Page:Psychology and preaching.djvu/271

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ASSEMBLIES 253

timents of love and longing and our more popular religious hymns, as means of developing and maintaining a sense of community of life with our fellow men.

Mental fusion may also be promoted by imaginative, pas sionate oratory. If a speaker has intense feeling himself, is gifted with the power of conveying his ideas and emo tions by means of concrete and vivid images and dramatic action, it is often possible for him without the aid of other means, and sometimes even when other influences are adverse, to convert a cold and critical audience into a highly fused and suggestible crowd. Doubtless there is not on record a more signal demonstration of the power of sheer oratory to overcome psychological difficulties than the triumph of Henry Ward Beecher in England in 1863. In his defence of the policy of the North in the great Civil War, he faced every time a coldly critical and largely hostile gathering of Britishers. He was interrupted from the be ginning by questions, taunts, insults, rotten eggs and all those intimidating methods in which British audiences excel. As, despite those violent attempts to silence him, his mag nificent patience, self-possession and good humour, rein forced by a matchless imaginative and histrionic power, won over sections of the throng, the desperation of his opponents increased ; and they redoubled their efforts to break up the mental unity which they felt to be growing, but without avail; and always in the end he remained master, though his mastery was not always equally complete. He had only one condition in his favour the close crowding of his audiences. Of course, when all other conditions are fa vourable, the task of the orator is comparatively easy. For example, when Mr. Bryan made his remarkable address at the National Democratic Convention in Chicago in 1896, nearly all the psychological conditions were in his favour. There was, to be sure, an opposing group in the convention, but they were in a decided minority ; and the debate which his address concluded had stirred intense feeling. He was the magnetic and eloquent voice of the majority; his sen-

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