the mind, and in giving tone and inspiration in the pursuit and acquisition of knowledge. Every teacher should be a student of Nature. He should cultivate the habit of observation. Of the countless objects that each day pass under his view, there is scarcely one that is not suggestive and instructive. To the habit of close observation we owe most of the great discoveries in science and art. The colored ring on soap bubbles as observed by Newton, served to confirm his theory of color. From the dropping of an apple he deduced the law of graritation.
To close and constant observation and reflection we owe the sublime discoveries of Copernicus, Kepler and Franklin. The names of Watt, of Fulton, of Sir Humphrey Davys, of Whitney and Howe, suggest to us not only inventions of the greatest utility, but the habits and characteristics of the men who by the simplest experiments achieved the renown of being benefactors of their race.
Books on every science are the treasures of knowledge, the collections of fact and principle, the records of observing and thinking minds. They are accessible to every student of nature. By the help of these his progress in knowledge is greatly facilitated. But there is much in nature that books cannot teach.
Books are a dull and endless strife;
Come hear the woodland linnet!
There's more of wisdom in it!
He too is no mean preacher!
Let nature be your teacher.
Our minds and hearts to bless.
Truth breathed by cheerfulness. Every teacher should be much in communion with nature. He may draw inspiration from the meadows and the grove; from the sunshine and the storm, from the placid lakes and the surging ocean, from the busy scenes of day and the solitude of night.
The eye it cannot choosc but see,
We cannot bid the var be still;
Against or with our will.
Which of themselves our minds impress,
In a wie passiveness. There is among teachers a lamentable lack of general knowledge, sentiment and imagination. I speak now of the lower grade of teachers and even among these there are distinguished exceptions. The calling of a teacher leads to a life of seclusion from many of the ennobling and self-educating influences incident to other callings. His
very success oftentimes invites to indolence and an overestimate of his own acquirements. In the higher grades of teaching, there is less temptation to self-complacence and empiricism. The teacher of this class moves in a higher sphere of intellectual labor has more incitements to knowledge and culture and the higher his standing the more he feels his own deficiences and the greater will be his exertions to raise himself to the level of his responsibilities.
But in all our seminaries of learning, from the highest to the lowest, and in every grade of public schools, the teachers for the most part appear in their manners and habits of mind to bear the impress of their calling. There may be something in the constant exercise of authority or in conscious superiority which gives a sort of cold, dictatorial bearing in their intercourse with society. Clergymen too fre