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Popular Science Monthly/Volume 54/November 1898/Editor's Table

Editor's Table.

 
THE GOAL IN EDUCATION.

MANY of our readers, we are sure, must have been impressed by the articles on The Philosophy of Manual Training lately contributed by Professor Henderson to the pages of this magazine. The thought underlying them is one to which we have ourselves often endeavored to give expression, namely, that the end of education is wholly misconceived unless we consider it as aiming to bring the individual into right relations, at as many points as possible, with the world in which he lives, and to place him in as full possession as possible of the varied powers and capacities of his nature. It is because he regards manual training as the most effective instrument for awakening the intellect in the first place, and then for establishing a proper balance between the mental and bodily activities, that Professor Henderson has advocated it with so much earnestness. All that he has said on the subject seems to us deserving of the closest attention. In the old system of education language was regarded as the supreme and sufficient instrument of mental development; and in the great public schools of England this idea enjoyed the very highest degree of prestige and authority. By language in these establishments, the two classical languages of Greek and Latin were meant, the English language receiving very scant attention, and English literature none. If any one was so far in advance of the times as to express a doubt whether a knowledge of Greek and Latin was the only preparation needed for life, he was pointed to the brilliant men who had come from the forms and the playgrounds of Eton and Winchester and Harrow; and the discussion was considered closed. The fact is that the radical insufficiency of the system was masked to a great extent hy the circumstance that it was mainly applied to a ruling class, who early in life obtained a more practical training in public affairs. Pitt was educated, as has been remarked, by that great statesman, his father, the Earl of Chatham, and Peel by a great manufacturer who took a keen interest in politics. Robert Walpole, leaving the university at an early age, had the society of his father, a most practical-minded country squire, whose original ambition had been to make him the greatest grazier in the kingdom. Many similar cases could be cited in which early introduction to society and to practical life made up for the deficiencies of scholastic training, and reflected, or seemed to reflect, on that training a much greater credit than it deserved.

It may be admitted, however, that as a preparation for a political or forensic career an old-fashioned classical education was not wholly without efficacy. It was systematic and orderly; it was rigid in its requirements; it presented difficulties which had to be overcome, and afforded the means for unmasking looseness and inaccuracy of thought; finally, it called into constant activity, though in a narrow field, the discriminative and analytical faculties. Its weakness lay in this, that it did not reveal the nature of things, but promoted a dangerous habit of "moving about in worlds not realized," and of giving to words an importance which should only be conceded to verified and comprehended facts.

Nowadays we mix, or try to mix, a modicum of scientific knowledge with the education we impart. This is so far good. It affords a training in observation and verification, and opens up to the young sources of interest of which they may increasingly avail themselves in later years. Moreover, as the scientific instruction generally embraces more or less of physiology and hygiene, it places them on their guard against the formation of injurious habits, and shows them the conditions on which health depends. These are advantages which, so far as they go, it is impossible to appreciate too highly. It takes more, however, than the admixture of a little physical science in a school curriculum to make, in a wide sense, the education that is required for life. What is further required is a proper adjustment of the mind toward life with its varied activities and its infinite possibilities of good and evil. When we see men of fine literary gifts growing more cynical as they advance in years, and treating the world to stronger and stronger doses of pessimism in their writings, we are compelled to believe that their adjustment to life must have been wrong. When we see men of science who year by year appear to have less and less in common with their fellow creatures, and whose studies only develop on the intellectual side an ever-increasing passion for the infinitely minute and the vastly unimportant, and, on the moral, a morbid sensitiveness to all kinds of personal questions, we find it difficult to think that they were properly oriented at the start. It may not be given to every one to "see life steadily and see it whole"; but it ought to be possible for a well-trained mind to see it with an eye of calm, tolerant, and sympathetic contemplation. No education is complete which leaves out such knowledge of the world, and of the relation which the individual sustains to it, as shall at least tend to give a right purpose and direction to the individual life. "The world is very evil," is a pious utterance; but it is equally pious for each of us to ask how much of evil is lurking in ourselves. We conceive of a scientific education in the full sense as one which, while it imparts true ideas in regard to the physical history of the globe and the chemical elements that compose it, aims no less at unfolding the true constitution of society, the springs of human action, the strength and weakness of human character, the possibilities of good and evil that reside in every individual, the misery that waits on wrongdoing, and the happiness that flows from just and pure deeds. There is a way, we are persuaded, of presenting the world of humanity to the minds of the young which would tend to create in most—in the vast majority—a strong desire to take a helpful part in the work of their age and generation, and not to concentrate all their efforts on the business of self-advancement. It is merely a question of seeing the facts in a broadly human, which is after all the only true, light.

Let us have in education literature and analytical studies and science with its grand constructions and sanifying discipline—all the useful elements—but let the true goal of education be kept ever in view, which is, not to enable this individual or that to shoot to a preeminence over his fellows, but to place the individual in right relations with his fellows, to give to each a career of useful activity, and to prevent that dreary disappointment with life and all its works which overtakes so many in their declining years. Life has its burdens, but it is not vanity; and the normal action of human beings on one another should be to give to each separate existence a higher value and deeper sources of happiness.

 

 
A DOUBTFUL APPENDIX TO SCIENCE.

It was perhaps to be expected that Sir William Crookes, as president of the British Association, would, whatever else he touched upon in his presidential address, say something in regard to the special views which have now for many years been associated with his name. In point of fact he did do so. Beginning with a survey of the world's resources in the matter of wheat production, and an inquiry as to how the fertility of the soil may in future be kept up, he passed to the constitution of matter and molecular action as illustrated by the phenomena of Röntgen rays, and finally referred to "experiments tending to show that, outside our scientific knowledge, there exists a force exercised by intelligence differing from the ordinary intelligence common to mortals." These experiments were made, we are told, more than thirty years ago. It does not appear that any substantial or indubitable addition has been made to the evidence which these experiments afforded, or were supposed to afford; but Professor Crookes "thinks" he can "see a little further now." "I have glimpses," he says, "of something like coherence among the strange, elusive phenomena." That undoubtedly is a good thing to get glimpses of; but there is perhaps room for question whether the extreme interest of the professor in the "strange elusive phenomena" has not led him to make a little more of the "glimpses" than strict scientific method would warrant.

It is really only necessary to read the concluding portion of Professor Crookes's address to see that he is dealing not with science but with crude imaginations. He says that "confirmation of telepathic phenomena is afforded by many converging experiments," but especially by "the subconscious workings of the mind when these are brought into conscious survey." There is really no meaning in this. How can any "survey" be other than conscious? And what is there in the subconscious workings of the mind adapted to prove that impressions can be made upon the mind otherwise than through the recognized channels of sense? "The patient experimentation of the Society for Psychical Research is probing subliminal processes and learning lessons of alternating personalities and abnormal states." There is no objection in the world to all that; but it would take more than an alternating personality or an abnormal state to enable a mind to gather knowledge from another mind without the intermediation of intelligible signs. A sick man may act in a very singular way, but his sickness does not enable him to transcend the ordinary powers of humanity.

The eminent professor speaks of the cures wrought by suggestion (hypnotism); but seeing that the suggestions are made by intelligible signs, verbal or other, we find no support here for the telepathic hypothesis. We really gather from the professor's remarks that while a great many persons—some of high intelligence and of recognized position in the scientific or philosophical world—have been pottering away atthis matter of telepathy and other phases of spiritualism for a great many years, things are to all intents and purposes just as they were before all these laborious researches began. This is not just the way the professor puts it; his words are: "A formidable range of phenomena must be scientifically sifted before we effectually grasp a faculty so strange, so bewildering, and for ages so inscrutable as the direct action of mind on mind." Sometimes the reason why a thing is inscrutable is because it isn't so; and that, we suspect, is the explanation in the present case. One hypothesis which the professor puts forward is simple to the last degree. It is that the molecular action of the brain, when thoughts are passing through it. is taken up by the ether and communicated to another brain in which it awakens similar thoughts. But the question we ask at once is why this wireless telegraphy between brain and brain is not going on all the time, and why we are all not driven crazy by the everlasting intrusion of other people's thoughts? If this is the process, why should neighboring brains be skipped, and the effect be produced upon one particular brain hundreds, perhaps thousands, of miles away?

"It is henceforth open to science," says Sir William Crookes, "to transcend all we now think we know of matter, and to gain glimpses of a profounder scheme of cosmic law." We really do not know when it was not open to science to do this if it could; and we do not see that the telepathists and other denominations of spiritualists have in any appreciable manner improved the situation as regards the probability of the thing being done. They have contributed floods of talk and tons upon tons of printed matter, and have worked thousands of people into variously grewsome conditions of mind; but if any one can point to a single distinct advance in scientific theory due to their peculiar methods, we can only say that we do not know what it is. Professor Crookes has been one of the foremost scientific workers of his day; and we find it hard to believe that he can be under any illusion as to the futility of the efforts of the spiritualist school. At the same time he is entitled to the utmost freedom of thought and utterance; and if he believes there is still hope of important gains to humanity from the side of spiritualism, he is justified in holding his position; and while we may think he is sadly misled, we must accord him the respect due to eminent talents and unquestioned sincerity.

 

 
THE CAUSE OF SPAIN'S DECADENCE.

Until account is taken of the effect of war on the thoughts, feelings, and institutions of men, no headway can be made toward a rational explanation of the decadence of Spain. Since the outbreak of hostilities with that country, which has made the topic a favorite one with newspaper and magazine writers, every other explanation has been vouchsafed; but all of them, including the favorite one about the mental and industrial paralysis produced by the Spanish Inquisition, mistake effects for causes. Not one of them, so far as we have seen, has touched the root of the matter and pointed out that Spain has simply gone the way of every other nation that has devoted itself, not to the pursuits of peace, but to the destruction of life and property.

Like all other despotisms, Spanish despotism has been the inevitable product of the necessities of war. Success in that pursuit requires that the subjects of a monarch shall place unreservedly their lives and property at his disposal. He must be permitted to levy conscriptions without let or hindrance, and to impose taxes with the same freedom. The longer and more intense the militant activities, the more unmitigated the despotism. In Spain the conditions for the uninterrupted growth of such irresponsible power have been especially favorable. There were first the long wars with the Moors, then the Italian wars, the wars of the Reformation, the wars of the Spanish Succession, the Napoleonic wars, followed by a period of chronic revolution, and the wars carried on against the natives and other adversaries in the New World. The impulse toward a concentration of power in the hands of one man engendered by these incessant conflicts could not fail to blot out of existence every sentiment and institution of freedom. Only during the past twenty five years of peace has either been able to gain a foothold and to give a promise of regeneration.

But the despotism growing out of war means more than the bare statement that all power over life and property has been placed in the hands of a monarch. It means that his subjects have been deprived of the right to think and act for themselves. He has taken charge of both their consciences and their conduct. In Spain, for some reason not easy to discover, the ecclesiastical despotism that accompanies the growth of political despotism became more potent and deadly than in the other countries of Europe. There the priests were more powerful sometimes than the monarch himself. With the institution of the Inquisition during the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella they wrought a havoc to the Spanish intellect that has no parallel outside of the great Oriental despotisms. To them is due the mental torpor of the Spaniards, who, according to U. J. Burke, wrapped themselves in a cloak and "sought safety in dignified silence." How could the spectacle of an auto-da-fé do otherwise than disincline a prudent man to think for himself and to tell what he thought?

That devotion to military pursuits inspires a contempt for industrial pursuits and gives birth to a feeling of superiority over the people engaged in them we see to-day in France and Germany. In those countries it has come to such a pass that civilians are regarded as almost without rights, since an officer imagining himself insulted may run them through with his sword, and as having no other function in the economy of the world but to work for their masters. In Spain during the years of her greatest military activity these feelings of a barbarian reached an intensity that can not now be realized. The only occupation outside of killing and plundering enemies either in Europe or America that a gentleman could follow was a career as a churchman or as an official in the home or colonial administration. "Public offices," says Henry C. Lea, describing the results of this absurd belief, "were multiplied recklessly, and the steady increase in the ranks of the clergy, regular and secular, was a constant subject of remonstrance. In 1626 Navarette tells us that there were thirty-two universities and more than four thousand grammar schools crowded with sons of artisans and peasants striving to fit themselves for public office or holy orders. Most of them failed in this through inaptitude, and drifted into the swarms of tramps and beggars who were a standing curse to the community." Hence the abnormal proportions of the ecclesiastical and bureaucratic establishments; hence also the almost total failure to develop the great natural resources of the country; hence, finally, the unprosperous condition of the industries not crushed out of existence by the regulations of the official parasites.

To many people the callousness of Spaniards to suffering and their disregard of the rights of others have seemed the greatest mystery. Why is it that they still cling so tenaciously to the pleasures of the bull ring? Why was it that they appeared so indifferent to the miseries of the Cuban reconcentrados? In the light of the influence of war on the sympathies these questions present no difficulty. Clear also does it become why the Spaniards possess as little patriotism as the Chinese. Training for centuries in the belief that the most honorable occupation is the killing and plundering of enemies or the filling of positions in church and state that obviate the necessity of earning a livelihood by honest toil is not fitted to inspire a keen sense of justice or a lively fellow-feeling. When people have been plundered for centuries by a greedy bureaucratic despotism they can not persuade themselves that it is their duty to protect their oppressors from foreign or domestic assailants. What they are most interested in is an opportunity to get a living. Whether the honor of their country is at stake, or whether there is threatened the loss of the last remnant of a colonial empire that has cost them blood and treasure beyond estimate, they are certain to be as indifferent as the victims of a slave driver to the misfortunes that have overtaken him.

Some friends of Spain have been inclined to regard the loss of these colonies as the culmination of her misfortunes. We can not but regard it as the beginning of better days. Although Spain has not been engaged in war on an extensive scale for a long time, her efforts to retain the control of a people anxious to be delivered from her incapacity and despotism have tended to keep alive the barbarous feelings and traditions of the past. The Cubans and Porto Ricans were not governed for their own benefit like the colonists of Great Britain, but for the benefit of rapacious politicians and traders and manufacturers in Spain. In the colonial administration the former sought easy employment and speedy fortune. In the colonial commercial regulations the latter found an artificial support for trade and manufactures that could not have survived without them. By discriminations, Spanish millers, for instance, were able to import wheat, turn it into flour, and sell it to the colonists at a price scandalously in excess of that charged for the American product. Sometimes the trouble to grind the wheat was not taken. After it had been imported into Spain it was shipped to the colonies, and upon them was thrown the expense of needless transportation and the profits of superfluous middlemen.

With the complete extinction of the colonial empire of Spain will come to an end these opportunities for the pillage of industrious peoples. The parasites, commercial and bureaucratic, that have depended upon them for a livelihood will be obliged to turn their attention to more legitimate employment. There will be brought to an end also the immense sacrifice of life and treasure required to suppress the ever-recurring insurrections. Both will be left in Spain to develop her resources and to add to her wealth and prosperity; but, best of all, will cease the encouragement to the militant and bureaucratic spirit that the possession of the colonies fostered. The sentiments as well as the employments appropriate to peace will receive an impulse that ought to enable Spain to fill an honorable if not a glorious place in the future history of Europe. But this bright outlook is based upon the assumption that she will not join in the mad competition of her neighbors in armaments and thus fall a prey with them to the economic and moral ravages of "an armed peace."

 

 
DREAM AND REALITY.

An ingenious article by M. Camille Mélinand, which appeared a few months ago in the Revue des Deux Mondes under the title of Le Rêve et la Réalité (Dream and Reality), is reproduced, in its more important points, in translation, in the present number of the Monthly, and will repay perusal for the novel views it presents. The object of the writer is to show that there is not so much difference as is commonly supposed between the waking and sleeping states, that our dreams are not so illusory nor our waking experiences so absolutely real as we are in the habit of assuming, and that, as we wake from dreams, so we may expect to wake from what we call life into a condition of existence that will give us a new standpoint, and reduce all the experiences which we now take so seriously and tragically to the level of a dream. The only substantial differences he recognizes between our waking state and the dream state are (1) that in our waking moments we know that there is another condition which we call dreaming, while in our dreams we do not recognize a separate waking state; and (2) that, while we wake from our dreams, we do not wake from what we call reality.

M. Mélinand writes in a candid spirit, and yet we think his article is calculated to encourage a somewhat unhealthy type of mysticism. We do not see how it is possible to take too serious a view of the life we live in the present. Whether we view it tragically or not must depend in large measure upon our individual experiences; and happy are they into whose lives tragedy does not enter. The very fact that M. Mélinand would dissuade us from taking life tragically shows that he recognizes that life—our waking life—can be brought under the rule of right reason. He does not advise us not to take our dreams tragically, for he knows that the dream state is one not susceptible of rational regulation, and this, we think, might very properly be accounted a third very important difference between dream and reality. The true advice to give to those whose happiness we have at heart is, not to look upon life as a kind of dream, but to take it serious ly, to study its laws, and to accept the burdens and duties it imposes. It may be remarked that dreams give very little trouble, as a rule, to those whose waking hours are well spent, and whose minds and bodies are kept in a condition of healthful balance. We can indeed in the waking state take measures to reduce our dreams to a minimum, and to provide that at least they shall not be of a distressing character. Such being the case, it seems idle, to say the least, to speculate, as many besides M. Mélinand have done, on the possible reality of dreams. What Bottom said of his dream, "Man is but an ass if he go about to expound this dream," might be applied without much risk of error to dreams generally; unless the exposition takes the direction of endeavoring to explain what antecedent mental or physical condition, or what circumstances acting upon the sleeper, may have given rise to the dream in a given case.

M. Mélinand makes a remark which the experience of many will confirm, that dreams sometimes throw a light of extraordinary intensity on characters and situations, giving us, perhaps, truer views of certain things than we had ever attained in our waking hours. This, however, would only imply the withdrawal at such moments of influences or conditions which, in our waking life, may have the effect of rendering insight less keen and uncompromising. If, for example, we could in our dreams revert to the standpoint of childhood, we should see many things with a directness which is more or less lacking to our mature cogitations, and pronounce judgments in a correspondingly down-right manner, with perhaps a closer approximation to absolute truth. This, however, would manifestly not imply any extension of our mental range, nor afford any guarantee of the "reality" of the dream life. The intuitions of the novelist or dramatist, when they are true and profound, give a wonderful air of reality to the scenes which the author portrays, but do not make them real. There are various waking states in which our perceptions are more than normally acute; and, as we know, the loss of one physical organ leads frequently to an increase of power in others; but these facts throw little light on the main problem of life, which is how to develop and use our normal powers to the best purpose and with the best results. At the same time it is well not to despise any knowledge that may come to us from dreams in the way of self-revelation or otherwise, but to use it for the strengthening of what is weak and the rectifying of what is wrong. In that way dreams may be made subsidiary to the better government of our higher waking life.

As to the conclusion the writer draws, that, as we wake from dreams, so we may some day wake from this life, which is so like a dream, we leave it to the judgment of our readers, merely remarking that it would be very unfortunate if the thought of such an awakening should lead any one to think little of this life, or abate any effort which he can make to render it, if a dream, a happy dream to himself and others.