The Mind in the Making

by James Harvey Robinson. New York: Harper and Brothers. 8vo, 235 pp. $2.50.
How does Professor Robinson’s The Mind in the Making impress the layman — the practical business man?
The first impression is one of great practical value. There are many men whose reaction to any proposition made to them can be foreseen. Smith will always enthusiastically approve of any proposition, good or bad, and Jones can be depended upon to oppose it. It is clear that the minds of these men are not seeing things presented to them as they really are, but are reacting from preconceived ideas or habits of thinking. Of course, one might be sure that if these men saw their mental reactions in perspective, as their friends and acquaintances do, they would try to correct their idiosyncrasies and weaknesses and make an effort to see straighter.
Most men — including Smith and Jones — have never given much thought as to how the human mind is made, and have accepted its functioning, without question, as orderly and right. Probably both Smith and Jones wear eyeglasses — that is, they have not Supposed it true that their eyes were perfect and at all times functioning properly. On the contrary, they have held them under observation and when they found defects they applied correctives in the shape of glasses. But they have never felt, never understood, the need of applying correctives to the mind, which is the real seeing machinery of sight. In fact they are not conscious that it is both possible and common to see without seeing if one depends on the eyes alone. It is the usual experience of any one of us both to see and hear things which, because the mind is absorbed more completely iu other things, register themselves but faintly or not at all. Consequently, many of us fail to note that our minds work wrongly, and have never tried to correct our bad mind-sight.
Professor Robinson begins by showing us in a clear, scholarly fashion the process of the making of the human mind; that it is not a miracle but a growth, thus making us sensitive to the method in which it functions. He shows that the human mind was an animal mind for hundreds of thousands of years; a child mind for another similar period; this child mind, in turn, was followed by a long period of savage mind. He shows that, measured in terms of a man’s lifetime, the modern truth-seeking mind is but a day old.
Facts really come home to us through this book. Of course we have always thought we knew this was an evolutionary world, but in the real application of this knowledge to the very foundation of our living the human mind has not seemed important beyond the scope of conventional education. Professor Robinson’s book gives it a new and greater significance. We begin to question, ‘Was this action of mine the result of the weighing of facts or was it a survival of my animal, child, or savage mind? How much of what my mind accepted without question, because it was taught me in books or in school, is unsound because it emanates from a mind that is not correct or working?’ I do not accept a blind man’s description of a landscape. Shall I accept unquestioningly the description of some important fact of a lifescape — a life philosophy — from a static-minded man, however high his position?
Mr. Robinson’s book makes this impossible for any practical man who reads it. The reader begins to apply his practical knowledge to his mind. He has always known that no great engine, rushing at sixty miles an hour, drawing a heavy train, can be stopped suddenly, and now he knows that no force big enough to move great masses of men can be stopped immediately when it has performed its special work. He knows it must go on for a long while until its great momentum is lost; and it is during this long period that our conventionally minded man, or selfish man, able in this way to protect the power or property his ancestors acquired through the [last working of the force, will defend it, will deify it, will call the gods to witness that its great power and its proper functioning in the past is sure proof, is unanswerable proof, that it is the only power that can be depended upon in the present or in the future.
If masses of men can be made to read and understand the value of Mr. Robinson’s book, there will be laid a real foundation for a golden age of thinking on this earth, of thinking that will not only enormously accelerate justice in the interrelations of man, but also accelerate material progress until the drudgery and drain of life will largely disappear and there will be a real basis for greater happiness in the world.
It is for this reason that I hope that as many as possible of my fellow business men will have an opportunity to read and study this attractive and stimulative book. Open-minded scientists and teachers, and students who know of Mr. Robinson’s work and great ability, will doubtless read it in any event; but I am writing this line in order to help practical business men like myself not to miss it.
EDWARD A. FILENE.