Ourselves Book II Self-Direction

It was through the efforts and expense of Dean and Karen Andreola that Charlotte Mason's Original Home Schooling Series was published in the United States in 1989.
It is with gratitude and permission of the Andreola's that Ambleside Schools International makes Charlotte Mason's six volumes available. (Link to the Andreola's).


Ourselves––Book II.––Self-Direction

"Order my goings."


In Book I. of Ourselves, which deals with Self-knowledge, I have tried to lay before the reader a panoramic view of the Kingdom of Mansoul. I shall continue to use the expression, Mansoul, which we owe to Bunyan, because I do not know any other that suggests a view from the outside, as if one surveyed a tract of country from an eminence. From our imaginary height, we have––supposing that the reader has been my fellow-student in the considerations that occupied the former volume––taken a bird's-eye view of the riches of Mansoul, of the wonderful capacities there are in every human being to enter upon the world as a great inheritance.

All its beauty and all its thought are open to everyone; everyone may take service for the world's uses; everyone may climb those delectable mountains in the recesses of his own nature from whence he gets the vision of the city of God. If Mansoul has infinite resources and glorious possibilities, it has also perils, any one of which may bring devastation and ruin. None of these perils is inevitable, because Mansoul is a kingdom under an established government. It is convenient to think of this government as carried on in four Chambers.

The House of Body is, we have seen, sustained by the Appetites; but ruined when any one of these appetites obtains sole control. The five Senses are, as it were, pages running between body and mind, and ministering to both.

The House of Mind is amazingly ordered with a view to the getting of knowledge. "Studies serve for delight, for ornament, and for ability," is writ large upon the portals, and within are the powers fitted to deal with all knowledge. There is Intellect, waiting to apprehend knowledge of many sorts; Imagination, taking impressions, living pictures of the glories of the past and the behaviour of the remote; there is the æsthetic Sense, whose motto is, "A thing of beauty is a joy for ever," ready to appropriate every thing of beauty, whether picture, poem, wind-flower, or starry heavens––a possession of joy for ever. Reason is there, eager to discern causes and consequences, to know the why and the wherefore of every fact that comes before the mind; and lest, with all these powers, Mind should become an uninhabited house, with rusty hinges and cobwebbed panes, there are certain Desires which bestir us to feed the mind, in much the same way as our Appetites clamour for the food of the body.

Just as each Appetite carries in itself the possibilities of excess and universal ruin to Mansoul, so each of these admirable functions of the mind has what we have called its dæmons; and each of these may not only paralyse that mind-power which it shadows, but may distort and enfeeble the whole of the powers of Mind.

The House of Heart is, we have seen, dominated, in every Mansoul, by two benign powers, Love and Justice. Pity, Benevolence, Sympathy, Kindness, Generosity, Gratitude, Courage, Loyalty, Humility, Gladness, are among the lords in waiting attendant upon Love; and Justice has its own attendant virtues––Gentleness, Courtesy, Candour, Respect, Discernment, Appreciation, Veracity, Integrity, and more.

Temperance, Soberness, and Chastity, too, are of the household of Justice; for these include that justice which we owe to ourselves; but, alas! upon every one of these waits its appropriate dæmon, and the safe-conduct of life depends, first, upon discerning, and then upon avoiding, the malevolent dispositions which are ready to devastate the House of Heart. We know how Cowardice, Meanness, Rudeness, Calumny, Envy, and a hundred other powers of evil beset us. The perils are so great, the risks so numerous, that many a goodly Mansoul perishes without ever realising the vast wealth which belongs to it––like a prince brought up in peasant's estate, and unaware of his birthright. Those who begin to realise how much is possible to Mansoul, and how many are the perils of the way, know that a certain duty of self-direction belongs to them; and that powers for this direction are lodged in them as truly as are intellect and imagination, hunger and thirst.

The governing powers lodged within us are the Conscience and the Will: but conscience (even the conscience of a good Christian person) is not capable of judging for us, in the various affairs of our life, without instruction, any more than the intellect of the ignorant hind can pronounce upon a problem of the differential calculus.

Therefore, Conscience must learn its lessons, regular and progressive lessons, upon the affairs of body, heart, and mind. One of the objects of this volume is to point out some of the courses of instruction proper for conscience, and some of the ends at which this instruction should aim. The affairs of the heart are so far interdependent with those of mind and body that the separate consideration we need give them at present is contained in the former volume of Ourselves.

Concerning the Will, too, the highest but one of all the powers of Mansoul, we need instruction. Persons commonly suppose that the action of the will is automatic; but no power of Mansoul acts by itself and of itself; and some little study of the 'way of the will'––which has the ordering of every other power––may help us to understand the functions of what we have called the prime minister in the kingdom of Mansoul.

It is well, too, that we should know something of the Soul, the name we give to that within us which has capacity for the knowledge and love of God, for prayer and praise and faith, for the enthronement of the King, whose right it is to reign over Mansoul. We may believe that the Creator is honoured by our attempt to know something of the powers and the perils belonging to that human nature with which He has endowed us.