THE ENERGIES OF MEN
By: William James (1842 - 1910)
Everyone knows what it is to start a piece of work, either intellectual or muscular, feeling stale - or oold, as an Adirondack guide
once put it to me. And everybody knows what it is to "warm up" to his job. The process of warming up gets particularly striking in the
phenomenon known as "second wind."
On usual occasions we make a practice of stopping an occupation as soon as we meet the first effective layer (so to call it) of fatigue. We have then walked, played, or worked "enough", so we desist.
That amount of fatigue is an efficacious obstruction on this side of which our usual life is cast.
But if an unusual necessity forces us to press onward a surprising
thing occurs. The fatigue gets worse up to a certain critical point,
when gradually or suddenly it passes away, and we are fresher than
before. We have evidently tapped a level of new energy, masked until
then by the fatigue-obstacle usually obeyed. There may be layer after
layer of this experience. A third and a fourth "wind" may supervene.
Mental activity shows the phenomenon as well as physical, and in
exceptional cases we may find, beyond the very extremity of
fatigue-distress, amounts of ease and power that we never dreamed
ourselves to own, - sources of strength habitually not taxed at
all, because habitually we never push through the obstruction, never
pass those early critical points.
For many years I have mused on the phenomenon of second wind, trying to find a physiological theory. It is evident that our organism has stored-up reserves of energy that are ordinarily not called upon, but that may be called upon: deeper and deeper strata of combustible or explosible material, discontinuously arranged, but ready for use by anyone who probes so deep, and repairing themselves by rest as well as do the superficial strata. Most of us continue living unnecessarily near our surface. Our energy-budget is like our nutritive budget. Physiologists say that a man is in "nutritive equilibrium" when day after day he neither gains nor loses weight. But the odd thing is that this condition may obtain on astonishingly different amounts of food.
Take a man in nutritive equilibrium, and systematically increase or
lessen his rations. In the first case he will begin to gain weight, in
the second case to lose it. The change will be greatest on the first
day, less on the second, less still on the third; and so on, till he
has gained all that he will gain, or lost all that he will lose, on
that altered diet. He is now in nutritive equilibrium again, but with a
new weight; and this neither lessens nor increases because his various
combustion-processes have adjusted themselves to the changed dietary.
He gets rid, in one way or another, of just as much N, C, H, etc., as he takes in per diem.
Just so one can be in what I might call "efficiency-equilibrium"
(neither gaining nor losing power when once the equilibrium is reached)
on astonishingly different quantities of work, no matter in what
direction the work may be measured. It may be physical work,
intellectual work, moral work, or spiritual work.
Of course there are limits: the trees don't grow into the sky. But the
plain fact remains that men the world over possess amounts of resource
which only very exceptional individuals push to their extremes of use.
But the very same individual, pushing his energies to their extreme,
may in a vast number of cases keep the pace up day after day, and find
no "reaction" of a bad sort, so long as decent hygienic conditions are
preserved. His more active rate of energizing does not wreck him; for
the organism adapts itself, and as the rate of waste augments, augments
correspondingly the rate of repair.
I say the rate and not the time of repair. The busiest man needs no
more hours of rest than the idler. Some years ago Professor Patrick, of
the Iowa State University, kept three young men awake for four days and
nights. When his observations on them were finished, the subjects were
permitted to sleep themselves out. All awoke from this sleep completely
refreshed, but the one who took longest to restore himself from his
long vigil only slept one-third more time than was regular with him.
If my reader will put together these two conceptions, first, that few
men live at their maximum of energy, and second, that anyone may be in
vital equilibrium at very different rates of energizing, he will find,
I think, that a very pretty practical problem of national economy, as
well as of individual ethics, opens upon his view. In rough terms, we
may say that a man who energizes below his normal maximum fails by just
so much to profit by his chance at life; and that a nation filled with
such men is inferior to a nation run at higher pressure. The problem
is, then, how can men be trained up to their most useful pitch of
energy? And how can nations make such training most accessible to all
their sons and daughters. This, after all, is only the general problem
of education, formulated in slightly different terms.
"Rough" terms, I said just now, because the words "energy" and "maximum" may easily suggest only quantity to the reader's mind,
whereas in measuring the human energies of which I speak, qualities as well as quantities have to be taken into account. Everyone feels that
his total power rises when he passes to a higher qualitative level of life.
Writing is higher than walking, thinking is higher than writing, deciding higher than thinking, deciding "no" higher than deciding
"yes" - at least the man who passes from one of these activities to another will usually say that each later one involves a
greater element of inner work than the earlier ones, even though the total heat given out or the foot-pounds expended by the organism, may
be less. Just how to conceive this inner work physiologically is as yet impossible, but psychologically we all know what the word means. We
need a particular spur or effort to start us upon inner work; it tires us to sustain it; and when long sustained, we know how easily we lapse.
When I speak of "energizing", and its rates and levels and sources, I mean therefore our inner as well as our outer work.
Let no one think, then, that our problem of individual and national
economy is solely that of the maximum of pounds raisable against
gravity, the maximum of locomotion, or of agitation of any sort, that
human beings can accomplish. That might signify little more than
hurrying and jumping about in inco-ordinated ways; whereas inner work,
though it so often reinforces outer work, quite as often means its
arrest. To relax, to say to ourselves (with the "new thoughters")
"Peace! be still!" is sometimes a great achievement of inner work. When
I speak of human energizing in general, the reader must therefore
understand that sum-total of activities, some outer and some inner,
some muscular, some emotional, some moral, some spiritual, of whose
waxing and waning in himself he is at all times so well aware. How to
keep it at an appreciable maximum? How not to let the level lapse? That
is the great problem. But the work of men and women is of innumerable
kinds, each kind being, as we say, carried on by a particular faculty;
so the great problem splits into two sub-problems, thus:
(1). What are the limits of human faculty in various directions?
(2). By what diversity of means, in the differing types of human beings, may the faculties be stimulated to their best results?
Read in one way, these two questions sound both trivial and familiar: there is a sense in which we have all asked them ever since we were
born. Yet as a methodical programme of scientific inquiry, I doubt whether they have ever been seriously taken up. If answered fully;
almost the whole of mental science and of the science of conduct would find a place under them. I propose, in what follows, to press them on
the reader's attention in an informal way.
The first point to agree upon in this enterprise is that as a rule men habitually use only a small part of the powers which they actually possess and which they might use under appropriate conditions.
Every one is familiar with the phenomenon of feeling more or less alive
on different days.
Every one knows on any given day that there are energies slumbering in him which the incitements of that day do not
call forth, but which he might display if these were greater. Most of us feel as if a sort of cloud weighed upon us, keeping us below our
highest notch of clearness in discernment, sureness in reasoning, or firmness in deciding. Compared with what we ought to be, we are only
half awake. Our fires are damped, our drafts are checked. We are making use of only a small part of our possible mental and physical resources.
In some persons this sense of being cut off from their rightful resources is extreme, and we then get the formidable neurasthenic and
psychasthenic conditions with life grown into one tissue of impossibilities, that so many medical books describe.
Stating the thing broadly, the human individual thus lives usually far
within his limits; he possesses powers of various sorts which he
habitually fails to use. He energizes below his maximum, and he behaves
below his optimum. In elementary faculty, in co-ordination, in power of
inhibition and control, in every conceivable way, his life is
contracted like the field of vision of an hysteric
subject - but with less excuse, for the poor hysteric is
diseased, while in the rest of us it is only an inveterate
habit - the habit of inferiority to our full self - that is bad.
Admit so much, then, and admit also that the charge of being inferior
to their full self is far truer of some men than of others; then the
practical question ensues: to what do the better men owe their escape?
and, in the fluctuations which all men feel in their own degree of
energizing, to what are the improvements due, when they occur?
In general terms the answer is plain:
Either some unusual stimulus fills them with emotional excitement, or
some unusual idea of necessity induces them to make an extra effort of
will. Excitements, ideas, and efforts, in a word, are what carry us
over the dam.
In those "hyperesthetic" conditions which chronic invalidism so often
brings in its train, the dam has changed its normal place. The
slightest functional exercise gives a distress which the patient yields
to and stops. In such cases of "habit-neurosis" a new range of power
often comes in consequence of the "bullying-treatment," of efforts
which the doctor obliges the patient, much against his will, to make.
First comes the very extremity of distress, then follows unexpected
relief. There seems no doubt that we are each and all of us to some
extent victims of habit-neurosis. We have to admit the wider potential
range and the habitually narrow actual use. We live subject to arrest
by degrees of fatigue which we have come only from habit to obey. Most
of us may learn to push the barrier farther off, and to live in perfect
comfort on much higher levels of power.
Country people and city people, as a class, illustrate this difference.
The rapid rate of life, the number of decisions in an hour, the many
things to keep account of, in a busy city man's or woman's life, seem
monstrous to a country brother. He does n't see how we live at all. A
day in New York or Chicago fills him with terror. The danger and noise
make it appear like a permanent earthquake. But settle him there, and
in a year or two he will have caught the pulse-beat. He will vibrate to
the city's rhythms; and if he only succeeds in his avocation, whatever
that may be, he will find a joy in all the hurry and the tension, he
will keep the pace as well as any of us, and get as much out of himself
in any week as he ever did in ten weeks in the country.
The stimuli of those who successfully spend and undergo the
transformation here, are duty, the example of others, and
crowd-pressure and contagion. The transformation, moreover, is a
chronic one: the new level of energy becomes permanent. The duties of
new offices of trust are constantly producing this effect on the human
beings appointed to them. The physiologists call a stimulus
"dynamogenic" when it increases the muscular contractions of men to
whom it is applied; but appeals can be dynamogenic morally as well as
muscularly. We are witnessing here in America to-day the dynamogenic
effect of a very exalted political office upon the energies of an
individual who had already manifested a healthy amount of energy before
the office came.
Humbler examples show perhaps still better what chronic effects duty's
appeal may produce in chosen individuals. John Stuart Mill somewhere
says that women excel men in the power of keeping up sustained moral
excitement. Every case of illness nursed by wife or mother is a proof
of this; and where can one find greater examples of sustained endurance
than in those thousands of poor homes, where the woman successfully
holds the family together and keeps it going by taking all the thought
and doing all the work—nursing, teaching, cooking, washing,
sewing, scrubbing, saving, helping neighbors, "choring"
outside—where does the catalogue end? If she does a bit of
scolding now and then who can blame her? But often she does just the
reverse; keeping the children clean and the man good tempered, and
soothing and smoothing the whole neighborhood into finer shape.
Eighty years ago a certain Montyon left to the Académie
Française a sum of money to be given in small prizes, to the
best examples of "virtue" of the year. The academy's committees, with
great good sense, have shown a partiality to virtues simple and
chronic, rather than to her spasmodic and dramatic flights; and the
exemplary housewives reported on have been wonderful and admirable
enough. In Paul Bourget's report for this year we find numerous cases,
of which this is a type; Jeanne Chaix, eldest of six children; mother
insane, father chronically ill. Jeanne, with no money but her wages at
a pasteboard-box factory, directs the household, brings up the
children, and successfully maintains the family of eight, which thus
subsists, morally as well as materially, by the sole force of her
valiant will. In some of these French cases charity to outsiders is
added to the inner family burden; or helpless relatives, young or old,
are adopted, as if the strength were inexhaustible and ample for every
appeal. Details are too long to quote here; but human nature,
responding to the call of duty, appears nowhere sublimer than in the
person of these humble heroines of family life.
Turning from more chronic to acuter proofs of human nature's reserves
of power, we find that the stimuli that carry us over the usually
effective dam are most often the classic emotional ones, love, anger,
crowd-contagion or despair. Despair lames most people, but it wakes
others fully up. Every siege or shipwreck or polar expedition brings
out some hero who keeps the whole company in heart. Last year there was
a terrible colliery explosion at Courrieres in France. Two hundred
corpses, if I remember rightly, were exhumed. After twenty days of
excavation, the rescuers heard a voice. "Me voici," said the first man
unearthed. He proved to be a collier named Nemy, who had taken command
of thirteen others in the darkness, disciplined them and cheered them,
and brought them out alive. Hardly any of them could see or speak or
walk when brought into the day. Five days later, a different type of
vital endurance was unexpectedly unburied in the person of one Berton
who, isolated from any but dead companions, had been able to sleep away
most of his time.
A new position of responsibility will usually show a man to be a far
stronger creature than was supposed. [Oliver] Cromwell's and [Ulysses Simpson] Grant's careers are
the stock examples of how war will wake a man up. I owe to Professor C.
E. Norton, my colleague, the permission to print part of a private
letter from Colonel Baird-Smith written shortly after the six weeks'
siege of Delhi, in 1857, for the victorious issue of which that
excellent officer was chiefly to be thanked. He writes as follows:
". . . My poor wife had some reason to think that war and disease
between them had left very little of a husband to take under nursing
when she got him again. An attack of camp-scurvy had filled my mouth
with sores, shaken every joint in my body, and covered me all over with
sores and livid spots, so that I was marvellously unlovely to look
upon. A smart knock on the ankle-joint from the splinter of a shell
that burst in my face, in itself a mere bagatelle of a wound, had been
of necessity neglected under the pressing and incessant calls upon me,
and had grown worse and worse till the whole foot below the ankle
became a black mass and seemed to threaten mortification. I insisted,
however, on being allowed to use it till the place was taken,
mortification or no; and though the pain was sometimes horrible I
carried my point and kept up to the last. On the day after the assault
I had an unlucky fall on some bad ground, and it was an open question
for a day or two whether I hadn't broken my arm at the elbow.
Fortunately it turned out to be only a severe sprain, but I am still
conscious of the wrench it gave me. To crown the whole pleasant
catalogue, I was worn to a shadow by a constant diarrhoea, and consumed
as much opium as would have done credit to my father-in-law [Thomas De
Quincey]. However, thank God, I have a good share of Tapleyism in me
and come out strong under difficulties. I think I may confidently say
that no man ever saw me out of heart, or ever heard one croaking word
from me even when our prospects were gloomiest. We were sadly scourged
by the cholera, and it was almost appalling to me to find that out of
twenty-seven officers present, I could only muster fifteen for the
operations of the attack. However, it was done, and after it was done
came the collapse. Don't be horrified when I tell you that for the
whole of the actual siege, and in truth for some little time before, I
almost lived on brandy. Appetite for food I had none, but I forced
myself to eat just sufficient to sustain life, and I had an incessant
craving for brandy as the strongest stimulant I could get. Strange to
say, I was quite unconscious of its affecting me in the slightest
degree. The excitement of the work was so great that no lesser one
seemed to have any chance against it, and I certainly never found my
intellect clearer or my nerves stronger in my life. It was only my
wretched body that was weak, and the moment the real work was done by
our becoming complete masters of Delhi, I broke down without delay and
discovered that if I wished to live I must continue no longer the
system that had kept me up until the crisis was passed. With it passed
away as if in a moment all desire to stimulate, and a perfect loathing
of my late staff of life took possession of me."
Such experiences show how profound is the alteration in the manner in
which, under excitement, our organism will sometimes perform its
physiological work. The processes of repair become different when the
reserves have to be used, and for weeks and months the deeper use may
Morbid cases, here as elsewhere, lay the normal machinery bare. In the
first number of Dr. Morton Prince's Journal of Abnormal Psychology, Dr.
Janet has discussed five cases of morbid impulse, with an explanation
that is precious for my present point of view. One is a girl who eats,
eats, eats, all day. Another walks, walks, walks, and gets her food
from an automobile that escorts her. Another is a dipsomaniac. A fourth
pulls out her hair. A fifth wounds her flesh and burns her skin.
Hitherto such freaks of impulse have received Greek names (as bulimia,
dromomania, etc.) and been scientifically disposed of as "episodic
syndromata of hereditary degeneration." But it turns out that Janet's
cases are all what he calls psychasthenics, or victims of a chronic
sense of weakness, torpor, lethargy, fatigue, insufficiency,
impossibility, unreality and powerlessness of will; and that in each
and all of them the particular activity pursued, deleterious though it
be, has the temporary result of raising the sense of vitality and
making the patient feel alive again. These things reanimate: they would
reanimate us, but it happens that in each patient the particular
freak-activity chosen is the only thing that does reanimate; and
therein lies the morbid state. The way to treat such persons is to
discover to them more usual and useful ways of throwing their stores of
vital energy into gear.
Colonel Baird-Smith, needing to draw on altogether extraordinary stores
of energy, found that brandy and opium were ways of throwing them into
Such cases are humanly typical. We are all to some degree oppressed,
unfree. We don't come to our own. It is there, but we don't get at it.
The threshold must be made to shift. Then many of us find that an
eccentric activity—a "spree," say—relieves. There
is no doubt that to some men sprees and excesses of almost any kind are
medicinal, temporarily at any rate, in spite of what the moralists and
But when the normal tasks and stimulations of life don't put a man's
deeper levels of energy on tap, and he requires distinctly deleterious
excitements, his constitution verges on the abnormal. The normal opener
of deeper and deeper levels of energy is the will. The difficulty is to
use it, to make the effort which the word volition implies. But if we
do make it (or if a god, though he were only the god Chance, makes it
through us), it will act dynamogenically on us for a month. It is
notorious that a single successful effort of moral volition, such as
saying "no" to some habitual temptation, or performing some courageous
act, will launch a man on a higher level of energy for days and weeks,
will give him a new range of power. "In the act of uncorking the
whiskey bottle which I had brought home to get drunk upon," said a man
to me, "I suddenly found myself running out into the garden, where I
smashed it on the ground. I felt so happy and uplifted after this act,
that for two months I was n't tempted to touch a drop."
The emotions and excitements due to usual situations are the usual
inciters of the will. But these act discontinuously; and in the
intervals the shallower levels of life tend to close in and shut us
off. Accordingly the best practical knowers of the human soul have
invented the thing known as methodical ascetic discipline to keep the
deeper levels constantly in reach. Beginning with easy tasks, passing
to harder ones, and exercising day by day, it is, I believe, admitted
that disciples of asceticism can reach very high levels of freedom and
power of will.
Ignatius Loyola's spiritual exercises must have produced this result in
innumerable devotees. But the most venerable ascetic system, and the
one whose results have the most voluminous experimental corroboration
is undoubtedly the Yoga system in Hindustan.
From time immemorial, by Hatha Yoga, Raja Yoga, Karma Yoga, or whatever
code of practice it might be, Hindu aspirants to perfection have
trained themselves, month in and out, for years. The result claimed,
and certainly in many cases accorded by impartial judges, is strength
of character, personal power, unshakability of soul. In an article in
the Philosophical Review, from which I am largely copying here, I
have quoted at great length the experience with "Hatha Yoga" of a very
gifted European friend of mine who, by persistently carrying out for
several months its methods of fasting from food and sleep, its
exercises in breathing and thought-concentration, and its fantastic
posture-gymnastics, seems to have succeeded in waking up deeper and
deeper levels of will and moral and intellectual power in himself, and
to have escaped from a decidedly menacing brain-condition of the
"circular" type, from which he had suffered for years.
Judging by my friend's letters, of which the last I have is written
fourteen months after the Yoga training began, there can be no doubt of
his relative regeneration. He has undergone material trials with
indifference, travelled third-class on Mediterranean steamers, and
fourth-class on African trains, living with the poorest Arabs and
sharing their unaccustomed food, all with equanimity. His devotion to
certain interests has been put to heavy strain, and nothing is more
remarkable to me than the changed moral tone with which he reports the
situation. A profound modification has unquestionably occurred in the
running of his mental machinery. The gearing has changed, and his will
is available otherwise than it was.
My friend is a man of very peculiar temperament. Few of us would have
had the will to start upon the Yoga training, which, once started,
seemed to conjure the further willpower needed out of itself. And not
all of those who could launch themselves would have reached the same
results. The Hindus themselves admit that in some men the results may
come without call or bell. My friend writes to me: "You are quite right
in thinking that religious crises, love-crises, indignation-crises may
awaken in a very short time powers similar to those reached by years of
Probably most medical men would treat this individual's case as one of
what it is fashionable now to call by the name of "self-suggestion," or
"expectant attention" - as if those phrases were explanatory,
or meant more than the fact that certain men can be influenced, while
others cannot be influenced, by certain sorts of ideas. This leads me
to say a word about ideas considered as dynamogenic agents, or stimuli
for unlocking what would otherwise be unused reservoirs of individual
One thing that ideas do is to contradict other ideas and keep us from
believing them. An idea that thus negates a first idea may itself in
turn be negated by a third idea, and the first idea may thus regain its
natural influence over our belief and determine our behavior. Our
philosophic and religious development proceeds thus by credulities,
negations, and the negating of negations.
But whether for arousing or for stopping belief, ideas may fail to be
efficacious, just as a wire, at one time alive with electricity, may at
another time be dead. Here our insight into causes fails us, and we can
only note results in general terms. In general, whether a given idea
shall be a live idea depends more on the person into whose mind it is
injected than on the idea itself. Which is the suggestive idea for this
person, and which for that one? Mr. Fletcher's disciples regenerate
themselves by the idea (and the fact) that they are chewing, and
re-chewing, and super-chewing their food. Dr. Dewey's pupils regenerate
themselves by going without their breakfast—a fact, but also
an ascetic idea. Not every one can use these ideas with the same
But apart from such individually varying susceptibilities, there are
common lines along which men simply as men tend to be inflammable by
ideas. As certain objects naturally awaken love, anger, or cupidity, so
certain ideas naturally awaken the energies of loyalty, courage,
endurance, or devotion. When these ideas are effective in an
individual's life, their effect is often very great indeed. They may
transfigure it, unlocking innumerable powers which, but for the idea,
would never have come into play. "Fatherland," "the Flag," "the Union,"
"Holy Church," "the Monroe Doctrine," "Truth," "Science," "Liberty,"
Garibaldi's phrase, "Rome or Death," etc., are so many examples of
energy-releasing ideas. The social nature of such phrases is an
essential factor of their dynamic power. They are forces of detent in
situations in which no other force produces equivalent effects, and
each is a force of detent only in a specific group of men.
The memory that an oath or vow has been made will nerve one to
abstinences and efforts otherwise impossible; witness the "pledge" in
the history of the temperance movement. A mere promise to his
sweetheart will clean up a youth's life all over—at any rate
for time. For such effects an educated susceptibility is required. The
idea of one's "honor," for example, unlocks energy only in those of us
who have had the education of a "gentleman," so called.
That delightful being, Prince Pueckler-Muskau, writes to his wife from
England that he has invented "a sort of artificial resolution
respecting things that are difficult of performance. My device," he
continues, "is this: I give my word of honor most solemnly to myself to
do or to leave undone this or that. I am of course extremely cautious
in the use of this expedient, but when once the word is given, even
though I afterwards think I have been precipitate or mistaken, I hold
it to be perfectly irrevocable, whatever inconveniences I foresee
likely to result. If I were capable of breaking my word after such
mature consideration, I should lose all respect for
myself,—and what man of sense would not prefer death to such
an alternative? . . . When the mysterious formula is pronounced, no
alteration in my own view, nothing short of physical impossibilities,
must, for the welfare of my soul, alter my will. . . . I find something
very satisfactory in the thought that man has the power of framing such
props and weapons out of the most trivial materials, indeed out of
nothing, merely by the force of his will, which thereby truly deserves
the name of omnipotent." 
Conversions, whether they be political, scientific, philosophic, or
religious, form another way in which bound energies are let loose. They
unify us, and put a stop to ancient mental interferences. The result is
freedom, and often a great enlargement of power. A belief that thus
settles upon an individual always acts as a challenge to his will. But,
for the particular challenge to operate, he must be the right
challeng_ee_. In religious conversions we have so fine an adjustment
that the idea may be in the mind of the challengee for years before it
exerts effects; and why it should do so then is often so far from
obvious that the event is taken for a miracle of grace, and not a
natural occurrence. Whatever it is, it may be a highwater mark of
energy, in which "noes," once impossible, are easy, and in which a new
range of "yeses" gains the right of way.
We are just now witnessing a very copious unlocking of energies by
ideas in the persons of those converts to "New Thought," "Christian
Science," "Metaphysical Healing," or other forms of spiritual
philosophy, who are so numerous among us to-day. The ideas here are
healthy-minded and optimistic; and it is quite obvious that a wave of
religious activity, analogous in some respects to the spread of early
Christianity, Buddhism, and Mohammedanism, is passing over our American
world. The common feature of these optimistic faiths is that they all
tend to the suppression of what Mr. Horace Fletcher calls
"fearthought." Fearthought he defines as the "self-suggestion of
inferiority"; so that one may say that these systems all operate by the
suggestion of power. And the power, small or great, comes in various
shapes to the individual,—power, as he will tell you, not to
"mind" things that used to vex him, power to concentrate his mind, good
cheer, good temper—in short, to put it mildly, a firmer, more
elastic moral tone.
The most genuinely saintly person I have ever known is a friend of mine
now suffering from cancer of the breast—I hope that she may
pardon my citing her here as an example of what ideas can do. Her ideas
have kept her a practically well woman for months after she should have
given up and gone to bed. They have annulled all pain and weakness and
given her a cheerful active life, unusually beneficent to others to
whom she has afforded help. Her doctors, acquiescing in results they
could not understand, have had the good sense to let her go her own way.
How far the mind-cure movement is destined to extend its influence, or
what intellectual modifications it may yet undergo, no one can
foretell. It is essentially a religious movement, and to academically
nurtured minds its utterances are tasteless and often grotesque enough.
It also incurs the natural enmity of medical politicians, and of the
whole trades-union wing of that profession. But no unprejudiced
observer can fail to recognize its importance as a social phenomenon
to-day, and the higher medical minds are already trying to interpret it
fairly, and make its power available for their own therapeutic ends.
Dr. Thomas Hyslop, of the great West Riding Asylum in England, said
last year to the British Medical Association that the best
sleep-producing agent which his practice had revealed to him, was
prayer. I say this, he added (I am sorry here that I must quote from
memory), purely as a medical man. The exercise of prayer, in those who
habitually exert it, must be regarded by us doctors as the most
adequate and normal of all the pacifiers of the mind and calmers of the
But in few of us are functions not tied up by the exercise of other
functions. Relatively few medical men and scientific men, I fancy, can
pray. Few can carry on any living commerce with "God." Yet many of us
are well aware of how much freer and abler our lives would be, were
such important forms of energizing not sealed up by the critical
atmosphere in which we have been reared. There are in every one
potential forms of activity that actually are shunted out from use.
Part of the imperfect vitality under which we labor can thus be easily
explained. One part of our mind dams up—even damns
up!—the other parts.
Conscience makes cowards of us all. Social conventions prevent us from
telling the truth after the fashion of the heroes and heroines of
Bernard Shaw. We all know persons who are models of excellence, but who
belong to the extreme philistine type of mind. So deadly is their
intellectual respectability that we can't converse about certain
subjects at all, can't let our minds play over them, can't even mention
them in their presence. I have numbered among my dearest friends
persons thus inhibited intellectually, with whom I would gladly have
been able to talk freely about certain interests of mine, certain
authors, say, as Bernard Shaw, Chesterton, Edward Carpenter, H. G.
Wells, but it would n't do, it made them too uncomfortable, they would
n't play, I had to be silent. An intellect thus tied down by literality
and decorum makes on one the same sort of an impression that an
able-bodied man would who should habituate himself to do his work with
only one of his fingers, locking up the rest of his organism and
leaving it unused.
I trust that by this time I have said enough to convince the reader
both of the truth and of the importance of my thesis. The two
questions, first, that of the possible extent of our powers; and,
second, that of the various avenues of approach to them, the various
keys for unlocking them in diverse individuals, dominate the whole
problem of individual and national education. We need a topography of
the limits of human power, similar to the chart which oculists use of
the field of human vision. We need also a study of the various types of
human being with reference to the different ways in which their
energy-reserves may be appealed to and set loose. Biographies and
individual experiences of every kind may be drawn upon for evidence here.
 This was the title originally given to the Presidential Address delivered before the American Philosophical Association at Columbia University, December 28, 1906, and published as there delivered in the Philosophical Review for January, 1907. The address was later published, after slight alteration, in the American Magazine for October, 1907, under the title "The Powers of Men." The more popular form is here reprinted under the title which the author himself preferred.
 "The Energies of Men." Philosophical Review, vol. xvi, No. 1, January, 1907. [Cf. Note on p. 229.]
 "Tour in England, Ireland, and France," Philadelphia, 1833, p. 435.
 "This would be an absolutely concrete study . . . The limits of power must be limits that have been realized in actual persons, and the various ways of unlocking the reserves of power must have been exemplified in individual lives . . . So here is a program of concrete individual psychology . . . It is replete with interesting facts, and points to practical issues superior in importance to anything we know." From the address as originally delivered before the Philosophical Association; See xvi. Philosophical Review, 1, 19.
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