The Sixth Sense: Its Cultivation and Use

Nov 16, 2012 by

The Sixth Sense: Its Cultivation and Use by Charles Henry Brent was originally published in 1911.  I am pleasantly surprised every time I come across a new agey book from that time period. This one is no exception.

Here are a few paragraphs about his thoughts on children and the sixth sense:

“Apparently the infant, and certainly the child, is extraordinarily sensitive to subtle forces. Acting upon this supposition the Christian Church from the beginning, by a symbolic and sacramental act, has aimed to thrust children deep into the bosom of God by the rite of baptism, and claimed for them not only a place but a place of chief importance in the spiritual society. Instinctively the mother, with exquisite solicitude, whispers her ideals for the future of her offspring into the ears of the babe at her breast, talking as though to one whose consciousness were awake. In this way Samuels have been raised to Israel. At the close of each day the mother bids her child sleep by singing lullabies and hanging mystic poppies over wide-awake eyes. She speaks in the highest type of language, in poetry adorned with song, to this little unconscious scrap of humanity. In other words her mystic sense is pressing upon the mystic sense of her child as naturally and fittingly as her arms fold the infant body and her lips touch its cheek.

Unless positive proof to the contrary is adduced, it is safe to believe that it makes a great difference to the child’s after life of what sort its psychic environment is during its first years on earth, whether the minds about it are healthy, expressing themselves healthily, whether the tone of family life is hopeful and spiritual. Though it cannot finally determine the course that the child’s life will take, at any rate it affords the best opportunity for making it a worthy course. My conviction is, that the difference between good and bad psychic environment for a baby is the same as that between healthy and unhealthy vegetable environment for a young plant. An infant abandoned by its mother to the care of nurses and servants, be the provision for its animal comfort and safety what it may, begins life with a minimum of opportunity.

Man is not born mere animal but man from the first breath. Therefore from the first breath he needs man’s surroundings. In order that his latent character may have its best chance, he ought to be given the most congenial human environment available. If there is no conscious self, at any rate there is a subconscious self, struggling at a very early moment by baby smiles and frets, gropings and babblings to utter itself. Psychology seems to have reached at least this conclusion — that the subconscious is, that it is the fundamental part of man, that it is his most sensitive self, never relinquishing that which it grasps and grasping everything that touches it.

Psychic forces may influence mightily the subconscious life of an infant and promote healthy character, but have they any effect on physical well-being? The reply would seem to be that, if at any time in the span of a lifetime they work beneficently in this direction, it is probable that they do so from the outset. It would be sheer waste of time to adduce arguments to prove that healthy minds conduce directly to healthy physique. The difficulty is to find the limit of such influence, so vast is it. Physical well-being, however, is not an end in itself, and it is a subversion of the human order to aim at health of mind or character in order that our physique may be improved. So nicely is human nature proportioned and adjusted that it is doubtful whether a person could achieve physical health by becoming good with that sole end in view. Physical health is not essential to a high degree of human efficiency, though health of character is and therefore must be sought first because of its priceless value. But it is our just assumption that a child with a healthy body is more likely to have a normal inner personality than if it had a sickly body. Outer and inner health act and react and interact so that it is equally true to say that, given a healthy mind and disposition, other things being equal, the body will have the best opportunity of being normal and, whatever its condition, of being used to the best advantage.

There can be no consideration of higher importance than to make a child sensitive as soon after birth as possible, to his psychic, moral, and mystical environment. It will conduce to loftiness of character and, for aught we know, to useful longevity and vigor of physique. Only soulless animals can be satisfied  with physical splendor or count muscle sufficient in itself. Man by virtue of his manhood can never live according to merely animal laws. His animal nature itself is ultimately weakened if he does. In proportion as he has fine physique he must develop a fine mind and character. If not, unrestrained passion and ruin stare him in the face. The body finds its full meaning and so its possibilities, only when the soul has discovered itself and claimed its liberty. It is then alone that a whole army of anxieties and fears is scattered, leaving the body free and joyously adventurous, ready to identify its movements with those of the soul.

Consequently it is not illogical or untrue to say that the first requisite for physical efficiency of a child is to insure that whatever its subconscious life is able to drink in should be sweet, wholesome, and strong. The tone of domestic life, the character of the child’s attendants, the whole expanse of human bosom on which it lies and from which it receives nourishment, ought to be as near what one would wish it to be if from the first the little babe had a conscious as well as a subconscious self, and were a morally responsible and not a mere non-moral agent. ”

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