Another thing which corresponds in some degree to living physically in the open air, is the living mentally and emotionally in the atmosphere of love. A large charity of mind, which refuses absolutely to shut itself in little secluded places of prejudice, bigotry and contempt for others, and which attains to a great and universal sympathy, helps, most obviously, to open the way to that region of calm and freedom of which we have spoken, while conversely all petty enmity, meanness and spite, conspire to imprison the soul and make its deliverance more difficult.
It is not necessary to labor these points. As we said, the way to attain is to sincerely TRY to attain, to consistently PRACTICE attainment. Whoever does this will find that the way will open out by degrees, as of one emerging from a vast and gloomy forest, till out of darkness the path becomes clear. For whomsoever really TRIES there is no failure; for every effort in that region is success, and every onward push, however small, and however little result it may show, is really a move forward, and one step nearer the light.
The true nature of the Self is a matter by no means easy to compass. We have all probably at some time or other attempted to fathom the deeps of personality, and been baffled. Some people say they can quite distinctly remember a moment in early childhood, about the age of THREE (though the exact period is of course only approximate) when self-consciousness--the awareness of being a little separate Self--first dawned in the mind. It was generally at some moment of childish tension-- alone perhaps in a garden, or lost from the mother's protecting hand--that this happened; and it was the beginning of a whole range of new experience. Before some such period there is in childhood strictly speaking no distinct self-consciousness. As Tennyson says (In Memoriam xliv):
The baby new to earth and sky, What time his tender palm is prest Against the circle of the breast, Hath never thought that "This is I."
It has consciousness truly, but no distinctive self-consciousness. It is this absence or deficiency which explains many things which at first sight seem obscure in the psychology of children and of animals. The baby (it has often been noticed) experiences little or no sense of FEAR. It does not know enough to be afraid; it has never formed any image of itself, as of a thing which might be injured. It may shrink from actual pain or discomfort, but it does not LOOK FORWARD--which is of the essence of fear--to pain in the future. Fear and self-consciousness are closely interlinked. Similarly with animals, we often wonder how a horse or a cow can endure to stand out in a field all night, exposed to cold and rain, in the lethargic patient way that they exhibit. It is not that they do not FEEL the discomfort, but it is that they do not envisage THEMSELVES as enduring this pain and suffering for all those coming hours; and as we know with ourselves that nine-tenths of our miseries really consist in looking forward to future miseries, so we understand that the absence or at any rate slight prevalence of self-consciousness in animals enables them to endure forms of distress which would drive us mad.
In time then the babe arrives at self-consciousness; and, as one might expect, the growing boy or girl often becomes intensely aware of Self. His or her self-consciousness is crude, no doubt, but it has very little misgiving. If the question of the nature of the Self is propounded to the boy as a problem he has no difficulty in solving it. He says "I know well enough who I am: I am the boy with red hair what gave Jimmy Brown such a jolly good licking last Monday week." He knows well enough--or thinks he knows--who he is. And at a later age, though his definition may change and he may describe himself chiefly as a good cricketer or successful in certain examinations, his method is practically the same. He fixes his mind on a certain bundle of qualities and capacities which he is supposed to possess, and calls that bundle Himself. And in a more elaborate way we most of us, I imagine, do the same.
Presently, however, with more careful thought, we begin to see difficulties in this view. I see that directly I think of myself as a certain bundle of qualities--and for that matter it is of no account whether the qualities are good or bad, or in what sort of charming confusion they are mixed--I see at once that I am merely looking at a bundle of qualities: and that the real "I," the Self, is not that bundle, but is the being INSPECTING the same--something beyond and behind, as it were. So I now concentrate my thoughts upon that inner Something, in order to find out what it really is. I imagine perhaps an inner being, of 'astral' or ethereal nature, and possessing a new range of much finer and more subtle qualities than the body--a being inhabiting the body and perceiving through its senses, but quite capable of surviving the tenement in which it dwells and I think of that as the Self. But no sooner have I taken this step than I perceive that I am committing the same mistake as before. I am only contemplating a new image or picture, and "I" still remain beyond and behind that which I contemplate. No sooner do I turn my attention on the subjective being than it becomes OBJECTIVE, and the real subject retires into the background. And so on indefinitely. I am baffled; and unable to say positively what the Self is.
Meanwhile there are people who look upon the foregoing speculations about an interior Self as merely unpractical. Being perhaps of a more materialistic type of mind they fix their attention on the body. Frankly they try to define the Self by the body and all that is connected therewith--that is by the mental as well as corporeal qualities which exhibit themselves in that connection; and they say, "At any rate the Self--whatever it may be--is in some way limited by the body; each person studies the interest of his body and of the feelings, emotions and mentality directly associated with it, and you cannot get beyond that; it isn't in human nature to do so. The Self is limited by this corporeal phenomenon and doubtless it perishes when the body perishes." But here again the conclusion, though specious at first, soon appears to be quite inadequate. For though it is possibly true that a man, if left alone in a Robinson Crusoe life on a desert island, might ultimately subside into a mere gratification of his corporeal needs and of those mental needs which were directly concerned with the body, yet we know that such a case would by no means be representative. On the contrary we know that vast numbers of people spend their lives in considering other people, and often so far as to sacrifice their own bodily and mental comfort and well-being. The mother spends her life thinking almost day and night about her babe and the other children--spending all her thoughts and efforts on them. You may call her selfish if you will, but her selfishness clearly extends beyond her personal body and mind, and extends to the personalities of her children around her; her "body"--if you insist on your definition --must be held to include the bodies of all her children. And again, the husband who is toiling for the support of the family, he is thinking and working and toiling and suffering for a 'self' which includes his wife and children. Do you mean that the whole family is his "body"? Or a man belongs to some society, to a church or to a social league of some kind, and his activities are largely ruled by the interests of this larger group. Or he sacrifices his life--as many have been doing of late--with extraordinary bravery and heroism for the sake of the nation to which he belongs. Must we say then that the whole nation is really a part of the man's body? Or again, he gives his life and goes to the stake for his religion. Whether his religion is right or wrong does not matter, the point is that there is that in him which can carry him far beyond his local self and the ordinary instincts of his physical organism, to dedicate his life and powers to a something of far wider circumference and scope.