« AnteriorContinua »
of classical attainments and abstruse studies among the higher, or of dogmas and peculiar notions among the lower classes. For although religion ought to be both the alpha and omega of instruction, it ought not to exclude the study and comprehension of all those wonderful works of nature and art with which the visible creation abounds, and the mind of man teems. Our systems of education in this country are culpably wrong in this particular; but the time is coming when a new and a stronger impulse will be given to the great work. The public, the popular mind is roused to the subject; and the English people will no more put up with that sophistry which keeps the word of promise to the ear, but breaks it to the hope," in Education, than they would with negro slavery, or any of those gross iniquities from which they have already emancipated themselves.
ON THE IMPORTANCE OF MENTAL PHILOSOPHY, AS
BY THOMAS HEAPHY, JUN.
THERE are few arrangements which more strongly characterize the present artificial state of society, and more decidedly mark the entire departure from truth and nature, than the system of education which is had recourse to by the present generation. That powerful engine, which is destined to improve as well as enlighten mankind, has been but little studied, and if possible but less understood: through ignorance of its principles, we have been denied the most beneficial effects of its application, and through the neglect of many material parts thereof, man has been deprived of those benefits which might, and which ought to have ensued.
Nor is it to the present age alone, that we would attribute these deficiencies. Through ignorance of its fundamental principles, the ancients as well as the moderns, have misdirected the power of education, and like them have experienced the same effect from its misapplication.
In carefully reviewing the notions of instruction and philosophy most in vogue, in former as well as present times, we discover nothing but a mass of incongruities, and of the most palpable and distressing anomalies; we find men, who, uniting in themselves vast wisdom and philosophic knowledge, with the most total ignorance of human capabilities, and of human passions, attempt to give to the world regulations for the guidance and improvement of human beings.
Little, very little, could the renowned doctors of other times have studied the constitution of mankind, when they taught, that to be happy we should be apathetic, and that to be virtuous we should be rigid; and in spending a life in one continued struggle to free ourselves from those passions and sensibilities with which nature, in her infinite wisdom, has endowed us, we should tear our heart from out' our bosoms, and offer it up a bleeding sacrifice to philosophy.
But injudicious and inexpedient as this system may appear, it was surrounded and followed by others even still more pernicious. Pleasure was extolled as the only object worthy of man's exertions, or of man's attainment; and virtue was only to be considered in as far as it contributed to his gratification. From the most rigid philosophy to the most unbounded sensuality, transition was complete, and that man only was accounted a sage, who in his actions and desires debased himself the most, and who approximated nearest to the creation which he was appointed to govern. These were the badly conceived, and illdigested principles, by which they taught man the object of his creation, and the worship of that God who made him.
Succeeding ages brought with them succeeding principles, which operating in conjunction with other causes, reduced mankind to a state of the most complete degradation, both moral and intellectual, paralized its energies, and left it in that state of mental darkness from which he was in no degree rescued, until the Christian heirarchy disseminated another code, another creed, another philosophy. But although learning might have again become resuscitated, although the arts once more flourished; that most important part of man's education, which is intended to acquaint him with his own state, with his own moral and social obligations, with his own capabilities, and with his own destinies, was much if not altogether neglected; he was taught to receive those notions as dogmas, which he ought to have fully comprehended and to have clearly understood. In this respect the education even of the present day but little excels that of the past; and we are still taught to regard those things as mysteries, which we ought to be made acquainted with as fixed and immutable laws. This has been the cause of those various and complicated evils, which are to be met with in every state of society, and in every stage of our existence. Mankind have continually been building on false and deceitful foundations, and rearing pyramids of notions, which, having no support, must shortly vanish, and totally disappear; anarchy and confusion have sprung up where there ought to be peace and concord, and dissent has everywhere predominated, until, on many subjects, as many opinions are held as there are human beings to entertain them.
Having thus exhibited a few of the disadvantages attending the modes of education which have hitherto been had recourse to, it becomes necessary to point out a few of those evils and errors which have prevailed universally among them, in order to discover some better and more perfect plan, for the development and improvement of the faculties of the mind of man.
It appears the principal error in all of these systems is, the ignorance that has generally been displayed, of the necessity of commencing education by instilling into the mind an adequate knowledge of mental philosophy, and of the principles, the laws, the mode, and the object of its own existence. Man is formed so as to have intellectual contemplation of things beyond the common world before him. These contemplations are sufficient in themselves, to provide man with a sure and infallible guide for his conduct in this his probationary existence. They form the study which Socrates called the "master pursuit," the
"important science." This is the science of the moral laws of nature, which leads us to an acquaintance with ourselves, which leads us to form an idea of a God.
Among our philosophers, Locke, Burke, Bacon, and many others, have turned their attention to this subject; and have given to the world much valuable information-much really useful knowledge. But it was reserved for Immanuel Kant, to introduce a mental science which on account of its truth and its perfection, must endure permanent and immutable to the end of time. This is the work which acquaints man with the elements of his own mind, with the nature and object of his own existence; this is the code which points out to him the necessity of a future state, the necessity of a moral law, and the absolute necessity of a God. It proves to man his own accountability, the fact of recompense and punishment in a future existence, and in short establishes for ever, the pure, the perfect, and the incontrovertible truths of Christianity, as taught by Christ and his Apostles.
These few principles when established, will be sufficient to found the religion of mankind. The whole earth will be the temple of this religion, where all forms of worship may present themselves; and the gospel shall erect its transcendent and immutable truths upon the ruins of the multitudinous rites, the vast variety of ceremonies, the dog. mas and creeds of a thousand nations. Thus will religion be erected into a sacred science; thus will one universal creed be acknowledged by the whole human family; and all rational beings will be brought to worship one God in truth and in spirituality, in trinity and in unity. Thus will the commotions and convulsions which have, for so long a time, retarded the progress of civilization among men, for ever cease; anarchy and confusion will for ever disappear; religion and philosophy will walk hand in hand together; and man reaping the advantages of this happy state, will cease to be the ignorant, vain, and little thing which he now is, and will be transformed into the image of his Maker, into the likeness of the living God.
One of the principal faults of the methods of religious instruction now in common use, is, the desultory and injudicious manner in which it is generally applied. Instead of a child being taught religion as a systematic and a sacred science, it is taught a number of words of which it knows not the meaning, and a vast fund of infantile eloquence, before it comprehends one word of what it utters. When its understanding and its mental powers are a little more developed, the pure and scientific truths of Christianity are impressed upon it as so many occult mysteries; and notions of theology are instilled into it as so many dogmas, which it would be the highest crime in it to doubt, or even for a moment to reason upon. The consequence of this is, that in after life, when a young person necessarily comes in contact with many others, who entertain notions on sacred subjects which widely differ from his own, he finds that he is utterly unable to cope with them in a single argument, and that through knowing no firm basis or support for his own tenets, he is quite unable to maintain one of them against an infidel antagonist; whereas, if his reason and judgment had been addressed, instead of his superstition, if the truths
of Scripture had been imparted to him in a scientific instead of a dogmatic manner, he would be able to cope in controversy, with the strongest, and to maintain his opinions against the most clever of his opponents.
Mental Philosophy is a science which women should learn as well as men: women should be sufficiently acquainted with it in order to be able to impress upon their children those moral truths which are to be their guide in all the occurrences and in all their affairs in active life; and in order likewise to be well acquainted with the nature and faculties of that understanding, which it is her especial province to assist in developing. Instead of this, we often see a young female who has left her father's house to become a wife: she has become a mother-and then her hours of anxiety begin; she reads, over and over, Locke, Bacon, Burke, Fenelon, Beaumont, Guizet, and many others; and in the midst of her laborious researches, she feels instinctively that to be the competent teacher of her child, she must begin by being herself fresh instructed. In this state of mind the first right step undoubtedly is, to attend less to the different acquirements with which she might wish to endow her child; and more to the feeling and virtues with which she ought to inspire it. A good mother will then seize upon her child's mind as her special field of activity to be capable of this, is the great end of female education; to be capable of this, they must be taken out of their present narrow circle of acquirements, and introduced at once to what makes human beings happier and better; it is a field of philosophy, of ethics, of religion, that opens before them. Their mission is to lead their children into this world of philosophy, of ethics, of religion.
These are the principles on which education ought to be conducted, and by which man should be enabled to make the best use of those faculties with which his Creator has endowed him. And these are the only means by which man can attain that great desideratum, that most valuable knowledge-the knowledge of himself.
Shall I to the church-yard go,
Let us take some flowers home,
We can play, and love our school;
'Tis well to learn, and well to roam,
In wisdom's happy rule.
REVIEW OF BOOKS.
Lectures on the means of promoting and preserving Health, delivered at the Mechanics' Institute, Spitalfields. By T. Hodgkin, M.D. J. and A. Arch, Cornhill.—pp. 449.
THE Mechanics Institutes may be considered as the results of the more general diffusion of education which first began to be prevalent about 30 years ago, and there are no institutions that more clearly demonstrate its good effects: we speak this advisedly, and under the conviction too, that bad men have sometimes become the leaders of their members for their own selfish and ambitious purposes; that error has frequently been promulgated from, or rather upon their assemblies; that from among them political parties have sprung up, and unions have sometimes arisen, which threatened to make the rulers, as well as the governed, tremble; and which would have done so, but for men of pure philanthropy, of honest purpose, and of that high christianized philosophy which possesses the moral daring to speak the truth, although the truth may be disagreeable-to vindicate justice, although she may bear all the opprobrium of injustice and tyranny,—that refusing to pander to the libertinism of the popular notions, would, nevertheless, support freedom of inquiry and of speech, and with the same fearless energies that delighted rather to withstand, than flatter, the cox populi, would advocate intellectual and moral improvement, ad infinitum, among the people, in defiance of those more vulgar prejudices, which would withhold it.
Dr. Hodgkin is one of these, and in the lectures before us, has perhaps performed as great a service to those for whom the lectures are designed, as if he had established a public dispensary at his own cost, for the cure of disease; for the work, small as it is, comprehends so much that may be applied to the prevention of those maladies to which, from the various employments in which they are engaged, they are peculiarly subject, as to render it in a very high degree, valuable to them, and to all who have, and have not, a wish for that summum bonum, a sound mind in a sound body.
The volume consists of four lectures; the first is devoted to the subjects of air, light, cleanliness, clothing, &c. In dilating upon those subjects, the utile dulci is continually kept in view; home maxims and practical rules are interspersed with philosophic illustrations of the highest interest, from which the principles of the rules given are easily acquired; as an instance we take the following:
“A function or process, in its nature resembling what we call respiration or breathing, is performed by all living beings. Even plants breathe, and their leaves are the organs, by which their respiration is performed. Polypi, of which you have an example in the jelly fish, and zoophites, of of which you may take sponge for an example, which constitute the lowest links in the chain of animals, perform this function by the whole of their exposed surfaces; but in all animals higher than these, there is a special apparatus for this purpose. In those which live in the water we find various modifications of gills. Thus, in the lobster and crab, which belong to a class of animals called crustacea, you know there are spongy bodies called by some VOL. I.-June, 1835.