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The thread of life

The thread of life
Title: The thread of life
Release Date: 2018-08-25
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 27 March 2019
Count views: 82
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Image unavailable: Infanta Eulalia of Spain; signature




London, New York, Toronto and Melbourne



Some preface, however short, is needed to this book, the mirror of someof my ideas, and, first of all, I wish to put my readers on their guardagainst a false interpretation of the motives by which I have beenactuated.

In publishing these opinions of mine, it has not been my wish toaccomplish a literary work. I have not aimed at any display of learning,and I make no pretence of forcing on anyone my different points of view.

As a spectator in close enough contact with present social problems tounderstand all the points under discussion, yet at the same timesufficiently removed from them to analyse them coolly and judge themwithout prejudice, I bring forward my evidence unshackled byconventions. It has seemed to me that such fair, exact evidence mightinterest those who seek to glean, amongst all classes of society, thethousand dissimilar and contradictory elements whence proceed thelessons needed both for the present and the future.

Those who care to glance through the short chapters of this book willsoon see that they have been written with the sincere conviction withwhich I always express my ideas and opinions, or perform any workindependently undertaken.

I only ask my readers to excuse any faults of style, which I have triedto make up for by straightforwardness of tone.

Infanta of Spain


General Causes of Happiness3
The Education of the Will11
The Family45
The Complete Independence of Woman53
The War against Feminism61
The Equalising of Classes by Education69
The Working Classes85
Domestic Service93
International Schools101
The Necessity of Religion and its Influence over the People109
The Press117
Public Opinion133
The Fear of Ridicule151
Moral Courage159
The Danger of Excessive Analysis181
The Law of Compensation187
The Author and Her Book195





General Causes of Happiness

The most imperative motive of all human actions is the desire to behappy. But it is difficult to attain happiness if the search for it ismade the constant aim of one’s life, although the primordial craving forit is an instinct in our nature.

The art of living is one in which we are but ill instructed byphilosophers, scientists and metaphysicians; the first, because theyleave the meaning of life as it is to show us some end in view; thesecond, because they are but rationalist theorists; and the last,because they claim to be able to lift the veil from the Beyond. Thetruth is that life is worth living, and that in order to live happilyone must know how to draw from life a relative amount of happiness.

Simply by realising the charm of the{4} pleasures—small though theybe—which every instant of the day offers us, one may create for oneselfa source of happiness, for this realisation gives what is usually calledthe joie de vivre (the joy of living), the principle in all happynature.

Unfortunately, in the majority of cases, man does not see clearly theroad leading to happiness because he is seeking it in the immediate andcomplete satisfaction of his desires, in material or intellectualdelights whose worth he exaggerates; in superfluity, in possession, inall that he takes for happiness, but which is in reality mere enjoymentallied to fears, dangers, and regrets.

It is necessary, first of all, to simplify the causes of happiness. Toillustrate my doctrine, I ask everyone to imagine the idyll in its trueform, that is to say, as being the perfect presentment of the sentimentof love. Simplicity, whether in personal tastes, in the affections, orin daily actions, is the great secret of happiness.

With our nature, however justifiable it may be to acquaint ourselveswith partial and transitory satisfactions, we cannot build up happinesson so fragile a foundation. Fortune is unstable; notoriety, whatever itscause, fades with time; glory is a vain word; health declines,{5} and allis ruin and sorrow everywhere, save where complete satisfaction has beenbuilt up by continually aspiring towards the True, the Beautiful, andthe Good.

Again, that aspiring must be the result of cultivating, in allsimplicity, our mental “I.” Happiness lies in the depths of ourselves;it is by the right development of our personality that we may bring itinto manifestation, make of it the enfolding comfort of our days.

Is it not true, that in love, if you live in the spirit, you possessmore happiness than if you live in the senses? It is the same withmaterial existence; simplified, reduced to the normal exercise of ourfaculties, it brings us a greater share of happiness than does excess.All the vices of our nature furnish but a momentary satisfaction, andthat not unmixed with bitterness.

But how shall we attain to the development of our mental personality?First of all by the training of our Self, then by the selection ofaffinities. In this way each one, conscious of his own true desires, maybring around him those whose tastes and feelings are in harmony with hisown. So may he avoid the painful and regrettable shocks and collisions{6}which lead fatally to strife, from which combative and provocativenatures cannot emerge without wounds, weariness, or disgust.

If you are obliged to live in a country different from your own, or amidsurroundings where the mental atmosphere does not harmonise with yours,face the situation coolly; learn to be by turns the wise teacher and thewilling disciple: in this way you will become understood, appreciated,and you will preserve intact your inner happiness.

You must learn to pass through moral and intellectual atmospheres as youpass through those of the physical world. Just as you put on the costumesuitable to the season, so must your spirit assume the costume adaptedto its surroundings. Many people fear life, they are in despair over theleast ill-success; they tack about, dreading to enter the haven, andtheir mistakes vex and disconcert them. Remember that there is nocircumstance which should cast you down or prevent your enjoying life,because, I repeat, happiness is inward content, a supporting spiritwhich one may attain in spite of the worst vicissitudes or unavoidablecatastrophes. Since inward happiness proceeds from a habit of characterproduced by the training of one{7}self, the cultivation of simplicity, andadapting oneself to the uncongenial, it is necessary to submit to thesethings if one would steer his barque skilfully and taste all thatconstitutes the supreme enjoyment of life.

He who has followed these precepts will be able, when his days begin todecline, to look back calmly on the past. As he has drawn from everycircumstance in his life the greatest possible good, as he will possessthe certainty of having injured no one, he will see with infinitetranquillity the gates of Death opening before him; more especially ifhe has also cultivated a love of Nature, for the pleasure it gives byits restfulness and its eternal loveliness.{9}{8}




The will is the faculty of freely determining to do certain actions. Butin order that the will may always be the result of ideas noble in aim,it is necessary to give it some training, through the investigation ofconflicting causes and motives.

As Ribot says: “The I will declares a situation, but does notconstitute one.” To constitute a situation requires the formation ofcharacter, which is nothing more than will power. And this may beobtained by a progressive training, the secret cultivation of one’spersonality.

The human being should impress upon all his actions a unity of aim, andshow forth his character in what he does.

The education of the will, then, is indispensable in life, if only forthe avoidance of useless effort and to give us clearness of moral{12}sight. This training brings us to the mastery of ourselves, to steadypersistence in action, and uniformity of conduct. Thus considered, thewill assumes paramount importance in the life of the individual, andforms one of the most powerful forces in the world—free and willingaction under the control of sound judgment.

If you educate your will, desiring that which is good, beautiful andjust, you will never undertake mental work at a time when inauspiciouscircumstances make it liable to failure; nothing which you undertakewill remain unachieved; you will follow no aim whose fulfilment does notseem to you certain.

The immortal Guyau says: “He whose action is not in accordance with histhought, thinks incompletely.” Now, in order to think completely, anidea must be solidly based upon knowledge. And knowledge is the resultof the education of the will.

Let us make no mistake, such training gives us force which isinvaluable. A man, having considered the action he is about to perform,perceived what will be its results, grasped its utility, and shaped itto the end in view, may safely obey his will, provided his{13} moral senseis satisfied. He thus assumes, in full understanding, the responsibilityof his actions.

The effect of this idea of responsibility is that the individual willbecomes answerable to itself only. From the moment the education of thewill is completed, personal determination is almost instantaneous. Theresult is the avoidance of loss of time—we no longer exhaust ourselvesin hesitation, questionings, indecision. Besides, as we are able tobring into play, through mental use, the forces which are ours, thesense of freedom grows stronger, and with it the sense of possessing thepower to attain the end in view.

The education of the will is of such utility that, without it, theintellect is powerless to influence action. That is the reason why, inthese days, so many intellectual people are the victims of hesitationand doubt, incapable of reasoned and logical action.

A trained will brings great stability into a man’s life, first becauseit enables him to do everything at the right time, then because itprevents conflicting feelings, by strengthening the reasoning powers;and, through systematised thought, saves him from those emotionalstorms{14} which are as injurious to health as to free play of the will.

Let us no longer forget that all truly profitable actions and strongcharacters are the work of the will.

Timidity, to specify amongst qualities detrimental to the intellect,only comes from a lack of will-training, being a form ofover-emotionalism without control. He who is ignorant of the laws whichgovern feeling, will be unable to act according to the dictates ofreason.

I must make it clear that, in speaking of the education of the will, Ido not mean moral restraint. The individual should feel himself atliberty, bound only by an ideal of goodness which repudiates all thoughtof authority; neither claiming nor suffering it.

This ideal, inseparable from our conception of what is useful both toourselves and others, always takes form through the education of ourwill; giving consistency to the expression of feeling, and justifying usin our actions.

To envelop oneself in an idea, so that nothing has power to distract—towithdraw, concentrate upon it, burn for its realisation, obey itslaws—such are the principal features{15}

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