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125. REFORM.

Goethe says that the world is governed by three things: wisdom, authority and appearances. By wisdom, the educated are ruled, while the multitude is controlled by authority, and appearances direct the frivolous.

Tyrant custom makes a slave of reason.


Custom does often reason over-rule,
And only serves for reason to the fool.


Custom hangs upon us, with a weight
Heavy as frost, and deep almost as life.


No savage is free. All over the world his daily life is regulated by a complicated and apparently most inconvenient set of customs as forcible as laws.


It is not easy for the mind to put off those confused notions and prejudices it has imbibed from custom.


Prejudice may be considered as a continual false medium of viewing things.


Superstition is the spleen of the soul.


Superstitious notions propagated in infancyare hardly over totally eradicated.


Fetters though made of gold are fetters still.

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You cannot without guilt and disgrace, stop where you are. The past and the present call on vance. Let what you have gained be an impulse to something higher. Your nature is too great to be crushed. You were not created what you are merely to toil, eat, drink, and sleep, like the inferior animals. If you will, you can rise. No power in society, no hardship in your condition, can depress you, keep you down, in knowledge, power, virtue, influence, but by your own consent.


There is nothing so revolutionary, because there is nothing so unnatural and convulsive to society, as the strain to keep things fixed, when all the world is, by the very law of its creation, in eternal progress; and the cause of all the evils in the world may be traced to that natural but most deadly error of human indolence and corruption, that our business is to preserve, and not to improve.

It is not so difficult a task to plant new truths, as to root out old errors ; for there is this paradox in men, they run after that which is new, but are prejudiced in favour of that which is old.


If the feeling for the past be a special mental faculty, it must, like all others, have a legitimate sphere of usefulness, and be liable also to be misused.

The feeling for the past is a source of agreeable thought—something in which we may pleasantly lose the sense of a dull or painful present.

But the feeling will be abused when it is turned from its legitimate object, the supplying our minds with sentiments of admiration and tenderness towards the past, and employed in confusing our ideas as to what is right and proper in the passing business of life. It may be abused in this way, exactly as hope would be abused by our being too much under its influence, or allowing it to deceive and confound us with regard to our immediate duties, or what we have for the time to deal with. Now, this is an abuse of the feeling for the past which very frequently takes place, and to very fatal effect. We see it in a bigoted clinging to customs and modes, merely because they are old, and without any regard to the consideration that they may be unsuitable for the existing state of the world.


To set ourselves stubbornly to stand in one place and to say " because this in the past was good, therefore it must be good for the present and the future, therefore I will not mould myself te the tendencies of the age, nor adapt myself to my environment” —that is to be dead, that is to be fossilised, that is to be left behind in the forward march of evolution. On the other hand, to go forward with headlong precipitancy, without thought or consideration, without reverence for the past, without understanding the causes it has set up, the tendencies it has bequeathed—that spells ruin


much as immoveability and fossilisation spell death.


Dospise not the old because it is old, neither reject the new because it is new, but value each record of the past for the measure of truth which may be therein, since if it have none of that, it will perish, no matter how many millions believe it, nor with what shouts they strive to stifle the voices of" those who believe it not.



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I would not choose to an old post pulled up with which I had been long acquainted.


All that is old is not on that account
Worthy of praise, nor is a novelty
By reason of its newness to be consured.
The wise decide not what is good or bad,
Till they have tested merit for themselves.
A foolish man trusts to another's judgment. *


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Reduce things to the first institution, and observe, wherein and how they have degenerate : but yet ask counsel of both times; of the ancient time, what is best; and of the latter time, what is fittest; seek to make

; thy course regular ; that men may know beforehand what they may expect, but be not too positive and peremptory, and express thyself well, when thou digressest from thy rule.


From Indian Wisdom by Monier Williams.

It is far more easy to pull down, than to build up, and to destroy, than to preserve.


It cannot be too often repeated, line upon line, precept upon precept, until it comes into the currency of a proverb, to innovate is not to reform.


Mankind, at least the prudent and rational part of mankind, have an aversion to pull down till they have a moral certainty that they can build up a better edifice than that which has been destroyed. “Would you, says an eminent writer, “convince me, that the house I live in is a bad one, and would you persuade me to quit it, build a better in my neighbourhood; I shall be very ready to go into it, and I shall return you my very sincere thanks. Till another house be ready, a wise man will stay in his old one, however inconvenient its arrangement, however seducing the plans of the enthusiastic projector."

Every institution, as it actually exists, no matter what its name or pretences may be, is the effect of public opinion far more than the cause, and that it will avail nothing to attack the institution, unless you can first change the opinion. To overthrow the establishment would not lessen the evil. They who think that superstition can be weakened in this way do not know the vitality of that dark and ill-omened principle. Against it there is only one weapon and that weapon is knowledge. When men are ignorant, they must be super

From Essays on Practical Education, by Maria and R. L. Edgeworth.

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