Thought-Culture or Practical Mental Training

Some authorities, holding special theories regarding the nature of mind, hold that Thought-Culture is merely a _training_ of the faculties rather than a _creation_ of new mental power, inasmuch as the mind cannot be built up from the outside. This is a curious combination of truth and error. It is true that the mind cannot be built up from outside material, in the sense of creating _new mind_, but it is also true that in every mind there is the potentiality of growth and development. Just as the future oak is said to be in the acorn, so are the potentialities of mind-growth in every mind waiting for nourishment from outside and the proper cultivation. Brooks has well stated this, as follows: “The culture of the mind is not creative in its character; its object is to develop existing possibilities into realities. The mind possesses innate powers which may be awakened into a natural activity. The design of culture is to aid nature in improving the powers she has given. No new power can be created by culture; we can increase the activity of these powers, but cannot develop any new activities. Through these activities new ideas and thoughts may be developed, and the sum of human knowledge increased; but this is accomplished by a high activity of the natural powers with which the mind is endowed, and not by the culture of new powers. The profound philosopher uses the same faculties that the little child is developing in the games of the nursery. The object of culture is to arouse the powers which nature has given us into a normal activity and to stimulate and guide them in their unfolding.”

In connection with the objection above mentioned, it may be said that while the development of the mind must come from within itself, rather than from without, nevertheless, in order to develop, it must have the nourishing material from the outside world in order to grow. Just as the body can grow from within only by the aid of nourishment from outside, so the mind, while growing from within, needs the material for thought which can come only from without itself. Thought requires “things” upon which to exercise itself–and upon which it is nourished. Without these outside objects, it can have no exercise and can receive no nourishment. Thought consists in the perception, examination and comparison of _things_, and the consequent building up new combinations, arrangements and syntheses. Therefore, the perceptive faculties are most necessary to Thought, and their culture is most necessary in the general work of Thought-Culture.

It must not be lost sight of that in Thought-Culture there is necessary a variety of exercises and forms of nourishment. What will develop one faculty will exert but a faint effect upon others. Each needs its own particular kind of exercise–each its particular kind of mental nourishment. While it is true that there is a certain benefit gained by the entire mind from an exercise of any of its parts, this effect is but secondary in importance. A man well developed mentally has been developed in each faculty, each in its own way. The faculty of perception requires objects of perception; the faculty of imagination requires objects of imagination; the faculty of reasoning requires objects of reasoning; and so on, each requiring objects of exercise and nourishment of its own kind–in its own class. In some persons some of the faculties are well developed while others are deficient. It follows that in such a case the weak faculties should be developed first, that they be brought up to the general standard. Then a further general development may be undertaken if desired. Moreover, in general development, it will be found that certain faculties will respond more readily to the cultivation given, while others will be slow to respond. In such cases wisdom dictates that a greater degree of exercise and nourishment be given to the slower and less responsible faculties, while the more responsive be given but a lighter development. In Thought-Culture as in physical culture, the less developed and slower responding parts should be given special attention.

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In the following chapters we shall point out the methods and exercises calculated to develop the several faculties of the mind to the best advantage, in each case giving general advice along the lines of the cultivation of the particular faculty which will serve as general instruction regarding its culture. The student should carefully study the entire work before he attempts to specialize in the development of any particular faculty. The particular work may be aided by an acquaintance with the entire field of Thought-Culture for many of the faculties shade into each other in their activities and are always more or less interdependent. For, be it remembered, the mind is a _whole_, and not a mere aggregation of many parts. To understand the parts, one must study the whole–to understand the whole, one must study the parts.