What Is and What Might Be, by Edmond Holmes

That's French for "the ancient system," as in the ancient system of feudal privileges and the exercise of autocratic power over the peasants. The ancien regime never goes away, like vampires and dinosaur bones they are always hidden in the earth, exercising a mysterious influence. It is not paranoia to believe that the elites scheme against the common man. Inform yourself about their schemes here.

What Is and What Might Be, by Edmond Holmes

Postby admin » Mon Oct 21, 2019 3:20 am

What Is and What Might Be: A Study of Education in General and Elementary Education in Particular
by Edmond Holmes
Third Impression, 1911
Author of “The Creed of Christ,” “The Creed of Buddha,” “The Silence of Love,” “The Triumph of Love,” etc.

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TABLE OF CONTENTS:

• PREFACE
• PART I: WHAT IS, OR THE PATH OF MECHANICAL OBEDIENCE
o I. SALVATION THROUGH MECHANICAL OBEDIENCE
o II. EDUCATION THROUGH MECHANICAL OBEDIENCE
o III. A FAMILIAR TYPE OF SCHOOL
• PART II: WHAT MIGHT BE, OR THE PATH OF SELF-REALISATION
• IV. A SCHOOL IN UTOPIA
• V. EDUCATION THROUGH SELF-REALISATION
• VI. SALVATION THROUGH SELF-REALISATION

It is by answering possible objections to Utopianism that I shall best be able to unfold Egeria's philosophy of education. I shall perhaps be told that in my advocacy of that philosophy I am preaching dangerous doctrines; that the only alternative for obedience is the lawlessness of unbridled licence; and that anarchy, social, moral, and spiritual, is the ultimate goal of the path which I am urging the teacher to enter. Let me point out, in answer to this protest, that it is mechanical obedience which I condemn, not obedience as such.

If I condemn mechanical obedience, I do so because it is unworthy of the name of obedience, because the higher faculties of Man's being, the faculties which are distinctively human - reason, imagination, aspiration, spiritual intuition, and the like - take no part in it, because it is the obedience of an automaton, not of a living soul. What I wish to oppose to it is vital obedience, obedience to the master laws of Man's being, obedience to the laws which assert themselves as central and supreme, obedience more particularly to those larger and obscurer laws which obedience itself helps us to discover, obedience in fine to that hierarchy of laws - (the superior law always claiming the fuller measure and the higher kind of obedience) - which, if we are to use the Divine Name, we must needs identify with the will of God. Obedience, in this sense of the word, is a sustained and soul-deep effort in which all the higher faculties of Man's being take part, an effort which is in some sort a voyage of discovery, the doing of the more obvious duty being always rewarded by the deepening of the doer's insight and the widening of his outlook, and by the consequent unveiling to him of the way in which he is to walk and the goal at which he is to aim. That the path of soul-growth is the path of vital obedience can scarcely be doubted. The effort to grow is always successful just so far as it implies knowledge of the laws of the nature that is unfolding itself, and readiness to obey those laws; and so far as it is successful, it carries with it the outgrowth of the very faculties by which knowledge - the higher knowledge which makes further growth possible - is to be gained.

Here, as elsewhere, there is an unceasing interaction between perception and expression, between knowledge of law and obedience to law, what is given as obedience being received back as enlightenment, and what is received as enlightenment being given back as larger, fuller, and more significant obedience.

And, be it carefully observed, it is obedience to the laws of human nature, not obedience to the idiosyncrasies of the individual nature, which the process of soul-growth at once implies and makes possible. Growth is, in its essence, a movement towards that perfect type which is the real self of each individual in turn, and the approach to which involves the gradual surrender of individuality, and the gradual escape from the ordinary self. A man is to cling to and affirm his individuality, not in order that he may rest in it and make much of it, but in order that he may outgrow it and pass far beyond it in that one way - the best way for him - which it, and it alone, is able to mark out for him. In other words, he is to assert his individual self in order that he may universalise himself in his own way, and not in obedience to the ruling of custom and authority, in order that he may escape from himself through the real outlet of sincere self-expression, and not through the sham outlet of hypocrisy and cant.

What I may call the Utopian scheme of education, far from making for antinomianism [opposition to the obligatoriness of the moral law] and anarchy, is the sworn enemy of individualism and therefore, a fortiori [even more so], of everything that savours of licence. It is the conventional type of education, with its demands for mechanical obedience to external authority, which leads through despotism to social and political chaos. The whole régime of mechanical obedience is favourable, in the long run, to the development of anarchy. Let us take the case of a church or an autocracy which demands implicit obedience from its subjects, and is prepared to exact such obedience by the application of physical force or its moral equivalent. What will happen to it when its subjects begin to ask it for its credentials? The fact that it has always demanded from them literal rather than spiritual obedience, and that, in its application of motive force, it has appealed to their baser desires and baser fears, makes it impossible for it to justify itself to their higher faculties, rational or emotional, and makes it necessary for it to meet their incipient criticism with renewed threats of punishment and renewed promises of reward. But the very fact that it is being asked for its credentials means that the force on which it has hitherto relied is weakening, that its power to punish and reward, which has always been resolvable into the power to make people believe: that it can punish and reward, is being called in question and is therefore crumbling away. And behind that power there is nothing but chaos. For the régime of mechanical obedience, by arresting the spontaneous growth of Man's higher nature, and by making its chief appeal to his baser desires and baser fears, becomes of necessity the foster-mother of egoism; and when egoism, which makes each man a law to himself and the potential enemy of his kind, is unrestrained by authority, the door is thrown wide open to anarchy, and through anarchy to chaos. This is what is happening in the West, in our self-conscious and critical age. In every field of human action, in religion, in politics, in social life, in art, in letters, authority is being asked for its credentials; and as this demand, besides being a disintegrating influence, is a sign that the force on which authority relies is weakening, it is not to be wondered at that there is a steady drift in many Western countries in the direction of anarchy, - religious, political, social, artistic, literary, - or that this régime of incipient anarchy is taking the form of an ignoble scramble for wealth, for power, for position, for fame, for notoriety, for anything in fine which may serve to exalt a man above his fellows, and so minister to the aggrandizement of his lower self.....

If any of my readers have imagined that I am an advocate of what is called "secular education", they will, I hope, now realise that they have misread this book. Far from wishing to secularise education, I hold that it cannot be too religious. And, far from wishing to limit its religious activities to the first forty minutes of the morning sessions, I hold that it should be actively religious through every minute of every school session, that whatever it does it should do to the glory of God.

But how does knowledge of God show itself? Knowledge, so far as it is real, always shows itself in right bearing, and (if action is called for) in right action. Knowledge of arithmetic and of other more or less abstract subjects, shows itself in the successful working of the corresponding problems, theoretical or practical as the case may be. Knowledge of the laws of physical nature shows itself in practical mastery of the forces and resources of physical nature. Knowledge of history and geography, in a right attitude towards the problems and sub-problems of these complex and comprehensive subjects, an attitude which may on occasion translate itself into right action. And so on. Knowledge of God, being a state or attitude of the soul as such, must show itself in the right bearing and the right action of the soul as such, in other words, of Man as Man, - not as mathematician, not as financier, not as sculptor, not as cricketer, but simply as Man. Now Man as Man has to bear himself aright towards the world in which he finds himself, and in particular towards the world which touches him most closely and envelops him most completely, - the world of human life. Therefore knowledge of God will show itself, principally and chiefly, though by no means wholly, in dealing aright with one's fellow-men, in being rightly disposed towards them, and in doing the right things to them. I have found it convenient to disconnect the moral from the religious aspect of self-realisation. We can now see that in the last resort the two aspects are one.

From every point of view, then, and above all from that of Religion, the path of self-realisation is seen to be the path of salvation. For it is the only scheme of life which enables him who follows it to attain to knowledge of God; and knowledge of God has, as its necessary counterpart, a right attitude, in general towards the world which surrounds him, and in particular towards his fellow-men.....

The relations between the type and the various sub-types, between the type and the individual, between the sub-type and the individual - whether in plant or beast or man - are matters which could not be handled within the limits of this book, and which I have therefore as far as possible ignored. Nor have I attempted to deal with the difficult problems that are presented by the existence of races, such as the Negro, which seem to be far below the normal level of human development. There is, however, in the vast region of thought which these and kindred problems open out to us, one by-way which I must be allowed to follow for a while.

The wild bullace is, I believe, the ancestor of many of our yellow plums. In other words, bullacehood can develop into plumhood, and even into the perfection of plumhood. Similarly human nature can develop into something so high above the normal level of human nature that it might almost seem to belong to another genus. But there is a difference between the two cases. The bullace ideal is in the individual bullace tree. So, in a sense, is the plum ideal. But the latter cannot be realised, or even approached, by the individual bullace tree. It cannot be realised, or even approached, by the bullace species except through a long course of culture and breeding....

What then? Is this the end of the average man? Will Nature admit final defeat? The curve of a man's life, as it sweeps round from birth to death, passes through the point of apparent maturity; but the real nature of the man has never ripened, and when he descends into the grave he is still the embryo of his true self. Will the true self never be realised? Never, if death is indeed the end of life. But in that case the man will have failed to fulfil the central purpose of Nature, and, alone among her children, will have escaped from the control of her all-pervading law of growth.

It is in their desire to keep Man in line with the rest of Nature's children that so many thinkers and scientists in the West forbid him to look beyond the horizon of the grave. But in truth it is only by being allowed to look beyond that horizon that Man can be kept in line with the rest of Nature's children; for if death means extinction to him, as it means (or seems to mean) to the beetle or the fly, he will have lived to no purpose, having failed to realise in any appreciable degree what every other living thing realises within its appointed limits, - the central tendencies of his being. That a living thing, an average specimen of its kind, should within the limits of a normal life fail completely to realise those potentialities which are distinctive of its real nature, - fail so completely that the very existence of those potentialities might, but for an occasional and quite exceptional revelation, have remained unsuspected, - is entirely at variance with what we know of the ways and works of Nature. Yet failure to realise his true manhood is, outside the confines of Utopia, the apparent lot of nine men out of ten. An entire range of qualities, spiritual and mental, which blossom freely in the stimulating atmosphere of Utopia, and which must therefore exist in embryo in every normal child, fail to germinate (or at best only just begin to germinate) within the lifetime of the average non-Utopian. (14) The inference to be drawn from these significant facts is that the apparent limits of Man's life are not the real limits; that the one earth-life of which each of us is conscious, far from being the whole of one's life, is but a tiny fragment of it, - one term of its ascending "series", one day in its cycle of years. In other words, the spiritual fertility of the average Utopian child, taken in conjunction with the spiritual sterility of the average non-Utopian child (and man), points to the conclusion which the thinkers of the Far East reached thousands of years ago, - that for the full development of human nature a plurality of lives is needed, which will do for the individual soul what generations of scientific breeding and culture will do for the bullace that is to be transformed into a plum.


-- What Is and What Might Be: A Study of Education in General and Elementary Education in Particular, by Edmond Holmes
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Re: What Is and What Might Be, by Edmond Holmes

Postby admin » Mon Oct 21, 2019 3:25 am

PREFACE

My aim, in writing this book, is to show that the externalism of the West, the prevalent tendency to pay undue regard to outward and visible "results" and to neglect what is inward and vital, is the source of most of the defects that vitiate Education in this country, and therefore that the only remedy for those defects is the drastic one of changing our standard of reality and our conception of the meaning and value of life. My reason for making a special study of that branch of education which is known as "Elementary," is that I happen to have a more intimate knowledge of it than of any other branch, the inside of an elementary school being so familiar to me that I can in some degree bring the eye of experience to bear upon the problems that confront its teachers. I do not for a moment imagine that the elementary school teacher is more deeply tainted than his fellows with the virus of "Occidentalism." Nor do I think that the defects of his schools are graver than those of other educational institutions. In my judgment they are less grave because, though perhaps more glaring, they have not had time to become so deeply rooted, and are therefore, one may surmise, less difficult to eradicate. Also there is at least a breath of healthy discontent stirring in the field of elementary education, a breath which sometimes blows the mist away and gives us sudden gleams of sunshine, whereas over the higher levels of the educational world there hangs the heavy stupor of profound self-satisfaction. (1) I am not exaggerating when I say that at this moment there are elementary schools in England in which the life of the children is emancipative and educative to an extent which is unsurpassed, and perhaps unequalled, in any other type or grade of school.
 
 I am careful to say all this because I foresee that, without a "foreword" of explanation, my adverse criticism of what I have called "a familiar type of school" may be construed into an attack on the elementary teachers as a body. I should be very sorry if such a construction were put upon it. No one knows better than I do that the elementary teachers of this country are the victims of a vicious conception of education which has behind it twenty centuries of tradition and prescription, and the malign influence of which was intensified in their case by thirty years or more (2) of Code despotism and "payment by results." Handicapped as they have been by this and other adverse conditions, they have yet produced a noble band of pioneers, to whom I, for one, owe what little I know about the inner meaning of education; and if I take an unduly high standard in judging of their work, the reason is that they themselves, by the brilliance of their isolated achievements, have compelled me to take it. I will therefore ask them to bear with me, while I expose with almost brutal candour the shortcomings of many of their schools. They will understand that all the time I am thinking of education in general even more than of elementary education, and using my knowledge of the latter to illustrate statements and arguments which are really intended to tell against the former. They will also understand that at the back of my mind I am laying the blame of their failures, not on them but on the hostile forces which have been too strong for many of them, - on the false assumptions of Western philosophy, on the false standards and false ideals of Western civilisation, on various "old, unhappy, far-off things," the effects of which are still with us, foremost among these being that deadly system of "payment by results" which seems to have been devised for the express purpose of arresting growth and strangling life, which bound us all, myself included, with links of iron, and which had many zealous agents, of whom I, alas! was one.

_______________

Notes:

(1) By "self-satisfaction" I mean satisfaction with the existing system as a system. That strenuous efforts are being made to improve the system, within its own limits, I can well believe. But the system itself, with the defects and limitations which are of its essence, seems to be regarded as adequate, and even as final, by nearly all who work under it.
 
(2) 1862 to 1895 A.D.
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Re: What Is and What Might Be, by Edmond Holmes

Postby admin » Mon Oct 21, 2019 3:34 am

Part 1 of 2

PART I: WHAT IS OR THE PATH OF MECHANICAL OBEDIENCE

CHAPTER I. SALVATION THROUGH MECHANICAL OBEDIENCE


THE function of education is to foster growth. By some of my readers this statement will be regarded as a truism; by others as a challenge; by others, again, when they have realised its inner meaning, as a "wicked heresy". I will begin by assuming that it is a truism, and will then try to prove that it is true.

The function of education is to foster growth. The end which the teacher should set before himself is the development of the latent powers of his pupils, the unfolding of their latent life. If growth is to be fostered, two things must be liberally provided, - nourishment and exercise. On the need for nourishment I need not insist. The need for exercise is perhaps less obvious, but is certainly not less urgent. We make our limbs, our organs, our senses, our faculties grow by exercising them. When they have reached their maximum of development we maintain them at that level by exercising them. When their capacity for growth is unlimited, as in the case of our mental and spiritual faculties, the need for exercise is still more urgent. To neglect to exercise a given limb, or organ, or sense, or faculty, would result in its becoming weak, flabby, and in the last resort useless. In childhood, when the stress of Nature's expansive forces is strongest, the neglect of exercise will, for obvious reasons, have most serious consequences. If a healthy child were kept in bed during the second and third years of his life, the damage done to his whole body would be incalculable.

These are glaring truisms. Let me perpetrate one more, - one which is perhaps the most glaring of all. The process of growing must be done by the growing organism, by the child, let us say, and by no one else. The child himself must take in and assimilate the nourishment that is provided for him. The child himself must exercise his organs and faculties. The one thing which no one may ever delegate to another is the business of growing. To watch another person eating will not nourish one's own body. To watch another person using his limbs will not strengthen one's own. The forces that make for the child's growth come from within himself; and it is for him, and him alone, to feed them, use them, evolve them.

All this is -

"As true as truth's simplicity,
And simpler than the infancy of truth." [i]


But it sometimes happens that what is most palpable is least perceptible; and perhaps it is because the truth of what I say is self-evident and indisputable, that in many Elementary Schools in this country the education given seems to be based on the assumption that my "truisms" are absolutely false. In such schools the one end and aim of the teacher is to do everything for the child; - to feed him with semi-digested food; to hold him by the hand, or rather by both shoulders, when he tries to walk or run; to keep him under close and constant supervision; to tell him in precise detail what he is to think, to feel, to say, to wish, to do; to show him in precise detail how he is to do whatever may have to be done; to lay thin veneers of information on the surface of his mind; never to allow him a minute for independent study; never to trust him with a handbook, a note-book, or a sketchbook; in fine, to do all that lies in his power to prevent the child from doing anything whatever for himself. The result is that the various vital faculties which education might be supposed to train become irretrievably starved and stunted in the over-educated school child; till at last, when the time comes for him to leave the school in which he has been so sedulously cared for, he is too often thrown out upon the world, helpless, listless, resourceless, without a single interest, without a single purpose in life.

The contrast between elementary education as it too often is, and as it ought to be if the truth of my "truisms" were widely accepted, is so startling that in my desire to account for it I have had recourse to a paradox. "Trop de vérité", says Pascal, "nous étonne: les premiers principes ont trop d'évidence pour nous". I have suggested that the inability of so many teachers to live up to the spirit, or even to the letter, of my primary "truism", may be due to its having too much evidence for them, to their being blinded by the naked light of its truth.

But there may be another explanation of the singular fact that a theory of education to which the teacher would assent without hesitation if it were submitted to his consciousness, counts for nothing in the daily routine of his work. Failure to carry an accepted principle into practice is sometimes due to the fact that the principle has not really been accepted; that its inner meaning has not been apprehended; that assent has been given to a formula rather than a truth. The cause of the failure may indeed lie deeper than this. It may be that the nominal adherents of the principle are in secret revolt against the vital truth that is at the heart of it; that they repudiate it in practice because they have already repudiated it in the inner recesses of their thought. "This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me". [Matthew 15:8] Tell the teacher that the function of education is to foster growth; that therefore it is his business to develop the latent faculties of his pupils; and that therefore (since growth presupposes exercise) he must allow his pupils to do as much as possible by and for themselves, - place these propositions before him, and the chances are that he will say "Amen" to them. But that lip assent will count for nothing. One's life is governed by instinct rather than logic. To give a lip assent to the logical inferences from an accepted principle is one thing. To give a real assent to the essential truth that underlies and animates the principle is another. The way in which the teacher too often conducts his school leads one to infer that the intuitive, instinctive side of him - the side that is nearest to practice - has somehow or other held intercourse with the inner meaning of that" truism" which he repeats so glibly, and has rejected it as antagonistic to the traditional assumptions on which he bases his life. Or perhaps this work of subconscious criticism and rejection has been and is being done for him, either by the spirit of the age to which he belongs or by the genius of the land in which he lives.

Why is the teacher so ready to do everything (or nearly everything) for the children whom he professes to educate? One obvious answer to this question is that for a third of a century (1862-1895) the "Education Department" did everything (or nearly everything) for him. For a third of a century "My Lords" required their inspectors to examine every child in every elementary school in England on a syllabus which was binding on all schools alike. In doing this, they put a bit into the mouth of the teacher and drove him, at their pleasure, in this direction and that. And what they did to him they compelled him to do to the child.

So far as the action of the "Education Department" was concerned, this policy was abandoned - in large measure, if not wholly - in 1895; but its consequences are with us still. What conception of the meaning and purpose of education could have induced "My Lords" to adopt such a policy, and, having adopted it, to adhere to it for more than thirty years? Had one asked "My Lords" at any time during those thirty years what they regarded as the true function of education, and had one suggested to them (as they had probably never turned their minds to the question) that the function of education was to foster the growth of the child, they might possibly have given an indolent assent to that proposition. But their educational policy must have been dictated by some widely different conception. They must have believed that the mental progress of the child - the only aspect of progress which concerned educationalists in those days - would best be tested by a formal examination on a prescribed syllabus, and would best be secured by preparation for such a test; and they must have accepted, perhaps without the consent of their consciousness, whatever theory of education may be implicit in that belief.

In acting as they did, "My Lords" fell into line with the Universities, the Public Schools, the Preparatory Schools, the Civil Service Commissioners, the Professional Societies, and (to make a general statement) with all the "Boards" and "Bodies" that controlled, directly or indirectly, the education of the youth of England. We must, therefore, widen the scope of our inquiry, and carry our search for cause a step farther back. How did the belief that a formal examination is a worthy end for teacher and child to aim at, and an adequate test of success in teaching and in learning, come to establish itself in this country? And not in this country only, but in the whole Western world? In every Western country that is progressive and "up to date", and in every Western country in exact proportion as it is progressive and "up to date", the examination system controls education, and in doing so arrests the self-development of the child, and therefore strangles his inward growth.

What is the explanation of this significant fact?

In my attempt to account for the failure of elementary education in England to foster the growth of the educated child, I have travelled far. But I must travel farther yet. The Western belief in the efficacy of examinations is a symptom of a widespread and deep-seated tendency, - the tendency to judge according to the appearance of things, to attach supreme importance to visible "results", to measure inward worth by outward standards, to estimate progress in terms of what the "world" reveres as "success". It is the Western standard of values, the Western way of looking at things, which is in question, and which I must now attempt to determine.

That I should have to undertake this task is a proof of the complexity of education, of the bewildering tanglement of its root-system, of the depths to which some of its roots descend into the subsoil of human life. The defect in our system of education which I am trying to diagnose is one which the "business man", who may have had reason to complain of the output of our elementary schools, will probably account for in one sentence and propound a remedy for in another. But I, who know enough about education to realise how little is or can be known about it, find that if I am to understand why so many schools turn out helpless and resourceless children, I must go back to the first principles of modern civilisation, or in other words to the cardinal axioms of the philosophy of the West.

This does not mean that I must make a systematic study of Western metaphysics. Professional thinkers abound in the West ; but the rank and file of the people pay little heed to them. It is true that they take themselves very seriously; but so does every clique of experts and connoisseurs. The indirect influence of their theories has at times been considerable; but their direct influence on human thought is, and has always been, very slight. For the plain average man, who cannot rid himself of the suspicion that the professional thinker is a professional word-juggler, has a philosophy of his own which was formulated for him by an unphilosophical people, and which, though it is now beginning to fail him, was once sufficient for all his needs.

At the present moment there are two schools of popular thought in the West. For many centuries there was only one. For many centuries men were content to believe that the outward and visible world - the world of their normal experience - was the all of Nature. But they were not content to believe that it was the "all of Being". The latter conception would have said "No" to certain desires of the heart which refuse to be negatived, - desires which are as large and lofty as they are pure and deep: and in order to provide a refuge for these, men added to their belief in a natural world which was bounded by the horizon of experience (as they understood the word), the complementary belief in a world which transcended the limits of experience, and in which the dreams and hopes for which Nature could make no provision might somehow or other be realised and fulfilled. With the development of physical science, the conception of the Supernatural has become discredited, and a materialistic monism has begun to dispute the supremacy of that dualistic philosophy which had reigned without a rival for many hundreds of years. But antagonistic as these philosophies are to one another, they have one conception in common. The popular belief that the world of man's normal experience is the Alpha and Omega of Nature, is the very platform on which their controversies are carried on. Were anyone to suggest to them that this belief was without foundation, that there was room and to spare in Nature for the "supernatural" as well as for the normal, that the supernatural world (as it had long been miscalled) was nothing more nor less than "la continuation occulte de la Nature infinie", - they would at once unite their forces against him, and assail him with an even bitterer hatred than that which animates them in their own intestine strife.

The dualistic philosophy which satisfied the needs of the West for some fifteen centuries was systematised and formulated for it, in the language of myth and poetry, by an Eastern people. The acceptance of official Christianity by the Graeco-Roman world was the result of many causes, two of which stand out as central and supreme. The first of these was the personal magnetism of Christ, in and through which men came in contact with, and responded to, the attractive forces of those moral and spiritual ideas which Christ set before his followers. The second was the readiness of the Western mind to accept the philosophy of Israel, - a philosophy with the master principles of which it had long been subconsciously familiar, and for the clear and convincing presentation of which it had long been waiting. Of the personal magnetism of Christ and the part that it has played in the life of Christendom, I need not now speak. My present concern is to show how the philosophy of Israel - accepted nominally for Christ's sake, but really for its own - has influenced the educational policy of the West.

In the Old Testament the Western mind found itself face to face with the philosophical theories - theories about the world and its origin, about Man and his destiny, about conduct and its consequences - to which its own mythologies had given inadequate expression, but which the poetical genius of a practical people was able to formulate to the satisfaction of a practical world. In the philosophy of Israel "Nature" was conceived of, not as animated by an indwelling life or soul, but as the handiwork of an omnipotent God. In six days - so runs the story - "God created the heavens and the earth". Whether by the word which we translate as "days" were meant terrestrial days or cosmic ages matters nothing, for in either case the broad fact remains that according to the Biblical narrative the work of creation occupied a definite period of time, and that on a certain day in the remote past the Creator rested from his labours, surveyed his handiwork, and pronounced it to be very good.

His next step was to stand aside from the world that he had made, leave it to its own devices and see how it would behave itself in the person of its lord and his viceroy, - Man. That the Creator should place Creation on its trial and that it should speedily misbehave itself, may be said to have been preordained. The idea of a Creator postulates the further idea of a Fall. The finished work of an omnipotent Creator is presumably good, - good in this sense, if in no other, that its actualities must needs determine the creature's ideals and standards of good. But the world, as Man knows it, seems to be deeply tainted with evil. How is this anomaly to be accounted for? The story of the Fall is the answer to this question. Whether modern theology regards the story of the Fall as literally or only as symbolically true, I cannot say for certain. The question is of minor importance. What is of supreme importance is that Christian theology accepts and has always accepted the consequences of the idea of the Fall, and that in formulating those consequences it has provided the popular thought of the West with conceptions by which its whole outlook on life has been, and is still, determined and controlled.

The idea of the Fall, as dramatised by Israel and interpreted by the "Doctors" of the West, gives adequate expression - on the highest level of his thinking - to the crude dualism which constitutes the philosophy of the average man. Hence the immense attractiveness of the idea to the practical races of the West, - to peoples whose chief idea is to get their mental problems solved for them as speedily, as authoritatively, and as intelligibly as possible, that they may thus be free to devote themselves to "business", to the tangible affairs of life.

Let us follow the philosophy of the Fall into some of its more obvious consequences. The Universe (to use the most comprehensive of all terms) is conceived of as divided into two dissevered worlds, - the world of Nature, which is fallen, ruined, and accursed, and the Supernatural world, which shares in the perfection and centres in the glory of God. Between these two worlds intercourse is, in the nature of things, impossible. But Man is not content that his state of godless isolation should endure for ever. As a thinker, he has exiled God from Nature and therefore from his own daily life. But, as a "living soul", he craves for reunion with God; and so long as the gulf between the two worlds remains impassable, his philosophy will be felt to be incomplete. A supplementary theory of things must therefore be devised. Corrupt and fallen as he is, Man cannot hope to climb to Heaven, but God, with whom nothing is impossible, can at his own good pleasure come down to earth. And come he will, whenever that sense of all-pervading imperfection which exiled him, in its premature attempt to explain itself, to his supernatural Heaven, is realised in man's heart as a desire for better things. But what will be the signs of his advent? The philosophy of the Fall is at no loss for an answer to this question. There was a time when Nature was the mirror of God's face. But it is so no longer. The mirror was shattered when Adam fell. Henceforth it is only by troubling the waters of Nature, by suspending the operation of its laws, by turning its order into confusion, by producing supernatural phenomena, or "miracles" as they are vulgarly called, that God can announce his presence to Man.

The question of the miraculous is one into which we need not enter. Let us assume that God can somehow or other come to Man, and that Man can somehow or other recognise God's presence and interpret his speech. We have now to ask ourselves one vital question. With what purpose does God visit the world which has forfeited his favour, and what does he propose to do for ruined Nature and fallen Man? For Nature, nothing. For Man, to provide a way of escape from Nature. The dualism of popular thought must needs control the very efforts that men make to deliver themselves from its consequences. The irremediable corruption of Man' nature is the assumption on which the whole scheme of salvation is to be hinged. His deliverance from sin and death will be effected, not by the development of any natural capacity for good, but by his being induced to quit the path (or paths) of Nature, and to walk, under Divine direction, in some new and narrow path.

But how will this end be achieved? That Man cannot discover the path of salvation for himself will, of course, be taken for granted. The catastrophe of the Fall has corrupted his whole nature, and has therefore blinded him to the light of truth. "The way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps". [Jeremiah 10:23] The promptings of his own nature, which he would follow if left to himself, can do nothing but lead him astray. It will also be taken for granted that the path of salvation is a path of action. When the whole inward disposition is hopelessly corrupt, the idea of achieving salvation by growing, by bringing one's hidden life to the perfection of maturity, must perforce be abandoned. It is only by doing God's will that Man can hope to regain his favour. One thing, then, is clear. Man must be told in exact detail what he is to do and also (should this be necessary) how he is to do it. In other words, an elaborate Code of Law, covering the whole range of human life and regulating all the details of conduct, must be delivered by God to Man. If Man will obey this Law he will be saved. If he will not obey it, he will be lost.

There is another aspect of the idea of a supernatural revelation on which it is necessary to touch. As intercourse between Nature and the Supernatural world takes place, not in the natural order of things but at the good pleasure of the Supernatural God, revelation must needs be conceived of as a highly-specialised process. A revelation which was addressed to the whole human race, and to which the whole human race was able to respond, could scarcely be regarded as of supernatural origin. The distinction between the supernaturalness of the appeal and the naturalness of the response would gradually tend to efface itself: for "what is universal is natural", and the voice which every man was able to recognise would come at last to be regarded as a voice from within oneself. If the supernatural character of an alleged revelation is to be established, its uniqueness must be duly emphasised. A particular people must be chosen for the purpose of the divine experiment. A particular law-giver must be commissioned to declare to the chosen people the will of the Supernatural God. And from time to time a particular prophet must be sent to rebuke the chosen people for its backslidings, to show it where it has gone astray, and to exhort it to turn again to its God.

For if it is far from Man to discern good, it is still farther from him to desire it. How, then, shall he be induced to walk in the path which the Law has prescribed for him? To this question there can be but one answer: By the promise of external reward, and the threat of external punishment. To set before Man an ideal of life - an ideal which would be to him an unfailing fountain of magnetic force and guiding light - is not in the power of legalism. For if an ideal is to appeal to one, it must be the consummation of one's own natural tendencies; but the current of Man's natural tendencies is ever setting towards perdition, and the vanishing point of his heart's desires is death. Were an ideal revealed to the Law-giver and by him presented to his fellow-men, and were the heart of Man to respond to the appeal that it made to him, the basic assumption of legalism - that of the corruption of Man's nature - would be undermined; for Man would have proved that it belonged to his nature to turn towards the light, in other words, that he had a natural capacity for good. The plain truth is that legalism is precluded by its own first principles from appealing to any motive higher than that instinctive desire for pleasure which has as its counterpart a quasi-physical fear of pain. It is impossible for the law-giver to appeal to Man's better nature, to say to him: "Cannot you see for yourself that this course of action is better than that, - that love is better than hatred, mercy than cruelty, loyalty than treachery, continence than self-indulgence?" What he can and must say to him is this, and this only: "If you obey the Law you will be rewarded.

If you disobey it you will be punished". And this he must say to him again and again.

It is true that among the many commandments which the Law sets before its votaries, there are some - the moral commandments, properly so called - which do in point of fact, and in defiance of the philosophical assumption of legalism, appeal to the better nature of Man. But these are at best an insignificant minority; and their relative importance will necessarily diminish with the development into its natural consequences of the root idea of legalism. For legalism, just so far as it is strong, sincere, and self-confident, will try to cover the whole of human life. The religion that is content to do less than this, the religion that acquiesces in the distinction between what is religious and what is secular, is, as we shall presently see, a religion in decay. Religion may perhaps be defined as Man's instinctive effort to bring a central aim into his life and so provide himself with an authoritative standard of values. In its highest and purest form, Religion controls Man's life, both as a whole and in all its essential details, through the central aim or spiritual ideal which it sets before him and the consequent standard of values with which it equips him. But legalism is debarred by its distrust of human nature from trying to control the details of life through any central aim or ideal; and its assumption that all the commandments of the Law are of divine origin, and therefore equally binding upon Man, is obviously incompatible with the conception of a standard of moral worth. Its attempt to cover the whole of life must therefore resolve itself into an attempt to control the details of conduct in all their detail; to deal with them, one by one, bringing each in turn under the operation of an appropriate commandment, and if necessary deducing from the commandment a special rule to meet the special case. In other words, besides being told what he is not to do (in the more strictly moral sphere of conduct), and what he is to do (in the more strictly ceremonial sphere), Man must be told, in the fullest detail, how he is to do whatever may have to be done in the daily round of his life. Such at least is the aim of legalism. The nets of the Law are woven fine, and flung far and wide. If there are any acts in a man's life which escape through their clinging meshes, the force of Nature is to be blamed for this partial failure, not the zeal of the Doctors of the Law.

It is towards this inverted ideal that the doctrine of salvation through obedience will lead its votaries, when its master principle - that of distrust of human nature - has been followed out into all its natural consequences, - followed out, as it was by Pharisaism, with a fearless logic and a fixed tenacity of purpose. An immense and ever-growing host of formulated rules, not one in a hundred of which makes any appeal to the heart of Man or has any meaning for his higher reason, will crush his life down, slowly and inexorably, beneath their deadly burden. "At every step, at the work of his calling, at prayer, at meals, at home and abroad, from early morning till late in the evening, from youth to old age, the dead, the deadening formula" (1) will await him. The path of obedience for the sake of obedience speedily degenerates into the path of mechanical obedience; and the end of that path is the triumph of machinery over life.

For it is to the letter of the Law, rather than to the spirit, that the strict legalist is bound to conform. The letter of the Law is divine; and obedience to it is within the power of every man who will take the trouble to learn its commandments. What the spirit of the Law may be, is beyond the power of fallen Man to determine; and were an attempt made to interpret it, the result would be a state of widespread moral chaos, for there would be as many interpretations of it as there were minds that had the courage and the initiative to undertake so audacious a task. As it is with the Law as such, so it is with each of its numerous commandments. The man who professes to obey the spirit of a commandment is in secret revolt against its divine authority. For he is presuming to criticise it in the light of his own conscience and insight, and to limit his obedience to it to that particular aspect of it which he judges to be worthy of his devotion. From such a criticism of the Fourth Commandment as "the Sabbath is made for man, not man for the Sabbath" [Mark 2:27] to open violation of the letter of the commandment (on this occasion or on that) there is but a single step. The whole structure of legalism would collapse if men were allowed to absolve themselves from obedience to the letter of the Law, out of regard for what they conceived to be its spirit. To interpret a commandment, in the sense of providing for its application to the fresh cases that may arise for treatment, is the work, not of poets and prophets but of Doctors and Scribes. The path of literal, and therefore of mechanical, obedience is the only path of safety; and the more punctiliously the letter is obeyed, the more perfect will be the machinery of salvation, and the nearer will legalism get to the appointed goal of its labours, - the extinction of spiritual life.
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Re: What Is and What Might Be, by Edmond Holmes

Postby admin » Mon Oct 21, 2019 3:34 am

Part 2 of 2

As is the life that legalism expects us to lead, so is the scheme of rewards and punishments by which (as we have already seen) it constrains us to lead it. The materialisation of life that takes place under the sway of the Law is accurately matched and measured by the materialisation of the doctrine of moral retribution. The general idea that virtue is rewarded and vice punished is profoundly true. But the idea is easily misinterpreted; and it necessarily shares in the degradation of one's general conception of life. Virtue rewards the virtuous by making them more virtuous. Vice punishes the vicious by making them more vicious. So long as the rewards for which we hope and the punishments which we dread are conceived of as inward and spiritual, we are on safe ground. But such a scheme of rewards and punishments is wholly foreign to the genius of supernaturalism. It is not by becoming more virtuous that we are saved. It is not by becoming more vicious that we are lost. We are saved by obedience, we are lost by disobedience, to the formulated rules of a divinely-delivered law. To appeal to Man's higher self, when there is no higher self to appeal to, - to set before him as the supreme reward of virtue the development of his better nature, when his nature is intrinsically evil, - would be an obvious waste of labour. And as, apart from the presumed repugnance of the "natural man" to the presumed delights of the Law, the intrinsic attractiveness of the life that legalism prescribes must needs diminish in exact proportion as the authority of the Law becomes oppressive and vexatious, and the letter of it tends to establish itself at the expense of the spirit, - it is clear that a scheme of rewards and punishments will become, in effect as well as in theory, the only weapon in the armoury of the legalist. It is also clear that there will be much work for that one weapon to do. The central tendencies of Man's nature, besides being ex hypothesi [from the hypothesis] evil, are antagonistic de facto [actually] to the galling despotism and the irrational requirements of the Law; and the lawgiver, far from being able to enlist those tendencies under his banner by appealing to the highest of them - the natural leaders of the rest, - must be prepared to overcome their collective resistance by winning to his side the lowest of them, by terrifying Man's weaker self with threats, by corrupting his baser self with bribes. The ruin of Man's nature, whether hypothetical or actual, (2) has left intact (or relatively intact) only the animal base of it. It is to his animal instincts, then, that legalism must appeal in its endeavour to influence his conduct. In other words, the punishments and the rewards to which Man is to look forward must be of the same genus, if not of the same species, as the lash of the whip that punishes the lagging race-horse, or the lump of sugar that rewards his exertions. And with the inevitable growth of egoism and individualism in the demoralising atmosphere with which legalism (and its lineal successors) must needs invest human life, Man's conception of the rewards and punishments that await him will deteriorate rather than improve. The Jewish desire for national prosperity was an immeasurably nobler motive to action than is the Christian's fear of the quasi-material fires of Hell. Indeed it is nothing but our familiarity with the latter motive that has blinded us to its inherent baseness. It is no exaggeration to say that there have been epochs in the history of Christendom (as there are still quarters of Christian thought and phases of Christian faith) in which the trumpet-call that was meant to rouse the soldiers of God to renewed exertion has rung in their ears as an ignominious "sauve qui peut."

The tendency of legalism to externalise life has another aspect. In the eyes of the strict legalist there is no such thing as an inward state of human worth. The doctrine of the corruption of Man's nature is incompatible with the idea of "goodness" being measurable (potentially if not actually) in terms of the health and happiness of the "inward man". Goodness, as the legalist conceives it, is measurable in terms of correctness of outward conduct, and of that only. And when life is regulated by an elaborate Law, the rules of which are familiar to all men, there is no reason why a man's outward conduct should not be appraised, with some approach to accuracy, by his neighbours and friends. Hence it is that in the atmosphere of legalism an excessive deference is wont to be paid to public, and even to parochial, opinion. The life of the votary of the Law is lived under strict and constant surveillance; and a man learns at last to value himself as his conduct is valued by a critical onlooker, and to make it the business of his life to produce "results" which can be weighed and measured by conventional standards, rather than to grow in grace, - with silent, subtle, unobtrusive growth.

Were I to try to prove that the régime of the Law was necessarily fatal to the development of Man's higher faculties - conscience, freedom, reason, imagination, intuition, aspiration, and the rest - I should waste my time. Legalism, as a scheme of life, is based on the assumption that development along the lines of Man's nature is a movement towards perdition; and to reproach the legalist for having arrested the growth of the human spirit by the pressure of the Law were to provoke the rejoinder that he had done what he intended to do. The two schemes of Salvation - the mechanical and the evolutional - have so little in common that neither can pass judgment on the other without begging the question that is in dispute. When I come to consider the effect of legalism - or rather of the philosophy that underlies legalism - on education, I may perhaps be able to find some court of law in which the case between the two schemes can be tried with the tacit consent of both. Meanwhile I can but note that in the atmosphere of the Law growth is as a matter of fact arrested, - arrested so effectually that the counter process of degeneration begins to take its place. The proof of this statement, if proof be needed, is that legalism, when its master principle has been fully grasped and fearlessly applied, takes the form of Pharisaism, and that it is possible for the Pharisee to "count himself to have apprehended", [Philippians 3:13] to congratulate himself on his spiritual achievement, to believe, in all seriousness, that he has closed his account with God.

Pharisaism is at once the logical consummation and the reductio ad absurdum [reduction to its most absurd extreme] of legalism. It is to the genius of Israel that we owe that practical interpretation of the fundamental principle of supernaturalism, which was embodied in the doctrine of salvation through obedience to the letter of a Law. And it is to the genius of Israel that we owe that rigorously logical interpretation of the axiomata media of legalism, which issued in due season in Pharisaism. The world owes much to the courage and sincerity of Israel, - to his unique force of character, to his fanatical earnestness, to his relentless tenacity of purpose. In particular, it owes a debt which it can never liquidate to what was at once the cause and the result of his over-seriousness, - to his lack of any sense of humour, a negative quality which allowed his practical logic to run its course without let or hindrance, and prevented the "brakes" of common-sense from acting when he found himself, in his very zeal for the Law, descending an inclined plane into an unfathomable abyss of turpitude and folly. The man (or people) who is able, of his own experience, to tell the rest of mankind what a given scheme of life really means and is really worth, owing to his having offered himself as the corpus vile [worthless body] for the required experiment, is one of the greatest benefactors of the human race. Had Israel been less sincere or less courageous, we might never have known what deadly fallacies lurk in the seemingly harmless dualism of popular thought.

But the West, it will be said, is Christian, not Jewish. Is it Christian? If the word "Christian" connotes acceptance of the teaching as well as devotion to the person of Christ, it is scarcely applicable either to the official or to the popular religion of the West. For Christ, the stern denouncer of the Pharisees, was the whole-hearted enemy of legalism; and the legal conception of salvation through mechanical obedience still dominates the religion and life of Christendom.

The Jewish Law tried to cover, and tended more and more to cover, the whole of human life. It is true that it controlled the details rather than the totality of life; but the reason why it dealt with life, detail by detail, was that its exponents, owing to their spiritual purblindness [partial sight], were unable to see the wood for the trees. In Christendom, while the doctrine of salvation through mechanical obedience was retained, the authority of a Church was substituted for that of a Code of Law. The growth of the idea of Humanity, as opposed to that of mere nationality, made this necessary. As the former idea began to compete with the latter, the need for a divinely-commissioned society which should declare the will and communicate the grace of God, not to one nation only but to all men who were willing to hearken and obey, - and whose action, as a channel of intercourse between God and Man, should be continuous rather than spasmodic, - began to make itself felt . A Code of Law might conceivably suffice to regulate the life of one small nation; but when we consider under what varying conditions of climate, occupation, custom, tradition, and so forth, the general life of Humanity is carried on, we see clearly that no one Code can even begin to suffice for the needs of the whole human race. Hence, and for other reasons which we need not now consider, the West, in accepting the philosophy of Israel, translated its master idea of salvation through mechanical obedience into the notation of ecclesiastical, as distinguished from legal, control.

That obedience to a supernaturally-commissioned Church, or rather to the One supernaturally-commissioned Church, is the first and last duty of Man, is the fundamental assumption on which the stately fabric of Catholic Christianity has been reared. In various ways the Church has striven to exact implicit obedience from her children. Through the medium of the Confessional she has secured some measure of control over their morals. By regulating the worship of God - both public and private - she has been able to rule off a sphere of human conduct in which her own authority is necessarily paramount. By supplying the faithful with rations of "theological information" (to quote the apt phrase of a pillar of orthodoxy), and requiring them to accept these on her authority as indisputably true, she has succeeded in imposing her yoke on thought as well as on conduct. By claiming to control the outflow of Divine grace, through the channels of the Sacraments, she has been able to threaten the rebellious with the dread penalty of being cut off from intercourse with God.

And by telling men, with stern insistence, that the choice between obedience and disobedience to herself is the choice between eternal happiness and eternal misery, she has sought to extend her dominion beyond the limits of time and to raise to an infinite power her supremacy over the souls of men.

But just because the life of collective Humanity is large, complex, and full of change and variety, the Church which aspires to be universal, however strong may be her desire to superintend all the details of human thought and conduct, and however ready she may be to adapt herself to local and temporal variations, must needs allow whole aspects and whole spheres of human life to escape from her control. The history of Christendom is the history of the gradual emancipation of the Western world from the despotism of the Church. The various activities of the human spirit - art, science, literature, law, statecraft, and the rest - have, one and all, freed themselves by slow degrees from ecclesiastical control, till little or nothing has been left for the Church to regulate but her own rites and ceremonies, the morals (in a narrow and ever-narrowing sense of the word), and the faith (in the theological sense of the word), of the faithful.

With the emancipation of Man's higher activities from ecclesiastical control, the distinction between the religious and the secular life has gradually established itself. That this should happen was inevitable. Mechanical obedience being of the essence of supernatural religion, the secularising of human life became absolutely necessary if any vital progress was to be made. The Church patronised art, music, and the drama so far as they served her purposes. When they outgrew those purposes, in response to the expansive forces of human nature, she treated them as secular and let them go their several ways. In the interests of theology she tried to keep physical science in leading-strings; but when, after a bitter struggle, science broke loose from her control, she treated it too as secular and let it go its way.

Let us see what this distinction involves. As salvation is to be achieved by obedience to the Church and in no other way, it follows that in all those spheres of life which are outside the jurisdiction of the Church (except, of course, so far as questions of "morals" may arise in connection with them), Man's conduct and general demeanour are supposed to have no bearing on his eternal destiny. This is the view of the secular life which is taken by the Church. And not by the Church alone. As, little by little, the Institution - be it Church, or Sect, or Code, or Scripture - which claims to be the sole accredited agent of the Eternal God, relaxes its hold upon the ever-expanding life of Humanity, all those developments of human nature which cease to be amenable to its control come to be regarded as mundane, as unspiritual, as carnal, as matters with which God has no concern.

Were this view of the secular life confined to those who call themselves religious, no great harm would be done. Unfortunately, the secular life, which is under the influence of the current conception of God as one who holds no intercourse with Man except through certain accredited agents, is ready to acquiesce in the current estimate of itself as godless, and to accept as valid the distinction between the religious life and its own. Hence comes a general lowering of Man's aims. As the secular life is content to regard itself as godless, and so deprives itself of any central and unifying aim, it is but natural that success in each of its many branches should come to be regarded as an end in itself. It is but natural, to take examples at random, that the artist should follow art for art's sake, that the man of science should deify positive knowledge, that the statesman should regard political power as intrinsically desirable, that the merchant and the manufacturer should live to make money, and that the highest motive which appeals to all men alike should be the desire to bulk large in the eyes of their fellow-men. Even the ardent reformer, whose enthusiasm makes him unselfish, pursues the ideal to which he devotes himself, as an end in itself, and makes no attempt to define or interpret it in terms of its relation to that supreme and central ideal which he ought to regard as the final end of human endeavour. When we remind ourselves, further, that secularism, equally with supernaturalism, tends to identify "Nature" with lower nature - in other words, with the material side of the Universe and the carnal side of Man's being, - we shall realise how easy it is for the secular life, once it has lost, through its divorce from religion, the tonic stimulus of a central aim, to sink, without directly intending to do so, into the mire of materialism, - a materialism of conduct as well as of thought.

But if the loss to the secular life, from its compulsory despiritualisation, is great, the loss to religion, from the secularisation of so much of Man's rational activity, is greater still. The very distinction between the secular and the religious life is profoundly irreligious, in that it rests on the tacit assumption that there is no unity, no central aim, in human life; and the fact that official religion is ready to acquiesce in the distinction, is ready, in other words, to make a compromise with its enemy "the world", is a proof that it is secretly conscious of its own failing power, and is even beginning to despair of itself. As it resigns itself to this feeling (as yet perhaps but dimly realised), its reasons for entertaining it must needs grow stronger. The progressive enlargement of the sphere of Man's secular activities is accompanied, step for step, by the devitalisation of the idea of the Divine. What kind of intercourse can God be supposed to hold with Man if the latter is to be left to his own devices in what he must needs regard as among the more important aspects of his life, - in his commercial and industrial enterprises, in his art, in his literature, in his study of Nature's laws, in his mastery of Nature's forces, in his pursuit of positive truth and practical good? As in these matters Man frees himself, little by little, from the yoke of supernaturalism, which he has been accustomed to identify with religion, his formal conception of his relation to God and of the part that God plays in his life - the conception that is defined and elucidated for him by religious "orthodoxy" - becomes of necessity more irrational, more mechanical, more unreal, more repugnant to his better nature and to the higher developments of his "common-sense". The tendency to exalt the letter of what is spoken or written, at the expense of the spirit, is as much of the essence of ecclesiasticism as of legalism. "Si dans les règles du salut le fond l'emporterait sur la forme, ce serait la ruine du sacerdoce". And, as a matter of experience, the hair-splitting puerilities of Pharisaism under the Old Dispensation have been matched, and more than matched, in the spheres of ritual, of dogmatic theology, and of casuistical morality, under the New. As Man gradually shifts the centre of gravity of his being from the religious to the secular side of his life, this puerile element in religion - the element of ultra-formalism, of irrationality, of unreality - tends, like a morbid growth, to draw to itself the vital energies of what was once a healthy organism but is now degenerating into a "body of death". If, in these days of absorbing secular activity, Man continues to tolerate the theories and practices of the religious experts, the reason is - apart from the influence of custom and tradition and of his respect for venerable and "established" institutions - that they are things which he has neither time nor inclination to investigate, and which he can therefore afford to tolerate as being far removed from what is vital and central in his life. I am told that the Catholic Church holds, in the case of a dying man, "that the eternal fate of the soul, for good or for evil, may depend upon the reception or the non-reception of absolution, and even of extreme unction". That the truly appalling conception of God which is implicit in this sentence should still survive, that it should not yet have been swept out of existence by the outraged common-sense and good feeling of Humanity, is a proof of the immense indifference with which the Western world, absorbed as it is in secular pursuits, regards religion.

It may indeed be doubted if men have ever been so non-religious as are at the present day the inhabitants of our highly-civilised and thoroughly-Christianised West. At any rate the absence of a central aim in human life has never been so complete as it is now. Most men are content to drift through life, toiling for the daily bread which will enable them to go on living, yet neither knowing nor caring to know why they are alive. There is a minority of stronger and more resolute men who devote life with unwavering energy to the pursuit of what I may call private and personal ends. Thus the man of business lives for the acquisition of riches; the scholar and the scientist, of knowledge; the statesman, of power; the speculator, of excitement; the libertine, of pleasure; and so forth. Few are they who ever dream of devoting life as a whole to the pursuit of an end which is potentially attainable by all men, and which is therefore worthy of Man as Man. The idea of there being such an end has indeed been almost wholly lost sight of. Those among us who are of larger discourse than the rest and less absorbed by personal aims, ask themselves mournfully: What is the meaning of life? Why are we here? Is life worth living? and other such questions; and being unable to answer them to their satisfaction, or get them answered, resign themselves to a state of quasi-stoical endurance. That religion cannot be expected to answer these questions - the very questions which it is its right and its duty to answer - seems to be taken for granted by all who ask them. Religion, as it is now conceived of, is a thing for priests and ministers, for churches and chapels, for Sundays and Saints'-days, for the private devotions of women and children, for educational debates in Parliament, for the first lesson on the time-table (9.5 to 9.45 a.m.) of a Public Elementary School. The "unbeliever" is eager to run a tilt against religion. The "non-believer" is content to ignore it. The "believer" is careful to exclude it from nine-tenths of his life. It is to this pass that the gospel of salvation by machinery has brought the most "progressive" part of the human race.

Now as Democracy became ascendent in our world, its spirit produced new forms in political life, in literature, in art, in music. Let us consider these distinctive forms.

In politics it produced government by elected representative assemblies — elected by an ever-widening constituency of voters. We have Chambers of Representatives, Parliaments, spread throughout the world, and we have seen the franchise extend until manhood, and at last womanhood, suffrage seems everywhere in sight. It is strange to us nowadays to imagine a fully organised country without a constitution, a Parliament and periodic appeals to the mass of voters to endorse an elected Government periodically replaceable. Yet six hundred years ago such a way of managing public affairs would have seemed fantastic. The Ancient World knew nothing of such devices. There were assemblies then, but not representative assemblies. The Greek democracies and Republican Rome assembled all their citizens. Even countries like France and England before the sixteenth century which had Parliaments of a sort, did not conceive of them for a moment as governing bodies and kept the elected element in a minor position. I doubt if many of us fully realise the significance of the fact that the current political methods and assumptions of the world to-day, prevalent from China to Peru, would have been almost inconceivable even to highly intelligent human beings until twelve or fifteen generations ago.

So much for the political expression of Democracy. In literature the democratic spirit found its natural vehicle in the Novel. That too was new and distinctive. The tale, the story of adventures, mankind has had always — most usually of kings, princes and heroic leaders — but it was only with the ascent of Democracy that stories of characters, histories of common individual lives detached from politics, detached from any sense of social function, getting loose from any subordination or any responsibility, rose towards dominance in literature. At the very outset of the ascent of Democracy came the great master Cervantes with his “Don Quixote,” scoffing at aristocracy, scoffing at privileged responsibility, mocking at the final futility of chivalrous mastery, putting his wisest words into the mouth of a clown and letting the flour mills of the common bread-eater overthrow his knight in armour. As modern Democracy rose to its climax, the novel rose to its climax. The common characteristic of almost all the great novels of the nineteenth century, and up to our own time, is that they represent great crowds of individuals who follow trades, professions and so forth, and who have either no public function or, if they have a public function, are not so differentiated by it that it is of any serious importance to the story and the values of the novel. The crowd of individuals and its interplay have become everything. Great ideas that bind people together into any form of collective life are disregarded. Great religious ideas, great political ideas and developments are not there in any living, fermenting, debatable form — are even challenged and forbidden by the critics as having no place there. Consider Balzac, Dickens, Turgeniev, Zola, and suchlike representative giants of this closing age. You think at once of a picture of humanity like a market-place, like a fair, like the high-road to anywhere on a busy day. When political life appears, it appears just as any other sort of life. Here is a novel about elections and their humours, and here is one about peasants or fishermen. Just different scenery and costumes for the common story.

It strikes one at first as paradoxical that a period in which the exaltation of the individual has tended to make every one a voter, a fractional sovereign of the whole world, should lead in the literary expression of the time to the disappearance, so to speak, of the whole world in a crowd of people. But the paradox involves no real inconsistency. What is everybody's business is nobody’s business. The literature of the period of Democracy Ascendent displays what its political developments mask only very thinly — that Modern Democracy is not a permanent form of political and social life, but a phase of immense dissolution.

I think it would be comparatively easy to call the drama of the last three centuries to confirm the evidence of the novel. With the beginning of the period under consideration the Miracle Play which gave you Everyman and related him to God and Heaven and Hell gave place to Falstaff and his jolly companions, to the jealousy of Othello and the social aspirations of Monsieur Jourdain. If we turn to painting or to music we find all over this period the same effect of release — if you like — detachment, anyhow, from broad constructive conceptions and any sort of synthesis. There was very little detached painting in the old world. It was a part of something else. It decorated a building, it subserved a religious or political as well as a decorative purpose. If paintings were ever detachable, it was that they might be carried from a studio to an altar or a palace elsewhere. But with the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries painting became more and more liberated, said good-bye to the altar-piece and the palace and set out upon a life of its own. Now our painters are pure anarchists. They paint what pleases them for the sake of painting. They paint with a total disregard of any collective reality, and they are extremely offended when we build our houses with insufficient accommodation for their bright irrelevant observations upon the beauty of this and that.

So too music has broken loose. In the old world it was relevant and generally subordinate. I can imagine nothing more astonishing to a revenant from the ancient to our present world — not even a general election! — than a visit to a large concert-hall during the performance, let us say, of Debussy’s L’Apres-midi d’un Faune” or Ravel’s “Septette,” — this gathering of fortuitous people with no common function, to listen to music which, apart from its beauty, has no sort of collective meaning, no social object at all.

So far I have been attempting to make a case for the assertion that a consideration of the chief forms of human expression during the past age enables us to see in all of them Democracy as a great process of loosening of bonds and general disintegration. But that loosening and disintegration were not universal.

-- Democracy under Revision: a Lecture delivered at the Sorbonne on March 15th, 1927, from The Way the World Is Going: Guesses & Forecasts of The Years Ahead, by H.G. Wells


The phase of non-religiousness through which the West is passing has, we may rest assured, a meaning and a purpose. At the meetings of the Catholic Truth Society it is customary for the speakers to deplore the steady relapse of Christendom into paganism, which is going on before their eyes. As the Church had things her own way for ten centuries or more, these complaints on the part of her champions are equivalent to a confession on her part of disastrous failure. Why is the Church, after having evangelised the West and ruled it for a thousand years, allowing it to slide back into paganism? The answer to this question is that she herself is unwittingly paganising it. I mean by this that, without intending to do so, she is compelling it to choose between secularised life and arrested growth. Were a growing tree encircled with an iron band, the day would surely come when the tree, by the force of its own natural expansion, would either shatter the band or allow it to cut deep into its own stem. The growing consciousness of Humanity has long been encircled by a rigid and inadequate conception of God. The gradual secularisation of the West means that the soul of man is straining that particular conception of God to breaking-point: and it is infinitely better that it should be broken to pieces than that its iron should be allowed to sink deep into the soul.

The secularisation of contemporary life means this, and more than this. It means the gradual handing back of Man's life to the control of Nature, - of Nature which is as yet unequal to the task that is being set it, owing to its having been through all these centuries identified with its lower self, taught to distrust itself, and otherwise misinterpreted and mismanaged, but which, in obedience to the primary instinct of self-preservation, will gradually rise to the level of the responsibility that is being laid upon it. With the further secularisation of Man's life, the need for religion to make effective the control of Nature, by pointing out to it its own ideal and so co-ordinating and organising all its forces, will gradually make itself felt, and the regeneration of religion will at last have begun.

For many centuries the current of religious belief in the West was almost entirely confined to the one channel of Catholic Christianity. There the mighty river pursued his course, "brimming and bright and large", till the time came when, with the gradual loss of his pristine energy -

"Sands began
To hem his wintry march, and dam his streams
And split his currents";
Side channels were formed, and grew in number; and though Catholicism is still the central channel for the moving waters, the river has now fallen on evil days, and "strains along", "shorn and parcelled", like the river of the Asian desert -
"forgetting the bright speed he bore
In his high mountain cradle". [ii]


Of the many side streams into which Western Christianity has split, the majority may be spoken of collectively as Protestant. Protestantism claims to have liberated a large part of Christendom from the yoke of Rome; and it is therefore right that we should ask ourselves in what sense and to what extent it has brought freedom to the human spirit. The answer to this question is, I think, that though Protestantism has fought a good fight for the principle of freedom, it has failed - for many reasons, the chief of which is that it began its work before men were ripe for freedom - to lead its votaries into the path of spiritual life and growth. Confronted by the uncompromising dogmatism of Rome, it had to devise a counter dogmatism of its own in order to rally round it the faint-hearted who, though eager to absolve themselves from obedience to the despotism of the Church, yet feared to walk by their own "inward light". In making this move, which was not the less false because it was in a sense inevitable, Protestantism may be said to have renounced its mission. That it has done much, in various ways, for human progress is undeniable; but the fact remains that it has failed to revitalise Christianity. Its masterstroke in its struggle with priestcraft - the substitution of "faith" for "works" as the basis of salvation - has done little or nothing to relieve the West from the deadly pressure of Israel's philosophy. For faith, as Protestantism understands the word, is the movement of the soul, not towards the ideal end of its being but towards an alleged supernatural transaction, - the redemption of the world by the death of Christ on the Cross. Gratitude to Christ for his love and self-sacrifice may indeed be an effective motive to action, but faith in the efficacy of Christ's atoning sacrifice is no guide to conduct. The inability of Protestantism to deduce a scheme of life from its own master-principle of salvation by "faith" has compelled it, in its desire to avoid the pitfalls of antinomianism [opposition to the obligatoriness of the moral law], to revive in a modified form the practical legalism of the Old Testament. The Protestant desires to show his gratitude to Christ by leading a correct life; but his distrust of his own higher nature compels him to go to some external authority for ethical guidance; and as he has repudiated the authority of the supernaturally-inspired Church, he is compelled to have recourse to the supernaturally-inspired Bible. Hence the traditional alliance between Protestantism and the Old Testament, in which the path of duty is far more clearly and consistently defined than in the New. And hence the singular fact that Calvinism, which is the backbone of Protestantism, and which in theory, and even (at times) in practice, regards "works" as "filthy rags", finds its other self in Puritanism, which is in the main a recrudescence of Jewish legalism in the more strictly moral sphere of conduct.

It is owing to its alliance with the legalism of Israel, that Protestantism has been in some respects an even greater enemy of human freedom than Catholicism, and has on the whole done more than the latter to narrow and maim human life. The strict legalist tries, as we have seen, to bring the whole of human life under the direct control of the Law; and when he finds, as the Puritan did in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, that whole aspects of life have in point of fact escaped from the control of religion and won from the latter a tacit acceptance of themselves as secular, he not unnaturally tends to regard these non-religious aspects of life as "carnal", and therefore as unacceptable to God. Hence the antipathy of the Protestant, in his seasons of Puritanical fanaticism, to art, music, the drama, and other noble fruits of the human spirit. Catholicism has found itself compelled to tolerate the secular activities of the layman; Protestantism, while tolerating those activities by which man earns his daily bread and which may be spoken of collectively as "business", has from time to time waged war against all the developments of human nature which are neither spiritual (in the narrow and rigid sense of the word) nor obviously useful, and has sought to extirpate the corresponding desires from the heart of Man. On the more artistic side of human life, it has done as much to impede the growth of the soul as Catholicism has done on the more intellectual side; and through its influence on character it has done as much to harden the fibre of the soul as Catholicism has done to relax it, the tendency of both religions being to destroy that elasticity of fibre which mediates between hardness and flabbiness, and which has its counterpart in vigorous health and strength.

The truth is - but it is a truth which Protestantism is apt to misinterpret, and which Catholicism finds it expedient to ignore - that religion is not a branch or department of human life, but a way of looking at life as a whole. Indeed, it is of the essence of religion (as has been already suggested) that it should look at life as a whole, and so be able to look at each of its details in the light of that supreme synthesis which we call Divine. And the religion which sanctions, and by its own action necessitates, the division of life into two branches - the secular and the religious - has obviously missed its destiny and betrayed its trust.

A brief summary of the contents of this chapter will prepare the way for the next. The movements of higher thought in the West have been dominated, nominally by the professional thinker, really by the average man. As a thinker, the average man is incurably dualistic. Enslaved as he is to the requirements of his instrument, language, he instinctively opposes mind to body, spirit to matter, good to evil, the Creator to the Creation, God to Man; and in each case he fixes a great gulf between the "mighty opposites" that constitute the given antithesis. Confronted by the mystery of existence, he has explained it by the story of Creation. Confronted by the twin mysteries of sin and sorrow, he has explained them by the story of the Fall. From the story of the Fall he has passed on to the doctrine of original sin, to the belief that Nature in general, and human nature in particular, is corrupt and ruined, and therefore intrinsically evil. Shrinking from the hopeless prospect which this belief opens up to him, he has found refuge in the conception of another world, - of a world above and beyond Nature, a world of Divine perfection from which information and guidance can at God's good pleasure be doled out to Man. For a "supernatural revelation" (as theologians call this sending of help from God to Man) special instruments are obviously needed, - a special People, a special Scripture, a special Lawgiver, a special Prophet, a special Church. Hence has arisen the idea that certain persons, certain castes, certain institutions have a monopoly of Divine truth and grace, and are therefore in a position to dictate to their fellowmen how they are to bear themselves if they wish to be "saved", what they are to believe, what they are to do. From this the transition has been easy to the further idea that salvation is to be achieved by blind and mechanical obedience, - by renouncing the right to follow one's own higher nature, to obey one's own conscience, to use one's own reason, to map out one's own life. In order to induce men to yield the obedience which is required of them, their lower instincts have had to be appealed to (for the higher, ruined by the Fall, have presumably ceased to operate), - their desire for pleasure by the promise of Heaven, their fear of pain by the threat of Hell. And in order that their lives may be kept under close supervision and their merits accurately appraised, an ever-increasing stress has had to be laid on what is outward, visible, and measurable in human life, as distinguished from what is inward and occult, - on correctness in the details of prescribed conduct, or again in the details of formulated belief. As the idea of salvation through mechanical obedience develops into a systematised scheme of life, the higher and more spiritual faculties of Man's nature become gradually atrophied by disuse. In other words, the channel of soul growth - the only channel that leads to spiritual health, and therefore to "salvation" - becomes gradually obstructed, with the result that the vital energies of the soul tend either to dissipate themselves and run to waste, or to make new channels for themselves, - channels of degenerative tendency, the end of which is spiritual death.

_______________

Notes:

i. Shakespeare Troilus and Cressida Act 3 Scene 2.

ii. These quotations are from Matthew Arnold's narrative poem Sohrab and Rustum, first published in 1853.
 
(1) The Jewish People in the time of Jesus Christ, by Dr. Emil Schürer.

(2) In its extreme form legalism tends to bring about that ruin of human nature which it starts by postulating: for, by forbidding Man's higher faculties to energise, it necessarily arrests their development, and so makes it possible for the lower faculties to draw to themselves an undue share of the rising sap of Man's life.

*****************************

Thus the Tao is the course, the flow, the drift, or the process of nature, and I call it the Watercourse Way because both Lao-tzu and Chuang-tzu use the flow of water as its principal metaphor. But it is of the essence of their philosophy that the Tao cannot be defined in words and is not an idea or concept. As Chuang-tzu says, "It may be attained but not seen," or, in other words, felt but not conceived, intuited but not categorized, divined but not explained. In a similar way, air and water cannot be cut or clutched, and their flow ceases when they are enclosed. There is no way of putting a stream in a bucket or the wind in a bag. Verbal description and definition may be compared to the latitudinal and longitudinal nets which we visualize upon the earth and the heavens to define and enclose the positions of mountains and lakes, planets and stars. But earth and heaven are not cut by these imaginary strings. As Wittgenstein said, "Laws, like the law of causation, etc., treat of the network and not of what the network describes."11 For the game of Western philosophy and science is to trap the universe in the networks of words and numbers, so that there is always the temptation to confuse the rules, or laws, of grammar and mathematics with the actual operations of nature. We must not, however, overlook the fact that human calculation is also an operation of nature, but just as trees do not represent or symbolize rocks, our thoughts -- even if intended to do so -- do not necessarily represent trees and rocks. Thoughts grow in brains as grass grows in fields. Any correspondence between them is abstract, as between ten roses and ten stones, which does not take into account the smell and color of the roses or the shapes and structures of the stones. Although thought is in nature, we must not confuse the game-rules of thought with the patterns of nature.

Now the Chinese, and Taoist, term which we translate as "nature" is tzu-jan, meaning the spontaneous, that which is so of itself. We might call it the automatic or automotive were it not that these words are associated with mechanisms and artifacts which are not truly "so" of themselves. Nature as tzu-jan might be taken to mean that everything grows and operates independently, on its own, and to be the meaning of the verse:

(As I) sit quietly, doing nothing,
Spring comes and grass grows of itself.12


But it is basic to the Taoist view of the world that every thing-event (shih or wu) is what it is only in relation to all others. The earth, and every tiniest thing upon it, inevitably "goes-with" the sun, moon, and stars. It needs them just as much as it needs, and consists of, its own elements. Conversely, the sun would not be light without eyes, nor would the universe "exist" without consciousness -- and vice versa. This is the principle of "mutual arising" (hsiang sheng) which is explained in the second chapter of the Tao Te Ching.13

The principle is that if everything is allowed to go its own way the harmony of the universe will be established, since every process in the world can "do its own thing" only in relation to all others. The political analogy is Kropotkin's anarchism -- the theory that if people are left alone to do as they please, to follow their nature and discover what truly pleases them, a social order will emerge of itself. Individuality is inseparable from community. In other words, the order of nature is not a forced order; it is not the result of laws and commandments which beings are compelled to obey by external violence, for in the Taoist view there really is no obdurately external world. My inside arises mutually with my outside, and though the two may differ they cannot be separated.

Thus everything's "own way" is the "own way" of the universe, of the Tao. Because of the mutual interdependence of all beings, they will harmonize if left alone and not forced into conformity with some arbitrary, artificial, and abstract notion of order, and this harmony will emerge tzu-jan, of itself, without external compulsion. No organization, in the political and commercial sense of the word, is organic. Organizations, in this sense, are based on the following of linear rules and laws imposed from above -- that is, of strung-out, serial, one-thing-at-a-time sequences of words and signs which can never grasp the complexity of nature, although nature is only "complex" in relation to the impossible task of translating it into these linear signs. Outside the human world, the order of nature goes along without consulting books -- but our human fear is that the Tao which cannot be described, the order which cannot be put into books, is chaos.

If Tao signifies the order and course of nature, the question is, then, what kind of order? Lao-tzu (ch. 25) does indeed use the term hun -- obscure, chaotic, turgid -- for the state of the Tao before heaven and earth arose, but I do not think that this can mean chaos in the sense of mess and disorder such as we see when things formerly organized are broken up. It has rather the sense of hsuan, of that which is deep, dark, and mysterious prior to any distinction between order and disorder -- that is, before any classification and naming of the features of the world.

The un-named is heaven and earth's origin;
Naming is the mother of ten thousand things.
Whenever there is no desire (or, intention), one beholds the mystery;
Whenever there is desire, one beholds the manifestations.
These two have the same point of departure, but differ (because of) the naming.
Their identity is hsuan--
hsuan beyond hsuan, all mystery's gate.14 [102c]


The "chaos" of hsuan is the nature of the world before any distinctions have been marked out and named, the wiggly Rorschach blot of nature. But as soon as even one distinction has been made, as between yin and yang or 0 and 1, all that we call the laws or principles of mathematics, physics, and biology follow of necessity, as has recently been demonstrated in the calculus system of G. Spencer Brown (1). But this necessity does not appear to be a compulsion or force outside the system itself. In other words, the order of the Tao is not an obedience to anything else. As Chuang-tzu says, "It exists by and through itself"; it is sui generis (self-generating), tzu-jan (of itself so), and has the property of that forgotten attribute of God called aseity -- that which is a (by) se (itself). But in the case of the Tao the form of its order is not only free from any external necessity; also, it does not impose its rule on the universe, as if the Tao and the universe were separate entities. In short, the order of the Tao is not law.

The Chinese word tse comes closer than any other to what we mean by positive law -- to the laying down and following of written rules and lists of what may and may not be done, to going by the book. Thus we read in the Huai Nan Tzu book:

The Tao of Heaven operates mysteriously [hsuan] and secretly; it has no fixed shape; it follows no definite rules [wu-tse]; it is so great that you can never come to the end of it; it is so deep that you can never fathom it.15


But though the Tao is wu-tse (nonlaw), it has an order or pattern which can be recognized clearly but not defined by the book because it has too many dimensions and too many variables. This kind of order is the principle of li, a word which has the original sense of such patterns as the markings in jade or the grain in wood. 16

Li may therefore be understood as organic order, as distinct from mechanical or legal order, both of which go by the book. Li is the asymmetrical, nonrepetitive, and unregimented order which we find in the patterns of moving water, the forms of trees and clouds, of frost crystals on the window, or the scattering of pebbles on beach sand. It was through the appreciation of li that landscape painting arose in China long before Europeans got the point of it, so that now painters and photographers show us constantly the indefinable beauty of such lilts as waterfalls and bubbles in foam. Even abstract and nonobjective paintings have the same forms that may be found in the molecules of metals or the markings on shells. As soon as this beauty is pointed out it is immediately recognized, though we cannot say just why it appeals to us. When aestheticians and art critics try to explain it by showing works of art with Euclidean diagrams superimposed on them -- supposedly to demonstrate elegance of proportion or rhythm -- they simply make fools of themselves. Bubbles do not interest one merely because they congregate in hexagons or have measurable surface tensions. Geometrization always reduces natural form to something less than itself, to an oversimplification and rigidity which screens out the dancing curvaceousness of nature. It seems that rigid people feel some basic disgust with wiggles; they cannot dance without seeing a diagram of the steps, and feel that swinging the hips is obscene. They want to "get things straight," that is, in linear order, which is tse but not li.

But who can straighten out water? Water is the essence of life and is therefore Lao-tzu's favorite image of the Tao.

The highest good is like water,
for the good of water is that it nourishes everything without striving.
It occupies the place which all men think bad
[i.e., the lowest level].17 [ 102d]
It is thus that Tao in the world is like a
river going down the valley to the ocean.18 [102e]
The most gentle thing in the world overrides the most hard.19 [102g]
How do coves and oceans become kings of a hundred rivers?
Because they are good at keeping low--
That is how they are kings of the hundred rivers.20 [102f]
Nothing in the world is weaker than water,
But it has no better in overcoming the hard.21 [101a]


So also in Chuang-tzu:

When water is still, it is like a mirror, reflecting the beard and the eyebrows. It gives the accuracy of the water-level, and the philosopher makes it his model. And if water thus derives lucidity from stillness, how much more the faculties of the mind? The mind of the Sage being in repose becomes the mirror of the universe, the speculum of all creation.22 (59a)

The fluidity of water is not the result of any effort on the part of the water, but is its natural property. And the virtue of the perfect man is such that even without cultivation there is nothing which can withdraw from his sway. Heaven is naturally high, the earth is naturally solid, the sun and moon are naturally bright. Do they cultivate these attributes?23 [63b]


_______________

Notes:

11 Wittgenstein ( 1),6.35. Cf. also 6.341- 2.

12 Quoted in Zenrin Kushu (Ch'an Ling Chu Chi), p. 194, tr. auct. This is a small book of sayings often used in Zen (Ch'an) Buddhist teaching. It consists of short verses ranging from one single word to nearly thirty, usually rhyming easily as in poetry. This particular saying is a ten-word verse divided into two five-word couplets.

13 See above, pp. 22- 23. Also Chuang-tzu, below, p. 52.

14 Lao-Tzu I, tr. auct.

15 Huai Nan Tzu 9, p. 1b, tr. Needham (1), vol. 2, p. 561.

16 Cf. Needham (1), vol. 2, sec. 18.7. This whole section is a marvelous discussion of the differences between Western and Chinese views of law, both human and natural. Though the mature philosophy of li was formulated by Chu Hsi (+ 1130 to + 1200), the word appears thirty-five times in the Chuang-Tzu book.

17 Lao-tzu 8, tr. auct

18 Lao-tzu 32, tr. auct.

19 Lao-ltzu 43, tr. auct.

20 Lao-tzu 66, tr. auct.

21 Lao-tzu 78, tr. auct.

22 Chuang-tzu 13, tr. H. A. Giles (1), pp. 157-58.

23 Chuang-tzu 21, tr. H. A. Giles (1) , p. 268.

-- Tao: The Watercourse Way, by Alan Watts, With the collaboration of Al Chung-liang Huang 
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Re: What Is and What Might Be, by Edmond Holmes

Postby admin » Mon Oct 21, 2019 3:41 am

Part 1 of 3

CHAPTER II. EDUCATION THROUGH MECHANICAL OBEDIENCE

THE God of popular theology has been engaged for more than thirty centuries in educating his child, Man. His system of education has been based on complete distrust of Man's nature. In the schools which Man has been required to attend - the Legal School under the Old Dispensation, the Ecclesiastical School under the New - it has been taken for granted that he can neither discern what is true, nor desire what is good. The truth of things has therefore been formulated for him, and he has been required to learn it by rote and profess his belief in it, clause by clause. His duty has also been formulated for him, and he has been required to perform it, detail by detail, in obedience to the commandments of an all-embracing Code, or to the direction of an all-controlling Church.

It has further been taken for granted that Man's instincts and impulses are wholly evil, and that "Right Faith" and "Right Conduct" are entirely repugnant to his nature. In order to overcome the resistance which his corrupt heart and perverse will might therefore be expected to offer to the authority and influence of his teachers, a scheme of rewards and punishments has had to be devised for his benefit. As there is no better nature for the scheme to appeal to, an appeal has had to be made to fears and hopes which are avowedly base. The refractory child has had to be threatened with corporal punishment in the form of an eternity of torment in Hell. And he has had to be bribed by the offer of prizes, the chief of which is an eternity of selfish enjoyment in Heaven, - enjoyment so selfish that it will consist with, and even (it is said) be heightened by, the knowledge that in the Final Examination the failures have been many and the prize-winners few.

And as, under this system of education, obedience is the first and last of virtues, so self-will - in the sense of daring to think and act for oneself - is the first and last of offences. It is for the sin of spiritual initiative - the sin of trying to work out one's own salvation by the exercise of reason, conscience, imagination, aspiration, and other spiritual faculties - that the direst penalties are reserved. The path of salvation is the path of blind, passive, mechanical obedience. To deviate even a little from that path is to incur the penalty of eternal death.

As Man is educated by his father, God, so must the child be educated by his father, the adult man. If the nature of Man is intrinsically evil, the child must needs have been conceived in sin and shapen in iniquity. If Man, even in his maturity, cannot be trusted to think or desire or do what is right, still less can he be so trusted when he is that relatively immature and helpless being, the child. If the adult man has to be told in the fullest detail (whether by a formulated Law or by a living Church) how he is to conduct himself, still greater is the need for such or similar direction to be given to the child. If the adult is to be "saved" by strict and mechanical obedience, and by no other method, still greater is the need for such obedience on the part of the child. If a system of external and quasi-material rewards and punishments is indispensable in the education of the adult, still less can it be dispensed with in the education of the child. These a fortiori [even more so] arguments are strong; but there is a stronger. The child will develop into the adult, and he cannot too soon be initiated into the life which, as the adult, he will have to lead. The process of educating the child is not merely analogous to the process of "saving" the man. It is a vital part of it. For childhood is the time when human nature is most easily moulded; and the bent that is given to it then is, in nine cases out of ten, decisive of its ultimate destiny.

It is clear, then, that if Man is to be "saved" by a régime of mechanical obedience, his education in his childhood must be based on the same general conception of life and duty. This means, in the first place, that the child must be brought up in an atmosphere of severity. The God of the Old Testament - the Deity whose nimbus overshadows the life of the West - combines in his own person the functions of law-giver, governor, prosecutor, judge, and executioner. His subjects are a race of vile offenders, whose every impulse is bad, and whose nature turns towards evil as inevitably as a plant turns towards the light. As he cannot trust them to know good from evil, he has had to provide them with an elaborate code of law; and he has had to take for granted that, left to themselves, they will break his commandments, and find pleasure in doing so. From the very outset, then, his attitude towards them has been one of suspicion and rising anger. He is always on the look-out for disobedience, and he is ready to chastise the offender almost before he has had time to commit the offence. His pupils, brought up in an atmosphere of suspicion, and taught from their earliest days to disbelieve in and condemn themselves, can scarcely be blamed for living down to the evil reputation which they have unfortunately gained. To persuade a man that he is a miserable sinner is to go some way towards leading him into the path of sin. Systematic distrust paralyses and demoralises those who live under it, and so tends to justify the cruelty into which it too readily develops. The penalties which God has attached to the sins which he may almost be said to have provoked Man to commit, are so terrible and unjust that if the fear of them has not robbed life of all its sunshine, the reason is that their very horror has numbed Man's imagination, and made it impossible for him even to begin to picture to himself their lurid gloom.

In the West men have loyally striven to reproduce towards their children the supposed attitude of their God of Wrath towards themselves. From very tender years the child has been brought up in an atmosphere of displeasure and mistrust. His spontaneous activities have been repressed as evil. His every act has been looked upon with suspicion. He has been ever on the defensive, like a prisoner in the dock. He bas been ever on the alert for a sentence of doom. He has been cuffed, kicked, caned, flogged, shut up in the dark, fed on bread and water, sent hungry to bed, subjected to a variety of cruel and humiliating punishments, terrified with idle - but to him appalling - threats. In his misery he has shed a whole ocean of tears, - the salt and bitter tears of hopeless grief and helpless anger, not the soul-refreshing tears which are sometimes distilled from sorrow by the sunshine of love. But of all the cruelties to which he has been subjected, the most devilish has been that of making him believe in his own criminality, in the corruption of his innocent heart. In the deadly shade of that chilling cloud, the flower of his opening life has too often withered before it has had time to expand. For what is most cruel in cruelty is its tendency to demoralise its victims, especially those who are of tender years - to harden them, to brutalise them, to make them stubborn and secretive, to make them shifty and deceitful, to throw them back upon themselves, to shut them up within themselves, to quench the joy of their hearts, to numb their sympathies, to cramp their expansive energies, to narrow and darken their whole outlook on life. All this the cruelty of his seniors would do to the child, even if he had not been taught to believe in his own inborn wickedness. But that belief, with which he has been indoctrinated from his earliest days, necessarily weakens his power of resisting evil, and so predisposes him to fall a victim to the malignant germs that cruelty sows in his heart. We tell the child that he is a criminal, and treat him as such, and then expect him to be perfect; and when our misguided education has begun to deprave him, we shake our heads over his congenital depravity, and thank God that we believe in "original sin". (1)

In the next place, if Man is to be faithful to his model, he must bring up the child in an atmosphere of vexatious interference and unnatural restraint. That Man himself has been brought up in such an atmosphere in both his schools - the Legal and the Ecclesiastical - I need not take pains to prove. What he has suffered at the hands of his Schoolmaster - the God of Israel (and of Christendom) - he has taken good care to inflict on his pupil, the child. Such phrases as: "Don't talk", "Don't fidget", "Don't worry", "Don't ask questions", "Don't make a noise", "Don't make a mess", "Don't do this thing", "Don't do that thing", are ever falling from his lips. And they are supplemented with such positive instructions as: "Sit still", "Stand on the form", "Hold yourself up", "Fold arms", "Hands behind backs", "Hands on heads", "Eyes on the blackboard". At every turn - from infancy till adolescence, "from early morning till late in the evening" - these "dead and deadening formulae" await the unhappy child. The aim of his teachers is to leave nothing to his nature, nothing to his spontaneous life, nothing to his free activity; to repress all his natural impulses; to drill his energies into complete quiescence; to keep his whole being in a state of sustained and painful tension. And in order that we may see a meaning and a rational purpose in this régime of oppressive interference, we must assume that its ultimate aim is to turn the child into an animated puppet, who, having lost his capacity for vital activity, will be ready to dance, or rather go through a series of jerky movements, in response to the strings which his teacher pulls.

It is the inevitable reaction from this state of tension which is responsible for much of the "naughtiness" of children. The spontaneous energies of the child, when education has blocked all their lawful outlets, must needs force new outlets for themselves, - lawless outlets, if no others are available. The child's instinct to live will see to that. It sometimes happens that, when the channel of a river has been blocked by winter's ice, the river, on its awakening in Spring, will suddenly change its course and carve out a new channel for itself, reckless of the destruction that it may cause, so long as an outlet can by any means be found for its baffled current. It is the same with the river of the child's expanding life. The naughtiest and most mischievous boy not infrequently develops into a hero, or a leader of men. The explanation of this is that through his very naughtiness the current of soul-growth, which ran stronger in him than in his school-mates, kept open the channel which his teachers were doing their best to close. Even Hooliganism - to take the most serious of the periodic outbursts of juvenile criminality - resolves itself, when thoughtfully considered, into a sudden and violent change in the channel of a boy's life, a change which is due to the normal channel (or channels) of his expansive energies having been blocked by years of educational repression. His wild, ruffianly outrages are perhaps the last despairing effort that his vital principle makes to assert itself, before it finally gives up the struggle for active existence.

When severity and constraint have done their work, when the spirit of the child has been broken, when his vitality has been lowered to its barest minimum, when he has been reduced to a state of mental and moral serfdom, the time has come for the system of education through mechanical obedience to be applied to him in all its rigour. In other words, the time has come for Man to do to the child, what the God whom he worships is supposed to have done to him, - to tell him in the fullest and minutest detail what he is to do to be "saved", and to stand over him with a scourge in his hand and see that he does it. In the two great schools which God is supposed to have opened for Man's benefit, freedom and initiative have ever been regarded (and with good reason) as the gravest of offences. Literal obedience has been exacted by the Law; blind obedience by the Church; passive obedience - the obedience of a puppet, or at best of an automaton - by both. The need for this insistence on the part of Law and Church is obvious. If any lingering desire to think things out for himself, if any intelligent interest in what he was taught, survived in the disciple, the whole system of salvation by machinery would be in danger of being thrown out of gear.

As it has been, and still is, in the schools which God has opened for Man, so it has been, and still is, in the schools which Man has opened for the child. Blind, passive, literal, unintelligent obedience is the basis on which the whole system of Western education has been reared. The child must distrust himself absolutely, must realise that he is as helpless as he is ignorant, before he can begin to profit by the instruction that will be given to him. His mind must become a tabula rasa [blank slate] before his teacher can begin to write on it. The vital part of him - call it what you will - must become as clay before his teacher can begin to mould him to his will.

The strength of the child, then, is to sit still, to listen, to say "Amen" to, or repeat, what he has heard. The strength of the teacher is to bustle about, to give commands, to convey information, to exhort, to expound. The strength of the child is to efface himself in every possible way. The strength of the teacher is to assert himself in every possible way. The golden rule of education is that the child is to do nothing for himself which his teacher can possibly do, or even pretend to do, for him. Were he to try to do things by or for himself, he would probably start by doing them badly. This is not to be tolerated. Imperfection and incorrectness are moral defects; and the child must as far as possible be guarded from them as from the contamination of moral guilt. He must therefore trust himself to his teacher, and do what he is told to do in the precise way in which he is told. His teacher must stand in front of him and give such directions as these: "Look at me", "See what I am doing", "Watch my hand", "Do the thing this way", "Do the thing that way", "Listen to what I say", "Repeat it after me", "Repeat it all together", "Say it three times". And the child, growing more and more comatose, must obey these directions and ask no questions; and when he has done what he has been told to do, he must sit still and wait for the next instalment of instruction.

What is all this doing for the child? The teacher seldom asks himself this question. If he did, he would answer it by saying that the end of education is to enable the child to produce certain outward and visible results, - to do by himself what he has often done, either in imitation of his teacher, or in obedience to his repeated directions; to say by himself what he has said many times in chorus with his class-mates; to disgorge some fragments of the information with which he has been crammed; and so forth. What may be the value of these outward results, what they indicate, what amount or kind of mental (or other) growth may be behind them, - are questions which the teacher cannot afford to consider, even if he felt inclined to ask them. His business is to drill the child into the mechanical production of quasi-material results; and his success in doing this will be gauged in due course by an "examination," - a periodic test which is designed to measure, not the degree of growth which the child has made, but the industry of the teacher as indicated by the receptivity of his class.

The truth is that inward and spiritual growth, even if it were thought desirable to produce it and measure it, could not possibly be measured. The real "results" of education are in the child's heart and mind and soul, beyond the reach of any measuring tape or weighing machine. It follows that if the work of the teacher is to be tested, an external test must be applied. This means that external results, results which can be weighed and measured, must be aimed at by both teacher and child, and that the value of these as symbols of what is inward and intrinsic must be wholly ignored. Not that the inward results of education would in any case be seriously considered. When education is based on the passivity of the child, nothing matters to him or to his teacher except the accuracy with which he can reproduce what he has been taught, - can repeat what he has been told, or do by himself what he has been told how to do. What connection there may be between these achievements and his mental state matters so little that the bare idea of there being such a connection is, as a rule, entirely lost sight of. The externalisation of religion in the West, as evidenced by its ceremonialism and its casuistry, has faithfully mirrored itself in the externality of Western education. The examination system (which I will presently consider) keeps education in the grooves of externality, and drives those grooves so deep as to make escape from them impossible. Yet it does but give formal recognition to, and in so doing crown and complete - as the keystone crowns and completes the arch - the whole system of education in the West. It is because what is outward and visible counts for everything in the West, first in the life of the adult and then in the life of the child, that the idea of weighing and measuring the results of education - with its implicit assumption that the real results of education are ponderable and measurable (a deadly fallacy which now has the force and authority of an axiom) - has come to establish itself in every Western land.

The tendency of the Western teacher to mistake the externals for the essentials of education, and to measure educational progress in terms of the "appearance of things", gives rise to many misconceptions, one of the principal of which is the current confusion between information and knowledge. To generate knowledge in his pupils is a legitimate end of the teacher's ambition. In schools and other "academies" it tends to become the chief, if not the sole, end; and, things being what they are, the teacher may be pardoned for regarding it as such. But what is knowledge? The vulgar confusion between knowledge and information is the accepted answer to this question. But the answer is usually given before the question has been seriously considered. One who allowed himself to reflect on it, however briefly or cursorily, would quickly realise that it is possible to have intimate and effective knowledge of a subject without being able to impart any information about it. Successful action, as in arts, crafts, games, sports, and the like, must needs have subtle and accurate knowledge behind it; but the possessor of such knowledge is seldom able to impart it with any approach to lucidity. On the other hand, it frequently happens that one who has a retentive memory is able to impart information glibly and correctly, without possessing any real knowledge of the subject in question.

The truth is that knowledge, which may perhaps be provisionally defined as a correct attitude towards one's environment, has almost as wide a range as that of human nature itself. At one end of the scale we have the quasi-animal instinct which governs successful physical action. At the other end we have the knowledge, of which, and of the possession of which, its possessor is clearly conscious. Between these extremes there is an almost infinite series of strata, ranging through every conceivable degree of subconsciousness. The knowledge that is real and effective is absorbed into one or more of the subconscious strata, from which it gradually ascends, under the influence of attention and reflection, towards the more conscious levels, gaining, as it ascends, in scope and outlook what it may possibly lose in subtlety and nearness to action. When knowledge, after passing upwards through many subconscious strata, rises to what I may call the surface-level of consciousness, it is ready, on occasion, to give itself off as information. This exhalation from the surface of consciousness is genuine information, not to be confounded with knowledge, to which it is related as the outward to the inward state, still less to be confounded with that spurious information which floats, as we shall presently see, like a film on the surface of the mind, meaning nothing and indicating nothing except that it has been artificially deposited, and that in due season it will be skimmed off, if the teacher's hopes are fulfilled, for the delectation of an examiner.

There are, of course, many cases in which the conscious acquisition of information is a necessary stage in the acquisition of knowledge. But in all such cases, if the information acquired is to have any educative value, it must be allowed to sink down into the subconscious strata, whence, after having been absorbed and assimilated and so converted into knowledge, it will perhaps reascend towards the surface of the mind, just as the leaves which fall in autumn are dragged down into the soil below, converted into fertile mould, and then gradually lifted towards the surface; or as the fresh water that the rivers pour into the sea has to be slowly absorbed into the whole mass of salt water before it (or its equivalent) can return to the land as rain. When information which has been received and assimilated rises to the surface of the mind, it will be ready, when required to do so, to reappear as information, and perhaps to return in that form to the source from which it came. But the information which is given off will differ profoundly from that which has been received. for between the two will have intervened many stages of silent absorption and silent growth.

It may be necessary, then, in the course of education, both to supply and to demand information, But the information which is supplied must be regarded as the raw material of knowledge, into which it is to be converted by a subtle and secret process. And the information which is demanded must be regarded as an exhalation (so to speak) from the surface of a mind which has been saturated with study and experience, and therefore as a proof of the possession of knowledge. To assume that knowledge and information are interchangeable terms, that to impart information is therefore to generate knowledge, that to give back information is therefore to give proof of the possession of knowledge, - is one of the greatest mistakes that a teacher can make.

But the mistake is almost universally made. Information being related to knowledge, as what is outward to what is inward, it is but natural that education in the West, which on principle concerns itself with what is outward, and ignores what is inward, should have always regarded, and should still regard, the supplying of information as the main function of the teacher, and the ability of the child to retail the information which has been supplied to him as a convincing proof that the work of the teacher has been successfully done. In nine schools out of ten, on nine clays out of ten, in nine lessons out of ten, the teacher is engaged in laying thin films of information on the surface of the child's mind, and then, after a brief interval, in skimming these off in order to satisfy himself that they had been duly laid. He cannot afford to do otherwise. If the child, like the man, is to be "saved" by passive obedience, his teacher must keep his every action and operation under close and constant supervision. Were the information which is supplied to him allowed to descend into the subconscious strata of his being, there to be dealt with by the secret, subtle, assimilative processes of his nature, it would escape from the teacher's supervision and therefore from his control. In other words, the teacher would have abdicated his function. He must therefore take great pains to keep the processes by which the child acquires knowledge (or what passes for such) as near to the surface of his mind as possible; in rivalry of the nurse who should take so much interest in the well-being of her charges that she would not allow them to digest the food which she had given them, but would insist on their disgorging it at intervals, in order that she might satisfy herself that it had been duly given and received. It is no doubt right that the teacher should take steps to test the industry of his pupils; but the information which the child has always to keep at the call of his memory, in order that he may give it back on demand in the form in which he has received it, is the equivalent of food which its recipient has not been allowed to digest.

The confusion between information and knowledge lies at the heart of the religion, as well as of the education, of the West. In this, as in other matters, the training of the child by his teacher has been modelled on the supposed training of Man by God. It is scarcely an exaggeration to say that the whole scheme of salvation by mechanical obedience is pivoted on the assumed identity of information and knowledge. In both the schools which Man has attended three things have always been taken for granted. The first is that salvation depends upon right knowledge of God. The second, that right knowledge of God and correct information about God are interchangeable phrases. The third, that correct information about God is procurable by, and communicable to, Man. From these premises it has been inferred that if Man can be duly supplied with correct information about God, and can be induced to receive and retain it, he will be able to "save his soul alive". The difference between the two schools is, that in the Legal School the information supplied to Man has been largely concerned with the Will of God, so far as it bears on the life of Man, and has therefore taken the form of a Code of formulated commandments; whereas in the Ecclesiastical School it has mainly been concerned with the Being of God, as interpreted from his doings and especially from his dealings with Man, and has therefore taken the form of catechisms and creeds. And there is, of course, the further difference that in the Legal School Man's acceptance of what he is taught has taken the practical form of doing what he is told to do, detail by detail; whereas in the Ecclesiastical School it has been mainly oral (though also partly ceremonial), the business of the disciple being to commit to memory the creed or catechism which has been placed in his hands, and recite it, formula by formula, with flawless accuracy. But the difference between the two schools is wholly superficial, being, in fact, analogous to that between the conventional teaching of Drawing, in which the pupil finds salvation in doing what he is told to do, line by line, and stroke by stroke, and the conventional teaching of History and Geography, in which the pupil finds salvation in saying what he is told to say, name by name, and date by date.

The relation between the two great branches of education, the education of Man by God, and the education of the child by the man, is one, not of analogy merely, but also of cause and effect. It is because the Jew thought to "save his soul alive" by obeying, blindly and unintelligently, a multitude of vexatious rules, that the teacher of to-day thinks to educate his pupils in Drawing by telling them in the fullest detail (either in his own person or by means of a diagram) what lines and strokes they are to make. And it is because the Christian has thought to "save his soul alive" by reciting with parrot-like accuracy the formulae of his creeds and catechisms, that the teacher of to-day thinks to educate his pupils in History and Geography by making them repeat from memory a series of definitions, dates, events, names of persons, names of places, articles of commerce, and the like. I do not say that the modern teacher consciously imitates his models; but I say that he and they have been inspired by the same conception of life, and that the influence of that conception has been, in part at least, transmitted by them to him.

That education in the West should ultimately be controlled by a system of formal examination, may be said to have been predestined by the general trend of religious thought and belief. Wherever literal obedience is regarded as the first, if not the last, condition of salvation, the tendency to measure worth and progress by the outward results that are produced will inevitably spring up and assert itself. In this tendency we have the whole examination system in embryo. When Israel, with characteristic thoroughness, had embodied in Pharisaism the logical inferences from his religious conceptions, a merciless examination system came into being, in which everyone was at once examiner and examinee, and in which the whole of human life was dragged out (as far as that was possible) into the fierce light of public criticism, and placed under vigilant and unintermittent supervision. When Pharisaism was revived, with many modifications but with no essential change of character, under the name of Puritanism, the tendency to arraign human life at the bar of public opinion reasserted itself, and gave rise, as in New England and covenanting Scotland, to an intolerable spiritual tyranny. In Catholic countries the believer is subjected in the Confessional to a periodical oral examination, in which he passes in review the outward aspect of his inward and spiritual life, detailing for the benefit of his confessor his sins of ceremonial omission or laxity, and such lapses from moral rectitude as admit of being formulated in words and accurately valued in terms of expiatory penance. Even in the Anglican Church, which has too great a regard for the Englishman's traditional love of personal freedom to be unduly inquisitorial, the clergyman is apt to measure the spiritual health and progress of his parishioners by the frequency with which they attend church and "Celebration", while the Bishop measures the spiritual health and progress of each parish by the number of its communicants and the frequency with which they communicate, statistics under both heads being (I am told) regularly forwarded to him from all parts of his diocese.

It was inevitable, then, the relation between religion and education being what it was and is, that sooner or later the education of the young should come under the control of a system of formal examination, and that it should be as much easier to apply the system to education than to religion as it is easier to test knowledge (in the conventional sense of the word) than conduct. It is to the vulgar confusion between knowledge and information that we owe the formal examination, as it is now conducted in most Western countries. In a society which mistakes the externals for the essentials of life, it is but natural that the teacher, with the full consent of the parents of his pupils, should regard the imparting of knowledge as the end and aim of his professional life, and that the parents should demand some guarantee that knowledge has been successfully imparted to their children. If by knowledge were meant a correct attitude of mind, the teacher would realise that the idea of testing it in any way which would satisfy the average parent was chimerical; and his clients, if they continued to ask for a guarantee of successful teaching, would require something widely different from that which has hitherto contented them. But when information is regarded as the equivalent of knowledge, the testing of the teacher's work becomes a simple matter, for it is quite easy to frame an examination which will ascertain, with some approach to accuracy, the amount of information that is floating on the surface of the child's mind; and it is also easy to tabulate the results of such an examination, - to find a numerical equivalent for the work done by each examinee, and then arrange the whole class in what is known as the "order of merit", and accepted as such, without a moment's misgiving, by all concerned.
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Re: What Is and What Might Be, by Edmond Holmes

Postby admin » Mon Oct 21, 2019 3:41 am

Part 2 of 3

Unfortunately, however, it is equally easy to prepare children for an examination of this, the normal type. As children have receptive memories, it is easy for the teacher to lay films of information on the surface of their minds. As they have capacious and fairly retentive memories, it is easy for the teacher, especially if he is a strict disciplinarian, to make his pupils retain the greater part of what they have been taught. To skim off and give back to the teacher (or examiner) portions of the floating films of information, is a knack which comes with practice, and which the average child easily acquires.

In the first place, within the range of vision, many objects give off particles. Some of these are rarefied and diffused, such as the smoke emitted by logs or the heat by fire. Others are denser and more closely-knit: cicadas, for instance, in summer periodically shed their tubular jackets; calves at birth cast off cauls from the surface of their bodies; or again the slippery green snake divests itself of its clothing on thorns - for we often see briars enriched by these fluttering scalps. Since these things happen, objects must also give off a much flimsier film from the surface of their bodies. For, since those more solid emanations fall off, no reason can be given why such flimsy ones should not. [5] Besides, we know that on the surface of objects there are lots of tiny particles, which could be thrown off without altering the order of their arrangement or the outline of their shape, and all the faster because, being relatively few and marshaled on the front line, they are less liable to obstruction.

We certainly see that many objects throw off matter in abundance, not only from their inmost depths, as we have said before, [6] but from their surfaces in the form of color. This is done conspicuously by the awnings, yellow, scarlet and maroon, stretched flapping and billowing on poles and rafters over spacious theatres. [7] The crowded pit below and the stage with all its scenery and the magnificence of the masked actors are made to glow and flow with the colors of the canopy. The more completely the theatre is hemmed in by surrounding walls, the more its interior, sheltered from the daylight, laughs in this flood of color. Since canvasses thus give off color from their surface, all objects must give off filmy images as a result of spraying particles from their surfaces this way and that. Here then, already definitely established, we have indications of images, flying about everywhere, extremely fine in texture and individually invisible.

Again, the reason why smell, smoke, heat and the like come streaming out of objects in shapeless clouds is that they originate in the inmost depths; so they are split up in their circuitous journey, and there are no straight vents to their channels through which they may issue directly in close formation. When the thin film of surface color, on the other hand, is thrown off, there is nothing to disrupt it, since it lies ready positioned on the front line.

Lastly, the reflections that we see in mirrors [8] or in water or any polished surface have the same appearance as actual objects. They must therefore be composed of films given off by those objects. There exist therefore flimsy but accurate replicas of objects, individually invisible but such that, when flung back in a rapid succession of recoils from the flat surface of mirrors they produce a visible image. That is the only conceivable way in which these films can be preserved so as to reproduce such a perfect likeness of each object.

Let me now explain how flimsy is the texture of these films. In the first place, the atoms themselves are vastly below the range of our senses - vastly smaller than the first objects, on a descending scale, that the eye can no longer discern. In confirmation of this, let me illustrate in a few words the minuteness of the atoms of which everything is composed. First, there are animals that are already so tiny that a third part of them would be quite invisible. How are we to picture the internal organs of these - the tiny globule of the heart, or the eyes? Of what size are its limbs or their joints? What must be the component atoms of its spirit and its mind? You cannot help seeing how slight and diminutive these must be. Or again, consider those substances that emit a pungent odor -all-healing opopanax, bitter wormwood, oppressive southernwood, the astringent tang of centaury. If you lightly crush one of these herbs between two <fingers, the scent will cling to your hand, but its particles will be quite invisible>. This will convey some notion of the number of surface-films from objects that must be flying about in a variety of ways without producing any effect on the senses. You must not suppose that the only films moving about are those that emanate from objects. There are also films spontaneously generated and composed in this lower region of the sky that we call the air. These assume a diversity of shapes and travel at a great height. So at times we see clouds smoothly condensing up aloft, defacing the bright aspect of the firmament and caressing the air by their motion. Often giant faces appear to be sailing by, trailing large patches of shadow. Sometimes it seems that great mountains, or crags uprooted from mountains, are drifting by and passing over the sun. Then other clouds, black with storm, appear to be towed along in the wake of some passing monster. [9] In their fluidity they never cease to change their form, assuming the outline now of one shape, now of another.

<Let us now consider> with what facility and speed the films are generated and ceaselessly stream out of objects and slide off their surfaces. For the outermost skin of all objects is always in readiness for them to shed. When this comes in contact with other objects, it may pass through, as it does in particular through glass. When it encounters rough rocks or solid wood, then it is promptly chopped up, so that it cannot reproduce an image. But when it is confronted by something both polished and solid, in particular a mirror, then neither of these things happens. The films cannot penetrate, as they do through glass; nor are they chopped up, because the smoothness guarantees their safety. That is why such surfaces reflect images that are visible to us. No matter how suddenly or at what time you set any object in front of a mirror, an image appears. From this you may infer that the surfaces of objects emit a ceaseless stream of flimsy tissues and filmy shapes. Therefore a great many films are generated in a brief space of time, so that their origin can rightly be described as instantaneous. Just as a great many particles of light must be emitted in a brief space of time by the sun to keep the world continually filled with it, so objects in general must correspondingly send off a great many images in a great many ways from every surface and in all directions instantaneously. Turn the mirror which way we will, all objects [10] are reproduced in it with corresponding shape and color.

Again, when the weather has been most brilliant, it becomes gloomy and overcast with amazing suddenness. You would fancy that all the nether darkness from every quarter had abandoned the Underworld and crowded the spacious vaults of heaven: so grim a night of storm gathers aloft, from which lours down the face of black fear. [11] In comparison with such a mass of matter, no one can express how minute a surface-film is, or convey any idea of the proportion in words.

Let me now explain in my verses how speedily the films move and what power they possess of swimming swiftly through the air, so that a brief hour is spent on a long journey, whatever course each one may pursue in response to its particular impulse. My account will be persuasive rather than exhaustive. Better the fleeting melody of the swan [12] than the long-drawn clangor of cranes high up among the northward-racing clouds.

First, then, it is a common observation that light objects and those composed of small particles are swift-moving. A notable example is the light and heat of the sun: these are composed of minute atoms which are as it were beaten and lose no time in shooting right across the interspace of air driven on by the force following them. The supply of light is promptly renewed by fresh light, and one flash is goaded on by another as in a team of yoked animals. Similarly the films must be able to traverse an incalculable space in an instant of time, and that for two reasons. First, a very slight [13] initial impetus far away to their rear sufficed to launch them and they continue on their course with such bird-swift lightness. Secondly, they are thrown off with such a loose-knit texture that they can readily penetrate any object and filter through the interspace of air.

Again, certain particles thrown up to the surface from the inmost depths of objects, namely those that form the light and heat of the sun, are seen at the very instant of daybreak to drop and spray out across the whole space of the sky and fly over sea and lands and flood the sky. What then of particles that are already stationed on the front line when they are thrown off and whose egress is not hampered by any obstacle? Surely they must go all the faster [14] and the farther and traverse an extent of space many times as great in the time it takes for the sunlight to flash across the sky?

A further and especially convincing indication of the velocity of surface-films is this. Expose a smooth surface of water to the open sky when it is bright with stars: immediately the sparkling constellations of the firmament in all their unclouded splendor twinkle back reproduced in the water. Does not this indicate how instantaneous is the descent of the image from the borderland of ether to the borders of earth? Here then is proof upon proof that objects emit particles that strike upon the eyes and provoke sight.

From certain objects there also flows a perpetual stream of odor, as coolness flows from rivers, heat from the sun, and from the ocean waves as spray that eats away walls round the seashore. [15] Sounds of every sort are surging incessantly through the air. When we walk by the seaside, a salty tang of brine often enters our mouth; when we watch a draught of wormwood being mixed in our presence, a bitter effluence touches us. So from every object flows a stream of matter, spreading out in all directions. The stream must flow without rest or intermission, since our senses are perpetually alert and everything is always liable to be seen or smelt or to provoke sensation by sound.

Again, when some shape or other is handled in the dark, it is recognized as the same shape that in a clear and shining light is plain to see. It follows that touch and sight are provoked by the same stimulus. [16] Suppose we touch a square object and it stimulates our sense in the dark. What can it be that, given light, will strike upon our vision as square, if it is not the film emanating from the object? This shows that the cause of seeing lies in these films and that without these nothing can be seen.

It is established, then, that these films, as I call them, are moving about everywhere, sprayed and scattered in all directions. Since we can see only with our eyes, it is only when we direct our vision towards any particular quarter that all the objects there strike it with their shapes and colors. Our power of perceiving and distinguishing the distance from us of each particular object is also due to the film. For, as soon as it is thrown off, it shoves and drives before it all the air that intervenes between itself and the eyes. All this air flows through our eyeballs and brushes through our pupils in passing. [17] That is how we perceive the distance of each object: the more air is driven in front of the film and the longer the draught that brushes through our eyes, the more remote the object is seen to be. Of course this all happens so quickly that we perceive the nature of the object and its distance simultaneously.

It need occasion no surprise that, while the individual films that strike upon the eye are invisible, the objects from which they emanate are perceived. [18] Wind too buffets us bit by bit, and cold strikes us in a piercing stream; yet we do not feel each particular unit of the wind or the cold, but simply the total effect. And we see that blows are then being delivered on our body with an effect as though some external object were buffeting it and making its presence felt. When we hit a stone with our toe, what we actually touch is only the outer surface of the rock, the overlying film of color; but what we feel ourselves touching is not that but the hard inner core of the rock. [19]

Let us now consider why the image is seen beyond the mirror - for it certainly does appear to be some distance behind the surface. It is just as though we were really looking out through a doorway, when the door offers a free prospect through itself and affords a glimpse of many objects outside the house. In this case also the vision is accompanied by a double dose of air. First we perceive the air within the door posts; then follow the posts themselves to right and left; then the light outside and a second stretch of air brushes through the eyes, followed by the objects that are really seen out of doors. A similar thing happens when a mirrored image projects itself upon our sight. On its way to us the film shoves and drives before it all the air that intervenes between itself and the eyes, so that we feel all this before perceiving the mirror. When we have perceived the mirror itself, then the film that travels from us to it and is reflected comes back to our eyes, pushing another lot of air in front of it, so that we perceive this air before we see the image, which thus appears to lie at some distance from the mirror. Here then is ample reason why we should not be surprised that the same happens both in the case of things seen through doors, and also> at this appearance of objects reflected in the surface of a mirror, since they both involve a double journey with two lots of air.

Now for the question why our right side appears in mirrors on the left. The reason is that, when the film on its outward journey strikes the flat surface of a mirror, it is not slewed round intact, but flung straight back in reverse. It is just as if someone were to take a plaster mask before it had set and hurl it against a pillar or beam, so that it bounced straight back, preserving the features imprinted on its front but displaying them now in reverse. In this case what had been the right eye would now be the left and the left correspondingly would have become the right.

It may also happen that a film is passed on from one mirror to another, so that as many as five or six images are produced. Objects tucked away in the inner part of a house, however long and winding the approach to their hiding place, can thus be brought into sight along devious routes by a series of mirrors. So clearly is the image flashed from mirror to mirror. And on each occasion what is transmitted as the left becomes the right and is then again reversed and returns to its original relative position.

Again, mirrors with projecting sides whose curvature matches our own give back to us unreversed images. [20] This may be because the film is thrown from one surface of the mirror to the other and reaches us only after a double rebound. Alternatively, it may be that on reaching the mirror the film is slewed round, because the curved surface teaches it to twist round towards us.

You would fancy that images walk along with us, keeping step and copying our gestures. This is because, as soon as you withdraw from a bit of the mirror, no films can be reflected from that part. Nature ordains that every particle shall rebound from the reflecting surface at equal angles. [21]

Now [22] for the fact that the eyes avoid bright objects and refuse to gaze at them. The sun, indeed, actually blinds them if you persist in directing them towards it. The reason is that its force is immense and the films it gives off travel with great momentum through a great depth of pure air and hit the eyes hard, so as to disrupt their atomic structure. Besides, any bright light that is painful can often scorch the eyes, because it contains many particles of fire whose infiltration sets them smarting.

Sufferers from jaundice [23] again, see everything they look at as yellow. This is because many particles of yellowness from their own bodies are streaming out in the path of the approaching films. There are also many such particles blended in the structure of their own eyes, and by contamination with these everything is painted with their sallowness.

When we are in the dark we see objects that are in the light for the following reason. The black murky air that lies nearer to us enters first into our open eyes and takes possession of them. It is then closely followed by bright and shining air, which cleanses them and dispels the shadows of the earlier air. For the bright air is many degrees more mobile and many degrees finer-grained and more potent. As soon as this has filled the passages of the eyes with light and opened those that had previously been blockaded by dark air, they are immediately followed by films thrown off from the illuminated objects, and these stimulate our sense of sight. On the other hand, when we look out of light into darkness, we can see nothing: the murky air, of muddier consistency, arrives last and chokes all the inlets of the eyes and blockades their passages, so that they cannot be stirred by the impact of films from any object.

When we see the square towers of a city in the distance, they often appear round. [24] This is because every angle seen at a distance is blunted or even is not seen as an angle at all. Its impact is nullified and does not penetrate as far as the eyes, because films that travel through a great deal of air lose their sharp outlines through frequent collisions with it. When every angle has thus eluded our sense, the result is that the square ashlars look as if rounded off on the lathe - not that they resemble really round stones seen close up, but in a sketchy sort of way they counterfeit them.

Again, our shadow in the sunlight seems to us to move and keep step with us and imitate our gestures, incredible though it is that unillumined air should walk about in conformity with a man's movements and gestures. For what we commonly call a shadow can be nothing but air deprived of light. Actually the earth is robbed of sunlight in a definite succession of places wherever it is obstructed by us in our progression, and the part we have left is correspondingly replenished with it. That is why the successive shadows of our body seem to be the same shadow following us along steadily step by step. [25] New particles of radiance are always streaming down and their predecessors are consumed, as the saying goes, like wool being spun into the fire. So the earth is easily robbed of light and is correspondingly replenished and washes off the black stains of shadow.

Here, as always, we do not admit that the eyes are in any way deluded. It is their function to see where light is, and where shadow. But whether one light is the same as another, and whether the shadow that was here is moving over there, or whether on the other hand what really happens is what I have just described - that is something to be discerned by the reasoning power of the mind. [26] The nature of phenomena cannot be understood by the eyes. You must not hold them responsible for this fault of the mind.

A ship [27] in which we are sailing is on the move, though it seems to stand still. Another that rides at anchor gives the impression of sailing by. Hills and plains appear to be drifting astern when our ship soars past them with sails for wings.

The stars [28] all seem motionless, embedded in the ethereal vault; yet they must all be in constant motion, since they rise and traverse the heavens with their luminous bodies till they return to the far-off scene of their setting. So too the sun and moon appear to remain at their posts, though the facts prove them travelers.

Mountains rising from the midst of the sea in the far distance, though there may be ample space between them for the free passage of a fleet, look as if linked together in a single island.

When children have come to a standstill after spinning round, they seem to see halls and pillars whirling round them - and so vividly that they can scarcely believe that the whole building is not threatening to tumble on top of them.

When nature is just beginning to fling up the light of day, ruddy with flickering fires, and lift it high above the hilltops, the glowing sun seems to perch upon the hills and kindle them by direct contact with its own fire. Yet these same hills are distant from us a bare two thousand bowshots - often indeed no more than five hundred javelin casts. But between hills and sun lie enormous tracts of ocean, overarched by vast ethereal vaults, and many thousands of intervening lands, peopled by all the various races of men and species of beasts.

A puddle no deeper than a finger's breadth, formed in a hollow between the cobblestones of the highway, offers to the eye a downward view, below the ground, of as wide a scope as the towering immensity of sky that yawns above. You would fancy you saw clouds far down below you and a sky and heavenly bodies deep-buried in a miraculous heaven beneath the earth.

When the mettlesome steed we are riding stands stock-still in midstream and we glance down at the swift-flowing torrent, our stationary mount seems to be breasting the flood and forcing its way rapidly upstream; and, wherever we cast our eyes, everything seems to be surging and forging ahead with the same movement as ourselves.

When we gaze from one end down the whole length of a colonnade, [29] though its structure is perfectly symmetrical and it is propped throughout on pillars of equal height, yet it contracts by slow degrees in a narrowing cone that draws roof to floor and left to right till it unites them in the imperceptible apex of the cone.

To sailors at sea, the sun appears to rise out of the waves and to set in the waves and there hide its light. This is because they do in fact see only water and sky - another warning not to jump to the conclusion that the senses are shaky guides on all points.

To landsmen ignorant of the sea, ships in harbor seem to be riding crippled on the waves, with their poops broken. So much of the oars [30] as projects above the dew of the brine is straight, and so is the upper part of the rudder. But all the submerged parts appear refracted and wrenched round in an upward direction and almost as though bent tight back so as to float on the surface.

At a time when scattered clouds are scudding before the wind across the night sky, the sparkling constellations look as though they were gliding along in the teeth of the clouds and passing overhead in a direction quite different from their actual course.

If we press our hand against one eye [31] from below, a new sort of perception results. Whatever we look at, we see double: the lamplight, a flower with flame, becomes twin lights; the furniture throughout the house is doubled; men wear double faces and two bodies apiece.

When sleep has fettered all our limbs in the pleasant chains of slumber, and the whole body has sunk in utter tranquility, we still seem to ourselves to be wide awake and moving our limbs. In the blind blackness of night we fancy ourselves gazing on the sun and the broad light of day. In a confined space, we seem to traverse sea and sky, rivers and mountains, and tramp on foot over open plains. With the solemn hush of night all around, we listen to sounds; we speak aloud without a word uttered. [32]

We have many other paradoxical experiences of the same kind, all of which seem bent on shaking our faith in the senses. But all to no purpose. Most of this illusion is due to the mental assumptions [33] that we ourselves superimpose, so that things not perceived by the senses pass for perceptions. There is nothing harder than to separate the plain facts from the questionable interpretations promptly imposed on them by the mind.

If anyone thinks that nothing is ever known, he does not know whether even this can be known, since he admits that he knows nothing. [34] Against such an adversary, therefore, who deliberately stands on his head, [35] I will not trouble to argue my case. And yet, if I were to grant that he possessed this knowledge, I might ask several pertinent questions. Since he has had no experience of truth, how does he know what either knowledge or ignorance are? [36] What has originated the concept of truth and falsehood? Where is his proof that doubt is not the same as certainty?

You will find, in fact, that the concept of truth was originated by the senses and that the senses cannot be rebutted. The testimony that we must accept as more trustworthy is that which can spontaneously overcome falsehood with truth. What then are we to pronounce more trustworthy than the senses? Can reason derived from the deceitful senses be invoked to contradict them, when it is itself wholly derived from the senses? If they are not true, then reason in its entirety is equally false. Or can the ears upbraid the eyes, or touch judge the ears? Can touch in turn be refuted by taste or silenced by the nostrils or rebutted by the eyes? This, in my view, is out of the question. Each sense has its own distinctive faculty, its specific function. It is thus necessary to perceive softness, icy cold and burning heat with sensation quite distinct from that with which we feel the various colors of things and whatever goes with the colors; taste in the mouth has its very own distinctive power, and scents are generated in quite a different way from sounds. This rules out the possibility of one sense confuting another. [37] It will be equally out of the question for the senses to convict one another, since they will always be entitled to the same degree of credence. Whatever the senses may perceive at any time is all alike true. Suppose that reason cannot disentangle the cause why things that were square when close at hand are seen as round in the distance. Even so, it is better, in default of reason, to assign fictitious causes to the two shapes than to let things clearly apprehended slip from our grasp. This is to attack belief at its very roots -- to tear up the entire foundation on which life and safety depend. It is not only reason that would collapse completely. If you did not dare trust your senses so as to keep clear of precipices and other such things to be avoided and make for their opposites, there would be a speedy end to life itself.

So all this armament that you have marshaled against the senses is nothing but a futile array of words. If you set out to construct a building with a crooked ruler, a faulty square that is set a little out of the straight and a level ever so slightly askew, there can be only one outcome -- a crazy, crooked, higgledy-piggledy huddle, sagging here and bulging there, with bits that look like falling at any moment and are all in fact destined to fall, doomed by the initial miscalculations on which the structure is based. Just as crooked and just as defective must be the structure of your reasoning, if the senses on which it rests are themselves deceptive.

After this the problem that next confronts us -- to determine how each of the remaining senses perceives its own objects -- is not a particularly thorny one.

In the first place, all forms of sound and vocal utterance become audible when they have slipped into the ear and provoked sensation by the impact of their own bodies. The fact that voices and other sounds can impinge on the senses is itself a proof of their corporeal nature. Besides, the voice often scrapes the throat and a shout roughens the windpipe on its outward path. What happens is that, when atoms of voice in greater numbers than usual have begun to squeeze out through the narrow outlet, the doorway of the mouth gets scraped as the throat is congested. Undoubtedly, if voices and words have this power of causing pain, they must consist of corporeal particles. Again, you must have noticed how much it takes out of a man, and what wear and tear it causes to his sinews and strength, to keep on talking from the first glow of dawn till the evening shadows darken, [38] especially if his words are poured forth at full volume. Since much talking actually takes something out of the body, it follows that voice is composed of bodily stuff. Finally, the harshness of a sound is due to the harshness of its component atoms, and its smoothness to their smoothness. There is a marked difference in the shape of the atoms that enter our ears when a low-toned trumpet booms its basso profondo and the boxwood pipe, that virtuoso foreign instrument, re-echoes its hoarse roar, and when the swans' plaintive dirge floats up in doleful melody from the shrubbery of the gardens.

When we force out [39] these utterances from the depths of our body and launch them through the direct outlet of the mouth, they are cut up into lengths by the flexible tongue, the craftsman of words, and molded in turn by the configuration of the lips. At a point reached by each particular utterance after traveling no great distance from its source, it naturally happens that the individual words are also clearly audible and distinguishable syllable by syllable. For the utterance preserves its shape and configuration. But if the intervening space is unduly wide, the words must inevitably be jumbled and the utterance disjointed by its flight through a long stretch of gusty air. So it happens that, while you are aware of a sound, you cannot discern the sense of the words: the utterance comes to you so muddled and entangled.

It often happens that a single word, uttered from the mouth of a crier, penetrates the ears of a whole crowd. Evidently a single utterance must split up immediately into a multitude of utterances, since it is parceled out amongst a number of separate ears, imprinting upon each the shape of a word and its distinctive sound. Such of these utterances as do not strike upon the ears float by and are scattered to the winds and lost without effect. Some of them, however, bump against solid objects and bounce [40] back, so as to carry back a sound and sometimes mislead with the replica of a word. Once you have grasped this, you can explain to yourself and to others how it is that in desert places, when we are searching for comrades who have scattered and strayed among overshadowed glens and hail them at the top of our voices, the cliffs fling back the forms of our words in due sequence. I have observed places tossing back six or seven utterances when you have launched a single one: being trained to rebound, the words were reverberated and reiterated from hill to hill. According to local legend, [41] these places are haunted by goat-footed Satyrs [42] and by Nymphs. Tales are told of Fauns, [43] whose noisy night-time revels and merry pranks shatter the mute hush of night for miles around; of twanging lyre-strings and plaintive melodies poured out by pipes at the touch of the players' fingers; of music far-heard by the country folk when Pan, [44] tossing the pine-branches that wreathe his brutish head, runs his arched lips again and again along the wide-mouthed reeds, so that the pipe's wildwood rhapsody flows on unbroken. Many such fantasies and fairy tales are related by the rustics. Perhaps, in boasting of these marvels, they hope to dispel the notion that they live in backwoods abandoned even by the gods. Perhaps they have some other motive, since mankind everywhere has greedy ears for such romancing.

There remains the problem, not a very puzzling one, of how sounds can penetrate and strike on the ear through places through which objects cannot be clearly perceived by the eye. The obvious reason why we often see a conversation going on through closed doors is that an utterance can make its way intact through the labyrinthine passages in objects impervious to visual films. For these are broken up, unless they are passing through straight fissures such as those in glass, which is penetrable by any sort of image. Again, sounds are disseminated in all directions because each one, after its initial splintering into a great many parts, gives birth to others, just as a spark of fire often propagates itself by starting fires of its own. So places out of the direct path are filled with voices, and all around they boil and thrill with sound. But visual films all continue in straight lines along their initial paths, so that no one can see over a wall, though he can hear voices from inside it. Even a voice, however, is blunted in its passage through barriers and is blurred when it pierces our ears, so that we seem to hear a mere noise rather than words.

As for the organs of taste, the tongue and the palate, they do not call for lengthier explanation or more expenditure of labor. In the first place, we perceive taste in the mouth when we squeeze it out by chewing food, just as if someone were to grasp a sponge full of water in his hand and begin to squeeze it dry. Next, all that we squeeze out is diffused through the pores of the palate and the winding channels of the spongy tongue. When the particles of trickling savor are smooth, they touch the palate pleasantly and pleasurably tickle all the moist regions of the tongue in their circuitous flow. Others, in proportion as their shape is rougher, tend more to prick and tear the organs of sense by their entry.

The pleasure derived from taste does not extend beyond the palate. When the tasty morsel has all been gulped down the gullet and is being distributed through the limbs, it gives no more pleasure. It does not matter what food you take to nourish your body so long as you can digest it and distribute it through your limbs and preserve the sturdy condition of the stomach.

Let me now explain why one man's meat is not another's, [45] and what is bitter and unpalatable to one may strike another as delicious. The difference in reaction is indeed so great that what is food to one may be literally poison to others. There is even, for instance, a snake that is so affected by human saliva that it bites itself to death. [46] To us hellebore is rank poison; but goats and quails grow fat on it. [47] In order to understand how this happens, the first point to remember is one that I have already mentioned, [48] the diversity of atoms that are commingled in objects. With the outward differences between the various types of animal that take food - the specific distinctions revealed by the external contour of their limbs -there go corresponding differences in the shapes of their component atoms. These in their turn entail differences in the chinks and channels - the pores as we call them - in all parts of the body, including the mouth and palate itself. In some species these are naturally smaller, in others larger; in some triangular, in others square; while many are round, others are of various polygonal shapes. In short, the shapes and motions of the atoms rigidly determine the shapes of the pores: the atomic structure defines the inter-atomic channels. When something sweet to one is bitter to another, it must be because its smoothest particles caressingly penetrate the palate of the former, whereas the latter's gullet is evidently invaded by particles that are rough and jagged. On this basis the whole problem becomes easily soluble. Thus, when some person is afflicted with fever through superfluity of bile, or sickness is provoked in him by some other factor, his entire body is simultaneously upset and all the positions of the component atoms are changed. It follows that particles which used to be conformable to the channels of sensation are so no longer, whereas an easier ingress is afforded to those other particles whose entry can provoke a disagreeable sensation. For, as I have already demonstrated many times, the flavor of honey [49] actually consists of a mixture of both kinds, pleasant and unpleasant.

Let me now tackle the question how the nostrils are touched by the impact of smell.

First, then, there must be a multitude of objects giving off a multifarious effluence of smells, which is to be conceived as emitted in a stream and widely diffused. But particular smells, owing to their distinctive shapes, are better adapted to particular species of animals. Bees are attracted for unlimited distances through the air by the smell of honey, vultures by carcasses. Where the cloven hoof of wild game has planted its spoor, the hunter is guided by his vanguard of hounds. The scent of man is detected far in advance by that lily-white guardian of the citadel of the sons of Romulus, so the goose. So each by its own particular gift of smell is attracted to its proper food or repelled from noxious poison: and thus the various species are preserved.

As for the smells that assail our nostrils, it is clear that some of them have a longer range than others. None of them, however, travels as far as voices or other sounds, not to speak of the films that strike the eyeballs and provoke sight. For smell is a straggling and tardy traveler and fades away before arriving, by the gradual dissipation of its flimsy body into the gusty air. One reason for this is that smell originates in the depths of objects and is thus given off haltingly: an indication that odors thus seep out and escape from the inner core of objects is the fact that everything smells more strongly when broken or crushed or dissolved by fire. A further reason is that smell is evidently composed of larger atoms than sound, since it does not pass through stone walls, which are readily permeable by voices and other sounds. That is why you will not find it so easy to locate the source of a smell as of a sound. The effluence grows cold by dawdling through the air and does not rush with its tidings to the senses hotfoot from its source. So it is that hounds are often at fault and have to cast round for the scent.

This is not confined to smells and tastes. The visible forms and colors of things are not all equally conformable to the sense organs of all species, but in some cases particular sights act as irritants. The sight of a cock, that herald of the dawn who banishes the night with clapping wings and lusty crowing, is intolerable to ravening lions. [51] At the first glimpse they think only of flight. The reason is, of course, that the cock's body contains certain atoms which, when they get into the lion's eyes, drill into the eyeballs and cause acute pain, so that even their bold spirits cannot long endure it. But these atoms have no power to hurt our eyes, either because they never get in at all or because, once in, they have a clear way out, so that they do not hurt the eyeball in any part by lingering there.

Let me now explain briefly what it is that stimulates the imagination and where those images come from that enter the mind. [52]

My first point is thus. There are a great many flimsy films from the surface of objects flying about in a great many ways in all directions. When these encounter one another in the air, they easily amalgamate, like spider's web or gold-leaf. In comparison with those films that take possession of the eye and provoke sight, these are certainly of a much flimsier texture, since they penetrate through the chinks of the body and set in motion the delicate substance of the mind within and there provoke sensation. So it is that we see the composite shapes of Centaurs, [53] the limbs of Scyllas, [54] dogs with as many heads as Cerberus, [55] and phantoms of the dead whose bones lie in the embrace of earth. The fact is that the films flying about everywhere are of all sorts: some are produced spontaneously in the air itself; others are derived from various objects and composed by the amalgamation of their shapes. The image of a Centaur, for instance, is certainly not formed from life, since no living creature of this sort has ever existed. But, as I have just explained, where surface films from a horse and a man accidentally come into contact, they may easily stick together on the spot, because of the delicacy and flimsiness of their texture. So also with other such chimerical creatures. Since, as I have shown above, these delicate films move with the utmost nimbleness and mobility, any one of them may easily set our mind in motion with a single touch; for the mind itself is delicate and marvelously mobile.

The truth of this explanation may be easily inferred from the following facts. First, in so far as a vision beheld by the mind closely resembles one beheld by the eyes, the two must have been created in a similar fashion. Now, I have shown that I see a lion, for example, through the impact of films on the eyes. It follows that something similar accounts for the motion of the mind, which also, no less than the eyes, beholds a lion or whatever it may be by means of films. The only difference is that the objects of its vision are flimsier.

Again, when our limbs are relaxed in slumber, our mind is as wakeful as ever. [56] The same sort of films impinge upon it then as when we are awake, but now with such vividness that in sleep we may even be convinced that we are seeing someone who has passed from life into the clutches of death and earth. This results quite naturally from the stoppage and quiescence of all the bodily senses throughout the frame, so that they cannot refute false impressions by true ones. The memory also is put out of action by sleep and does not protest that the person whom the mind fancies it sees alive has long since fallen into the power of death and dissolution. It is not surprising that dream images should move about with measured gestures of their arms and other limbs. When this happens, it means that one film has perished and is succeeded by another formed in a different posture, so that it seems as though the earlier image had changed its stance. [57] We must picture this succession as taking place at high speed: the films fly so quickly and are drawn from so many sources, and at any perceptible instant of time there are so many atoms to keep up the supply.

This subject raises various questions that we must elucidate if we wish to give a clear account of it.

The first question is this: Why is it that, as soon as the mind takes a fancy to think about some particular object, it promptly does so? Are we to suppose that images are waiting on our will, so that we have only to wish and the appropriate film immediately runs into our mind, whether it be the sea that we fancy or the earth or the sky? Assemblages of men, processions, banquets, battles - does nature create all these at a word and make them ready for us? And we must remember that, at the same time and in the same place, the minds of others are contemplating utterly different objects.

Again, when in our dreams we see images walking with measured step and moving their supple limbs, why do they swing their supple arms in time with alternate legs and perform repeated movements before our eyes in a suitable rhythm? Are we to suppose the stray films are imbued with art and trained to spend their nights putting on dancing shows?

Another answer can be given to both questions that is surely nearer the truth. In one perceptible moment of time, that is, the time required to utter a single syllable, there are many unperceived units of time whose existence is recognized by reason. [58] That explains why, at any given time, every sort of film is ready to hand in every place: they fly so quickly and are drawn from so many sources. When this happens, it means that one film has perished and is succeeded by another formed in a different posture, so that it seems as though the earlier image had changed its stance. And, because they are so flimsy, the mind cannot distinctly perceive any but those it makes an effort to perceive. All the rest pass without effect, leaving only those for which the mind has prepared itself. And the mind prepares itself in the expectation of seeing each appearance followed by its natural sequel. So this, in fact, is what it does see. You must have noticed how even our eyes, when they set out to look at inconspicuous objects, make an effort and prepare themselves; otherwise it is not possible for us to perceive detail distinctly. And, even when you are dealing with visible objects, you will find that, unless you direct your mind towards them, they have about them all the time an air of detachment and remoteness. What wonder, then, if the mind misses every impression except those to which it surrenders itself? The result is that we draw sweeping conclusions from trifling indications and lead ourselves into pitfalls of delusion. [59]

-- Book IV: Sensation and Sex, from On the Nature of the Universe, by Lucretius, translated by R.E. Latham


The teacher will, of course, demand that his school shall be examined on a clearly-defined syllabus; and the examiner, in his own interest, will gladly comply with this demand. The examiner will go further than this. If he happens to be employed by the State or by a Local Authority, and has, therefore, many schools of the same type to examine, he will, in order to save himself unnecessary trouble, prescribe the syllabus on which all the schools in his area are to be examined. This means that he will dictate to the teacher what subjects he is to teach, how much ground he is to cover in each year (or term), in what general order he is to treat each subject, and on what general principles he is to teach it. Intentionally he will do all this. Unintentionally he will do far more than this. As he wishes his examination to be a test and not a mere formality, as he wishes to sift the examinees and not to set the seal of approval on all of them indiscriminately, he will take care that some at least of his questions are different from what the teacher might expect them to be. Also, as he is himself a rational being, he will probably endeavour to test intelligence as well as memory; and, with this end in view, he will set questions, the precise nature of which it will be difficult for the teacher to forecast. But the teacher will make a practice of studying the questions set in the periodical examinations and of preparing his pupils accordingly, equipping them (if he is an expert at his work) with a stock of superficial intelligence as well as of information, and putting them up to whatever knacks, tricks, and dodges will enable them to show to advantage on the examination day. In his desire to outwit the teacher, the examiner will turn and double like a hare who is pursued by a greyhound. But the teacher will turn and double with equal agility, and will never allow himself to be outdistanced by his quarry.
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Re: What Is and What Might Be, by Edmond Holmes

Postby admin » Mon Oct 21, 2019 3:56 am

Part 3 of 3

The more successful the teacher is in keeping up with the examiner, the more fatal will his success be to his pupils and to himself. In the ardour of the chase he is being lured on into a region of treacherous quicksands; and the longer he is able to maintain the pursuit, the more certain is it that he will lose himself at last in depths and mazes of misconception and delusion. It is only by stripping himself of his own freedom and responsibility that the teacher is able to keep pace with the examiner, and each turn or double that he makes involves a fresh surrender of those prerogatives. In consenting to work on a prescribed syllabus he has given up the idea of planning out his work for himself. In attempting to adapt his teaching to the questions set by the examiner, he is allowing the latter to dictate to him, in the minutest detail, how each subject is to be taught. In other words, in order to achieve the semblance of success, he is delivering himself, mind and soul, into the hands of the examiner, and compelling the latter, perhaps against his will, to become a Providence to him and to order all his goings. This means that his distrust of himself is as complete as his distrust of the child, and that his faith in the efficacy of mechanical obedience has led him to seek salvation for himself, as well as for his pupils, by following that fatal path.

It is in this way that a formal examination reacts upon and intensifies the sinister tendencies of which it is at once a product and a symptom. The examination system is, as I have said, the keystone of the arch of Western education, crowning and completing the whole structure, and at the same time holding it together, and preventing it from falling, as it deserves to fall, into a ruinous heap. Education, as it is now interpreted and practised in the West, could not continue to exist without the support of the examination system; but the price that it pays, and will continue to pay, for this deadly preservative, is the progressive aggravation of all its own inherent defects. The plight of an organism is indeed desperate when the very poison which it ought, if healthy, to eliminate from its system, has become indispensable to the prolongation of its life.

It is notorious that the application of the examination principle to religion - the attempt to estimate spiritual health and growth in terms of outward action - generates hypocrisy, or the pretence of being more virtuous (and more religious) than one really is. When applied to the education of the young, the same principle generates hypocrisy of another kind, - the pretence of being cleverer than one really is, of knowing more than one really knows. So long as the hypocrite realises that he is a hypocrite, there is hope for him. But when hypocrisy develops into self-deception, the severance between outward and inward, between appearance and reality, is complete. In a school which is ridden by the examination incubus, the whole atmosphere is charged with deceit. The teacher's attempt to outwit the examiner is deceitful; and the immorality of his action is aggravated by the fact that he makes his pupils partners with him in his fraud. The child who is being crammed for an examination, and who is being practised at the various tricks and dodges that will, it is hoped, enable him to throw dust in the examiner's eyes, may not consciously realise that he and his teacher are trying to perpetrate a fraud, but will probably have an instinctive feeling that he is being led into crooked ways. If he has not that feeling, if the crooked ways seem straight in his eyes, we may know that his sense of reality is being poisoned by the vitiated atmosphere which he has been compelled to breathe. Nor, if that is his case, will he lack companionship in his delusion. In the atmosphere of the examination system, deceit and hypocrisy are ever changing into self-deception; and all who become acclimatised to the influence of the system - pupils, teachers, examiners, parents, employers of labour, ministers of religion, members of Parliament, and the rest - fall victims, sooner or later, to the poison that infects it, and are well content to cheat themselves with outward and visible results, accepting "class-lists" and "orders of merit" as of quasi-divine authority, mistaking official regulations for laws of Nature, and the clumsy movements of over-elaborated yet ill-contrived machinery for the subtle processes of life.

Of the many evils inherent in Western education, which the examination system tends to intensify, one of the greatest is that of starving the child's activities, of making him helpless, apathetic, and inert. Original sin finds its equivalent, in the sphere of mental action, in original impotence and stupidity. It is not in the child to direct his steps, and the teacher must therefore direct them for him, and, if necessary, support him with both hands while he makes them. Even if the outward results which are the goal of the teacher's ambition were to be produced for his own satisfaction only, he would take care to leave as little as possible to the child's independent effort. But when the results in question have to satisfy an examiner, and when, as may well happen, the teacher's own professional welfare depends on the examiner's verdict, it is but natural that he should hold himself responsible for every stroke and dot that his pupil makes. When the education given in a school is dominated by a periodical examination on a prescribed syllabus, suppression of the child's natural activities becomes the central feature of the teacher's programme. In such a school the child is not allowed to do anything which the teacher can possibly do for him. He has to think what his teacher tells him to think, to feel what his teacher tells him to feel, to see what his teacher tells him to see, to say what his teacher tells him to say, to do what his teacher tells him to do. And the directions given to him are always minute. Not the smallest room for free action is allowed him if his teacher can possibly help it. Indeed, it is the function of the skilful teacher to search for such possible nooks and crannies, and fill them up. It is true that if an examination is to be passed with credit some thinking has to be done. But the greater part of this thinking must be done by the teacher, the role of the pupil, even when he is an adult student, being essentially passive and receptive. The pupil must indeed be actively passive and industriously receptive; but for the rest, he must as far as possible leave himself in the teacher's hands. How to outwit the examiner is the one aim of both the teacher and the examinee; and as the teacher is presumably older, wiser, and far more skilful at the examination game than his pupil, the duty of thinking - of planning, of contriving, and even (in the deeper sense of the word) of studying - necessarily devolves on the former; and the latter, instead of relying upon himself and learning to use his own wits and resources, becomes more and more helpless and resourceless, and gradually ceases to take any interest in the work that he is doing, for its own sake, his chief, if not his sole, concern being to outwit the examiner and pass a successful examination. (One frequently meets with clever University students who, having read a certain book for a certain examination and had no question set from it, regard the time given to the study of it as wasted, and have no compunction about expressing this opinion!) If these are evils incidental - I might almost say essential - to the examination of adult scholars, it stands to reason that they will be greatly aggravated when the examinees are young children. For the younger the child, the more ignorant and helpless he is (however full he may be of latent capacity and spontaneous activity), and therefore the more ready he is to lean upon his teacher and to look to him for instruction and direction.

The desire to outwit, and so win approval from, an examiner, is not the only reason why the teacher so often reduces to an absurdity the traditional distrust of the child. His own inability to educate the child on other lines is another and not less potent reason. The examination régime to which he has been subjected himself, partly, perhaps, under compulsion, but also and in larger measure of his own choice, deprives him, as we have already seen, of much of his freedom, initiative, and responsibility; and that being so, it is inevitable that within the limited range of free action which is left to him, he in his turn should devote his energies to depriving his pupils of the same vital qualities, and to making them the helpless creatures of habit and routine which he himself is tending to become. To give free play to a child's natural faculties and so lead him into the path of self-development and self-education, demands a high degree of intelligence on the part of the teacher, combined with the constant exercise of thought and initiative within a wide range of free action. If you tell a teacher in precise detail, whether directly or indirectly, that he is to do this thing, and that thing, and the next thing, he will not be able to carry out your instructions, except by telling his pupils, again in precise detail, that they are to do this thing, and that thing, and the next thing. He cannot help himself. He has no choice in the matter. He is the victim of a quasi-physical compulsion. The pressure which is put upon him will inevitably be transmitted by him and through him to his pupils, and will inevitably be multiplied (the relations between teacher and pupil being what they are) in the course of transmission.

There is nothing that a healthy child hates so much as to have the use of his natural faculties and the play of his natural energies unduly restricted by parental or pedagogic control. We may therefore take for granted that the child will find himself ill at ease in a school in which every vital activity is rigidly repressed, and in which he spends most of his time in sitting still and waiting for orders. Nor will it add to his happiness to live habitually in an atmosphere of constraint, of austerity, of suspicion, of gloom. But I need not take pains to prove that education, as it is conducted in Western countries, is profoundly repugnant to the natural instincts of the healthy child. For that is precisely what it is intended to be. The idea of a child enjoying his "lessons" is foreign to the genius of the West. Dominated as he is by the inherited conviction that Man's nature is corrupt and that his instincts are evil, the Western teacher has set himself the task of doing violence to the child's instinctive tendencies, of thwarting his inborn desires, of working against the grain of his nature. He has expected the child to rebel against this régime, and he has welcomed his rebellion as a proof of the corruption of Man's nature, and therefore of the soundness of the traditional philosophy of education.

But if education is hateful to the child, how is he to be induced to submit to being educated? Some co-operation on his part will be necessary. How is it to be secured? By precisely the same methods as those by which Man, in the course of his education, has been induced to co-operate with God. The child, like Man, is to be "saved" - to be rescued from Nature and from himself - by being led into the path of mechanical obedience. The child, like Man, is to be kept in that path by a system of external rewards and punishments. If he will not do what he is told to do, he will be punished by his teacher. If he will do what he is told to do, he will escape punishment, and he may possibly, when his merits have accumulated sufficiently, receive a reward. In the education of Man by the God of Israel the balance between rewards and punishments has been kept fairly even. Hell has been balanced by Heaven, calamity by prosperity, death by life. It has been far otherwise with the child. His punishments have been many, and his rewards few. At the present day men are more humane than they used to be; and corporal punishment, though still resorted to, counts for less than it used to do in the training of the child. But punishments of various kinds are still regarded as indispensable adjuncts to school discipline; and it is still taken for granted in far too many schools that the fear of punishment and the hope of reward are the only effective motives to educational effort.

It is difficult to say which of the two motives is the more likely to demoralise the child. A régime of punishment is not necessarily a régime of cruelty; but punishment can scarcely fail to savour of severity, and when the doctrine of original sin is in the ascendant, and the inborn wilfulness and stubbornness of the child are postulated by his teachers, the indefinable boundary line between severity and cruelty is easily crossed. Of the tendency of cruelty to demoralise its victims I have already spoken. But the effect of punishment on the child must be considered in its relation to his mental, as well as to his moral, development. Scholarships, prizes, high places in class, and other such rewards are for the few, not for the many. If the many are to be roused to exertion, the fear of punishment (in the hypothetical absence of any other motive) must be ever before them. What will happen to them when that motive is withdrawn, as it will be when the child becomes the adolescent? His education has been distasteful to the child, partly because his teachers have assumed from the outset that it would be and must be so, but chiefly because in their ignorance they have taken pains to make it so, his school life having been so ordered as to combine the maximum of strain with the maximum of ennui [boredom]. His teachers have done everything for him, except those mechanical and monotonous exercises which they felt they might trust him to do by himself.

Some of his mental faculties have become stunted and atrophied through lack of exercise. Others have been allowed to wither in the bud. If he happens to belong to the "masses", he will have completed his school education at the age of thirteen or fourteen. What will he do with himself when there is no longer a teacher at his elbow to tell him what to do and how to do it, and to stand over him (should this be necessary) while he does it? Why should he go on with studies which he has neither the inclination nor the ability to pursue, and which, in point of fact, he has never really begun? And why should he continue to exert himself when, owing to his being at last beyond the reach of punishment, the need for him to do so - the only need which he has been accustomed to regard as imperative - has ceased to exist?

The objections to the hope of reward as a motive to educational effort are of another kind. Prizes, as I have said, are for the few; and it is the consciousness of being one of the elect which invests the winning of a prize with its chief attraction. The prize system makes a direct appeal to the vanity and egoism of the child. It encourages him to think himself better than others, to pride himself on having surpassed his class-mates and shone at their expense. The clever child is to work hard, not because knowledge is worth winning for its own sake and for his own sake, but because it will be pleasant for him to feel that he has succeeded where others have failed. It is a just reproach against the examination system that while, by its demand for outward results it does its best to destroy individuality, the essence of which is sincerity of expression, it also does its best to foster. individualism, by appealing, with its offer of prizes and other "distinctions", to those instincts which predispose each one of us to affirm and exalt that narrow, commonplace, superficial aspect of his being which he miscalls his self.

Thus the hope of reward tends to demoralise the clever child by making all appeal to basely selfish motives. At the same time it is probably deluding him with the belief that he has more capacity than he really has. If the examination system is, as I have suggested, the keystone of the arch of Western education, it is by means of the prize system that the keystone has been firmly cemented into its place. An examination which had no rewards or distinctions to offer to the competitors would not be an effective stimulus to exertion. That being so, our educationalists have taken care that to every examination some external reward or rewards shall be attached. Even if there are no material prizes to appeal to the child's cupidity, there is always the class-list, with its so-called "order of merit", to appeal to his vanity. Our educationalists have also taken care that during the periods of childhood, adolescence, and even early maturity, every prize that is offered for competition shall be awarded after a formal examination and on the consideration of its tabulated results. The appointments in the Home, Colonial, and Indian Civil Services, the promotions in the Army and Navy, the fellowships and scholarships at the Universities, the scholarships at the Public Schools, the medals, books, and other prizes that are offered to school-children, are all awarded to those who have distinguished themselves in the corresponding examinations, no other qualification than that of ability to shine in an examination being looked for in the competitors. There are, no doubt, exceptions to these general statements, but they are so few that they scarcely count. We have seen that the ascendancy of the examination system in our schools and colleges is largely due to the vulgar confusion between information and knowledge; and we have also seen that the examination system reacts upon that fatal confusion and tends to strengthen and perpetuate it. If, then, the effect of the prize system is to consolidate the authority of the formal examination and intensify its influence, we shall not go far wrong in assuming that in the various competitions for prizes the confusion between information and knowledge will play a vital part. And, in point of fact, the cleverness which enables the child - I ignore for the moment the adolescent and the adult student - to win prizes of various kinds is found, when carefully analysed, to resolve itself, in nine cases out of ten, into the ability to receive, retain, and retail information. As this particular ability is but a small part of that mental capacity which education is supposed to train, it is clear that the clever child who gets to the top of his class, and wins prizes in so doing, may easily be led to over-estimate his powers, and to take himself far more seriously than it is either right or wise of him to do. His over-confidence may for a time prove an effective stimulus to exertion; but the exertion will probably be misdirected; and later on, when he finds himself confronted by the complex realities of life, and when problems have to be solved which demand the exercise of other faculties than that of memory, his belief in himself, which is the outcome of a false criterion of merit, may induce him to undertake what he cannot accomplish, and may lead at last - owing to his having lost touch with the actualities of things - to his complete undoing.

And as under the prize system the child who is high in his class is apt to over-estimate his ability, so the child who is low in his class is apt to accept the verdict of the class-list as final, and to regard himself as a failure because he lacks the superficial ability which enables a child to shine on the examination day. Again and again it happens that the dunce of his class goes to the front in the battle of life. But numerous and significant as these cases are, they are unfortunately exceptions to a general rule. For one dunce who emerges from the depths of "apparent failure", there are ten who go under after a more or less protracted struggle, and sink contentedly to the bottom. The explanation of this is that though every child has capacity (apart, of course, from the congenital idiot and the mentally "defective"), there are many kinds of capacity which a formal examination fails to discover, and which the education that is dominated by the prize system fails to develop. The child whose particular kind of capacity does not count, either in the ordinary school lesson or on the examination day, is not aware that he is capable; and as he is always low on the class-list, and is therefore regarded by his teachers as dull and stupid, he not unnaturally acquiesces in the current and apparently authoritative estimate of his powers, and, losing heart about himself, ends by becoming the failure which he has been taught to believe himself to be. In brief, while the prize system breeds ungrounded and therefore dangerous self-esteem in the child whom it labels as bright, it breeds ungrounded but not the less fatal self-distrust in the child whom it labels as dull.

We have seen that there comes a time in the life of every man when the fear of punishment ceases to act as a stimulus to educational exertion. It is the same with the hope of reward. Examinations, and the prizes which reward success in examinations, are for the young. What will happen to the prize-winner when there are no more prizes for him to compete for? Will he continue to pursue knowledge for its own sake? Alas! he has never pursued it for its own sake. He has pursued it for the sake of the prizes and other honours which it brought him. When he has won his last prize the chances are that he will lose all interest in that branch of learning in which he achieved distinction, unless, indeed, he has to earn his livelihood by teaching it. Of the scores of young men who distinguish themselves in "Classics" at Oxford and Cambridge, how many will continue to study the classical writers when they have gained the "Firsts" for which they worked so diligently? Apart from those who are going to teach Classics in the Public Schools or Universities, a mere handful, - one in ten perhaps, though that is probably an extravagant estimate. And yet the poets, philosophers, and historians whom they have studied are amongst the greatest that the world has produced. What is it, then, that kills, in nine cases out of ten, the classical student's interest in the masterpieces of antiquity? The obvious fact that he was never interested in them for their own sakes - that he studied them, not in order to enjoy them or profit by them, but in order to pass an examination in them, of which he might be able to say in after years:

"I am named and known by that hour's feat,
There took my station and degree."


How many Wranglers, other than those who have or will become schoolmasters or college tutors, continue to study mathematics? How many of the First Classmen in Science, History, Law, and other Honour "Schools" continue to study their respective subjects? In every case an utterly insignificant minority.

But if the prize system does this to the young man of twenty-two or twenty-three, if it kills his interest in learning, if it makes him register an inward vow never again to open the books which he has crammed so successfully for his examinations, what may it be expected to do to the child whose school education comes to an end when he is only thirteen or fourteen years old? When, with the fear of punishment, the complementary hope of reward is withdrawn from him, is it reasonable to expect him to continue his education, to continue to apply himself to subjects with which his acquaintance has been entirely formal and superficial, and which he has never been allowed to digest and assimilate? The utter indifference of the average ex-elementary scholar to literature, to history, to geography, to science, to music, to art, is the world-wide answer to this question.

For what is, above all, hateful in any scheme of rewards and punishments, when applied to the school life of the young, is that it wholly externalises what is really an inward and spiritual process, the evolution of the youthful mind. Just as in the sphere of religion it is postulated as a self-evident truth that righteousness is not its own reward, nor iniquity its own punishment, - so in the sphere of education it is postulated as a self-evident truth, that knowledge is not its own reward, nor ignorance its own punishment. And just as in the sphere of religion the appeal to Man's selfish hopes and ignoble fears has generated a radical misconception of the meaning and purpose of righteousness, which has caused his moral and spiritual energies to be diverted into irreligious or anti-religious channels, to the detriment of his inward and spiritual growth, - so in the sphere of education the appeal to the child's selfish desires and ignoble fears has generated a radical misconception of the meaning and purpose of knowledge, which has caused his mental energies to be diverted into uneducational channels, to the detriment of his mental growth. In each case the scheme of rewards and punishments, acting like an immense blister, when applied to a healthy body, draws to the surface the life-blood which ought to nourish and purify the vital organs of the soul (or mind), thereby impoverishing the vital organs, and inflaming and disfiguring the surface. For if the surface life, with its outward and visible "results", is to be happy and productive, the health of the vital organs must be carefully maintained. This is the fundamental truth which those who control education in the West have persistently ignored.

The system of education which I have tried to describe is a practical embodiment of the ideas that govern the popular philosophy of the West. One who had studied that philosophy, and who wished to ascertain what provision it made for the education of the young, would in the course of his inquiry construct a priori [presupposed] the precise system of education which is in vogue in all Western countries. The supposed relation between God and his fallen and rebellious offspring, Man, is obviously paralleled by the relation between the teacher and the child; and it is therefore clear that the supposed dealings of God with Man ought to be paralleled by the dealings of the teacher with the child. That they are so paralleled - that salvation by machinery has found its most exact counterpart in education by machinery - the history of education has made abundantly clear.

Whatever else the current system of education may do to the child, there is one thing which it cannot fail to do to him, - to blight his mental growth. What particular form or forms this blighting influence may take will depend in each particular case on a variety of circumstances. Experience tells us that what happens in most cases is that Western education strangles some faculties, arrests the growth of others, stunts the growth of a third group, and distorts the growth of a fourth.

Is it intended that education should do all this?

This question is not so paradoxical as it sounds. My primary assumption that the function of education is to foster growth may be a truism in the eyes of those who agree with it; but Western orthodoxy, just so far as it is self-conscious and sincere, must needs repudiate it as a pestilent heresy. For if what grows is intrinsically evil, what can growth do for it but carry it towards perdition?

What is it that grows? It is time that I should ask myself this question. My answer to it is, in brief, that it is the whole human being that grows, the whole nature of the child, - body, mind, heart and soul. When I use these familiar words, I am far from wishing to suggest that human nature is divisible into four provinces or compartments. In every stage of its development human nature is a living and indivisible whole. Each of the four words stands for a typical aspect of Man's being, but one of the four may also be said to stand for the totality of Man's being, - the word soul. For it is the soul which manifests as body, which thinks as mind, which feels and loves as heart, and which is what it is - though not perhaps what it really or finally is - as soul.

The function of education, then, is to foster the growth of the child's whole nature, or, in a word, of his soul. I ought, perhaps, to apologise for my temerity in using this now discredited word. In the West Man does not believe in the soul. How can he? He does not believe in God either as the eternal source or as the eternal end of his own nature. It follows that he does not and cannot believe in the unity of his own being. He has been taught that his nature is corrupt, evil, godless; and that the "soul", which is somehow or other attached to his fallen nature during his "earthly pilgrimage", was supernaturally created at the moment of his birth. He is now beginning to reject this conception of the soul; but he cannot yet rise to the higher conception of it as the vital essence of his being, as the divine germ in virtue of which his nature is no mere aggregate of parts or faculties, but a living whole. So deeply rooted in the Western mind is disbelief in the reality of the soul that it is difficult to use the word, when speaking to a Western audience, without exposing oneself to the charge of insincerity, - not to speak of the graver charge of "bad form". A savour either of cant or gush hangs about the word, and is not easily detached from it. That being so, it must be clearly understood that I mean by the soul the nature of Man considered in its unity and totality, - no more than this, and no less.

In the opening paragraph of this book I said that some of my readers would regard my fundamental assumption as a truism, others as a challenge, and others again as a wicked heresy. Whether it shall be regarded as a truism, a challenge, or a heresy, will depend on the way in which it is worded. To say that the function of education is to foster the growth of human nature, is to invite condemnation from those who regard human nature as ruined and corrupt. To say that the function of education is to foster the growth of the soul, is to issue a challenge to Western civilisation, which is based on the belief that the end of Man's being is not the growth of his soul, but the growth of his balance at the bank of material prosperity. To say that the function of education is to foster the growth of certain faculties, is to insist on what no one who had given his mind to the matter would care to deny. For even the orthodox, who regard Man's nature in its totality as intrinsically evil, admit without hesitation that there are faculties in Man which can be and ought to be trained; while the "man of the world", whom we may regard as the most typical product of Western civilisation, is clamorous in his demand that education shall foster the growth of certain mental faculties which will enable the child to become an efficient clerk or workman, and so contribute to the enrichment of his employer and the community to which he belongs.

The Western educationalist will admit, then, that the function of education is to foster growth; and if you ask him what it is that grows or ought to grow under education's fostering care, he will give you a long list of faculties - mental, for the most part, but also moral and physical - and then break off under the impression that he has set education an adequate and a practicable task. But he has set it an inadequate and an impracticable task. For behind all the faculties that he enumerates dwells the living reality which he cannot bring himself to believe in, - the soul. And because he cannot bring himself to believe in the soul, he deprives the faculties which he proposes to cultivate of the very qualities which make them most worthy of cultivation, - of their interrelation, their interdependence, their organic unity. In other words he devitalises each of them by cutting it off from the life which is common to all of them, and so paralyses its capacity for growing in the very act of taking thought for its growth. He forgets that every faculty which is worth cultivating both draws life from, and contributes life to, the general life of the growing child. He forgets that the child himself - "the living soul" - is growing in and through the growth of each of his opening faculties; and that unless, when a faculty seems to be growing, the life of the child is at once expressing itself in and renewing itself through the process of its growth, its semblance of growth is a pure illusion, the results that are produced being in reality as fraudulent as artificial flowers on a living rose-bush.

But the whole question may be looked at from another point of view. Let us assume, for argument's sake, that the function of education is to train, or foster the growth of, certain faculties, which are mainly though not exclusively mental, and that when those faculties have been duly trained the teacher has done his work. What, then, are the faculties which education is supposed to train? In my attempt to answer this question I will confine myself to the elementary school, - the only school which I can pretend to know well. A glance at the time-table of an ordinary elementary school might suggest to us that there were two chief groups of faculties to be trained - those which perceive and those which express, those which take in and those which give out. When such subjects as History, Geography, or Science are being taught, the child's perceptive faculties are being trained. When such subjects as Composition, Drawing or Singing are being taught, the child's expressive faculties are being trained. So at least one might be disposed to assume.

In what relation do the perceptive faculties stand to the expressive? Is it possible to cultivate either group without regard to the other? It must be admitted that the methods employed in the ordinary elementary school seem to be governed by the assumption that the perceptive and the expressive faculties are two distinct groups which admit of being separately trained. In the ordinary Drawing lesson, for example, the child is trying to express what he does not even pretend to have perceived; whereas in the ordinary History or Science lesson the process is reversed, and the child pretends to perceive what he makes no attempt to express.

But is the assumption correct? Do the two groups of faculties admit of being separately trained? Is it possible to devote this hour or half-hour to the training of perception, and that to the training of expression? Surely not. Perception and expression are not two faculties, but one. Each is the very counterpart and correlate, each is the very life and soul, of the other. Each, when divorced from the other, ceases to be its own true self. When perception is real, living, informed with personal feeling, it must needs find for itself the outlet of expression. When expression is real, living, informed with personal feeling, perception - the child's own perception of things - must needs be behind it. More than that. The perceptive faculties (at any rate in childhood) grow through the interpretation which expression gives them, and in no other way. And the expressive faculties grow by interpreting perception, and in no other way. The child who tries to draw what he sees is training his power of observation, not less than his power of expression. As he passes and repasses between the object of his perception and his representation of it, there is a continuous gain both to his vision and to his technique. The more faithfully he tries to render his impression of the object, the more does that impression gain in truth and strength; and in proportion as the impression becomes truer and stronger, so does the rendering of it become more masterly and more correct. So, again, if a man tries to set forth in writing his views about some difficult problem - social, political, metaphysical, or whatever it may be - the very effort that he makes to express himself clearly and coherently will tend to bring order into the chaos and light into the darkness of his mind, to widen his outlook on his subject, to deepen his insight into it, to bring new aspects of it within the reach of his conscious thought. And here, as in the case of the child who tries to draw what he sees, there is a continuous reciprocal action between perception and expression, in virtue of which each in turn helps forward the evolution of the other. Even in so abstract and impersonal a subject as mathematics, the reaction of expression on perception is strong and salutary. The student who wishes to master a difficult piece of bookwork should try to write it out in his own words; in the effort to set it out concisely and lucidly he will gradually perfect his apprehension of it. Were he to solve a difficult problem, he would probably regard his grasp of the solution as insecure and incomplete until he had succeeded in making it intelligible to the mind of another. When perception is deeply tinged with emotion, as when one sees what is beautiful, or admires what is noble, the attempt to express it in language, action, or art, seems to be dictated by some inner necessity of one's nature. The meaning of this is that the perception itself imperatively demands expression in order that, in and through the struggle of the artistic consciousness to do full justice to it, it may gradually realise its hidden potentialities, discover its inner meaning, and find its true self.

Once we realise that expression is the other self of perception, it becomes permissible for us to say that to train the perceptive faculties - the faculties by means of which Man lays hold upon the world that surrounds him, and draws it into himself and makes it his own - is the highest achievement of the teacher's art. Even from the point of view of my primary truism, this conception of the meaning and purpose of education holds good. For according to that truism the business of the teacher is to foster the growth of the child's soul; and the soul grows by the use of its perceptive faculties, which, by enabling it to take in and assimilate an ever-widening environment, cause a gradual enlargement of its consciousness and a proportionate expansion of its life. But the perceptive faculties in their turn grow by expressing themselves; and unless they are allowed to express themselves - unless the child is allowed to express himself (for expression, if it is genuine, is always self-expression) - their growth will be arrested, and the mission which all educationalists assign to education will not have been fulfilled.

The question is, then, Does the system of education which prevails in all Western countries provide for self-expression on the part of the child?

_______________

Notes:

(1) I mean by the words "original sin" what the plain, unsophisticated, believing Christian means by them. A modern poet, in a moment of impulsive orthodoxy, praises Christianity because it
 
"taught original sin,
The corruption of man's heart ..."


This definition is sufficiently accurate. "Original sin", says the Ninth Article of the Anglican Church, "... is the fault and corruption of the Nature of every man ... whereby man is of his own nature inclined to evil ... and therefore, in every person born into the world, it deserveth God's wrath and damnation". How far the popular interpretation of the doctrine of original sin coincides with the latest theological refinement of the doctrine, I cannot pretend to say. When it finds it convenient to explain things away, theology, like Voltaire's Minor Prophet, "est capable de tout"; and the need for reconciling the doctrine of original sin with the teaching of modern science has in recent years laid a heavy tax on its ingenuity.
 
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Re: What Is and What Might Be, by Edmond Holmes

Postby admin » Mon Oct 21, 2019 3:57 am

Part 1 of 2

CHAPTER III. A FAMILIAR TYPE OF SCHOOL (1)

IN this chapter I shall have in my mind a type of school which is familiar to all who are interested in elementary education. What percentage of the schools of England are of that particular type I cannot pretend to say. In the days of payment by results the percentage was unquestionably very high. The system under which we all worked made that inevitable. The days of payment by results are over, but their consequences are with us still. The pioneer is abroad in the land, but he has had, and still has, formidable difficulties to overcome. The percentage of routine-ridden schools is considerably lower than it used to be, and it is falling from year to year. Of this there can be no doubt. Each teacher in turn who reads this chapter will, I hope, be able to say that the school which is in my mind is not his. But I can assure him that there are thousands of schools in which all or most of the evils on which I am about to comment are still rampant; and I will add, for his consolation, that it would be a miracle if this were not so.

The first forty minutes of the morning session are given, in almost every elementary school, to what is called Religious Instruction. This goes on, morning after morning, and week after week. The child who attends school regularly and punctually, as many children do, will have been the victim of upwards of two thousand "Scripture lessons" by the time he leaves school.

The question of religious education in elementary schools has long been the centre of a perfect whirlpool of controversial talk. The greater part of this talk is, to speak plainly, blatant cant. Every candidate for a seat in the House of Commons thinks it incumbent upon him to say something about religious education, but not one in a hundred of them has ever been present in an elementary school while religious instruction was being given. The Bishops of the Established Church wax eloquent in the House of Lords over the wickedness of a "godless education" and the virtue of "definite dogmatic teaching", but it may be doubted if there is a Bishop in the House who has in recent years sat out a Scripture lesson in a Church of England school. It would be well if all who talked publicly about religious education could he sentenced to devote a month to the personal study of religious instruction as it is ordinarily given in elementary schools. At the end of the month they would be wiser and sadder men, and in future they would probably talk less about religious education and think more.

The Scripture lesson, as it is familiarly called, is supposed to make the children of England religious, in the special sense which each church or sect attaches to that word, - to make them good Catholics, good Churchmen, good Wesleyans, good Bible Christians, good Jews. But as those who are most in earnest about religion, and most sincere in their religious convictions, unite in assuring us that England is relapsing into paganism, it may be doubted if the religious education of the elementary school child - a process which has been going on for half a century or more - has been entirely successful. While the fact that the English parent, who must himself have attended from 1,500 to 2,000 Scripture lessons in his schooldays, is not under any circumstances to be trusted to give religious instruction to his own children, shows that those who control the religious education of the youthful "masses" have but little confidence in the effect of their system on the religious life and faith of the English people.

They have good ground for their subconscious distrust of it. We have seen that the vulgar confusion between information and knowledge is at the root of much that is unsound in education. There is no branch of education in which this confusion is so fallacious or so fatal as in that which is called religious. The process of converting information into knowledge is a comparatively easy one when we are dealing with matters of detailed fact. Information as to the dates of the kings of England, as to the bays and capes of the British Isles, as to the exports and imports of Liverpool, as to the weights and measures of this or that country, is in each case readily convertible into knowledge of the given facts. But directly we get away from mere facts, and begin to concern ourselves with what is large, vague, subtle, and obscure, - with forces, for example, with causes, with laws, with principles, - the difficulty of collecting adequate and appropriate information about our subject becomes great, and the difficulty of converting such information into knowledge becomes greater still. Information as to the dates and names of the English kings, and other historical facts, is easily converted into knowledge of those facts, but it is not easily converted into knowledge of English history. Information as to the names and positions of capes and bays, as to areas and populations, and other geographical facts, is easily converted into knowledge of those facts, but it is not easily converted into knowledge of geography. Information as to arithmetical rules and tables, as to weights and measures, and other arithmetical facts, is easily converted into knowledge of those facts, but it is not easily converted into knowledge of arithmetic. In each case a sense must be evolved if the information is to be assimilated, and so converted into real knowledge; and though it is true that the sense in question grows, in part at least, by feeding on appropriate information, it is equally true that if, owing to defective training, the sense remains undeveloped, the information supplied will remain unassimilated, and the tacit assumption that the possession of information is equivalent to the possession of real knowledge will delude both the teacher and the taught. It is possible, as one knows from experience, for a boy to have mastered all the arithmetical rules and tables with which his master has supplied him, and to have all his measures and weights at his fingers' ends, and yet to be so destitute of the arithmetical sense as to give without a moment's misgiving an entirely nonsensical answer to a simple arithmetical problem, - to say, for example, as I have known half a class of boys say, that a room is five shillings and sixpence wide. Such a boy, though his head may be stuffed with arithmetical information, has no knowledge of arithmetic.

The gulf between memorised information and real knowledge becomes deep and wide in proportion as the subject matter is one which demands for its effective apprehension either intellectual effort or emotional insight. When both these variables are demanded, the gulf widens and deepens at a ratio which is "geometrical" rather than "arithmetical"; and when a high degree of each is demanded, the separation between knowledge and information is complete.

The Art Master who should try to train the aesthetic sense of his pupils by making them learn by heart a string of propositions in which he had set out the artistic merits of sundry masterpieces of painting and sculpture, would expose himself to well-merited ridicule. So would the teacher who should try to train the scientific sense of his pupils by no other method than that of making them learn scientific formulae by heart. What shall we say, then, of the teacher who tries to train the religious sense of his pupils by supplying them with rations of theological and theologico-historical information? Whatever else we may mean by the word God, we mean what is infinitely great, and therefore beyond the reach of human thought, and we mean what is "most high", and therefore beyond the reach of the heart's desire. It follows that for knowledge of God the maximum of intellectual effort is needed, in conjunction with the maximum of emotional insight; and it follows further that the gulf between knowledge of God and information about God is unimaginably wide and deep, - so wide and so deep that out of our very attempts to span or fathom it the doubt at last arises whether the idea of acquiring information about God may not, after all, be the idlest of dreams.

Nevertheless the pastors and masters of our elementary schools are, with few exceptions, engaged, sanctâ simplicitate [with holy simplicity], in trying to make the children of England religious by cramming them with theological and theologico-historical information, - information as to the nature and attributes of God, as to the inner constitution of his being, as to his relations to Man and the Universe, as to his reported doings in the past. And in order that the giving, receiving, and retaining of this unverifiable information may be regarded by all concerned as the central feature of the Scripture lesson, to the neglect of all the other aspects of religious education, the spiritual "powers that be" (and also, I am told, some of the Local Education Authorities) have decreed that the schools under their jurisdiction shall be subjected to a yearly examination in "religious knowledge" at the hands of a "Diocesan Inspector", or some other official.

To one who has convinced himself, as I have, that a right attitude towards the thing known is of the essence of knowledge, and that reverence and devotion - to go no further - are of the essence of a right attitude towards God, the idea of holding a formal examination in religious knowledge seems scarcely less ridiculous than the idea of holding a formal examination in unselfishness or brotherly love. The phrase "to examine in religious knowledge" has no meaning for me. The verb is out of all relation to its indirect object. What the Diocesan Inspector attempts to do cannot possibly be done. The test of religious knowledge is necessarily practical and vital, not formal and mechanical. Even if I were to admit, for argument's sake, that the information with which we cram the elementary school child between 9.5 and 9.45 a.m. had been supernaturally communicated by God to Man, my general position would remain unaffected. For experience has amply proved that a child - or, for the matter of that, a man - may know much theology and even be "mighty in the Scriptures", and yet show by his conduct that his religious sense has not been awakened, and that therefore he has no knowledge of God; just as we have seen that a child may know by heart all arithmetical rules and tables, and yet show, by his helplessness in the face of a simple problem, that his arithmetical sense has not been awakened, and that therefore he has no knowledge of arithmetic.

The time given to religious instruction is, to make a general statement, the only part of the session in which the children are being prepared for a formal external examination. That being so, it is no matter for wonder that many of the glaring faults of method and organisation which the examination system fostered in our elementary schools between the years 1862 and 1895, and which are now being abandoned, however slowly, reluctantly, and sporadically, during the hours of "secular" instruction, still find a refuge in the Scripture lesson. Overgrouping of classes, overcrowding of school-rooms, collective answering, collective repetition, scribbling on slates, and other faults with which inspectors were only too familiar in bygone days, are still rampant while religious instruction is being given. (2) The Diocesan Inspector is an examiner, pure and simple, and is never present when the Scripture lesson is in progress. Whether he would find anything to criticise if he were present, may be doubted. I have frequently been told by teachers that it is his demand for a good volume of sound, when he is catechising the children, which keeps alive during the Scripture lesson the pestilent habit of collective answering, in defiance of the obvious fact that what is everybody's business is nobody's business, and that an experienced bell-wether [the leading sheep of a flock] can easily give a lead to a whole class. An inconvenient train service may compel H.M. Inspector to be present when religious instruction is being given; but though he may find much to deplore in what he sees and hears, he must abstain from criticism, and be content to play the rôle of the man who looks over a hedge while a horse is being stolen.

The crowd of individuals and its interplay have become everything. Great ideas that bind people together into any form of collective life are disregarded. Great religious ideas, great political ideas and developments are not there in any living, fermenting, debatable form — are even challenged and forbidden by the critics as having no place there. Consider Balzac, Dickens, Turgeniev, Zola, and suchlike representative giants of this closing age. You think at once of a picture of humanity like a market-place, like a fair, like the high-road to anywhere on a busy day. When political life appears, it appears just as any other sort of life. Here is a novel about elections and their humours, and here is one about peasants or fishermen. Just different scenery and costumes for the common story.

It strikes one at first as paradoxical that a period in which the exaltation of the individual has tended to make every one a voter, a fractional sovereign of the whole world, should lead in the literary expression of the time to the disappearance, so to speak, of the whole world in a crowd of people. But the paradox involves no real inconsistency. What is everybody's business is nobody’s business. The literature of the period of Democracy Ascendent displays what its political developments mask only very thinly — that Modern Democracy is not a permanent form of political and social life, but a phase of immense dissolution.

-- The Way the World Is Going: Guesses & Forecasts of The Years Ahead, by H.G. Wells


In most elementary schools religion is taught on an elaborate syllabus which is imposed on the teacher by an external authority, and which therefore tends to destroy his freedom and his interest in the work. It is not his business to take thought for the religious training of his pupils, to consider how the religious instinct may best be awakened in them, how their latent knowledge of God may best be evolved. His business is to prepare them for their yearly examination, to cram them with catechisms, hymns, texts, and collects [prayers], and with stories of various kinds, - stories from the folk-lore of Israel, from the history of the Jews, from the Gospel narratives. To appeal to the reasoning powers of his pupils would be foreign to his aim, and foreign, let me say in passing, to the whole tradition of religious teaching in the West. The burden of preparing for an examination, whatever the examination may be, falls mainly on the faculty of memory. This is a rule to which there are very few exceptions. When the examination is one in "religious knowledge", the burden of preparing for it falls wholly on the faculty of memory. To appeal to the reasoning powers of the scholars might conceivably provoke them to ask inconvenient questions, and might even give rise to a spirit of rationalism in the school, - the spirit which "orthodoxy" has always regarded as the very antipole to religious faith.

But what of the child's emotional faculties? Will not the beauty of the Gospel stories, will not the sublimity of the Old Testament poetry, make their own appeal to these? They might do so if they were allowed to exert their spiritual magnetism. But what chance have they? The chilling shadow of the impending examination falls upon them and cancels their educative influence. It is not because the Gospel stories are full of beauty and spiritual meaning that the child has to learn them, but because he will be questioned on them by the Diocesan Inspector. It is not because certain passages from the Old Testament are poetry of a high order that the child commits them to memory, but because he may have to repeat them to the Diocesan Inspector. We cannot serve God and Mammon, - the God of poetry and the inward life, the Mammon of outward results. The thing is not to be done, and the pretence of doing it is a mockery and a fraud. The compulsory preparation of the plays of Shakespeare and other literary masterpieces for a formal examination, too often gives the schoolboy, or the college student, a permanent distaste for English literature. The study of the Ancient Classics for the Oxford "Schools" or the Cambridge "Tripos" too often gives the studious undergraduate a permanent distaste for the literatures of Greece and Rome. Does it not follow a fortiori [even more so] that to cram a young child, for the purposes of a formal examination, to cram him, year after year, with the idyllic stories of the New Testament and the poetic beauties of the Old, will in all probability go a long way towards blighting in the bud the child's latent capacity for responding to the appeal, not of the Bible alone, but of spiritual poetry as such?

I do not wish to suggest that the religious instruction given in our elementary schools is always formal and mechanical. There are teachers who can break through the toils of any system, however deadly, and give life to their teaching in defiance of conditions which would paralyse the energies of lesser men. As I write, I recall two teachers of elementary schools, who, in spite of having to prepare their pupils for diocesan inspection, succeeded in quickening their religious instincts into vital activity. The first was a schoolmaster, - a "strong Churchman", and a sincerely religious man. The second was a woman of genius, whose extraordinary sympathy with and insight into the soul of the child, enabled her to give free play to all his expansive instincts, and in and through the evolution of these to foster the growth of his religious sense. I can never feel quite sure that this teacher fully realised how deeply, and yet healthily, religious her children were. If she did not, I can but apply to her what Diderot said to David the painter, when the latter confessed that he had not intended to produce some artistic effect which the former had discovered in one of his pictures: "Quoi! c'est à votre insu? C'est encore mieux". To make children religious without intending to do so is a profoundly significant achievement, for it means that the fatal distinction between religious and secular education has been "utterly abolished and destroyed."

Both these teachers fell, as it happened, under the ban of the Diocesan Inspector's displeasure. The schoolmaster took over a school which was not only inefficient in the eyes of the Education Department, in respect of instruction and discipline, but was also tainted in its upper classes with moral depravity. He speedily restored it to efficiency, and reformed its moral tone. In accomplishing these salutary changes, he relied mainly on an appeal which he made, in all manly sincerity, to the religious sense of the older boys. The faith in human nature which prompted him to make this appeal was justified by the response which it evoked. In less than a year the school was transformed beyond recognition. In less than two years it was one of the best in its county; indeed in respect of moral tone and religious atmosphere it was perhaps the best. Meanwhile the work of cramming the children for the yearly diocesan examination must have fallen into arrears; for the school, which under my friend's incompetent predecessor had always been classed as "Excellent", sank to the level of "Good" in the year after he left, and in the following year to the level of "Fair". Any one who has any acquaintance with the reports of the Diocesan Inspector knows that the summary mark "Fair", when employed by him, is equivalent to utter damnation.

The schoolmistress always had a horror of formal teaching, and a special horror of cramming young children for formal examinations; and I can only wonder that her downfall was so long delayed. Sooner or later, if she was to remain true to her own first principles, her work was bound to incur the condemnation of the Diocesan Inspector.

Nevertheless, having read hundreds of diocesan reports, and realised how lavish of praise and chary of blame the Diocesan Inspector usually is, I am inclined to suspect that the comparative failure of the children on the examination day was not the sole nor even the chief cause of the severe censure which these two schools received. I am inclined to think that in each case the inspector recognised in the exceptional religious vitality of a school which was deficient, from his point of view, in religious knowledge, an implicit challenge to his own preconceived notions, and that, without for a moment intending to be unfair, he responded to this challenge by giving the school a strongly adverse report. Immorality and irreligiousness as such are comparatively venial offences in the eyes of religious orthodoxy. What it cannot tolerate is that men should be moral and religious in any but the "orthodox" ways.

Apart from these two exceptional cases, there are of course hundreds and even thousands of teachers whose personal influence is a partial antidote to the numbing poison which is being distilled, slowly but surely, from the daily Scripture lesson. But the net result of giving formal and mechanical instruction on the greatest of all "great matters" is to depress the spiritual vitality of the children of England to a point which threatens the extinction of the spiritual life of the nation. My schoolmaster friend, who, besides being deeply religious (in the best sense of the word), is a man of sound judgment and wide and varied experience, has more than once assured me that religious instruction, as given in the normal Church of England school (his experience has been limited to schools of that type), is paganising the people of England, - paganising them because it presents religion to them in a form which they instinctively reject, accepting it at first under compulsion, but turning away from it at last with deep-seated weariness and permanent distaste.

The boy who, having attended two thousand Scripture lessons, says to himself when he leaves school: "If this is religion, I will have no more of it", is acting in obedience to a healthy instinct. He is to be honoured rather than blamed for having realised at last that the chaff on which he has so long been fed is not the life-giving grain which, unknown to himself, his inmost soul demands.

That England is relapsing into paganism is, as we have seen, the sincere conviction of many earnest Christians. Why this should be so, they cannot understand. In their desire to account for so distressing a phenomenon, they will have recourse to any explanation, however far-fetched and fantastic, rather than acknowledge that it is the Scripture lesson in the elementary school which is paganising the masses. If the Churches could have their way, they would doubtless try to mend matters by doubling the hours that are given to religious instruction, by making the Diocesan Inspector's visit a half-yearly instead of a yearly function, and by cramming the children for it with redoubled energy. In their refusal to reckon with human nature, they are true to the first principles of their religion and their philosophy. But it is possible to buy consistency at too high a price. The laws and tendencies of Nature are what they are; and it is madness, not heroism, to ignore them. To those who refuse to reckon with human nature, the day will surely come when human nature, evolving itself under the stress of its own forces and in obedience to its own laws, will cease to take account of them. (3)

When the hands of the clock point to a quarter to ten, the religious education of the child is over for the day, and his secular instruction has begun. That the religious education of the child should be supposed to end when the Scripture lesson is over, is the last and strongest proof of the fundamental falsity of that conception of religion on which, as on a quicksand, his education, religious and secular, has been based.

After Scripture comes as a rule Arithmetic. During the former lesson the teacher, acting under compulsion, does his best, as we have seen, to deaden the child's spiritual faculties. During the latter, he not infrequently does his best to deaden the child's mental faculties. In each case he is to be pitied rather than blamed. The conditions under which he works, and has long worked, are too strong for him. If we are to understand why secular instruction, as given in our elementary schools, is what it is, we must go back for half a century or so and trace the steps by which the "Education Department" forced elementary education in England into the grooves in which, in many schools, it is still moving, and from which even the most enlightened and enterprising teachers find it difficult to escape.

In 1861 the Royal Commission (under the Duke of Newcastle as Chairman), which had been appointed in 1858 in order to inquire into "the state of popular education in England, and as to the measures required for the extension of sound and cheap elementary instruction to all classes of the people", issued its report, in which it recommended inter alia [among other things] that the Grants paid to elementary schools should be expressly apportioned on the examination of individual children. This recommendation was carried into effect in the Lowe Revised Code of 1862; and from that date till 1895 a considerable part of the Grant received by each school was paid on the results of a yearly examination held by H.M. Inspector on an elaborate syllabus, formulated by the Department and binding on all schools alike. On the official report which followed this examination depended the reputation and financial prosperity of the school, and the reputation and financial prosperity of the teacher. (4) The consequent pressure on the teacher to exert himself was well-nigh irresistible; and he had no choice but to transmit that pressure to his subordinates and his pupils. The result was that in those days the average school was a hive of industry.

But it was also a hive of misdirected energy. The State, in prescribing a syllabus which was to be followed, in all the subjects of instruction, by all the schools in the country, without regard to local or personal considerations, was guilty of one capital offence. It did all his thinking for the teacher. It told him in precise detail what he was to do each year in each "Standard", how he was to handle each subject, and how far he was to go in it; what width of ground he was to cover; what amount of knowledge, what degree of accuracy was required for a "pass". In other words it provided him with his ideals, his general conceptions, his more immediate aims, his schemes of work; and if it did not control his methods in all their details, it gave him (by implication) hints and suggestions with regard to these on which he was not slow to act; for it told him that the work done in each class and each subject would be tested at the end of each year by a careful examination of each individual child; and it was inevitable that in his endeavour to adapt his teaching to the type of question which his experience of the yearly examination led him to expect, he should gradually deliver himself, mind and soul, into the hands of the officials of the Department, - the officials at Whitehall who framed the yearly syllabus, and the officials in the various districts who examined on it.

What the Department did to the teacher, it compelled him to do to the child. The teacher who is the slave of another's will cannot carry out his instructions except by making his pupils the slaves of his own will. The teacher who has been deprived by his superiors of freedom, initiative, and responsibility, cannot carry out his instructions except by depriving his pupils of the same vital qualities. The teacher who, in response to the deadly pressure of a cast-iron system, has become a creature of habit and routine, cannot carry out his instructions except by making his pupils as helpless and as puppet-like as himself.

But it is not only because mechanical obedience is fatal, in the long run, to mental and spiritual growth, that the regulation of elementary or any other grade of education by a uniform syllabus is to be deprecated. It is also because a uniform syllabus is, in the nature of things, a bad syllabus, and because the degree of its badness varies directly with the area of the sphere of educational activity that comes under its control. It is easy for us of the Twentieth Century to laugh at the syllabuses which the Department issued, without misgiving, year after year, in the latter half of the Nineteenth. We were all groping in the dark in those days; and our whole attitude towards education was so fundamentally wrong that the absurdities of the yearly syllabus were merely so much by-play in the evolution of a drama which was a grotesque blend of tragedy and farce. But let us of the enlightened Twentieth Century try our hands at constructing a syllabus on which all the elementary schools of England are to be prepared for a yearly examination, and see if we can improve appreciably on the work of our predecessors. Some improvement there would certainly be, but it would not amount to very much. Were the "Board" to re-institute payment by results, and were they, with this end in view, to entrust the drafting of schemes of work in the various subjects to a committee of the wisest and most experienced educationalists in England, the resultant syllabus would be a dismal failure. For in framing their schemes these wise and experienced educationalists would find themselves compelled to take account of the lowest rather than of the highest level of actual educational achievement. What is exceptional and experimental cannot possibly find a place in a syllabus which is to bind all schools and all teachers alike, and which must therefore be so framed that the least capable teacher, working under the least favourable conditions, may hope, when his pupils are examined on it, to achieve with decent industry a decent modicum of success. Under the control of a uniform syllabus, the schools which are now specialising and experimenting, and so giving a lead to the rest, would have to abandon whatever was interesting in their respective curricula, and fall into line with the average school; while, with the consequent lowering of the current ideal of efficiency, the level of the average school would steadily fall. A uniform syllabus is a bad syllabus, for this if for no other reason, that it is compelled to idealise the average; and that, inasmuch as education, so far as it is a living system, grows by means of its "leaders", the idealisation of the average is necessarily fatal to educational growth and therefore to educational life.

It was preordained, then, that the syllabuses which the Department issued, year by year, in the days of payment by results should have few merits and many defects. Yet even if, by an unimaginable miracle, they had all been educationally sound, the mere fact that all the teachers in England had to work by them would have made them potent agencies for evil. To be in bondage to a syllabus is a misfortune for a teacher, and a misfortune for the school that he teaches. To be in bondage to a syllabus which is binding on all schools alike, is a graver misfortune. To be in bondage to a bad syllabus which is binding on all schools alike, is of all misfortunes the gravest. Or if there is a graver, it is the fate that befell the teachers of England under the old regime, - the fate of being in bondage to a syllabus which was bad both because it had to come down to the level of the least fortunate school and the least capable teacher, and also because it was the outcome of ignorance, inexperience, and bureaucratic self-satisfaction.

Of the evils that are inherent in the examination system as such - of its tendency to arrest growth, to deaden life, to paralyse the higher faculties, to externalise what is inward, to materialise what is spiritual, to involve education in an atmosphere of unreality and self-deception - I have already spoken at some length. In the days of payment by results various circumstances conspired to raise those evil tendencies to the highest imaginable "power". When inspectors ceased to examine (in the stricter sense of the word) they realised what infinite mischief the yearly examination had done. The children, the majority of whom were examined in reading and dictation out of their own reading-books (two or three in number, as the case might be), were drilled in the contents of those books until they knew them almost by heart. In arithmetic they worked abstract sums, in obedience to formal rules, day after day, and month after month; and they were put up to various tricks and dodges which would, it was hoped, enable them to know by what precise rules the various questions on the arithmetic cards were to be answered. They learned a few lines of poetry by heart, and committed all the "meanings and allusions" to memory, with the probable result - so sickening must the process have been - that they hated poetry for the rest of their lives. In geography, history, and grammar they were the victims of unintelligent oral cram, which they were compelled, under pains and penalties, to take in and retain till the examination day was over, their ability to disgorge it on occasion being periodically tested by the teacher. And so with the other subjects. Not a thought was given, except in a small minority of the schools, to the real training of the child, to the fostering of his mental (and other) growth. To get him through the yearly examination by hook or by crook was the one concern of the teacher. As profound distrust of the teacher was the basis of the policy of the Department, so profound distrust of the child was the basis of the policy of the teacher. To leave the child to find out anything for himself, to work out anything for himself, to think out anything for himself, would have been regarded as a proof of incapacity, not to say insanity, on the part of the teacher, and would have led to results which, from the "percentage" point of view, would probably have been disastrous.

There were few inspectors who were not duly impressed from 1895 onwards by the gravity of the evils that inspection, as distinguished from mere examination, revealed to them; but it may be doubted if there were many inspectors who realised then, what some among them see clearly now, that the evils which distressed them were significant as symptoms even more than as sources of mischief, - as symptoms of a deep-seated and insidious malady, of the gradual ossification of the spiritual and mental muscles of both the teacher and the child, of the gradual substitution in the elementary school of machinery for life.

For us of the Twentieth Century who know enough about education to be aware of the shallowness of our knowledge of it, and of the imperfection of the existing educational systems of our country, it may be difficult to realise that in the years when things were at their worst, at any rate in the field of elementary education, the Nation in general and the "Department" in particular were well content that things should remain as they were, - well content that the elementary school should be, not a nursery of growing seedlings and saplings, but a decently efficient mill, and that year after year this mill should keep on grinding out its dreary and meaningless "results". But in truth that ignorant optimism, that cheap content with the actual, was a sure proof that things were at their worst; - for

"When we in our viciousness grow hard,
(O misery on't) the wise gods seal our eyes
In our own filth; drop our clear judgments; make us
Adore our errors"; [i]


and the multiform discontent with education in its present stage of development, which is characteristic of our own generation, and which is in some ways so confusing and disconcerting, and so unfavourable to the smooth working of our educational machinery, has the merit of being a healthy and hopeful symptom.

But bad as things were in those days, there was at least one redeeming feature. The children were compelled to work, to exert themselves, to "put their backs into it". The need for this was obvious. The industry of the child meant so much professional reputation and, in the last resort, so much bread and butter to his teacher. It is true that the child was not allowed to do anything by or for himself; but it is equally true that he had to do pretty strenuously whatever task was set him. He had to get up his two (or three) "Readers" so thoroughly that he could be depended upon to pass both the reading and the dictation test with success. He had to work his abstract sums in arithmetic correctly. He had to take in and remember the historical and geographical information with which he had been crammed. And so forth. There must be no shirking, no slacking on his part. His teachers worked hard, though "not according to knowledge"; and he must do the same. Active, in the higher sense of the word, he was never allowed to be; but he had to be actively receptive, strenuously automatic, or his teacher would know the reason why.

Such was the old régime. Its defects were so grave and so vital that, now that it has become discredited (in theory, if not in practice), we can but wonder how it endured for so long. As an ingenious instrument for arresting the mental growth of the child, and deadening all his higher faculties, it has never had, and I hope will never have, a rival. Far from fostering the growth of those great expansive instincts - sympathetic, aesthetic, and scientific - which Nature has implanted in every child, it set itself to extirpate them, one and all, with ruthless pertinacity. As a partial compensation for this work of wanton destruction, it made the child blindly obedient, mechanically industrious, and (within very narrow limits) accurate and thorough. I have described it at some length because I see clearly that no one who does not realise what the elementary school used to be, in the days of its sojourn in the Land of Bondage, can even begin to understand why it is what it is to-day.

Having for thirty-three years deprived the teachers of almost every vestige of freedom, the Department suddenly reversed its policy and gave them in generous measure the boon which it had so long withheld. Whether it was wise to give so much at so short a notice may be doubted. What is beyond dispute is that it was unwise to expect so great and so unexpected a gift to be used at once to full advantage. A man who had grown accustomed to semi-darkness would be dazzled to the verge of blindness if he were suddenly taken out into broad daylight. This is what was done in 1895 to the teachers of England, and it is not to be wondered at that many of them have been purblind ever since. For thirty-three years they had been treated as machines, and they were suddenly asked to act as intelligent beings. For thirty-three years they had been practically compelled to do everything for the child, and they were suddenly expected to give him freedom and responsibility, - words which for many of them had well-nigh lost their meaning. To comply with these unreasonable demands was beyond their power. The grooves into which they had been forced were far too deep for them. The routine to which they had become accustomed had far too strong a hold on them. The one change which they could make was to relax their own severe pressure on the child. This they did, perhaps without intending to do it. Indeed, now that there was no external examination to look forward to, the pressure on the child may be said to have automatically relaxed itself. What happened - I will not say in all schools, but in far too many - was that the teaching remained as mechanical and unintelligent as ever, that the teacher continued to distrust the child and to do everything for him, but that the child gradually became slacker and less industrious. Not that his teacher wished him to "slack", but that the stimulus of the yearly examination had been withdrawn at a time when there was nothing to take its place. Exercise is in itself a delightful thing when it is wholesome, natural, and rational; but when it is unwholesome, unnatural, and irrational, it will not be taken in sufficient measure except in response to some strong external stimulus. Under the old examination system an adequate stimulus had been supplied by the combined influence of competition and fear (chiefly the latter). When the examination system was abolished, that stimulus necessarily lost its point. Had it then been possible for the teacher to make the exercise which his pupils were asked to take wholesome, natural, and rational, a new stimulus - that of interest in their work - would have been applied to the pupils, and they would have exerted themselves as they had never done before. But it was not possible for the average teacher to execute at a moment's notice a complete change of front, and it was unwise of the Department to expect him to do so. Apart from an honourable minority, who had always been in secret revolt against the despotism of the Code, the old teachers were helpless and hopeless. The younger ones had been through the mill themselves, first in the Elementary School, then in the Pupil-Teacher Centre, and then in the Training College (both the latter having been in too many cases cramming establishments like the Elementary School); and when they went back to work under a head teacher who was wedded to the old order of things, they found no difficulty in falling in with his ways and carrying out his wishes. If a young teacher, fresh from an exceptionally enlightened Training College, became an assistant under an old-fashioned head teacher, he soon had the "nonsense knocked out of him", and was compelled to toe the line with the rest of the staff.

But it was not only because the teachers of England had got accustomed to the Land of Bondage, that they shrank from entering the Promised Land. There was, and still is, another and a stronger reason. Wherever the teacher looks, he sees that the examination system, with its demand for machine-made results, controls education; and he feels that it is only by an accident that his school has been exempted (in part at least) from its pressure. The Board of Education still examine for labour certificates, for admission as uncertificated assistants, for the teacher's certificate. They expect head teachers to hold terminal examinations of all the classes in their schools. They allow Local Authorities to examine children in their schools as formally and as stringently as they please, and to hold examinations for County Scholarships, for which children from elementary schools are eligible. Admission to secondary schools of all grades depends on success in passing entrance examinations. So does admission to the various Colleges and Universities. In the schools which prepare little boys for the "Great Public Schools", the whole scheme of education is dominated by the headmaster's desire to win as many entrance scholarships as possible. In the "Great Public Schools" the scheme of education is similarly dominated by the headmaster's desire to win as many scholarships as possible at the Oxford and Cambridge Colleges. In the Universities all the undergraduates without exception are reading for examinations of various kinds, - pass "schools", honour "schools", Civil Service examinations, and the like. Officers in the Army and Navy have never done with examinations; and there is not a single profession which can be entered through any door but that of a public examination. Wherever the teacher looks he sees that examinations are held in high honour, and that the main business of teachers of all grades is to produce results which an outside examiner would accept as satisfactory; and he naturally takes for granted that the production of such results is the true function of the teacher, whether his success in producing them is to be tested by a formal examination or not. The air that he breathes is charged with ideas - ideas about life in general and education in particular - which belong to the order of things that he is supposed to have left behind him, and are fiercely antagonistic to those as yet unrecognised ideas which give the new order of things its meaning, its purpose, and its value.

How can we expect the teacher to look inward when all the conditions of his existence, not as a teacher only but also as a citizen and a man, conspire to make him look outward? But if the Fates are against his looking inward, to what purpose has he been emancipated from the direct control of a system which had at least the merit of being in line with all the central tendencies of Western civilisation? How does it profit him to be free if, under the pressure of those tendencies, the chief use that he makes of his freedom is to grind out from his pupils results akin to those which were asked for in the days of schedules and percentages? Freedom was given him in order that he might be free to take thought for the vital welfare of his pupils. Or, if freedom was not given to him for that purpose, it were better that it had been withheld from him until those who were able to give or withhold it had formed a juster conception of its meaning.

The truth is that the exemption of the elementary school, and of it alone among schools, from the direct pressure of the examination system, is an isolated and audacious experiment, which is carried on under conditions so unfavourable to its success that nothing but a high degree of intelligence and moral courage (not to speak of originality) on the part of the teacher can make it succeed. Can we wonder that in many cases the experiment has proved a failure?

At the end of the previous chapter I asked myself whether the education that was given in the ordinary elementary school tended to foster self-expression on the part of the child. We can now see what the answer to this question is likely to be. For a third of a century - from 1862 to 1895 - self-expression on the part of the child may be said to have been formally prohibited by all who were responsible for the elementary education of the children of England, and also to have been prohibited de facto [actually] by all the unformulated conditions under which the elementary school was conducted. In 1895 the formal prohibition of self-expression ceased, but the de facto prohibition of it in the ordinary school is scarcely less effective to-day than it was in the darkest days of the old régime. For

"The evil that men do lives after them," [ii]


and the old régime , though nominally abrogated, overshadows us still. When I say this I do not merely mean that many teachers who were brought up under the old régime have been unable to emancipate themselves from its influence. I mean that the old régime was itself the outcome and expression of traditional tendencies which are of the essence of Western civilisation, of ways of thinking and acting to which we are all habituated from our earliest days, and that these tendencies and these ways of thinking and acting overshadow us still. The formal abrogation of the old régime counts for little so long as the examination system, with its demand for visible and measurable results and its implicit invitation to cram and cheat, is allowed to cast its deadly shadow on education as such,-and so long as the whole system on which the young of all classes and grades are educated is favourable to self-deception on the part of the teacher and fatal to sincerity on the part of the child. Constrained by every influence that is brought to bear upon him to judge according to the appearance of things, the teacher can ill afford to judge righteous judgment, - can ill afford to regard what is outward and visible as the symbol of what is inward and spiritual, can ill afford to think of the work done by the child except as a thing to be weighed in an examiner's balance or measured by an examiner's rule.

Things being as they are in the various grades of education and in the various strata of social life, it is inevitable that the education given in many of our elementary schools should be based, in the main, on complete distrust of the child. In such schools, whatever else the child may be allowed to do, he must not be allowed to do anything by or for himself. He must not express what he really feels and sees; for if he does, the results will probably fall short of the standard of neatness, cleanness, and correctness which an examiner might expect the school to reach. At any rate, the experiment is much too risky to be tried. In the lower classes the results produced would certainly be rough, imperfect, untidy. Therefore self-expression must not be permitted in that part of the school. And if not there, it must not be permitted anywhere, for the longer it is delayed the greater will be the difficulty of starting it and the greater the attendant risk. The child must not express what he really perceives; and as genuine perception forces for itself the outlet of genuine expression, he must not be allowed to exercise his perceptive faculties. Instead of seeing things for himself, he must see what his teacher directs him to see, he must feel what his teacher directs him to feel, he must think what his teacher directs him to think, and so all. But to forbid a child to use his own perceptive faculties is to arrest the whole process of his growth.
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Re: What Is and What Might Be, by Edmond Holmes

Postby admin » Mon Oct 21, 2019 4:14 am

Part 2 of 2

I will now go back to the Arithmetic lesson. During the years in which the children in elementary schools were examined individually in reading, writing, and arithmetic, the one virtue which was inculcated while the arithmetic lesson was in progress was that of obedience to the formulated rule. On the yearly examination day it was customary to give each child four questions in arithmetic, of which only one was a "problem". Two sums correctly worked secured a "pass"; and it was therefore possible for the child to achieve salvation in arithmetic by blindly obeying the various rules with which his teacher had equipped him. He had, indeed, to decide for himself in each case which rule was to be followed; but he did this (in most schools), not by thinking the matter out, but by following certain by-rules given him by his teacher, which were based on a careful study of the wording of the questions set by the inspector, and which held good as long as that wording remained unchanged. For example, if a subtraction sum was to be dictated to "Standard II", the child was taught that the number which was given out first was to be placed in the upper line, and that the number which came next was to be subtracted from this. He was not taught that the lesser of the two numbers was always to be subtracted from the larger; for in order to apply that principle he would have had to decide for himself which was the larger of the two numbers, and the consequent mental effort was one which his teacher could not trust him to make. It is true that in his desire to save the child from the dire necessity of thinking, the teacher ran the risk of being discomfited by a sudden change of procedure on the part of an inspector. The inspector, for example, who, having been accustomed to say "From 95 take 57", chose to say, for a change, "Take 57 from 95", would cause widespread havoc in the first two or three schools that were the victims of his unlooked-for experiment. But the risks which the teacher ran who taught his pupils to rely on trickery rather than thought were worth running; for the inspectors, like the teachers and the children, were ever tending to become creatures of routine, and the vagaries of those who had the reputation of being tiresomely versatile could be provided against - largely, if not wholly - by increased ingenuity on the part of the teacher, and increased attention to tricky by-rules on the part of the child.

The number of schools in which arithmetic is intelligently and even practically taught is undoubtedly much larger than it was in the days of payment by results; but there are still thousands of schools in which obedience to the rule for its own sake is the basis of all instruction in arithmetic. Now to live habitually by rule instead of by thought is necessarily fatal, in every field of action, to the development of that sense, or perceptive faculty, on which right action ultimately depends. Following his reputed guide blindly, mechanically, and with whole-hearted devotion, the votary of the rule never allows his intuition, his faculty of direct perception and subconscious judgment, to play even for a moment round the matters on which he is engaged; and the result is that the faculty in question is not merely prevented from growing, but is at last actually blighted in the bud. This is but another way of saying what I have already insisted upon, - that to forbid self-expression on the part of the child is to starve his perceptive faculties into non-existence.

There is no folly perpetrated in the elementary school of to-day for which there are not authoritative precedents to be found in the conduct of one or other of the two great schools which the God of Western theology is supposed to have opened for the education of Man. And it is in that special development of the Legal School which is known as Pharisaism that we shall look for a precedent for the conventional teaching of arithmetic in our elementary schools. The ultra-legalism of the Pharisee in the days of Christ finds its exact counterpart in the ultra-legalism of the child who has been taught arithmetic by the methods which the yearly examination fostered, and which are still widely prevalent. In the one case there was, in the other case there is, an entire inability on the part of the zealous votary of the rule to estimate the intrinsic value of the results of his blind and unintelligent action. The sense of humour, which is a necessary element in every other healthy sense, and which so often keeps us from going astray, by suddenly revealing to us the inherent absurdity of our proposed action, is one of the first faculties to succumb to the blighting influence of an ultra-legal conception of life. As an example of the unwavering seriousness of the Pharisee in the presence of what was intrinsically ridiculous, let us take his attitude towards the problem of keeping food warm for the Sabbath day. "According to Exodus xvi. 23. it was forbidden to bake and to boil on the Sabbath. Hence the food, which it was desired to eat hot on the Sabbath, was to be prepared before its commencement, and kept warm by artificial means. In doing this, however, care must be taken that the existing heat was not increased, which would have been 'boiling'. Hence the food must be put only into such substances as would maintain its heat, not into such as might possibly increase it. 'Food to be kept warm for the Sabbath must not be put into oil-dregs, manure, salt, chalk, or sand, whether moist or dry, nor into straw, grape-skins, flock, or vegetables, if these are damp, though it may if they are dry. It may, however, be put into clothes, amidst fruits, pigeons' feathers, and flax tow. R. Jehudah declares flax tow unallowable and permits only coarse tow.'" (5) Following his rule out, step by step, with unflinching loyalty, into these ridiculous consequences, the Pharisee had entirely lost the power of seeing that they were ridiculous, and was well content to believe, with Jehudah, that the difference between keeping food warm in coarse tow and in flax tow was the difference between life and death. This reductio ad absurdum [reduction to its most absurd extreme] of legalism is exactly paralleled, in many of our elementary schools, in the answers to arithmetical questions given by the children. The" Fifth Standard" boys who told their inspector, as an answer to an easy problem, that a given room was five shillings and sixpence wide, had followed out their rule - they had unfortunately got hold of a wrong rule - step by step, till it led them to a conclusion, the intrinsic absurdity of which they were one and all unable to see. (6) There are many elementary schools in England in which a majority of the answers given to quite easy problems would certainly be wrong, and a respectable minority of them ludicrously wrong. Nor is this to be wondered at; for though the types of problems that can be set in elementary schools are not numerous, to provide his pupils with the by-rules which shall enable them in all, or even in most cases, to determine which of the recognised rules are appropriate to the given situation, passes the wit of the teacher. But if the helplessness of so many elementary scholars in the face of an arithmetical problem is lamentable, still more lamentable is the fact that the scholar is seldom met with who, having given an entirely wrong answer to an easy problem, is able to see for himself that, whatever the right answer may be, the answer given is and must be wrong. So fatal to the development of the arithmetical sense is the current worship of the rule for its own sake, and so deadly a narcotic is the conventional arithmetic lesson to all who take part in it!

It is not in the arithmetic lesson, then, that provision is ordinarily made for the development of a sense, or perceptive faculty, through the medium of self-expression on the part of the child. On the contrary, the very raison d'être of the arithmetic lesson, as it is still given in many schools, is to destroy the arithmetical sense, and make the child an inefficient calculating machine, which, even when working, is too often inaccurate and clumsy, and which the slightest change of environment throws at once and completely out of gear.

After the arithmetical lesson come, as a rule, lessons in "Reading" and "Writing" - in reading in some classes, in writing in others. The first thing that strikes the visitor who enters an ordinary elementary school while a reading lesson is in progress, is that the children are not reading at all, in the accepted sense of the word. They are not reading to themselves, not studying, not mastering the contents of the book, not assimilating the mental and spiritual nutriment that it may be supposed to contain. They are standing up, one by one, even in the highest class of all, and reading aloud to their teacher.

Why are they doing this? Is it in order that their teacher may show them how to master the more difficult words in their reading lesson? This may be the reason, in some schools; but there are others, perhaps a majority, in which the teacher tells his pupils the words that puzzle them instead of helping them to make them out for themselves. Besides, if reading were properly taught in the lower classes, the children in the upper classes would surely be able to master unaided the difficulties that might confront them.

Or is it in order that elocution may be cultivated? But elocution is seldom, if ever, cultivated in the ordinary elementary school, the veriest mumbling on the part of the child being accepted by his teacher (who follows him with an open book in his hand), provided that he can read correctly and with some attempt at "phrasing". Indeed, the indistinct utterance of so many school children may be attributed to the fact that they have read aloud to their teachers for many years, and that during the whole of that time a very low standard of distinctness has been accepted as satisfactory.

Or is it in order that the teacher may help his pupils to understand what they are reading? This may be one of his reasons for hearing them read aloud ; but so far as the higher classes are concerned it is a bad reason, for the older the child the more imperative is it that he should try to make out for himself the meaning of what he reads; and the teacher who spoon-feeds his pupils during the reading lesson is doing his best to make them incapable of digesting the contents of books for themselves.

No, there are two chief reasons why the teacher makes children of eleven, twelve, thirteen and fourteen years of age read aloud to him as if they were children of six or seven. The first reason is that the unemancipated teacher instinctively does to-day what he did twenty years ago, and that twenty years ago, when children were examined in reading from their own books, the teacher heard them read aloud, day after day in order that he might make sure that they knew their books well enough to pass the inspector's test. The second reason, which is wider than the first, and may be said to include and account for it, is that the reading-aloud lesson fits in with the whole system of Western education, being the outcome and expression of that complete distrust of the child which is, and always has been, characteristic of the popular religion and philosophy of the West. If you ask the teacher why the children, even in the highest classes, are never allowed to work at such subjects as history and geography by themselves, he will tell you frankly that he cannot trust them to do so, that they do not know how to use a book. And he cannot see that in giving this excuse he is condemning himself, and making open confession of the worthlessness of the training that he has given to his pupils.

Whatever else the reading-aloud lesson may be, it is a dismal waste of time. Child after child stands up, reads for a minute or so, and then sits down, remaining idle and inert (except when an occasional question is addressed to him) for the rest of the time occupied by the so-called lesson. In this, as in most oral lessons, the elementary school child passes much of his time in a state which is neither activity nor rest, - a state of enforced inertness combined with unnatural and unceasing strain. Activity is good for the child, and rest, which is the complement of activity, is good for the child; but the combination of inertness with strain is good for neither his body nor his mind. Indeed, it may be doubted if there is any state of mind and body which is so uneducational as this, or so unfavourable to healthy growth.

But the main objection to the reading-aloud lesson is, I repeat, that while it is going on the children are not reading at all, in the proper sense of the word, not attacking the book, not enjoying it, not extracting the honey from it. And the consequences of the inability to read which is thus engendered are far-reaching and disastrous. The power to read is a key which unlocks many doors. One of the most important of these doors - perhaps, from the strictly scholastic point of view, the most important - is the door of study. The child who cannot read to himself cannot study a book, cannot master its contents. It is because the elementary school child cannot be trusted to do any independent study, that the oral lesson, or lecture, with its futile expenditure of "chalk and talk", is so prominent a feature in the work of the elementary school. And it is because the oral lesson necessarily counts for so much, that the over-grouping of classes, with all its attendant evils, is so widely practised. The grouping together of "Standards" V, VI, and VII, with the result that the children who go through all those Standards are compelled to waste the last two years of their school life, is a practice which is almost universal in elementary schools of a certain size. And there are few schools of that size in which those Standards could not be broken up into two, if not three, independent classes, if the children, whose ages range as a rule between eleven and fourteen, could be trusted to work by themselves. In many cases this overgrouping is wholly inexcusable, the headmaster having no class of his own to teach, and being therefore free to do what obviously ought to be done, - to separate the older and more advanced children from the rest of the top class, and form them into a separate class (a real top class) for independent study and self-education under his direction and supervision. But so strong is the force of habit, and so deeply rooted in the mind of the teacher is distrust of the child, that it is rare to find the head teacher to whom the idea of breaking up an over-grouped top class has suggested itself as practicable, or even as intrinsically desirable.

We owe it, then, to the reading-aloud fetich [fetish] that in many of our schools the children are compelled to spend the last two (or even three) years of their school life - the most important years of all from the point of view of their preparation for the battle of life - in marking time, in staying where they were. It is to those years of enforced stagnation that the reluctance of the ex-elementary scholar to go on with his education is largely due; for no one can keep on moving who is not already on the move, and the desire to continue education is scarcely to be looked for in one who has been given to understand that his education has come to an end. But there is another and a shorter cut from the conventional reading lesson to the early extinction of the child's educational career. The child who leaves school without having learned how to use a book, will find that the one door through which access is gained to most of the halls of learning - the door of independent study - is for ever slammed in his face. Not that he will seriously try to open it; for with the ability to read the desire to read will have aborted. The distrust of the child, on which Western education is based, is a bottomless gulf in which educational effort, whatever form it may take or in whatever quarter it may originate, is for the most part swallowed up and made as though it had not been. The child who leaves school at the age of fourteen will have attended some 2,000 or 3,000 reading lessons in the course of his school life. From these, in far too many cases, he will have carried nothing away but the ability to stumble with tolerable correctness through printed matter of moderate difficulty. He will not have carried away from them either the power or the desire to read.

In the days of percentages, instruction in "Writing" below Standard V was entirely confined to handwriting and spelling; and even in the higher Standards the teacher thought more about handwriting and spelling than any other aspect of this composite subject. Now handwriting and spelling are merely means to an end, - the end of making clear to the reader the words that have been committed to paper by the writer. But it is the choice rather than the setting out of words that really matters, and the name that we give to the choosing of words is Composition. The excessive regard that has always been paid in our elementary schools to neat handwriting and correct spelling is characteristic of the whole Western attitude towards education. No "results" are more easily or more accurately appraised than these, and it follows that no "results" are more highly esteemed by the unenlightened teacher. For wherever the outward standard of reality has established itself at the expense of the inward, the ease with which worth (or what passes for such) can be measured is ever tending to become in itself the chief, if not the sole, measure of worth. And in proportion as we tend to value the results of education for their measureableness, so we tend to undervalue and at last to ignore those results which are too intrinsically valuable to be measured.

Hence the neglect of Composition in so many elementary schools. I mean by composition the sincere expression in language of the child's genuine thoughts and feelings. The effort to "compose", whether orally or on paper, is one of the most educational of all efforts; for language is at once the most readily available and the most subtle and sympathetic of all media of expression; and the effort to express himself in it tends, in proportion as it is sincere and strong, to give breadth, depth, and complexity to the child's thoughts and feelings, and through the development of these to weave his experiences into the tissue of his life. But sincerity of expression is not easily measured, and the true value of the thoughts and feelings that are struggling to express themselves in a child's composition is beyond the reach of any rule or scale; whereas neatness of handwriting and correctness of spelling are, as we have seen, features which appeal even to the carelessly observant eye.

Knowing this, the teacher takes care that the exercise-books of his pupils shall be filled with neat and accurate composition exercises, and that some of the neatest and most accurate of these shall be exhibited on the walls of his school. The visitor whose eye ranges over these exercises and goes no further may be excused if he forms a highly favourable opinion of the school which can produce such seemingly excellent work. But let him spend a morning in the school, and see how these "results" have been produced. He will probably change his mind as to their value. The teaching of composition in the ordinary elementary school is too often fraudulent and futile. Indeed, there is no lesson in which the teacher's traditional distrust of the child goes further than in this. In the lower classes the child is taught how to construct simple sentences (as if he had never made one in the previous course of his life), and he is not trusted to do more than this. He listens to a so-called object lesson, and when it is over he is told to write a few simple sentences about the Cow or the Horse, or whatever the subject of the lesson may have been; and lest his memory (the only faculty which he is allowed to exercise) should fail him, the chief landmarks of the lesson are placed before him on the blackboard. This string of simple sentences reproduced from memory passes muster as composition. And yet that child began to practise oral composition at the age of eighteen months, and at the age of three was able to use complex sentences with freedom and skill. In the upper classes the composition is too often as mechanical, as unreal, and as insincere as in the lower. Sometimes a given subject is worked out by the teacher with the class, the children, one by one, suggesting sentences, which are shaped and corrected by the teacher and then written up on the blackboard, until there are enough of them to fill one page of an ordinary exercise book. Then the whole essay (if one must dignify it with that name) is copied out, very neatly and carefully, by every child in the class; and the result is shown to the inspector as original composition. At other times or in other schools the class teacher does not go quite so far as this. He contents himself with talking the subject over with the class, and then writing a series of headings (7) on the blackboard. Or, again, trusting to the child's red-hot memory, he will allow him to write out what he remembers of an object-lesson, or a history lesson, or whatever it may be. Composition exercises which are the genuine expression of genuine perception, which have behind them what the child has experienced, what he has felt or thought, what he has read, what he has studied, are the exception rather than the rule; for in such exercises there would probably be faults of spelling, faults of grammar, colloquialisms, careless writing (due to the child's eagerness), and so forth; and the work would therefore be unsatisfactory from the showman's point of view. The child's natural capacity for expressing himself in language is systematically starved in order that outward and visible results, results which will win approval from those who judge according to the appearance of things, may be duly produced.

The case of oral composition in the unemancipated elementary school is even more hopeless than that of written composition. The latter has a time set apart for it on the time-table, and is at any rate supposed to be taught. The former is wholly ignored. Many teachers seem to have entirely forgotten that the desire and the ability to talk are part of the normal equipment of every healthy child. There was, indeed, a time when children were taught to answer questions in complete sentences even when one-word answers would have amply sufficed. For example, when a child was asked how many pence there were in a shilling, he was expected to answer, "There are twelve pence in a shilling"; when he was asked what was the colour of snow, he was expected to answer, "The colour of snow is white"; and so on. And both he and his teacher flattered themselves that this waste of words was oral composition! In point of fact the sentence in each of these cases was worth no more, as an effort of self-expression, than its one important word - twelve, white, or whatever it might be; and the child, who was allowed to think that he had produced a real sentence, had in effect done no more than envelop one real word in a hollow formula. There are still many schools in which this ridiculous practice lingers, and in which it constitutes the only attempt at oral composition that the child is allowed to make. Where it has died out the idea of teaching oral composition has too often died with it. Young children are, as a rule, voluble talkers, with a considerable command of language. But it not infrequently happens that at the close of his school life the once talkative child has lapsed into a state of sullen taciturnity. In common with other vital faculties, his power of expressing himself in speech has withered in the repressive atmosphere to which he has so long been exposed.

It is in the oral lesson that one would expect oral composition to be taught or at any rate practised. In such subjects as History, Geography, English, Elementary Science, the teaching in most elementary schools is mainly, if not wholly, oral. In the days of payment by results separate and variable grants were given for these subjects; and which, if either, of two grants should be recommended depended in each case on the result of an oral examination conducted by H.M. Inspector, the employment of a written test in any class being strictly forbidden by "My Lords". In this examination proof of the possession of information was all that the inspector could demand; and the quickest and easiest way of obtaining such proof was to ask the class questions which could be briefly answered by the children individually. Questions which were designed to test intelligence might, of course, have been asked, and in some districts were freely asked; but to have reduced the grant because the children failed to answer these would have provoked an outcry; while, had the inspector asked questions which demanded long answers, he would, in the limited time at his command, have given but few children the chance of showing that they had been duly prepared for the examination. The consequence was that the oral lesson on a "class subject" usually took the form of stuffing the children with pellets of appropriate information, some of which they would, in all probability, have the opportunity of disgorging when they were questioned by the inspector on the yearly "parade day."

Not only, then, did the official examination in history, geography and elementary science direct the teaching of these subjects into channels in which the golden opportunities that they offer for the practice of written composition were perforce thrown away, but also the examination was so framed that even the practice of oral composition, in preparation for it, was actively discouraged. And the neglect of composition acted disastrously on the teaching of the subjects in question; for wherever self-expression on the part of the child is forbidden, the appropriate "sense", or perceptive faculty, cannot possibly evolve itself, - perception and expression being, as we have elsewhere seen, the very life and soul of each other; and in the absence (to take pertinent examples) of the historical or the geographical sense, the possession of historical or geographical information cannot possibly be converted into knowledge of history or geography. The prompt, accurate, and general answering which was rewarded by the award of the higher grants for "class subjects" was, in nine cases out of ten, the outcome of assiduous and unintelligent cram, - a mode of preparation for which the policy of the Education Department was mainly responsible.

But when separate grants ceased to be paid for class subjects, were not the teachers free to teach them by rational methods? No doubt they were in theory. In point of fact they were in bondage to the strongest of all constraining influences, - the force of inveterate habit. For twenty years they had taught the class subjects by the one safe method of vigorous oral cram. This method had answered their purpose, and it was but natural that they should continue to teach by it. What happened, when separate grants ceased to be paid, was that the need for responsiveness on the part of the scholar gradually lessened. The pellets of information were still imparted, but it became less and less incumbent upon the teacher to see that his pupils were ready to disgorge them at a moment's notice. And so the cramming lesson gradually transformed itself into a lecture, in which the teacher did all or nearly all the talking, while the children sat still and listened or pretended to listen, an occasional yawn giving open proof of the boredom from which most of them were suffering.

That is the type of oral lesson which is most common at the present day. "Results" in history, geography, nature study and English are seldom asked for by the inspector; and the teacher takes but little trouble to produce them. But his distrust of the child is as firmly rooted as ever, and his unwillingness to allow the child to work by or for himself is as strong as it ever was. The consequence is that there are many schools in which the teacher now does everything during the oral lesson, while the child does as nearly as possible nothing. Formerly the child was at any rate allowed (or rather required) to be actively receptive. Now he is seldom allowed to do anything more active than to yawn. And all the time he is secretly longing to energise - to do something with himself - to use his mental, if not his physical faculties - to work, if not to play. One might have thought that in the history and geography lessons, if in no other, "Standards VI" and "VII" (where the numbers were too small to admit of these standards having a teacher to themselves) would be separated from "Standard V", and allowed to work out their own salvation by studying suitable text-books under proper supervision and guidance. But no; the force of habit is too strong for the machine-made teacher. Twenty years ago history and geography were "class subjects", and as such were taught orally to whole classes of children. And they must still be taught as "class subjects", even if this should involve the "Sixth" and "Seventh Standards" being brigaded with, and kept down for one or even two years to, the level of the "Fifth," - kept down, it would seem, for no other purpose than that of being the passive recipients of the teacher's windy "talk", and the helpless witnesses of his futile "chalk", and of having their own activities paralysed and their own powers of expression starved into inanition.

I will deal with one more "secular" subject before I bring this sketch to a close. There are still many schools in which the hours that are set apart for Drawing are devoted in large measure to the slavish reproduction of flat copies. A picture of some familiar object - outlined, shaded, or tinted as the case may be, and not infrequently highly conventionalised - hangs in front of the class; and the children copy it, stroke by stroke, and curve by curve, and put in the shading and lay on washes of colour. As long practice at work of this kind develops a certain degree of manual dexterity, and as the free use of india-rubber is permitted and even encouraged, the child's finished work may be so neat and accurate as to become worthy of a place on the school wall. But what is the value, what is the meaning of work of this kind? When such a drawing lesson as I have described is in progress, the divorce between perception and expression is complete. And as each of these master faculties is the very life and soul of the other, their complete divorce from one another involves the complete eclipse of each. The child who copies a flat copy does not perceive anything except some other person's reproduction of a scene or object; and even this he does not necessarily grasp as a whole, his business being to reproduce it with flawless accuracy, line by line. Indeed, it may well happen that he does not even know what the picture or diagram before him is intended to represent. Nor is he expressing anything, for he has not made his model in any sense or degree his own. Thus, during the whole of a lesson in which the perceptive and expressive faculties are supposed to be receiving a special training, they are lying dormant and inert. Each of them is, for the time being, as good as dead. And each of them will assuredly die if this kind of teaching goes on for very long, die for lack of exercise, die wasted and atrophied by disuse. The extent to which the copying of copies can injure a child's power of observation exceeds belief. I have seen a bowl placed high above the line of sight of a class of fifty senior boys, each one of whom (his memory being haunted, I suppose, by some diagram which he had once copied) drew it as if he were looking into it from above. Not one of those boys could see the bowl as it really was, or rather as it really was to be seen. A child who had never drawn a stroke in his life, but whose perceptive faculties had not been deadened by education, would have sketched the bowl more correctly than any of those quasi-experts. And with the wasting of the power of observation, the executive power is gradually lost; for perception is ever interpenetrating, reinforcing, and stimulating expression; and when the eye is blind, the hand, however skilful its mere manipulation may be, necessarily falters and loses its cunning.

Four or five years ago, had one entered an elementary school while drawing was being taught, such a lesson as I have just described would have been in progress in ninety-nine cases out of every hundred. Since then a systematic warfare has been waged by the Board against the "flat copy"; and though it is still very far from extinct, there is now perhaps an actual majority of schools in which its use has been discontinued. But the number of schools in which drawing from the object is effectively taught, though increasing steadily, is still small. In those schools, indeed, the results are surprisingly good, - so good as to justify, not only the new gospel of drawing from the object, but also the whole gospel of education through self-reliance and self-expression. But elsewhere there has been but little improvement, except so far as it may be better to draw from an object without guidance, or with quite ineffective guidance, than to draw from a flat copy. In some schools the formula or "tip" is beginning to take the place of the flat copy. There is a formula for the tulip, a formula for the snowdrop, a formula for the daffodil, and so on; and the children draw from these formulae while the actual flowers are before them and they are making believe to reproduce them. In other schools an object is placed before the class, and the teacher draws this for them on the blackboard, explaining to them in detail how it ought to be drawn; and when he has finished, the children pretend to draw the object, but really copy his blackboard copy of it. In this, as in other matters, the teacher who has become a victim of routine will give a facile but mainly "notional" assent to the suggestions that are placed before him, will promise to try them, and will make an unintelligent and half-hearted attempt to do so, but will as often as not slide back into practices which do not materially differ from those which he professes to have abandoned. The pressure of the whole system of Western education - not to speak of Western civilisation - will be too strong for him. The flat copy, with its demand for mechanical work and servile obedience, fits into that system. Drawing from the object, with its demand for initiative and self-reliance, does not. Hence the attractive force of the former, - a secret attractive force which will neutralise the efforts that the teacher consciously makes to free himself from its influence, and will arm him, as with a hidden shirt of mail, against the missionary zeal of his inspector. (8) Even the zeal of the inspector will be affected by his possible inability to harmonise his gospel of self-expression in drawing with any general system of self-education. It is because the educational reformer is fighting, in his sporadic attempts at reform, against his own deepest conviction, that he achieves so little even in the particular directions in which he sees clearly that reform is needed.

But how, it will be asked, is such a school as I have described to be kept going? The whole régime must be eminently distasteful to the healthy child, and it can scarcely be attractive to his teacher. By what motive force, then, is the school to be kept in motion, - in motion, if not along the path of progress, at any rate along the well-worn track of routine? By the only motive force which the religion and the civilisation of the West recognise as effective, - the hope of external reward, with its complement, the fear of external punishment.

From highest to lowest, from the head teacher of the school to the youngest child in the bottom class, all the teachers and all the children are subjected to the pressure of this quasi-physical force. The teachers hope for advancement and increase of salary, and fear degradation and loss of salary, or at any rate loss of the hoped-for increment. (9) The children hope for medals, books, high places in their respective classes, and other rewards and distinctions, and fear corporal and other kinds of punishment. The thoroughly efficient school is one in which this motive force is duly transmitted to every part of the school by means of a well-planned and carefully-elaborated machinery, analogous to that by which water and gas are laid on at every tap in every house in a well-governed town. Only those who are intimately acquainted with the inside of the elementary school can realise to what an extent the machinery of education has in recent years encroached upon the vital interests of the school and the time and thought of the teacher. In schools which are administered by business-like and up-to-date Local Authorities, this encroachment, is becoming as serious as that of drifting sands on a fertile soil. Time-tables, schemes of work, syllabuses, record books, progress books, examination result books, and the rest, - hours and hours are spent by the teachers on the clerical work which these mechanical contrivances demand. And the hours so spent are too often wholly wasted. The worst of this machinery is that, so long as it works smoothly, all who are interested in the school are satisfied. But it may all work with perfect smoothness, and yet achieve nothing that really counts. I know of hundreds of schools which are to all appearance thoroughly efficient, - schools in which the machinery of education is as well contrived as it is well oiled and cleaned, - and yet in which there is no vital movement, no growth, no life. From highest to lowest, all the inmates of those schools are cheating themselves with forms, figures, marks. and other such empty symbols.

The application of the conventional motive force to the school children goes by the name of Discipline. If the pressure at each tap is steady, constant, and otherwise effective, the discipline is good. If it is variable, intermittent, and otherwise ineffective, the discipline is bad. The life of the routine-ridden school is so irksome to the child, that if he is healthy and vigorous he will long to find a congenial outlet for his vital energies, which are as a rule either pent back (as when he sits still listening to a lecture), or forced into uninteresting and unprofitable channels. When this desire masters him during school hours, it goes by the name of "naughtiness", and is regarded as a proof of the inborn sinfulness of his "fallen" nature. To repress the desire, to keep the child in a state either of absolute inaction or of mechanically regulated activity, is the function of school discipline. Whatever in the child's life is free, natural, spontaneous, wells up from an evil source. If educational progress is to be made, that source must be carefully sealed. As an educator, the teacher must do his best to reduce the child to the level of a wire-pulled puppet. As a disciplinarian, he must overcome the child's instinctive repugnance to being subjected to such unworthy treatment. The better the "discipline" of the school, the easier it will be for the mechanical education given in it to achieve its deadly work.

In making this sketch of what is still a common type of elementary school, my object has been to provide myself with materials for answering the question: Does elementary education, as at present conducted in this country, tend to foster the growth of the child's faculties? If my sketch is even approximately faithful to its original, the answer to the question, so far at least as thousands of schools are concerned, must be an emphatic No. For in the school, as I have sketched it, the one end and aim of the teacher is to prevent the child from doing anything whatever for himself; and where independent effort is prohibited, the growth of faculty must needs be arrested, the growth of every faculty, as of every limb and organ, being dependent in large measure on its being duly and suitably exercised by its owner. If this statement is true of faculty as such, and of effort as such, still more is it true of the particular faculties which school life is supposed to train, the faculties which we speak of loosely as perceptive, - and of the particular effort by which alone the growth of the perceptive faculties is effected, the many-sided effort which we speak of loosely as self-expression. For perception and expression are, as I have endeavoured to prove, the face and obverse of the same vital process; and the educational policy which makes self-expression, or, in other words, sincere expression, impossible, is therefore fatal to the outgrowth of the whole range of the perceptive faculties.

The education given in thousands of our elementary schools is, then, in the highest degree anti-educational. The end which education ought to aim at achieving is the very end which the teacher labours unceasingly to defeat. The teacher may, indeed, contend that his business is not to evoke faculty but to impart knowledge. The answer to this argument is that the type of education which impedes the outgrowth of faculty is necessarily fatal to the acquisition of knowledge. For the teacher can no more impart knowledge to his pupils than a nurse can impart flesh and blood to her charges. What the teacher imparts is information, just as what the nurse imparts is food; and until information has been converted into knowledge the child is as far from being educated as the infant, whose food remains unassimilated, is from being nourished. The teacher may pump information into the child in a never-ending stream; but so long as he compels the child to adopt an attitude of passive receptivity, and forbids him to react, through the medium of self-expression, on the food that he is receiving, so long will the food remain unassimilated and even undigested, and the soul and mind of the child remain uneducated and unfed.

Whether, then, we concern ourselves, as educationalists, with the growth of the child's whole nature, or with the growth of his master faculties, or again with the growth of those special "senses" which evolve themselves in response to the stimulus of special environments, we see that in each case the effect of the teacher's policy of distrust and repression is to arrest growth. When the stern supernaturalist reminds us that the child's nature is intrinsically evil, and that therefore in arresting its growth education renders him a priceless service, we answer that, in arresting the growth of the child's nature as a whole, education arrests the growth of all the master faculties of his being, and that there are some at least among these which, even in the judgment of the supernaturalist, imperatively need to be trained. When the strait-laced, result-hunting teacher reminds us that his sole business is to teach certain subjects, and that therefore he cannot concern himself with growth, we answer that, in neglecting to foster growth, he makes it impossible for the child to put forth a special "sense", a special faculty of direct perception, in response to each new environment, and so (for reasons which have already been given) incapacitates him for mastering any subject. There is always one point of view, if no more, from which my primary assumption - that the function of education is to foster growth - is seen to be a truism. And from that point of view, if from no other, the failure of the routine-ridden school to fulfil its destiny is seen to be final and complete.

Yet to say that elementary education, as it is given in such a school, tends to arrest growth, is to under-estimate its capacity for mischief. In the act of arresting growth it must needs distort growth, and in doing this it must needs deaden and even destroy the life which is ever struggling to evolve itself. It is well that from time to time we should ask ourselves what compulsory education has done for the people of England. How much it has done to civilise and humanise the masses is beginning to be known to all who are interested in social progress, and I for one am ready to second any vote of thanks that may be proposed to it for this invaluable service. (10) But when we ask ourselves what it has done to vitalise the nation, we may well hesitate for an answer. Twenty years ago, in the days of "schedules" and "percentages", elementary education was, on balance, an actively devitalising agency. The policy of the Education Department made that inevitable. But things have changed since then; and it is probable that the balance is now in favour of the elementary school. But the balance, though growing from year to year, is as yet very small compared with what it will be when the teacher, relieved from the pressure of the still prevailing demand for "results", is free to take thought for the vital interests of the child.

Whom shall we blame for the shortcomings of our elementary schools? The Board of Education? Their Inspectors? The Teachers? The Training Colleges? The Local Authorities? We will blame none of these. We will blame the spirit of Western civilisation, with its false philosophy of life and its false standard of reality.

Shall we blame the Board because, in the days when they called themselves the Department, they made the teachers of England the serfs of their soul-destroying Code? For my own part I prefer to honour the Board, not only because on a certain day they liberated their serfs by a departmental edict, but also and more especially because, in defiance of the protests and criticisms of Members of Parliament, employers of labour, Chairmen of Education Committees, and others, in defiance of the ubiquitous pressure of Western externalism and materialism, in defiance of the trend of contemporary opinion, in defiance of their own practice, - for they themselves are an examining body whose nets are widely spread, - they refuse to revoke the gift of freedom, which they gave, perhaps over-hastily, to the teachers of England, and continue to exempt them, so far as their own action is concerned, from the pressure of a formal examination on a uniform scheme of work.

Shall we blame the teachers as a body because too many of them are machine-made creatures of routine? For my own part I honour the teachers as a body, if only because here and there one of them has dared, with splendid courage, to defy the despotism of custom, of tradition, of officialdom, of the thousand deadening influences that are brought to bear upon him, and to follow for himself the path of inwardness and life. To blame the average teacher for being unable to resist the pressure to which he is unceasingly exposed would be almost as unfair as to blame a pebble on the seashore for being unable to resist the grinding action of the waves, and would ill become one who has special reason to remember how the Department, in its misguided zeal for efficiency, strove for thirty years or more to grind the teachers of England to one pattern in the mill of "payment by results". It is to a certificated teacher that, as an educationalist (if I may give myself so formidable a title), "I owe my soul". And there are many other teachers to whom my debts, though less weighty than this, are by no means light. Most of the failings of the elementary teachers are wounds and strains which adverse Fate has inflicted on them. Most of their virtues are their own.

Shall we blame the Training Colleges because, with an unhappy past behind them, they have yet many things to unlearn ?

Shall we blame the local Education Authorities because, with an unknown future before them, they have yet many things to learn?

No, I repeat, we will blame none of these. We will lay the blame on broader shoulders. We will blame our materialistic philosophy of life, which we complacently regard - orthodox and heretics alike - as "The truth"; and we will blame our materialised civilisation, which we complacently regard - cultured and uncultured alike - as civilisation, pure and simple, whatever lies beyond its confines being lightly dismissed as "barbarism". These are the forces against which every teacher, every manager, every inspector, who strives for emancipation and enlightenment, has to fight unceasingly. If the fight is an unequal one; if there are many would-be reformers who have shrunk from it; if there are others who retired from it early in the day; if there are others, again, who have been crushed in it; - we will blame the forces of darkness for these disasters; we will not blame their victims. On the contrary, we will honour all who have fought and fallen; for when the cause is large and worthy of devotion, failure in the service of it is only less triumphant than success. But if there is honour for failure what shall be the guerdon [reward] of success? What tribute shall we pay to those who have fought and won?

For there are some who have fought and won.

_______________

Notes:

i. Shakespeare Antony and Cleopatra Act 3 Scene 13.

ii. Shakespeare Julius Caesar Act 3 Scene 2.
 
(1) It must be clearly understood that throughout this chapter the school that I have in mind is one for "older children" only. Whatever may be the defects of the elementary infant schools, an excessive regard for outward and visible results is not one of them. Exemption from the pressure of a formal external examination has meant much more to them than to the schools for older children; and the atmosphere of the good infant schools is, in consequence, freer, happier, more recreative, and more truly educative than that of the upper schools of equivalent merit. And when we compare grade with grade, we find that the superiority of the elementary infant schools is still more pronounced. The "Great Public Schools", and the costly preparatory schools that lead up to them, may or may not be worthy of their high reputation; but as regards facilities for the education (in school) of their "infants", the "classes" are unquestionably much less fortunate than the "masses."
 
(2) Not long ago I happened to enter the Boys' Department of an urban Church School at about 9.15 a.m. The Headmaster was sitting at his desk, drawing up schemes of "secular" work. All the boys above "Standard III" - 94 in number - were grouped together, listening, or pretending to listen, to a "chalk-and-talk" lecture on "Prayer" (of which there are apparently five varieties, viz: (1) Invocation, (2) Deprecation, (3) Obsecration, (4) Intercession, (5) Supplication). The Headmaster explained to me that "of course it was only during the Scripture lesson" that this overgrouping went on. The lecture on Prayer was given by a young Assistant-master, whose naive delight in the long words that he rolled out ore rotundo [sonorously] and then chalked up on the blackboard, had blinded him to the obvious fact that he was making no impression whatever on his audience. The boys, one and all, reminded me forcibly of the "white-headed boy" in Dickens' village school, who displayed "in the expression of his face a remarkable capacity of totally abstracting his mind from the spelling on which his eyes were fixed."
 
(3) There are many elementary schools which the Diocesan Inspector noes not enter. In the "Provided" or "Council" Schools "undenominational Bible teaching" takes the place of the "definite dogmatic instruction in religious knowledge" which is tested by Diocesan Inspection. But even when undogmatic Bible teaching is given, the shadow of an impending examination, external or internal as the case may be, too often sterilises the efforts of the teacher. Not that the efforts of the teacher would in any case be productive so long as the attitude of popular thought towards the Bible remained unchanged. To go into this burning question would involve me in an unjustifiable digression; but I must be allowed to express my conviction that the teaching of the Bible in our elementary schools will never be anything but misguided and mischievous until those who are responsible for it have realised that the Old Testament is the inspired literature of a particular people, and have ceased to regard it as the authentic biography of the Eternal God. It is to the current misconception of the meaning and value of the Bible, and the consequent misconception of the relation of God to Nature and to Man, that the externalism of the West, which is the source of all the graver defects of modern education, is (as I contend) largely due; and it is useless to try to remedy those defects so long as we allow our philosophy of life to be perennially poisoned at its highest springs.
 
(4) In far too many cases the teacher received a certain proportion of the Grant; and in any case his value in the market tended to vary directly with his ability to secure a large Grant for his school by his success in the yearly examination.

(5) The Jewish People in the time of Jesus Christ, by Dr. Emil Schürer.
 
(6) Here is another example of the mental blindness which rule-worship in Arithmetic is apt to induce. The boys in a large "Standard II", who had been spending the whole year in adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing tens of thousands, were given the following sum: A farmer had 126 sheep. He bought nine. How many had he then? Out of 50 boys, one only worked the sum correctly. Of the remaining 49, about a third multiplied 126 by 9, another third divided 126 by 9, while the remaining third subtracted 9 from 126.
 
(7) Reinforced in many cases by suggestive words. I recently found myself in an urban school while the "Fourth Standard" boys were doing "Composition". The subject - Trees - had already been dealt with in a preparatory "talk". In front of the class was a blackboard, on which were written the following words:
 
 
"fruit, flowers,
 I. Roots tough, strong, stretch, extend.
 II. Trunk thick, branches, bark.
 III. Branches strong, tough, leaves.
 IV. Leaves green, shapes, sizes, beautiful, clothe, autumn, brown."


I am told that sometimes as many as twelve headings are given, each with its own list of suggestive words.
 
(8) I was recently present at a large gathering of teachers who had assembled to discuss the teaching of Drawing and other kindred topics. The district is one in which the gospel of self-help in Drawing has been preached with diligence and with much apparent success. One of the teachers, who was expected to support the Board in their crusade against the "flat copy", played the part of Balaam by reading out letters from certain distinguished R.A.'s, in which the use of the flat copy in elementary schools was openly advocated. It was evident that those distinguished R.A.'s knew as much about elementary education as the man in the street knows about naval tactics, for the arguments by which they supported their paradoxical opinions were worth exactly nothing. But the salvos of applause, renewed again and again, which greeted the extracts from their letters showed clearly in which direction the current of subconscious conviction was running in that evangelised and apparently converted district.
 
(9) There are few teachers who do not also work from higher motives than these; but there are very few who are exempt from the pressure of these.
 
(10) It is pleasant to read that at Southend on Easter Monday (1910) there were 65,000 excursionists and only two cases of drunkenness. It is also pleasant to hear from an officer who has served for many years in India that the modern English private soldier in India is an infinitely superior being to his predecessors, and that India could not now be held by the old type of British soldier. We must not, however, forget that the "old type" conquered India.
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Re: What Is and What Might Be, by Edmond Holmes

Postby admin » Mon Oct 21, 2019 4:15 am

Part 1 of 2

PART II: WHAT MIGHT BE OR THE PATH OF SELF-REALISATION

CHAPTER IV. A SCHOOL IN UTOPIA


HAVING painted in gloomy colours some of the actualities of elementary education, I will now try to set forth its possibilities. In opposing the actual to the possible, I am perhaps running the risk of being misunderstood. The possible, as I conceive it, is no mere "fabric of a dream". What are possibilities for the elementary school, as such, are already actualities in certain schools. Were it not so, I should not speak or them as possibilities. I do not pretend to be a prophet, in the vulgar sense of the word. The ends which I am about to set before managers and teachers are ends which have been achieved, and are being achieved, under entirely normal conditions, in various parts of the country, and which are therefore not impracticable. There are many elementary schools in England in which bold and successful departures have been made from the beaten track; and in each of these cases what is at present a mere possibility for most schools has been actually realised. And there is one elementary school at least in which the beaten track has been entirely abandoned, with the result that possibilities (as I may now call them) which I might perhaps have dismissed on a priori [presupposed] grounds as too fantastic for serious consideration, have become part of the everyday life of the scholars.

That school shall now become the theme of my book; for I feel that I cannot serve the cause of education better than by trying to describe and interpret the work that is being done in it. The school belongs to a village which I will call Utopia. It is not an imaginary village - a village of Nowhere - but a very real village, which can be reached, as all other villages can, by rail and road. It nestles at the foot of a long range of hills; and if you will climb the slope that rises at the back of the village, and look over the level country that you have left behind, you will see in the distance the gleaming waters of one of the many seas that wash our shores. The village is fairly large, as villages go in these days of rural depopulation; and the school is attended by about 120 children. The head teacher, whose genius has revolutionised the life, not of the school only, but of the whole village, is a woman. I will call her Egeria. She has certainly been my Egeria, in the sense that whatever modicum of wisdom in matters educational I may happen to possess, I owe in large measure to her. I have paid her school many visits, and it has taken me many months of thought to get to what I believe to be the bed-rock of her philosophy of education, - a philosophy which I will now attempt to expound.

Two things will strike the stranger who pays his first visit to this school. One is the ceaseless activity of the children. The other is the bright and happy look on every face. In too many elementary schools the children are engaged either in laboriously doing nothing, - in listening, for example, with ill-concealed yawns, to lectures on history, geography, nature-study, and the rest; or in doing what is only one degree removed from nothing, - working mechanical sums, transcribing lists of spellings or pieces of composition, drawing diagrams which have no meaning for them, and so forth. But in this school every child is, as a rule, actively employed. And bearing in mind that "unimpeded energy" is a recognised source of happiness, the visitor will probably conjecture that there is a close connection between the activity of the children and the brightness of their faces.

That the latter feature of the school will arrest his attention is almost certain. Utopia belongs to a county which is proverbial for the dullness of its rustics, but there is no sign of dullness on the face of any Utopian child. On the contrary, so radiantly bright are the faces of the children that something akin to sunshine seems always to fill the school. When he gets to know the school, the visitor will realise that the brightness of the children is of two kinds, - the brightness of energy and intelligence, and the brightness of goodness and joy. And when he gets to know the school as well as I do, he will realise that these two kinds of brightness are in their essence one.

Let me say something about each of them.

The Utopian child is alive, alert, active, full of latent energy, ready to act, to do things, to turn his mind to things, to turn his hand to things, to turn his desire to things, to turn his whole being to things. There is no trace in this school of the mental lethargy which, in spite of the ceaseless activity of the teachers, pervades the atmosphere of so many elementary schools; no trace of the fatal inertness on the part of the child, which is the outcome of five or six years of systematic repression and compulsory inaction. The air of the school is electrical with energy. We are obviously in the presence of an active and vigorous life.

And the activity of the Utopian child is his own activity. It is a fountain which springs up in himself. Unlike the ordinary school-child, he can do things on his own account. He does not wait, in the helplessness of passive obedience, for his teacher to tell him what he is to do and how he is to do it. He does not even wait, in the bewilderment of self-distrust, for his teacher to give him a lead. If a new situation arises, he deals with it with promptitude and decision. His solution of the problem which it involves may be incorrect, but at any rate it will be a solution. He will have faced a difficulty and grappled with it, instead of having waited inertly for something to turn up. His initiative has evidently been developed pari passu [equally] with his intelligence; and the result of this is that he can think things out for himself, that he can devise ways and means, that he can purpose, that he can plan.

In all these matters the Utopian child differs widely and deeply from the less fortunate child who has to attend a more ordinary type of elementary school. But when we turn to the other aspect of the Utopian brightness, when we consider it as the reflected light of goodness and joy, we find that the difference between the two children is wider and deeper still. There are many schools outside Utopia that pride themselves on the excellence of their discipline; but I am inclined to think that in some at least of these the self-satisfaction of the teacher is equivalent to a confession of failure. There was a time when every elementary school received a large grant for instruction and a small grant for discipline; and inspectors were supposed to report separately on each of these aspects of the school's life. A strange misconception of the meaning and purpose of education underlay this artificial distinction; but on that we need not dwell. Were an inspector called upon to report on the discipline of the Utopian school, his report would be brief. There is no discipline in the school. There is no need for any. The function of the strict disciplinarian is to shut down, and, if necessary, sit upon, the safety-valve of misconduct. But in Utopia, where all the energies of the children are fully and happily employed, that safety-valve has never to be used. Each child in turn is so happy in his school life that the idea of being naughty never enters his head. One cannot remain long in the school without realising that in its atmosphere

Love is an unerring light,
And joy its own security. [i]


It recently happened that on a certain day one of the assistant-teachers had to go to a hospital, that another had to take her there, that the third was ill in bed, and that Egeria - the only available member of the staff - was detained by one of the managers for half-an-hour on her way to school. The school was thus left without a teacher. On entering it, Egeria found all the children in their places and at work. They had looked at the timetable, had chosen some of the older scholars to take the lower classes, and had settled down happily and in perfect order. This incident proves to demonstration that the morale of the school has somehow or other been carried far beyond the limits of what is usually understood by discipline. I have seen historical scenes acted with much vigour by some of the children in the first class, and applauded with equal vigour by their class-mates, while all the time the children in the second class, who were drawing flowers in the same room, never lifted their eyes from their desks. Yet no children can laugh more merrily or more unrestrainedly than these, or make a greater uproar when it is fitting that they should do so.

And if there is no need for punishment, or any other form of repression, in this school, it is equally true that there is no need for rewards. To one who has been taught to regard competition in school as a sacred duty, and the winning of prizes as a laudable object of the scholar's ambition, this may seem strange. But so it is. No child has the slightest desire to outstrip his fellows or rise to the top of his class. Joy in their work, pride in their school, devotion to their teacher, are sufficient incentives to industry. Were the stimulus of competition added to these, neither the zeal nor the interest of the children would be quickened one whit, but a discordant element would be introduced into their school life. Happy as he obviously is in his own school life, it would add nothing to the happiness of the Utopian to feel that he had outstripped his class-mates and won a prize for his achievement. So far, indeed, are these children from wishing to shine at the expense of others, that if they think Egeria has done less than justice to the work of some one child, the rest of the class will go out of their way to call her attention to it. If some children are brighter, cleverer, and more advanced than others, the reward of their progress is that they are allowed to help on those who lag behind. This is especially noticeable in Drawing, in which the pre-eminence of one or two children has again and again had the effect of lifting the work of the whole class to a higher level. But the laggards are as far from being discouraged by their failure as are the more advanced scholars from being puffed up by their success. From the highest to the lowest, all are doing their best and all are happy together.

From morals to manners the transition is obvious and direct. Be the explanation what it may, the whole atmosphere of this school is evidently fatal to selfishness and self-assertion; and in such an atmosphere good manners will spring up spontaneously among the children, and will scarcely need to be inculcated, for the essence of courtesy is forgetfulness of self and consideration of others in the smaller affairs of social life. The general bearing of the Utopian children hits the happy mean between aggressive familiarity and uncouth shyness, - each a form of self-conscious egoism, - just as their bearing in school hits the happy mean between laxity and undue constraint. They welcome the stranger as a friend, take his goodwill for granted, take him into their confidence, and show him, tactfully and unostentatiously, many pretty courtesies. And they do all this, not because they have been drilled into doing it, but because it is their nature to do it, because their overflowing sympathy and goodwill must needs express themselves in and through the channels of courtesy and kindness. There is no trace of sullen self-repression in this school. Accustomed (as we shall presently see) to express themselves in various ways, the children cannot entertain kindly feelings without seeking some vent for them. But whether their kindly feelings lead them to dance in a ring round their own inspector, singing "For he's a jolly good fellow", or to escort another visitor, on his departure, through the playground with their arms in his, their tact, - which is the outcome, partly of their self-forgetfulness, partly of the training which their perceptive faculties are always receiving, - is unfailing, and they never allow friendliness to degenerate into undue familiarity.

There is one other feature of the school life which I cannot pass over. I have never been in a school in which the love of what is beautiful in Nature is so strong or so sincere as in this. The aesthetic sense of the Utopian child has not been deliberately trained, but it has been allowed, and even encouraged, to unfold itself; and the appeal that beauty makes to the heart meets in consequence with a ready response. Of the truth of this statement I could, if necessary, give many proofs. One must suffice. The children, who are adepts at drawing with brush and pencil, wander in field and lane with sketch-books in their hands; and one of them at least was so moved by the beauty of a winter sunrise, as seen from his cottage window, that, in his own words, he felt he must try to paint it, the result being a water-colour sketch which I have shown to a competent artist, who tells me that the feeling in the sky is quite wonderful.

In this brief preliminary sketch of the more salient features of the Utopian school, I have, I hope, said enough to show that its scholars differ toto coelo [diametrically] from those who attend that familiar type of school which I have recently described. Yet the Utopian children are made of the same clay as the children of other villages. If anything, indeed, the clay is heavier and more stubborn in Utopia than elsewhere. Some ten or twelve years ago, when Egeria took charge of the school, the children were dull, lifeless, listless, resourceless. Now they are bright, intelligent, happy, responsive, overflowing with life, interested in many things, full of ability and resource. How has this change been wrought? Not by veneering or even inoculating the children with good qualities, but simply by allowing their better and higher nature to evolve itself freely, naturally, and under favourable conditions.

That the child's better and higher nature is his real nature, is the assumption - let me rather say, the profound conviction - on which Egeria's whole system of education has been based. In basing it on this assumption, she has made a bold departure from the highway which has been blindly followed for many centuries. We have seen that the basis of education in this country, as in Christendom generally, is the doctrine of original sin. It is taken for granted by those who train the child that his nature, if allowed to develop itself freely, will grow in the wrong direction, and will therefore lead him astray; and that it is the function of education to counteract this tendency, to do violence to the child's nature, to compel it by main force to grow (or make a pretence of growing) in the right direction, to subject it to perpetual repression and constraint. The wild whoops to which children so often give vent, when released from school, show that a period of unnatural tension has come to an end; and in these, and in the further conduct of the released child - in the roughness, rudeness, and bad language, of which the passer-by (especially in towns) not infrequently has to complain - we see a rebound from this state of tension, an instinctive protest against the constraint to which he has been subjected for so many hours. The result of all this is that the child leads two lives, a life of unnatural repression and constraint in school, and a life - also unnatural, though it is supposed to be the expression of his nature - of reaction and protest out of school. Such a dislocation of the child's daily life is not likely to conduce to his well-being; while the teacher's assumption that his rôle in school is essentially active, and that of the child essentially passive, will lead at last to his turning his back on the root-idea of growth, to his forgetting that the child is a living and therefore a growing organism, to his regarding the child as clay in his hands, to be "remoulded" by him "to his heart's desire", or even as a tabula rasa [blank slate], on which he is to inscribe words and other symbols at his will.

In Utopia the training which the child receives may be said to be based on the doctrine of original goodness. It is taken for granted by Egeria that the child is neither a lump of clay nor a tabula rasa, but a "living soul"; that growth is of the very essence of his being; and that the normal child, if allowed to make natural growth under reasonably favourable conditions, will grow happily and well. It is taken for granted that the potencies of his nature are well worth realising; that the end of his being - the ideal type towards which the natural course of his development tends to take him - is intrinsically good; in fine, that he is by nature a "child of God" rather than a "child of wrath". It is therefore taken for granted that growth is in itself a good thing, a move in the right direction; and that to foster growth, to make its conditions as favourable as possible, to give it the food, the guidance, and the stimulus that it needs, is the best thing that education can do for the child.

It is further taken for granted that the many-sided effort to grow which is of the essence of the child's nature is the mainspring of, and expresses itself in, certain typical instincts which no one who studies the child with any degree of care can fail to observe; and that by duly cultivating these instincts, - expansive instincts, as one may perhaps call them, since each of them tends to take the child away from his petty self, - the teacher will make the best possible provision for the growth of the child's nature as a whole.

Above all, it is taken for granted that the growth which the child makes must come from within himself; that no living thing can grow vicariously; that the rings of soul-growth, like the rings of tree-growth, must be evolved from an inner life; that the teacher must therefore content himself with giving the child's expansive instincts fair play and free play; and that, for the rest, he must as far as possible efface himself, bearing in mind that not he, but the child, is the real actor in the drama of school life.

But though so much is left to the child in Utopia, and so much demanded of him, it is not feared that the effort to grow will be repugnant to him. On the contrary, it is taken for granted that in growing, in developing his expansive instincts, the child will be following the lines and obeying the laws of his own nature; that he will be fulfilling the latent desires of his heart; that he will be seeking his own pleasure; in fine, that he will be leading a happy life.

All this is taken for granted in Utopia, and the child's life is therefore one of unimpeded, though duly guided and stimulated, activity. Every instinct that makes for the expansion and elevation (for growth is always upward as well as outward) of the child's nature is given the freest possible play, and the whole organisation of the school is subordinated to this central end.

In order to find out what are the instincts which make for the expansion and elevation of the child's nature, and which education ought therefore to foster, we must do what Egeria has always done, we must observe young children, and study their ways and works. Now every healthy child wants to eat and drink, and to run about. Here are two instincts - the instinctive desire for physical nourishment, and the instinctive desire for physical exercise - through which Nature provides for the growth of the body. How does she provide for the growth of what we have agreed to call the soul? We need not be very careful observers of young children in order to satisfy ourselves that, apart from physical nourishment and exercise, there are six things which the child instinctively desires, namely:

(1) to talk and listen:
(2) to act (in the dramatic sense of the word):
(3) to draw, paint, and model:
(4) to dance and sing:
(5) to know the why of things:
(6) to construct things.

Let us consider each of these instincts, and try to determine its meaning and purpose.

(1) The child instinctively desires to enter into communion with other persons, - his parents, his brothers and sisters, his nurse, his governess, his little friends. He wants to talk to them, to tell them what he has done, seen, felt, thought; and he wants to hear what they have to tell him, - not only of what they themselves have done, but also of what other persons and other living things have done, in other times, in other countries, in other worlds. Later on, the desire to talk and listen will develop into the desire to write and read; but the desire will still be one for communion, for intercourse with other lives.

We will call this the communicative instinct.

(2) The child desires, not only to enter into communion with other persons and other living things, but also, in some sort, to identify his life with theirs. Watch him when he is playing with other children, or even when he is alone, except for the companionship of his dolls and toys. He is pretty sure to be acting, playing at make-believe, pretending to be something that he is not, some grown-up person of his acquaintance, some hero of history or romance, some traveller or other adventurer, some giant, dwarf, or fairy, some animal, wild or tame. He plays the part of one or other of these, and his playmates play other parts, and so a little drama is enacted. If he has no playmates, his dolls have to play their parts, or his toy animals have to be endowed with life, so that they may become fellow-actors with him on the stage that he has selected. No instinct is more inevitable, more sure to energise, than this.

We will call it the dramatic instinct.

In both these instincts the child is struggling to grow, to expand his being, by going out of himself, through the medium of sympathy and imagination - twin aspects of the same vital tendency - into the lives of other living beings. We will therefore call these the Sympathetic Instincts, and place them in a class by themselves.

(3) From his very babyhood the child delights in colour, and at a very early age he learns to love and understand pictures. Then comes the desire to make these for himself. Give him pencil and paper, give him chalk, charcoal, a paint-box, and other suitable materials, and he will set to work of his own accord to depict what he sees or has seen, either with his outward or his inward eye. Give him a lump of clay, and he will try to mould it into the likeness of something that has either attracted his attention, or presented itself to his imagination. In all these attempts he is trying, unknown to himself, to express his perception of, and delight in, the visible beauty of Nature. This instinct will expand, in the fullness of time, into a strong and subtle feeling for visible beauty, and into a restless desire to give expression to that feeling.

We will call this the artistic instinct, the word artistic being used, for lack of a more suitable term, in its narrow and conventional sense.

(4) While the child is still a baby in arms, his mother will sing to him, and dance him on her knee. This is her first attempt to initiate him into the mystery of music; and the response that he makes to her proves that she is a wise teacher, and is appealing to a genuinely natural faculty. It will not be long before he begins to dance and sing for himself. Watch the children in a London court or alley when a barrel-organ appears on the scene. Without having anyone to direct or teach them, they will come together and dance in couples, often with abundant grace and charm. Nature is their tutor. Her own rhythm, of which the musician must have caught an echo, is passing through their ears into their hearts and into their limbs. No instinct is so spontaneous as this. A child will whistle or sing while his mind is engaged on other things. If he is happy he will dance about as naturally, and almost as inevitably, as the leaves dance when the breeze passes through them.

We will call this the musical instinct. So elemental is it that man shares it, in some degree, with other living things. The birds are accomplished musicians, and their movements, and those of many other creatures, are full of rhythm and grace.

In both these instincts the child is struggling to grow, to expand his being, by going out of himself, in response to the attractive force of beauty, into that larger life which is at the heart of Nature, but which is not ours until we have made it our own. We will therefore call these the Aesthetic Instincts, and place them in a class by themselves.

(5) From a very early age the child desires to know the why and wherefore of things, to understand how effects are produced, to discover new facts, and pass on, if possible, to their causes. In response to the pressure of this instinct, the child breaks his toys in order that he may find out how they work, and asks innumerable questions which make him the terror and despair of his parents and the other "Olympians". No instinct is more insistent in the early days of the child's life. No instinct is more ruthlessly repressed by those to whom the education of the child is entrusted. No instinct dies out so completely (except so far as it is kept alive by purely utilitarian considerations) when education of the conventional type has done its deadly work. It has been said that children go to school ignorant but curious, and leave school ignorant and incurious. This gibe is the plain statement of a patent truth.

We will call this the inquisitive instinct.

(6) After analysis comes synthesis. The child pulls his toys to pieces in order that he may, if possible, reconstruct them, and so be the better able to control the working of them. The ends that he sets before himself are those which Comte set before the human race, - "savoir pour prévoir, afin de pouvoir: induire pour déduire, afin de construire". The desire to make things, to build things up, to control ways and means, to master the resources of Nature, to put his knowledge of her laws and facts to a practical use, is strong in his soul. Give him a box of bricks, and he will spend hours in building and rebuilding houses, churches, towers, and the like. Set him on a sandy shore, with a spade and a pail, and he will spend hours in constructing fortified castles with deep, encircling moats into which the sea may be duly admitted. Or he will make harness and whips of plaited rushes, armour of tea-paper, swords of tinplate, boxes and other articles of cardboard, wagons, engines, and other implements of wood.

We will call this the constructive instinct.

In both these instincts the child is struggling to grow, to expand his being, by going out of himself, through the correlated channels of theory and practice, into what I may call the machinery of Nature's life, - an aspect of that life which reveals its mysteries to reason rather than to emotion, or (to use the language of Eastern philosophy) to the faculties that try to find order in the Many, rather than to those which try to hold intercourse with the One. (2) Whichever channel he may use, - and indeed they are not so much two channels as one, for each in turn is for ever leading into and then passing out of the other, - his concern is always for "facts", for the actualities of things, for "objective truth". We will therefore call these the Scientific Instincts, and place them in a class by themselves.

There are six instincts, then, - six formative and expansive instincts - which Nature has implanted in every normal child, and which education, so far as it aims at being loyal to Nature, should take account of and try to foster. Two of these are sympathetic; two are aesthetic; two are scientific. In and through the sympathetic instincts the soul grows in the direction of love. In and through the aesthetic instincts the soul grows in the direction of beauty. In and through the scientific instincts the soul grows in the direction of truth. It is towards this triune goal that Nature herself is ever directing the growth of the growing child. The significance of this conclusion will unfold itself as we proceed.

These instincts manifest themselves in various ways, but chiefly in the direction that they give to that very serious occupation of young children which we call play. It is clear, then, that if these instincts are to be duly cultivated, the work of the school must be modelled, as far as possible, on the lines which children, when at play, spontaneously follow. This Egeria, with her inspired sagacity, has clearly seen; and she has taken her measures accordingly. In Utopia the school life of the child is all play, - play taken very seriously, play systematised, organised, provided with ample materials and ample opportunities, encouraged and stimulated in every possible way. Each of the fundamental instincts that manifest themselves in the child's play, and in doing so give a clear indication of Nature's aims in the child's life, and of the directions in which she wishes him to grow, is duly ministered to in this school, the current that wells up in and through it being skilfully guided into a suitable channel, and every obstacle to its free development being carefully removed. But the guidance which Egeria gives tends, as we shall see, to foster rather than fetter the freedom of the child. When the current has been led into a suitable channel, it is expected to shape its own further course, and even to impose on itself the limits - the containing walls - which are needed if its depth and strength are to be maintained.

Let us now consider each of the six instincts in turn, and see what special steps Egeria takes to foster its growth.

(1) The Communicative Instinct.

Through this instinct the child goes out of himself into the lives of other persons and other living things. The desire is in its essence one for intercourse, for communion, for the interchange of thoughts, of feelings, of experiences. The normal child is, as we all know, an inveterate chatterbox; but he is also a rapt listener. If he desires, as he certainly does, to tell others about himself, he desires, in no less a degree, to hear about others, either from themselves, or from those who are best able to tell him about them. The balance between the two desires is well maintained by Nature; and it should be carefully maintained by those who train the young, if the communicative instinct as a whole is to make healthy growth.

In too many elementary schools the instinct is systematically starved, the scholars being strictly forbidden to talk among themselves, while their conversational intercourse with their teacher is limited to receiving a certain amount of dry information, and giving this back, collectively or individually, when they are expressly directed to do so. The child's instinctive desire to converse, being deprived by education of its natural outlets, must needs force for itself the subterranean and illicit outlet of whispering in class, either under the teacher's nose, if he happens to be unobservant or indolent, or behind his back, if he happens to be vigilant and strict. And as the child is forbidden to talk about things which are wholesome and interesting, it is but natural that in his surreptitious conversations he should talk about things which are less edifying, things which are trivial and vulgar, or even unwholesome and unclean. Children are naturally obedient and truthful; but in their attempts to find outlets for healthy activities which are wantonly repressed, they will go far down the inclined plane of disobedience and deceit.
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