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tion? I wish to rise to the planet Saturn, at the distance of three hundred millions of leagues from the earth. I am there. I will to ascend still higher, to the region of the fixed stars, at a distance: from the earth, which is no longer to be counted by millions of of leagues, but by millions of millions. I have already passed over all this immensity that intervenes. Would I explore the twelve famous constellations of the Zodiac? The Sun takes twelve months to journey through them. I have already traversed them all, in less time than it would have taken for me to pronounce their names."
“ Adde quod in terris nibil est velocius illa,
The next class of phenomena to which, as in their chief cir. cumstances, modes of the principles of suggestion, I would direct your attention, are the phenomena of Habit.
The effects of habit, are, by Dr Reid, ascribed to a peculiar ultimate principle of the mind; and though I flatter myself, after the discussions which have engaged us, you are not very likely to fall into this error,
proper, to enter into some fuller illustration and analysis of an influence, which is unquestionably one of the most powerful in our mental constitution.
In treating of the secondary laws of suggestion, I before considered the effect of general habit, if it might so be termed, in modifying the suggestions of mere analogy. The habit which we are now to examine, however, is that in which the effects are not analogous merely, but strictly similar, in a tendency to the repetition of the same actions.
• Heinsius de Contemptu Mortis, Lib. II.
The nature of habit may be considered in two lights; as it thus produces a greater tendency to certain actions, and as it occasions greater facility and excellence in those particular actions.
The first form of its influence, then, which we have to consider, is that by which it renders us more prone to actions that have been frequently repeated..
That the frequent repetition of any action increases the tendency to it, all of you must have experienced in yourselves, in innumerable cases, of little importance, perhaps, but sufficiently indicative of the influence ; and there are few of you, probably, who have not had an opportunity of remarking in others the fatal power of habits of a very different kind. In the corruption of a great city, it is scarcely possible to look around, without perceiving some warning example of that blasting and deadening influence, before which, every thing that was generous and benevolent in the heart, has withered, while every thing which was noxious has flourished with more rapid maturity; like those plants, which can extend their roots, indeed, even in a pure soil, and fling out a few leaves amid balmy airs and odours, but which burst out in all their luxuriance, only from a soil that is fed with constant putrescency, and in an atmosphere which it is poison to inhale. It is not vice,—not cold and insensible, and contented vice, that has never known any better feelings,—which we view with melancholy regret. It is virtue,—at least what was once virtue, -that has yielded progressively and silently to an influence scarcely perceived, till it has become the very thing which it abhorred. Nothing can be more just, than the picture of this sad progress, described in the well known lines of Pope :
6. Vice is a monster of so frightful mein,
We first endure, then pity, then embrace."* lo the slow progress of some insidious disease, which is scarcely regarded by its cheerful and unconscious victim, it is mournful to mark the smile of gaiety, as it plays over that very bloom, which is not the freshness of health, but the flushing of approach
ing mortality, amid studies perhaps just opening into intellectual excellence, and hopes, and plans of generous ambition that are never to be fulfilled. But how much more painful is it, to behold that equally insidious, and far more desolating progress, with which guilty passion steals upon the heart,--when there is still sufficient virtue to feel remorse, and to sigh at the remembrance of purer years, but not sufficient to throw off the guilt, which is felt to be oppressive, and to return to that purity in which it would again, in its bitter moments, gladly take shelter, if only it had energy to vanquish the almost irresistible habits that would tear it back !
“Crimes lead to greater crimes, and link so straight,
We must not conceive, however, that habit is powerful only in strengthening what is Evil,—though it is this sort of operation which, of course, forces itself more upon our observation and memory,like the noontide darkness of the tempest, that is remembered, when the calm, and the sunshine, and the gentle shower are forgotten. There can be no question, that the same principle which confirms and aggravates what is evil, strengthens and cherishes also what is good. The virtuous, indeed, do not require the influence of habitual benevolence or devotion to force them, as it were, to new acts of kindness to man, or to new sentiments of gratitude to God. But the temptations, to which even virtue might sometimes be in danger of yielding in the commencement of its delightful progress, become powerless and free from peril when that progress is more advanced. There are spirits which, even on earth, are elevated above that little scene of mortal ambition, with which their benevolent wishes, for the sufferers there, are the single tie that connects them still. All with them is serenity; the darkness and the storm are beneath them. They have only to look down, with generous sympathy, on those who have not yet risen go high; and to look up, with gratitude, to that Heaven which is above their head, and which is almost opening to receive them.
To explain the influence of habit, in increasing the tendency to certain actions, I must remark, what I have already more than once repeated,—that the suggesting influence, which is usually ex
pressed in the phrase association of ideas,-though that very improper phrase would seem to limit it to our ideas or conceptions only, and has unquestionably produced a mistaken belief of this partial operation of a general influence,-is not limited to these more than to any other states of the mind, but occurs also with equal force in other feelings, which are not commonly termed ideas or conceptions ; that our desires, or other emotions, for example, may, like them, form a part of our trains of suggestion ; and that it is not more wonderful, therefore, that the states of the mind, which constitute certain desires, after frequently succeeding certain perceptions, should, on the mere renewal of the perceptions recur once more, than that any one conception should follow, in this manner, any other conception,—that the mere picture of a rose, for example, should suggest its fragrance; or that verses, which we have frequently read, should rise once more successively in our memory, when the line which precedes them has been repeated to us, or remembered by us. To him who has long yielded servilely to habits of intoxication, the mere sight, or the mere conception, of the poisonous beverage,—to which he has devoted and sacrificed his health, and virtue, and happiness,—will induce, almost as if mechanically, the series of mental affections, on which the worse than animal appetite, and the muscular motions Decessary for gratifying it, depend. Perhaps, at the early period of the growth of the passion, there was little love of the wine itself, the desire of which was rather a consequence of the pleasures of gay conversation that accompanied the too frequent draught. But whatever different pleasures may originally have accompanied it, the perception of the wine and the draught itself were frequent parts of the complex process; and, therefore, those particular mental states, which constituted the repeated volitions necessary for the particular muscular movements; and it is not wonderful, therefore, that all the parts of the process should be revived by the mere revival of a single part.
What is called the power of babit is thus suggestion, and nothing more. The sight of the wine before him has coexisted innumerable times with the desire of drinking it. The state of mind, therefore, which constitutes the perception, induces, by the common indluence of suggestion, that other state of mind which consti
REDUCTION OF CERTAIN SUPPOSED FACULTIES,
tutes the desire, and the desire all those other states or motione which have been its usual attendants.
This influence of habit, then,-in increasing the tendency to certain motions,-is not very difficult of explanation, without the necessity of having recourse to any principle of the mind distinct from that on which all our simple suggestions depend. If feelings tend to produce other feelings, in consequence of former proximity or coexistence, it would, indeed, be most wonderful if habitual tendencies were not produced. But the tendency to certain actions is not merely increased, the action itself, in cases of complicated motion, becomes easier.
In what manner is this increased facility to be explained ?
of you were to try, for the first time, any one of the wonderous feats of the circus,—vaulting, dancing on the rope, or some of the more difficult equestrian exercises,—there is very little reason to think that the individual, whatever general vigour and agility he might possess, would be successful; and if he were so singularly fortunate as to perform the feat at all, there can be no doubt that he would perform it with great labour, and comparative awkwardness. A certain series of muscular contractions, alone, are best fitted for producing a certain series of attitudes; and though we may all have the muscles necessary for these particular attitudes, and the power of producing in them the requisite contractions, we have not,-merely from the sight or conception of the particular attitude,-a knowledge either of the particular muscles that are to be moved, or of the particular degrees of motion that may be necessary. In our first attempts, accordingly,though we may produce a rude imitation of the motion which we wish to imitate,-the imitation must still be a very rude one; because, in our ignorance of the particular muscles, and particular quantities of contraction, we contract muscles which ought to have remained at rest, and contract those which ought to be contracted only in a certain degree, in a degree either greater or less than this middle point. By frequent repetition, however, we gradually learn and remedy our mistakes ; but we acquire this knowledge very slowly, because we are not acquainted with the particular parts of our muscular frame, and with the particular state of the mind, necessary for producing the motion of a single muscle