"The study of mankind is man” and certainly the student of human nature has a field of wonderful and increasingly interesting discovery before him. The student of human nature lives in a world unknown to the self-centered and unobservant; he moves in the depth of a world of fascinating interest, while the great majority but skim the surface. The real student is well aware of the fact that if he would know his fellow he must not judge him from isolated experiences, nor from his attitude under strong emotion, nor condemn him utterly because under some terrible stress or temptation he has once given way and forgotten to "play the man." This is, however, what the ephemeral observer is apt to do, and he thereby proves that he is merely a superficial observer and not a student of human nature. A man should never be judged by one action but by his habitual actions; neither should we judge a man by his deportment under some one strong and unusual excitement, for these are out of the ordinary run of things, and, while the thinker and the strongly fortified and self-trained man will always be ready for such emergencies, and will, under the stress of strong temptation or unusual happenings, keep his calmness and judgment, acting deliberately and with purpose, we must not expect the average man to do anything of the kind, simply because he is not prepared for it. Therefore we must not judge a man from one act of his life, nor weigh him in the balance from what we observe when he is under the influence of something unusual and unexpected, but calmly and without prejudice study the man’s life as a whole, and his influence upon his fellows in the ordinary course of the everyday tasks and duties.
The student must, however, be quite sure why he studies his fellows, and what his motives are to commence with; otherwise, there is very great danger of falling into condemnation and judgment. I who have made a study of mankind for many years have found very many dangers into which I have at times fallen, but I have nearly always found that such dangers sprang from my own mind, they were ever the result of my own shortcomings. One of the greatest dangers to be avoided is this, we are always prone to see our own greatest weakness in our fellows. The weak man considers every other man weak where he is himself weak; the impure man finds it very difficult to believe that other men are pure; the thief suspects every man's honesty, and the diplomat is ever on the lookout for the man with the axe to grind. Is not that so? So the student of human nature needs to know something of self-mastery, self control, self-reliance, and self-conquest before he ventures on the study of human nature. Otherwise he will see his own image and likeness in the actions of every man. How often when we are annoyed with someone for what we consider a wrong attitude of mind, or unkind and ill-bred conduct, we should find, if we would only examine ourselves, that we are reading our own interpretation into the actions of that other. We are not thinking of the man at all but of how his action affects us, and we are judging him from what we would do under like circumstances, and not from what he must do. We want liberty to use our own free-will, but we do not want the other to have any will but our will. Is not that so? So the true student of mankind always allows men to do as they please, and, without condemnation or prejudice, he studies their actions, the result of those actions, immediate and far-reaching, and so draws his conclusions. He does not criticize because he is out to learn, not to dictate; he does not condemn because he knows there is no room for condemnation in life; he does not judge because he is not the actor, he is only the onlooker.
It is very interesting to notice the characteristics of different groups of individuals. Take for instance the worldly man. He is a good sort as a rule. He is immersed in his business or his profession, and is bent on making it a success. He is out to make money. He scorns meanness and trickery. He calls a spade a spade. He is blunt and open in speech with his fellows, and if he finds a man other than he thinks just "O.K." he does not scruple about telling him so, and often in very forcible language. He is too busy to stop to criticize his neighbors; be never condemns his fellows, and has no time to pick holes in his friend’s moral garments. He goes his own way, and allows everybody to do as they please. He scorns the petty condemnations and judgments that take up so much time in the lives of other and weaker individuals. All men to him are "jolly good fellows" until he proves them to be "rotters," and then he wastes no time upon them, but goes about his own business—generally after he tells them, without any soft phrases or reservations, just what he thinks of them. Then he "washes his hands" and goes his way. There is something fine about such men. They demand our respect. I think Abu Ben Adem must have been such a one.
Please understand me, I do not mean the drunkard, nor the drone who lives on the labors of others and does nothing himself, nor the debauchee, nor the feeble-minded seeker after pleasure and excitement. If you think I do go back and read this article right over again from the very beginning, and know exactly what I mean by the term "worldly man." You will agree with me that he is a fine fellow. He is just himself, and puts on no side, there is no veneering about him, and he does not want to be known for other than he is. He makes no profession of religion, but his commercial life, his honest dealings, his straight speech, his hard work, his attention to business, make him the backbone of society, and without him the whole fabric of civil life would totter and fall to ruin. Neither is the Church independent of him, for without his hard-earned money her treasury would very often be empty, and her preachers unpaid. I use the term "worldly" as a distinction from the religious man, and not in any derogatory sense. Do you not, my reader, know many men who will fit well into my picture? Of course you do. The world is full of them, and a good job for the world.
Then I have given some observation to that class known as the "religious folk," the folk who never miss public worship and who engage in all sorts of religious exercises, prayer meetings, &c. &c. &c., too numerous to mention. Now, how often it is here we find the carping criticism and condemnation. Indeed, it would at times lead one to think that to become religious was to retrograde, and not to progress in any sense of the word. The worldly man seems to, all unconsciously, exercise that "charity that thinketh no evil," but let a man, or a woman become "religious" and it so often seems that they begin to lose all that charity, and they see nothing but evil in their fellows. Straightway they begin to pity them, to shake the head over them, to pray for their salvation! They do not stop to ask why they pity their fellows now, if they did they might perchance find more of the Pharisee in their pity than they think possible. "Lord, I thank thee that I am not as other men," or other words, meaning the same thing, might come very near expounding their real attitude of mind, "Lord, these people do not believe as I believe, therefore I pity them." Egotism is very subtle. It is a sad day when men begin to lose that sweet belief in their fellows that covers a multitude of sins, and alas, this state of things so often marks the beginning of the so-called religious life. They want to get men saved! Saved from what? From smallness, and meanness, and insincerity, and pride, and exclusiveness, and bad temper, and trickery in trade, and covetousness? No, but that they may believe as they believe, accept their doctrine, join their church, and, thereby get saved from an imaginary hell in the future. They do not associate religion with speech and conduct; they do not ask is a man upright, pure, honest, truthful, righteous, kind, and noble; but —"is he saved?" Such religion seems to this writer to be something divorced from morals, manners, and conduct. A friend of mine, a refined, delicate, gentle-woman went into a shop the other day with her little child. The particular article she needed was out of stock, and pike assistant tried to persuade her to buy something that "would do just as well." My friend kindly but firmly refused to buy what she did not require, whereupon the assistant called the proprietor, who, when he could not make a sale either, roughly abused my friend and in the most rude and unkind manner followed her even to the door. This man is a religious man (save the mark!) holds a very important post in his church; attends prayer meetings, and is generally "a bright and shining light" in his denomination! I believe that he at times "preaches the gospel!" My friend is what would be called a worldly woman; she never goes to a church. I don't think she is likely to! At least not to his particular church! Is it any wonder that the worldly man despises the religion such men offer him. If such men and women understood religion rightly they would know that it has much more to do with their business on six days of the week, than it has to do with their worship on the Seventh; that it is more vital in a man's everyday life, and in his speech in business, and at home, than in his prayers and ritual. If a man cannot speak kindly and courteously to his neighbor, and to his customer, think you that he can address the Almighty in an acceptable manner? Does religion consist of so much profession, so much hymn-singing, so much praying, and all the rest of a man's life left out?
But let us take a third look round and we find the spiritual mars. For remember there may be a very wide difference between the religious man and the spiritual man. The spiritual man is closer to the worldly man than the religious man is. He is much the same as the worldly man in many things. He never condemns his fellows for one thing, he sees that every man is acting up to the light he has, and so there is no room for condemnation. He has no egotism placing him on a pedestal above his fellows, therefore he never prays they may become as he is. He ever esteems all men better than himself. He realizes that all men are growing, that each one has reached a stage in his own soul’s evolution, and that even his mistakes and follies, if they exist, are there to teach him vital lessons, and to aid him in that ever evolving condition that will at last bring him to the realization of his true nature. The spiritual man may or may not "go to church," and passes no judgment on any who go, or who do not go. He knows that his business is to set his own house in order. He is the servant of all, ever ready to serve rather than be served. He knows that human love must precede divine love, and that he must first love his brother before he can love God. In love he sees the essence of all that is truly religion, and love seeeth no evil in the brother. He knows that all that is, is governed by Law; that there are no accidents, no chance, no luck. He knows that each man’s life the outcome of his former living is; that one life follows another in just and accurate sequence; that men sow what they reap. He knows that out of all the turmoil and strife of today there will dawn a brighter and better tomorrow, for the Angel of Pain ever speaks to the spirit of man, and slowly but surely the human heart is learning the lesson that effect must ever follow Cause, and when the lesson is fully learnt, and the truth fully comprehended, then will man start only those causes going which will bring the best and most blessed effects.
These are just word pictures of three classes of persons in our midst today. It is only a brief study of human nature. A short discourse on some observations of human nature as one student has seen it. Gentle reader, accept or reject it.
And not the spirit of the world’s design.
Tyrant and slave create the scourge and fetter;
As is the worshipper will be the shrine.
The idea fails, though perfect were the plan;
World harmony springs through the perfect man."
—Francis of Assissi
Shall be deeds of Love,
Man shall not ask his brother any more
‘Believest Thou?’ but ‘Lovest Thou?’ and all
Shall answer at God's altar, ‘Lord, I love,’
For hope may anchor, faith may guide, but love,
Great love alone is captain of the soul."
—H. B. Carpenter
Thy heart is My home; purify it for
My descent; thy spirit is My outlook,
prepare it for My manifestation.
—Hidden words from Arabic of Baha Ullah