Memories and Studies
by William James
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A deadly listlessness would come over most men's imagination of the future if they could seriously be brought to believe that never again in soecula soeculorum would a war trouble human history. In such a stagnant summer afternoon of a world, where would be the zest or interest?

This is the constitution of human nature which we have to work against. The plain truth is that people want war. They want it anyhow; for itself, and apart from each and every possible consequence. It is the final bouquet of life's fireworks. The born soldiers want it hot and actual. The non-combatants want it in the background, and always as an open possibility, to feed imagination on and keep excitement going. Its clerical and historical defenders fool themselves when they talk as they do about it. What moves them is not the blessings it has won for us, but a vague religious exaltation. War is human nature at its uttermost. We are here to do our uttermost. It is a sacrament. Society would rot without the mystical blood-payment.

We do ill, I think, therefore, to talk much of universal peace or of a general disarmament. We must go in for preventive medicine, not for radical cure. We must cheat our foe, circumvent him in detail, not try to change his nature. In one respect war is like love, though in no other. Both leave us intervals of rest; and in the intervals life goes on perfectly well without them, though the imagination still dallies with their possibility. Equally insane when once aroused and under headway, whether they shall be aroused or not depends on accidental circumstances. How are old maids and old bachelors made? Not by deliberate vows of celibacy, but by sliding on from year to year with no sufficient matrimonial provocation. So of the nations with their wars. Let the general possibility of war be left open, in Heaven's name, for the imagination to dally with. Let the soldiers dream of killing, as the old maids dream of marrying.

But organize in every conceivable way the practical machinery for making each successive chance of war abortive. Put peace men in power; educate the editors and statesmen to responsibility. How beautifully did their trained responsibility in England make the Venezuela incident abortive! Seize every pretext, however small, for arbitration methods, and multiply the precedents; foster rival excitements, and invent new outlets for heroic energy; and from one generation to another the chances are that irritation will grow less acute and states of strain less dangerous among the nations. Armies and navies will continue, of course, and fire the minds of populations with their potentialities of greatness. But their officers will find that somehow or other, with no deliberate intention on any one's part, each successive "incident" has managed to evaporate and to lead nowhere, and that the thought of what might have been remains their only consolation.

The last weak runnings of the war spirit will be "punitive expeditions." A country that turns its arms only against uncivilized foes is, I think, wrongly taunted as degenerate. Of course it has ceased to be heroic in the old grand style. But I verily believe that this is because it now sees something better. It has a conscience. It will still perpetrate peccadillos. But it is afraid, afraid in the good sense, to engage in absolute crimes against civilization.

[1] Published in the Official Report of the Universal Peace Congress, held in Boston in 1904, and in the Atlantic Monthly, December, 1904.



Of what use is a college training? We who have had it seldom hear the question raised; we might be a little nonplussed to answer it offhand. A certain amount of meditation has brought me to this as the pithiest reply which I myself can give: The best claim that a college education can possibly make on your respect, the best thing it can aspire to accomplish for you, is this: that it should help you to know a good man when you see him. This is as true of women's as of men's colleges; but that it is neither a joke nor a one-sided abstraction I shall now endeavor to show.

What talk do we commonly hear about the contrast between college education and the education which business or technical or professional schools confer? The college education is called higher because it is supposed to be so general and so disinterested. At the "schools" you get a relatively narrow practical skill, you are told, whereas the "colleges" give you the more liberal culture, the broader outlook, the historical perspective, the philosophic atmosphere, or something which phrases of that sort try to express. You are made into an efficient instrument for doing a definite thing, you hear, at the schools; but, apart from that, you may remain a crude and smoky kind of petroleum, incapable of spreading light. The universities and colleges, on the other hand, although they may leave you less efficient for this or that practical task, suffuse your whole mentality with something more important than skill. They redeem you, make you well-bred; they make "good company" of you mentally. If they find you with a naturally boorish or caddish mind, they cannot leave you so, as a technical school may leave you. This, at least, is pretended; this is what we hear among college-trained people when they compare their education with every other sort. Now, exactly how much does this signify?

It is certain, to begin with, that the narrowest trade or professional training does something more for a man than to make a skilful practical tool of him—it makes him also a judge of other men's skill. Whether his trade be pleading at the bar or surgery or plastering or plumbing, it develops a critical sense in him for that sort of occupation. He understands the difference between second-rate and first-rate work in his whole branch of industry; he gets to know a good job in his own line as soon as he sees it; and getting to know this in his own line, he gets a faint sense of what good work may mean anyhow, that may, if circumstances favor, spread into his judgments elsewhere. Sound work, clean work, finished work: feeble work, slack work, sham work—these words express an identical contrast in many different departments of activity. In so far forth, then, even the humblest manual trade may beget in one a certain small degree of power to judge of good work generally.

Now, what is supposed to be the line of us who have the higher college training? Is there any broader line—since our education claims primarily not to be "narrow"—in which we also are made good judges between what is first-rate and what is second-rate only? What is especially taught in the colleges has long been known by the name of the "humanities," and these are often identified with Greek and Latin. But it is only as literatures, not as languages, that Greek and Latin have any general humanity-value; so that in a broad sense the humanities mean literature primarily, and in a still broader sense the study of masterpieces in almost any field of human endeavor. Literature keeps the primacy; for it not only consists of masterpieces, but is largely about masterpieces, being little more than an appreciative chronicle of human master-strokes, so far as it takes the form of criticism and history. You can give humanistic value to almost anything by teaching it historically. Geology, economics, mechanics, are humanities when taught with reference to the successive achievements of the geniuses to which these sciences owe their being. Not taught thus literature remains grammar, art a catalogue, history a list of dates, and natural science a sheet of formulas and weights and measures.

The sifting of human creations!—nothing less than this is what we ought to mean by the humanities. Essentially this means biography; what our colleges should teach is, therefore, biographical history, that not of politics merely, but of anything and everything so far as human efforts and conquests are factors that have played their part. Studying in this way, we learn what types of activity have stood the test of time; we acquire standards of the excellent and durable. All our arts and sciences and institutions are but so many quests of perfection on the part of men; and when we see how diverse the types of excellence may be, how various the tests, how flexible the adaptations, we gain a richer sense of what the terms "better" and "worse" may signify in general. Our critical sensibilities grow both more acute and less fanatical. We sympathize with men's mistakes even in the act of penetrating them; we feel the pathos of lost causes and misguided epochs even while we applaud what overcame them.

Such words are vague and such ideas are inadequate, but their meaning is unmistakable. What the colleges—teaching humanities by examples which may be special, but which must be typical and pregnant—should at least try to give us, is a general sense of what, under various disguises, superiority has always signified and may still signify. The feeling for a good human job anywhere, the admiration of the really admirable, the disesteem of what is cheap and trashy and impermanent,—this is what we call the critical sense, the sense for ideal values. It is the better part of what men know as wisdom. Some of us are wise in this way naturally and by genius; some of us never become so. But to have spent one's youth at college, in contact with the choice and rare and precious, and yet still to be a blind prig or vulgarian, unable to scent out human excellence or to divine it amid its accidents, to know it only when ticketed and labelled and forced on us by others, this indeed should be accounted the very calamity and shipwreck of a higher education.

The sense for human superiority ought, then, to be considered our line, as boring subways is the engineer's line and the surgeon's is appendicitis. Our colleges ought to have lit up in us a lasting relish for the better kind of man, a loss of appetite for mediocrities, and a disgust for cheap jacks. We ought to smell, as it were, the difference of quality in men and their proposals when we enter the world of affairs about us. Expertness in this might well atone for some of our awkwardness at accounts, for some of our ignorance of dynamos. The best claim we can make for the higher education, the best single phrase in which we can tell what it ought to do for us, is, then, exactly what I said: it should enable us to know a good man when we see him.

That the phrase is anything but an empty epigram follows from the fact that if you ask in what line it is most important that a democracy like ours should have its sons and daughters skilful, you see that it is this line more than any other. "The people in their wisdom"—this is the kind of wisdom most needed by the people. Democracy is on its trial, and no one knows how it will stand the ordeal. Abounding about us are pessimistic prophets. Fickleness and violence used to be, but are no longer, the vices which they charge to democracy. What its critics now affirm is that its preferences are inveterately for the inferior. So it was in the beginning, they say, and so it will be world without end. Vulgarity enthroned and institutionalized, elbowing everything superior from the highway, this, they tell us, is our irremediable destiny; and the picture-papers of the European continent are already drawing Uncle Sam with the hog instead of the eagle for his heraldic emblem. The privileged aristocracies of the foretime, with all their iniquities, did at least preserve some taste for higher human quality, and honor certain forms of refinement by their enduring traditions. But when democracy is sovereign, its doubters say, nobility will form a sort of invisible church, and sincerity and refinement, stripped of honor, precedence, and favor, will have to vegetate on sufferance in private corners. They will have no general influence. They will be harmless eccentricities.

Now, who can be absolutely certain that this may not be the career of democracy? Nothing future is quite secure; states enough have inwardly rotted; and democracy as a whole may undergo self-poisoning. But, on the other hand, democracy is a kind of religion, and we are bound not to admit its failure. Faiths and Utopias are the noblest exercise of human reason, and no one with a spark of reason in him will sit down fatalistically before the croaker's picture. The best of us are filled with the contrary vision of a democracy stumbling through every error till its institutions glow with justice and its customs shine with beauty. Our better men shall show the way and we shall follow them; so we are brought round again to the mission of the higher education in helping us to know the better kind of man whenever we see him.

The notion that a people can run itself and its affairs anonymously is now well known to be the silliest of absurdities. Mankind does nothing save through initiatives on the part of inventors, great or small, and imitation by the rest of us—these are the sole factors active in human progress. Individuals of genius show the way, and set the patterns, which common people then adopt and follow. The rivalry of the patterns is the history of the world. Our democratic problem thus is statable in ultra-simple terms: Who are the kind of men from whom our majorities shall take their cue? Whom shall they treat as rightful leaders? We and our leaders are the x and the y of the equation here; all other historic circumstances, be they economical, political, or intellectual, are only the background of occasion on which the living drama works itself out between us.

In this very simple way does the value of our educated class define itself: we more than others should be able to divine the worthier and better leaders. The terms here are monstrously simplified, of course, but such a bird's-eye view lets us immediately take our bearings. In our democracy, where everything else is so shifting, we alumni and alumnae of the colleges are the only permanent presence that corresponds to the aristocracy in older countries. We have continuous traditions, as they have; our motto, too, is noblesse oblige; and, unlike them, we stand for ideal interests solely, for we have no corporate selfishness and wield no powers of corruption. We ought to have our own class-consciousness. "Les Intellectuels!" What prouder club-name could there be than this one, used ironically by the party of "redblood," the party of every stupid prejudice and passion, during the anti-Dreyfus craze, to satirize the men in France who still retained some critical sense and judgment! Critical sense, it has to be confessed, is not an exciting term, hardly a banner to carry in processions. Affections for old habit, currents of self-interest, and gales of passion are the forces that keep the human ship moving; and the pressure of the judicious pilot's hand upon the tiller is a relatively insignificant energy. But the affections, passions, and interests are shifting, successive, and distraught; they blow in alternation while the pilot's hand is steadfast. He knows the compass, and, with all the leeways he is obliged to tack toward, he always makes some headway. A small force, if it never lets up, will accumulate effects more considerable than those of much greater forces if these work inconsistently. The ceaseless whisper of the more permanent ideals, the steady tug of truth and justice, give them but time, must warp the world in their direction.

This bird's-eye view of the general steering function of the college-bred amid the driftings of democracy ought to help us to a wider vision of what our colleges themselves should aim at. If we are to be the yeast-cake for democracy's dough, if we are to make it rise with culture's preferences, we must see to it that culture spreads broad sails. We must shake the old double reefs out of the canvas into the wind and sunshine, and let in every modern subject, sure that any subject will prove humanistic, if its setting be kept only wide enough.

Stevenson says somewhere to his reader: "You think you are just making this bargain, but you are really laying down a link in the policy of mankind." Well, your technical school should enable you to make your bargain splendidly; but your college should show you just the place of that kind of bargain—a pretty poor place, possibly—in the whole policy of mankind. That is the kind of liberal outlook, of perspective, of atmosphere, which should surround every subject as a college deals with it.

We of the colleges must eradicate a curious notion which numbers of good people have about such ancient seats of learning as Harvard. To many ignorant outsiders, the name suggests little more than a kind of sterilized conceit and incapacity for being pleased. In Edith Wyatt's exquisite book of Chicago sketches called "Every One his Own Way" there is a couple who stand for culture in the sense of exclusiveness, Richard Elliot and his feminine counterpart—feeble caricatures of mankind, unable to know any good thing when they see it, incapable of enjoyment unless a printed label gives them leave. Possibly this type of culture may exist near Cambridge and Boston. There may be specimens there, for priggishness is just like painter's colic or any other trade-disease. But every good college makes its students immune against this malady, of which the microbe haunts the neighborhood of printed pages. It does so by its general tone being too hearty for the microbe's life. Real culture lives by sympathies and admirations, not by dislikes and disdains; under all misleading wrappings it pounces unerringly upon the human core. If a college, through the inferior human influences that have grown regnant there, fails to catch the robuster tone, its failure is colossal, for its social function stops: democracy gives it a wide berth, turns toward it a deaf ear.

"Tone," to be sure, is a terribly vague word to use, but there is no other, and this whole meditation is over questions of tone. By their tone are all things human either lost or saved. If democracy is to be saved it must catch the higher, healthier tone. If we are to impress it with our preferences, we ourselves must use the proper tone, which we, in turn, must have caught from our own teachers. It all reverts in the end to the action of innumerable imitative individuals upon each other and to the question of whose tone has the highest spreading power. As a class, we college graduates should look to it that ours has spreading power. It ought to have the highest spreading power.

In our essential function of indicating the better men, we now have formidable competitors outside. McClure's Magazine, the American Magazine, Collier's Weekly, and, in its fashion, the World's Work, constitute together a real popular university along this very line. It would be a pity if any future historian were to have to write words like these: "By the middle of the twentieth century the higher institutions of learning had lost all influence over public opinion in the United States. But the mission of raising the tone of democracy, which they had proved themselves so lamentably unfitted to exert, was assumed with rare enthusiasm and prosecuted with extraordinary skill and success by a new educational power; and for the clarification of their human sympathies and elevation of their human preferences, the people at large acquired the habit of resorting exclusively to the guidance of certain private literary adventures, commonly designated in the market by the affectionate name of ten-cent magazines."

Must not we of the colleges see to it that no historian shall ever say anything like this? Vague as the phrase of knowing a good man when you see him may be, diffuse and indefinite as one must leave its application, is there any other formula that describes so well the result at which our institutions ought to aim? If they do that, they do the best thing conceivable. If they fail to do it, they fail in very deed. It surely is a fine synthetic formula. If our faculties and graduates could once collectively come to realize it as the great underlying purpose toward which they have always been more or less obscurely groping, a great clearness would be shed over many of their problems; and, as for their influence in the midst of our social system, it would embark upon a new career of strength.

[1] Address delivered at a meeting of the Association of American Alumnae at Radcliffe College, November 7, 1907, and first published in McClure's Magazine for February, 1908.




Some years ago we had at our Harvard Graduate School a very brilliant student of Philosophy, who, after leaving us and supporting himself by literary labor for three years, received an appointment to teach English Literature at a sister-institution of learning. The governors of this institution, however, had no sooner communicated the appointment than they made the awful discovery that they had enrolled upon their staff a person who was unprovided with the Ph.D. degree. The man in question had been satisfied to work at Philosophy for her own sweet (or bitter) sake, and had disdained to consider that an academic bauble should be his reward.

His appointment had thus been made under a misunderstanding. He was not the proper man; and there was nothing to do but to inform him of the fact. It was notified to him by his new President that his appointment must be revoked, or that a Harvard doctor's degree must forthwith be procured.

Although it was already the spring of the year, our Subject, being a man of spirit, took up the challenge, turned his back upon literature (which in view of his approaching duties might have seemed his more urgent concern) and spent the weeks that were left him, in writing a metaphysical thesis and grinding his psychology, logic and history of philosophy up again, so as to pass our formidable ordeals.

When the thesis came to be read by our committee, we could not pass it. Brilliancy and originality by themselves won't save a thesis for the doctorate; it must also exhibit a heavy technical apparatus of learning; and this our candidate had neglected to bring to bear. So, telling him that he was temporarily rejected, we advised him to pad out the thesis properly, and return with it next year, at the same time informing his new President that this signified nothing as to his merits, that he was of ultra Ph.D. quality, and one of the strongest men with whom we had ever had to deal.

To our surprise we were given to understand in reply that the quality per se of the man signified nothing in this connection, and that three magical letters were the thing seriously required. The College had always gloried in a list of faculty members who bore the doctor's title, and to make a gap in the galaxy, and admit a common fox without a tail, would be a degradation impossible to be thought of. We wrote again, pointing out that a Ph.D. in philosophy would prove little anyhow as to one's ability to teach literature; we sent separate letters in which we outdid each other in eulogy of our candidate's powers, for indeed they were great; and at last, mirabile dictu, our eloquence prevailed. He was allowed to retain his appointment provisionally, on condition that one year later at the farthest his miserably naked name should be prolonged by the sacred appendage the lack of which had given so much trouble to all concerned.

Accordingly he came up here the following spring with an adequate thesis (known since in print as a most brilliant contribution to metaphysics), passed a first-rate examination, wiped out the stain, and brought his college into proper relations with the world again. Whether his teaching, during that first year, of English Literature was made any the better by the impending examination in a different subject, is a question which I will not try to solve.

I have related this incident at such length because it is so characteristic of American academic conditions at the present day. Graduate schools still are something of a novelty, and higher diplomas something of a rarity. The latter, therefore, carry a vague sense of preciousness and honor, and have a particularly "up-to-date" appearance, and it is no wonder if smaller institutions, unable to attract professors already eminent, and forced usually to recruit their faculties from the relatively young, should hope to compensate for the obscurity of the names of their officers of instruction by the abundance of decorative titles by which those names are followed on the pages of the catalogues where they appear. The dazzled reader of the list, the parent or student, says to himself, "This must be a terribly distinguished crowd,—their titles shine like the stars in the firmament; Ph.D.'s, S.D.'s, and Litt.D.'s, bespangle the page as if they were sprinkled over it from a pepper caster."

Human nature is once for all so childish that every reality becomes a sham somewhere, and in the minds of Presidents and Trustees the Ph.D. degree is in point of fact already looked upon as a mere advertising resource, a manner of throwing dust in the Public's eyes. "No instructor who is not a Doctor" has become a maxim in the smaller institutions which represent demand; and in each of the larger ones which represent supply, the same belief in decorated scholarship expresses itself in two antagonistic passions, one for multiplying as much as possible the annual output of doctors, the other for raising the standard of difficulty in passing, so that the Ph.D. of the special institution shall carry a higher blaze of distinction than it does elsewhere. Thus we at Harvard are proud of the number of candidates whom we reject, and of the inability of men who are not distingues in intellect to pass our tests.

America is thus as a nation rapidly drifting towards a state of things in which no man of science or letters will be accounted respectable unless some kind of badge or diploma is stamped upon him, and in which bare personality will be a mark of outcast estate. It seems to me high time to rouse ourselves to consciousness, and to cast a critical eye upon this decidedly grotesque tendency. Other nations suffer terribly from the Mandarin disease. Are we doomed to suffer like the rest?

Our higher degrees were instituted for the laudable purpose of stimulating scholarship, especially in the form of "original research." Experience has proved that great as the love of truth may be among men, it can be made still greater by adventitious rewards. The winning of a diploma certifying mastery and marking a barrier successfully passed, acts as a challenge to the ambitious; and if the diploma will help to gain bread-winning positions also, its power as a stimulus to work is tremendously increased. So far, we are on innocent ground; it is well for a country to have research in abundance, and our graduate schools do but apply a normal psychological spur. But the institutionizing on a large scale of any natural combination of need and motive always tends to run into technicality and to develop a tyrannical Machine with unforeseen powers of exclusion and corruption. Observation of the workings of our Harvard system for twenty years past has brought some of these drawbacks home to my consciousness, and I should like to call the attention of my readers to this disadvantageous aspect of the picture, and to make a couple of remedial suggestions, if I may.

In the first place, it would seem that to stimulate study, and to increase the gelehrtes Publikum, the class of highly educated men in our country, is the only positive good, and consequently the sole direct end at which our graduate schools, with their diploma-giving powers, should aim. If other results have developed they should be deemed secondary incidents, and if not desirable in themselves, they should be carefully guarded against.

To interfere with the free development of talent, to obstruct the natural play of supply and demand in the teaching profession, to foster academic snobbery by the prestige of certain privileged institutions, to transfer accredited value from essential manhood to an outward badge, to blight hopes and promote invidious sentiments, to divert the attention of aspiring youth from direct dealings with truth to the passing of examinations,—such consequences, if they exist, ought surely to be regarded as drawbacks to the system, and an enlightened public consciousness ought to be keenly alive to the importance of reducing their amount. Candidates themselves do seem to be keenly conscious of some of these evils, but outside of their ranks or in the general public no such consciousness, so far as I can see, exists; or if it does exist, it fails to express itself aloud. Schools, Colleges, and Universities, appear enthusiastic over the entire system, just as it stands, and unanimously applaud all its developments.

I beg the reader to consider some of the secondary evils which I have enumerated. First of all, is not our growing tendency to appoint no instructors who are not also doctors an instance of pure sham? Will any one pretend for a moment that the doctor's degree is a guarantee that its possessor will be successful as a teacher? Notoriously his moral, social and personal characteristics may utterly disqualify him for success in the class-room; and of these characteristics his doctor's examination is unable to take any account whatever. Certain bare human beings will always be better candidates for a given place than all the doctor-applicants on hand; and to exclude the former by a rigid rule, and in the end to have to sift the latter by private inquiry into their personal peculiarities among those who know them, just as if they were not doctors at all, is to stultify one's own procedure. You may say that at least you guard against ignorance of the subject by considering only the candidates who are doctors; but how then about making doctors in one subject teach a different subject? This happened in the instance by which I introduced this article, and it happens daily and hourly in all our colleges? The truth is that the Doctor-Monopoly in teaching, which is becoming so rooted an American custom, can show no serious grounds whatsoever for itself in reason. As it actually prevails and grows in vogue among us, it is due to childish motives exclusively. In reality it is but a sham, a bauble, a dodge, whereby to decorate the catalogues of schools and colleges.

Next, let us turn from the general promotion of a spirit of academic snobbery to the particular damage done to individuals by the system.

There are plenty of individuals so well endowed by nature that they pass with ease all the ordeals with which life confronts them. Such persons are born for professional success. Examinations have no terrors for them, and interfere in no way with their spiritual or worldly interests. There are others, not so gifted who nevertheless rise to the challenge, get a stimulus from the difficulty, and become doctors, not without some baleful nervous wear and tear and retardation of their purely inner life, but on the whole successfully, and with advantage. These two classes form the natural Ph.D.'s for whom the degree is legitimately instituted. To be sure, the degree is of no consequence one way or the other for the first sort of man, for in him the personal worth obviously outshines the title. To the second set of persons, however, the doctor ordeal may contribute a touch of energy and solidity of scholarship which otherwise they might have lacked, and were our candidates all drawn from these classes, no oppression would result from the institution.

But there is a third class of persons who are genuinely, and in the most pathetic sense, the institution's victims. For this type of character the academic life may become, after a certain point, a virulent poison. Men without marked originality or native force, but fond of truth and especially of books and study, ambitious of reward and recognition, poor often, and needing a degree to get a teaching position, weak in the eyes of their examiners,—among these we find the veritable chair a canon of the wars of learning, the unfit in the academic struggle for existence. There are individuals of this sort for whom to pass one degree after another seems the limit of earthly aspiration. Your private advice does not discourage them. They will fail, and go away to recuperate, and then present themselves for another ordeal, and sometimes prolong the process into middle life. Or else, if they are less heroic morally they will accept the failure as a sentence of doom that they are not fit, and are broken-spirited men thereafter.

We of the university faculties are responsible for deliberately creating this new class of American social failures, and heavy is the responsibility. We advertise our "schools" and send out our degree-requirements, knowing well that aspirants of all sorts will be attracted, and at the same time we set a standard which intends to pass no man who has not native intellectual distinction. We know that there is no test, however absurd, by which, if a title or decoration, a public badge or mark, were to be won by it, some weakly suggestible or hauntable persons would not feel challenged, and remain unhappy if they went without it. We dangle our three magic letters before the eyes of these predestined victims, and they swarm to us like moths to an electric light. They come at a time when failure can no longer be repaired easily and when the wounds it leaves are permanent; and we say deliberately that mere work faithfully performed, as they perform it, will not by itself save them, they must in addition put in evidence the one thing they have not got, namely this quality of intellectual distinction. Occasionally, out of sheer human pity, we ignore our high and mighty standard and pass them. Usually, however, the standard, and not the candidate, commands our fidelity. The result is caprice, majorities of one on the jury, and on the whole a confession that our pretensions about the degree cannot be lived up to consistently. Thus, partiality in the favored cases; in the unfavored, blood on our hands; and in both a bad conscience,—are the results of our administration.

The more widespread becomes the popular belief that our diplomas are indispensable hall-marks to show the sterling metal of their holders, the more widespread these corruptions will become. We ought to look to the future carefully, for it takes generations for a national custom, once rooted, to be grown away from. All the European countries are seeking to diminish the check upon individual spontaneity which state examinations with their tyrannous growth have brought in their train. We have had to institute state examinations too; and it will perhaps be fortunate if some day hereafter our descendants, comparing machine with machine, do not sigh with regret for old times and American freedom, and wish that the regime of the dear old bosses might be reinstalled, with plain human nature, the glad hand and the marble heart, liking and disliking, and man-to-man relations grown possible again. Meanwhile, whatever evolution our state-examinations are destined to undergo, our universities at least should never cease to regard themselves as the jealous custodians of personal and spiritual spontaneity. They are indeed its only organized and recognized custodians in America to-day. They ought to guard against contributing to the increase of officialism and snobbery and insincerity as against a pestilence; they ought to keep truth and disinterested labor always in the foreground, treat degrees as secondary incidents, and in season and out of season make it plain that what they live for is to help men's souls, and not to decorate their persons with diplomas.

There seem to be three obvious ways in which the increasing hold of the Ph.D. Octopus upon American life can be kept in check.

The first way lies with the universities. They can lower their fantastic standards (which here at Harvard we are so proud of) and give the doctorate as a matter of course, just as they give the bachelor's degree, for a due amount of time spent in patient labor in a special department of learning, whether the man be a brilliantly gifted individual or not. Surely native distinction needs no official stamp, and should disdain to ask for one. On the other hand, faithful labor, however commonplace, and years devoted to a subject, always deserve to be acknowledged and requited.

The second way lies with both the universities and colleges. Let them give up their unspeakably silly ambition to bespangle their lists of officers with these doctorial titles. Let them look more to substance and less to vanity and sham.

The third way lies with the individual student, and with his personal advisers in the faculties. Every man of native power, who might take a higher degree, and refuses to do so, because examinations interfere with the free following out of his more immediate intellectual aims, deserves well of his country, and in a rightly organized community, would not be made to suffer for his independence. With many men the passing of these extraneous tests is a very grievous interference indeed. Private letters of recommendation from their instructors, which in any event are ultimately needful, ought, in these cases, completely to offset the lack of the breadwinning degree; and instructors ought to be ready to advise students against it upon occasion, and to pledge themselves to back them later personally, in the market-struggle which they have to face.

It is indeed odd to see this love of titles—and such titles—growing up in a country or which the recognition of individuality and bare manhood have so long been supposed to be the very soul. The independence of the State, in which most of our colleges stand, relieves us of those more odious forms of academic politics which continental European countries present. Anything like the elaborate university machine of France, with its throttling influences upon individuals is unknown here. The spectacle of the "Rath" distinction in its innumerable spheres and grades, with which all Germany is crawling to-day, is displeasing to American eyes; and displeasing also in some respects is the institution of knighthood in England, which, aping as it does an aristocratic title, enables one's wife as well as one's self so easily to dazzle the servants at the house of one's friends. But are we Americans ourselves destined after all to hunger after similar vanities on an infinitely more contemptible scale? And is individuality with us also going to count for nothing unless stamped and licensed and authenticated by some title-giving machine? Let us pray that our ancient national genius may long preserve vitality enough to guard us from a future so unmanly and so unbeautiful!

[1] Published in the Harvard Monthly, March, 1903.


When a man gets a decoration from a foreign institution, he may take it as an honor. Coming as mine has come to-day, I prefer to take it for that far more valuable thing, a token of personal good will from friends. Recognizing the good will and the friendliness, I am going to respond to the chairman's call by speaking exactly as I feel.

I am not an alumnus of the College. I have not even a degree from the Scientific School, in which I did some study forty years ago. I have no right to vote for Overseers, and I have never felt until to-day as if I were a child of the house of Harvard in the fullest sense. Harvard is many things in one—a school, a forcing house for thought, and also a social club; and the club aspect is so strong, the family tie so close and subtle among our Bachelors of Arts that all of us here who are in my plight, no matter how long we may have lived here, always feel a little like outsiders on Commencement day. We have no class to walk with, and we often stay away from the procession. It may be foolish, but it is a fact. I don't believe that my dear friends Shaler, Hollis, Lanman, or Royce ever have felt quite as happy or as much at home as my friend Barrett Wendell feels upon a day like this.

I wish to use my present privilege to say a word for these outsiders with whom I belong. Many years ago there was one of them from Canada here—a man with a high-pitched voice, who could n't fully agree with all the points of my philosophy. At a lecture one day, when I was in the full flood of my eloquence, his voice rose above mine, exclaiming: "But, doctor, doctor! to be serious for a moment . . . ," in so sincere a tone that the whole room burst out laughing. I want you now to be serious for a moment while I say my little say. We are glorifying ourselves to-day, and whenever the name of Harvard is emphatically uttered on such days, frantic cheers go up. There are days for affection, when pure sentiment and loyalty come rightly to the fore. But behind our mere animal feeling for old schoolmates and the Yard and the bell, and Memorial and the clubs and the river and the Soldiers' Field, there must be something deeper and more rational. There ought at any rate to be some possible ground in reason for one's boiling over with joy that one is a son of Harvard, and was not, by some unspeakably horrible accident of birth, predestined to graduate at Yale or at Cornell.

Any college can foster club loyalty of that sort. The only rational ground for pre-eminent admiration of any single college would be its pre-eminent spiritual tone. But to be a college man in the mere clubhouse sense—I care not of what college—affords no guarantee of real superiority in spiritual tone.

The old notion that book learning can be a panacea for the vices of society lies pretty well shattered to-day. I say this in spite of certain utterances of the President of this University to the teachers last year. That sanguine-hearted man seemed then to think that if the schools would only do their duty better, social vice might cease. But vice will never cease. Every level of culture breeds its own peculiar brand of it as surely as one soil breeds sugar-cane, and another soil breeds cranberries. If we were asked that disagreeable question, "What are the bosom-vices of the level of culture which our land and day have reached?" we should be forced, I think, to give the still more disagreeable answer that they are swindling and adroitness, and the indulgence of swindling and adroitness, and cant, and sympathy with cant—natural fruits of that extraordinary idealization of "success" in the mere outward sense of "getting there," and getting there on as big a scale as we can, which characterizes our present generation. What was Reason given to man for, some satirist has said, except to enable him to invent reasons for what he wants to do. We might say the same of education. We see college graduates on every side of every public question. Some of Tammany's stanchest supporters are Harvard men. Harvard men defend our treatment of our Filipino allies as a masterpiece of policy and morals. Harvard men, as journalists, pride themselves on producing copy for any side that may enlist them. There is not a public abuse for which some Harvard advocate may not be found.

In the successful sense, then, in the worldly sense, in the club sense, to be a college man, even a Harvard man, affords no sure guarantee for anything but a more educated cleverness in the service of popular idols and vulgar ends. Is there no inner Harvard within the outer Harvard which means definitively more than this—for which the outside men who come here in such numbers, come? They come from the remotest outskirts of our country, without introductions, without school affiliations; special students, scientific students, graduate students, poor students of the College, who make their living as they go. They seldom or never darken the doors of the Pudding or the Porcellian; they hover in the background on days when the crimson color is most in evidence, but they nevertheless are intoxicated and exultant with the nourishment they find here; and their loyalty is deeper and subtler and more a matter of the inmost soul than the gregarious loyalty of the clubhouse pattern often is.

Indeed, there is such an inner spiritual Harvard; and the men I speak of, and for whom I speak to-day, are its true missionaries and carry its gospel into infidel parts. When they come to Harvard, it is not primarily because she is a club. It is because they have heard of her persistently atomistic constitution, of her tolerance of exceptionality and eccentricity, of her devotion to the principles of individual vocation and choice. It is because you cannot make single one-ideaed regiments of her classes. It is because she cherishes so many vital ideals, yet makes a scale of value among them; so that even her apparently incurable second-rateness (or only occasional first-rateness) in intercollegiate athletics comes from her seeing so well that sport is but sport, that victory over Yale is not the whole of the law and the prophets, and that a popgun is not the crack of doom.

The true Church was always the invisible Church. The true Harvard is the invisible Harvard in the souls of her more truth-seeking and independent and often very solitary sons. Thoughts are the precious seeds of which our universities should be the botanical gardens. Beware when God lets loose a thinker on the world—either Carlyle or Emerson said that—for all things then have to rearrange themselves. But the thinkers in their youth are almost always very lonely creatures. "Alone the great sun rises and alone spring the great streams." The university most worthy of rational admiration is that one in which your lonely thinker can feel himself least lonely, most positively furthered, and most richly fed. On an occasion like this it would be poor taste to draw comparisons between the colleges, and in their mere clubhouse quality they cannot differ widely:—all must be worthy of the loyalties and affections they arouse. But as a nursery for independent and lonely thinkers I do believe that Harvard still is in the van. Here they find the climate so propitious that they can be happy in their very solitude. The day when Harvard shall stamp a single hard and fast type of character upon her children, will be that of her downfall. Our undisciplinables are our proudest product. Let us agree together in hoping that the output of them will never cease.

[1] Speech at the Harvard Commencement Dinner, June 24, 1903, after receiving an LL.D. degree. Printed in the Graduates' Magazine for September, 1903.


Foreigners, commenting on our civilization, have with great unanimity remarked the privileged position that institutions of learning occupy in America as receivers of benefactions. Our typical men of wealth, if they do not found a college, will at least single out some college or university on which to lavish legacies or gifts. All the more so, perhaps, if they are not college-bred men themselves. Johns Hopkins University, the University of Chicago, Clark University, are splendid examples of this rule. Steadily, year by year, my own university, Harvard, receives from one to two and a half millions.

There is something almost pathetic in the way in which our successful business men seem to idealize the higher learning and to believe in its efficacy for salvation. Never having shared in its blessings, they do their utmost to make the youth of coming generations more fortunate. Usually there is little originality of thought in their generous foundations. The donors follow the beaten track. Their good will has to be vague, for they lack the inside knowledge. What they usually think of is a new college like all the older colleges; or they give new buildings to a university or help to make it larger, without any definite idea as to the improvement of its inner form. Improvements in the character of our institutions always come from the genius of the various presidents and faculties. The donors furnish means of propulsion, the experts within the pale lay out the course and steer the vessel. You all think of the names of Eliot, Gilman, Hall and Harper as I utter these words—I mention no name nearer home.

This is founders' day here at Stanford—the day set apart each year to quicken and reanimate in all of us the consciousness of the deeper significance of this little university to which we permanently or temporarily belong. I am asked to use my voice to contribute to this effect. How can I do so better than by uttering quite simply and directly the impressions that I personally receive? I am one among our innumerable American teachers, reared on the Atlantic coast but admitted for this year to be one of the family at Stanford. I see things not wholly from without, as the casual visitor does, but partly from within. I am probably a typical observer. As my impressions are, so will be the impressions of others. And those impressions, taken together, will probably be the verdict of history on the institution which Leland and Jane Stanford founded.

"Where there is no vision, the people perish." Mr. and Mrs. Stanford evidently had a vision of the most prophetic sort. They saw the opportunity for an absolutely unique creation, they seized upon it with the boldness of great minds; and the passionate energy with which Mrs. Stanford after her husband's death, drove the original plans through in the face of every dismaying obstacle, forms a chapter in the biography of heroism. Heroic also the loyalty with which in those dark years the president and faculty made the university's cause, their cause, and shared the uncertainties and privations.

And what is the result to-day? To-day the key-note is triumphantly struck. The first step is made beyond recall. The character of the material foundation is assured for all time as something unique and unparalleled. It logically calls for an equally unique and unparalleled spiritual superstructure.

Certainly the chief impression which the existing university must make on every visitor is of something unique and unparalleled. Its attributes are almost too familiar to you to bear recapitulation. The classic scenery of its site, reminding one of Greece, Greek too in its atmosphere of opalescent fire, as if the hills that close us in were bathed in ether, milk and sunshine; the great city, near enough for convenience, too far ever to become invasive; the climate, so friendly to work that every morning wakes one fresh for new amounts of work; the noble architecture, so generously planned that there room and to spare for every requirement; the democracy of the life, no one superfluously rich, yet all sharing, so far as their higher needs go, in the common endowment—where could a genius devoted to the search for truth, and unworldly as most geniuses are, find on the earth's whole round a place more advantageous to come and work in? Die Luft der Freiheit weht! All the traditions are individualistic. Red tape and organization are at their minimum. Interruptions and perturbing distractions hardly exist. Eastern institutions look all dark and huddled and confused in comparison with this purity and serenity. Shall it not be auspicious? Surely the one destiny to which this happy beginning seems to call Stanford is that it should become something intense and original, not necessarily in point of wealth or extent, but in point of spiritual quality. The founders have, as I said, triumphantly struck the keynote, and laid the basis: the quality of what they have already given is unique in character.

It rests with the officials of the present and future Stanford, it rests with the devotion and sympathetic insight of the growing body of graduates, to prolong the vision where the founders' vision terminated, and to insure that all the succeeding steps, like the first steps, shall single out this university more and more as the university of quality peculiarly.

And what makes essential quality in a university? Years ago in New England it was said that a log by the roadside with a student sitting on one end of it, and Mark Hopkins sitting on the other end, was a university. It is the quality of its men that makes the quality of a university. You may have your buildings, you may create your committees and boards and regulations, you may pile up your machinery of discipline and perfect your methods of instruction, you may spend money till no one can approach you; yet you will add nothing but one more trivial specimen to the common herd of American colleges, unless you send into all this organization some breath of life, by inoculating it with a few men, at least, who are real geniuses. And if you once have the geniuses, you can easily dispense with most of the organization. Like a contagious disease, almost, spiritual life passes from man to man by contact. Education in the long run is an affair that works itself out between the individual student and his opportunities. Methods of which we talk so much, play but a minor part. Offer the opportunities, leave the student to his natural reaction on them, and he will work out his personal destiny, be it a high one or a low one. Above all things, offer the opportunity of higher personal contacts. A university provides these anyhow within the student body, for it attracts the more aspiring of the youth of the country, and they befriend and elevate one another. But we are only beginning in this country, with our extraordinary American reliance on organization, to see that the alpha and omega in a university is the tone of it, and that this tone is set by human personalities exclusively. The world, in fact, is only beginning to see that the wealth of a nation consists more than in anything else in the number of superior men that it harbors. In the practical realm it has always recognized this, and known that no price is too high to pay for a great statesman or great captain of industry. But it is equally so in the religious and moral sphere, in the poetic and artistic sphere and in the philosophic and scientific sphere. Geniuses are ferments; and when they come together as they have done in certain lands at certain times, the whole population seems to share in the higher energy which they awaken. The effects are incalculable and often not easy to trace in detail, but they are pervasive and momentous. Who can measure the effects on the national German soul of the splendid series of German poets and German men of learning, most of them academic personages?

From the bare economic point of view the importance of geniuses is only beginning to be appreciated. How can we measure the cash-value to France of a Pasteur, to England of a Kelvin, to Germany of an Ostwald, to us here of a Burbank? One main care of every country in the future ought to be to find out who its first-rate thinkers are and to help them. Cost here becomes something entirely irrelevant, the returns are sure to be so incommensurable. This is what wise men the world over are perceiving. And as the universities are already a sort of agency providentially provided for the detection and encouragement of mental superiority, it would seem as if that one among them that followed this line most successfully would quickest rise to a position of paramountcy and distinction.

Why should not Stanford immediately adopt this as her vital policy? Her position is one of unprecedented freedom. Not trammelled by the service of the state as other universities on this coast are trammelled, independent of students' fees and consequently of numbers, Utopian in the material respects I have enumerated, she only needs a boldness like that shown by her founders to become the seat of a glowing intellectual life, sure to be admired and envied the world over. Let her claim her place; let her espouse her destiny. Let her call great investigators from whatever lands they live in, from England, France, Germany, Japan, as well as from America. She can do this without presumption, for the advantages of this place for steady mental work are so unparalleled. Let these men, following the happy traditions of the place, make the university. The original foundation had something eccentric in it; let Stanford not fear to be eccentric to the end, if need be. Let her not imitate; let her lead, not follow. Especially let her not be bound by vulgar traditions as to the cheapness or dearness of professorial service. The day is certainly about to dawn when some American university will break all precedents in the matter of instructors' salaries, and will thereby immediately take the lead, and reach the winning post for quality. I like to think of Stanford being that university. Geniuses are sensitive plants, in some respects like prima donnas. They have to be treated tenderly. They don't need to live in superfluity; but they need freedom from harassing care; they need books and instruments; they are always overworking, so they need generous vacations; and above all things they need occasionally to travel far and wide in the interests of their souls' development. Where quality is the thing sought after, the thing of supreme quality is cheap, whatever be the price one has to pay for it.

Considering all the conditions, the quality of Stanford has from the first been astonishingly good both in the faculty and in the student body. Can we not, as we sit here to-day, frame a vision of what it may be a century hence, with the honors of the intervening years all rolled up in its traditions? Not vast, but intense; less a place for teaching youths and maidens than for training scholars; devoted to truth; radiating influence; setting standards; shedding abroad the fruits of learning; mediating between America and Asia, and helping the more intellectual men of both continents to understand each other better.

What a history! and how can Stanford ever fail to enter upon it?

[1] An Address at Stanford University on Founders' Day, 1906. Printed in Science, for May 25, 1906.



Not for the ignoble vulgar do I write this article, but only for those dialectic-mystic souls who have an irresistible taste, acquired or native, for higher flights of metaphysics. I have always held the opinion that one of the first duties of a good reader is to summon other readers to the enjoyment of any unknown author of rare quality whom he may discover in his explorations. Now for years my own taste, literary as well as philosophic, has been exquisitely titillated by a writer the name of whom I think must be unknown to the readers of this article; so I no longer continue silent about the merits of Benjamin Paul Blood.

Mr. Blood inhabits a city otherwise, I imagine, quite unvisited by the Muses, the town called Amsterdam, situated on the New York Central Railroad. What his regular or bread-winning occupation may be I know not, but it can't have made him super-wealthy. He is an author only when the fit strikes him, and for short spurts at a time; shy, moreover, to the point of publishing his compositions only as private tracts, or in letters to such far-from-reverberant organs of publicity as the Gazette or the Recorder of his native Amsterdam, or the Utica Herald or the Albany Times. Odd places for such subtile efforts to appear in, but creditable to American editors in these degenerate days! Once, indeed, the lamented W. T. Harris of the old "Journal of Speculative Philosophy" got wind of these epistles, and the result was a revision of some of them for that review (Philosophic Reveries, 1889). Also a couple of poems were reprinted from their leaflets by the editor of Scribner's Magazine ("The Lion of the Nile," 1888, and "Nemesis," 1899). But apart from these three dashes before the footlights, Mr. Blood has kept behind the curtain all his days.[2]

The author's maiden adventure was the Anoesthetic Revelation, a pamphlet printed privately at Amsterdam in 1874. I forget how it fell into my hands, but it fascinated me so "weirdly" that I am conscious of its having been one of the stepping-stones of my thinking ever since. It gives the essence of Blood's philosophy, and shows most of the features of his talent—albeit one finds in it little humor and no verse. It is full of verbal felicity, felicity sometimes of precision, sometimes of metaphoric reach; it begins with dialectic reasoning, of an extremely Fichtean and Hegelian type, but it ends in a trumpet-blast of oracular mysticism, straight from the insight wrought by anaesthetics—of all things in the world—and unlike anything one ever heard before. The practically unanimous tradition of "regular" mysticism has been unquestionably monistic; and inasmuch as it is the characteristic of mystics to speak, not as the scribes, but as men who have "been there" and seen with their own eyes, I think that this sovereign manner must have made some other pluralistic-minded students hesitate, as I confess that it has often given pause to me. One cannot criticise the vision of a mystic—one can but pass it by, or else accept it as having some amount of evidential weight. I felt unable to do either with a good conscience until I met with Mr. Blood. His mysticism, which may, if one likes, be understood as monistic in this earlier utterance, develops in the later ones a sort of "left-wing" voice of defiance, and breaks into what to my ear has a radically pluralistic sound. I confess that the existence of this novel brand of mysticism has made my cowering mood depart. I feel now as if my own pluralism were not without the kind of support which mystical corroboration may confer. Morrison can no longer claim to be the only beneficiary of whatever right mysticism may possess to lend prestige.

This is my philosophic, as distinguished from my literary, interest, in introducing Mr. Blood to this more fashionable audience: his philosophy, however mystical, is in the last resort not dissimilar from my own. I must treat him by "extracting" him, and simplify—certainly all too violently—as I extract. He is not consecutive as a writer, aphoristic and oracular rather; and being moreover sometimes dialectic, sometimes poetic, and sometimes mystic in his manner; sometimes monistic and sometimes pluralistic in his matter, I have to run my own risk in making him orate pro domo mea, and I am not quite unprepared to hear him say, in case he ever reads these pages, that I have entirely missed his point. No matter; I will proceed.


I will separate his diverse phases and take him first as a pure dialectician. Dialectic thought of the Hegelian type is a whirlpool into which some persons are sucked out of the stream which the straightforward understanding follows. Once in the eddy, nothing but rotary motion can go on. All who have been in it know the feel of its swirl—they know thenceforward that thinking unreturning on itself is but one part of reason, and that rectilinear mentality, in philosophy at any rate, will never do. Though each one may report in different words of his rotational experience, the experience itself is almost childishly simple, and whosoever has been there instantly recognizes other authentic reports. To have been in that eddy is a freemasonry of which the common password is a "fie" on all the operations of the simple popular understanding.

In Hegel's mind the vortex was at its liveliest, and any one who has dipped into Hegel will recognize Mr. Blood to be of the same tribe. "That Hegel was pervaded by the great truth," Blood writes, "cannot be doubted. The eyes of philosophy, if not set directly on him, are set towards the region which he occupied. Though he may not be the final philosopher, yet pull him out, and all the rest will be drawn into his vacancy."

Drawn into the same whirlpool, Mr. Blood means. Non-dialectic thought takes facts as singly given, and accounts for one fact by another. But when we think of "all fact," we see that nothing of the nature of fact can explain it, "for that were but one more added to the list of things to be accounted for. . . . The beginning of curiosity, in the philosophic sense," Mr. Blood again writes, "is the stare [Transcriber's note: state?] of being at itself, in the wonder why anything is at all, and what this being signifies. Naturally we first assume the void, and then wonder how, with no ground and no fertility, anything should come into it." We treat it as a positive nihility, "a barrier from which all our batted balls of being rebound."

Upon this idea Mr. Blood passes the usual transcendentalist criticism. There is no such separate opposite to being; yet we never think of being as such—of pure being as distinguished from specific forms of being—save as what stands relieved against this imaginary background. Being has no outline but that which non-being makes, and the two ideas form an inseparable pair. "Each limits and defines the other. Either would be the other in the same position, for here (where there is as yet no question of content, but only of being itself) the position is all and the content is nothing. Hence arose that paradox: 'Being is by nothing more real than not-being.'"

"Popularly," Mr. Blood goes on, "we think of all that is as having got the better of non-being. If all were not—that, we think, were easy: there were no wonder then, no tax on ingenuity, nothing to be accounted for. This conclusion is from the thinking which assumes all reality as immediately given assumes knowledge as a simple physical light, rather than as a distinction involving light and darkness equally. We assume that if the light were to go out, the show would be ended (and so it would); but we forget that if the darkness were to go out, that would be equally calamitous. It were bad enough if the master had lost his crayon, but the loss of the blackboard would be just as fatal to the demonstration. Without darkness light would be useless—universal light as blind as universal darkness. Universal thing and universal no-thing were indistinguishable. Why, then, assume the positive, the immediately affirmative, as alone the ingenious? Is not the mould as shapely as the model? The original ingenuity does not show in bringing light out of darkness, nor in bringing things out of nothing, but in evolving, through the just opposition of light and darkness, this wondrous picture, in which the black and white lines have equal significance—in evolving from life and death at once, the conscious spirit. . . .

"It is our habit to think of life as dear, and of death as cheap (though Tithonus found them otherwise), or, continuing the simile of the picture, that paper is cheap while drawing is expensive; but the engraver had a different estimation in one sense, for all his labor was spent on the white ground, while he left untouched those parts of the block which make the lines in the picture. If being and non-being are both necessary to the presence of either, neither shall claim priority or preference. Indeed, we may fancy an intelligence which, instead of regarding things as simply owning entity, should regard chiefly their background as affected by the holes which things are making in it. Even so, the paper-maker might see your picture as intrusive!"

Thus "does the negation of being appear as indispensable in the making of it." But to anyone who should appeal to particular forms of being to refute this paradox, Mr. Blood admits that "to say that a picture, or any other sensuous thing, is the same as the want of it, were to utter nonsense indeed: there is a difference equivalent to the whole stuff and merit of the picture; but in so far as the picture can be there for thought, as something either asserted or negated, its presence or its absence are the same and indifferent. By its absence we do not mean the absence of anything else, nor absence in general; and how, forsooth, does its absence differ from these other absences, save by containing a complete description of the picture? The hole is as round as the plug; and from our thought the 'picture' cannot get away. The negation is specific and descriptive, and what it destroys it preserves tor our conception."

The result is that, whether it be taken generally or taken specifically, all that which either is or is not is or is not by distinction or opposition. "And observe the life, the process, through which this slippery doubleness endures. Let us suppose the present tense, that gods and men and angels and devils march all abreast in this present instant, and the only real time and date in the universe is now. And what is this instant now? Whatever else, it is process—becoming and departing; with what between? Simply division, difference; the present has no breadth for if it had, that which we seek would be the middle of that breadth. There is no precipitate, as on a stationary platform, of the process of becoming, no residuum of the process of departing, but between the two is a curtain, the apparition of difference, which is all the world."

I am using my scissors somewhat at random on my author's paragraphs, since one place is as good as another for entering a ring by, and the expert reader will discern at once the authentic dialectic circling. Other paragraphs show Mr. Blood as more Hegelian still, and thoroughly idealistic:—

"Assume that knowing is distinguishing, and that distinction is of difference; if one knows a difference, one knows it as of entities which afford it, and which also he knows; and he must know the entities and the difference apart,—one from the other. Knowing all this, he should be able to answer the twin question, 'What is the difference between sameness and difference?' It is a 'twin' question, because the two terms are equal in the proposition, and each is full of the other. . . .

"Sameness has 'all the difference in the world'—from difference; and difference is an entity as difference—it being identically that. They are alike and different at once, since either is the other when the observer would contrast it with the other; so that the sameness and the difference are 'subjective,' are the property of the observer: his is the 'limit' in their unlimited field. . . .

"We are thus apprized that distinction involves and carries its own identity; and that ultimate distinction—distinction in the last analysis—is self-distinction, 'self-knowledge,' as we realize it consciously every day. Knowledge is self-referred: to know is to know that you know, and to be known as well.

"'Ah! but both in the same time?' inquires the logician. A subject-object knowing itself as a seamless unit, while yet its two items show a real distinction: this passes all understanding."

But the whole of idealism goes to the proof that the two sides cannot succeed one another in a time-process. "To say you know, and you know that you know, is to add nothing in the last clause; it is as idle as to say that you lie, and you know that you lie," for if you know it not you lie not.

Philosophy seeks to grasp totality, "but the power of grasping or consenting to totality involves the power of thought to make itself its own object. Totality itself may indeed be taken by the naive intellect as an immediate topic, in the sense of being just an object, but it cannot be just that; for the knower, as other or opposite, would still be within that totality. The 'universe' by definition must contain all opposition. If distinction should vanish, what would remain? To what other could it change as a whole? How can the loss of distinction make a difference? Any loss, at its utmost, offers a new status with the old, but obviously it is too late now to efface distinction by a change. There is no possible conjecture, but such as carries with it the subjective that holds it; and when the conjecture is of distinction in general, the subjective fills the void with distinction of itself. The ultimate, ineffaceable distinction is self-distinction, self-consciousness. . . . 'Thou art the unanswered question, couldst see thy proper eye.' . . . The thought that must be is the very thought of our experience; the ultimate opposition, the to be and not to be, is personality, spirit—somewhat that is in knowing that it is, and is nothing else but this knowing in its vast relations.[3]

"Here lies the bed-rock; here the brain-sweat of twenty-five centuries crystallizes to a jewel five words long: 'The Universe has No Opposite.' For there the wonder of that which is, rests safe in the perception that all things are only through the opposition which is their only fear."

"The inevitable generally," in short, is exactly and identically that which in point of fact is actually here.

This is the familiar nineteenth-century development of Kant's idealistic vision. To me it sounds monistic enough to charm the monist in me unreservedly. I listen to the felicitously-worded concept-music circling round itself, as on some drowsy summer noon one listens under the pines to the murmuring of leaves and insects, and with as little thought of criticism.

But Mr. Blood strikes a still more vibrant note: "No more can be than rationally is; and this was always true. There is no reason for what is not; but for what there is reason, that is and ever was. Especially is there no becoming of reason, and hence no reason for becoming, to a sufficient intelligence. In the sufficient intelligence all things always are, and are rational. To say there is something yet to be which never was, not even in the sufficient intelligence wherein the world is rational and not a blind and orphan waif, is to ignore all reason. Aught that might be assumed as contingently coming to be could only have 'freedom' for its origin; and 'freedom' has not fertility or invention, and is not a reason for any special thing, but the very vacuity of a ground for anything in preference to its room. Neither is there in bare time any principle or originality where anything should come or go. . . .

"Such idealism enures greatly to the dignity and repose of man. No blind fate, prior to what is, shall necessitate that all first be and afterward be known, but knowledge is first, with fate in her own hands. When we are depressed by the weight and immensity of the immediate, we find in idealism a wondrous consolation. The alien positive, so vast and overwhelming by itself, reduces its pretensions when the whole negative confronts it on our side.[4] It matters little for its greatness when an equal greatness is opposed. When one remembers that the balance and motion of the planets are so delicate that the momentary scowl of an eclipse may fill the heavens with tempest, and even affect the very bowels of the earth—when we see a balloon, that carries perhaps a thousand pounds, leap up a hundred feet at the discharge of a sheet of note paper—or feel it stand deathly still in a hurricane, because it goes with the hurricane, sides with it, and ignores the rushing world below—we should realize that one tittle of pure originality would outweigh this crass objective, and turn these vast masses into mere breath and tissue-paper show." [5]

But whose is the originality? There is nothing in what I am treating as this phase of our author's thought to separate it from the old-fashioned rationalism. There must be a reason for every fact; and so much reason, so fact. The reason is always the whole foil and background and negation of the fact, the whole remainder of reality. "A man may feel good only by feeling better. . . . Pleasure is ever in the company and contrast of pain; for instance, in thirsting and drinking, the pleasure of the one is the exact measure of the pain of the other, and they cease precisely together—otherwise the patient would drink more. The black and yellow gonfalon of Lucifer is indispensable in any spiritual picture." Thus do truth's two components seem to balance, vibrating across the centre of indifference; "being and non-being have equal value and cost," and "mainly are convertible in their terms." [6]

This sounds radically monistic; and monistic also is the first account of the Ether-revelation, in which we read that "thenceforth each is all, in God. . . . The One remains, the many change and pass; and every one of us is the One that remains."


It seems to me that any transcendental idealist who reads this article ought to discern in the fragmentary utterances which I have quoted thus far, the note of what he considers the truer dialectic profundity. He ought to extend the glad hand of fellowship to Mr. Blood; and if he finds him afterwards palavering with the enemy, he ought to count him, not as a simple ignoramus or Philistine, but as a renegade and relapse. He cannot possibly be treated as one who sins because he never has known better, or as one who walks in darkness because he is congenitally blind.

Well, Mr. Blood, explain it as one may, does turn towards the darkness as if he had never seen the light. Just listen for a moment to such irrationalist deliverances on his part as these:—

"Reason is neither the first nor the last word in this world. Reason is an equation; it gives but a pound for a pound. Nature is excess; she is evermore, without cost or explanation.

'Is heaven so poor that justice Metes the bounty of the skies? So poor that every blessing Fills the debit of a cost? That all process is returning? And all gain is of the lost?'

Go back into reason, and you come at last to fact, nothing more—a given-ness, a something to wonder at and yet admit, like your own will. And all these tricks for logicizing originality, self-relation, absolute process, subjective contradiction, will wither in the breath of the mystical tact; they will swirl down the corridors before the besom of the everlasting Yea."

Or again: "The monistic notion of a oneness, a centred wholeness, ultimate purpose, or climacteric result of the world, has wholly given way. Thought evolves no longer a centred whole, a One, but rather a numberless many, adjust it how we will."

Or still again: "The pluralists have talked philosophy to a standstill—Nature is contingent, excessive and mystical essentially."

Have we here contradiction simply, a man converted from one faith to its opposite? Or is it only dialectic circling, like the opposite points on the rim of a revolving disc, one moving up, one down, but replacing one another endlessly, while the whole disc never moves? If it be this latter—Mr. Blood himself uses the image—the dialectic is too pure for me to catch: a deeper man must mediate the monistic with the pluralistic Blood. Let my incapacity be castigated, if my "Subject" ever reads this article, but let me treat him from now onwards as the simply pluralistic mystic which my reading of the rest of him suggests. I confess to some dread of my own fate at his hands. In making so far an ordinary transcendental idealist of him, I have taken liberties, running separate sentences together, inverting their order, and even altering single words, for all which I beg pardon; but in treating my author from now onwards as a pluralist, interpretation is easier, and my hands can be less stained (if they are stained) with exegetic blood.

I have spoken of his verbal felicity, and alluded to his poetry. Before passing to his mystic gospel, I will refresh the reader (doubtless now fatigued with so much dialectic) by a sample of his verse. "The Lion of the Nile" is an allegory of the "champion spirit of the world" in its various incarnations.

Thus it begins:—

"Whelped on the desert sands, and desert bred From dugs whose sustenance was blood alone— A life translated out of other lives, I grew the king of beasts; the hurricane Leaned like a feather on my royal fell; I took the Hyrcan tiger by the scruff And tore him piecemeal; my hot bowels laughed And my fangs yearned for prey. Earth was my lair: I slept on the red desert without fear: I roamed the jungle depths with less design Than e'en to lord their solitude; on crags That cringe from lightning—black and blasted fronts That crouch beneath the wind-bleared stars, I told My heart's fruition to the universe, And all night long, roaring my fierce defy, I thrilled the wilderness with aspen terrors, And challenged death and life. . . ."


"Naked I stood upon the raked arena Beneath the pennants of Vespasian, While seried thousands gazed—strangers from Caucasus, Men of the Grecian Isles, and Barbary princes, To see me grapple with the counterpart Of that I had been—the raptorial jaws, The arms that wont to crush with strength alone, The eyes that glared vindictive.—Fallen there, Vast wings upheaved me; from the Alpine peaks Whose avalanches swirl the valley mists And whelm the helpless cottage, to the crown Of Chimborazo, on whose changeless jewels The torrid rays recoil, with ne'er a cloud To swathe their blistered steps, I rested not, But preyed on all that ventured from the earth, An outlaw of the heavens.—But evermore Must death release me to the jungle shades; And there like Samson's grew my locks again In the old walks and ways, till scapeless fate Won me as ever to the haunts of men, Luring my lives with battle and with love." . . .

I quote less than a quarter of the poem, of which the rest is just as good, and I ask: Who of us all handles his English vocabulary better than Mr. Blood?[7]

His proclamations of the mystic insight have a similar verbal power:—

"There is an invariable and reliable condition (or uncondition) ensuing about the instant of recall from anaesthetic stupor to 'coming to,' in which the genius of being is revealed. . . . No words may express the imposing certainty of the patient that he is realizing the primordial Adamic surprise of Life.

"Repetition of the experience finds it ever the same, and as if it could not possibly be otherwise. The subject resumes his normal consciousness only to partially and fitfully remember its occurrence, and to try to formulate its baffling import,—with but this consolatory afterthought: that he has known the oldest truth, and that he has done with human theories as to the origin, meaning, or destiny of the race. He is beyond instruction in 'spiritual things.' . . .

"It is the instant contrast of this 'tasteless water of souls' with formal thought as we 'come to,' that leaves in the patient an astonishment that the awful mystery of Life is at last but a homely and a common thing, and that aside from mere formality the majestic and the absurd are of equal dignity. The astonishment is aggravated as at a thing of course, missed by sanity in overstepping, as in too foreign a search, or with too eager an attention: as in finding one's spectacles on one's nose, or in making in the dark a step higher than the stair. My first experiences of this revelation had many varieties of emotion; but as a man grows calm and determined by experience in general, so am I now not only firm and familiar in this once weird condition, but triumphant, divine. To minds of sanguine imagination there will be a sadness in the tenor of the mystery, as if the key-note of the universe were low; for no poetry, no emotion known to the normal sanity of man, can furnish a hint of its primeval prestige, and its all-but appalling solemnity; but for such as have felt sadly the instability of temporal things there is a comfort of serenity and ancient peace; while for the resolved and imperious spirit there are majesty and supremacy unspeakable. Nor can it be long until all who enter the anaesthetic condition (and there are hundreds every secular day) will be taught to expect this revelation, and will date from its experience their initiation into the Secret of Life. . . .

"This has been my moral sustenance since I have known of it. In my first printed mention of it I declared: 'The world is no more the alien terror that was taught me. Spurning the cloud-grimed and still sultry battlements whence so lately Jehovan thunders boomed, my gray gull lifts her wing against the night fall, and takes the dim leagues with a fearless eye.' And now, after twenty-seven years of this experience, the wing is grayer, but the eye is fearless still, while I renew and doubly emphasize that declaration. I know, as having known, the meaning of Existence; the sane centre of the universe—at once the wonder and the assurance of the soul."

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