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Excerpt from Self-Culture: An Address Introductory to the Franklin Lectures, Delivered at Boston, United States, September, 1838
Self-culture, I am aware, is a topic too extensive for a single discourse and I shall be able to present but a few views, which seem to me most important. My aim will be, to give first the Idea of self-culture, next its Means, and then to consider some objections to the leading views which I am now to lay before you.
Before entering on the discussion, let me offer one remark. Self-culture is something possible: it is not a dream; it has foundations in our nature. Without this conviction, the speaker will but declaim, and the bearer listen, without profit. There are two powers of the human soul which make self-culture possible, the self-searching and the self-forming power. We have first the faculty of turning the mind on itself; of recalling its past, and watch ing its present, Operations; of learning its various capa cities and susceptibilities, what it can do and bear, what it can enjoy and suffer; and Of thus learning in general what our nature is, and what it was made for. It is worthy of observation, that we are able to discern not only what we already are, but what we may become, to see in ourselves germs and promises of a growth to which no bounds can be set, to dart beyond what we have actually gained to the idea of Perfection as the end of our being. It is by this self-comprehending power that we are distinguished from the brutes, which give no signs of looking into themselves. Without this there would be no self-culture, for we should not know the work to be done; and one reason why self-culture is so little pro posed is, that so few penetrate into their own nature. To most men, their own spirits are shadowy, unreal, compared with what is outward. When they happen to cast a glance inward, they see there only a dark, vague chaos. They distinguish perhaps some violent passion, which has driven them to injurious excess; but their highest powers hardly attract a thought: and thus multi tudes live and die, as truly strangers to themselves, as to countries of which they have heard the name, but which human foot has never trodden.
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