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No. XLIX.-WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 13th, 1820.
THOUGIITS AND GUESSES ON HUMAN NATURE.
CONFUSION OF MODES OF BEING.
People undertake to settle what ideas they shall have under such and such circumstances of being, when it is nothing but their present state of being, that enables them to have those ideas.
VARIETY OF THE COLOURS OP PERCEPTION. There is reason to suppose, that our perceptions and sensations are much more different then we imagine, even upon the most ordinary things, such as visible objects in general, and the sense of existence. We have enough in common, for common intercourse; but the details are dissimilar, as we may perceive in the variety of palates. All people are agreed upon sweet and sour; but one man prefers sour to sweet, and another this and that variety of sour and sweet. then is the use of attempting to make them agree?” Why, we may try to make them agree upon certain general modes of thinking and means of pleasure:-we may colour their existence in the gross, though he must leave the particular shades to come out by themselves. We may enrich their stock of ideas, though we cannot controul the items of the expenditure.
But what if we cannot do even this?” The question is answered by experience. Whole nations and ages have already been altered in their modes of thinking. Even if it were otherwise, the endeavour is itself one of the varieties; one of the modes of opinion and means of pleasure. Besides, Cannor is the motto peither of knowledge nor humility. There is more of pride, and ignorance, and despair, in it, than of the modesty of wisdom. It would settle not only the past, but the future, and it would settle the future, merely because the past has not been influenced by those that use it.
Who are these men that measure futurity by the shadow of their own littleness? It is as if the loose stones lying about a foundation were to say,
- You can build no higher than our heads."
SUPERSTITION AND DOCTRINE.
Superstition attempts to settle every thing by assertion; which never did do, and never will. And like all assertors, even well-inclined ones, it shews its conscious feebleness in anger and threatening. It commands us to take its problems for granted, on pain of being tied up to a triangle. Then come its advocates, and assert that this mode of treatment is proper and logical: which is making bad worse. The worst of all is, that this is the way in which the finest doctrines in the world are obstructed. They are like an excellent child, making the Grand Tour with a foolish overbearing tutor. The tutor runs chance of spoiling the child, and makes their presence disagreeable wherever they go, except to their tradesmen. Let us hope the child has done with his tutor.
SECOND THOUGHT ON THE VARIETY OF TIJE COLOURS OP PERCEPTION. We may gather from what we read of diseased imaginations, how much our perceptions depend upon the modification of our being. We see, how personal and inexperienced we are when we determine that such and such ideas must take place under other circumstances, and such and such truths be always indisputable. Pleasure must always be pleasure, and pain be pain, because these are only names for certain results. But the results themselves will be pleasur able or painful, according to what they act upon. A man in health becomes sickly; he has a fever, is light-headed, is hypochondriacal. Iliy ideas are deranged, or re-arrange themselves; and a set of new perceptions, and colourings of his existence, take place, as in a Kaleidoscope when we shake it. The conclusion is, that every alteration of our physical particles, or of whatever else we are compounded with, produces a different set of perceptions and sensations. What we call health of body and mind is the fittest state of our composition upon earth: but the state of perception which is sickly to our state of existence, may be healthy to another.
Of all impositions on the public, the greatest seems to be death. It resembles the threatening faces on each side the Treasury. Or rather, it is a necessary bar to our tendency to move forward. Nature sends us out of her hand with such an impetus towards increase of enjoyment, that something is obliged to be set at the end of the avenue we are in, to moderate our bias and make us enjoy the present being. Death serves to make us think, not of itself, but of what is about us.
CHILDHOOD AND KNOWLEDGE.
When children are in good health and temper, they have a sense of existence which seems too exquisite to last. It is made up of clearness of blood, freshness of perception, and trustingness of heart. We remember the time, when the green rails along a set of suburb gardens used to fill us with a series of holiday and rural sensations perfectly intoxicating. According to the state of our health, we have sunny glimpses of this feeling still; to say nothing of many other pleasures, which have paid us for many pains. The best time to catch them is early in the morning, at sun-rise, out in the country. And we will here add, that life never perhaps feels such a return of fresh and young feeling upon it, as in early rising on a fine morning, whether in country or town. The healthiness of it, the quiet, the consciousness of havivg done a sort of young action (not to add a wise one), and the sense of power it gives you over the coming day, produce a mixture of lightness and self-possession in one's feelings, which a sick man must not despair of because he does not feel it the first morning. But even this reform should be adopted by degrees. The best way to recommend it is to begin with allowing fair play to the other side of the question. (See No. 15, page 117.) To return to our main point. After child. hood, comes a knowledge of evil, or a sophisticate and unhealthy mode of life; or one produces the other, and both are embittered. Every thing tells us to get back to a state of childhood,--pain, pleasure, imagination, reason, passion, natural affection or piety, the better part of religion. If knowledge is supposed to be incompatible with it, knowledge would sacrifice hersell, if necessary, to the same cause, for she also tells us to do so. But as a little knowledge first leads us away from happiness, so a greater knowledge may be destined to bring us back into a finer region of it.
KNOWLEDGE AND UNHAPPINESS.
It is not knowledge that makes us happy as we grow up, but the knowledge of unhappiness. Yet as unhappiness existed when we knew it not, it becomes us all to be acquainted with it, that we may all have the chance of bettering the condition of our species. Who would say
to himself, I would be happy, though all my fellow-creatures were miserable ?" Knowledge must heal what it wounds, and extend the happiness which it has taken away. It must do by our comfort, as a friend may do by one's books; enrich it with its comments. One man grows up and gets unhealthy without know.. ledge; another, with it. The former suffers and does not know why. He is unhappy, and he sees unhappiness, but he can do nothing either for himself or others. The latter suffers, and discovers why. IIe suffers even more, because he knows more; but he learns also how to diminish suffering in others. lle learns too to apply his knowledge to his own case; and he sees that as he himself suffers from the world's want of knowledge, so the progress of knowledge would take away both the world's sufferings and his own. The efforts to this end worry him perlaps, and make him sickly; upon which, thinking is pronounced to be injurious to health. And it
under these circumstances. What then, if it betters the health of the many ? But thinking may also teach him how to be healthier. A game of cricket on a green may do-for him, what no want of thought would have done: and on the other hand, if he shows a want of thought upon
these points, then the inference is easy : he is not so thinking a man as you took him for. Addison should have got on horseback, instead of walking up and down a room in his house, with a bottle of wine at each end of it. Shakspeare divided his time between town and country, and in the latter part of his life, built, and planted, and petted his daughter Susanna. Solomon in his old age played the Anacreon; and with Milton's leave, 66 his wisest heart” was not so much out in this matter, as when his royal impatience induced him to say that every thing was vanity.
COULDHOOD OLD AGE-OUR DESTINY.
There appears to be something in the composition of humanity like what we have observed in that of music. The musician's first thought is apt to be his finest: he must carry it on, and make a second part to his air; and he becomes inferior. Nature in like manner (if we may speak it without profaneness) appears to succeed best in making childhood and youth. The symphony is a little perturbed; but in what a sprightly manner the air sets off! What purity! What grace! What touching simplicity! Then comes sii!, or the notion of it, and 6 breaks the fair music." Well did a wiser than 6 the wisest heart” bid us try and continue children. But there are foolish as well as wise children, and it is a special mark of the former, whether little or grown, to affect manhood, and to confound it with cunning and violence.--Do men die', in order that life and its freshness may be as often and as multitudinously renewed as possible? Or do children grow old, that our consciousness may attain to some better mode of being through a rough path? Superstition answers only to perplex us, and make us partial. Nature answers nothing. But Nature's calm and resolute silence tells us at once to hope for the future, and to do our best to enjoy the present. What if it is the aim of her workmanship to produce self-moving instruments, that may carry forward their own good ?
66 A modest thought,” you will say. Yet it is more allied to some doctrines celebrated for their humility, then you may suppose. Vanity, in speculations earnest and affectionate, is a charge to be made culy by vanity. What has it to do with them?
Either this world (to use the style of Marcus Antoninus) is meant to be what it is, or it is not. If it is not, then our endeavours to resia der it otherwise are right :-if it is, then we must be as we are, and seek excitement through the same means, and our endeavours are still right. In either case, endeavour is good and useful; but in one of them, the want of it must le a mistake.
GOOD AND EVIL.
Nature is justified (to speak humanly) in the ordinary state of the world, granting it is never to be made better, because the sum of good upon the whole is greater than that of evil. For in the list of goods we are not only to rank all the more obvious pleasures which we agree to call such, but much that is ranked under the head of mere excitement, taking hope for the ground of it, and action for the means. But we have no right, on that account, to abstain from endeavouring to better the condition of our species, were it only for the sake of individual sullering. Nature, who is infinite, has a right to act in the gross. Nothing but an infinite suffering should make her stop; and that should make her stop, were the individual who infinitely suffered the only inhabitant of his hell. IIcaven and Earth should petition to be abolished, rather than that one such monstrosity should exist: it is the absurdest as well as most impious of all the dreams of fear. To suppose that a Divine Being can sympathize with our happiness, is to suppose that he can sympathize with our misery ; but to suppose that he can sympathize with misery, and yet susser infinite misery to exist, rather than put an end to misery and happiness together, is to contradict his sympathy with happiness, and to make him prefer a positive evil to a negative oue, the existence of torment to the cessation of feeling. As nature therefore, if considered at all, must be considered as regu. lated in her operations, though infinite, we must look to fugitive suf'fering as nature must gaard against permanent; she carves out our work for us in the gross: we must attend to it in the detail. To leave every thing to her, would be to settle into another mode of existence, or stagnate into death. If it be said that she will take care of us at all" events, we answer, first, that she does uot do so in the ordinary details of life, neither earns our food for us, nor washes our bodies, nor writes our books; secondly, that of things useful-!ooking and uncertain, she incites us to know the profit and probability, and thirdly, (as we have hinted in a previous cbservation), that not knowing how far we may carry on the impulse of improvement, towards which she has given us a bias, it becomes us on every ground, both of ignorance and wisdom,
DEGRADING IDEAS OF DEITY.
The superstitious, in their coutradictory representations of God, call him virtuous and benevolent out of the same passion of fear as induces them to make him such a tyrant. They think they shall be damned if they do not believe him the tyrant he is described :--they think they shall be damned also, if they do not gratuitously ascribe to him the virtues incompatible with damnation. Being so unworthy of praise, they think he will be particularly angry at not being praised. They shudder to think themselves better, "and hasten to make amends for it by declaring themselves as worthless as he is worthy.
GREAT DISTINCTION TO BE MADE IN BIGOTS.
There are two sorts of religious bigots, the unheathy and the unfeeling. The fear of the former is mixed with humanity, and they never succeed in thinking themselves favourites of God, but their sense of security is embittered, by aversions which they dare not own to themselves, and terror for the fate of those who are not so lucky. The unfeeling bigot is a mere unimaginative animal, whose thoughts are confined to the snugness of his own kennel, and who would have a good one in the next world as well as in this. He secures a place in