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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/867

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EDITOR'S TABLE.

diabolic possession represented as having deliberately and voluntarily given themselves into the power of the fiends? By no means. They are represented rather as the helpless victims of the Evil One; and when the devils have left them, they are in as sound a moral condition (for aught that is hinted to the contrary) as if they had never been possessed. They are not told to go and sin no more, as was the woman taken in adultery. They are not warned, as Dr. Abbott warns his readers, against putting themselves, of their own free will, in the power of the fiend. Had their subjection to evil been gradual and voluntary, how could their corrupted and debased moral natures have been transformed in a moment by a word addressed not to them, but to the indwelling devils? The fact that on one occasion the devils were gratified by being allowed to enter into a herd of swine would seem to show that personal merit or demerit had nothing to do with their choice of an abode. It is not to be supposed that those particular swine were sinners above all the swine that dwelt on the shores of Gennesaret. If Dr. Abbott will therefore consider the matter candidly, he will see that his theory has the double fault of scandalizing reason and opposing Scripture. Surely it is time that, for men as intelligent and with as liberal instincts as Dr. Abbott, the bands of authority were broken in matters of this kind. What do we want with devils in nineteenth-century thought? Can any honest man say that we need them as a working hypothesis for scientific purposes? Would not such a hypothesis rather prove an obstacle to scientific investigation by drawing attention away from the natural antecedents of crime and insanity? What misery has been wrought by this doctrine in past ages Dr. White has well shown. To-day it is a mere wretched survival from ages of ignorance, and one which a wise man, if he can not afford openly to combat, should at least studiously and conscientiously ignore.

 

 

LEARNING TO THINK.

In every-day life no fact is more noticeable than the inability of many persons to do their own thinking, even in matters and upon lines wholly within the range of their intelligence. They will see a point that is suggested to them, and will at once understand its bearing on some matter in hand; but they do not seem to have the faculty or art of raising points for themselves, and consequently their action is not as intelligent as it might be. If given a rule to work by, they will apply it, not only in season but out of season, and will look amazed if one suggests that, under special circumstances, they should have varied their usual procedure. Every employer and overseer of labor knows to what an extent this is the case. It is the exceptional workman who really thinks, and who can therefore be trusted to suit his action to circumstances. And so in nearly every sphere of life; a kind of automatism seems to be the rule, and intelligent self-direction, in the light of present facts, more or less the exception.

One is, therefore, tempted to ask whether, in connection with our systems of education, some gymnastic might not be devised for the special purpose of teaching the rising generation to think. The mere introduction of the natural sciences into school and college courses will not suffice; for, as was shown in a report published in these columns a few years ago, the sciences may be taught with very little intellectual result. What is needed is to form the habit of thought in connection with everything; and, without assuming to speak with authority, we can not help inclining to the opinion that this might be done by presenting every object of thought as something not complete in itself, but as requiring, for its proper comprehension, to be considered in its relations to other things. Nearly every act of stupidity committed in daily life arises from disregarding the