about the Lessons one day,
Mr. Kendal mentioned his
impression that Zoroaster had said something approaching the first
one in theory, and then
asked, a whimsical gleam in his eye:
"Mary, has Professor James said
anything about Zoroaster in this connection?"
"Manzie, Mr. James has no
philosophical library here to refer to," was the prompt retort. She told
us, however, that he would soon come himself to talk to this former
pupil of his, adding a characteristic glint of humor in the assurance
that he would then give "a
demonstration of a philosopher simplified to a force."
A night or two afterward (May 13th),
she announced: "Manzie, here is Mr. James."
There was a brief delay, and when the
pencil moved again, it was with a changed application of force and a new
movement, the first words being personal. Referring to an early period
in his own investigation of psychic phenomena, he said:
THE SEVEN PURPOSES
"Youth, in its nearness to
inspiration, sometimes sees more clearly than age, with its academic
dependence upon theory and precedent and what men call the wisdom of
experience. When this wisdom is based on perception, conscious or
otherwise, of eternal purpose, it transcends the vision of youth. But
when it is based on perception
of physical phenomena and the accumulated theories of other men, youth has an inspiration
and a faith that leads it, all unknowing, to the brink of great
mysteries." This was followed by an allusion to those "befogged in
precedent, physical phenomena, and intellectual theory, who were "unable
to follow where they should have led."
"There has seemed to be a good deal
of genuine feeling underlying the humorous persiflage through the pencil
about the scientific state of mind, "Mr. Kendal suggested. "Hasn't the
time come when we can reach the scientific type of mind? And isn't it
worth while to do so? And if so, what is the best psychological line of
"The scientist is not by any means
hopeless, but like many men in your plane, he is overbalanced and
therefore unbalanced by physical considerations. Physical phenomena are
of vital importance in your life, and their study
THE SEVEN PURPOSES
and analysis has led to a degree of
material progress which would have been incredible to the third—and all
but incredible to the second—generation back. It is only because
scientists have persisted in the study of physical phenomena that you
are enabled to understand in some part what is now being given you. The
misapprehension has been that
physical phenomena alone could be recognized. Those who have believed
that have denied the existence of the greatest and most persistent of all forces. Attempts
to explain spiritual phenomena
by physical formulae have been found unsuccessful by every one save
those who took refuge in denial of the thing that moved them to deny,
the eternal and indestructible purpose.
"When to their laboratories
scientists bring perception of spiritual phenomena exceeding any
material manifestation known to man in strength and significance, then
they may hope to discover and develop a force beside which all known
forces are insignificant. Science is the ladder by which life may
quickly ascend, but until science recognizes a spiritual force as the
one essential force, of which
all other forces are incidental phenomena, progress must be limited."
"Then, generally speaking," Mr.
THE SEVEN PURPOSES
said, "perhaps the most effective
appeal to scientists would be the appeal to scientific ambition."
"Always the most effective means to
win any man to anything is to appeal to his purpose. If it be personal,
appeal to his vanity. If it be
progressive, appeal to his eagerness. If it be intellectual, pique
his curiosity. Scientists,
like others, are divided in purpose."
"We have been much interested in the
decisive definiteness with
which our friends on that plane have been able to classify the purposes of persons here," Mr.
Kendal mentioned. "Is this as clear to you as physical characteristics
are to us, and as quickly determined?"
"Yes, and in much the same way. We
see motive and intention and
their variations as you see physical appearance, vitality and its variations. We see disintegrating
moral factors more clearly than you see physical ills. We judge of
purpose by its vitality and persistence under strain, precisely as you
judge of physical health by its vitality under strain and by its
persistence in spite of occasional disease."
"Then you see disintegrating force as
the scientist sees germs?" Cass inquired. "As disease?"
No, we see them as foes. I speak here
THE SEVEN PURPOSES
only of the way we judge purpose. There
is no diseased purpose. There may be struggle between more or less
intelligent forces, but in using
the simile of physical health, I did it in a limited sense."
"Is there an inherent reason for the
different types of philosophies?" Mr. Kendal now questioned. "That is, the
Nirvanaoblivion type in the Orient, as contrasted with the hell-fire-andbrimstone
type in the Occident. If inherent, is its cause geographical, intellectual,
biological, or what?"
"A little of all of them. Philosophies
are the outgrowth of conditions, physical, moral and geographical—and
therefore to some extent biological—to a much greater degree than is generally
recognized. It has been said that food makes the man. To a greater degree, environment makes the
"May we publish this as coming from
you?" Certainly. I am here for
Light and Progress are my purposes, and
teaching still my work."
After a few lines of purely personal
significance, this was signed: "William James."