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CHAPTER VIII
GRATRY ON STUDY

"Seek ye the old paths."

It is not only as showing the true nature of logical evidence that Gratry throws light on the intellectual problems of our day. His treatment of the question—What constitutes valid evidence? contains an answer partial, of course, but certainly sound as far as it goes, to that other question:—What constitutes true Education?

The special point in debate among teachers just now is, whether Education means teaching children truths, or drawing out the faculties by which man discovers Truth for himself.

One of the most terrible facts with which we have to deal in Education, is that on this point all the real thinkers are on one side, and nearly all the practice[1] on the other. Among those who are really thinking about Education, the unanimity is so great as to be monotonous. We have had unequivocal expressions of opinion at the Education Society. Professor Maurice and James Hinton (who by no means agreed in most respects) were both strong on this point:—Education means educing faculty, and does not mean imparting knowledge or instilling opinions. Theorists say—and say very truly—that no amount or kind of practice in remembering and writing out at examinations results arrived at by the investigations made by other people, constitutes any exercise of the faculties by which truth is discovered, or any adequate preparation for solving the practical problems which present themselves in the course of every human life. They maintain that no child is really being educated, except in so far as those faculties are being educed and strengthened, by the use of which Truth is brought to light from amidst a chaos of contradictory-seeming phenomena.

Yet some power mightier than all arguments is preventing these would-be reformers from effecting their purpose. The practical men insist on keeping up a routine of teaching things which can be tested by Examination. It is easy to rail at practical men, but they are the drag on our impetuosity. Magna est Veritas et prevalebit. A doctrine which does not prevail is not, yet, quite true. The resistance of practical men to our efforts is the resistance of the calyx to the premature unveiling of the imperfect corolla. Instead of railing against those who oppose us, would it not be better to mature our ideas and make our method complete, and therefore irresistible?

The truth is that, in the desperate struggle on behalf of the principle that Education means educing faculty the supporters of that principle are too much losing sight of the vital question:—What faculties is it most important to educe? Where the advocates of Education versus Examination get their own way, the result often is that too much mental force is absorbed into a minute and monkey-like inquisitiveness about visible phenomena, and often the production of a skill, more wonderful than useful, in the observation of certain classes of facts to the neglect of all other facts; and in the study of mathematical methods of analysis of principles, to the neglect of vital comprehension of the principles themselves in their bearing on human development.

Gratry is as sure as any Science-teacher of the present day, that Education means educing the faculties by which man discovers Truth for himself. But:—what Truth? And what faculties? The highest object of intellectual culture, according to Gratry, is to educe and fortify the sense by which we perceive what the Unseen Teacher is saying to us.

"Do you know whom you are going to have for your Teacher ? God. The time has come when you will put into practice the command of Christ—'Call no man your master on earth ; for One is your Master, even God.' . . . You have heard and said that God is Light and enlightens every man. Do you believe this? If so, then accept all the consequences of that belief. If you believe that you have within you a Master Who wills to teach you, say to this Master, as you would say it to a man standing in front of you: 'Master, speak to me; I am listening.'

"But then, after you have said, 'I am listening,' you must listen. This is simple, but of primary importance.

"In order to listen, we must have silence. Now who, I ask, among men—especially among those who consider themselves thinkers—ever secures for himself silence?

"All day long the student listens to other men's talk; or else, he talks himself; when he is supposed to be alone, he is making books talk to him as fast as his eye can move along the lines of print. . . . His solitude is peopled, besieged, cumbered ... by useless talkers and by books which are a mere hindrance to thought. . . . Believe me, one who studies thus will learn little or nothing; just because there is only one Teacher, and this Teacher is within us ; because we must listen before we can hear Him; and to listen we must have silence."

Nevertheless, Gratry insists that no man is really educated unless he knows, and knows well, the essential principles of all the important Sciences. His list of requirements seem at first sight a formidable one. The cultivated man must know enough of the Higher Mathematics to understand the principles of Mathematical Induction; because "he who can understand the principle of Induction will be for ever preserved from atheism and materialism." (This implies a far deeper acquaintance with mathematical philosophy than is necessary to become a Senior Wrangler.) As for Astronomy, Gratry thinks the ignorance of the public about so grand a Science very strange. He mentions successively, Physics, Physiology, Geology, Geography, History, and Moral Science; of each of which he requires the cultivated man to know considerably more than a mere smattering. Finally comes Theology. Gratry is tolerant to those who differ from him in opinion; but he does not understand how it can happen "that every educated man does not know by heart the Articles of the Christian faith.

"If you are Christians these Articles contain the details of your faith. ... If you are enemies of Christianity, take the trouble to know what are the statements against which you are fighting; your blows will thus be dealt less at random."

Gratry has here laid bare one of the principal causes of the mental confusion of our time. No man, to whatever denomination he belongs, ought to be considered educated who does not know what are the essential principles both of Mosaic teaching and of the Catholic Faith. What, for instance, does European History mean, to one who has no clear conception of the nature of those thoughts and feelings which have moulded our civilization?

But the question naturally presents itself:—If we are to spend a large portion of our time in listening to the Voice of the Unseen, instead of reading, how can such a mass of positive information be acquired? Gratry's answer is similar in kind to that given later by Hinton, but expressed in a manner both more methodical and more safe than Hinton's. Gratry bids the student keep perpetually by him, for his guidance, the living belief that, as The Creator is One, so must the Science of that which He has created be one also. "Fear neither the magnitude, nor the number, nor the diversity of the Sciences. Study will be simplified, harmonized and fertilized, by comparing one Science with another." We seem to hear Moses of old proclaiming the formula of freedom and of power:—" Hear, O Israël! The divided gods enslave us; the Deliverer from bondage is the Unity."

And as we might facilitate our work by unifying the Sciences into One Science, so we should also treat the revelations of all times as One Eternal Truth. This is best done by studying each Science according to the historical method; letting the culture of to-day flow into our minds in natural sequence from that of yesterday. It is vain that we rise early and late take rest, and anxiously devour many books ; to those who love The Great Unity, He gives knowledge even while they sleep.

If any social phenomenon of our time is more astounding than the ignorance of important facts displayed by many professed scientists, it is the feebleness of mental grasp exhibited by many students of the so-called "mental and moral" Sciences. Their thought-modes suggest nothing so much as the thin rapid pulse generated by exhaustion and over-excitement. This singular psychic condition is clearly traceable to the fatigue caused by the destruction of ancient landmarks. A cultivated mind shrinks indeed from acknowledging as the substance of its faith any more of Truth than so much as it has made its own; but the limit of personal faith is not necessarily that of historical knowledge. Unity of thought is promoted, and the process of self-culture enormously facilitated, by having always at hand in one's memory, in a compact form, the best results of the mental labour of preceding ages. A creed or formulary acts as what Hinton called "an unconscious constant"; a crystallizing thread round which atoms of knowledge may gradually gather, instead of being swept away by every current of thought, or retained only by vehement effort. Nothing makes study at once so exhausting and so unprofitable as the absence of any frame-work of registered propositions. Nothing, therefore, can be more fatal to intellectual progress than the random destruction of those ancient formulae which create, as it were, a common language between men; and between the successive epochs of life, both personal and national. The attempt to acquire power and freedom for intellectual pursuits by keeping oneself ignorant of ancestral Theology would seem to be about on a level, for practical efficacy, with the attempt to gain facilities for the study of human life by living like a savage. Even those who wish to explore barbarous regions find that they can do so to more purpose if they carry about with them, in a compact form, a judicious selection of civilized appliances. Setting aside all considerations of religion, the European who is not familiar with the various clauses of the Athanasian Creed gives one the same sense of lack of culture as does an Englishman unacquainted with Shakspere, or a Jew who has not read Isaiah.

And the vicious system which is sweeping away the frame-work of association by which we are connected with the past, is only consistent in its folly, in that it provides no substitute whereby the individual child may be connected with its own past. As soon as a child has passed an Examination in a certain "standard," he casts aside that standard, and learns something different. There is no formula which is solemnly repeated every day or every week throughout his school career. Suicidal blindness could no further go.

We may sum up the reflections suggested by the Logique of Gratry, by saying that the feverish feebleness of ephemeral Scientism is a part of that grand process of Natural Selection by which irreverence, impiety, and conceit are, in each age, weeded out, to leave room for something more worthy to endure. Excessive specialization is always more or less idolatrous. Those who alternate an intelligent interest in the Science of their own day with seasons of pious meditation on the aspirations of the mighty dead, renew their strength like young eagles, and their days shall be long in the land. They shall inherit the possessions of time-serving idolaters. They shall attract peoples that they know not, and nations who knew them not shall seek them; and great shall be the peace of their children; for such is the heritage of the servants of the Lord.


  1. This was written nearly twenty years ago. It is no longer quite true; but I let it stand.