Imatges de pÓgina
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their respective circles a more than transient fame, by their practical attempt to raise our public disciplines one or two degrees out of the wretched depths into which they had fallen. Few perhaps of their ideas were new. Expositions or dreams of them existed in books; indistinctly in the records of the ancient philosophical fathers; prophetically in the hopes of modern moralists. But the peculiar claims of these men consisted in their bringing to practice, in the most humble and familiar manner, modes of treating human nature, which from long obsoleteness had grown out of all memory. Youth of all ages, conditions, and pursuits had so long been given over to harsh feelings and the deadly doctrine of acquisitive knowledge, that the combined ideas of a loveful teacher, and the living source of truth in the taught, came upon the world as a wholly original discovery, involving the projector in all the difficulties and opposition with which genius is generally encountered. The world's gratitude has not, however, withheld the just tribute to these faithful innovators. But while personally to such men, and universally to their practical ideas, they now render due homage, the progressive minds of this age will not fail to perceive, that this movement was but preparative to a deeper and more important change. It was not a trifling task to persuade the pedant to lock up the ferule in his desk, and appeal for power to the love in his own bosom. This was a strange mode, he thought, of quelling a juvenile rebellion. Nor was it to him less heretical to think of folding his printed book for a moment, and essaying the experiment of developing from the pupils a clearer exposition of the law of number, or form, or of thought, than he could ever transfuse into them by means of the best book ever penned. The experiment, however, was tried, and wherever it was faithfully attempted success was certain.

And sufficient good has appeared to all unbiassed observers, to shake to its foundation the old and oppressive dogmatic discipline. Even in the most conservatorial recesses coercion and dictation begin to abate somewhat of their fury, making way for the developing principle, which must in turn yield to that inmost treatment now presented. The method of Instruction when conjoined with the doctrine, that the human mind is comparable to a fair blank sheet of paper, had arrived at its lowest degradation. The notion,

that the human soul is but a capacity, more or less extensive for the reception of impressions to be made upon it by surrounding objects through the external senses, seems to be the darkest, the most deathlike predicament in which humanity could be entrammelled. When Bacon, with manly and original vigor, encountered the school verbiage, into which discipline had fallen from those realities which the Aristotelian forms once represented, it is quite certain he could not have anticipated a mistake on the part of his pretended followers, equal to that into which the school men had erred. They had indeed forgotten the superior half, the dimidium scientia of their great and brilliant prototype.

The worse result of this error is its very general diffusion. The notion and the language of it pervades all ranks, much to the unmanning of humanity. Even now it is maintained that external objects strike the mind. When driven from this absurdity by the evident truth that the mind must be the actor, the first mover, and act through the senses upon the object; it is re-urged that the object acts upon the retina of the eye, making an impression there, and, through it, upon the mind. If this be followed up by showing that the object never can be the subject or actor; that the objective case is not the nominative case; the charge comes forth of verbal and unworthy distinctions with which the practical man will not trouble himself. We may appeal to the current language employed in every-day life, through the mouth and through the pen, for proof to what an extent this depressing idea prevails of man being passive to surrounding objects. It has in fact grown up into a sort of philosophy. The potency, the creative influence of circumstances is constantly pleaded, as the cause and excuse for a state of existence we are too idle or too in

fferent to amend. No scholastic jargon, or idols of the mind, as Bacon called them, which his Novum Organum dethroned, could have exceeded in direful force the prevalence of this circumstantial philosophy.

Sincerity is the youthful attribute. Deference to things which exist, to persons placed in authority over youth, either by natural laws or social custom, is much more common than is supposed. When they discover at every turn. their native vivacity repressed, and their spontaneity checked, by the most solemn assurances and uniform prac

tice which could possibly be realized for a false theory, it would be wonderful indeed if they skepticized upon the subject. This being also the tenet of our most progressive outward philosophers, it has the charm of apparent advancement which youth demands. It thus has an interior as well as an exterior popularity, through which few minds, it seems, have power enough to break away into higher, clearer regions.

To borrow an illustration from the binder, the business of instruction is similar to that of gilding and lettering the backs of the books; putting ornaments on the edges and outsides of the leaves; while the process of development treats humanity as something more than a mere capacity to receive. It treats each individual as a book containing sentiments of its eternal author; not indeed born with expressions of ideas in forms, such as have been before employed; but a book which, when opened, when permitted to open, in daily intercourse with outward things, leaf by leaf, will unfold itself in modes and expressions ever new and beautiful. By treating the mind as a subservient passive blank, we go far to make it so. Dark prophecies are not unfrequently realized by the malicious efforts of the prognosticator. We must have faith for better success. Not only is the human soul comparable to a book in respect to the fact, that there is a progressive opening for an inner idea, occultly present previous to the development, but also in this, that the human soul is capable of a conscious union with the thread that passes through its inmost being, and binds all its leaves together. There is this intensive education, so generally remitted to the later incidents in human life, as well as the extensive and discursive education, which school development comprehends. In but one man does it seem to have been the pervading, the life-thought, the ever-present idea. Granting that Pestalozzi had an intuition of this inmost fact, and that much of his own proceeding had in view its realization in his pupils; yet from its obscurity in him, or the unpreparedness of the public mind, it was not declared in that lucid. manner in which it now is announced. His interrogative mode too was so much more appropriate to the unfolding of a quick intellect than of a gentle heart, that we can scarcely attribute to him the design of directing the soul

to that one needful knowledge without which man is not man, life is not life.

Each of these principles has a mode. Instruction delivers its dogmas, Education interrogates, Spirit-culture is by conversation; conversation not in its narrow sense of idle talk, but in deep communion by tongue, pen, action, companionship, and every modification of living behavior, including that of its apparent opposite, even silence itself. Instruction may be Pythagorean; Education, Socratic; but Spirit-culture is Christ-like. Being the latter, it is also the two former, as far as they are consistent with pure intellectual affirmations, and spontaneous love.

Conversation, communion, connexion of heart with heart, the laying open of unsophisticated mind to unsophisticated mind, under the ever prevailing conviction of the Spirit's omnipresence, are the modes and the principle of Alcott's annunciation to mankind. Throughout and throughout he would have the One Omnipresent recognized in actual operations, even as in the title to the chapters in his published work. Without embarrassing the subject with the question, whether all improvement is bounded by this discovery, and whether so great a consummation remained for so humble an individual, one placed just under our own eyes, whom it is no rarity to see and hear, whom we are in daily familiarity with, we may be allowed to remark, that we think the world justly owes itself an inquiry and an effort to realize this idea to the fullest. On all sides we find the admission, that something further is to come. We have not arrived at the happy point. Our young men, saturated with antique lore in theological seminaries, are scarcely to be enumerated amongst the wholesome specimens of human intelligence or religious love. Our young women, though free from the toils of Latin and Greek, and given over a little to the idea of development, are yet far from the millennial state, which a parent desires, or a husband would cherish. The best practice of the best theories, hitherto promulgated, leaves room enough for the invitation of some further proposition; and such we have now presented to us.

True conversation seems not yet to be understood. The value of it therefore cannot be duly prized. Its holy freedom, equidistant from hot licentiousness on the one hand,

and cold formality on the other, presents constantly to the living generous mind a sphere for inquiry and expression, boundless as the soul itself. This true communion permits all proper modes to be employed, without a rigid or exclusive adherence to any particular one. There may be a time for Quaker silence, for Episcopalian monotony, or for Unitarian rhetoric. Instruction requires its pupils to be passive to the lecture or the strictly defined task. Development calls for answers limited to its initiatory questions; while Conversation goes beyond these two, not by annihilating them, not by disusing or condemning them, but by mingling them, as occasion may demand, in that process which equally permits the pupil to interrogate or to make a statement of his own flowing thought. It opens every channel to the inexhaustible sluices of the mind. It demands no dogged, slavish obedience, it imposes no depressing formula, it weighs not down the being with an iron discipline, that when removed is found to be the spring to riot and debauchery; but leaving to the artless spontaneity of pure infancy the free expression of itself, attains the highest end in education, so far as human means can serve it. This expression of itself, or, in preferable terms, the free, full, and natural expression of the Spirit through humanity, is the high destiny in our earthly existence. More than this cannot be promised or praised of any piece of human organization. The tendency in all our systems to become stereotypé moulds, for the fixing of the new generation according to the pattern of the old, is still an argument for the trial of new plans. But every system was doubtless good in its own day, and in its original author's hands. Grant "us youth" the same privilege ungrudgingly, which was conceded or assumed by our ancestors. The virtuous institutions of to-day will become corrupt within ten short years. The reformer himself needs to be reformed in his ideas, as soon as he has obtained his ideal reform. We must not freeze the gushing stream so near its source, but let it sparkle in the summer sun. Let us have the last deep thought fresh from the infant soul, and if it be inconsistent with its previous utterance, so let it be. Is it true, is it honest, is it faithful, are questions which the teacher may ask; not is it consistent with my views or system. Consistency is an attribute of the rusty

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