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CULTIVATION OF THE REFLECTIVE FA CULTIES.
INTRoductory Observations.—In the preceding lectures of this series, we were occupied with the consideration of the perceptive and the expressive faculties, with a view to the plan and purposes of education. Following the historical order of development in the different classes in which the mental powers may, for such purposes, be grouped, we enter now on the study of the various modes of intellectual action which may be classed under the denomination of
Here we are met anew by a difficulty inherent in our native language, in the paucity and indefiniteness of the terms which it employs to designate the phenomena of mind. The vagueness of the phrase “reflective faculties,” is a serious impediment to clearness and distinctness of conception, as regards any attempt at exact definition or satisfactory classification of intellectual acts or conditions. The term “reflective,” however, if we resort once more to the serviceable aid of etymology, as a key to the interpretation of language, will prove strikingly suggestive of meaning; and, by its figurative ferce and peculiar significance, will atone, to some extent, for its deficiency in philosophic precision.
The term “perceptive,” (literally, taking through,) suggests the intellectual condition in which the mind is in the act of taking, receiving, or forming, ideas through the medium of the senses. The term “expression” implies a. state in which the mind is undergoing a process of pressing, or being pressed, from within outward. But the term “reflection,” (bending back.) suggests, figuratively, that state or act of the mind in which it reflects, repeats, or gives back, inwardly, the images impressed upon itself—the effects of which it is conscious, —whether produced from without or from within, whether occasioned by perception, imagination, conception, or emotion. In this condition is is implied that attention turns inward, and dwells, more or less consciously, on its internal subjects, rather than on the objects by which they may have been occasioned.
The history, so to term it, of intellectual action implied in the application of the word “reflective,” represents the mind, as in the act of going forth from its inner self, meeting the forms of the external world, and, by the impression which these produce upon it, “reflecting,” (turning back or inward,) upon itself, to contemplate and deliberately consider what it there consciously beholds. Nor does the term lose aught of its significance, when it is applied to the inward action of the mind on the phenomena of its own consciousness, when the forms of imagination, or even of pure thought itself, become so forcible as to attract and absorb the attention. The figurative word then represents the mind as turning back upon itself, to look inward, so as to ascertain and define, or consider more fully, the objects of its own creation, and to follow the trains of thought which these suggest. In either of the supposed cases, whether the objective or the subjective world furnish the data of thought, the result is an ultimate inward movement, which, although it may, in given instances, lead to the anticipation of external action, as a consequence, is, so far, a purely mental condition, sanctioning the popular usage which applies the term “reflection” to all modes of intellectual action which are of a strictly internal character.
Recognizing this fact of language, and pursuing our analysis of the human faculties as subjects of disciplinary culture, we now, therefore, change our field of observation, and pass from the outward spheres of perceptive observation and expressive communication to the silent, inner, invisible, spiritual, and purely intellectual region of Thought. We now contemplate man as made in the image of his Maker, as an intelligent and rational being; and we trace the working of those powers which ally him to “things unseen and eternal.”
Following, as before, the method of observing (1,) the forms of mental action grouped under a given classification; (2) their actuating principle, or motive force; (3,) their natural and habitual tendency; (4) the results of their action; and (5) the educational processes consequently required for their development and discipline, we proceed to a summary
(I) ENUMERAtion of the Reflective Faculties.
Memory, Conception, Consciousness, Reason, Understanding, Judgment.
Erplanatory Remark—This classification is presented not as one philosophically complete or exhaustive, but merely as a suggestive outline, for educational purposes. It is intentionally limited to the chief of those forms of mental action which may be regarded as acts or powers not only strictly interior, but purely intellectual, as contradistinguished from those which are concerned with the external objects and facts of perception, from those which consistin inward or outward movements of feeling, and from those which are conversant with the ideal forms and creations of the imagination. A more extensive classification, including the subdivisions and subordinate details of reflective intellection, will necessarily present itself at a later stage of our analysis, when we come to the consideration of the various forms of exercise to which this group of faculties is subjected in the processes of education.
(1.) Memory: the Basis of Reflective Power.—This faculty naturally claims our first attention, when we contemplate man as a being endowed with the power of reflective intelligence. It is this faculty which enables him to take the first step from the exterior and objective world into the interior and subjective. Its exercise empowers him, even in the absence of the objects of sense, to retain or to recall, for indefinite periods, and at indefinite intervals, the ideas which he derived from them. He can thus, at pleasure, dispense with the actual presence of external objects, and yet, by dwelling on them mentally, after he has withdrawn from them outwardly, pursue the trains of thought to which they give rise. As a result, he thus acquires a more intimate knowledge of their relations to his own interior being, and converts the pabulum of intelligence, furnished in the data of the outward world, into the pure elements of intellectual sustenance. The activity of this power is, in fact, the measure of his growth in mental stature and strength. It is the condition of all intelligent progress, whether we regard memory as the grand receptacle and depository of all those elements of knowledge which are at once the rudiments of intellectual life, the springs mental of action, and the material of thought, or as the chain which links the past to the present, and retains every acquisition as a foothold for the next step forward in the processes of reason and the investigation of truth.
Remembrance.—The faculty of memory, even in its comparatively passive and quiescent form of mere retention, or remembrance, gives man the power of holding with a firm grasp all the treasures which observation enables him to accumulate from without, and to carry them with him into that internal region of thought where they are to be assimilated to his own mental being, and become component parts of it, in transfigured forms of living power and beauty. Not only so: but even the involuntary susceptibility of this vast capacity preserves in the mind the imprint of every passing thought, every form of imagination, and every mood of feeling, which has character enough to excite his attention and recall him to himself, in the exercise of consciousness and reflection.
Intellectual and Moral Offices of Memory—This benign retentive power gives unity to man's intellectual and moral life. It is the sure and steadfast anchor by which he grapples the present to the past, and is saved from the fluctuation and fragmentary tossing of “the ignorant present." In the wide field of culture, memory makes the mind the seed plot and garden ground of all the knowledge which human care and kindness have the skill or the power to drop into it. Fertilized by the genial influences of well directed education, the retentive capacity of memory becomes rich in every precious and noble product of mind by which the intellectual life of the world is nourished and sustained. But it is as an element of intellectual and moral power in human character, that this faculty reveals its chief value. Its very nature and tendency is to constitute man a reflective being, by withdrawing him from the influence of a too exclusive regard to the present and the external; by soliciting his attention to the profoundest verities of his own intelligent and immortal being; and by balancing the stern realities of experience against the sometimes fallacious solicitations of hope, or the grave actualities of the past against the doubtful promises of the future. It prompts to thought, and leads to security amidst uncertainty and distraction. It invites to reflective meditation, by the suggestive materials in which it abounds. It cherishes contemplation, by opening to the mind's eye the long vista of the past with its fast-linked trains of scene and incident and action, and the ineffaceable impressions which all these have graven upon the heart. It tends to make man a considerate and thoughtful being, by the faithful monitions which it furnishes to the lips of wisdom warning against the errors of judgment or of will, by reminding of their penalties formerly incurred. Remembrance saves from the domineering ascendency and absorbing attractions of the sensuous and the transient, by intermingling with the fluidity and evanescence of the present the solidity and permanence of the past. H thus tends to give gravity and weight to character; and if its influence is sometimes a shade too sombre for gayety, it contributes a not undesirable element to the sternness of manhood, as a safeguard to the firmness of will. Its office is, in this respect, a preventive one,—to save man from the instability which the exclusive influence of things present and things outward might induce; and, by attracting him inward to himself, it favors the acquisition of that self-knowledge which is the anchor of his safety. Recollection.—This term is but another name for the faculty of memory, and merely intimates that the impressions made on the mind by a given object, scene, or event, may have been, for a time, effaced, or its elements dispersed, by the intervention of other agencies; and that, with or without an effort of the will to that effect, but by the operation of some law of mental association, the idea recurs or returns, as it were, and, perhaps, unexpectedly and suddenly, to the mind. We are then said to “recollect,” (gather again,) or recall what had, for a season, escaped the retentive hold of memory. The very abruptness and suddenness of the transition of thought, in such instances, exerts a peculiar power on the reflective action of the mind, and makes it more striking, more impressive, and more ef. fectual. Recollection may thus light up the soul with the instantaneous gleam of a rekindled thought, or plunge it into the depths of a past grief; or it may arrest the will on the very brink of remembered evil. A long train of profound reflections may thus be suggested, which may exert an influence on the character of a whole life. - A mere flash of reflection has sometimes sufficed, by the instant recalling of scenes of childhood's innocent enjoyment, or the injunctions of parental wisdom and love to reinstate conscience on its rightful throne, and bring back the tempted to himself, or to restrain him from the first steps of a career of ruin. A remembered promise, pledging honor and truth, has sometimes risen up as a barrier against an approaching tide of overwhelming guilt. A verse of sacred Scripture, darting across the mind, has checked the hand already stretched out to do the deed of wickedness which no after tears of penitence could have sufficed to wash out. But not as a preventive only does memory thus subserve man's highest interests: its recurring suggestions are not less frequently inspiring prompters to every form of virtue. To the dispirited traveler on the pathway of life, it comes, sometimes, as an inspiring angel, with messages of cheering and encouragement drawn from the remembered virtues of the struggling great and good who have gone before. It points him to “their footprints on the sands of time,” and bids him “take heart again.” It reminds him that his great reliance is not on the outward and the material, but on that “hidden strength" of which our greatest poet speaks so eloquently. The maxim or the motto which the guardian care of the mother or the teacher had engraven as a watchword on the tablet of the heart, in early years, recurs, sometimes, to incite to noble deeds or noble enduring, the man encompassed by difficulties and dangers before which he would otherwise have staggered. The “one, last, best effort, more,” which wins the crown of victory, is that, not unfrequently,