Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub
[blocks in formation]

Among the earliest ideas which we form, is that of power. When its exertion is seen, our interest is always excited, and where there is a possibility that it may be possessed and wielded by us, at our pleasure, its possession is intensely desired. The infant,' says Dr. Brown, 'is pleased, when we shake for the first time the bells of his little rattle, before we put it into his possession; but when he has it in his own hands, and makes the noise, which is then such delightful music to his ear, by his own effort, his rapture is more than doubled.' This desire of power grows with our growth, and extends through the whole circle of faculties which we call into successive exercise, and to nearly all the objects with which we find ourselves surrounded. We learn indeed to control its exercise, and we strive to dissimulate, when conscious of its existence, and are unwilling to permit the disclosure of its influence. But this only shows the extent to which its prevalence may be traced.

The simple desire of power is not of itself, not necessarily, wrong. It is not one of those dispositions against which we are bound to wage unceasing war for its extinction. On the contrary, many valuable and important purposes are promoted by it. Its uncontrolled indulgence, or its mere subordination to the principle of selfaggrandizement, is indeed much to be deprecated. And perhaps unfortunately for the good name of this desire of power, its perversion has most frequently attended its successful prosecution.

The mere power of muscular force, which we possess in common with the brute creation, and in an inferior degree to many of them, is surely not that which gives any ennobling distinction to us, or on account of which we have any high cause for self-gratulation. It is very often possessed, to the greatest extent, by those who seem endued with very few estimable qualities of heart or mind. Nor is the power which wealth, or rank, or ancestry gives, though certainly elevated above the level of that which consists in brute force, to be considered as invested with any thing like the same interest, to the noble and ingenuous soul, as the power of mind. This is the

subject, which too tamely, perhaps too presumptuously, we have selected for the present consideration of the reader. What school-boy has not written something upon the power of mind ?

38

[ocr errors]

VOL, XI.

and what philosopher has ever fully analyzed it? With no pretensions to have struck out new light on such a topic, our humble purpose shall be, to concentrate, and profitably direct, some rays of the old.

We shall endeavor briefly to sketch the appropriate sphere of its exercise ; offer some practical suggestions on the means of increasing this power; and then consider the motives by which its exercise, and the desire of its acquisition, ought always to be controlled.

The first thing proposed is, to sketch the appropriate sphere for the exercise, or the development of the power of mind. It has indeed an ample field — from the lowest act, dependant on the will, upward through all the simple and complex arrangement of ingenious mechanism, comprising by far the most interesting of all the relations we sustain to the material universe. The power, too, of adaptation and subserviency ; where the ascertainment of nature's laws gives to this power of mind the opportunity of rendering nature's most steadfast course obedient to some useful subordinate purposes to which man desires to direct it; and last of all, and chief of all, the power over mind itself, either our own or the mind of others, in all its faculties, understanding, affections, and will. To give a few of the simplest illustrations in each of these departments, must suffice.

The first and lowest exercise of the power of mind, above noticed, is when the mechanical powers are applied for the accomplishment of some object, to which our physical energy, without this assistance, would be inadequate. Necessity, that prolific mother of useful inventions, must early have led to the discovery and application of the simpler mechanical powers; and perhaps no nation or tribe of men has ever been found so ignorant, as not to have employed some of them, to accomplish that which the hand or the shoulder was found unequal to, without this aid. In the absence of all historical records, of the first invention and application of so simple a contrivance, conjecture may easily and safely suggest the process. When, in erecting their first rude dwellings, or in removing some obstructions from an oft-frequented pathway, man, unaided by his fellows, had found his own strengh unequal to the task of raising the mass of stone or wood, which his purpose required him to remove, he casts around him for the means of its accomplishment. Accidental observation may, in many ways, have taught him, for instance, the use of the lever. Accustomed, as he would be, to the observation of the simplest objects and occurrences in nature, we can conceive of no way in which he would more likely discover this power, than by beholding the sturdy trunks or even roots of lofty trees, caused to move, to vibrate by the power of the winds on their tops; when the same power, or a far greater, if applied near to the ground, would produce no effect. The inference and the application would be easy. With some long branch of the tree, of convenient size, he repairs again to the object he had just found too ponderous to be moved by his haud. Placing one end of this rude lever-bar under the mass, and fixing a rest or fulcrum, he applies his hand to the other end, and as he finds the object accomplished with ease, he experiences a satisfaction arising from the same principle, which gives delight, on the other hand, to the infant first shaking his rattle, and on the other to the philosopher of Syracuse, exclaiming with ecstacy, on accomplishing the solution

of a difficult and important problem, ' &vpēxa ! Evpēxa!' From this lowest specimen of the power of mind 80 low, indeed, that

perhaps it will be contended that there is no mind about it - you may go upward, step by step, through all the simple and combined exercise of mechanical skill

, in giving new force, or rather new modifications and useful varieties to the application of force, from the sim. plest artificer's wedge or wheel, to the astonishing achievements of Archimedes, in the defence of an ancient, or that of Crale, in that of a more modern, city; where, so confident were a small garrison of the power of mind, that they dared an overwhelming army to the assault, and by the machines of their ingenuity, sent them back discomfited and overwhelmed.

The power of adaptation and subserviency may be variously illustrated. In hydraulics, or the application of water-falls to the moving of machinery, where a knowledge of the principles of gravitation, and the force of fluids, enables man to apply that force, which before expended itself in vain, to any of his purposes; in the expansive force of rapid combustion, which has led to the discovery and application of gunpowder; in the power of steam, also, which is now developed in some of the most splendid exhibitions of human skill and ingenuity which have marked the progress of modern discovery. The polarity of the magnet is, in the mariner's compass, made subservient to the most useful and important purposes; and the transit of a planet, which with mathematical precision is anticipated, furnishes, in its occurrence, the means or the opportunity for still farther and more interesting discovery. So the air and the light, the tides and the winds, the instincts of animals, and most of the properties of matter, man, by the power of mind, investigates, and then, by an adaptation in itself as simple as its results are wonderful, makes them subservient to his purposes. How noble, in this respect, are our endowments, and how gloriously do they illustrate the wisdom of the Author of our being! Many things which He has placed entirely beyond our control, whose natures we cannot alter, whose course we can neither stop nor change, we are thus permitted, by a knowledge of their properties, and by a confidence in the stability of their course, to make almost as directly, and far more extensively, subservient to our own benefit, than though their natures and movements were entirely under our direction.

But the power of mind over mind, over itself and over others', is the noblest of its achievements. By this, he who has skill to wield the energies within him, may control, to an almost indefinite extent, the noblest of the works of God. By argument, he can carry conviction to the reason, and bend the understanding to his purpose. By sympathy, and all the other inlets to the heart, he wins over its affections, and makes them cooperate in the attainment of his objects. By imagination, and the graphic delineations and vivid coloring of the brilliant images made successively to pass before the contemplation, an ideal presence arrests and enchains the attention. Then, having yielded ourselves up to the entire control of the potent enchantment, by the combined influence of motives which the understanding admits, and the affections and imagination cooperate to strengthen, the will is gained, and whatever of influence and aid is in our power,

old.

and what philosopher has ever fully analyzed it? With no pretensions to have struck out new light on such a topic, our humble purpose shall be, to concentrate, and profitably direct, some rays of the

We shall endeavor briefly to sketch the appropriate sphere of its exercise ; offer some practical suggestions on the means of increasing this power; and then consider the motives by which its exercise, and the desire of its acquisition, ought always to be controlled.

The first thing proposed is, to sketch the appropriate sphere for the exercise, or the development of the power of mind. It has indeed an ample field — from the lowest act, dependant on the will, upward through all the simple and complex arrangement of ingenious mechanism, comprising by far the most interesting of all the relations we sustain to the material universe. The power, too, of adaptation and subserviency ; where the ascertainment of nature's laws gives to this power of mind the opportunity of rendering nature's most steadfast course obedient to some useful subordinate purposes to which man desires to direct it; and last of all, and chief of all, the power over mind itself, either our own or the mind of others, in all its faculties, understanding, affections, and will. To give a few of the simplest illustrations in each of these departments, must suffice.

The first and lowest exercise of the power of mind, above noticed, is when the mechanical powers are applied for the accomplishment of some object, to which our physical energy, without this assistance, would be inadequate. Necessity, that prolific mother of useful inventions, must early have led to the discovery and application of the simpler mechanical powers ; and perhaps no nation or tribe of men has ever been found so ignorant, as not to have employed some of them, to accomplish that which the hand or the shoulder was found unequal to, without this aid. In the absence of all historical records, of the first invention and application of so simple a contrivance, conjecture may easily and safely suggest the process. When, in erecting their first rude dwellings, or in removing some obstructions from an oft-frequented pathway, man, unaided by his fellows, had found his own strengh unequal to the task of raising the mass of stone or wood, which his purpose required him to remove, he casts around him for the means of its accomplishment. Accidental observation may, in many ways, have taught him, for instance, the use of the lever. Accustomed, as he would be, to the observation of the simplest objects and occurrences in nature, we can conceive of no way in which he would more likely discover this power, than by beholding the sturdy trunks or even roots of lofty trees, caused to move, to vibrate by the power of the winds on their tops ; when the same power, or a far greater, if applied near to the ground, would produce no effect. The inference and the application would be easy. With some long branch of the tree, of convenient size, he repairs again to the object he had just found too ponderous to be moved by his hand. Placing one end of this rude lever-bar under the mass, and fixing a rest or fulcrum, he applies his hand to the other end, and as he finds the object accomplished with ease, he experiences a satisfaction arising from the same principle, which gives delight, on the other hand, to the infant first shaking his rattle, and on the other to the philosopher of Syracuse, exclaiming with ecstacy, on accomplishing the solution of a difficult and important problem, ' &vpēxa ! Eupēxa ! From this lowest specimen of the power of mind - so low, indeed, that perhaps it will be contended that there is no mind about it - you may go upward, step by step, through all the simple and combined exercise of mechanical skill, in giving new force, or rather new modifications and useful varieties to the application of force, from the simplest artificer's wedge or wheel, to the astonishing achievements of Archimedes, in the defence of an ancient, or that of Crale, in that of a more modern, city; where, so confident were a small garrison of the power of mind, that they dared an overwhelming army to the assault, and by the machines of their ingenuity, sent them back discomfited and overwhelmed.

The power of adaptation and subserviency may be variously illustrated. In hydraulics, or the application of water-falls to the moving of machinery, where a knowledge of the principles of gravitation, and the force of fluids, enables man to apply that force, which before expended itself in vain, to any of his purposes ; in the expansive force of rapid combustion, which has led to the discovery and application of gunpowder; in the power of steam, also, which is now developed in some of the most splendid exhibitions of human skill and ingenuity which have marked the progress of modern discovery. The polarity of the magnet is, in the mariner's compass, made subservient to the most useful and important purposes; and the transit of a planet, which with mathematical precision is anticipated, furnishes, in its occurrence, the means or the opportunity for still farther and more interesting discovery. So the air and the light, the tides and the winds, the instincts of animals, and most of the properties of matter, man, by the power of mind, investigates, and then, by an adaptation in itself as simple as its results are wonderful, makes them subservient to his purposes. How noble, in this respect, are our endowments, and how gloriously do they illustrate the wisdom of the Author of our being! Many things which He has placed entirely beyond our control, whose natures we cannot alter, whose course we can neither stop nor change, we are thus permitted, by a knowledge of their properties, and by a confidence in the stability of their course, to make almost as directly, and far more extensively, subservient to our own benefit, than though their natures and movements were entirely under our direction.

But the power of mind over mind, over itself and over others', is the noblest of its achievements. By this, he who has skill to wield the energies within him, may control, to an almost indefinite extent, the noblest of the works of God. By argument, he can carry conviction to the reason, and bend the understanding to his purpose. By sympathy, and all the other inlets to the heart, he wins over its affections, and makes them cooperate in the attainment of his objects. By imagination, and the graphic delineations and vivid coloring of the brilliant images made successively to pass before the contemplation, an ideal presence arrests and enchains the attention. Then, having yielded ourselves up to the entire control of the potent enchantment, by the combined influence of motives which the understanding admits, and the affections and imagination cooperate to strengthen, the will is gained, and whatever of influence and aid is in our power,

« ПредишнаНапред »