Buchanan, on Moral Education

Buchanan, on Moral Education

Excerpts From a Book
Recommended by Helena Blavatsky

Joseph Rodes Buchanan


Helena P. Blavatsky and Prof. Joseph Rodes Buchanan 

 

Editorial Note:

Helena Blavatsky wrote these words in an article about Prof. Joseph R. Buchanan and his book “Moral Education: Is Laws and Methods[1]:

It affords us real pleasure to give an old and respected friend a greeting through the new edition of his valuable work – Professor Buchanan’s latest thoughts on a complete scheme of education.

This learned gentleman, as our readers may recollect, is the discoverer in the western world of that mysterious power latent in man, which has been further enlarged upon by Prof. Denton in his ‘Soul of Things’. It is Professor Buchanan who is the real founder of the Science of Psychometry.”

The present work shows more than ever that like a few other spiritually wise men, the Professor does not feel himself at ease in the broad seat of modern civilization; he seems to have lost his way in the jungle of western materialism, but his brave spirit is struggling hard for the welfare of his race, who seem to be even unconscious of their degradation. He has hit upon the real source of danger which is so gloomily overhanging the Western world and threatening it with moral and spiritual ruin.”

Blavatsky concludes thus:

Let it not be taken as unforgivable sin that the book [Moral Education: Its Laws and Methods] has come into the world a little too soon. It will be at all events one of the necessary missing-links in the evolution of human thought and institutions.” [2]

The following paragraphs are excerpts from the book by Joseph Rodes Buchanan. The numbers of pages are mentioned in parentheses at the end of each quotation.

(CCA)

1. The Eternal Order

* The great and final triumph of moral education will be in the establishment of peace on earth and goodwill among men.

All religions have failed to do this – either because they have not sufficiently condemned war (or, like Mahomet, they made war) or because their inculcations were too high and pure to be incarnated in any church. It is painful to reflect how completely the followers of Christ have renounced his principles to identify themselves with war.

I would not say a word to depreciate the value of that religious inspiration which has been a potent influence for civilization and humanity in Europe, but I  must insist that thirty years of true moral education would do more for humanity than nineteen centuries of religious propaganda, aided by colleges, schools and literature, have already done.

I am sure that neither war, nor poverty, nor pestilence, nor crime is a part of the eternal order of society, but that these evils belong to the childhood and infancy of the race. A true philosopher with arbitrary power for twenty years might abolish all these evils wherever that power extended. Pestilence should be abolished by hygienic science and education, poverty by industrial education and science, war and crime by moral education. (pp. 270-271)

2. A History of Calamities

* Pleasure and pain are the Divine instrumentalities for guiding and governing mankind. Pain is the inevitable punishment which arrests us in wrong-doing, warns us of error, and compels us to desist. Inflicted by Divine ordination (the laws of nature) it is unquestionably a Divine monition as to the laws that are to be obeyed. It punishes us for injuring our bodies, and compels us to take care of them. It punishes all violations of the law of health, and all neglect of duties. In violating the law of the Divine life, the ethical element, we are punished by the hostility of our fellows, and by our debasement, remorse, and loss of happiness. In violating the laws of the practical energies we are punished by mortifying failures, loss or disaster. In violating the law of the intellectual nature we are punished by ignorance and mental obfuscation, leading to falsities and calamity.

The whole history of the world is a history of calamities produced by violated laws. War, pestilence, crime, poverty and insanity have scourged all nations in the past and present, and will continue to scourge them until the Divine laws are obeyed. (pp. 159-160)

3. Social Surroundings

* Every character is moulded by the social surroundings, as a plant is developed by the sun and air. (p. 93)

4. The Heaven of Music

* Music is the expression of the perfectly beautiful, of that harmony which is of heaven; it therefore easily brings us into accord with heavenly life. But mere music is not heaven any more than mere language is knowledge; yet as language is the key to knowledge, so is music the key to heavenly life; and as language may unlock stores of wisdom, or of rubbish, or of moral malaria, so may music open to our souls all the wealth of heavenly life, bringing the influx of all we need; or, on the other hand, it may bring a clangor which is not heaven, but “of the earth, earthly” – as barren for the soul as metaphysics for the mind. (p. 120)

5. Developing Useful Activities

* Useful occupation is essential to mental health, and it is the lack of useful occupation which fills our jails with criminals, and does much to fill our lunatic asylums. (…) The manly as well as the amiable virtues should be cultivated from the very beginning of education. The youngest children should be taught to make themselves useful (…). (p. 201)

6. The Moral Instructor

* The function of the moral instructor is to show the good or ill effects of human conduct in all its varieties, in its permanent as well as transient influence.

The ethical instructor should describe and explain the nature of all the virtues, illustrating their operation in daily life (…). His descriptions should be not only graphic in detail and philosophic in analysis, but eloquent in expression.

The pupil should be exercised in criticizing his own conformity to duty, but not in criticizing or censuring others.

The idea should be firmly and frequently impressed upon him that he must look for the causes of his success or failure to his own merits and demerits instead of finding fault with the world. (p. 101)

7. The Elevation of the Soul

* Feelings are not always competent guides to conduct. They give our moral nature its strength, but not its wisest capacities. (p. 100)

* The mind aspiring to the divine rises above all pettiness in the realm of all-comprehending love and heroic earnestness. (p. 143)

* The elevation of the pupil requires the prior elevation of the teacher, whose soul must be ruled by strong unselfish impulses which are found more often among women than among men. Ethical inspiration must come through an ethical medium. Only the good are competent to minister rightly to human progress, even in the mere acquisition of knowledge. (p. 183)

NOTES: 

[1] Read the book by Prof. Buchanan: “Moral Education: Its Laws and Methods”.

[2] Click to see Helena Blavatsky’s article “Moral Education, by Prof. Buchanan”.

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An initial version of the above text is part of the September 2019 edition of “The Aquarian Theosophist”, pages 7-10.  The article is published as an independent item at the associated websites since 11 January 2021.   

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Helena Blavatsky (photo) wrote these words: “Deserve, then desire”.

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