(Samuel Langhorne Clemens, 1835-1910)


What Is Man?

The Death of Jean

The Turning-Point of My Life

How to Make History Dates Stick

The Memorable Assassination

A Scrap of Curious History

Switzerland, the Cradle of Liberty

At the Shrine of St. Wagner

William Dean Howells

English as She is Taught

A Simplified Alphabet

As Concerns Interpreting the Deity

Concerning Tobacco

Taming the Bicycle

Is Shakespeare Dead?



a. Man the Machine. b. Personal Merit

[The Old Man and the Young Man had been conversing. The Old
Man had asserted that the human being is merely a machine, and
nothing more. The Young Man objected, and asked him to go into
particulars and furnish his reasons for his position.]

Old Man. What are the materials of which a steam-engine is made?

Young Man. Iron, steel, brass, white-metal, and so on.

O.M. Where are these found?

Y.M. In the rocks.

O.M. In a pure state?

Y.M. No--in ores.

O.M. Are the metals suddenly deposited in the ores?

Y.M. No--it is the patient work of countless ages.

O.M. You could make the engine out of the rocks themselves?

Y.M. Yes, a brittle one and not valuable.

O.M. You would not require much, of such an engine as that?

Y.M. No--substantially nothing.

O.M. To make a fine and capable engine, how would you

Y.M. Drive tunnels and shafts into the hills; blast out the
iron ore; crush it, smelt it, reduce it to pig-iron; put some of
it through the Bessemer process and make steel of it. Mine and
treat and combine several metals of which brass is made.

O.M. Then?

Y.M. Out of the perfected result, build the fine engine.

O.M. You would require much of this one?

Y.M. Oh, indeed yes.

O.M. It could drive lathes, drills, planers, punches,
polishers, in a word all the cunning machines of a great factory?

Y.M. It could.

O.M. What could the stone engine do?

Y.M. Drive a sewing-machine, possibly--nothing more,

O.M. Men would admire the other engine and rapturously
praise it?

Y.M. Yes.

O.M. But not the stone one?

Y.M. No.

O.M. The merits of the metal machine would be far above
those of the stone one?

Y.M. Of course.

O.M. Personal merits?

Y.M. PERSONAL merits? How do you mean?

O.M. It would be personally entitled to the credit of its
own performance?

Y.M. The engine? Certainly not.

O.M. Why not?

Y.M. Because its performance is not personal. It is the
result of the law of construction. It is not a MERIT that it
does the things which it is set to do--it can't HELP doing them.

O.M. And it is not a personal demerit in the stone machine
that it does so little?

Y.M. Certainly not. It does no more and no less than the
law of its make permits and compels it to do. There is nothing
PERSONAL about it; it cannot choose. In this process of "working
up to the matter" is it your idea to work up to the proposition
that man and a machine are about the same thing, and that there
is no personal merit in the performance of either?

O.M. Yes--but do not be offended; I am meaning no offense.
What makes the grand difference between the stone engine and the
steel one? Shall we call it training, education? Shall we call
the stone engine a savage and the steel one a civilized man? The
original rock contained the stuff of which the steel one was
built--but along with a lot of sulphur and stone and other
obstructing inborn heredities, brought down from the old geologic
ages--prejudices, let us call them. Prejudices which nothing
within the rock itself had either POWER to remove or any DESIRE
to remove. Will you take note of that phrase?

Y.M. Yes. I have written it down; "Prejudices which
nothing within the rock itself had either power to remove or any
desire to remove." Go on.

O.M. Prejudices must be removed by OUTSIDE INFLUENCES or
not at all. Put that down.

Y.M. Very well; "Must be removed by outside influences or
not at all." Go on.

O.M. The iron's prejudice against ridding itself of the
cumbering rock. To make it more exact, the iron's absolute
INDIFFERENCE as to whether the rock be removed or not. Then
comes the OUTSIDE INFLUENCE and grinds the rock to powder and
sets the ore free. The IRON in the ore is still captive. An
OUTSIDE INFLUENCE smelts it free of the clogging ore. The iron
is emancipated iron, now, but indifferent to further progress.
An OUTSIDE INFLUENCE beguiles it into the Bessemer furnace and
refines it into steel of the first quality. It is educated, now
--its training is complete. And it has reached its limit. By no
possible process can it be educated into GOLD. Will you set that

Y.M. Yes. "Everything has its limit--iron ore cannot be
educated into gold."

O.M. There are gold men, and tin men, and copper men, and
leaden mean, and steel men, and so on--and each has the
limitations of his nature, his heredities, his training, and his
environment. You can build engines out of each of these metals,
and they will all perform, but you must not require the weak ones
to do equal work with the strong ones. In each case, to get the
best results, you must free the metal from its obstructing
prejudicial ones by education--smelting, refining, and so forth.

Y.M. You have arrived at man, now?

O.M. Yes. Man the machine--man the impersonal engine.
Whatsoever a man is, is due to his MAKE, and to the INFLUENCES
brought to bear upon it by his heredities, his habitat, his
associations. He is moved, directed, COMMANDED, by EXTERIOR
influences--SOLELY. He ORIGINATES nothing, not even a thought.

Y.M. Oh, come! Where did I get my opinion that this which
you are talking is all foolishness?

O.M. It is a quite natural opinion--indeed an inevitable
opinion--but YOU did not create the materials out of which it is
formed. They are odds and ends of thoughts, impressions,
feelings, gathered unconsciously from a thousand books, a
thousand conversations, and from streams of thought and feeling
which have flowed down into your heart and brain out of the
hearts and brains of centuries of ancestors. PERSONALLY you did
not create even the smallest microscopic fragment of the
materials out of which your opinion is made; and personally you
cannot claim even the slender merit of PUTTING THE BORROWED
MATERIALS TOGETHER. That was done AUTOMATICALLY--by your mental
machinery, in strict accordance with the law of that machinery's
construction. And you not only did not make that machinery
yourself, but you have NOT EVEN ANY COMMAND OVER IT.

Y.M. This is too much. You think I could have formed no
opinion but that one?

O.M. Spontaneously? No. And YOU DID NOT FORM THAT ONE;
your machinery did it for you--automatically and instantly,
without reflection or the need of it.

Y.M. Suppose I had reflected? How then?

O.M. Suppose you try?

Y.M. (AFTER A QUARTER OF AN HOUR.) I have reflected.

O.M. You mean you have tried to change your opinion--as an

Y.M. Yes.

O.M. With success?

Y.M. No. It remains the same; it is impossible to change

O.M. I am sorry, but you see, yourself, that your mind is
merely a machine, nothing more. You have no command over it, it
has no command over itself--it is worked SOLELY FROM THE OUTSIDE.
That is the law of its make; it is the law of all machines.

Y.M. Can't I EVER change one of these automatic opinions?

O.M. No. You can't yourself, but EXTERIOR INFLUENCES can
do it.

Y.M. And exterior ones ONLY?

O.M. Yes--exterior ones only.

Y.M. That position is untenable--I may say ludicrously

O.M. What makes you think so?

Y.M. I don't merely think it, I know it. Suppose I resolve
to enter upon a course of thought, and study, and reading, with
the deliberate purpose of changing that opinion; and suppose I
succeed. THAT is not the work of an exterior impulse, the whole
of it is mine and personal; for I originated the project.

O.M. Not a shred of it. IT GREW OUT OF THIS TALK WITH ME.
But for that it would not have occurred to you. No man ever
originates anything. All his thoughts, all his impulses, come

Y.M. It's an exasperating subject. The FIRST man had
original thoughts, anyway; there was nobody to draw from.

O.M. It is a mistake. Adam's thoughts came to him from the
outside. YOU have a fear of death. You did not invent that--you
got it from outside, from talking and teaching. Adam had no fear
of death--none in the world.

Y.M. Yes, he had.

O.M. When he was created?

Y.M. No.

O.M. When, then?

Y.M. When he was threatened with it.

O.M. Then it came from OUTSIDE. Adam is quite big enough;
let us not try to make a god of him. NONE BUT GODS HAVE EVER HAD
a good head, but it was of no sort of use to him until it was
filled up FROM THE OUTSIDE. He was not able to invent the
triflingest little thing with it. He had not a shadow of a
notion of the difference between good and evil--he had to get the
idea FROM THE OUTSIDE. Neither he nor Eve was able to originate
the idea that it was immodest to go naked; the knowledge came in
with the apple FROM THE OUTSIDE. A man's brain is so constructed
material obtained OUTSIDE. It is merely a machine; and it works
automatically, not by will-power. IT HAS NO COMMAND OVER ITSELF,

Y.M. Well, never mind Adam: but certainly Shakespeare's

O.M. No, you mean Shakespeare's IMITATIONS. Shakespeare
created nothing. He correctly observed, and he marvelously
painted. He exactly portrayed people whom GOD had created; but
he created none himself. Let us spare him the slander of
charging him with trying. Shakespeare could not create. HE WAS

Y.M. Where WAS his excellence, then?

O.M. In this. He was not a sewing-machine, like you and
me; he was a Gobelin loom. The threads and the colors came into
him FROM THE OUTSIDE; outside influences, suggestions,
EXPERIENCES (reading, seeing plays, playing plays, borrowing
ideas, and so on), framed the patterns in his mind and started up
his complex and admirable machinery, and IT AUTOMATICALLY turned
out that pictured and gorgeous fabric which still compels the
astonishment of the world. If Shakespeare had been born and bred
on a barren and unvisited rock in the ocean his mighty intellect
would have had no OUTSIDE MATERIAL to work with, and could have
invented none; and NO OUTSIDE INFLUENCES, teachings, moldings,
persuasions, inspirations, of a valuable sort, and could have
invented none; and so Shakespeare would have produced nothing.
In Turkey he would have produced something--something up to the
highest limit of Turkish influences, associations, and training.
In France he would have produced something better--something up
to the highest limit of the French influences and training. In
England he rose to the highest limit attainable through the
TRAINING. You and I are but sewing-machines. We must turn out
what we can; we must do our endeavor and care nothing at all when
the unthinking reproach us for not turning out Gobelins.

Y.M. And so we are mere machines! And machines may not
boast, nor feel proud of their performance, nor claim personal
merit for it, nor applause and praise. It is an infamous

O.M. It isn't a doctrine, it is merely a fact.

Y.M. I suppose, then, there is no more merit in being brave
than in being a coward?

O.M. PERSONAL merit? No. A brave man does not CREATE his
bravery. He is entitled to no personal credit for possessing it.
It is born to him. A baby born with a billion dollars--where is
the personal merit in that? A baby born with nothing--where is
the personal demerit in that? The one is fawned upon, admired,
worshiped, by sycophants, the other is neglected and despised--
where is the sense in it?

Y.M. Sometimes a timid man sets himself the task of
conquering his cowardice and becoming brave--and succeeds. What
do you say to that?

O.M. That it shows the value of TRAINING IN RIGHT
training, influence, education, in right directions--TRAINING

Y.M. But as to merit--the personal merit of the victorious
coward's project and achievement?

O.M. There isn't any. In the world's view he is a worthier
man than he was before, but HE didn't achieve the change--the
merit of it is not his.

Y.M. Whose, then?

O.M. His MAKE, and the influences which wrought upon it
from the outside.

Y.M. His make?

O.M. To start with, he was NOT utterly and completely a
coward, or the influences would have had nothing to work upon.
He was not afraid of a cow, though perhaps of a bull: not afraid
of a woman, but afraid of a man. There was something to build
upon. There was a SEED. No seed, no plant. Did he make that
seed himself, or was it born in him? It was no merit of HIS that
the seed was there.

Y.M. Well, anyway, the idea of CULTIVATING it, the
resolution to cultivate it, was meritorious, and he originated

O.M. He did nothing of the kind. It came whence ALL
impulses, good or bad, come--from OUTSIDE. If that timid man had
lived all his life in a community of human rabbits, had never
read of brave deeds, had never heard speak of them, had never
heard any one praise them nor express envy of the heroes that had
done them, he would have had no more idea of bravery than Adam
had of modesty, and it could never by any possibility have
occurred to him to RESOLVE to become brave. He COULD NOT
ORIGINATE THE IDEA--it had to come to him from the OUTSIDE. And
so, when he heard bravery extolled and cowardice derided, it woke
him up. He was ashamed. Perhaps his sweetheart turned up her
nose and said, "I am told that you are a coward!" It was not HE
that turned over the new leaf--she did it for him. HE must not
strut around in the merit of it--it is not his.

Y.M. But, anyway, he reared the plant after she watered the

O.M. No. OUTSIDE INFLUENCES reared it. At the command--
and trembling--he marched out into the field--with other soldiers
and in the daytime, not alone and in the dark. He had the
INFLUENCE OF EXAMPLE, he drew courage from his comrades' courage;
he was afraid, and wanted to run, but he did not dare; he was
AFRAID to run, with all those soldiers looking on. He was
progressing, you see--the moral fear of shame had risen superior
to the physical fear of harm. By the end of the campaign
experience will have taught him that not ALL who go into battle
get hurt--an outside influence which will be helpful to him; and
he will also have learned how sweet it is to be praised for
courage and be huzza'd at with tear-choked voices as the war-worn
regiment marches past the worshiping multitude with flags flying
and the drums beating. After that he will be as securely brave
as any veteran in the army--and there will not be a shade nor
suggestion of PERSONAL MERIT in it anywhere; it will all have
come from the OUTSIDE. The Victoria Cross breeds more heroes

Y.M. Hang it, where is the sense in his becoming brave if
he is to get no credit for it?

O.M. Your question will answer itself presently. It
involves an important detail of man's make which we have not yet
touched upon.

Y.M. What detail is that?

O.M. The impulse which moves a person to do things--the
only impulse that ever moves a person to do a thing.

Y.M. The ONLY one! Is there but one?

O.M. That is all. There is only one.

Y.M. Well, certainly that is a strange enough doctrine.
What is the sole impulse that ever moves a person to do a thing?

of contenting his own spirit and WINNING ITS APPROVAL.

Y.M. Oh, come, that won't do!

O.M. Why won't it?

Y.M. Because it puts him in the attitude of always looking
out for his own comfort and advantage; whereas an unselfish man
often does a thing solely for another person's good when it is a
positive disadvantage to himself.

O.M. It is a mistake. The act must do HIM good, FIRST;
otherwise he will not do it. He may THINK he is doing it solely
for the other person's sake, but it is not so; he is contenting
his own spirit first--the other's person's benefit has to always
take SECOND place.

Y.M. What a fantastic idea! What becomes of self-
sacrifice? Please answer me that.

O.M. What is self-sacrifice?

Y.M. The doing good to another person where no shadow nor
suggestion of benefit to one's self can result from it.


Man's Sole Impulse--the Securing of His Own Approval

Old Man. There have been instances of it--you think?

Young Man. INSTANCES? Millions of them!

O.M. You have not jumped to conclusions? You have examined

Y.M. They don't need it: the acts themselves reveal the
golden impulse back of them.

O.M. For instance?

Y.M. Well, then, for instance. Take the case in the book
here. The man lives three miles up-town. It is bitter cold,
snowing hard, midnight. He is about to enter the horse-car when
a gray and ragged old woman, a touching picture of misery, puts
out her lean hand and begs for rescue from hunger and death. The
man finds that he has a quarter in his pocket, but he does not
hesitate: he gives it her and trudges home through the storm.
There--it is noble, it is beautiful; its grace is marred by no
fleck or blemish or suggestion of self-interest.

O.M. What makes you think that?

Y.M. Pray what else could I think? Do you imagine that
there is some other way of looking at it?

O.M. Can you put yourself in the man's place and tell me
what he felt and what he thought?

Y.M. Easily. The sight of that suffering old face pierced
his generous heart with a sharp pain. He could not bear it. He
could endure the three-mile walk in the storm, but he could not
endure the tortures his conscience would suffer if he turned his
back and left that poor old creature to perish. He would not
have been able to sleep, for thinking of it.

O.M. What was his state of mind on his way home?

Y.M. It was a state of joy which only the self-sacrificer
knows. His heart sang, he was unconscious of the storm.

O.M. He felt well?

Y.M. One cannot doubt it.

O.M. Very well. Now let us add up the details and see how
much he got for his twenty-five cents. Let us try to find out
the REAL why of his making the investment. In the first place HE
couldn't bear the pain which the old suffering face gave him. So
he was thinking of HIS pain--this good man. He must buy a salve
for it. If he did not succor the old woman HIS conscience would
torture him all the way home. Thinking of HIS pain again. He
must buy relief for that. If he didn't relieve the old woman HE
would not get any sleep. He must buy some sleep--still thinking
of HIMSELF, you see. Thus, to sum up, he bought himself free of
a sharp pain in his heart, he bought himself free of the tortures
of a waiting conscience, he bought a whole night's sleep--all for
twenty-five cents! It should make Wall Street ashamed of itself.
On his way home his heart was joyful, and it sang--profit on top
of profit! The impulse which moved the man to succor the old
woman was--FIRST--to CONTENT HIS OWN SPIRIT; secondly to relieve
HER sufferings. Is it your opinion that men's acts proceed from
one central and unchanging and inalterable impulse, or from a
variety of impulses?

Y.M. From a variety, of course--some high and fine and
noble, others not. What is your opinion?

O.M. Then there is but ONE law, one source.

Y.M. That both the noblest impulses and the basest proceed
from that one source?

O.M. Yes.

Y.M. Will you put that law into words?

O.M. Yes. This is the law, keep it in your mind. FROM HIS

Y.M. Come! He never does anything for any one else's
comfort, spiritual or physical?

FIRST secure HIS OWN spiritual comfort. Otherwise he will not do

Y.M. It will be easy to expose the falsity of that

O.M. For instance?

Y.M. Take that noble passion, love of country, patriotism.
A man who loves peace and dreads pain, leaves his pleasant home
and his weeping family and marches out to manfully expose himself
to hunger, cold, wounds, and death. Is that seeking spiritual

O.M. He loves peace and dreads pain?

Y.M. Yes.

O.M. Then perhaps there is something that he loves MORE
PUBLIC. And perhaps there is something which he dreads more than
he dreads pain--the DISAPPROVAL of his neighbors and the public.
If he is sensitive to shame he will go to the field--not because
his spirit will be ENTIRELY comfortable there, but because it
will be more comfortable there than it would be if he remained at
home. He will always do the thing which will bring him the MOST
mental comfort--for that is THE SOLE LAW OF HIS LIFE. He leaves
the weeping family behind; he is sorry to make them
uncomfortable, but not sorry enough to sacrifice his OWN comfort
to secure theirs.

Y.M. Do you really believe that mere public opinion could
force a timid and peaceful man to--

O.M. Go to war? Yes--public opinion can force some men to


O.M. Yes--anything.

Y.M. I don't believe that. Can it force a right-principled
man to do a wrong thing?

O.M. Yes.

Y.M. Can it force a kind man to do a cruel thing?

O.M. Yes.

Y.M. Give an instance.

O.M. Alexander Hamilton was a conspicuously high-principled
man. He regarded dueling as wrong, and as opposed to the
teachings of religion--but in deference to PUBLIC OPINION he
fought a duel. He deeply loved his family, but to buy public
approval he treacherously deserted them and threw his life away,
ungenerously leaving them to lifelong sorrow in order that he
might stand well with a foolish world. In the then condition of
the public standards of honor he could not have been comfortable
with the stigma upon him of having refused to fight. The
teachings of religion, his devotion to his family, his kindness
of heart, his high principles, all went for nothing when they
stood in the way of his spiritual comfort. A man will do
and he can neither be forced nor persuaded to any act which has
not that goal for its object. Hamilton's act was compelled by
the inborn necessity of contenting his own spirit; in this it was
like all the other acts of his life, and like all the acts of all
men's lives. Do you see where the kernel of the matter lies? A
man cannot be comfortable without HIS OWN approval. He will
secure the largest share possible of that, at all costs, all

Y.M. A minute ago you said Hamilton fought that duel to get
PUBLIC approval.

O.M. I did. By refusing to fight the duel he would have
secured his family's approval and a large share of his own; but
the public approval was more valuable in his eyes than all other
approvals put together--in the earth or above it; to secure that
would furnish him the MOST comfort of mind, the most SELF-
approval; so he sacrificed all other values to get it.

Y.M. Some noble souls have refused to fight duels, and have
manfully braved the public contempt.

O.M. They acted ACCORDING TO THEIR MAKE. They valued their
principles and the approval of their families ABOVE the public
approval. They took the thing they valued MOST and let the rest
go. They took what would give them the LARGEST share of PERSONAL
CONTENTMENT AND APPROVAL--a man ALWAYS does. Public opinion
cannot force that kind of men to go to the wars. When they go it
is for other reasons. Other spirit-contenting reasons.

Y.M. Always spirit-contenting reasons?

O.M. There are no others.

Y.M. When a man sacrifices his life to save a little child
from a burning building, what do you call that?

O.M. When he does it, it is the law of HIS make. HE can't
bear to see the child in that peril (a man of a different make
COULD), and so he tries to save the child, and loses his life.
But he has got what he was after--HIS OWN APPROVAL.

Y.M. What do you call Love, Hate, Charity, Revenge,
Humanity, Magnanimity, Forgiveness?

O.M. Different results of the one Master Impulse: the
necessity of securing one's self approval. They wear diverse
clothes and are subject to diverse moods, but in whatsoever ways
they masquerade they are the SAME PERSON all the time. To change
the figure, the COMPULSION that moves a man--and there is but the
one--is the necessity of securing the contentment of his own
spirit. When it stops, the man is dead.

Y.M. That is foolishness. Love--

O.M. Why, love is that impulse, that law, in its most
uncompromising form. It will squander life and everything else
on its object. Not PRIMARILY for the object's sake, but for ITS
OWN. When its object is happy IT is happy--and that is what it
is unconsciously after.

Y.M. You do not even except the lofty and gracious passion
of mother-love?

O.M. No, IT is the absolute slave of that law. The mother
will go naked to clothe her child; she will starve that it may
have food; suffer torture to save it from pain; die that it may
live. She takes a living PLEASURE in making these sacrifices.
SHE DOES IT FOR THAT REWARD--that self-approval, that
contentment, that peace, that comfort. SHE WOULD DO IT FOR YOUR

Y.M. This is an infernal philosophy of yours.

O.M. It isn't a philosophy, it is a fact.

Y.M. Of course you must admit that there are some acts which--

O.M. No. There is NO act, large or small, fine or mean,
which springs from any motive but the one--the necessity of
appeasing and contenting one's own spirit.

Y.M. The world's philanthropists--

O.M. I honor them, I uncover my head to them--from habit
and training; and THEY could not know comfort or happiness or
self-approval if they did not work and spend for the unfortunate.
It makes THEM happy to see others happy; and so with money and
labor they buy what they are after--HAPPINESS, SELF-APPROVAL.
Why don't miners do the same thing? Because they can get a
thousandfold more happiness by NOT doing it. There is no
other reason. They follow the law of their make.

Y.M. What do you say of duty for duty's sake?

O.M. That IS DOES NOT EXIST. Duties are not performed for
duty's SAKE, but because their NEGLECT would make the man
UNCOMFORTABLE. A man performs but ONE duty--the duty of
contenting his spirit, the duty of making himself agreeable to
himself. If he can most satisfyingly perform this sole and only
duty by HELPING his neighbor, he will do it; if he can most
satisfyingly perform it by SWINDLING his neighbor, he will do it.
But he always looks out for Number One--FIRST; the effects upon
others are a SECONDARY matter. Men pretend to self-sacrifices,
but this is a thing which, in the ordinary value of the phrase,
he is sacrificing himself merely and solely for some one else,
but he is deceived; his bottom impulse is to content a
requirement of his nature and training, and thus acquire peace
for his soul.

Y.M. Apparently, then, all men, both good and bad ones,
devote their lives to contenting their consciences.

O.M. Yes. That is a good enough name for it: Conscience--
that independent Sovereign, that insolent absolute Monarch inside
of a man who is the man's Master. There are all kinds of
consciences, because there are all kinds of men. You satisfy an
assassin's conscience in one way, a philanthropist's in another,
a miser's in another, a burglar's in still another. As a GUIDE
or INCENTIVE to any authoritatively prescribed line of morals or
conduct (leaving TRAINING out of the account), a man's conscience
is totally valueless. I know a kind-hearted Kentuckian whose
self-approval was lacking--whose conscience was troubling him, to
phrase it with exactness--BECAUSE HE HAD NEGLECTED TO KILL A
CERTAIN MAN--a man whom he had never seen. The stranger had
killed this man's friend in a fight, this man's Kentucky training
made it a duty to kill the stranger for it. He neglected his
duty--kept dodging it, shirking it, putting it off, and his
unrelenting conscience kept persecuting him for this conduct. At
last, to get ease of mind, comfort, self-approval, he hunted up
the stranger and took his life. It was an immense act of SELF-
SACRIFICE (as per the usual definition), for he did not want to
do it, and he never would have done it if he could have bought a
contented spirit and an unworried mind at smaller cost. But we
are so made that we will pay ANYTHING for that contentment--even
another man's life.

Y.M. You spoke a moment ago of TRAINED consciences. You mean
that we are not BORN with consciences competent to guide us aright?

O.M. If we were, children and savages would know right from wrong,
and not have to be taught it.

Y.M. But consciences can be TRAINED?

O.M. Yes.

Y.M. Of course by parents, teachers, the pulpit, and books.

O.M. Yes--they do their share; they do what they can.

Y.M. And the rest is done by--

O.M. Oh, a million unnoticed influences--for good or bad:
influences which work without rest during every waking moment of
a man's life, from cradle to grave.

Y.M. You have tabulated these?

O.M. Many of them--yes.

Y.M. Will you read me the result?

O.M. Another time, yes. It would take an hour.

Y.M. A conscience can be trained to shun evil and prefer good?

O.M. Yes.

Y.M. But will it for spirit-contenting reasons only?

O.M. It CAN'T be trained to do a thing for any OTHER reason.
The thing is impossible.

Y.M. There MUST be a genuinely and utterly self-sacrificing
act recorded in human history somewhere.

O.M. You are young. You have many years before you.
Search one out.

Y.M. It does seem to me that when a man sees a fellow-being
struggling in the water and jumps in at the risk of his life to
save him--

O.M. Wait. Describe the MAN. Describe the FELLOW-BEING.
State if there is an AUDIENCE present; or if they are ALONE.

Y.M. What have these things to do with the splendid act?

O.M. Very much. Shall we suppose, as a beginning, that the
two are alone, in a solitary place, at midnight?

Y.M. If you choose.

O.M. And that the fellow-being is the man's daughter?

Y.M. Well, n-no--make it someone else.

O.M. A filthy, drunken ruffian, then?

Y.M. I see. Circumstances alter cases. I suppose that if there
was no audience to observe the act, the man wouldn't perform it.

O.M. But there is here and there a man who WOULD. People,
for instance, like the man who lost his life trying to save the
child from the fire; and the man who gave the needy old woman his
twenty-five cents and walked home in the storm--there are here
and there men like that who would do it. And why? Because they
couldn't BEAR to see a fellow-being struggling in the water and
not jump in and help. It would give THEM pain. They would save
the fellow-being on that account. THEY WOULDN'T DO IT OTHERWISE.
They strictly obey the law which I have been insisting upon. You
must remember and always distinguish the people who CAN'T BEAR
things from people who CAN. It will throw light upon a number of
apparently "self-sacrificing" cases.

Y.M. Oh, dear, it's all so disgusting.

O.M. Yes. And so true.

Y.M. Come--take the good boy who does things he doesn't
want to do, in order to gratify his mother.

O.M. He does seven-tenths of the act because it gratifies
HIM to gratify his mother. Throw the bulk of advantage the other
way and the good boy would not do the act. He MUST obey the iron
law. None can escape it.

Y.M. Well, take the case of a bad boy who--

O.M. You needn't mention it, it is a waste of time. It is
no matter about the bad boy's act. Whatever it was, he had a
spirit-contenting reason for it. Otherwise you have been
misinformed, and he didn't do it.

Y.M. It is very exasperating. A while ago you said that man's
conscience is not a born judge of morals and conduct, but has to
be taught and trained. Now I think a conscience can get drowsy
and lazy, but I don't think it can go wrong; if you wake it up--

A Little Story

O.M. I will tell you a little story:

Once upon a time an Infidel was guest in the house of a
Christian widow whose little boy was ill and near to death. The
Infidel often watched by the bedside and entertained the boy with
talk, and he used these opportunities to satisfy a strong longing
in his nature--that desire which is in us all to better other
people's condition by having them think as we think. He was
successful. But the dying boy, in his last moments, reproached
him and said:


And the mother, also, reproached the Infidel, and said:


The heart of the Infidel was filled with remorse for what he
had done, and he said:


Then the mother said:


Y.M. He was a miscreant, and deserved death!

O.M. He thought so himself, and said so.


O.M. Yes, his Self-Disapproval was. It PAINED him to see
the mother suffer. He was sorry he had done a thing which
brought HIM pain. It did not occur to him to think of the mother
when he was misteaching the boy, for he was absorbed in providing
PLEASURE for himself, then. Providing it by satisfying what he
believed to be a call of duty.

Y.M. Call it what you please, it is to me a case of
AWAKENED CONSCIENCE. That awakened conscience could never get
itself into that species of trouble again. A cure like that is a

O.M. Pardon--I had not finished the story. We are
creatures of OUTSIDE INFLUENCES--we originate NOTHING within.
Whenever we take a new line of thought and drift into a new line
of belief and action, the impulse is ALWAYS suggested from the
OUTSIDE. Remorse so preyed upon the Infidel that it dissolved
his harshness toward the boy's religion and made him come to
regard it with tolerance, next with kindness, for the boy's sake
and the mother's. Finally he found himself examining it. From
that moment his progress in his new trend was steady and rapid.
He became a believing Christian. And now his remorse for having
robbed the dying boy of his faith and his salvation was bitterer
than ever. It gave him no rest, no peace. He MUST have rest and
peace--it is the law of nature. There seemed but one way to get
it; he must devote himself to saving imperiled souls. He became
a missionary. He landed in a pagan country ill and helpless. A
native widow took him into her humble home and nursed him back to
convalescence. Then her young boy was taken hopelessly ill, and
the grateful missionary helped her tend him. Here was his first
opportunity to repair a part of the wrong done to the other boy
by doing a precious service for this one by undermining his
foolish faith in his false gods. He was successful. But the
dying boy in his last moments reproached him and said:


And the mother, also, reproached the missionary, and said:


The heart of the missionary was filled with remorse for what
he had done, and he said:


Then the mother said:


The missionary's anguish of remorse and sense of treachery
were as bitter and persecuting and unappeasable, now, as they had
been in the former case. The story is finished. What is your

Y.M. The man's conscience is a fool! It was morbid. It
didn't know right from wrong.

O.M. I am not sorry to hear you say that. If you grant
that ONE man's conscience doesn't know right from wrong, it is an
admission that there are others like it. This single admission
pulls down the whole doctrine of infallibility of judgment in
consciences. Meantime there is one thing which I ask you to

Y.M. What is that?

O.M. That in both cases the man's ACT gave him no spiritual
discomfort, and that he was quite satisfied with it and got
pleasure out of it. But afterward when it resulted in PAIN to
HIM, he was sorry. Sorry it had inflicted pain upon the others,
PAIN. Our consciences take NO notice of pain inflicted upon
others until it reaches a point where it gives pain to US. In
ALL cases without exception we are absolutely indifferent to
another person's pain until his sufferings make us uncomfortable.
Many an infidel would not have been troubled by that Christian
mother's distress. Don't you believe that?

Y.M. Yes. You might almost say it of the AVERAGE infidel,
I think.

O.M. And many a missionary, sternly fortified by his sense
of duty, would not have been troubled by the pagan mother's
distress--Jesuit missionaries in Canada in the early French
times, for instance; see episodes quoted by Parkman.

Y.M. Well, let us adjourn. Where have we arrived?

O.M. At this. That we (mankind) have ticketed ourselves
with a number of qualities to which we have given misleading
names. Love, Hate, Charity, Compassion, Avarice, Benevolence,
and so on. I mean we attach misleading MEANINGS to the names.
They are all forms of self-contentment, self-gratification, but
the names so disguise them that they distract our attention from
the fact. Also we have smuggled a word into the dictionary which
ought not to be there at all--Self-Sacrifice. It describes a
thing which does not exist. But worst of all, we ignore and
never mention the Sole Impulse which dictates and compels a man's
every act: the imperious necessity of securing his own approval,
in every emergency and at all costs. To it we owe all that we
are. It is our breath, our heart, our blood. It is our only
spur, our whip, our goad, our only impelling power; we have no
other. Without it we should be mere inert images, corpses; no
one would do anything, there would be no progress, the world
would stand still. We ought to stand reverently uncovered when
the name of that stupendous power is uttered.

Y.M. I am not convinced.

O.M. You will be when you think.


Instances in Point

Old Man. Have you given thought to the Gospel of Self-
Approval since we talked?

Young Man. I have.

O.M. It was I that moved you to it. That is to say an
OUTSIDE INFLUENCE moved you to it--not one that originated in
your head. Will you try to keep that in mind and not forget it?

Y.M. Yes. Why?

O.M. Because by and by in one of our talks, I wish to
further impress upon you that neither you, nor I, nor any man
ever originates a thought in his own head. THE UTTERER OF A

Y.M. Oh, now--

O.M. Wait. Reserve your remark till we get to that part of
our discussion--tomorrow or next day, say. Now, then, have you
been considering the proposition that no act is ever born of any
but a self-contenting impulse--(primarily). You have sought.
What have you found?

Y.M. I have not been very fortunate. I have examined many
fine and apparently self-sacrificing deeds in romances and
biographies, but--

O.M. Under searching analysis the ostensible self-sacrifice
disappeared? It naturally would.

Y.M. But here in this novel is one which seems to promise.
In the Adirondack woods is a wage-earner and lay preacher in the
lumber-camps who is of noble character and deeply religious. An
earnest and practical laborer in the New York slums comes up
there on vacation--he is leader of a section of the University
Settlement. Holme, the lumberman, is fired with a desire to
throw away his excellent worldly prospects and go down and save
souls on the East Side. He counts it happiness to make this
sacrifice for the glory of God and for the cause of Christ. He
resigns his place, makes the sacrifice cheerfully, and goes to
the East Side and preaches Christ and Him crucified every day and
every night to little groups of half-civilized foreign paupers
who scoff at him. But he rejoices in the scoffings, since he is
suffering them in the great cause of Christ. You have so filled
my mind with suspicions that I was constantly expecting to find a
hidden questionable impulse back of all this, but I am thankful
to say I have failed. This man saw his duty, and for DUTY'S SAKE
he sacrificed self and assumed the burden it imposed.

O.M. Is that as far as you have read?

Y.M. Yes.

O.M. Let us read further, presently. Meantime, in
sacrificing himself--NOT for the glory of God, PRIMARILY, as HE
imagined, but FIRST to content that exacting and inflexible

Y.M. How do you mean?

O.M. He relinquished a lucrative post and got mere food and
lodging in place of it. Had he dependents?

Y.M. Well--yes.

O.M. In what way and to what extend did his self-sacrifice
affect THEM?

Y.M. He was the support of a superannuated father. He had
a young sister with a remarkable voice--he was giving her a
musical education, so that her longing to be self-supporting
might be gratified. He was furnishing the money to put a young
brother through a polytechnic school and satisfy his desire to
become a civil engineer.

O.M. The old father's comforts were now curtailed?

Y.M. Quite seriously. Yes.

O.M. The sister's music-lessens had to stop?

Y.M. Yes.

O.M. The young brother's education--well, an extinguishing
blight fell upon that happy dream, and he had to go to sawing
wood to support the old father, or something like that?

Y.M. It is about what happened. Yes.

O.M. What a handsome job of self-sacrificing he did do! It
seems to me that he sacrificed everybody EXCEPT himself. Haven't
I told you that no man EVER sacrifices himself; that there is no
instance of it upon record anywhere; and that when a man's
Interior Monarch requires a thing of its slave for either its
MOMENTARY or its PERMANENT contentment, that thing must and will
be furnished and that command obeyed, no matter who may stand in
the way and suffer disaster by it? That man RUINED HIS FAMILY to
please and content his Interior Monarch--

Y.M. And help Christ's cause.

O.M. Yes--SECONDLY. Not firstly. HE thought it was firstly.

Y.M. Very well, have it so, if you will. But it could be
that he argued that if he saved a hundred souls in New York--

O.M. The sacrifice of the FAMILY would be justified by that
great profit upon the--the--what shall we call it?

Y.M. Investment?

O.M. Hardly. How would SPECULATION do? How would GAMBLE
do? Not a solitary soul-capture was sure. He played for a
possible thirty-three-hundred-per-cent profit. It was GAMBLING--
with his family for "chips." However let us see how the game
came out. Maybe we can get on the track of the secret original
impulse, the REAL impulse, that moved him to so nobly self-
sacrifice his family in the Savior's cause under the superstition
that he was sacrificing himself. I will read a chapter or so. . . .
Here we have it! It was bound to expose itself sooner or
later. He preached to the East-Side rabble a season, then went
back to his old dull, obscure life in the lumber-camps "HURT TO
THE HEART, HIS PRIDE HUMBLED." Why? Were not his efforts
acceptable to the Savior, for Whom alone they were made? Dear
me, that detail is LOST SIGHT OF, is not even referred to, the
fact that it started out as a motive is entirely forgotten! Then
what is the trouble? The authoress quite innocently and
unconsciously gives the whole business away. The trouble was
this: this man merely PREACHED to the poor; that is not the
University Settlement's way; it deals in larger and better things
than that, and it did not enthuse over that crude Salvation-Army
eloquence. It was courteous to Holme--but cool. It did not pet
him, did not take him to its bosom. "PERISHED WERE ALL HIS
whom? The Savior? No; the Savior is not mentioned. Of whom,
then? Of "His FELLOW-WORKERS." Why did he want that? Because
the Master inside of him wanted it, and would not be content
without it. That emphasized sentence quoted above, reveals the
secret we have been seeking, the original impulse, the REAL
impulse, which moved the obscure and unappreciated Adirondack
lumberman to sacrifice his family and go on that crusade to the
East Side--which said original impulse was this, to wit: without
warned you before, NO act springs from any but the one law, the
one motive. But I pray you, do not accept this law upon my say-
so; but diligently examine for yourself. Whenever you read of a
self-sacrificing act or hear of one, or of a duty done for DUTY'S
SAKE, take it to pieces and look for the REAL motive. It is
always there.

Y.M. I do it every day. I cannot help it, now that I have
gotten started upon the degrading and exasperating quest. For it
is hatefully interesting!--in fact, fascinating is the word. As
soon as I come across a golden deed in a book I have to stop and
take it apart and examine it, I cannot help myself.

O.M. Have you ever found one that defeated the rule?

Y.M. No--at least, not yet. But take the case of servant-
tipping in Europe. You pay the HOTEL for service; you owe the
servants NOTHING, yet you pay them besides. Doesn't that defeat it?

O.M. In what way?

Y.M. You are not OBLIGED to do it, therefore its source is
compassion for their ill-paid condition, and--

O.M. Has that custom ever vexed you, annoyed you, irritated you?

Y.M. Well, yes.

O.M. Still you succumbed to it?

Y.M. Of course.

O.M. Why of course?

Y.M. Well, custom is law, in a way, and laws must be
submitted to--everybody recognizes it as a DUTY.

O.M. Then you pay for the irritating tax for DUTY'S sake?

Y.M. I suppose it amounts to that.

O.M. Then the impulse which moves you to submit to the tax
is not ALL compassion, charity, benevolence?

Y.M. Well--perhaps not.

O.M. Is ANY of it?

Y.M. I--perhaps I was too hasty in locating its source.

O.M. Perhaps so. In case you ignored the custom would you
get prompt and effective service from the servants?

Y.M. Oh, hear yourself talk! Those European servants?
Why, you wouldn't get any of all, to speak of.

O.M. Couldn't THAT work as an impulse to move you to pay
the tax?

Y.M. I am not denying it.

O.M. Apparently, then, it is a case of for-duty's-sake with
a little self-interest added?

Y.M. Yes, it has the look of it. But here is a point:
we pay that tax knowing it to be unjust and an extortion; yet we
go away with a pain at the heart if we think we have been stingy
with the poor fellows; and we heartily wish we were back again,
so that we could do the right thing, and MORE than the right
thing, the GENEROUS thing. I think it will be difficult for you
to find any thought of self in that impulse.

O.M. I wonder why you should think so. When you find
service charged in the HOTEL bill does it annoy you?

Y.M. No.

O.M. Do you ever complain of the amount of it?

Y.M. No, it would not occur to me.

O.M. The EXPENSE, then, is not the annoying detail. It is
a fixed charge, and you pay it cheerfully, you pay it without a
murmur. When you came to pay the servants, how would you like it
if each of the men and maids had a fixed charge?

Y.M. Like it? I should rejoice!

O.M. Even if the fixed tax were a shade MORE than you had
been in the habit of paying in the form of tips?

Y.M. Indeed, yes!

O.M. Very well, then. As I understand it, it isn't really
compassion nor yet duty that moves you to pay the tax, and it
isn't the AMOUNT of the tax that annoys you. Yet SOMETHING
annoys you. What is it?

Y.M. Well, the trouble is, you never know WHAT to pay, the
tax varies so, all over Europe.

O.M. So you have to guess?

Y.M. There is no other way. So you go on thinking and
thinking, and calculating and guessing, and consulting with other
people and getting their views; and it spoils your sleep nights,
and makes you distraught in the daytime, and while you are
pretending to look at the sights you are only guessing and
guessing and guessing all the time, and being worried and

O.M. And all about a debt which you don't owe and don't
have to pay unless you want to! Strange. What is the purpose of
the guessing?

Y.M. To guess out what is right to give them, and not be
unfair to any of them.

O.M. It has quite a noble look--taking so much pains and using up
so much valuable time in order to be just and fair to a poor servant
to whom you owe nothing, but who needs money and is ill paid.

Y.M. I think, myself, that if there is any ungracious
motive back of it it will be hard to find.

O.M. How do you know when you have not paid a servant fairly?

Y.M. Why, he is silent; does not thank you. Sometimes he
gives you a look that makes you ashamed. You are too proud to
rectify your mistake there, with people looking, but afterward
you keep on wishing and wishing you HAD done it. My, the shame
and the pain of it! Sometimes you see, by the signs, that you
have it JUST RIGHT, and you go away mightily satisfied.
Sometimes the man is so effusively thankful that you know you
have given him a good deal MORE than was necessary.

O.M. NECESSARY? Necessary for what?

Y.M. To content him.

O.M. How do you feel THEN?

Y.M. Repentant.

O.M. It is my belief that you have NOT been concerning
yourself in guessing out his just dues, but only in ciphering out
what would CONTENT him. And I think you have a self-deluding
reason for that.

Y.M. What was it?

O.M. If you fell short of what he was expecting and
wanting, you would get a look which would SHAME YOU BEFORE FOLK.
That would give you PAIN. YOU--for you are only working for
yourself, not HIM. If you gave him too much you would be ASHAMED
OF YOURSELF for it, and that would give YOU pain--another case of
thinking of YOURSELF, protecting yourself, SAVING YOURSELF FROM
DISCOMFORT. You never think of the servant once--except to guess
out how to get HIS APPROVAL. If you get that, you get your OWN
approval, and that is the sole and only thing you are after. The
Master inside of you is then satisfied, contented, comfortable;
there was NO OTHER thing at stake, as a matter of FIRST interest,
anywhere in the transaction.

Further Instances

Y.M. Well, to think of it; Self-Sacrifice for others, the
grandest thing in man, ruled out! non-existent!

O.M. Are you accusing me of saying that?

Y.M. Why, certainly.

O.M. I haven't said it.

Y.M. What did you say, then?

O.M. That no man has ever sacrificed himself in the common
meaning of that phrase--which is, self-sacrifice for another
ALONE. Men make daily sacrifices for others, but it is for their
own sake FIRST. The act must content their own spirit FIRST.
The other beneficiaries come second.

Y.M. And the same with duty for duty's sake?

O.M. Yes. No man performs a duty for mere duty's sake; the act
must content his spirit FIRST. He must feel better for DOING the
duty than he would for shirking it. Otherwise he will not do it.

Y.M. Take the case of the BERKELEY CASTLE.

O.M. It was a noble duty, greatly performed. Take it to
pieces and examine it, if you like.

Y.M. A British troop-ship crowded with soldiers and their
wives and children. She struck a rock and began to sink. There
was room in the boats for the women and children only. The
colonel lined up his regiment on the deck and said "it is our
duty to die, that they may be saved." There was no murmur, no
protest. The boats carried away the women and children. When
the death-moment was come, the colonel and his officers took
their several posts, the men stood at shoulder-arms, and so, as
on dress-parade, with their flag flying and the drums beating,
they went down, a sacrifice to duty for duty's sake. Can you
view it as other than that?

O.M. It was something as fine as that, as exalted as that.
Could you have remained in those ranks and gone down to your
death in that unflinching way?

Y.M. Could I? No, I could not.

O.M. Think. Imagine yourself there, with that watery doom
creeping higher and higher around you.

Y.M. I can imagine it. I feel all the horror of it. I could
not have endured it, I could not have remained in my place.
I know it.

O.M. Why?

Y.M. There is no why about it: I know myself, and I know I
couldn't DO it.

O.M. But it would be your DUTY to do it.

Y.M. Yes, I know--but I couldn't.

O.M. It was more than thousand men, yet not one of them
flinched. Some of them must have been born with your
temperament; if they could do that great duty for duty's SAKE,
why not you? Don't you know that you could go out and gather
together a thousand clerks and mechanics and put them on that
deck and ask them to die for duty's sake, and not two dozen of
them would stay in the ranks to the end?

Y.M. Yes, I know that.

O.M. But you TRAIN them, and put them through a campaign
or two; then they would be soldiers; soldiers, with a soldier's
pride, a soldier's self-respect, a soldier's ideals. They would
have to content a SOLDIER'S spirit then, not a clerk's, not a
mechanic's. They could not content that spirit by shirking a
soldier's duty, could they?

Y.M. I suppose not.

O.M. Then they would do the duty not for the DUTY'S sake,
but for their OWN sake--primarily. The DUTY was JUST THE SAME,
and just as imperative, when they were clerks, mechanics, raw
recruits, but they wouldn't perform it for that. As clerks and
mechanics they had other ideals, another spirit to satisfy, and
they satisfied it. They HAD to; it is the law. TRAINING is
potent. Training toward higher and higher, and ever higher
ideals is worth any man's thought and labor and diligence.

Y.M. Consider the man who stands by his duty and goes to
the stake rather than be recreant to it.

O.M. It is his make and his training. He has to content
the spirit that is in him, though it cost him his life. Another
man, just as sincerely religious, but of different temperament,
will fail of that duty, though recognizing it as a duty, and
grieving to be unequal to it: but he must content the spirit
that is in him--he cannot help it. He could not perform that
duty for duty's SAKE, for that would not content his spirit, and
the contenting of his spirit must be looked to FIRST. It takes
precedence of all other duties.

Y.M. Take the case of a clergyman of stainless private
morals who votes for a thief for public office, on his own
party's ticket, and against an honest man on the other ticket.

O.M. He has to content his spirit. He has no public
morals; he has no private ones, where his party's prosperity is
at stake. He will always be true to his make and training.



Young Man. You keep using that word--training. By it do
you particularly mean--

Old Man. Study, instruction, lectures, sermons? That is a
part of it--but not a large part. I mean ALL the outside
influences. There are a million of them. From the cradle to the
grave, during all his waking hours, the human being is under
training. In the very first rank of his trainers stands
ASSOCIATION. It is his human environment which influences his
mind and his feelings, furnishes him his ideals, and sets him on
his road and keeps him in it. If he leave that road he will find
himself shunned by the people whom he most loves and esteems, and
whose approval he most values. He is a chameleon; by the law of
his nature he takes the color of his place of resort. The
influences about him create his preferences, his aversions, his
politics, his tastes, his morals, his religion. He creates none
of these things for himself. He THINKS he does, but that is
because he has not examined into the matter. You have seen

Y.M. Many.

O.M. How did they happen to be Presbyterians and not
Congregationalists? And why were the Congregationalists not
Baptists, and the Baptists Roman Catholics, and the Roman
Catholics Buddhists, and the Buddhists Quakers, and the Quakers
Episcopalians, and the Episcopalians Millerites and the
Millerites Hindus, and the Hindus Atheists, and the Atheists
Spiritualists, and the Spiritualists Agnostics, and the Agnostics
Methodists, and the Methodists Confucians, and the Confucians
Unitarians, and the Unitarians Mohammedans, and the Mohammedans
Salvation Warriors, and the Salvation Warriors Zoroastrians, and
the Zoroastrians Christian Scientists, and the Christian
Scientists Mormons--and so on?

Y.M. You may answer your question yourself.

O.M. That list of sects is not a record of STUDIES,
searchings, seekings after light; it mainly (and sarcastically)
indicates what ASSOCIATION can do. If you know a man's
nationality you can come within a split hair of guessing the
complexion of his religion: English--Protestant; American--
ditto; Spaniard, Frenchman, Irishman, Italian, South American--
Roman Catholic; Russian--Greek Catholic; Turk--Mohammedan; and so
on. And when you know the man's religious complexion, you know
what sort of religious books he reads when he wants some more
light, and what sort of books he avoids, lest by accident he get
more light than he wants. In America if you know which party-
collar a voter wears, you know what his associations are, and how
he came by his politics, and which breed of newspaper he reads to
get light, and which breed he diligently avoids, and which breed
of mass-meetings he attends in order to broaden his political
knowledge, and which breed of mass-meetings he doesn't attend,
except to refute its doctrines with brickbats. We are always
hearing of people who are around SEEKING AFTER TRUTH. I have
never seen a (permanent) specimen. I think he had never lived.
But I have seen several entirely sincere people who THOUGHT they
were (permanent) Seekers after Truth. They sought diligently,
persistently, carefully, cautiously, profoundly, with perfect
honesty and nicely adjusted judgment--until they believed that
without doubt or question they had found the Truth. THAT WAS THE
END OF THE SEARCH. The man spent the rest of his life hunting up
shingles wherewith to protect his Truth from the weather. If he
was seeking after political Truth he found it in one or another
of the hundred political gospels which govern men in the earth;
if he was seeking after the Only True Religion he found it in one
or another of the three thousand that are on the market. In any
case, when he found the Truth HE SOUGHT NO FURTHER; but from that
day forth, with his soldering-iron in one hand and his bludgeon
in the other he tinkered its leaks and reasoned with objectors.
There have been innumerable Temporary Seekers of Truth--have you
ever heard of a permanent one? In the very nature of man such a
person is impossible. However, to drop back to the text--
training: all training is one from or another of OUTSIDE
INFLUENCE, and ASSOCIATION is the largest part of it. A man is
never anything but what his outside influences have made him.
They train him downward or they train him upward--but they TRAIN
him; they are at work upon him all the time.

Y.M. Then if he happen by the accidents of life to be
evilly placed there is no help for him, according to your
notions--he must train downward.

O.M. No help for him? No help for this chameleon? It is a
mistake. It is in his chameleonship that his greatest good
fortune lies. He has only to change his habitat--his
ASSOCIATIONS. But the impulse to do it must come from the
OUTSIDE--he cannot originate it himself, with that purpose in
view. Sometimes a very small and accidental thing can furnish
him the initiatory impulse and start him on a new road, with a
new idea. The chance remark of a sweetheart, "I hear that you
are a coward," may water a seed that shall sprout and bloom and
flourish, and ended in producing a surprising fruitage--in the
fields of war. The history of man is full of such accidents.
The accident of a broken leg brought a profane and ribald soldier
under religious influences and furnished him a new ideal. From
that accident sprang the Order of the Jesuits, and it has been
shaking thrones, changing policies, and doing other tremendous
work for two hundred years--and will go on. The chance reading
of a book or of a paragraph in a newspaper can start a man on a
new track and make him renounce his old associations and seek new
ones that are IN SYMPATHY WITH HIS NEW IDEAL: and the result,
for that man, can be an entire change of his way of life.

Y.M. Are you hinting at a scheme of procedure?

O.M. Not a new one--an old one. Old as mankind.

Y.M. What is it?

O.M. Merely the laying of traps for people. Traps baited
tract-distributor does. It is what the missionary does. It is
what governments ought to do.

Y.M. Don't they?

O.M. In one way they do, in another they don't. They
separate the smallpox patients from the healthy people, but in
dealing with crime they put the healthy into the pest-house along
with the sick. That is to say, they put the beginners in with
the confirmed criminals. This would be well if man were
naturally inclined to good, but he isn't, and so ASSOCIATION
makes the beginners worse than they were when they went into
captivity. It is putting a very severe punishment upon the
comparatively innocent at times. They hang a man--which is a
trifling punishment; this breaks the hearts of his family--which
is a heavy one. They comfortably jail and feed a wife-beater,
and leave his innocent wife and family to starve.

Y.M. Do you believe in the doctrine that man is equipped
with an intuitive perception of good and evil?

O.M. Adam hadn't it.

Y.M. But has man acquired it since?

O.M. No. I think he has no intuitions of any kind. He
gets ALL his ideas, all his impressions, from the outside. I
keep repeating this, in the hope that I may impress it upon you
that you will be interested to observe and examine for yourself
and see whether it is true or false.

Y.M. Where did you get your own aggravating notions?

O.M. From the OUTSIDE. I did not invent them. They are
gathered from a thousand unknown sources. Mainly UNCONSCIOUSLY

Y.M. Don't you believe that God could make an inherently
honest man?

O.M. Yes, I know He could. I also know that He never did
make one.

Y.M. A wiser observer than you has recorded the fact that
"an honest man's the noblest work of God."

O.M. He didn't record a fact, he recorded a falsity. It is windy,
and sounds well, but it is not true. God makes a man with honest
and dishonest POSSIBILITIES in him and stops there. The man's
ASSOCIATIONS develop the possibilities--the one set or the other.
The result is accordingly an honest man or a dishonest one.

Y.M. And the honest one is not entitled to--

O.M. Praise? No. How often must I tell you that? HE is
not the architect of his honesty.

Y.M. Now then, I will ask you where there is any sense in
training people to lead virtuous lives. What is gained by it?

O.M. The man himself gets large advantages out of it, and
that is the main thing--to HIM. He is not a peril to his
neighbors, he is not a damage to them--and so THEY get an
advantage out of his virtues. That is the main thing to THEM.
It can make this life comparatively comfortable to the parties
concerned; the NEGLECT of this training can make this life a
constant peril and distress to the parties concerned.

Y.M. You have said that training is everything; that
training is the man HIMSELF, for it makes him what he is.

O.M. I said training and ANOTHER thing. Let that other
thing pass, for the moment. What were you going to say?

Y.M. We have an old servant. She has been with us twenty-
two years. Her service used to be faultless, but now she has
become very forgetful. We are all fond of her; we all recognize
that she cannot help the infirmity which age has brought her; the
rest of the family do not scold her for her remissnesses, but at
times I do--I can't seem to control myself. Don't I try? I do
try. Now, then, when I was ready to dress, this morning, no
clean clothes had been put out. I lost my temper; I lose it
easiest and quickest in the early morning. I rang; and
immediately began to warn myself not to show temper, and to be
careful and speak gently. I safe-guarded myself most carefully.
I even chose the very word I would use: "You've forgotten the
clean clothes, Jane." When she appeared in the door I opened my
mouth to say that phrase--and out of it, moved by an instant
surge of passion which I was not expecting and hadn't time to put
under control, came the hot rebuke, "You've forgotten them
again!" You say a man always does the thing which will best
please his Interior Master. Whence came the impulse to make
careful preparation to save the girl the humiliation of a rebuke?
Did that come from the Master, who is always primarily concerned
about HIMSELF?

O.M. Unquestionably. There is no other source for any
impulse. SECONDARILY you made preparation to save the girl, but
PRIMARILY its object was to save yourself, by contenting the

Y.M. How do you mean?

O.M. Has any member of the family ever implored you to
watch your temper and not fly out at the girl?

Y.M. Yes. My mother.

O.M. You love her?

Y.M. Oh, more than that!

O.M. You would always do anything in your power to please her?

Y.M. It is a delight to me to do anything to please her!

What profit would you expect and certainly receive from
the investment?

Y.M. Personally? None. To please HER is enough.

O.M. It appears, then, that your object, primarily, WASN'T
to save the girl a humiliation, but to PLEASE YOUR MOTHER. It
also appears that to please your mother gives YOU a strong
pleasure. Is not that the profit which you get out of the
investment? Isn't that the REAL profits and FIRST profit?

Y.M. Oh, well? Go on.

O.M. In ALL transactions, the Interior Master looks to it
that YOU GET THE FIRST PROFIT. Otherwise there is no

Y.M. Well, then, if I was so anxious to get that profit and
so intent upon it, why did I threw it away by losing my temper?

O.M. In order to get ANOTHER profit which suddenly
superseded it in value.

Y.M. Where was it?

O.M. Ambushed behind your born temperament, and waiting for
a chance. Your native warm temper suddenly jumped to the front,
and FOR THE MOMENT its influence was more powerful than your
mother's, and abolished it. In that instance you were eager to
flash out a hot rebuke and enjoy it. You did enjoy it, didn't you?

Y.M. For--for a quarter of a second. Yes--I did.

O.M. Very well, it is as I have said: the thing which will
give you the MOST pleasure, the most satisfaction, in any moment
or FRACTION of a moment, is the thing you will always do. You
must content the Master's LATEST whim, whatever it may be.

Y.M. But when the tears came into the old servant's eyes I
could have cut my hand off for what I had done.

O.M. Right. You had humiliated YOURSELF, you see, you had
given yourself PAIN. Nothing is of FIRST importance to a man
except results which damage HIM or profit him--all the rest is
SECONDARY. Your Master was displeased with you, although you had
obeyed him. He required a prompt REPENTANCE; you obeyed again;
you HAD to--there is never any escape from his commands. He is a
hard master and fickle; he changes his mind in the fraction of a
second, but you must be ready to obey, and you will obey, ALWAYS.
If he requires repentance, you content him, you will always
furnish it. He must be nursed, petted, coddled, and kept
contented, let the terms be what they may.

Y.M. Training! Oh, what's the use of it? Didn't I, and
didn't my mother try to train me up to where I would no longer
fly out at that girl?

O.M. Have you never managed to keep back a scolding?

Y.M. Oh, certainly--many times.

O.M. More times this year than last?

Y.M. Yes, a good many more.

O.M. More times last year than the year before?

Y.M. Yes.

O.M. There is a large improvement, then, in the two years?

Y.M. Yes, undoubtedly.

O.M. Then your question is answered. You see there IS use in
training. Keep on. Keeping faithfully on. You are doing well.

Y.M. Will my reform reach perfection?

O.M. It will. UP to YOUR limit.

Y.M. My limit? What do you mean by that?

O.M. You remember that you said that I said training was
EVERYTHING. I corrected you, and said "training and ANOTHER
thing." That other thing is TEMPERAMENT--that is, the
disposition you were born with. YOU CAN'T ERADICATE YOUR
DISPOSITION NOR ANY RAG OF IT--you can only put a pressure on it
and keep it down and quiet. You have a warm temper?

Y.M. Yes.

O.M. You will never get rid of it; but by watching it you
can keep it down nearly all the time. ITS PRESENCE IS YOUR
LIMIT. Your reform will never quite reach perfection, for your
temper will beat you now and then, but you come near enough. You
have made valuable progress and can make more. There IS use in
training. Immense use. Presently you will reach a new stage of
development, then your progress will be easier; will proceed on a
simpler basis, anyway.

Y.M. Explain.

O.M. You keep back your scoldings now, to please YOURSELF
by pleasing your MOTHER; presently the mere triumphing over your
temper will delight your vanity and confer a more delicious
pleasure and satisfaction upon you than even the approbation of
your MOTHER confers upon you now. You will then labor for
yourself directly and at FIRST HAND, not by the roundabout way
through your mother. It simplifies the matter, and it also
strengthens the impulse.

Y.M. Ah, dear! But I sha'n't ever reach the point where I
will spare the girl for HER sake PRIMARILY, not mine?

O.M. Why--yes. In heaven.

Y.M. (AFTER A REFLECTIVE PAUSE) Temperament. Well, I see
one must allow for temperament. It is a large factor, sure
enough. My mother is thoughtful, and not hot-tempered. When I
was dressed I went to her room; she was not there; I called, she
answered from the bathroom. I heard the water running. I
inquired. She answered, without temper, that Jane had forgotten
her bath, and she was preparing it herself. I offered to ring,
but she said, "No, don't do that; it would only distress her to
be confronted with her lapse, and would be a rebuke; she doesn't
deserve that--she is not to blame for the tricks her memory
serves her." I say--has my mother an Interior Master?--and where
was he?

O.M. He was there. There, and looking out for his own
peace and pleasure and contentment. The girl's distress would
have pained YOUR MOTHER. Otherwise the girl would have been rung
up, distress and all. I know women who would have gotten a No. 1
PLEASURE out of ringing Jane up--and so they would infallibly
have pushed the button and obeyed the law of their make and
training, which are the servants of their Interior Masters. It
is quite likely that a part of your mother's forbearance came
from training. The GOOD kind of training--whose best and highest
function is to see to it that every time it confers a
satisfaction upon its pupil a benefit shall fall at second hand
upon others.

Y.M. If you were going to condense into an admonition your
plan for the general betterment of the race's condition, how
would you word it?


O.M. Diligently train your ideals UPWARD and STILL UPWARD
toward a summit where you will find your chiefest pleasure in
conduct which, while contenting you, will be sure to confer
benefits upon your neighbor and the community.

Y.M. Is that a new gospel?

O.M. No.

Y.M. It has been taught before?

O.M. For ten thousand years.

Y.M. By whom?

O.M. All the great religions--all the great gospels.

Y.M. Then there is nothing new about it?

O.M. Oh yes, there is. It is candidly stated, this time.
That has not been done before.

Y.M. How do you mean?

O.M. Haven't I put YOU FIRST, and your neighbor and the
community AFTERWARD?

Y.M. Well, yes, that is a difference, it is true.

O.M. The difference between straight speaking and crooked;
the difference between frankness and shuffling.

Y.M. Explain.

O.M. The others offer your a hundred bribes to be good,
thus conceding that the Master inside of you must be conciliated
and contented first, and that you will do nothing at FIRST HAND
but for his sake; then they turn square around and require you to
do good for OTHER'S sake CHIEFLY; and to do your duty for duty's
SAKE, chiefly; and to do acts of SELF-SACRIFICE. Thus at the
outset we all stand upon the same ground--recognition of the
supreme and absolute Monarch that resides in man, and we all
grovel before him and appeal to him; then those others dodge and
shuffle, and face around and unfrankly and inconsistently and
illogically change the form of their appeal and direct its
persuasions to man's SECOND-PLACE powers and to powers which have
NO EXISTENCE in him, thus advancing them to FIRST place; whereas
in my Admonition I stick logically and consistently to the
original position: I place the Interior Master's requirements
FIRST, and keep them there.

Y.M. If we grant, for the sake of argument, that your
scheme and the other schemes aim at and produce the same result--
RIGHT LIVING--has yours an advantage over the others?

O.M. One, yes--a large one. It has no concealments, no
deceptions. When a man leads a right and valuable life under it
he is not deceived as to the REAL chief motive which impels him
to it--in those other cases he is.

Y.M. Is that an advantage? Is it an advantage to live a
lofty life for a mean reason? In the other cases he lives the
lofty life under the IMPRESSION that he is living for a lofty
reason. Is not that an advantage?

O.M. Perhaps so. The same advantage he might get out of
thinking himself a duke, and living a duke's life and parading in
ducal fuss and feathers, when he wasn't a duke at all, and could
find it out if he would only examine the herald's records.

Y.M. But anyway, he is obliged to do a duke's part; he puts
his hand in his pocket and does his benevolences on as big a
scale as he can stand, and that benefits the community.

O.M. He could do that without being a duke.

Y.M. But would he?

O.M. Don't you see where you are arriving?

Y.M. Where?

O.M. At the standpoint of the other schemes: That it is
good morals to let an ignorant duke do showy benevolences for his
pride's sake, a pretty low motive, and go on doing them unwarned,
lest if he were made acquainted with the actual motive which
prompted them he might shut up his purse and cease to be good?

Y.M. But isn't it best to leave him in ignorance, as long
as he THINKS he is doing good for others' sake?

O.M. Perhaps so. It is the position of the other schemes.
They think humbug is good enough morals when the dividend on it
is good deeds and handsome conduct.

Y.M. It is my opinion that under your scheme of a man's
doing a good deed for his OWN sake first-off, instead of first
for the GOOD DEED'S sake, no man would ever do one.

O.M. Have you committed a benevolence lately?

Y.M. Yes. This morning.

O.M. Give the particulars.

Y.M. The cabin of the old negro woman who used to nurse me
when I was a child and who saved my life once at the risk of her
own, was burned last night, and she came mourning this morning,
and pleading for money to build another one.

O.M. You furnished it?

Y.M. Certainly.

O.M. You were glad you had the money?

Y.M. Money? I hadn't. I sold my horse.

O.M. You were glad you had the horse?

Y.M. Of course I was; for if I hadn't had the horse I
should have been incapable, and my MOTHER would have captured the
chance to set old Sally up.

Book of the day: What Is Man? by Mark Twain - Full Text Free Book (Part 1/6)