The Beginner and his Task

IN the State Normal School of Cortland, New York, in the '80's, the first experience that the pupils had with any branch of metaphysics was when they took up the study of psychology in their senior year, under the principal of the school. On first entering the class, we were directed to open the text-book at a certain page, where we found a paragraph quoted from Sir William Hamilton's "Metaphysics." The teacher spent the entire hour in trying to make plain to us the meaning of the metaphysical terms which appeared in the first sentence. He said that we could never hope to study psychology successfully, until we had a clear and exact understanding of the meaning of the technical words which are used; and as evidence that we understood the meaning of what he had been saying to us, he required us to write out at home a statement which would convey the exact meaning of the sentence under consideration without using any of the words which were in the original sentence except the articles, conjunctions, etc. The next two recitations were spent in carefully criticising the paraphrases which members of the class brought in. Then they were required to do the work over again, and three weeks were thus spent in working out satisfactory paraphrases of the paragraph, which did not consume over half a page, notwithstanding that in twenty weeks we had to cover the material embodied in two large text-books. That we should have correct understanding of metaphysical terms, seemed so important to our teacher that he devoted three twentieths of our time to this matter alone.

Science and Health professes to be, and is, a work on metaphysics. To deal successfully with the important facts about God and man, it could not be anything else. Consequently, it was necessary that Mrs. Eddy should use metaphysical words, and ordinary words employed in a metaphysical sense. In view of the above experience, should any reader of Science and Health be discouraged by the fact that it may be necessary for him to read the book for a considerable time, before he can discern the meaning of the metaphysical terms employed, from the connection in which they are used? Or should any one say that portions of the book are meaningless, or that the style is unnecessarily obscure under these circumstances?

A Plea for our Literature
August 26, 1905

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