Charlotte Mason Summaries

Summary of Ourselves
Volume 4 of the Charlotte Mason Series
Book 1: Self-Knowledge

Volume 4 is "an appeal to the young to make the most of themselves, because of the vast possibilities that are in them and of the law of God which constrains them." Book 1 is for students under 16, Book 2 is for students of all ages.

Chapter 1: The Country of Mansoul--The Kingdom of Mansoul is a beautiful, peaceful place with flowers, music, storybooks, parks, dancing and churches where God Himself speaks to everyone. This kingdom is within every person--it is our minds. Everything goes on peacefully and happily so long as the government (our own will) maintains control.

Chapter 2: The Perils Of Mansoul--But there are enemies that attempt to gain control in the form of temptation: laziness that allows the kingdom to be left carelessly untended, fires that wipe out large portions of the land, plague, flood and famine that require outside help, discord and civil war, darkness that throws the kingdom into despair. If the government does its job, these cannot gain a foothold.

Chapter 3: The Government of Mansoul--Each of us has a Kingdom of Mansoul with good things--noble tendencies, wisdom and goodness, but also enemies. There are officers who are detailed throughout Book 1.

PART I--The House Of The Body

Chapter 1: Hunger--Hunger reminds us to eat, but can become particular and desire only sweets or fancy food. If the appetite is allowed to rule, gluttony or finicky tastes can be the result, leading to a fat, unhealthy person who is no longer in top shape to serve. The way to avoid this is to never think about what you're eating. Even at mealtime, make conversation, not food, the focus.

Chapter 2: Thirst--The body is mostly water and is cleansed when water leaves the body, requiring that water to be replaced. Water mixed with nutrients (juice or milk) is good, but one must be careful not to lose their taste for pure water. Thirst can be abused with liquor until the person is an alcoholic and all his money and relationships are lost. Since nobody can foresee who is prone to alcoholism, many people abstain from ever even tasting alcohol altogether.

Chapter 3: Rest/Restlessness--Restlessness makes it hard to sit still too long, it prompts the body to get its necessary exercise and is a source of joy and fun. But it can go overboard and make a person do more than his body is able, or make a person unable to ever settle down and sit still for other valid activities. Rest is necessary, whether it's a quiet rest with a book, or a good night's sleep for healthy growth. But too much rest makes one lazy until exertion is too much trouble.

Chapter 4: Chastity--There is one appetite reserved for marriage, and we have a duty to remain pure until then. Students may be tempted to talk about, or read about, or do things that are unclean, but impurity is the worst sin of all. Those who stay pure will see God and experience a closer relationship with Him; knowing that God is with them always will prevent them from acting in a way they wouldn't want God to see. Even thinking a thought that one wouldn't share with his mother is a sin that begins the process of death of body and soul. We should be masters over our appetites, not their slaves.

Chapter 5: The Five Senses--These are pages that serve the esquires. We usually call them our feelings. Taste helps to tell if food is spoiled or not, and adds pleasure to eating. But, if pampered, taste can make us too picky to enjoy much of anything. Smell tends to be lazy; smells should alert us when the air is unhealthy. It is good to practice distinguishing different smells with the eyes closed. Touch lets us know when we've been hurt, and allows blind people to feel what their eyes miss. But touch can lead us to be distracted with discomforts that we should try to ignore. Sight brings much joy, but the unobservant miss many interesting things by not noticing what's around them. Hearing also brings pleasure, and we should practice listening to music and distinguishing composers, musical notes and birds with our eyes closed to sharpen our hearing.

PART II--The House Of Mind

Chapter I: Ourselves--Our inner self is like a wonderful, undiscovered country. There is a part of us that wants to yield to temptation, and another that wants to do right. Self-control helps us resist temptation. Self-knowledge teaches us that we aren't so different from everyone else. Everyone is special, not just us. Self-reverence teaches us that even a debased person is made in God's image and has great potential.

Chapter II: My Lord Intellect--Intellect is like a foreign minister, bringing in knowledge from outside. Science offers many wonders and discoveries. History, with the help of the Imagination, brings people from the past alive. Real people lived before, as real as us. And one day, we will be part of history. Math provides stimulating challenge, like climbing a mountain. Philosophy teaches lessons about living, and Literature, with Imagination's help, acquaints the mind with many characters.

In Mansoul there is a place where there are pictures and books, but the people don't come alive and there is a panorama of beauty lacking. This is not real literature, but many people waste a lot of time there. Real literature is written with words that seem to sing and touch us with the beauty of their style.

Our Beauty Sense accompanies Intellect and brings much joy to us. It makes literature a delight to us. It shows us wonders in nature, and recognizes faces of those we love. It gives us pleasure in a pleasing room arrangement, or work of art or music. But the beauty sense can be dulled with cheap art, or art that merely imitates everything else while totally missing the beauty of the object. Our eyes must be trained to recognize true beauty.

Intellectual life can bring much happiness from the variety and largeness of topics it makes us think about, but many people are so filled with small, trivial thoughts--their collections, or weekend sports, or getting the best grade in school, or the latest gossip--that they never get to the real and true thoughts.

Chapter III: The Daemons Of The Intellect--Intellect's enemies are laziness that makes thinking seem like a chore, and habit that prevents the doing or thinking of anything new. It is a trap to get so obsessed with one thought, such as inventing new things, that we throw ourselves into that and neglect everything else. There is too much to be enjoyed to focus on just one thing. We should instead be like Da Vinci who had lots of interests. We don't have to be exclusive to excel at any one thing.

Chapter IV: Imagination--Artists make pictures, poems and music from their imagination--and it is our own imagination that makes those come alive in our own minds. Reading gives our minds thoughts to fuel our imaginations.

Imagination has enemies; one is self-absorption, imagining scenarios in which we do wonderful things that never leave our minds to become real actions. Or we may imagine all kinds of slights that make us feel sorry for ourselves and think the worst of others. Dwelling on bad incidents can make us fearful. And allowing uncleanness to enter through jokes, stories or pictures will defile the imagination. If scary thoughts plague us at night, we should distract ourselves by thinking of something pleasant.

Chapter V: The Beauty Sense--Beauty has its enemy, too. Confusing beauty with goodness can make us become obsessed with what seems lovely instead of thinking about our duty in life. We may choose attractive, pleasant friends instead of loving the people that God has placed in our lives. In our attempt to avoid shabby places, we may refuse to minister to people who live in needy circumstances. Instead of letting lovely things turn us into critics of everything else, we should determine to find beauty and bring it where people really need it.

Chapter VI: Reason--Reason knows how to come up with great excuses to justify anything. It can persuade us to give up our duties for something that appears worthy but is second best, as Prospero did in The Tempest when he allowed his search for knowledge to make him neglect his kingdom. Reason should compel good men to take on noble causes, but, instead, it often talks them out of taking positive action. Everything we do by habit--brushing our teeth, for example--and everything we see--roads and cars--was reasoned out in the beginning by someone, testifying to the usefulness of human reason. But reason can also lead men astray, as it did in the 1700's Age of Reason, which led to the French Revolution where many innocent people were murdered. The fact that any two well-intentioned and intelligent people can come to different conclusions over the same issue should show the limits of human reason. The fact that thinking people can change their minds over time proves that our own reason is far from infallible. Coming to the right conclusion takes more than logical reasoning; one must begin from the correct notion. Math is a true notion, and reason works well when figuring out mathematical equations.

Our job is to use our Will to consider whether a notion or idea is right or wrong before our own reason has a chance to persuade us to follow it or not. Accepting false notions that should have been rejected at the outset has led to all sorts of bizarre philosophies, such as atheism, or the idea that matter is a figment of the mind.

Chapter VII: The Desires 1--Desires are to the mind what appetites are to the body.

The desire for approval can motivate us to do right things to please our parents, but if we start wanting acceptance of worthless peers, it can lead us to do silly or even bad things. Everyone wants the approval of someone, but it's vain to covet the approval of unworthy people. And desiring fame can make people commit crimes just to get their name in the newspaper.

The desire to be the best can spur us to excellence, but it can also make us lose sight of our original goal if we focus on winning and make the prize our sole desire in life. We must also be careful not to wish to excel in unworthy things, like smoking the most cigarettes.

The desire for wealth can motivate us to work for what we need, but it can also enslave us into hoarding and collecting to the exclusion of the enjoyment of living. And it can make us greedy and unwilling to part with any of our things rather than sharing generously. It can also make people do senseless things like travel across the ocean for no other purpose than to add a new acquisition to their collection of matchbooks. If we're going to collect things, we should collect them for their beauty and the enjoyment they bring us, not for monetary reasons.

The desire for power can make a person with a servant's heart a motivating leader, but it can make others tyrannical and cruel. It can make people head up bands of worthless men just to be a leader. The best way to have leadership is to serve well, and then have leadership thrust upon us.

Chapter VIII: The Desires 2--The desire to be with other people is fun and we can learn from others and enjoy their company. A person who has taken time to learn about many things will find that he has something in common with almost anyone. But some people only surround themselves with their inferiors to make themselves look good and hear flattery. And some seek society for the fun of it and spend all their time in frivolous parties and gossip which does nothing to help their personal growth. And it's easy to become exclusive and feel comfortable only with those within our own narrow field of interest, but we shut ourselves off from enjoying many friends if we do that.

The desire for knowledge helps us to learn, but it isn't good to be nosy about trivial gossip and petty surface information without taking time to really learn deeply and ask the important questions. The desire for emulation may make us learn things only for the sake of showing off what we know. The desire to excel may make us only learn what will get us a first place mark in school.

PART III--The House Of Heart

Lords Of The Heart: I. Love

Chapter I: The Ways Of Love--Mansoul not only has rulers of the mind, but also rulers of the heart--Love and Justice. Love touches everyone around us and is never exhausted. But there are counterfeits that aren't really love. Self love makes us look out for our own self-interests and makes us selfish and jealous. Philandering from one object of affection to another treats people cheaply. Real love wants others to be good and would never persuade someone to do wrong. Love seeks the happiness of the other person and strives to be worthy of the other. It wants to serve the other and relieve suffering. But Love has enemies. Dislike or aversion because someone is different can be avoided by imagining ourselves in the other person's shoes. Holding grudges can grow into hatred, so it's important to forgive others.

Chapter II: Pity--Everyone is born with some pity for small creatures and suffering people. It makes some people work hard to minister to the needy, such as Father Damien, who is still a hero in Hawaii for his ministry to lepers in Molokai. But pity that makes someone feel sad yet not lift a finger to help can turn a heart hard. And many people waste their pity feeling sorry for themselves. We must not allow ourselves to dwell on our bodily pains and discomforts, or hurt feelings. Instead, we must think of others.

Chapter III: Benevolence--A benevolent person does more than tolerate people, he finds something good in everyone to like. He doesn't seem to notice annoyances, and helps those who are at fault to mend their ways. But a person who is selfish, or too fastidious to accept someone different, or easily offended and quick to blame cannot be benevolent.

Chapter IV: Sympathy--Sympathy is more than sentimental tears. It is really feeling what someone else feels, suffering with them, and understanding that others feel just what we feel and that therefore, we are no better than they are. Rather than refusing to share our thoughts because "they wouldn't understand," sympathy gives others the benefit of the doubt and believes they will understand. If we know that everyone feels heroism and goodwill as we do, we can draw that out of others. Tactful words, the right gesture, and a listening ear are ways of showing sympathy and encouraging others.

Chapter V: Kindness--A kind, thoughtful person anticipates what will make someone more at ease--pulling up a chair, a friendly greeting, a helping hand. Rather than assuming that a greeting isn't required because we feel goodwill in our hearts, kindness goes through the effort of courtesy in making the greeting anyway--kindness goes beyond intent to action. A truly kind person doesn't keep count of his considerate acts, because he doesn't stop to make a mental note of them. For that reason, he doesn't expect return and isn't offended when a kindness isn't reciprocated. And kindness gives others the benefit of the doubt, assuming that they err in ignorance rather than thinking the worst, as if everyone meant to be hurtful on purpose.

Chapter VI: Generosity--Everyone has generous impulses, but not everyone acts on them, giving sacrificially to help others and holding no grudges against others. A generous person has many interests and can feel at home with various people, and, as a result of thinking of others rather than dwelling on his own cares, isn't bothered by anxieties. We must not limit our concern to ourselves only, and we must not think that everyone else is worse than us and will cheat us.

Chapter VII: Gratitude--Gratitude benefits us by making us glad. When we get out of our own self-absorption and notice small kindnesses done for us and little blessings in nature, we are filled with joy. The proper response is a simple "thank you," without making more of it than we feel and becoming insincere. It is a disservice to make others feel unappreciated because we neglect to show our thanks.

Chapter VIII: Courage--We all have courage; even timid or small animals will show courage in defending their young, and all cultures have stories of brave deeds done by ordinary men. But we can also be gripped by fear and panic and render ourselves useless to help. We don't all go to battle, but we can be brave in our own trials, such as a dentist's visit or an illness. Undue anxiety about what might happen is a waste of time. We can maintain presence of mind even while nursing a loved one through a fatal illness by not looking ahead, but focusing only on the moment. Remember that Jesus commanded us not to be anxious.

We must also consider our beliefs carefully and then not be afraid to stand up for them. We must not be afraid of sharing our affairs with others because of distrust and suspicion. We must not let fear of failure keep us from doing things, but be confident in our abilities. And we must be courageous enough to grab opportunity without being foolhardy and reckless.

Chapter IX: Loyalty--We all have loyalty born in us, but duty commits us to be loyal to our own country. Lack of loyalty is what prompts anarchists to assassinate their leaders. We should honor the heroes of our own country without elevating them above another's heroes in his own country. It is wrong to be more critical of your own country than other countries, and to find fault in everything your leader does. Our loyalty is also owed to our own family, friends, and others in our circle. We should be loyal to efficient businesses rather than switching because of cheaper prices. And, once we have thought out our convictions, we should be loyal to them and willing to die for some of them, such as our faith.

Chapter X: Humility--We should be humble like simple and obedient children. But false humility that refuses to see one's own capabilities is wrong. Embracing what sets us apart from others instead of simply seeing others on equal terms with us is pride of life and makes us self-conscious so that we focus on ourselves rather than others. The antidote is to fill our minds with thoughts of others.

Chapter XI: Gladness--Gladness even during sad times can lighten our mood and lift the spirits of those around us. It is contagious. We can be glad by counting our blessings rather than feeling sorry for ourselves over what we don't have. It is our duty to be glad.

Lords Of The Heart: II. Justice

Chapter XII: Justice is Universal--Love and justice sometimes clash, yet both are in our hearts and must balance each other. Everyone understands justice and what's fair. In our courtesy to others, our justice must extend to them rather than focusing on our own rights. We must be kind and gentle rather than hurtful. Since others are as important as we are, we must respect their property and allow them their opinions and expression of those opinions. This is not easy; in fact, it is a life's work.

Chapter XIII: Justice To Others--Current understanding of justice has stopped the legal beating and abusing of servants and children, but misguided justice carries out vengeance unmercifully. Our sense of justice must be trained. Putting ourselves in another's place will help us see things from someone else's perspective and make us aware of how we may be taking advantage of them. We won't want to be harsh and wound their spirits, or push to get in the front of lines, or hesitate in giving up our seat to someone who needs it, or rude in interrupting and not listening. We must assume the best of others and not let their faults blind us to their assets. Even in being loyal to our own, we can still try to see good in those outside our field as an antidote to prejudice.

We must honor everyone with due respect as a creation of God, while using discernment to choose who we allow to influence us by time spent with them. We must appreciate what others do for us, and not find fault with every kind thing said about them.

Chapter XIV: Truth, or, Justice In Word--Lies, even in small affairs, hurt the spirit of others. We owe them the truth. We must also be careful to find the truth among the many voices and opinions in the world. Falseness may come disguised beautifully, but we must be diligent to search out truth. We don't want to tickle ears with gossip and lies, nor let envy cause us to speak ill of someone. We must not become so fanatical about a cause that we can no longer hear the truth about the other side.

Chapter XV: Spoken Truth--Every issue has two sides, and it can be difficult to sift truth from error. We must use veracity when we speak by giving an accurate account that doesn't need to be qualified with, "I think." But we don't need to correct every minor detail when someone else speaks. That is impolite and annoying. We must not exaggerate or generalize, even to make a story more interesting.

Does this mean that fictional novels shouldn't be read because they aren't true? No, because art contains essential truth that inspires our spirit wrapped in imagination. Even Jesus gave truths disguised in parables. The Bible reveals truths about the nature of man and God's dealings with man; whether the stories are literally true or not doesn't affect that, so we need not fear critics finding that some Bible stories are allegorical. [Note: Charlotte was writing at a time when science was "disproving" the reliability of scripture and she wanted to assure her readers that science needn't destroy faith.]

Chapter XVI: Some Causes Of Lying--Envy and malice may make people tell untruths, or incomplete truth, about someone. Fear of consequences may cause us to hide the truth or cover it with a lie. We may exaggerate to boast because we want others to value us more. Some people make up stories because they enjoy living in fantasy instead of the real world. We may lie to keep a friend out of trouble. But we must remember that lies weaken our character.

Chapter XVII: Integrity, or, Justice In Action--In our jobs, it is honest work that helps society, not a deliberate slowing down to leave work for someone else to have a job. That only makes your profession disrespected. We may not all get a paycheck, but we all have duties demanded of us, and we all receive help from someone to whom we owe an honest day's effort. Students owe an honest attempt to study hard, employees owe a full day's work. A whole man, one with his integrity intact, doesn't allow minor inconsistencies to chip away at his character.

We all intend to have integrity, but we may allow ourselves to get distracted and not stick to our task. We must learn not to allow urgent distractions to pull us off track. We must follow through and finish what we start without dawdling about it. Employees must give their full 8 hours, not using some of that time for their own self-interests. We must not steal materials, for he who is dishonest in small things will be dishonest in larger things, like embezzling money. We must not borrow against earnings we haven't got yet.

Scrambling around for the best bargains rather than being satisfied to pay a fair price from our favorite salesclerk shows a lack of loyalty. Too many bargains tempt us to fill our living space with unnecessary stuff. We must return what we borrow promptly and in good condition.

Chapter XVIII: Opinions: Justice In Thought--We shouldn't toss out generalizations and idle opinions that we haven't thought through, but everything we say should be carefully considered and accurate. We shouldn't be faddists, who focus exclusively and passionately on one topic and change that focus with the times. We should be steady and balanced enough to give every subject the same quality of thought, unless we are called to a great reform that fills our mind, such as William Wilberforce, the abolitionist.

We have a duty to research and have opinions about the world, current affairs, issues and things people are talking about. Students are in an ideal situation to do this if their minds aren't too taken up cramming for the next exam. We should read worthy books and form thoughts about them, too. It is true that our opinions will change as we get older and learn more, but that shouldn't stop us from attempting to come to an opinion now.

Chapter XIX: Principles: Justice In Motive--Principles form the foundation for the way we look at things and, as a result, the way we act. Many principles will jostle for our attention; the bad ones usually jostle louder than good ones, but our conscience tells us to choose the good ones. We may not know what our own principles are, but anyone watching us can tell by our actions and attitudes what we really value--whether we try to flatter to win favor, or choose friends who will tell us the truth and keep us accountable.

Chapter XX: Justice To Ourselves: Self-Ordering--We must take care of ourselves by being balanced in our habits rather than indulging in excess, sober in both alcohol and reckless pastimes that cause us to be addicted to excitement, we must be hard working, and pure in our bodies, refraining from sexual impurity.

PART IV--Vocation

Children dream of what they'll be when they grow up, but as we mature, we realize that what we really want is to be useful and do something that people need. It isn't always the best-looking or top-ranking student who succeeds--being at the right place at the right time and willing to be serviceable is available to anyone. To make the most of these opportunities, students must be prepared: educated, alert, generous, in top physical condition and rested. The child who is faithful in small things, always helping his mother or entertaining the baby, is likely to be a useful adult because he has learned the habit of being useful. If you want to become the kind of adult who is truly useful, then never miss a chance to be of service while you're young so you will learn the habit of helping. Intentions are never enough, it is the person who puts resolve into action that makes a difference.

Summary of Ourselves
Volume 4 of the Charlotte Mason Series
Book II: Self-Direction

Charlotte Mason continues with the use of the term "mansoul," an allegory she attributes to John Bunyan. Mansoul has perils, but they aren't inevitable. They can be avoided if government (the will and the conscience) maintains control. The conscience is to the heart what reason is to the mind--a useful servant, but not to be the final word, since it can be influenced. This volume is to help with the training of the conscience and to help in understanding the soul, the part of us that communes with God.

PART I--Conscience

Chapter I: The Court Of Appeal--All the desires within our heart, mind and body struggle to have the upper hand. The conscience acts like a judge, weighing the causes of those desires and declaring a verdict, urging us to do what we ought and what is our duty. This sense of ought and due seems to be born within us, planted by God within each of us. So then, why do people still do wrong? Because they refuse to listen to their conscience, or more often, because their conscience has been misled by their reason. Reason can convince the conscience that something is right when it's not. Reason also finds justification for bad actions. For instance, no one admits that he dislikes someone because he is rich. Instead, reason finds excuses to justify the dislike. Our conscience must be taught the absolutes of right and wrong so it can see through the faulty logic of reason.

Chapter II: The Instruction Of Conscience--The best way to instruct the conscience is with books. History, biographies, stories, poems include all kinds of examples of character traits and the results they lead to. The Bible gives specific lessons. It is safest to stick to time-proven classics that have been around long enough to see that they have a truth that appeals to all mankind, not just the whims of one generation. Modern books may have more sentiment than truth. And books shouldn't be rushed through just to mark them off a list; they must be savored so that the characters become familiar to us and we have time to reflect and let the lessons penetrate our hearts.

Chapter III: Temperance--Sir Walter Scott's book The Fortunes of Nigel shows the foolishness of letting appetite for food become more important than our duties. His book Quentin Durward shows a character who loses dignity because of drink. The Virginians, by W. M. Thackeray has an example of too much leisure and time spent on entertainment. The House of the Seven Gables has a maid who fritters her time daydreaming.

Intemperance in all its forms amounts to idolatry--putting something before our worship of God. We shouldn't love any thing or pastime more than God.

Chapter IV: Chastity (Part 1.) --Any thing or person we love more than God is impurity to the soul. Marlowe's Edward II loved his friend Gaveston too much and gave him priority over even his own wife and country. We are not free to choose which loyalties to honor or ignore.

Chapter V: Chastity (Part 2.) --A true friendship, like that of Alan and Darsie in Scott's Redgauntlet, is a beautiful thing. There was love and sacrifice for one another, but no neglecting of one's duties. Wives and Daughters, by Mrs. Gaskell tells how Molly stayed true to Cynthia even when Cynthia's imprudence caused some trouble. David Copperfield cherished friendships of those who happened upon his path and was rewarded for this kindness.

Chapter VI: Chastity (Part 3.) --Mrs. Gaskell's Ruth was a lovely young woman wooed by a rich Mr. Bellingham. He took advantage of her youth and was indiscreet with her. He was persuaded to end the relationship and she was left disgraced and heartbroken. Did he get off scot free? No, because Ruth found forgiveness in a chapel and went on to become a Christian worker with mature character, but Bellington never conquered his bad traits and amounted to nothing.

But better than finding redemption from a fall is to never fall in the first place. By keeping a watch on our thoughts and interests, and being useful instead of idle, we can avoid many temptations.

Chapter VII: Fortitude--Fortitude, pictured in a Botticelli painting as a weary yet steadfast woman, is cheerful meekness that carries on in difficulty without self-pity or self-righteousness because its motive is love. Paul in the New Testament continued in faith through all kinds of trials without wavering. Sir Kenneth in Scott's The Talisman, Mrs. Garth in George Eliot's Middlemarch, Mark Tapley in Dickens' Martin Chuzzlewit, Mrs. Bagnet in Dickens' Bleak House and Mrs. Wilfer in Dickens' Our Mutual Friend are all good examples of fortitude in trials.

Chapter VIII: Prudence--We may think of impulsiveness as being generous, and therefore we might consider prudence too stuffy and strict, but it is selfish to be imprudent. Prudence plans ahead, and the virtuous woman of Proverbs as well as Joseph in Egypt were praised for their careful planning. Plutarch's Alcibiades preferred to learn discipline from Socrates to running wild with his friends. His choice in company was very prudent. Plutarch's Alexander refused to let the influence of his mother or bribes from friends sway his political decisions. Lycurgus didn't seek to relax and live comfortably after war, but trained his men to put up with discomfort for the sake of preparedness.

SECTION II. Conscience In The House Of Mind

Chapter IX: Opinions 'In The Air'--We tend to assume that, as long as we control our outward behaviour, we can think whatever we please and decide which opinions to keep. We accept popular opinion without following it to its logical conclusion, and then we end up thinking foolishly and debating absurd questions, or supporting wrong positions, and even committing sinful actions as our Reason steps in to give us logical-sounding excuses. We are obligated to consider carefully the opinions we adopt.

Chapter X: The Uninstructed Conscience--Until we learn right/wrong principles, we tend to focus on rules and trivial, legalistic points while missing the big picture, such as a child condemning the accidental breaking of a vase more than the lie told to cover it up, or a criminal excusing bank robbery because he wants to be loyal to his crime partners.

Livingstone discovered that even the remotest tribes believe that murder and stealing are wrong, and kindness and parental obedience are right. God put a vague knowledge of right and wrong in all of us, but we need to refine the way we define right and wrong to conform to Biblical standards. Otherwise, we go with the flow of the masses and the entire nation may think alike in error. Scott's book Peveril of the Peak is a good example of an uninstructed conscience gone wrong--one man became as infallible and powerful as a Pope, with cruel results.

Prejudice, bigotry, superstition, panic, and crime are justified by an ignorant conscience, even when the person is intelligent, because their conscience, without guidance, is at the mercy of a darkened mind. Such persons pride themselves on tolerance because they don't know how to differentiate right from wrong. [Apparently the elevation of tolerance as the highest virtue isn't a new concept of our generation!] They get their news from a source of their political leaning, so they hear only one side of issues rather than weighing both sides and making up their own mind. And our sense of proportion may become marred so that we feel guilt over some insignificant trifling sin, while overlooking a major character flaw in ourselves.

Chapter XI: The Instructed Conscience--Dr Primrose, in Goldsmith's The Vicar of Wakefield, is an example of an instructed conscience, as is Boswell's Life of Johnson. Understanding right from wrong clearly doesn't guarantee freedom from sin, but makes it more difficult to do wrong out of ignorance. Reading and reflecting on our books is the best education--literature should be studied for character lessons, not to become cultured.

Chapter XII: Some Instructors Of Conscience

Poetry--Whether we choose a different poet every year, or stick with the same one for years, studying and meditating on lines of poems will help us understand good character. Becoming intimate with Shakespeare's characters, for instance, helps us see other people's good and bad traits and emulate or avoid becoming like that.

Novels--We should read for more than the plot, more than knowing how it ends. We should read slowly and often until we can quote books and remember who did what, and when. The characters should become our friends and mentors. Reading superficially can give a totally wrong impression of a book, it can make us think that Amelia is the heroine of Vanity Fair while that's not the lesson Thackeray was trying to get across.

Essays--Essayists write to instruct us, and we should heed their lessons.

Chapter XIII: Some Instructors Of Conscience

History--We should know more than current issues. We should be proud of our country's history and sad about its bad deeds. History provides true lessons from real events, not just speculation and opinion.

Philosophy--In the same way, generations have been asking the same questions we ask, and it is to our benefit to listen to the answers they came up with. It will save us the trouble of re-inventing the wheel, and may prevent us from coming up with the same error a second time. And, seeing some of the crazy fanatical ideas people fell for in the past will illustrate our weakness for following bad leaders and make us more discerning.

Chapter XIV: Some Instructors Of Conscience

Theology--Religion is more than a vague idea that God wants us to be good and punishes us when we're bad. The concept of an eternal life may seem remote, but knowing God makes our life full now.

Religion is more than feelings and sentiment. Jesus said very little about how we should feel; he taught more about what we should do. He taught using parables that only seekers would understand because He wanted us to work at comprehending (not like our school teachers, who try to bring their lessons down to the dullest mind!) Reading the Bible is the best religious curriculum, but we should read with faith and leave higher criticism to the critics. Solid Biblical knowledge will protect us from erroneous doctrines built on a few scriptures that have been taken out of context.

We should not read for textual criticism, or to gain superficial knowledge. We should read to understand God. We should read systematically, and read for ourselves--we should not rely on a commentary to tell us what God is saying to us. We must pray for clarity as we read. God reveals truths from the Bible, such as the brotherhood of man, that are specific to God and aren't taught anywhere else. God has written everything He has to say in the Bible, although the meanings may not be revealed at once. Poets and writers sometimes clarify Biblical truth when God reveals a meaning to them, so their works can be valuable to us.

As far as which parts of the Bible are inspired and which aren't, Charlotte says, we should not worry about that or seek commentators and critics to tell us, but simply read and allow that to become clear for ourselves as we mature in faith. The fact that there may be scientific explanations for some of the Bible's miracles makes them no less divined by God's will. God sometimes allows tragedies to occur--and that is as much the hand of God as His hand visibly coming down would be. Death from God's perspective isn't as final as it is from ours because He sees the hereafter as easily as the now.

We needn't feel anxious about the existence of miracles because science has no evidence to prove them--just because scientists haven't seen a certain thing doesn't prove that such a thing couldn't happen, it just means they haven't witnessed it. The fact is, the sun rising every day, and the conversion of a soul, are very miraculous, but we discount them because we see them so often. To deny the miracle that God became a man and that Jesus rose from death not only relegates Him to just a great teacher, but it denies Christianity itself. Once doubt is allowed entrance into our mind, it seeps into our being and then reason finds justification, and one may become a skeptic. Objections are negative, but Truth affirms.

Chapter XV: Some Instructors Of Conscience

Nature--Appreciating nature helps us see that the world is vast, and corrects our perspective and perception of our own importance. It shows us that the world is large and good, and that the God who made it must also be large and good. Nature can display order, miracles, beauty--which can be instructive to us. God, who made each thing and cares for every detail, will also care for us. Seeing what God has done makes us worship and thank Him.

Art--Artists can present divine ideas about the beauty of holiness (Fra Angelico), life (Giotto), simplicity (Millet), or the sweetness of humanity (Rembrandt). But in order to learn their lessons, we must understand the difference between showy, tasteless art and art that is essential, and the difference between having the skill to express, and having something to say. We should learn how to appreciate art, not for the sake of culture, but to understand the message that the artist wanted to convey.

Chapter XVI: Some Instructors Of Conscience

Sociology--It is good to learn how other people live, what the poor need, how to nurse the sick, how to solve the problems facing society because Jesus wants us to care for others. Uninvolved sending of money isn't enough. We should educate ourselves about what kind of help is effective, pray for God to guide us, and then be alert for an opportunity to help.

Self-Knowledge--Learning about mankind and ourselves also teaches us that we are no better or worse than everyone else.

SECTION III--The Function Of Conscience

Chapter XVII: Conviction Of Sin--We all are born with a sense of right and wrong, but we need to learn more specifically what God wants by reading and reflecting on history, current events, and character of people. But we must not think that faults we see in others makes it okay for us to do the same thing. We must not focus all our judgment on one behavior, such as hair length. That makes us prejudiced. We must keep a broader perspective, an eye on the big picture. Guilt over sin can cause real physical stress and illness, and that is conscience's way of making us repent.

Chapter XVIII: Temptation--Temptation can come suddenly, from within our mind, or from something outside of us. We can refuse to enter in to temptation by refusing to even entertain evil notions at the outset, before our reason has a chance to rationalize them. We should distract our mind instead by thinking of something else.

When we sin, we must ask forgiveness of God, accept that forgiveness, and then move on. We don't need to continue feeling remorse for what we have done.

Chapter XIX: Duty And Law--Some say that every man should search his heart and do what he feels is right (yet they complain when another, acting on conscience, offends them!). Some say that we should be free and natural (and thus they justify their own greed and lust). But right and wrong is not relative, there is a universal law that even savages are dimly aware of. To a Christian, this law is beautiful and holy, not restricting. God, who loves us, wants us to obey His laws for our own good. They make our lives better.

PART II The Will

Chapter I: The Will-Less Life--Love can blindside any of us, the conscience can obsess over a matter as trivial as receiving 3 cents too much change while not noticing more important injustices, imagination can lead us to sordid thoughts. . . who can help us control our own selves? Our will. It is possible to live an entire life going with the flow, involuntarily reacting to circumstances, but that can lead to an aimless life.

Chapter II: Will And Willfulness--It isn't obvious who is using his Will and who is drifting in life because each person has his own private faults, and some people's faults aren't blatant--perhaps a man is greedy, but shy enough that we don't notice. Many willful people simply follow their impulses and end up enslaved to their passions, and manipulating others through various means, either arrogant or subtle, to get their way. Some willful people even achieve financial success.

It is also possible for a person with a strong Will to exercise uncommon resolve to attain a goal--yet for evil reasons. The Japanese who were willing to give their lives for their country showed strong Will. It isn't only good people who can make use of a strong Will. It takes a desire outside ourselves, such as love for country, that inspires us to Will.

Chapter III: Will Not Moral Or Immoral--The Will isn't just used to help us be good; some cruel men use their Will to advance evil causes. We can use our Will to pursue right or wrong. A person with idealistic dreams thinking the best intentions isn't using his Will unless he acts on those impulses. The Will must be used for some motive outside of ourselves, whether good or evil. It is interesting to wonder who is worse, the person who has the strength of Will to follow through on a questionable goal, or the person who has the most kindhearted, noble idea--but never gets up the gumption to act on it. One of life's greatest arts is the ability to pass up temptations that threaten to distract our focus on the goals we count most worthy.

A successful king rules his country well; a strong man rules himself with his Will.

Chapter IV: The Will And Its Peers--It takes all of a man to Will, so we must keep our members (reason, conscience, imagination...) in check so they're ready for duty and not enslaved to some fault of excess. Being faithful in the small matters of our day-to-day life will keep our members in order for the bigger matters.

Chapter V: The Function Of Will--All of our members are subject to passions and enslavement; only the Will is free to choose. But some people try to avoid making choices, so they let fashion dictate their clothing or furniture, or they procrastinate and refuse to commit to any choice until the last minute. We should be glad to make choices in trivial matters, because it helps accustom us to the responsibility of making choices.

But doesn't obedience to authority take away our choice and weaken the Will? No, because the Will can choose whether or not to submit. Obedience is the right choice, and the Will can choose to do what's right.

Is it wearisome to have so many choices to make? Not if only one decision at a time is taken.

Every choice we make has some foundational idea/concept at its base--obedience carries the concept of God's authority if you follow it to the end. We should keep that in mind when faced with decisions; each choice represents acceptance or rejection of a bigger concept.

Chapter VI: The Scope Of Will--Many people don't determine to stick to specific principles and end up being carried along and allowing things just because they can't think of any reason not to. Some people allow themselves to be swept up by every latest fashion because they haven't decided on common sense rules about clothing. They allow themselves to be talked into decisions.

People who decide to buy only what they need at a fair price won't be lured by low prices to hunt all over town for items they don't really need at bargain prices. The search for bargains causes wasted time, stress, and unneeded purchases. Instead, we should strive to get only what suits our purposes at the price we can afford.

Some people chase after new opinions and novel ideas in the same way, and are forever flitting between new churches, friends, books. But we should show deeper care about choosing those things, and then be committed to them.

Chapter VII: Self-Control, Self-Restraint, Self-Command, Self-Denial--It comes more naturally to us to have self-esteem, self-approval, self-complacency and self-respect, but those appeal to a kind of vanity and pride. They make us self-absorbed, focused on improving ourselves. The trick is to focus on something outside ourselves. A mother sacrificing food for her child isn't denying herself, she's loving her child. We need to take the focus off ourselves.

Chapter VIII: The Effort Of Decision--Good impulses need our Will to make us carry out those impulses. Generally, selfish impulses don't need our Will--our sinful selves naturally allow those impulses to serve us with no intervention.

Every day presents decisions, every hour, we are faced with trivial decisions, and the easiest course is to do what everyone else is doing. When we have to make a decision on our own, it's hard because both sides have a point to be made.

Tolerance is the highest virtue to some people, and can get to such an extent that everything is tolerated and it becomes too much of a bother to stand up for anything or take any kind of action. Or, some people focus on minor matters so they don't have to face the big questions, and by following the path of least resistance, they don't have to deliberate over difficult decisions. If they wait long enough, the situation decides itself. But that is shirking our responsibility. We have a duty to give life our best effort, not to just drift along, the victim of every circumstance. Our task is to choose what's right without letting our Self cloud our judgment, and then, once the decision is made, put it in God's hands and refuse to fret about it and let worry consume us.

Chapter IX: Intention--Purpose--Resolution--One thing tends to lead to another: a man is struck by an idea, such as the notion to save a gull's feather found during a beach stroll. That piques his curiosity and he forms the intent to learn all he can about gulls and collect all the gull artifacts he can find. When his collection grows, he might purpose to open a museum to display his findings and resolve to take on the task of enlarging and maintaining his display of items.

Another man, in his reading, is impressed by Sir Francis Drake's devotion to one cause. This leads him to read all he can about Drake's era, the Elizabethan age, and the man is inspired by the spaciousness of thought in those days, so that his own thought unwittingly takes on a spaciousness like that of people in those times, and his own sons are influenced to become adventurers as they choose careers.

We all are influenced unwittingly by ideas, and may, in turn, influence others without our knowledge. It is unethical to attempt to bring influence on another person deliberately, but we should do our best to choose the good, since we don't know who may be watching and influenced by our example. And we should try not to put ourselves in the place where we'll be influenced by people who make unworthy choices. Some people have the effect of inspiring those around them to be better people; we should try to be in the company of people like that.

Seeing how an innocent idea leads to a conclusion naturally without our conscious effort, we should be all the more careful to see that we receive good ideas and notions by being around moral people and reading books of worthy character.

Chapter X: A Way Of The Will--We naturally tend to take the path of least resistance and let our Will drift along aimlessly, appeasing our desires and following the crowd. Even if we determine to set our Will with a purpose, we are faced with temptations that distract us, leaving us with good intentions that amounted to nothing. Often, we focus on resisting a specific sin so busily that we miss another sin that becomes our downfall. Instead of watching out for a particular sin, we should keep watch over the ideas and notions that occur to us. If we can prevent a notion such as jealousy from entering in the first place, it won't be able to lead to sin later when our Reason has found ways to justify it so that even our own Conscience can excuse us.

We must watch and pray. When an idea tempts us, we must deliberately switch our thoughts to something different, something interesting enough to amuse us and take our attention off the wrong notion. Even opinions that want admittance must be judged right or wrong and, if rejected, we must not dwell on them, but think of something else so we aren't entertaining thoughts, ideas and opinions that are unworthy of us.

Chapter XI: Freewill--We must be careful not to blindly follow tradition and convention, but to test each action. Just because everyone has always done things one way doesn't make them right. We must consider whether what we do serves Self--our own motives and comfort--or God, and those He desires us to serve. Doing deeds to save our own souls is still a greedy, self-serving motive. Those who do what has always been done without even questioning it aren't really choosing, they're allowing tradition to choose for them. But people who give matters careful consideration are free to let their Will make its own decision. Only they truly have Freewill.

PART III--The Soul

Chapter I: The Capacities Of The Soul--In the innermost places of the mind is man's soul, the part of him dedicated to serving God. The soul is that part of us that's not satisfied with kingdoms, knowledge, earthly love. What man craves is something infinite, and that something is the infinite God within whom is all dominion, knowledge and love. All that is in God is freely offered to everyone, even the most ignorant simpleton.

Chapter II: The Disabilities Of The Soul--Like every other part of Mansoul, the Soul has its weaknesses, and that's why not all Christians find abundant life in this life. Lethargy is the result of not keeping God foremost in our thoughts. Preoccupation with job, family or hobby can squeeze out room for God in our affections. Involuntary aversion caused by our own sin nature and dislike for authority may cause us to dread time spent in religious activities. Voluntary aversion happens when pride or rebellion makes us hate and blaspheme God.

Chapter III: The Knowledge Of God--We must depend on our Will to uplift our thoughts by a noble effort. We can't wait for just the right circumstances or the perfect sermon to inspire us to serve God. Our Will isn't enough to carry us through from one spark of inspiration. But by making God our choice, our Will can resolve to keep our thoughts on God, and the time invested can grow into a deep friendship with God. Not everyone is gifted at math or languages, but knowing God is something that's open to everyone.

Anyone who wants to know God must search the Bible expecting to find knowledge of God there. Only in the Bible can we expect to find a revelation of God. We must use our Will to resolve to read, and have faith that our dedication will be rewarded, since everyone who seeks God finds Him.

Chapter IV: Prayer--Often during the day, our thoughts turn to God. We marvel at God's handiwork in a flower, or sigh over a problem, and sense peace as a result. This is a kind of prayer, our thoughts sent to heaven, and God's response in sending us peace. Though we don't recognize the circumstances changed by God, He does answer our every prayer. We must set aside time each day for more disciplined prayer, too. We must make daily prayer time a habit.

Chapter V: Thanksgiving--We tend to forget to stop and thank God for blessings, but every breath, every flower, every new day is a gift from God. But we may think we are not worth the bother and that God won't miss our thanks--yet God Himself is honored to receive thanks from us!

Chapter VI: Praise--God told us to praise Him, so we shouldn't limit praise to church services. Every generation has men who are gifted at bringing us into an attitude of praise, and they can lead and inspire us.

Chapter VII: Faith In God--Belief in God is our duty; God commands us to have faith. But how can we conjure up something within our hearts by ourselves? We can make up our minds to take God at His word and trust that He means what He says, as we would do with any of our friends. And Christ is our friend; Christianity is not just serving others or doing good deeds, it's a friendship with God Himself, our Savior, Jesus.

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2004 Leslie N. Laurio
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