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Alids ta Self-Culturr.
THE METHOD OF SELF-CULTURE.
THERE is a common and lamentably prevalent mistake abroad in the public mind, of which we would gladly disabuse it, that great ends cannot be wrought out unless by the evokement of great agencies, and “ enterprises of great pith and moment” cannot be effectively brought to completion without a vast accumulation of all appliances and means. The intense gregariousness of the present age,-the centralization in which it indulges,the partnerships, clubs, societies, institutions, associations, unions, guilds, &c., which abound, and the vast concentrations to which the mind thus becomes accustomed, are perhaps in certain senses as productive of evil as in others they are the effective promoters of good. When we see man joined with man, means leagued to means, influence united to influence, -all accumulated for the purpose of effecting one grand object,
; -we are apt to become so impressed with the magnitude of the agencies needful to produce results, that we lose in a great measure the sense of individual importance and responsibility. We get into the habit of acting by proxy and delegation—of working out our views by associations —of banding together to do or to aid—and of merging our respective individualities into public unities. We become believers in aggregation, and sacrifice our self-hood, that we may add weight and influence to mobhood. Self-action is abnegated, and mobocracy reigns. Each man seems to himself a littleness needing help, and capable of effecting naught unless in concert with, and amid the huzzas and plaudits of, his fellows. We are a race of pigmies, simply because we will not be giants. We fritter our great purposes in assemblies, ooze away our patriotism in public meetings, vent our religious zeal in speechification or patient hearing of speechification, and attend young men's associations for mental improvement to talk of, but seldom to work out our self-culture.
We wish, in opposition to all this, to write in favour of self-hood-in maintenance of the doctrine that each man is and ought to be a power—in support of self-trust, self-action, self-thinking, and self-reform. We desire not the merging of the Egoism of each into a vast plurality, but the elevation of each individual being into a power working for the attainment of a great end--and thus producing, in the totality of the effect, a greater amount of public good, and an incalculable increase in private advancement. We know it is vain to attempt to write down public institutions; and, though we are exceedingly anxious to excite to personal self-culture, we need not attempt it. We have no wish to oppose the good effected by unions, but to expose the mistake, too often indulged in, that unions can effect good in a mass when the individuals composing them are not elaborating, each for himself, that knowledge which is power along with that union which is strength. In short, we are afraid that union is becoming weakness by withdrawing the stimuli to individual exertion, and consequently lessening the real available strength of each individual as well as the united energy and usefulness of the whole. There are too many enticements to hear and to read, and too few to think and study; so much so, that many young men spend all the hours appropriate to study in attending “ Lectures on the Advantages of Study,” listening to essays on “ The Value and Importance of a Right Use of Time," or reading “ Aids to Self-Culture,” without ever making one truly strenuous effort to practise those precepts, whicb, having been heard so often, have blunted the ear, and hardened the heart, as well as blurred the conscience. Reader, awake and consider what waste of time, what arrant folly, what dastardly cowardice, what wanton sinfulness is hid behind that mock zeal for knowledge of which we speak. That lethargic indulgence in opiates for the conscience—those pitiful and paltry palliations of half-conscious guilt-these mean equivocations and make-believes—these actor-faced shams—these heart disguises must be giren up, and reality and honest endeavour take their place.
Now is the very time to change all this; to cast up accounts of the immense de ficits of the year—to take stock of our mental acquirements, and begin to look after the true business of life with earnestness and vigour. Test the investments of that most precious of all capitals—Time-which have been made during this year, give no further credit to defaulters or impostors, however fair and specious their address or outward seeming, and hereafter follow the maxim of Shakespeare:
“ To thine ownself be true, And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou cans't not then be false to any man." Let us have no “mouth-made vows that break themselves in speaking," but real, earnest, energetic, rational resolves—and let each of us attempt to henceforth
To the great moral of a passing world." The Method of Self-Culture signifies simply the way to set about it. This depends upon the aim we have. We have before noticed the difference between self-culture and professional culture, and have hitherto given forth our maxims in reference to the former. This course we shall still continue, and argue for the general culture of the schole man rather than any peculiar or special sort of culture.
The first element in self-culture is self-knowledge; for upon our perception of our own capacities or defects depends the proportionate amount of labour to be bestowed upon several items in which culture is sought. And here we may be permitted to notice one special distinction between professional and self-culture. In the former we ought to follow our aptitudes and special likings; in the latter we ought specially and particularly to culture those portions of the mind in which the chief defects have been remarked. In any case self-knowledge is the initiative element in self-culture.
On other's knowledge, and exile their own." This self-knowledge being given, then, as the initial principle of self-culture-disclosing at one view, our various deficiencies, and the large capacities dwelling in our immortal
nature - these follow, as the general rules of method by which the life must be governed, that practical self-culture may be possible:
1st. Consecrate and set apart some portion of each day, however short the hours may be with which leisure blesses us, for the culture of the soul.
While of the world and in the world, let this one season, brief as it may be, give you the power of rising above the world, -its low policies, its mean trickeries, its paltry hypocrisies, its money-making shuffles, its petty pleasures, its chasings of wealth up to—if not beyond
-the very verge of dishonest dealing. Let the mind even for a little every day be lifted into a serener atmosphere, where truth may perchance find breath. Give your thoughts in these hours to quiet contemplation, to serious thought, to careful reading, to meditations on the purpose of being and the duties of life. Leave bustle, and business, and gain, and popularity, and schemes of worldly progress behind, and in the secret sanctuary of the mind, think, think upon things worthy of the noble destiny which each man is created capable of achieving, and work within your minds whatever change is needful to be wrought there, that you may more worthily fulfil the braveries which every human life that is worthy must exhibit. These braveries lie in the life-path of each mortal; blessed is he who without cowardice, as without foolhardiness, encounters and conquers them. Let no wavering of purpose, no allurement, no winning smile from the falsehoods of society, ever tempt you to violate the holy duty of meeting with your own soul each day to learn how the duties of life have found and left it.
2nd. Select the master-minds of our country for your subsidiary counsellors and auxiliaries in this work.
The voice of God to man must never be forgotten. Though wę sedulously abstain from intrusion into the clerical province, and restrain ourselves from writing homilies, we must not permit our individual silence on these points to be mistaken or misconstrued. We recommend human authors only as subsidiary counsellors and auxiliaries. Let the voice of God be ever pre-eminent! But the noble literature of our land is rich in grand counsels, good thoughts, brilliant expositions of truth. Indeed, no man can become truly great, can ever write his name on the list of “the honourable ones of the earth,” without being the bringer of new light into the scheme of life, and flashing upon some truth which humanity loves in its heart of hearts-a brilliancy and attractiveness unnoticed before. The earth's sages are heaven's teachers. Each great soul learns all he knows from the universe of God around, and the gift of God within, him; so far, therefore, as he is an apt scholar, he is
truly taught of God," and bears a message, and fulfils an apostolate to his fellow-men. Thus he puts his talents out to usury, and makes posterity his heir. How often do we thanklessly fling aside “the precious life-blood” of these master-spirits among men. “ Read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest;" in one word, study the works of great authors, and“ grapple them to thy soul with hooks of steel.”.
Books which are to be studied should be the best of their class. Superior knowledge can never be acquired without converse with superior minds. Quality, not quantity, is the element by which a good library must be judged. Isaac Watts makes a remark, somewhere, to the following effect:-Life is too short, and Time is too precious, to allow of our reading books only that we may learn they are not worth reading. In all cases, then, choose those books which the unanimous voice of ages, or what is equally sati
factory, the unanimous suffrage of the wisest and best cotemporary judges, have recommended highly. A good library is as necessary for the purposes of study as a good dictionary is to aid us in understanding what we read. We must study subjects, not books merely. Hence every hour we spend in reading must be followed by some time spent in thinking, in connecting fact with fact, thought with thought, or thought with fact, and in comparing the views given on each subject by one author with the views advocated by others. Good books are the best company, and from the best company the greatest advantages may be gained. To keep the best company is, therefore, the special duty of every one engaged in Self-Culture.
3rd. Let order reign in the distribution of your time and the arrangement of your studies.
The order which we, from our own past experience, would advise is, study in the morning, contemplation and ordinary everyday-needed reading in the evening. The morning hour, however early the time of toil may be, is the best for study. Fix firmly, then, one or two facts, principles, or notions, and you have matter for contemplation and reflection to which the mind will naturally recur at every disengaged moment of the day. Thus the impression deepens, and becomes more distinct; and by entering immediately into the current and circulation of our thoughts becomes more intimately and indissolubly ours. In the evening-time, the day and its affairs are fresh and palpable before the Memory, who is quite ready to give true witness in the court of Reason as to the facts of the day gone by. To reflect, then, is to give conscience an opportunity of approval or disapproval,—is to bestow upon Sorrow the power of entering into alliance with Resolve to avoid or resist the evils of the morrow,—is to admit of the possibility of the whole faculties of the soul "taking counsel together," regarding the futurity before them.
The order of study should be from the simple to the more complex in regular gradation. This should be perseveringly and unvaryingly pursued. Desultoriness is inimical to true progress. It flatters the vanity, but saps the strength of the soul. We must not haste too much to be wise, lest we enter into the snares with which the life-lot of man is strewed. The order of the practical papers in our course of “ Aids to Self-Culture” will be guided by this principle. They shall be concise but accurate-brief but complete outlines of all matters necessary to be known in each of the branches of study which we shall think needful to advise to make "a full man."
4th. Thoroughly comprehend, and accurately acquire, the signification of all absolutely necessary technical terms.
They form the points of attachment for all subsequent acquisitions. These fixed, all truths are easily grouped round and fastened to them, and all is then secure.
5th. Attempt no subsequent step until the preceding one has been successfully taken.
All knowledge properly arranged should pass from truth to truth with gradual increase of difficulty; if, then, one step be left untaken, the want of the knowledge which sho hare been gained must make itself felt at each subsequent occasion in which the truth not known mingles with, and forms an element in, any subsequent truth.
6th. Do not suffer the hours of study to be interfered with by any avoidable circumstance, and use every energy to avoid any circumstance which threatens interference.
Habits are only acquired and retained by perseverance; and new habits are formed by neglec: ng io keep the old ones bright and polished by use. To neglect the observance of a good habit is to form at least one bad one, mayhap many such. Make study the habit of the soul. Let it be native and endued into that element."
Difficulties should not daunt but nerve us. The mere fact of the emergence of a diffculty should arouse all our self-esteem and all our energy of mind to work out its subjection. We must, in all points, be conquerors—be invincible.
We press upon you now to single yourself from all aims inconsistent with making yourself worthy in life. Whatever be your station, be truly noble. Let none of the fallacies of worldliness impose upon you. One task is before you. See to it that it be done-to make your own soul worthy of a 'destiny such as Heaven designed it for. Self-hood and Man-hood ;-twine these together with Saint-hood in one garland, and be worthy to wear them on your brow. Let not the gift of a new year be offered to us once more till we have resolved to use it better than we have used the present. And may its chronicles, written by the recording angel, contain many facts proving that some of my readers have striven to
“Follow my thought along its mountainous path ;"have changed resolution into action, thought into realization, and consecrated life to the performance of duty and the accomplishment of self-culture. And may the writer not neglect his own lessons. Farewell now; may a new year bring us all together again,“ wiser and better men.”
OUGHT THE UNIVERSITIES OF OXFORD AND CAMBRIDGE TO BE THROWN
OPEN AS NATIONAL INSTITUTIONS FOR BRITISH SUBJECTS OF ALL RELIGIOUS OPINIONS ?
AND do you not know, Grammarian ! son who can fearlessly take his stand, not H. D. L., that every general of an army does boastingly but quietly; and as fearlessly what “Rolla” has done? Pray answer me; avow his religious and political principles it requires no logic. Did not Alexander and touching any controversial agitation; such, Hannibal, Cæsar and Napoleon, Christ and we must tell H. D. L., were the singular Paul, Luther and Knox, present in their tactics” of Christ, and“ the bad generalship" day to thy unpenetrating class, as I do to of Paul and Luther, and of all who have thee, “such singular tactics,” to use your done anything for God on earth. own words, and such “bad generalship”? We should not think H. D. L. less honest, Did they not? Were not their characters but the reverse, were he to tell us more and principles manifest in their actions? plainly how he loves State Churchism, and Were they not honest in the open avowal of how he would rejoice to see her reign yet their intentions, whether good or bad? They again in Star Chamber intolerance ! wished the world to understand them; there- Voltaire is not to be admired the less before they had nothing to do with that which cause he made the world to understand him, you so strongly recommend by implication although his cause was not of God! Let in your splenetic attack; viz., reservation H. D. L. remember the Latin apothegm --and double dealing! We reverence the per- "Fas est et ab hoste doceri;” and learning of