A definition of Public Opinion. The gathering of a few fogies positively electrified by fanaticism and force of habit, who act on the many noodles negatively electrified by indifference. The acceptation of uncharitable views on “suggestion” by “telepathic impact” (whatever that may mean). The work of unconscious psychology.
Sympathetic grief.—The expression thereof in Society, for one’s sorrow, is like a solemn funeral procession, in which the row of mourning coaches is long, indeed, but the carriages of which are all empty.
Mutual exchange of compliments.—Expressions of delight and other acting in cultured society are the fig-leaves of the civilised Adams and Eves. These “aprons” to conceal truth are fabricated incessantly in social Edens, and their name is—politeness.
Keeping the Sabbath.—Throwing public contumely on, and parading one’s superiority over Christ, “one greater than the temple” and Sabbath, who stood for his disciples’ rights to “break” the Sabbath, for the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for Sabbath (Matt., xii, and Mark, ii, 27, etc.).
Attending Divine Service.—Breaking the express commandment of Jesus. Becoming “as the hypocrites are,” who love to pray in Synagogue and Temples, “that they may be seen of men.” (Matt., vi, 5.)
Taking the Oath, on the Bible.—A Christian law, devised and adopted to perpetuate and carry out the unequivocal commandment of the Founder of Christianity, “Swear not at all; neither by heaven . . . nor by the earth . . .” (Matt., v, 34-35). As the heaven and the earth are supposed to have been created only by God, a book written by men thus received the prerogative over the former.
Unpopularity.—We hate but those whom we envy or fear. Hatred is a concealed and forced homage rendered to the person hated; a tacit admission of the superiority of the unpopular character.
The true value of back-biting and slander. A proof of the fast coming triumph of the victim chosen. The bite of the fly when the creature feels its end approaching.
A Few Illustrations to the Point from Schopenhauer.
Socrates was repeatedly vilified and thrashed by the opponents of his philosophy, and was as repeatedly urged by his friends to have his honour avenged in the tribunals of Athens. Kicked by a rude citizen, in the presence of his followers, one of these expressed surprise for his not resenting the insult, to which the Sage replied:
“Shall I then feel offended, and ask the magistrate to avenge me, if I also happen to be kicked by an ass?”
To another remark whether a certain man had abused and called him names, he quietly answered:
“No; for none of the epithets he used can possibly apply to me.” (From Plato’s Georgics.)
The famous cynic, Cratus, having received from the musician Nicodromus a blow which caused his face to swell, coolly fixed a tablet upon his brow, inscribed with the two words, “Nicodromus facit.” The flute player hardly escaped with his life from the hands of the populace, which viewed Cratus as a household god.
Seneca, in his work De Constanta Sapientis, treats most elaborately of insults in words and deeds, or contumelia and then declares that no Sage ever pays the smallest attention to such things.—“Well, yes!” the reader will exclaim, “but these men were all of them Sages!” “And you, are you then only fools? Agreed!”
To Show Anger.—No “Cultured” man or woman will ever show anger in Society. To check and restrain every sign of annoyance shows good manners, certainly, but also considerable achievement in hypocrisy and dissimulation. There is an occult side to this rule of good breeding expressed in an Eastern proverb: “Trust not the face which never shows signs of anger, nor the dog that never barks.” Cold-blooded animals are the most venomous.
Non-resistance to Evil.—To brag of it is to invite all evil-doers to sit upon you. To practise it openly is to lead people into the temptation of regarding you as a coward. Not to resist the evil you have never created nor merited, to eschew it yourself, and help others quietly to get out of its way, is the only wise course open to the lover of wisdom.
“Love Thy Neighbour.”—When a parson has preached upon this subject, his pious congregation accepts it as tacit permission to slander and vilify their friends and acquaintances in neighbouring pews.
International Brotherhood.—When a Mussulman and a Christian swear mutual friendship, and pledge themselves to be brothers, their two formulas differ somewhat The Muslim says: “Thy mother shall be my mother, my father thy father, my sister thy hand maid, and thou shalt be my brother.” To which the Christian answers: “Thy mother and sister shall be my hand-maidens, thy wife shall be my wife, and my wife shall be thy dear sister”—Amen.
Brave as a Lion.—The highest compliment—in appearance—paid to one’s courage; a comparison with a bad-smelling wild-beast—in reality. The recognition, also, of the superiority of animal over human bravery, considered as a virtue.
A Sheep.—A weak, silly fellow, figuratively, an insulting, contemptuous epithet among laymen; but one quite flattering among churchmen, who apply it to “the people of God” and the members of their congregations, comparing them to sheep under the guidance of the lamb.
The Code of Honour.—In France—to seduce a wife and kill her husband. There, offended honour can feel satisfied only with blood; here a wound inflicted upon the offender’s pocket suffices.
The Duel as a Point of Honour.—The duel being an institution of Christendom and civilization, neither the old Spartans, nor yet the Greeks or Romans knew of it, as they were only uncivilized heathens.—(See Schopenhauer.)
Forgive and Forget.—“We should freely forgive, but forget rarely,” says Colton. “I will not be revenged, and this I owe to my enemy; but I will remember, and this I owe to myself.” This is real practical wisdom. It stands between the ferocious “Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth” of the Mosaic Law, and the command to turn the left cheek to the enemy when he has smitten you on the right. Is not the latter a direct encouraging of sin?
Practical Wisdom.—On the tree of silence hangs the fruit of peace. The secret thou wouldst not tell to thine enemy, tell it not to thy friend.—(Arabic.)
Civilized Life.—Crowded, noisy and full of vital power, is modern Society to the eye of matter; but there is no more still and silent, empty and dreary desert than that same Society to the spiritual eye of the Seer. Its right hand freely and lavishly bestows ephemeral but costly pleasures, while the left grasps greedily the leavings and often grudges the necessities of show. All our social life is the result and consequence of that unseen, yet ever present autocrat and despot, called Selfishness and Egotism. The strongest will becomes impotent before the voice and authority of Self.