An Appeal for Self-Reflection

“READER!–You have been bred in a land abounding with men, able in arts, learning, and knowledges manifold, this man in one, this in another, few in many, none in all. But there is one art in which every man should be master, the art of reflection. If you are not a thinking man, to what purpose are you a man at all? In like manner, there is one knowledge, which it is every man’s interest and duty to acquire, namely, self-knowledge: or to what end was man alone, of all animals, indued by the Creator with the faculty of self-consciousness? Truly said the pagan moralist, From heaven descended ‘Know Thyself.’

“But you are likewise born in a Christian land: and revelation has provided for you new subjects for reflection, and new treasures of knowledge, never to be unlocked by him who remains self-ignorant. Self-knowledge is the key to this casket; and by reflection alone can it be obtained. Reflect on your own thoughts, actions, circumstances, and–which will be of special aid to you in forming a habit of reflection,–accustom yourself to reflect on the words you use, hear, or read, their birth, derivation, and history. For if words are not things, they are living powers, by which the things of most importance to mankind are actuated, combined, and humanized. Finally, by reflection you may draw from the fleeting facts of your worldly trade, art, or profession, a science permanent as your immortal soul; and make even these subsidiary and preparative to the reception of spiritual truth, ‘doing as the dyers do, who having first dipt their silks in colours of less value, then give them the last tincture of crimson in grain.'”

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Aids To Reflection [From the Preface]



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