The feelings constitute one of the three grand divisions of psychology Perceptions and conceptions are accompanied by certain states of mind, such as anger, fear, hate, love, joy, grief,shame, pride, avarice, revenge, humility, etc., etc. These are broadly called feelings or emotions. Feeling as a state of the soul is distinguished, on the one hand, from sensation, which is a state of the body, and on the other hand, from emotion, which is more complex and denotes a subdivision of feeling. Emotion is often used as synonymous with feeling; but taken strictly, it means “a state of feeling which, while it does not spring directly from an affection of body, manifests its existence and character by some sensible effect upon the body.” According to Halleck, “an emotion is the complex agreeable or disagreeable side of any complete mental state, while feeling is the simple agreeable or disagreeable side of any mental activity… Emotion, like perception, is a more complex and complete ,mental state, and it demands the presence of a representative idea to guide and prolong it. On the other hand, feeling may arise from a bodily cause and may be preceded or accompanied by no distinct idea. Feeling is present in all emotional states. It is a thread on which all other states are strung like beads. When representative ideas appear, the feeling in combination with them produces emotion.
The term “feeling” is used in several different senses: first, denoting sensation, as when I touch a piece of marble and it feels cold, smooth, hard, etc.; secondly, a mixed bodily feeling, e. g., the sense of comfort, weariness, being ill at ease, etc.; thirdly, pleasure and pain; fourthly, the aesthetic feeling of beauty and harmony, as when I, observe a rose and experience a sense of beauty, or when I hear fine music and experience a sense of harmony; fifthly, the moral feeling, namely, that of duty, ought, approbation, remorse, etc.
From the variety of terminology employed, we may infer that the subject matter of this division of psychology is somewhat vague and indefinite. And we also find it so when we study the nature of the phenomena here classified. The feelings are in fact the most vague and elusive of all mental phenomena. Every person is conscious of feeling, but no one can determine exactly the nature of this mental state. The feelings occupy a region of psychic life which is as yet largely unexplored. The difference between the feelings and the phenomena of intellect is broad and sharply marked. When I hold a rose in my hand and experience delight from its beauty and fragrance, my consciousness testifies that the feeling I have is not identical with my perception and knowledge of the rose. So when I gaze upon a beautiful picture, my percepts and concepts of the picture are not the same as the feelings which these awaken in my mind. Or, when I listen to fine music, my knowledge of the music is one thing and the feelings of which I am conscions are something quite different. The percepts, retents, and concepts implied in knowledge are altogether different from the feelings which always accompany knowledge and depend on knowledge. Knowledge is the antecedent state and feeling the consequent state of mental activity; without perception and conception there is no feeling; so, on the other hand, there is never an act of perception and conception unless it be accompanied by some kind of feeling.
The various views held by writers on the subject may be grouped under three general theories:
First, the Physiological Theory. This theory holds that what we call feeling is simply a peculiar consciousness of the condition or state of the nervous system, that the feelings are wholly nervous states; not only that the feelings depend on nervous state, but are identical with these nervous states. This theory appears in many forms. Some hold’ that feeling comes from concord between the stimulus and the vital activity, namely, that pleasurable feelings arise from agreement, and painful, from disagreement or opposition. Others hold that painful feeling results from over stimulation of the nervous organism. Still others claim that pleasure attends the healthy action of the organs within the limits and powers of repair, i. e., that disagreeable taste, unpleasant contrast of colors, discord in sounds, remorse of conscience, etc., arise whenever the waste of nerve, substance is greater than the repair!
But surely these theories are not satisfactory. We want our love of kindred and friends to be deeper and more permanent than the ever changing nerve cells. We believe that the feeling of beauty and the sweet delight of concordant sounds is something more than the equable supply of repair material in the brain cells. We have the firm conviction that our sense of ought, our feeling of approval when we do right and of disapproval or condemnation when we do wrong, our reverence and love of God, our holy joy from the knowledge of forgiven sins and the adoption of grace, the pleasures of the communion of saints that all these sacred emotions of our moral and religious life are more than the normal stimulation of the nervous organism or the healthy action of the organs within the limits of recuperation.
Secondly, the Herbartian or Ideational Theory. This stands in sharp contrast to the several forms of physiological theories. It claims that feelings are dependent on the relations of ideas. It agrees with the physiological theories in making the feelings secondary states of mind, but differs in that it derives these states from ideas and not from nervous action. It makes a sharp distinction between sensation and feeling: to the former belong hunger, thirst, weariness, shivering, etc.; to the latter, sympathy, love, gratitude, reverence, etc. Those states of consciousness which are grouped under sensations are due to nervous action, while those under the feelings result from ideas.
Freely stated, the principal points in this theory are as follows: Feelings in general are either pleasurable or painful. Of whatever kind they may be, they result from the reciprocal action of ideas or concepts. In the stream of consciousness ideas continually come and go. Every moment new concepts enter and old ones are displaced; but the old concepts “do not yield without exerting an opposition which depends upon their own strength or intensity, and upon the strength of their reenforcing or assisting concepts.” Therefore, there arises in our consciousness a constant arrest and furthering. If these are weak and transitory, they pass unnoticed. If ideas interfere one with another, or arrest each other, or inhibit each other, the fact of such interference or inhibition gives rise to a feeling of pain; if they agree together, or further each other, the result is pleasure. Hence, feeling is defined as “the consciousness of a furthering or an arrest of the movement of thought: when a furthering, a feeling of pleasure; when an arrest, a feeling of pain.”
As has been pointed out before, the life of the soul is a concept life. Throughout our psychic life concepts come and go, that is, they rise above and sink beneath the threshold of consciousness. In this continuous flux of concepts is to be found the cause and spring of our emotional life. Feeling is thus not an isolated activity of the soul; the feelings exist in and with concepts, and without concepts they are nothing. Every emotion has its origin in the concept mass. Therefore, the greater our concept mass, the richer our stock of ideas, the broader our experience, and so on, the greater will be our capacity for feeling, and the higher will be the quality of our feeling. “Feeling and cognition are psychological correlatives, existing only in coexistence.”
The reciprocal action of concepts, rising and falling, coming and going, furthering and arresting is a matter of daily experience.
Suppose I am writing a poem, composing an oratorio, painting a picture, building a cathedral, constructing a railroad, managing a bank or dry goods house, or doing anything else in the whole round of human employment, the feelings which I experience in the midst of my work are a history of the conflict of concepts, some circumstances furthering and others arresting my concepts as they were struggling upward out of my subjective ideal world into objective realization; and parallel and coincident with this history of the conflict of concepts is also a history of pleasure and pain, satisfaction and disappointment, joy and sorrow.
The Herbartian theory in the main represents the facts about the feelings and emotions quite correctly. With a few modifications, which, however, are of considerable importance, we may accept it as a convenient theory, bearing in mind at the same time that it is only a theory, since nothing final as yet is known concerning the essential nature of this class of mental phenomena.
Thirdly, Feeling as Original and Underived. According to a third theory, feeling is not derived, on the one hand, from processes of nervous action, nor on the other hand, from processes of furthering or arresting concepts, i. e., ideation; but it is an original and underived form of consciousness, as thought itself is original and underived. A definition of what feeling is can come only from having felt the feeling, just as a definition of thought can rest only on actual experience of the thinking act. “Feeling,” says Prof. Ladd, “is a primitive and underived mode of the operation of conscious mind.”
Such, then, are the three classes of theories in regard to the nature of the feelings. Each of them has strong elements of truth, but no one has all the truth. We may mention a few facts, which we regard as fundamental, whatever the theory we accept. Whenever there is any mental action, no matter of what kind or of what degree, there is always’ a certain feeling accompanying the act of thought. There is also some proportion between the intensity of thought and that of the attendant feeling. This would seem to suggest that there is a causal connection between thought and feeling; and the more probable view is that the thought causes the feeling, and not feeling the thought. Contrary to the assumptions of the physiological theory, we have no hesitancy in affirming that feeling depends on and is conditioned in, concepts. The knowledge of the fact that I have lost my fortune, my reputation, my friend, causes the feeling of sadness, and therefore I weep; the experience, i. e., the known fact, of meeting the dangerous bear causes the feeling of fear, and therefore I run; the concept of the ruffian insulting me causes the feeling of anger, and therefore I strike. In all these cases the cognitive act is antecedent; from that results the feeling; and then follows the bodily action.
General Characteristics. Five general characteristics or marks of the feelings are distinguished, namely, Content, Tone, Intensity, Rhythm, and Duration. These distinctions are useful mainly for purposes of anlysis and study.
By Content we mean the kind or quality of the feeling, that is, whether bitter, sweet, sour; whether that of anger, avarice, hate, joy, grief, love, patriotism, approbation, remorse; whether an effect produced by a major chord or a minor chord, by a dark gray or a dull brown or a bright red color, etc. Not all the feelings can be thus qualitatively analyzed, since many of them arise from obscure concepts. In general, the quality of feelings will be sharply marked in proportion as the concepts which produce them are clear and distinct.
By Tone of feeling is meant whether the feeling is agreeable or disagreeable, pleasurable or painful. The question has arisen and is sharply debated whether there are some feelings which are neutral as to tone, that is, neither agreeable nor disagreeablefeelings at zero point in the scale of tonicity. Prof. Wundt argues in favor of the existence of such a neutral class. Another author says, “Painful feelings shade toward pleasurable feelings, by less and less degrees of pain, and pleasurable feelings shade away from the least observably painful, by greater and greater degrees of pleasure.” If so, then there must be a point where the feelings are neutral in tone. It appears that both the physiological and the ideational aspects of feeling favor this view, and that consciousness adds its testimony on this side of the question. It is possible that there may be subconscious feelings, just as there is a flow of concepts below the threshold of consciousness!
Intensity means the quantity or degree of feeling, in other words, the strength of feeling. We are conscious of different degrees of pain or pleasure, joy or grief, love or hate. All the various feelings may be of low intensity, or they may rise into the height and strength of passions. A given musical chord, which under ordinary circumstances gives rise to a quiet even flow of pleasurable emotion, may under certain circumstances cause in the mind of the hearer a state of rapture, a very frenzy of delight. According to the Herbartian theory, the intensity of feeling depends upon the liveliness of promotion and expression, the intensity of opposing and furthering concepts. “The most intense feelings arise when the most numerous and most powerful furthering concepts meet with the most numerous and most powerful opposing concepts.”
By Rhythm of the feelings we mean the alternating character of pain and pleasure, grief and joy, etc. As in all other modes of mental activity, so also in the feelings we observe the time form; all our mental states appear in consciousness with a well marked periodicity. Sudden elevation of the feelings is followed by excessive depression. The rhythmical flow of feeling is but one instance of the universal law of rhythm in nature. Philosophers have pointed out that all motion is rhythmical or wave like. In every rivulet, as in the course of every great river, the bends of the stream from side to side throughout its tortuous course constitute a lateral undulationan undulation so inevitable that even an artificially straightened channel is eventually changed into a serpentine one. The surface of the earth is undulatory, a mountain here, a valley there. The sound which results from drawing a bow across the violin strings, or from forcing a volume of air into the organ pipe, or from striking a bell, is produced by undulations in the agitated body and transmitted thence to the ear by wave like movements in the air or other elastic medium. Light and heat from the sun come to us in undulations. The Aurora Borealis is observed to pulsate with alternating waves of greater or less degree of brightness. The planets, satellites, and comets afford us an illustration on a grand scale of this law of rhythmical movement. No wonder that the ancients conceived of the “music of the spheres.”
The tides of the ocean flow and ebb. The seasons of the year, the alternation of day and night, succeed each other in rhythmical order. The blood in the body is propelled not in a uniform current but in pulses caused by systole and diastole of the heart; and it is aerated by lungs which alternately expand and contract with every inhalation and exhalation of breath. Human life, physical, social, and religious follows the wave-like form of movement. History is rhythmical periods of activity follow those of rest as spring follows winter, business prosperity is followed by a season of crisis, reformation succeeds religious stagnation, missionary zeal gives way to indifference. The same oscillatory movement is observed in all our mental states. The action of thought is not uniform but within a given period passes through varying intervals of increasing and decreasing intensity. The current of mental energy as seen in the outflow of emotion into poetry, music, and their corresponding movements of body and voice, is not continuous, but falls into a succession of pulses. Poetry is a form of expression which results when the emphasis is regularly recurrent, accented and unaccented syllables following in orderly succession.
Music, in still more various ways, exemplifies the law. There are the recurring bars, in each of which there is a primary and a secondary beat. There is the alternate increase and decrease of muscular strain, implied by the ascents and descents to the higher and lower notes ascents and descents composed of smaller waves, breaking the rises and falls of the larger ones, in a mode peculiar to each melody. And then we have, further, the alternation of piano and forte passages. That these several kinds of rhythm, characterizing aesthetic expression, are not, in the common sense of the word, artificial, but are intenser forms of an undulatory movement habitually generated by feeling in its bodily discharge, is shown by the fact that they are all traceable in ordinary speech, which in every sentence has its primary and secondary emphasis, and its cadence containing a chief rise and fall complicated with subordinate rises and falls; and which is accompanied by a more or less oscillatory action of the limbs when the emotion is great. Pain having its origin in bodily disorder, is nearly always perceptibly rhythmical. During hours in which it never actually ceases, it has its variations of intensity fits of paroxysms; and then after these hours of suffering there usually come hours of comparative ease. Moral pain has the like smaller and larger waves. One possessed by intense grief does not utter continuous moans, or shed tears with an equable rapidity; but these signs of passion come in recurring bursts. Then after a time during which such stronger and weaker waves of emotion alternate, there comes a calm a time of comparative deadness; to which again succeeds another interval, when dull sorrow rises afresh into acute anguish, with its series of paroxysms. Similarly in great delight, especially as manifested by children who have its display less under control, there are visible variations in the intensity of feeling shown fits of laughter and dancing about, separated by pauses in which smiles and other slight manifestations of pleasure suffice to discharge the lessened excitement. Nor are there wanting evidences of mental undulations greater in length than any of these undulations which take weeks, of months, or years, to complete themselves. Men have their moods which recur at intervals. Very many persons have their epochs of vivacity and depression. There are periods of industry following periods of idleness; and times at which particular subjects or tastes are cultivated with zeal, alternating with times at which they are neglected.
Dr. Thaddeus L. Bolton of Clark University, a friend and former pupil of the author, has investigated experimentally the subject of “Rhythm” and has published in pamphlet form the results of his researches. Many interesting facts concerning rhythm are here brought out, especially in their relation to music and the general world of aesthetics. This experimenter finds that Rhythm is “the manifestation or the form of the most fundamental activities of mind;”** that the accents and cadences of music and poetry are the natural, inevitable results of this law of rhythm according to which thought and feeling express themselves.
The fifth and last characteristic of the feelings is Duration, by which is meant the length of time a feeling lasts. Some feelings are short lived, while others continue a longer period. The duration depends upon the character of the concepts which give rise to the particular feeling. Sensations we know are very intense while they last, but their power ceases with the sense-impression. Joy, sorrow, hope, love, which have their origin in sentient experience are transient in their nature. Much more lasting are those feelings which have their seat, not in immediate sense impressions, but in extensive, widely branching, and deeply involved groups of concepts. Human affection which springs solely from the fascination of enticing outward appearances, such as physical beauty, a fine physique, graceful manners, elegant dress, a sweet voice, captivating smiles, and the like, all of which appeal to the senses, is apt to be superficial in character and of short duration. Personal attractions which are only skin deep will soon fade away, or even worse, may be succeeded by a positive aversion. Love, to be permanent, must be grounded in concepts of personal worth, of character concepts, which have for their substance the admirable qualities of the inner soul life. So the joy and zeal of a religious profession which rests only upon the outward sentient phases of religion, will soon spend their force and lapse into a state of apathy or even scepticism. A Christian profession, in order to be lasting and fruitful, must have its root deep down in a widely branching, extensive concept system of sound doctrine and of intelligent personal experience.
The pleasure which the lighter kinds of music yield music, which is brilliant and fascinating and ravishing, which intoxicates the senses, which consists in sound only soon passes away and leaves behind an aching void, perhaps a feeling of disgust. It is sad that in our day the light, fantastic, rattling kind of music which appeals only to the senses, has found a place in our sacred songs and church hymns, to the exclusion in many cases of those solid old melodies and chorals and minor tunes which are solemn and deep and lift the soul of the worshiper into sweet communion with the Heavenly Father. The former, like bodily stimulants, excite the lower sentient feelings, which soon pass away and leave a morbid craving for greater stimulation: the latter edify the soul and bring lasting joy and comfort. This is not a cry of the “old fogy” against the innovations of progress, but it is the earnest voice of all lovers of good music and of true worship against the frivolities and abuses of the sense intoxicated present.
Classification of the Feelings. Many plans and schemes of classification have been suggested. All of them have some value. For all purposes the following scheme is deemed most suitable, namely, the Sensuous, the Intellectual, the Aesthetic, and the Moral feelings.
It is to be remarked that these divisions are not absolute, and in the nature of the case cannot be. There are gradations of feeling, and consequently they cannot be sharply limited to any one subdivision of any scheme of classification. The different kinds of feelings shade off into each other by imperceptible degrees. The sensuous cannot be wholly separated from the aesthetic; the bare sensation of sound, for example, cannot be entirely dissociated from the higher sense of harmony, so also the sensation of colors cannot be isolated from the feeling of beauty. Even the moral feelings are mixed more or less with the other feelings which have a bodily basis and origin; for example, love involves both the bodily and the spiritual elements.
Some feelings depend on the condition of the nervous system to such a degree that we may call them instinctive. Prof. James Mark Baldwin says: “Nervous reactions become organized in subconscious motor intuitions; mental reactions become organized in perceptions, subconscious beliefs, and interests; so emotions take on mentally subconscious forms.
They become so habitual as to be unremarked except when some new occasion calls them out in the shape of emotional excitement. ” To this subclass may be referred all cases of so-called “objectless emotions.” The acts here referred to rest on feelings which have for their origin subconscious concepts. It is to be further remarked that our adopted scheme of classification rests on the nature of the concepts which give rise respectively to the several kinds of feeling.
The Sensuous Feelings. To the sensuous class belong all those feelings which are connected with the various sensations. They have a strong affinity to the mere bodily sensations from which it is sometimes difficult to distinguish them. “Those sensations of the higher senses having the most positive tone, as those of color and sound, are in themselves accompanied by sensuous feelings. The pleasure in the sense of sight reveals itself in the pleasure we take in light’ and color, while darkness and imperfect colors are accompanied by unpleasant feelings. The moderate light of day, the mild light of the full moon, the soft light of the heavens, as also the gleam of illuminations, the splendor of fireworks, awaken in man the pleasure in light, whereas the darkness of the night and of the prison cell lies heavy upon the soul.” Lindner. So the pleasure in light and color is analogous to that which we experience in tone and sound. Stillness depresses like darkness; full, pure, prolonged tones affect us like full, rich colors. In all kinds of sensations there is an attendant feeling, which, though closely connected with the sensation, is yet different from the sensation.
The Intellectual Feelings. The Intellectual feelings are those which are connected with the activities of judgment, reflection, and reasoning. They are such as accompany the development of our mental faculties, the growth of our convictions, the acquisition of new facts, the progress of scientific knowledge. The feeling of pleasure and satisfaction we experience in . the solution of a difficult problem is an illustration familiar to all. It was this feeling that caused the old philosopher Archimedes, pondering upon the problem of the golden crown, when the truth flashed’ into his mind, to leap out of the bath tub, and, in a frenzy of delight, rush through the streets crying “Eureka! Eureka!” It is this feeling of pleasure incident to the discovery of new things, that has urged the explorers and discoverers of all ages to risk their lives, their all, in the effort to add to the known some facts wrested from the realms of the unknown. It is the love of truth that stimulates the philosopher, the scientist, the historian to deny the vulgar pleasures of sense that they may enrich the world’s storehouse of knowledge with the rare treasures of thought and labor.
There was, probably, not a happier moment in Newton’s life than when he had succeeded in demonstrating that the same power which caused the apple to fall, held the moon and the planets in their orbits. When Watt discovered that steam might be harnessed like a horse; when an inventor succeeds in perfecting a labor lightening device; whenever an obscurity is cleared away, the reason for a thing understood, and a baffling instance brought under the general law, intellectual emotion results.”
When Kepler finished the calculations which brought clearly into view the third of his celebrated laws, it is said that such was the transport with which this discovery, which for 17 years had baffled all his skill and patience, filled him, that he burst into tears and marked the day and year, May 15, 1618, when this great truth became known to him. The composition of his book, “The Harmonies of the World,” he tells us yielded more pleasure than all its readers together could experience in its perusal. In the last pages of the book the genius of the inspired dreamer awakens suddenly from the dry details of facts to dictate to him those bold and august ex-pressions which have become not less immortal than the discovery which they herald, and which disclose to us the high feelings that possessed his soul in the midst of labors:
“Eight months since I had a glimpse of the first ray of light; six months since I saw the dawn; a few days ago only did the sun arise in its transcendent glory. I give myself up to my enthusiasm, and venture to brave my fellow-mortals by the ingenuous avowal that I have stolen the golden vessels of the Egyptians in order to raise a tabernacle to my God far from the confines of Egypt. If I am pardoned I shall rejoice at it; if it is made a reproach to me I shall bear it; the die is cast. I write my book, whether it be read by the present age or by posterity imports little; it may well await a reader; has not God waited six thousand years for an observer of his works?”
Our Saviour says: “A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world.” So when by travail and by anguish of soul a great truth is born into the world of science, the memory of past sorrows and labors is swallowed up in the abundance of joy.
The poet Keats in beautiful terms describes his emotions on the discovery of new literary treasures:
“Then felt I like some watcher of the skies When a new planet swims into his ken.”
So the following example from Wordsworth shows how the intellectual emotions accompany in a high degree the study of poetry: “I have seen A curious child, who dwelt upon a tract of inland ground, applying to his ear.
The convolutions of a smooth-lipped shell: To which, in silence hushed, his very soul Listened intenselyand his countenance soon Brightened with joy; for murmurings from within Were heard, sonorous cadences! whereby, To his belief, the monitor expressed Mysterious union with its native sea. Even such a shell the universe itself Is to the ear of Faith.”
The Excursion, Bk. IV.
The Aesthetic Feelings. The Aesthetic feelings are those which are awakened by the perception of the beautiful. We posit an aesthetic faculty, that is, a distinct mode of perceptive and conceptive mental activity, whose particular function it is to discern and appreciate the beautiful in art and nature. This faculty, like the other faculties, has its appropriate feeling attendant upon its activity, and this we call the aesthetic feeling. Wundt and others distinguish between the lower and the higher aesthetic emotion; meaning by the former that which is connected with the more sensuous experience and is almost wholly formal, while the latter includes the more representative experiences, as having meaning.
The Aesthetic feelings have certain characteristics by which they are sharply distinguished from other feelings. They consist in the unconditioned valuation of an object, that is, for the sake of its intrinsic merits, arising from its direct apprehension by the senses, and free from the subordinate external interests, which announces itself as pleasure in the beautiful or displeasure in the ugly. They are thus the least selfish of all the emotions.
They are further distinguished from the simply agreeable and disagreeable by the fact that they do not depend upon the content of the individual, but upon the form of the composite. A single note sounded by itself may be agreeable, but when sounded with others so as to make a musical chord the effect is beautiful, and is felt to be quite different from that produced by individual tones. The beauty of the magnificent cathedral at Cologne does not consist in the individual stones, pieces of timber, glass, etc., of which it is made, nor in a single column, arch, or window, though pleasing in themselves; it consists rather in the orderly arrangement of all the parts into one harmonious whole. The beauty of the rose does not consist in the color or shape of the petals, but in the combination of its parts. The beauty of the landscape is not in single trees, or shrubs, or rocks or bodies of water, but in the happy grouping of them all according to recognized principles of art. So with the picture, the statue, the poem; the aesthetic effect depends upon the form of the composite whole.
This bringing together of individual things into one whole, this agreement among the manifold, this concord of the different, we call harmony. Harmony is, therefore, the ground principle of the aesthetic feeling. “Since the simple is everywhere aesthetically indifferent, relations must form the object of aesthetic preference or rejection; with tones it is the relation of the numbers expressing their vibrations which decides regarding their harmony or discord. The simpler this relation, e. g., the octave (vibrations 1:2), the more easily is the harmony perceived, the more complete is the agreement” But the simplest relation, as in the case of the octave of a given note, does not yield the highest degree of aesthetic pleasure. Hence, a writer observes, “when tones which are originally discordant are brought together in an accord, or where different chords are blended into greater totality of tone, this reconciliation of differences is especially apparent. This explains the resolution of dissonance in a piece of music, as well as the harmonizing of conflict in that species of the beautiful which is called the tragic.”
It may be further remarked that the enjoyment of aesthetic pleasure is not restricted to one or two persons; neither are the objects which awaken the aesthetic feeling the exclusive, possession of the favored few they are open to the whole human race. A picture or a statue may be seen by millions, and the beauty is in no wise impaired or lessened; a great poem reaches all that understand the language in which it is written, and many more; a fine melody may spread pleasure over the habitable globe; the sunset and the stars are veiled only from the prisoner and the blind.
And the world of beauty is not confined to art galleries and libraries and concert halls. Nature in her visible forms everywhere is beautiful and invites the admiration of all. The mountains and valleys, the forests and streams, the starry heavens, the crystals of the grotto, the sculpture of the snowflake, the tracery of the forest, the richly tinted autumn leaves, the flowers of the garden and meadow, the plumage of the birds, the vari-colored insects, wherever we go, wherever we look, the great world of beauty lies spread out before our gaze and appeals to our sense of the aesthetic. And then, what a grand concert hall is nature! Not alone the `music of the spheres’ as they go singing in their orbits, but music from every source steals into the ear of the attentive listener the sweet music of the feathered songsters, the deep organ tones of the ocean and the tempest, the silvery notes of the dancing rivulet, the majestic sound of the waterfall, the awful sub-bass of the thunder peal, the plaintive sighing of the breezes music everywhere in the great world of harmony.
But in his motion like an angel sings, Still quiring to the young-eyed cherubims, Such harmony is in immortal souls, But whilst this muddy vesture of decay Doth grossly close it in, we cannot hear it.”
Merchant of Venice, Act V.
Several elements enter into aesthetic enjoyment, namely, the sensuous, the intellectual, and the associative. The sensuous relates to the experience of pleasure from the direct action of colors or sounds upon their respective nerves without the intervention of thought. Pleasure follows immediately upon the perception of beautiful objects. This does not mean,however, that the feeling of pleasure arises in such cases independent of concepts, but simply that the concepts are not distinctly in consciousness, as is the case in all thought processes. Some have thought that the aesthetic delights which come from hearing music are largely due to the fact that “harmony gratifies certain simple sensibilities of the nerves of the ear.” There may be truth in this hypothesis, but certainly it is a very low kind of musical pleasure which comes from such a source.
The intellectual element in aesthethic pleasure is that which thought or knowledge contributes. When I view a picture or hear a piece of music and have accurate knowledge concerning it know all about its author, its history, its design, its thought-contentsI experience a higher kind of pleasure than when I am ignorant of it. A highly cultured audience has a keener enjoyment of the best music than a rude or uncultured one. This is one reason why classic music is not more appreciated by the average hearer, and why the rustic sees nothing attractive in a collection of fine paintings these things do not appeal to his feelings because his intelligence does not rise to the plain in which the noble ideas were conceived. Raise the tone of art intelligence in the popular mind, and the popular audience will appreciate the higher class of music.
The associative element is that which comes from the association of ideas or objects or experiences with the thing that is the immediate cause of aesthetic pleasure. This principle has been fully developed in the chapter on Association, and so needs but little more here. There we saw how the stream of our ideas is a series of connected concepts, any one of which may bring back to consciousness all the rest. Not only are ideas associated; feelings are also associated with ideas and with one another. We gave examples to show the power of music and stated that the explanation of this wonderful power was to be found in the principle of association. We are now prepared to understand that statement in its fuller scope. Associated ideas give rise to associated feelings, and these feelings are the springs of action, both in the lower nerve centers and in the higher will.
Mr. Longfellow says: “Of all the rivers of this beautiful earth, there is none so beautiful as the Rhine. There is hardly a league of its whole course, from its cradle in the snowy Alps to its grave in the sands of Holland, which boasts not its peculiar charms.” And what is it that gives this river its `peculiar charms’? The scenery is beautiful and picturesque in the extreme, with here a high jutting crag and there a deep gorge, or receding narrow valley, with its quaint little cities and its vine-clad slopes, with its meandering stream and its castle-crowned rock walls. But far more than all these, it is the interesting legends and stories and the historical events associated with these old castles and rocks and towns that make this river so charming among the rivers of the earth. The castle of Ingelheim with its legend of Emma and Eginhard; the Rheinstein with its thrilling romance of Sigfrid and Gerda; the little village of Kaub with its historical memory as the place where Field-Marshal Blucher on New-year’s eve, 1813, began to cross the Rhine in order, as he relates, “to wash out the disgrace of bondage in this proud stream;” Gutenfels with its story of Guta and King Richard of Cornwall; Sternberg and Liebenstein with their pathetic legend of the two Brothers and Minna; the stronghold of Stolzenfels with its wonderful tales of ghosts and witchcraft and the story of Elsbeth; Ahrenfels, and the Drachenfels; classic old Bonn, with its renowned university; Cologne with its wonderful cathedral; Worms with its Luther Monument and its memory of “Here I stand, I cannot otherwise; God help me. Amen!” these and a thousand other associations rush upon the thought of the delighted traveler as he floats along upon the waters of this famous river. When we witness a performance of Wagner’s Rhein-gold it adds beauty and interest to the wonderful composition if in imagination we can repeople the old castles with their figures of chivalry and live in the midst of the scenes so grandly described in words and tones.
And so everywhere else, our aesthetic feelings are greatly elevated and intensified when the objects which excite them are associated with historical truths or legendary tales, with pictures and statues, with buildings and men, with poems and songs.
The aesthetic feelings in a special sense constitute the enchanted regions where live all artists and whence flows the stream of art-productions. It is sacred ground, where low and vulgar things are altogether out of place and out of harmony. The pure love of the beautiful is near akin to the high moral and the divine. It is occupied with lofty things, with things which must be spiritually discerned, with the unseen. It has been well said that “he who sees nothing in a picture but the painted canvas has not seen the picture.” So he who hears in a grand piece of music nothing but sound, hears not the music. As one justly remarks:
“If truth presupposes a pure, unprejudiced, dispassionate state of mind for its apprehension, this is demanded in a still higher degree in the case of beauty; for, the essential elements of the beautiful, with which it overflows, is a feeling, that is, a state of mind; but objective beauty cannot mirror itself in a mind that is excited with passion. The beautiful, like the divine, presupposes a devout frame of mind, a purified heart which approaches its altar. The uncultured mind seizes the object, in order to make it a means for the satisfaction of desires; it is not the form, but the material of the object which is preferred. Aesthetic apprehension leaves the object untouched which it approaches, only with the higher senses in silent devotion.”
And Goethe with fine discrimination says, “Man does not desire the stars he rejoices in their beauty.”
To this may be added the familiar lines of Shakespeare:- “The man that hath no music in himself, Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds, Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils; The motions of his spirit are dull as night, And his affections dark as Erebus.
Let no such man be trusted.” Merchant of Venice, Act V.
The Moral Feelings. The moral feelings are those which are connected with the concepts of right and wrong, good and evil, duty and religion in a word, with the functions of conscience. They hold the highest rank and dominate the most important interests of the human race. They are invested with a sense of authority which no other kind of feeling possesses.
“Thou shalt” and “thou shalt not,” are the words of authority and of inviolable law which go forth with the moral emotions; in proportion as these solemn imperatives are obeyed or disobeyed, we experience peace or condemnation. There is no such feeling of authority or necessity in any other class of emotions. The true does not bind us, the beautiful has no power to compel choice and action; the good alone is invested with authority. “The perception of a rainbow, a ruined castle or autumnal scenery may raise an aesthetic feeling but never a moral one. Lear could blame the winds for buffeting his old and helpless head only after he had personifed them … We may admire a painting or a cathedral or not, just as we choose; if we fail to admire, remorse does not follow. Not so with the perception of moral qualities; we cannot be indifferent to the good and the right, to duty and God.
Cultivation of the Feelings. Just as the muscles of the body and the powers of thought may be cultivated, so can the feelings be improved and controlled by proper exercise. The feelings are like habits they become strengthened and fixed by oft repeated and persistent use. Indeed, a feeling of joy or despondency, of benevolence or hate, of gratitude or selfishness, if fostered may become second nature, that is, habitual. It is an error to suppose that a man’s disposition is altogether native to him, something given him once for all, to keep and make the best of it. Our dispositions as well as our minds are capable of indefinite improvement by culture.
This fact rests on the same physiological basis as do the phenomena of habit, memory, and association. Experiment shows and experience confirms the statement that our nerves as well as our muscles improve with exercise. It is a matter of record that nerves have improved in discriminating power, whether in reference to sound, colors, taste, touch, or odors. This subject of late years has received very much attention in the psychological laboratory and some positive results have been attained in regard to the reaction time of nerves. By reaction time is meant the very small period of time which elapses between the application of a stimulus to a given nerve and the reaction of that nerve or the production of motion in its correlative muscles, in other words, the time required for the nervous discharge and its conversion into muscular motion. By numerous experiments it is found that the reaction time varies in different individuals and in the same individual under different circumstances. In old people and in uncultivated people the time is long (nearly a second, in an old pauper observed by Exner); in children also before the work of training has proceeded far, the time is comparatively long. Practice has the effect to shorten the time of reaction; so also the concentration of attention. Fatigue, intoxicants, disuse lengthen it. The reaction time for the sound-stimulus is shorter than for either sight or touch. Tones of different intensities show no change in the average reactions-time; but as the pitch rises the time decreases, a fact which as yet has not been satisfactorily explained.
What do these experiments prove? Clearly, that nerves are improved by exercise, that their native sensitiveness to stimuli may be increased by right usage and lessened by neglect or abuse. The significance of this truth cannot be too strongly emphasized as a basis for the cultivation of the feelings.
In nothing does the degree of culture attained by our aesthetic emotions announce itself so infallibly as in our taste. “The vulgar,” says Grant Allen, “are pleased by great masses of color, especially red, orange, and purple, which give their coarse nervous organization the requisite stimulus. The refined, with nerves of less caliber, but greater discriminativeness, require delicate combinations of complementaries and prefer neutral tints to the glare of the primary hues. Children and savages love to dress in all the colors of the rainbow… Good taste is the progressive product of progressing fineness and discrimination in the nerves, educated attention, high and noble emotional constitution, and increasing intellectual faculties.
Not only for the sake of acquiring a refined and elevated taste, which should be the possession of every intelligent and cultured person, but also for other reasons should the emotions be cultivated. The enjoyment , of the pure pleasures of the senses, enjoyment of the amenities of refined society, enjoyment of the aesthetic delights afforded by music and her sister arts, enjoyment of the higher spiritual felicities of Christian experience, enjoyment of life, as the Creator designed it, is not possible without the cultivation of our emotional powers.
“Life is not an empty dream. Life is real! Life is earnest! And the grave is not its goal!”
Grant Allen, “Physiological Aesthetics.”
God meant that the measure of our life’s days and years should be filled full with the enjoyment which flows from virtuous actions. He meant that we should be happy here in this world as well as in the world beyond; for this purpose He gave us a soul with capacity for intellectual, aesthetic, and spiritual enjoyment; and for this reason He created this world a beautiful world, that some of its beauty might come into the soul to gladden, to enrich, to elevate its life. The life of feeling, quite as much as that of thought, is a legitimate life, and asceticism is a reproach to our Maker. Education is intended to increase our capacity for happiness as well as our capacity for usefulness, and religion has its fruitage in the realization of those beatitudes pronounced by the Saviour of the world upon the pious of all ages. Puritanic fanaticism may banish poetry and musical instruments and innocent amusements from society, the fiery, ill-guided zeal of the iconoclast may break open temples and demolish images and altar pieces, the rude vandal may destroy the treasures of art, but as long as the soul is what it is and nature is nature, so long will the enjoyment of cultivated emotional life be a dominant major in the grand harmony of the world. The highest enjoyment comes from making others happy; that is the mode of cultivated, refined feeling, the charity that “is kind, that envieth not, that vaunteth not itself, that is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not its own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil.”
Cultivation of the feelings is further necessary in order to keep them under proper control. Emotion is a good servant, but a terrible master. The feelings if kept under control and guided aright are a mighty power for good, but if allowed to run wild they are a dangerous power for evil. Passion is ungoverned, violent feelingit is the high spirited steed, broken loose from restraint; it is the quietly flowing river now swollen, overflowing its banks and wildly rushing; it is the gentle zephyr now fretted into the furious whirlwind; it is the useful steam become explosive and tearing its receptacle into fragments; it is the harmless electric fluid now gathered into the angry thunder cloud hurling its destructive bolts upon the earth. Control these elements, and you make them mighty helpers to human industry and human life; so, control the feelings by education and culture and you make them a potent influence for good, an important adjunct to psychic life.
But you say, I am nervous by constitution or temperament and so cannot control my nerves and emotions. All the greater need of training. The child’s fretfulness and peevishness can be overcome, and so can yours. It is a good old maxim, “Think twice before speaking once.” Restraining the expression of an excited emotion is ofttimes the best way to subdue it. A fire will go out of its own accord if fuel is not supplied. The words of Prof. James deserve to be heeded: “Refuse to express a passion, and it dies. Count ten before venting your anger, and its occasion seems ridiculous. Whistling to keep up courage is no mere figure of speech. On the other hand, sit all day in a moping posture, sigh, and reply to everything with a dismal voice, and your melancholy lingers. There is no more valuable precept in moral education than this, as all who have experience know: if we wish to conquer undesirable emotional tendencies in ourselves, we must assiduously, and in the first instance coldbloodedly, go through the outward movements of those contrary dispositions which we prefer to cultivate. The reward of persistency will infallibly come, in the fading out of the sullenness or depression, and the advent of real cheerfulness and kindliness in their stead. Smooth the brow, brighten the eye, contract the dorsal rather than the ventral aspect of the frame, and speak in a major key, pass the genial compliment, and your heart must be frigid if it do not gradually thaw!”
“To guard against passion is one of the chief duties of man. He will not easily sink beneath the yoke of passion if accustomed to a moral discipline through early obedience to the commands of parent and teacher, as well as the regulations of society, through strictness and toughening, moderation and abstinence, the avoidance of eccentric pleasures, and above all through yielding to a habit of thought rich in moral ideals.”