Part 1 out of 3
Produced by Juliet Sutherland, Mary Meehan and the Online Distributed
THE MENTAL EFFICIENCY SERIES
COMMON SENSE HOW TO EXERCISE IT
ANNOTATED BY: B. DANGENNES
TRANSLATED BY: MME. LEON J. BERTHELOT DE LA BOILEVEBIB
The quality popularly designated as "Common Sense" comprehends, according
to the modern point of view, the sound judgment of mankind when
reflecting upon problems of truth and conduct without bias from logical
subtleties or selfish interests. It is one of Nature's priceless gifts;
an income in itself, it is as valuable as its application is rare.
How often we hear the expression "Why, I never thought of that!" Why?
Because we have failed to exercise Common Sense--that genius of mankind,
which, when properly directed is the one attribute that will carry man
and his kind successfully through the perplexities of life. Common Sense
is as a plant of delicate growth, in need of careful training and
continued watching so that it may bear fruit at all seasons. In the
teachings that follow, the venerable Shogun, Yoritomo-Tashi, points out
that Common Sense is a composite product consisting of (1) Perception;
(2) Memory; (3) Thought; (4) Alertness; (5) Deduction; (6) Foresight; (7)
Reason, and (8) Judgment. Discussing each of these separately, he
indicates their relations and how they may be successfully employed.
Further, he warns one against the dangers that lurk in moral inertia,
indifference, sentimentality, egotism, etc.
Common Sense is a quality that must be developed if it is to be utilized
to the full of its practical value. Indispensable to this development are
such qualifications--(1) Ability to grasp situations; (2) Ability to
concentrate the mind; (3) Keenness of perception; (4) Exercise of
the reasoning power; (5) Power of approximation; (6) Calmness;
(7) Self-control, etc. Once mastered, these qualifications enable one to
reap the reward of a fine and an exalted sense, and of a practical common
sense which sees things as they are and does things as they should be
The desire for knowledge, like the thirst for wealth, increases by
acquisition, but as Bishop Lee has told us, "Knowledge without common
sense is folly; without method it is waste; without kindness it is
fanaticism; without religion it is death." But, Dean Farrar added: "With
common sense, it is wisdom; with method it is power; with charity
beneficence; with religion it is virtue, life, and peace."
In these pages, Yoritomo-Tashi teaches his readers how to overcome such
defects of the understanding as may beset them. He shows them how to
acquire and develop common sense and practical sense, how to apply them
in their daily lives, and how to utilize them profitably in the
To him common sense is the crown of all faculties. Exercised vigilantly,
it leads to progress and prosperity, therefore, says he "enthusiasm is as
brittle as crystal, but common sense is durable as brass."
Why should I hesitate to express the pleasure I felt on learning that the
public, already deeply interested in the teachings of Yoritomo-Tashi,
desired to be made familiar with them in a new form?
This knowledge meant many interesting and pleasant hours of work in
prospect for me, recalling the time passed in an atmosphere of that peace
which gives birth to vibrations of healthful thoughts whose radiance
vitalizes the soul.
It was also with a zeal, intensified by memories of the little deserted
room in the provincial museum, where silence alone could lend rhythm to
meditation, that I turned over again and again the leaves of those
precious manuscripts, translating the opinions of him whose keen and
ornate psychology we have so often enjoyed together.
It was with the enthusiastic attention of the disciple that once more I
scanned the pages, where the broadest and most humane compassion allies
itself with those splendid virtues: energy, will and reason.
For altho Yoritomo glorifies the will and energy under all their aspects,
he knows also how to find, in his heart, that tenderness which transforms
these forces, occasionally somewhat brutal, into powers for good, whose
presence are always an indication of favorable results.
He knows how to clothe his teachings in fable and appealing legend, and
his exotic soul, so near and yet so far, reminds one of a flower, whose
familiar aspect is transmuted into rare perfume.
By him the sternest questions are stripped of their hostile aspects and
present themselves in the alluring form of the simplest allegories of
striking poetic intensity.
When reading his works, one recalls unconsciously the orations of the
ancient philosophers, delivered in those dazzling gardens, luxuriant in
sunlight and fragrant with flowers.
In this far-away past, one sees also the silhouette of a majestic figure,
whose school of philosophy became a religion, which interested the world
because it spoke both of love and goodness.
But in spite of this fact, the doctrines of Yoritomo are of an
imaginative type. His kingdom belongs to this world, and his theories
seek less the joys of the hereafter than of that tangible happiness which
is found in the realization of the manly virtues and in that effort to
create perfect harmony from which flows perfect peace.
He takes us by the hand, in order to lead us to the center of that Eden
of Knowledge where we have already discovered the art of persuasion, and
that art, most difficult of all to acquire--the mastery of timidity.
Following him, we shall penetrate once more this Eden, that we may study
with Yoritomo the manner of acquiring this art--somewhat unattractive
perhaps but essentially primordial--called Common Sense.
I. Common Sense: What Is It?
II. The Fight Against Illusion
III. The Development of the Reasoning Power
IV. Common Sense and Impulse
V. The Dangers of Sentimentality
VI. The Utility of Common Sense in Daily Life
VII. Power of Deduction
VIII. How to Acquire Common Sense
IX. Common Sense and Action
X. The Most Thorough Business Man
XI. Common Sense and Self-Control
XII. Common Sense Does Not Exclude Great Aspirations
COMMON SENSE: WHAT IS IT?
One beautiful evening, Yoritomo-Tashi was strolling in the gardens of
his master, Lang-Ho, listening to the wise counsels which he knew so
well how to give in all attractiveness of allegory, when, suddenly, he
paused to describe a part of the land where the gardener's industry was
Here parasitic plants had, by means of their tendrils, crept up the
shrubbery and stifled the greater part of its flowers.
Only a few of them reached the center of the crowded bunches of the grain
stalks and of the trailing vines that interlaced the tiny bands which
held them against the wall.
One plant alone, of somber blossom and rough leaves, was able to flourish
even in close proximity to the wild verdure. It seemed that this plant
had succeeded in avoiding the dangerous entanglements of the poisonous
plants because of its tenacious and fearless qualities, at the same time
its shadow was not welcome to the useless and noxious creeping plants.
"Behold, my son," said the Sage, "and learn how to understand the
teachings of nature: The parasitic plants represent negligence against
the force of which the best of intentions vanish."
Energy, however, succeeds in overcoming these obstacles which increase
daily; it marks out its course among entanglements and rises from the
midst of the most encumbered centers, beautiful and strong.
Ambition and audacity show themselves also after having passed through
thousands of difficulties and having overcome them all.
Common sense rarely needs to strive; it unfolds itself in an atmosphere
of peace, far from the tumult of obstructions and snares that are not
Its flower is less alluring than many others, but it never allows itself
to be completely hidden through the wild growth of neighboring branches.
It dominates them easily, because it has always kept them at a distance.
Modest but self-sustaining, it is seen blossoming far from the struggles
which always retard the blossoming of plants and which render their
flowering slower and, at times, short-lived.
A most absurd prejudice has occasionally considered common sense to be an
inferior quality of mind.
This error arises from the fact that it can adapt itself as well to the
most elevated conceptions as to the most elemental mentalities.
To those who possess common sense is given the faculty of placing
everything in its proper rank.
It does not underestimate the value of sentiments by attributing to them
an exaggerated importance.
It permits us to consider fictitious reasons with reservation and of
resolutely rejecting those that resort to the weapons of hypocrisy.
Persons who cultivate common sense never refuse to admit their errors.
One may truly affirm that they are rarely far from the truth, because
they practise directness of thought and force themselves never to deviate
from this mental attitude.
Abandoning for a moment his favorite demonstration by means of symbolism,
Yoritomo said to us:
"Common sense should be thus defined:
"It is a central sense, toward which all impressions converge and unite
in one sentiment--the desire for the truth.
"For people who possess common sense, everything is summed up in one
"The love of directness and simplicity.
"All thoughts are found to be related; the preponderance of these two
sentiments makes itself felt in all resolutions, and chiefly in the
reflections which determine them.
"Common sense permits us to elude fear which always seizes those whose
judgment vacillates; it removes the defiance of the Will and indicates
infallibly the correct attitude to assume."
And Yoritomo, whose mind delighted in extending his observations to the
sociological side of the question, adds:
"Common sense varies in its character, according to surroundings and
"The common sense of one class of people is not the same as that of a
"Certain customs, which seem perfectly natural to Japan would offend
those belonging to the western world, just as our Nippon prejudices would
find themselves ill at ease among certain habits customary among
"Common sense," he continues, "takes good care not to assail violently
those beliefs which tradition has transmuted into principles.
"However, if direct criticism of those beliefs causes common sense to be
regarded unfavorably, it will be welcomed with the greatest reserve and
will maintain a certain prudence relative to this criticism, which will
be equivalent to a proffered reproach.
"Common sense often varies as to external aspects, dependent upon
education, for it is evident that a diamio (Japanese prince) can not
judge of a subject in the same way as would a man belonging to the lowest
class of society.
"The same object can become desirable or undesirable according to the
rank it occupies.
"Must one believe that common sense is excluded from two such
"No, not at all. An idea can be rejected or accepted by common sense
without violating the principles of logic in the least.
"If, as one frequently sees, an idea be unacceptable because of having
been presented before those belonging to a particular environment, common
sense, by applying its laws, will recognize that the point of view must
be changed before the idea can become acceptable."
And again, Yoritomo calls our attention to a peculiar circumstance.
"Common sense," he says, "is the art of resolving questions, not the art
of posing them.
"When taking the initiative it is rarely on trial.
"But the moment it is a case of applying practically that which
ingenuity, science or genius have invented, it intervenes in the happiest
and most decisive manner.
"Common sense is the principle element of discernment.
"Therefore, without this quality, it is impossible to judge either of the
proposition or the importance of the subject.
"It is only with the aid of common sense that it is possible to
distinguish the exact nature of the proposition, submitted for a just
appreciation, and to render a solution of it which conforms to perfect
accuracy of interpretation.
"The last point is essential and has its judicial function in all the
circumstances of life. Without accuracy, common sense can not be
satisfactorily developed, because it finds itself continually shocked by
incoherency, resulting from a lack of exactness in the expression of
If we wish to know what the principal qualities are which form common
sense, we shall turn over a few pages and we shall read:
"Common sense is the synthesis of many sentiments, all of which converge
in forming it.
"The first of these sentiments is reason.
"Then follows moderation.
"To these one may add:
"The faculty of penetration;
"The quality consistency.
"Then, wisdom, which permits us to profit by the lessons of experience.
"A number of other qualities must be added to these, in order to complete
the formation of common sense; but, altho important, they are only the
satellites of those we have just named.
"Reason is really indispensable to the projection of healthy thoughts.
"The method of reasoning should be the exhaustive study of minute detail,
of which we shall speak later.
"For the moment we shall content ourselves by indicating, along the broad
lines of argument, what is meant by this word reason.
"Reasoning is the art of fixing the relativeness of things.
"It is by means of reasoning that it is possible to differentiate events
and to indicate to what category they belong.
"It is the habit of reasoning to determine that which it is wise to
undertake, thus permitting us to judge what should be set aside.
"How could we guide ourselves through life without the beacon-light of
reason? It pierces the darkness of social ignorance, it helps us to
distinguish vaguely objects heretofore plunged in obscurity, and which
will always remain invisible to those who are unprovided with this
indispensable accessory--the gift of reasoning.
"He who ventures in the darkness and walks haphazard, finds himself
suddenly confronted by obstacles which he was unable to foresee.
"He finds himself frightened by forms whose nature he cannot define, and
is often tempted to attribute silhouettes of assassins to branches of
trees, instead of recognizing the real culprit who is watching him from
the corner of the wild forest.
"Life, as well as the wildest wilderness, is strewn with pitfalls. To
think of examining it rapidly, without the aid of that torch called
reason, would be imitating the man of whom we have just spoken.
"Many are the mirages, which lead us to mistake dim shadows for
disquieting realities, unless we examine them critically, for otherwise
we can never ascribe to them their true value.
"Certain incidents, which seem at first sight to be of small importance,
assume a primordial value when we have explained them by means of
"To reason about a thing is to dissect it, to examine it from every
point of view before adopting it, before deferring to it or before
rejecting it; in one word, to reason about a thing is to act with
conscious volition, which is one of the phases essential to the conquest
of common sense.
"This principle conceded, it then becomes a question of seriously
studying the method of reasoning, which we propose to do in the following
manner but first it is necessary to be convinced of this truth."
Without reason there is no common sense.
Yoritomo teaches us that, altho moderation is only of secondary
importance, it is still indispensable to the attainment of common sense.
It is moderation which incites us to restrain our impatience, to silence
our inexplicable antipathies and to put a break on our tempestuous
Can one judge of the aspect of a garden while the tempest is twisting the
branches of the trees, tearing off the tendrils of the climbing vines,
scattering the petals of the flowers and spoiling the corollas already in
And now, Yoritomo, who loves to illustrate his teachings by expressive
figures of speech, tells us the following story.
"A Japanese prince, on awakening, one day, demanded lazily of his
servants what kind of weather it was, but he forbade them to raise the
awnings which kept a cool, dim light in his room and shielded his eyes
from the strong light from without. The two servants left him reclining
upon his divan and went into the adjoining room, where the stained-glass
windows were not hung with curtains.
"One of them, putting his face close to a yellow-tinted pane of glass,
exclaimed in admiration of the beautiful garden, bathed in the early
"The second one, directing his gaze to a dark blue pane and, looking
through the center, remarked to his companion, I see no sunshine, the day
is dreary and the clouds cast gloomy shadows upon the horizon.
"Each one returned to relate their impressions of the weather, and
the prince wondered at the different visions, unable to understand
There, concluded the Shogun, that is what happens to people who do not
Those, who see things through the medium of enthusiasm refuse to
recognize that they could be deprived of brilliancy and beauty.
The others, those who look upon things from a pessimistic standpoint,
never find anything in them save pretexts for pouring out to their
hearers tales of woe and misery.
All find themselves deceptively allured; some rush toward illusion,
others do not wish to admit the positive chances for success, and both
lacking moderation, they start from a basis of false premises from which
they draw deplorable conclusions, thus defeating future success.
The spirit of penetration, according to the old Nippon philosopher, is
not always a natural gift. "It is," said he, "a quality which certain
people possess in a very high degree but which in spite this fact should
be strengthened by will and discipline.
"One can easily acquire this faculty by endeavoring to foresee the
solution of contemporary events; or at least try to explain the hidden
reasons which have produced them.
"Great effects are produced, many times, from seemingly unimportant
causes, and it is, above all, to the significant details that the spirit
of penetration should give unceasing and undivided attention.
"Everything around us can serve as a subject for careful study; political
events, incidents which interest family or friends, all may serve as just
so many themes for earnest reflection.
"It is always preferable to confine this analysis to subjects in which we
have no personal interest; thus we shall accustom ourselves to judge of
people and things dispassionately and impersonally. This is the quality
of mind necessary to the perfect development of penetration.
"If, for any reason, passion should create confusion of ideas, clearness
of understanding would be seriously compromised and firmness of judgment,
by deteriorating, would cast aside the manifestation of common sense.
"The spirit consistency is perhaps more difficult to conquer, for it is a
combination of many of the qualities previously mentioned.
"Its inspiration is drawn from the reasoning faculty, it cannot exist
without moderation and implies a certain amount of penetration, because
it must act under the authority of conviction.
"If you strike long enough in the same place on the thickest piece of
iron, in time it will become as thin as the most delicate kakemono [a
picture which hangs in Japanese homes].
"It is impossible to define the spirit of consistency more accurately.
"It is closely related to perseverance, but can not be confounded with
it, because the attributes of consistency have their origin in logic and
reason which does not produce one act alone but a series of acts
sometimes dependent, always inferred.
"The spirit of consistency banishes all thought derogatory to the subject
in question; it is the complete investiture of sentiments, all converging
toward a unique purpose."
This purpose can be of very great importance and the means of attainment
multiform, but the dominant idea will always direct the continuous
achievements; under their different manifestations--and these at times
contradictory--they will never be other than the emanation of a direct
thought, whose superior authority is closely united to the final success.
Wisdom, continued the philosopher, should be mentioned here only as the
forerunner which permits us to analyze experience.
It is from this never-ending lesson which life teaches us that the wisdom
of old age is learned.
But is it really necessary to reach the point of decrepitude, in order to
profit by an experience, actually useless at that time, as is always a
"Is it not much better to compel its attainment when the hair is black
and the heart capable of hope?
"Why give to old age alone the privileges of wisdom and experience?
"It is high time to combat so profound an error.
"Is it not a cruel irony which renders such a gift useless?
"Of what benefit is wisdom resulting from experience if it cannot
preserve us from the unfortunate seduction of youth?
"Why should its beauty be unveiled only to those who can no longer profit
by it?" This is the opinion of Yoritomo, who says:
"What would be thought of one who prided himself on possessing bracelets
when he had lost his two arms in war?
"It is, therefore, necessary, not only to encourage young people to
profit by lessons of wisdom and experience, but, still further, to
indicate to them how they can accomplish the result of these lessons.
"It is certain that he who can recall a long life ought to understand
better than the young man all the pitfalls with which it is strewn.
"But does he always judge of it without bias or prejudice?
"Does he not find acceptable pretexts for excusing his past faults and
does he not exaggerate the rewards for excellence, which have accorded
him advantages, due at times to chance or to the force of circumstances?
"Finally, the old man can not judge of the sentiments which he held at
twenty years of age, unless it be by the aid of reminiscences, more or
less fleeting, and an infinitely attenuated intensity of representation.
"Emotive perception being very much weakened, the integrity of memory
must be less exact.
"Then, in the recession of years, some details, which were at times
factors of the initial idea, are less vivid, thus weakening the power of
reason which was the excuse, the pretext, or the origin of the act.
"This is why, altho we may honor the wisdom of the aged, it is well to
acquire it at a time when we may use it as a precious aid.
"To those who insist that nothing is equivalent to personal experience,
we shall renew our argument, begging them to meditate on the preceding
lines, drawing their attention to the fact that a just opinion can only
be formed when personal sentiment is excluded from the discussion.
"Is it, then, necessary to have experienced pain in order to prevent
or cure it?
"The majority of physicians have never been killed by the disease
"Does this fact prevent them from combatting disease victoriously?
"And since we are speaking of common sense we shall not hesitate to
invoke it in this instance, and all will agree that it should dictate
"Then why could we not do for the soul that which can be done for the
"It is first from books, then from the lessons of life that physicians
learn the principles underlying their knowledge of disease and its
"Is it absolutely indispensable for us to poison ourselves in order to
know that such and such a plant is harmful and that another contains the
healing substance which destroys the effects of the poison?
"We may all possess wisdom if we are willing to be persuaded that the
experience of others is as useful as our own."
The events which multiply about us, Yoritomo says, ought to be, for each
master, an opportunity for awakening in the soul of his disciples a
perfect reasoning power, starting from the inception of the premises to
arrive at the conclusions of all arguments.
From the repetition of events, from their correlation, from their
equivalence, from their parallelism, knowledge will be derived and will
be productive of good results, in proportion as egotistical sentiment is
eliminated from them; and slowly, with the wisdom acquired by experience,
common sense will manifest itself tranquil and redoubtable, working
always for the accomplishment of good as does everything which is the
emblem of strength and peace.
THE FIGHT AGAINST ILLUSION
Common Sense such as we have just described it, according to Yoritomo, is
the absolute antithesis of dreamy imagination, it is the sworn enemy of
illusion, against which it struggles from the moment of contact.
Common sense is solid, illusion is yielding, also illusion never
issues victorious from a combat with it; during a struggle illusion
endeavors vainly to display its subterfuges and cunning; illusions
disappear one by one, crusht by the powerful arms of their terrible
"The worship of illusion," says Yoritomo, "presents certain dangers to
the integrity of judgment, which, under such influence, falsifies the
comparative faculty, and sways decision to the side of neutrality.
"This kind of mental half-sleep is extremely detrimental to
manifestations of reason, because this torpor excludes it from imaginary
"Little by little the lethargy caused by this intellectual paralysis
produces the effect of fluidic contagion over all our faculties.
"Energy, which ought to be the principle factor in our resolutions,
becomes feeble and powerless at the point where we no longer care to feel
"The sentiment of effort exists no longer, since we are pleased to
resolve all difficulties without it.
"In this inconstant state of mind, common sense, after wandering a moment
withdraws itself, and we find that we are delivered over to all the
perils of imagination.
"Nothing that we see thus confusedly is found on the plane which belongs
to common sense; the ideas, associated by a capricious tie, bind and
unbind themselves, without imposing the necessity of a solution.
"The man who allows himself to be influenced by vague dreams," adds the
Shogun, "must, if he does not react powerfully, bid farewell to common
sense and reason; for he will experience so great a charm in forgetting,
even for one moment, the reality of life, that he will seek to prolong
this blest moment.
"He will renounce logic, whose conclusions are, at times, opposed to his
desires, and he will plunge himself into that false delight of awakened
dreams, or, as some say, day-dreams.
"Those who defend this artificial conception of happiness, like to
compare people of common sense to heavy infantry soldiers, who march
along through stony roads, while they depict themselves as pleasant
bird-fanciers, giving flight to the fantastic bearers of wings.
"But they do not take into account the fact that the birds, for whom they
open the cage, fly away without the intention of returning, leaving them
thus deceived and deprived of the birds, while the rough infantry
soldiers, after many hardships, reach the desired end which they had
proposed to attain, thus realizing the joys of conquest.
"There they find the rest and security, which the possessors of fugitive
birds will never know.
"Those who cultivate common sense will always ignore the collapses which
follow the disappearance of illusions.
"How many men have suffered thus uselessly!
"And what is more stupid than a sorrow, voluntarily imposed, when it can
not be productive of any good?
"Men can not be too strongly warned against the tendency of embellishing
everything that concerns the heart-life, and this is the inclination of
"The causes of this propensity are many and the need for that which
astounds is not the only cause to be mentioned.
"Indolence is never a stranger to illusion.
"It is so delightful to foresee a solution which conforms to our desires!
"For certain natures, stained with moral atrophy, it is far sweeter to
hope for that which will be produced without pain.
"One begins by accelerating this achievement, so earnestly desired, by
using all the will-power, and one becomes accustomed progressively to
regard desires as a reality, and, aided by indolence, man discounts in
advance an easy success.
"False enthusiasm, or rather enthusiasm without deliberate reflection,
always enters into these illusions, which are accompanied by persuasion
and never combatted by common sense.
"Vanity is never foreign to these false ideas, which are always of a
nature to flatter one's amour propre.
"We love to rejoice beforehand in the triumph which we believe will win
and, aided by mental frivolity, we do not wish to admit that success can
"The dislike of making an effort, however, would quickly conceal, with
its languishing voice, the wise words of common sense, if we would listen
momentarily to them.
"And, lastly, it is necessary to consider credulity, to which, in our
opinion, is accorded a place infinitely more honorable than it deserves."
And now the sage, Yoritomo, establishes the argument which, by the aid of
common sense, characterized these opinions.
According to him, "It does not belong to new and vibrating souls, as many
would have us believe.
"When credulity does not proceed from inveterate stupidity, it is always
the result of apathy and weakness.
"Unhappiness and misfortune attend those who are voluntarily feeble.
"Their defect deprived them of the joy derived from happy efforts. They
will be the prey of duplicity and untruth.
"They are the vanquished in life, and scarcely deserve the pity of the
conqueror; for their defeat lacks grandeur, since it has never been
aurioled by the majestic strength of conflict."
Following this, the Shogun speaks to us of those whom he calls the ardent
seekers after illusion.
One evening he related the following story: "Some men started off for an
island, which they perceived in the distance.
"It looked like a large, detached red spot, amid the flaming rays of the
setting sun, and the men told of a thousand wonders about this unknown
land, as yet untrodden by the foot of man.
"The first days of the journey were delightful. The oars lay in the
bottom of the boat untouched, and they just allowed themselves to drift
with the tide. They disembarked, singing to the murmur of the waters, and
gathered the fruits growing on the shores, to appease their hunger.
"But the stream, which was bearing them onward, did not retain long its
limpidity and repose; the eddies soon entrapped the tiny bark and dragged
the men overboard.
"Some, looking backward, were frightened at the thought of ascending the
river, which had become so tempestuous.
"Escaping the wreckage of the boat as best they could, they entrusted
themselves again to the fury of the waters.
"They had to suffer from cold and hunger, for they were far from shore,
and as, in their imagination, the island was very near, they had
neglected to furnish themselves with the necessities of life.
"At last, after the fatigues which forethought would have prevented, they
found themselves one evening, at sundown, at the base of a great rock,
bathed in the rosy light of the departing sun.
"This, then, was the island of their dreams.
"Tired out and exhausted from lack of food, they had only the strength to
lie down upon the inhospitable rock, there to die!
"The disappearance of the illusion, having destroyed their courage and
having struck them with the sword of despair, the rock of reality had
proved destructive of their bodies and souls.
"The moral of this story easily unfolds itself.
"If the seekers after illusions had admitted common sense to their
deliberations, they would certainly have learned to know the nature of
the enchanted isle, and they would have taken good care not to start out
on their journey which must terminate by such a deception.
"Would they not have taken the necessary precaution to prevent all the
delays attendant upon travels of adventure, and would they have entrusted
their lives to so frail a skiff, if they had acquired common sense?"
We must conclude, with Yoritomo, that illusion could often be transformed
into happy reality if it were better understood, and if, instead of
looking upon it through the dreams of our imagination, we applied
ourselves to the task of eliminating the fluid vapors which envelop it,
that we might clothe it anew with the garment of common sense.
Many enterprises have been considered as illusions because we have
neglected to awaken the possibilities which lay dormant within them.
The initial thought, extravagant as it may appear, brings with it, at
times, facilities of realization that a judgment dictated by common sense
can alone make us appreciate.
He who knows how to keep a strict watch over himself will be able to
escape the causes of disillusion, which lead us through fatal paths of
error, to the brink of despair.
"That which is above all to be shunned," said the philosopher, "is the
encroachment of discouragement, the result of repeated failures.
"Rare are those who wish to admit their mistakes.
"In the structure of the mind, inaccuracy brings a partial deviation from
the truth, and it does not take long for this slight error to generalize
itself, if not corrected by its natural reformer--common sense.
"But how many, among those who suffer from these unhappy illusions, are
apt to recognize them as such?
"It would, however, be a precious thing for us to admit the causes
which have led us to such a sorry result, by never permitting them to
"This would be the only way for the victims of illusion to preserve the
life of that element of success and happiness known as hope.
"Because of seeing so often the good destroyed, we wish to believe no
more in it as inherent in our being, and rather than suffer repeatedly
from its disappearance, we prefer to smother it before perfect
"The greater number of skeptics are only the unavowed lovers of illusion;
their desires, never being those capable of realization, they have lost
the habit of hoping for a favorable termination of any sentiment.
"The lack of common sense does not allow them to understand the folly of
their enterprise, and rather than seek the causes of their habitual
failures, they prefer to attack God and man, both of whom they hold
responsible for all their unhappiness.
"They are willingly ironical, easily become pessimists, and villify life,
without desiring to perceive that it reserved as many smiles for them as
the happy people whom they envy.
"All these causes of disappointment can only be attributed to the lack of
equilibrium of the reasoning power and, above all, to the absence of
common sense, hence we cannot judge of relative values.
"To give a definite course to the plans which we form is to prepare the
happy termination of them.
"This is also the way to banish seductive illusion, the devourer of
beautiful ambitions and youthful aspirations."
And, with his habitual sense of the practical in life, Yoritomo adds the
"There are, however, some imaginations which can not be controlled by the
power of reasoning, and which, in spite of everything, escape toward the
unlimited horizons of the dream.
"It would be in vain to think of shutting them up in the narrow prison
walls of strict reason; they would die wishing to attempt an escape.
"To these we can prescribe the dream under its most august form, that
"Each inventor has pursued an illusion, but those whose names have lived
to reach our recognition, have caught a glimpse of the vertiginous course
they were following, and no longer have allowed themselves to get too far
away from their base--science.
"Yes, illusion can be beautiful, on condition that it is not constantly
"To make it beautiful we must be its master, then we may attempt
"It is thus that all great men act; before adopting an illusion, as
truth, they have assured themselves of the means by the aid of which they
were permitted first to hope for its transformation and afterward be
certain of their power to discipline it.
"Illusion then changes its name and becomes the Ideal.
"Instead of remaining an inaccessible myth, it is transformed into an
entity for the creation of good.
"It is no longer the effort to conquer the impossible, which endeavor
saps our vital forces; it is a contingency which study and common sense
strip of all aleatory principles, in order to give a form which becomes
more tangible and more definite every day.
"We have nothing more to do with sterile efforts toward gaining an object
which fades from view and disappears as one approaches it.
"It is no longer the painful reaching out after an object always growing
more indistinct as we draw near it.
"It is through conscious and unremitting effort that we attain the
happy expression of successful endeavor and realize the best in life,
for slow ascension in winning this best leaves no room for satiety in
this noble strife.
"We must pity those who live for an illusion as well as those whose
imagination has not known how to create an ideal, whose beauty illumines
"It is the triumph of common sense to accomplish this transformation and
to banish empty reveries, replacing them by creating a desire for the
best, which each one can satisfy--without destroying it.
"The day when this purpose is accomplished, illusion, definitely
conquered, will cease to haunt the mind of those whom common sense has
illumined; vagaries will make place for reason and terrible disillusion
will follow its chief (whose qualities never rise above mediocrity) into
his retreat, and allow the flower of hope to blossom in the souls
already filled with peace--that quality which is born of reason and
THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE REASONING POWER
When reading certain passages in the manuscripts of Yoritomo, one is
forcibly reminded of the familiar phrase: "Nothing is definitely finished
among men, for each thing stops only to begin again."
He says, "That many centuries before the great minds constructed altars
to the goddess of Reason, they were in search of a divinity to replace
the one they had just destroyed.
"If it were proposed to me to build temples which would synthesize my
devotion with certain sentiments, my desire would be that those dedicated
to the Will and to Reason should dominate all others, for then they would
be under the protection of powers for good."
In a few pages further on he insists again and again upon the necessity
of developing the worship of reason.
"Reasoning," he continues, "is a divinity, around which gravitate a whole
world of gods, important but inferior to it.
"Among this people of these idols, so justly revered, there is one god
which occupies a place apart from the others.
"This god is Common Sense, which gave birth to Reason, and has always
been its faithful companion.
"It is, in reality, the controlling force exercising its power to guard
reason against the predominating character and nefarious tendencies
created by self-interest.
"Common sense compels reason to admit principles whose justice it has
already recognized, and, at the same time, incites reason to reject those
whose absurdity it has demonstrated.
"Common sense allies itself with reason, in order to make that selection
of ideas which personal interest can either set aside entirely or modify
by illogical inference.
"Reason obeys certain laws, all of which can be united in one
This statement could be illustrated symbolically by comparing its truth
to a fan, whose blades converge toward a central point where they
Applying the precept to the picture, the old Shogun gives the design
which we are faithfully copying.
"In this ideal fan," explains Yoritomo, "not only the true reproduction
of the qualities directing the progress of knowledge must be perceived,
but the symbol of their development must be traced.
"All of these qualities are born of common sense, to which they are
closely allied, unfolding and disclosing a luminous radiance.
"Altho each one may have its autonomy, they never separate, and, even as
a fan from which one blade has disappeared can only remain an imperfect
object little to be desired, even so, the symbolic fan of reasoning, when
it does not unite all the required qualities, becomes a mutilated power,
which can only betray the destiny originally attributed to it.
"Consequently, starting from common sense as the central point of
reasoning, we find, first, perception.
"This is the action by which exterior things are brought near to us.
"Perception is essentially visual and auditory, altho it influences all
"For example, the fact of tasting a fruit is a perception.
"The seeing of a landscape is equally one.
"The hearing of a song is also a perception.
"In a word, everything which presents itself to us, coming in
contact with one of our senses, is a perception; otherwise, the
inception of an idea.
"This is the first degree of reasoning.
"Immediately following is memory, without which nothing could be proved.
"It is memory, which, by renewing the motive power of reason, allows us
to judge of the proportion of things, grasped by the senses in the
present as related to those which come to us from the past.
"Without memory it would be impossible to make a mental comparison.
"It would be most difficult to determine the true nature of an event,
announced by perception, if an analogous sensation, previously
experienced, had not just permitted us to classify it by close
examination or by differentiating it.
"Memory is a partial resurrection of a past life, whose reconstruction
has just permitted us to attribute a true value to the phases of
"It is in preserving the memory of things that we are called upon to
compare them and then to judge of them.
"Thought is produced immediately after perception, and the recollection,
very often automatic, that it creates within us.
"It is the inception of the idea which it engenders by a series of
"Thought permits the mind to exercise its judgment without allowing
itself to be influenced by the greatness or humility of the idea.
"By virtue of corresponding recollections, it will associate the present
perception with the past representations, and will take an extension,
more or less pronounced, according to the degree of intellectuality of
the thinker, and according to the importance of the object of its
"But rarely does the idea present itself alone.
"One thought almost always produces the manifestation of similar
thoughts, which group themselves around the first idea as birds of the
same race direct their flight toward the same country.
"Thought is the manifestation of the intellectual life; it palpitates in
the brain of men as does the heart in the breast.
"It is thought which distinguishes men from animals, who have only
instinct to guide them.
"It can be admitted, however, that this instinct is a kind of obscure
thought for these inferior beings, from which reflection is eliminated,
or, at least, reveals itself only as a vassal of material appetite.
"But with creatures who have intelligence, thought is a superior faculty,
which aids the soul to free itself from the bondage of vulgar and limited
"When perception, memory, and thought unite to form judgment, activity of
mind will become necessary, in order to accelerate the production of
ideas in extending the field of imagination.
"Moral inertia is the most deplorable of all defects; it retards
intellectual growth and hinders the development of personality.
"It is, in this understanding, the enemy of common sense, for it will
admit voluntarily a reasoning power, existing per se, rather than make
the necessary effort which will set free the truth and constitute an
"Vulgarity is, then, almost always the sign of mental sloth.
"It is not infrequent to see a mind of real capacity fall into error,
where an intelligence of mediocre caliber asserts its efficiency.
Indifference is the most serious obstacle to the attainment of judgment.
"Common sense demands a keen alertness of understanding, placed at the
disposal of a reflection which appears at times slow of action, but which
is long in being manifested only because of the desire to surround itself
by all the guaranties of truth concerning the object in question.
"The fifth blade of the fan is the quality of deduction--the most solid
basis for the judgments which are formed by common sense.
"By deduction we are able to solve all relative questions with
"It is by abstracting reckless contingencies, and by relying only upon
the relativeness of facts, that we can succeed in discovering the truth
that there are too many representations as to these facts.
"Deduction is the great support of mental weakness. It helps in
discerning proportions, possibilities, even as it helps in skilfully
avoiding the fear of error."
We shall have occasion to speak more at length of deduction, for Yoritomo
devotes many pages to it. We shall, then, defer to a future chapter the
interesting developments that he discloses on this subject, and we shall
continue to study the fan of common sense with him.
"Foresight," he continues, "is rightly looked upon as one of the
indispensable elements in cultivating common sense.
"The faculty of foresight always accompanies common sense, in order to
strengthen its qualities of skill and observation.
"One must not confound, as many people are tempted to do, foresight and
"The first consists in taking great care to prevent the repetition of
unhappy facts which have already existed.
"Foresight will exert an influence on future events by establishing an
analogy between them and the actual incidents which, of necessity, will
lead to the adoption or rejection of present projects.
"It is to be observed that all these faculties are subordinate, one to
the other, and, in proportion to the unfolding of the fan, we can prove
that all the blades previously mentioned have concurred in the formation
of the blade of which we are now speaking.
"In order to foresee disasters it is necessary that the
perception--visual or auditory--of said disasters should already have
"We have kept intact the memory of them, since it is reconstructed
emotion which guides our thoughts.
"These same thoughts, in extending themselves, form groups of thoughts
harmonious in character, all relative to the one, which is the object of
"Our mind becomes more active in recalling the incidents, the remembrance
of which marks the time which has elapsed between the old perception and
the present state of mental absorption.
"The faculty of deduction, which is born of these different mental
conflicts, permits me to foresee that circumstances of the same nature
will lead to others similar to those we have already mentioned.
"We have merely sketched rapidly the scale of sensations which follow
each other, in order to reach the explanation of how foresight is formed,
this faculty of which we are now speaking.
"By assimilating these present facts with those of the past, we are
permitted to draw a conclusion, relating to the same group of results,
because of the conformity of those past facts to the present questions.
"Foresight is passive; between it and precaution there is the same
difference as between theory and practise.
"Precaution is preeminently active, and it marks its first appearance by
means of foresight, but does not stop in this effort until it has
rendered foresight productive.
"It is well to foresee, but it is precious to preclude.
"The second part of the act of precaution can, however, only be
accomplished after having permitted the brain to register the thoughts
which determine the first part of this act."
In order to understand this very subtle difference, but very important
one, which classifies these two sentiments, the old sage gives us the
"Let us suppose," he says, "that, on a beautiful day in spring, a man
starts out for an excursion which will last until the dawn of the
"If he has common sense, he will say to himself that the sun will not be
shining at the time of his return, that the nights of spring are cold,
and that this one will be no exception to the rule.
"This is foresight.
"If common sense, with all its consequences, takes possession of him, it
will increase his power of reasoning. He will think that, in order to
avoid suffering from the change of temperature, it would be well to cover
himself with a cloak.
"And, even tho the sun shone, he would not hesitate to furnish himself
with this accessory, which in fact will render him the greatest service.
"This is precaution.
"This quality is indispensable to the formation of the reasoning power;
for, in addition to the necessity of foreseeing certain results, it
permits also of directing their course, if it be impossible to exempt
"Reasoning is the art of developing, to the highest degree, the
suppositions resulting from deduction.
"One is usually mistaken as to the exact meaning of the words 'to
reason,' and people seldom attach the importance to them which
"One is apt to think that the gift of reasoning is bestowed upon
"Perhaps; but to reason, following the principles of justice and truth,
is an operation which can only be performed by minds endowed with
"In order to arrive at this result, it is essential to impress upon
oneself the value of the words, 'to deduct accurately,' after having
produced the radiation of thoughts which depend upon the object in
question, and to foresee the consequences of the facts that a resolution
"Above all, to avoid contentment with the approximate, which conceals
many pitfalls under false appearances.
"Without permitting oneself to express useless trivialities, not to
neglect to become impregnated with those axioms which have been
rightfully baptized, 'wisdom of nations.'
"They are generally based on a secular observation, and are the product
of many generations.
"It would be puerile to attach vital importance to them, but one would
surely regret having entirely scorned their counsel.
"Too much erudition is at times detrimental to reason, based on common
sense. Altho fully appreciating science, and devoting serious study to
it, one would do well to introduce the human element into his knowledge.
"There are some essential truths which modify daily life without, for
this reason, lessening their importance.
"Some of them are of premature development; others are of
"To reason without offending common sense, it is, therefore,
indispensable to consider time, place, environment, and all the
contingencies which could arise to undermine the importance of
After having reviewed all these phases, we shall then extend, in accord
with Yoritomo, the last blade of this rudimentary fan, and we shall
"This one is the index to that quality of mind called conviction.
"This mental operation consists in drawing together many ideas that their
relative characteristics may be determined.
"This operation takes the place contiguous to reasoning, of which it is
"Judgment determines its character after having registered the reasons
which ought to indicate its position; it deducts the conclusions imposed
by the explanatory principle, and classifies the idea by submitting it to
the valuation placed upon it by judgment.
"All judgment is either affirmative or negative.
"It can never be vascillating nor neutral.
"In this last case it will assume the title of opinion, and will
attribute to itself the definite qualities which characterize judgment.
"It is, however, at times subjected to certain conditions, where the
principles on which it is based are not sufficiently defined, and,
therefore, becomes susceptible to a change, either of form or of nature.
"It is possible, without violating the laws of common sense, to establish
a judgment whose terms will be modified by the mutation of causes.
"But common sense demands that these different influences should be
foreseen, and that these eventualities should be mentioned when
pronouncing the judgment."
We have reached the last blade of the symbolic fan, described by the
philosopher, for many secondary qualities may be placed between the
But faithful to his explanatory method, he wished to indicate to us the
broad lines first, and also to state the indispensable faculties
constituting common sense, by teaching us their progression and
He desired to demonstrate to us also how much all these qualities would
be lessened in value if they were not united and bound together in the
order in which they ought to manifest themselves.
"We have all possest," said he, "some fans whose point of reunion was
destroyed in part or altogether lost.
"What becomes of it, then?
"During a certain length of time, always rather short, the blades, after
having remained bound together by the thread which holds them, separate,
when it is severed because of the lack of harmony and of equilibrium at
"Very soon, one blade among them detaches itself, and the mutilated fan
takes its place in the cemetery where sleep those things deteriorated
because of old age or disuse.
"It is the same with the qualities which we have just enumerated. As long
as they remain attached to their central point, which is common sense,
they stand erect, beautiful and strong, concurring in the fertilization
of our minds, and in creating peace in our lives.
"But if the point of contact ceases to maintain them, to bind them
together, to forbid their separating, we shall soon see them fall apart
after having escaped from the temporary protection of the secondary
"For a while we seek to evoke them; but recognizing the ruse existing in
their commands, we shall soon be the first to abandon them, in order to
harmonize our favors with the deceptive mirage of the illusions; at
least, if we do not allow ourselves to be tempted by fallacious arguments
"In the one as in the other case, we shall become, then, the prey of
error and ignorance, for common sense is the intelligence of truth."
COMMON SENSE AND IMPULSE
Impulsive people are those who allow themselves to be guided by their
initial impressions and make resolutions or commit acts tinder the
domination of a special consciousness into which perception has
Impulse is a form of cerebral activity which, forces us to make a
movement before the mind is able to decide upon it by means of reflection
or reasoning. The Shogun deals with it at length and defines it thus:
"Impulse is an almost direct contact between perception and result.
"Memory, thought, deduction, and, above all, reason are absolutely
excluded from these acts, which are never inspired by intellectuality.
"The impression received by the brain is immediately transmuted into an
act, similar to those acts which depend entirely on automatic memory.
"It is certain in making a series of movements, which compose the act of
walking upstairs or the action of walking from one place to another, we
do not think of analyzing our efforts and this act of walking almost
limits itself to an organic function, so little does thought enter into
"In the case of repeated impulses, it can be absolutely affirmed that
substance is the antecedent and postulate of the essence of being.
"Substance comprises all corporal materialities: instinctive needs,
irrational movements, in a word, all actions where common sense is
not a factor.
"Essence is that imponderable part of being which includes the soul, the
mind, the intelligence, in fact the entire mentality.
"It is this last element of our being which poetizes our thoughts,
classifies them, and leads us to common sense, by means of reasoning
"He who, having received an injury from his superior, replies to it at
once by corresponding affront, is absolutely sure to become the victim of
"It is only when his act is consummated, that he will think of the
consequences which it can entail; the loss of his employment first, then
corporal punishment, in severity according to the gravity of the offense;
lastly, misery, perhaps the result of forced inactivity.
"On the contrary, the man endowed with common sense will reflect in a
flash, by recalling all the different phases which we have described. His
intelligence, being appealed to, will represent to him the consequences
of a violent action.
"He will find, in common sense, the strength not to respond to an injury
at once; but will not forego the right, however, of avenging himself
under the guise of a satisfaction which will be all the more easily
accorded to him as his moderation will not fail to make an impression in
"There is, between common sense and impulse," says Yoritomo, "the
difference that one would find between two coats, one of which was bought
ready-made, while the other, after being cut according to the proportions
of the one who is to wear it, was sewed by a workman to whom all the
resources of his art are known."
If impulses adopt the same character for every one, common sense adapts
itself to the mind, to the sensitiveness, to the worth of him who
practises it; it is a garment which is adjusted to the proportions of its
owner, and, according to his taste, is elaborate or simple.
Certain people have a tendency to confound intuition and impulse.
These two things, really very different in essence, are only related by
spontaneity of thought which gives them birth.
But whereas intuition, a sensation altogether moral, concisely stated, is
composed of mental speculations, impulses always resolve themselves into
acts and resolutions to act.
Intuition is a sort of obscure revelation, which reason controls only
after its formation.
Impulse never engages common sense in the achievements which it
realizes. It never decides upon them in advance, and almost always
It is the result of a defeat in self-control, which will-power and the
power of reasoning alone can correct.
Intuition is less spontaneous than impulse.
It is a very brief mental operation, but, nevertheless, very real, which,
very indistinctly, touches lightly all the phases of reasoning, in order
to reach a conclusion so rapidly that he who conceives it has difficulty
in making the transformations of the initial thought intelligible.
It is none the less true that intuition is always inspired by a predicted
reflection, but, in spite of this fact, an existing reflection.
Impulse, on the contrary, only admits instinct as its source of
It is the avowed enemy of common sense, which counsels the escape from
exterior insinuations that one may concentrate, in order to listen to the
voice which dictates to us the abstinence from doing anything until after
making a complete analysis of the cause which agitates us.
Some philosophers have sought to rank inspiration under the flag of
impulse, which they thought to defend; yes, even to recover esteem under
this new form.
"We should know how to stand on guard," says Yoritomo, "against this
"Inspiration," says he, "is rarely immobilized under the traits which
characterized its first appearance.
"Before expressing itself in a work of art or of utility, it was the
embryo of that which it must afterward personify.
"The ancients when relating that a certain divinity sprang, fully armed,
from the head of a god, accredited this belief to instantaneous creation.
"If musicians, painters, poets, and inventors want to be sincere, they
will agree that, between the thought which they qualify as inspiration,
and its tangible realization, a ladder of transformations has been
constructed, and that it is only by progressive steps that they have
attained what seemed to them the nearest to perfection."
Impulse, then, is only distantly related to inspiration and intuition.
Let us add that these gifts are very often only the fruit of an
unconscious mental effort, and that, most of the time, the thoughts,
which in good faith one accepts as inspiration or intuition, are only
nameless reminiscences, whose apparition coincides with an emotional
state of being, which existed at the time of the first perception.
There, again, the presence of reasoning is visible, and also the presence
of common sense, which tries to convert into a work of lasting results
those impressions which would probably remain unproductive without the
aid of these two faculties.
Impulses are, most of the time, the vassals of material sensations.
Definite reasoning and impartial judgment, inspired by common sense, are
rarely the possession of a sick man.
Sufferings, in exposing him to melancholy, make him see things in a
defective light; the effort of thinking fatigues his weak brain, and the
fear of a resolution which would force him to get out of his inactivity
has enormous influence upon the deductions which dictate his judgment.
Before discussing the advantages of conflict, he will instinctively
resign himself to inertia.
If, on the contrary, his temperament disposes him to anger, he will
compromise an undertaking by a spontaneous violence, which patience and
reflection would otherwise have made successful. It is possible also that
a valiant soul is unable to obey a weak body, and that instinct, awakened
by fear, leads one on to the impulsive desires of activity.
Inadequate food or excessive nourishment can produce impulses of a
different nature, but these differences are wholly and completely
distinct as to character.
The most evident danger of impulses lies in the scattering of mental
forces, which, being too frequently called upon, use themselves up
without benefiting either reason or common sense.
The habit of indulging in movements dictated only by instinct, in
suppressing all the phases of judgment leaves infinitely more latitude to
caprice, which exists at the expense of solid judgment.
Perception, being related to that which interests our passions, by
getting in direct contact with the action which should simply be derived
from a deduction, inspired by common sense, multiplies the unreflected
manifestations and produces waste of the forces, which should be
concentrated on a central point, after having passed through all the
phases of which we have spoken.
In addition, the permanency of resolutions is unknown to impulsive
Their tendency, by leading them on toward instantaneous solutions, allows
them to ignore the benefits of consistency.
"They are like unto a peasant," said the old Nippon, "who owned a field
in the country of Tokio. Scarcely had he begun to sow a part of the field
when, under the influence of an unhappy impulse, he plowed up the earth
again in order to sow the ground with a new seed.
"If he heard any one speak of any special new method of cultivation,
he only tried it for a short while, and then abandoned it, to try
"He tried to cultivate rice; then, before the time for harvesting it, he
became enthusiastic for the cultivation of chrysanthemums, which he
abandoned very soon in order to plant trees, whose slow development
incited him to change his nursery into a field of wheat.
"He died in misery, a victim of his having scorned the power of
consistency and common sense."
Now Yoritomo, after having put us on our guard against impulses, shows us
the way to conquer these causes of disorder.
"To control unguarded movements, which place us on a level with inferior
beings. That is," said he "in making us dependent on one instinct alone.
This is," said he, "to take the first step toward the will to think,
which is one of the forms of common sense.
"In order to reach this point, the first resolution to make is to escape
from the tyranny of the body, which tends to replace the intellectual
element in impulsive people.
"When I was still under the instruction of my preceptor, Lang-Ho, I saw
him cure a man who was affected with what he called 'The Malady of the
"Whether it concerned good actions or reprehensible ones, this man always
acted without the least reflection.
"To launch a new enterprise, which the most elementary common sense
condemned, he gave the greater part of his fortune in a moment of
"He allowed himself to commit acts of violence which taught him
"Finally, vexed beyond measure, dissatisfied with himself and others, he
so brutally maltreated a high dignitary in a moment of violent anger that
the latter sent for him that he might punish him. Learning of this, the
man, crazy with rage, rushed out of his house in order to kill the prince
with his own hand.
"It was in this paroxysm of passion that my master met him. Like all
impulsive people, he was full of his subject, and, joining the perception
of the insult to the judgment of it, which his instinct had immediately
dictated to him, he did not conceal his murderous intentions.
"My master, by means of a strategy, succeeded in dissuading him from
accomplishing his revenge that day. He persuaded him that the prince was
absent and would only return to town upon the following day.
"The man believed him, and allowed himself to be taken to the house
"But it was in vain that Lang-Ho unfolded all his most subtle arguments.
Neither the fear of punishment, nor the hope of pardon, could conquer the
obstinacy which can always be observed in impulsive people when their
resolution has not accomplished its purpose.
"It was then that my master employed a ruse, whose fantastic character
brings a smile, but which, however, demonstrates a profound knowledge of
the human heart when acting under the influence of common sense.
"During the sleep of his guest, Lang-Ho took off his robe, replacing it
by a garment made of two materials. One was golden yellow, the other a
brilliant green. After attacks of terrible anger, in spite of the
solicitation of his impulsive nature which incited him to go out, he did
not dare to venture into the streets in such a costume.
"That which the most subtle arguments had been unable to accomplish, was
obtained through fear of ridicule.
"Two days passed; his fury was changed into great mental exhaustion,
because impulsive people can not withstand the contact with obstacles for
any length of time.
"It was this moment which my master chose to undertake the cure, in which
he was so vitally interested.
"With the most delicate art, he explained to the impulsive man all the
chain of sentiments leading from perception to judgment.
"He caused common sense to intervene so happily that the man was
permeated by it. My master kept him near by for several weeks, always
using very simple arguments to combat the instinctive resolutions which
were formulated in his brain many times a day.
"Common sense, thus solicited, was revealed to the impulsive one, and
appeared like a peaceful counselor.
"The ridiculous and odious side of his resolution was represented to him
with such truth that he embraced Lang-Ho, saying:
"'Now, Master, I can go away, and your mind can be at rest about me.
"'The arguments of common sense have liberated me from bondage in which
my lack of reflection held me.
"'I return to my home, but, I beg of you, allow me to take away this
ridiculous costume which was my savior.
"'I wish to hang it in my home, in the most conspicuous place, that, from
the moment my nature incites me to obey the commands of impulse, I may be
able to look at once upon this garment, and thus recall your teachings,
which have brought sweetness and peace into my life.'"
All those who are inclined to act by instinct should follow this example,
not by dressing up in a ridiculous robe half green and half yellow, but
by placing obstacles in the way of the accomplishment of impulsive acts,
which the dictates of common sense would not sanction.
"For those whose mind possess a certain delicacy," again says the old
master, "these obstacles will be of a purely moral order, but for those
who voluntarily allow themselves to be dominated by a diseased desire for
action, obstacles should adopt a tangible form; the difficulty in
conquering anything always makes impulsive people reflect a little.
"Under the immediate impression of the perception of an act they are
ready for a struggle to the death; but this ardor is quickly
extinguished, and inertia, in its turn, having become an impulse, makes
them throw far away from them the object which determined the effort.
"In proportion as they encounter obstacles, which they have taken the
precaution to raise, the encroachment of the impression will make itself
"The mere fact of having foreseen will become a matter for
reflection for them.
"The feeling of the responsibilities will be roused in them, and they
will understand how difficult it is to escape the consequences of
Would one not say that these lines had been written yesterday?
More than ever our age of unrest makes us the prey of impulses, and to
the majority of our contemporaries, the robe, half green and half yellow
(by recalling to them the worship of common sense), will become a fetish,
more precious than all the amulets with which superstition loves to adorn
logic, or to incorporate fantastic outline in the classic setting of
THE DANGERS OF SENTIMENTALITY
The Shogun says: "There are sentimentalities of many kinds, some present
less dangers than others, but from every point of view they are
prejudicial to the acquisition and exercise of common sense. To cultivate
sentiment over which the Will has no control is always to be regretted.
"Sentimentality is multiform.
"It presents itself, at times, under the aspect of an obscure appeal to
sensuality and brings with it a passing desire of the heart and of the
senses, which produces an artificial appreciation of the emotion felt.
"In this first case sentimentality is an unconscious manifestation of
egotism, because, outside of that which provokes this outward
manifestation, everything is alienated and becomes indistinct.
"The incidents of existence lose their true proportion, since everything
becomes relative to the object because of our preoccupation.
"The impulse reigns supreme there when sentimentality establishes itself,
and the desire of judgment, if it makes itself apparent, is quickly
shunned, to the profit of illusory reasons, in which pure reason does not
"This sentimentality amalgamating the springs of egotism bereaves the
soul's longing of all its greatness.
"The anxiety to attribute all our impressions to emotion is only a way of
intensifying it for our personal satisfaction, at the expense of a
sentiment far deeper and more serious, which never blossoms under the
shadow of egotism and of frivolous sentimentality.
"Never will common sense have the chance to manifest itself in those who
permit such ephemeral and enfeebling impressions to implant themselves in
"However they must be pitied because their artificial emotion often
results in a sorrow which is not lessened by repetition, but whose
manifestation is none the less prejudicial to the peace of their being.
"All those who do not harmonize common sense and the emotions of the
heart become passive to the investiture of a sentimentality which does
not wait to know if the object be worthy of them before it exists in
"From this state of mind arise disillusions and their recurrence entails
a defect in the conception.
"Men who are often deceived in allowing themselves to feel a sorrow which
is only based on the longings of sentimentality become pessimists quickly
and deny the existence of deep and enduring affection judged from its
"This superior expression of sentiment is freed from all personality and
such judgment which differentiates it from other sentiments.
"If we wished to appeal to common sense we should acknowledge, too often,
that in the search for expansion we have only recognized the opportunity
to satisfy the inclination which urges us to seek for pleasure.
"Sentiment reasons, and is capable of devotion. Sentimentality excludes
reflective thought and ignores generosity.
"We are capable of sacrificing ourselves for sentiment.
"Sentimentality exacts the sacrifice of others.
"Therefore, profiting by the principles already developed, he who
cultivates common sense will never fail to reason in the following
"Opening the symbolic fan, he will encounter, after perfection, the
memory which will suggest to him the recollections of personal and
strange experiences and he will record this fact: abegation is rarely
"The inclination of our thoughts will suggest to us the difficulties
there are in searching for it.
"Deduction will acquaint us with the temerity of this exaction, and
precaution will attract our thoughts to the possibility of suffering
which could proceed from disillusion.
"Following this, reasoning and judgment will intervene in order to hasten
the conclusion formulated by common sense.
"It follows then that, abnegation being so rare, common sense indicates
to me that it would be imprudent for me to allow my happiness to rest
upon the existence of a thing so exceptional.
"For this reason this sentimental defect will find common sense armed
against this eventuality.
"There is another form or sentimentality not less common.
"It is that which extends itself to all the circumstances of life and
transforms true pity into a false sensibility, the exaggeration of which
deteriorates the true value of things.
"Those who give publicity to this form of sentiment are agitated (or
imagine themselves to be agitated) as profoundly on the most futile of
pretexts as for the most important cause.
"They do not think to ask themselves if their ardor is merited; also
every such experience, taking out of them something of their inner
selves, leaves them enfeebled and stranded.
"Every excursion into the domain of sentimentality is particularly
dangerous, for tourists always fail to carry with them the necessary
coinage which one calls common sense."
After having put ourselves on guard against the surprizes of mental
exaggeration, Yoritomo warns us of a kind of high respectable
sentimentality which we possess, that is none the less censurable
because under an exterior of the purest tenderness it conceals a
It concerns paternal love from which reasoning and common sense
"Nothing" said he, "seems more noble than the love of parents for their
children, and no sentiment is more august when it is comprehended in all
"But how many people are apt to distinguish it from an egotistical
"I have seen some mothers oppose the departure of their sons, preferring
to oblige them to lead an obscure existence near to them, rather than
impose upon themselves the sorrow of a separation.
"These women do not fail to condemn the action of others, who, filled
with a sublime abnegation, allow their children to depart, hiding from
them the tears which they shed, because they have the conviction of
seeing them depart for the fortune and the happiness which they feel
themselves unable to offer them.
"Which of these are worthy of admiration? Those who condemn their
children to a life of mediocrity in order to obey an egotistical
sentimentality, or those who, with despair in their hearts, renounce the
joy of their presence, and think only of their own grief in order to
build upon it the happiness of their dear ones.
"The common sense of this latter class inspiring in them this magnificent
sentiment, and forcing them to set aside a sentimentality which is, in
reality, only the caricature of sentiment, has permitted them to escape
that special kind of egotism, which could be defined thus: The
translation of a desire for personal contentment.
"Ought we then to blame others so strongly?
"It is necessary, above all, to teach them to reason about the ardor of
their emotions, and only to follow them when they find that they are
cleansed from all aspiration which is not a pledge of devotion."
Now the Shogun speaks to us with that subtlety of analysis which is
characteristic and refers to a kind of sentimentality the most frequent
and the least excusable.
"There are," he tells us, "a number of people who, without knowing that
they offend common sense in a most indefensible manner, invoke
sentimentality in order to dispense with exercising the most vulgar pity,
to the profit of their neighbor.
"A prince," he continues, "possest a large? tract of land which he had
put under grain.
"For the harvest, a large number of peasants and laborers were employed
and each one lived on the products of his labor.
"But a prolonged drought threatened the crop; so the prince's overseer
dismissed most of the laborers, who failed to find employment in the
"Soon hunger threatened the inmates of the miserable dwellings, and
sickness, its inseparable companion, did not fail to follow.
"Facing the conditions the prince left, and had it not been for two
or three wealthy and charitable people the laborers would have
starved to death.
"This pitiful condition was soon changed, abundance replaced famine, and
the master returned to live in his domain.
"But amazement followed when he addrest his people as follows: Here I am,
back among you, and I hope to remain here a long time; if I left you, it
was because I have so great an affection for all my servants and because
even the bare thought of seeing them suffer caused me unbearable sorrow.
"I am not among those who are sufficiently hard-hearted to be able to
take care of sick and suffering people and to be a witness of their
martyrdom. My pity is too keen to permit of my beholding this spectacle;
this is why I had to leave to others, less sensitive, the burden of care
which my too tender heart was unable to lavish on you."
And that which is more terrible is that this man believed what he said.
He did not understand the monstrous rent which he made in the robe of
common sense, by declaring that he had committed the vilest act of
cruelty due to excessive sensitiveness since it represented a murderous
act of omission.
Examples of this form of sentimentality are more numerous than we think.
There exist people who cover their dogs with caresses, gorging them with
dainties, and will take good care not to succor the needy.
Others faint away at sight of an accident and never think of giving aid
to the wounded.
One may observe that for people exercising sentimentality at the expense
of common sense, the greatest catastrophe in intensity, if it be far away
from us, diminishes, while the merest incident, a little out of the
ordinary, affects them in a most immoderate manner if it be produced in
the circle of their acquaintances.
It is needless to add that, if it touches them directly, it becomes an
unparalleled calamity; it seems that the rest of the world must be
troubled by it.
This propensity toward pitying oneself unreasonably about little things
which relate to one directly and this exaggerated development of a
sterile sentimentality are almost always artificial, and the instinct of
self-preservation very often aids in their extermination.
"Among my old disciples," pursues the Shogun, "I had a friend whose son
was afflicted by this kind of sentimentality, the sight of blood made him
faint and he was incapable of aiding any one whomsoever; that which he
called his good heart, and which was only a form of egotistical
sentimentality, prevented him from looking at the suffering of others.
"One day, a terrible earthquake destroyed his palace; he escaped, making
his way through the ruins and roughly pushing aside the wounded who told
about it afterward.
"I saw him some days after; instead of reproaching him severely for his
conduct, I endeavored to make him see how false was his conception of
pity, since, not only had he not fainted at the sight of those who,
half-dead, were groaning, but he had found in the egotistical sentiment
of self-preservation the strength to struggle against those who clung to
him, beseeching him for help.
"I demonstrated to him the evident contradiction of his instinctive
cruelty to the sentimentality that it pleased him to make public.
"I made an appeal to common sense, in order to prove to him the attitude
which he had, until then, assumed, and I had the joy of seeing myself
"My arguments appealed to his mentality, and always afterward, when he
had the opportunity to bring puerile sentimentality and common sense face
to face, he forced himself to appeal to that quality, which in revealing
to him the artifice of the sentiment which animated him, cured him of
false sensibility, which he had displayed up to that time."
Sentimentality is in reality only a conception of egotism, under the
different forms which it adopts.
Yoritomo proves it to us again, in speaking of the weakness of certain
teachers, who, under the pretext of avoiding trouble, allow their
children to follow their defective inclinations.
"It is by an instinctive hatred of effort that parents forbid themselves
to make their children cry when reprimanding them," said he.
"If the parents wish to be sincere to themselves, they will perceive that
the sorrow in seeing their children's tears flow, plays a very small part
in their preconceived idea of indulgence.
"It is in order to economize their own nervous energy or to avoid
cleverly the trouble of continued teaching, that they hesitate to provoke
these imaginary miseries, the manifestation of which is caused by the
great weakness of the teachers.
"Common sense, nevertheless, ought to make them understand that it is
preferable to allow the little ones to shed a few tears, which are
quickly dried, rather than to tolerate a deplorable propensity for these
habits which, later in life, will cause them real anxiety."
And the philosopher concludes:
"A very little reasoning could suffice to convince one of the dangers of
sentimentality, if the persons who devote themselves entirely to it
consented to reflect, by frankly agreeing to the true cause which
"They would discover in this false pity the desire not to disturb their
"They would also perceive that, in order to spare themselves a few
unpleasant moments in the present they are preparing for themselves great
sorrow for the future.
"In parental affection, as in friendship or in the emotions of
love, sentimentality is none other than an exaggerated amplification
of the ego.
"If it be true that all our acts, even those most worthy of approbation,
can react in our personality, at least it is necessary that we should be
logical and that, in order to create for ourselves a partial happiness or
to avoid a temporary annoyance, we should not prepare for ourselves an
existence, outlined by deception and fruitless regrets.
"Sentimentality and its derivatives, puerile pity and false
sensitiveness, can create illusion for those who do not practise the art
of reasoning, but the friends of common sense do not hesitate to condemn
them for it.
"In spite of the glitter in which it parades itself, sentimentality will
never be anything but the dross of true sentiment."
THE UTILITY OF COMMON SENSE IN DAILY LIFE