THE SUSCEPTIBILITIES

Having examined the intellectual powers, we will now attend to the next
general class, denominated _the susceptibilities_.

When the mind is in a state of emotion, this state is always either
pleasurable or painful. _Desire_ relates to the attainment of some
object which will be the cause of pleasurable emotions, or else to the
avoidance of something which will cause painful emotions. This desire
for pleasure and for the avoidance of pain is the mainspring of all
mental activity; for when it is not in existence, neither the powers of
the mind or of the body are called into exercise.

There are various sources of enjoyment or causes of pleasurable emotion
to the mind of man, the most important of which will now be pointed out.

The _first_ cause of enjoyment at the commencement of existence is that
of _sensation_.[2] This, at first, is small in amount compared with what
it becomes when association lends its aid to heighten sensitive
enjoyment. The light of day, the brilliancy of color, the sweetness of
perfume, the gratification of taste and touch, the magic influence of
sound, and the pleasure resulting from muscular activity, are probably
the chief sources of enjoyment to the infant mind. As life advances, all
these modes of sensitive gratification become connected with others of
an intellectual and moral nature, so that at mature years it is
difficult to determine how much of the enjoyment we derive from the
senses is the result of association, and how much is simply that of
sensation.

Another source of happiness to the human mind is the simple exercise of
its intellectual powers. This includes all the pleasures derived from
the exercise of taste and the imagination; all the more profitless
exercises of reverie and castle-building; all the activity of mind
employed in contriving, inventing, and bringing to pass the various
projects for securing good to ourselves and others; and all those
charming illusions which so often give transient delight, but burst like
bubbles in the grasp.

Another source of enjoyment is the exercise of physical and moral power.
This love of power is one of the earliest principles which is developed
in the human mind. The exercise of the muscles in producing changes in
its own material frame or in surrounding objects is a source of constant
pleasure to the infant mind. There are few who have reared a child
through the period of infancy but can recollect the times that this new
species of delight was manifested, as, with his hand raised before his
eyes, he watched its various motions, and learned his own power to
control them.

This love of power continually displays itself in the sports and
pursuits of childhood. To project the pebble through the air; to drive
the hoop; to turn the windmill; to conduct some light stream from its
channel; to roll the rock from the mountain cliff–these and many others
are the varied modes by which childhood exhibits its love of physical
power.

But when man begins to learn the influence which mind can exert over
mind, a new desire is awakened of _moral power_. All the different modes
are then sought by which one mind can bend the will of others to yield
to its controlling influence. It is this desire which is gratified when
the conqueror of nations beholds millions of minds yielding to the
slightest word of his command. It is this which inspires the orator, as
he pours forth that eloquence which charms the delighted throng, and
bends them to his will. It is this desire, which often becomes the
master passion, to which is sacrificed all that is just, lovely, and
benevolent.

Another cause of enjoyment is that of sympathy in the happiness of
others. This susceptibility is a source of constant enjoyment when those
around us are contented and happy. None can be ignorant of the change
produced in passing from the society of a sprightly, cheerful, and happy
group to a circle soured by discontent or overwhelmed with melancholy.
In early childhood, the effect of this principle is clearly developed.
Even the infant child is affected and disturbed with flowing tears, and
steals away from the chamber of sorrow, while the sight of smiling faces
and the sound of cheerful voices sends through his heart the glow of
delight.

Another source of enjoyment is a feeling of conscious rectitude. Man is
so constituted that, when he knowingly violates the principles of
rectitude, a painful feeling is the inevitable consequence, while a
habit of constant conformity to them brings a peaceful and happy state
of mind.

Another source of happiness is the consciousness of being the cause of
happiness to others. This is an enjoyment entirely distinct from that of
sympathy in the happiness of others; for we may see happiness conferred
by another and rejoice in it, but the pleasure of being ourselves the
cause of this enjoyment is one altogether peculiar. It can readily be
seen that the more benevolent a mind is, the more happiness it will
derive from this source; while in exact proportion as the mind is
selfishly engrossed by its own exclusive interests will this stream of
enjoyment cease to flow.

Another source of happiness is the consciousness of inspiring certain
emotions in other minds, such as esteem, respect, confidence, love,
gratitude, reverence, and the like. The desire for this is one of the
strongest passions, and its gratification often secures the most
exquisite enjoyment. This happiness, ordinarily, is proportioned to the
nobleness of the person who renders this regard.

Another source of enjoyment is the discovery of certain qualities in
intelligent minds. The perception of the qualities of matter through the
medium of the senses is a very inferior source of gratification compared
with the discovery of certain qualities of mind. This is the source of
the highest enjoyment of which the mind is capable. The emotions thus
awakened are called esteem, veneration, love, gratitude, and the like.
_Love_, in its most general sense, is used for the pleasurable emotion
which is felt in the discovery of any quality that is agreeable, either
in matter or mind. Thus we are said to love the beauties of nature, to
love delicious fruit, and to love the society of friends. But in
relation to intelligent beings, it signifies pleasurable emotion in view
of certain qualities and actions, attended with the desire of good to
the object loved, and also a desire for reciprocated affection. There
are certain qualities and attributes of mind which may be pointed out as
the _causes_ of affection.

The first is _intellectual superiority_. Our estimate of intellect is
altogether _relative_. What in a child seems an astonishing display of
it, would be considered puerility in a man. What excites admiration in a
savage or in the unlettered, is regarded with little emotion in the man
of education. There are various qualities of intellect which awaken
admiration. Quick perceptions and ready invention are the peculiar
attribute of some minds; others are endowed with great sagacity and
wisdom in adapting the best means to accomplish the best ends; others
possess an energy and force of purpose which enables them to encounter
difficulties, sustain bodily fatigue, and even to face death without
shrinking; others possess a power of forming new and varied combinations
that gratify the taste; others seem to possess a readiness and
versatility of mind which enables them to succeed in almost any object
they undertake. The exhibition of any of these operations of intellect
are causes of emotions of pleasure to other minds.

The next quality of mind which is a cause of affection is the power of
_sympathy_. There is nothing which so powerfully draws the mind toward
another being as the assurance that all our pleasures will be his, and
that “in all our afflictions he will be afflicted.” It is probable that
a being entirely destitute of this susceptibility, however he might
excite the mind by displays of intellectual power, never could be
regarded with the warm and tender emotions of affection. If we
encountered a mind that we felt looked upon our happiness without one
glimmering of pleasure, and who could gaze upon our sufferings without
one shade of sympathizing woe, it is probable the mind would turn away
with feelings of dissatisfaction or disgust.

Another quality of mind which becomes a cause of love is the power of
_giving_ and _appreciating affection_. There is nothing which is an
object of more constant and fervent desire than the admiration and
affection of other minds. To be an object of attention and of admiration
to others has been the aim that has stimulated the efforts and nerved
the arm of all the heroes and conquerors of the world. To gain the
esteem and affection of other minds is what regulates the actions, the
plans, and the hopes of all mankind. If, therefore, a mind should be
destitute of this susceptibility, that which gives the chief interest
would be withdrawn. If we should find, also, that the gift of our
affections was of no value to another mind, this would deprive it of
much that awakens interest and pleasure. It is the excessive indulgence
of this desire for admiration which leads to ambition and pride–those
principles which have filled the world with contention and deluged it
with blood.

Another quality of mind which secures affection is _benevolence_. This
consists in such a love for the happiness as induces a willingness to
make sacrifices of personal ease or enjoyment to secure a greater amount
of good to others. Every mind is so made that, if its own wishes are not
interfered with, it is more agreeable to see others happy around than to
see them miserable. There have been cases of such perversion of our
nature that some have seemed to find pleasure in the simple act of
inflicting pain upon others; but this seldom occurs until after a long
course of self-indulgence and crime. All persons, if it cost no
sacrifice, would prefer to make others happy.

But there is a great difference in the character of minds in this
particular. Some, when they find that certain modes of personal
enjoyment interfere with the interests and happiness of others, can find
a pleasure in sacrificing their own lesser enjoyment to secure greater
good for others. But others are so engrossed by exclusive interest in
their own happiness that they will not give up the smallest amount of
their own good to secure any amount of benefit to others.

All minds, whatever their own character may be, detest selfishness in
others, and never can bestow any great affection where this is a
prevailing trait.

These are the leading characteristics of mind which are causes of
admiration and affection. There are other more specific exercises, such
as modesty, humility, meekness, and the like.

But all these traits of character, which, in themselves considered, are
causes of pleasure, in certain circumstances may, to a selfish mind,
become causes of unmingled pain. If the displays of intellect or the
exhibition of the amiable susceptibilities in another being are viewed
by a selfish mind as the cause of disparagement and disadvantageous
contrast to itself, they will be regarded only with painful emotions.
They will awaken “envy, anger, wrath, malice, and all uncharitableness.”
This fact is fully illustrated in the history of the world and in the
daily observation of life.

The _causes of pain_ to the human mind are in most cases owing to these
very susceptibilities of enjoyment. The organization of the material
frame and of the external world, while it is a source of multiplied and
constant enjoyment, is often also the cause of the most intense and
exquisite suffering. The strongest conception of suffering of which mind
can form any conception is sensitive suffering. There are many minds
whose constitution and circumstances are such that they can form but
faint conceptions of any pain which results from the exercise of
malignant passions, or from other sources of suffering. But every mind
soon acquires a knowledge of what sensitive suffering must be, and can
form the most vivid conceptions of it. Though few ever suffered the
dislocation of joints, the laceration of the flesh, or the fracture of
bones, still descriptions of such sufferings are readily apprehended and
conceived of, and there is nothing from which the mind so involuntarily
shrinks.

Another cause of suffering consists in the loss of present or expected
enjoyment. There are many blessings which seem desirable to the mind
that are never secured, and yet unhappiness is not caused by the want;
but there is no happiness which is actually in possession of which the
loss does not occasion pain. We may desire the esteem and affection of
certain beings, and yet not become unhappy from the want of it; yet
nothing sends such exquisite suffering through the mind as the
conviction that some beloved object has ceased thus to respect and to
love, or has been taken from us by death. Thus, also, if wealth, which
is the means of purchasing a variety of blessings, be not secured, the
heart can desire it without being made unhappy by the wish, yet the loss
of wealth is attended with painful disappointment and regret. The
possession of power, also, may be desired without uneasiness, but the
loss of it seldom occurs without painful emotions.

Another cause of suffering is inactivity of body and mind. It has been
shown that desire is the spring both of mental and of physical activity,
and that this activity is one source of enjoyment. The loss of this
species of enjoyment is followed by consequent inquietude and
uneasiness.

Another cause of suffering is the existence of strong desire with the
belief that it never can be gratified. Some desires exist in the mind
without causing pain, but they may be excited to such a degree that the
certainty that they never will be gratified may produce anguish almost
intolerable.

Another source of pain is sympathy in the sufferings of others. These
may be so realized as to affect the mind of the observer with even more
pain than the sufferer experiences. It is probable that the tender
mother, in witnessing the distresses of her child, experiences much more
pain than the object of her sympathies.

Another cause of suffering is the violated sense of justice. In minds of
high moral susceptibilities, suffering from this source may be most
exquisite.

Another cause of suffering is the consciousness of guilt. The emotions
that follow the commission of crime are denominated repentance and
remorse; and it is probable that the human mind has never suffered
greater agonies than have attended the existence of these emotions.
There are cases on record when intense bodily suffering has been
resorted to as a relief from such anguish by withdrawing the attention
of the mind from those subjects that call forth such emotions.

Another cause of pain is the apprehension of future evil. This is often
a source of long-continued and of distressing emotions, and the pain
suffered in apprehension is often greater than would be experienced if
the evils were realized.

Another source of suffering is the exercise of malignant passions, such
as hatred, envy, and jealousy. These emotions never can exist in the
mind without pain. The exhibition of wicked passions and actions in
other minds may also be mentioned in connection with this. It is painful
to behold a mind tossed with the furies of ungoverned passion, or
yielding to the chain of selfishness and pride.

Another source of suffering is the consciousness of the existence of
certain emotions in other minds toward ourselves. The belief that other
intelligent beings look upon our character and conduct with displeasure,
indignation, or contempt, inflicts the keenest suffering, and there is
scarcely any thing mankind will not sacrifice to avoid these painful
emotions.

Another source of painful emotions is the view of certain characteristics
in other minds. While the discovery of certain traits in other minds
afford a high enjoyment, the want of them, or the existence of their
opposite, awaken disagreeable emotions, expressed by the terms pity,
contempt, indignation, disgust, abhorrence, and the like.

There are other sources of pleasure and pain, which will be discussed
more at large in succeeding chapters.

[2] Hereafter the terms sensation and perception will often be used
synonymously in cases where it is not needful to recognize the
distinction heretofore indicated.