Page:Psychology and preaching.djvu/60

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42 PSYCHOLOGY AND PREACHING

��II. MEANING

The meaning of a sensation or a mental image is its reference to other parts of our experience. As isolated, a thing means nothing. To give it significance, it must be taken from its isolation and connected up with other things in consciousness. Pillsbury 1 has maintained, and justly, that a thing cannot get into consciousness except as it is judged, or given meaning, related to other parts of one s experience. Many things come into consciousness as strange, singular, anomalous. Do not these things get into consciousness without being received into the mental sys tem, without acquiring meaning? No. For when anything is pronounced " strange/ " anomalous," it is thereby judged it is a strange thing. Now " thing " is one category of meaning and " strange " is another. The thing gets into the vestibule of the mental system, so to speak, but its prob lematical character is, to the mind which is not atrophied, a constant irritant, inciting the effort to incorporate it more thoroughly into the system. As an example, I recall my experience at the time of the Charleston earthquake, in 1888. I was sitting in my chamber in Nashville, Tenn., reading aloud to my wife. We felt a shock, apparently a sudden upward push of the house, repeated two or three times. The reading stopped and we enquired simul taneously, " What was that ? " The occurrence came into our consciousness as a shock, an upward push of the house, and as such was associated with other of our experiences, i.e., was given meaning. But as a shock there was some thing strange and disconcerting about it. In a moment we exclaimed, " That felt like an earthquake." Here was a tentative association of it with another definite circle of experiences. The next morning the dispatches confirmed our inference. The incident was now more fully under stood; it had acquired more definite and certain meaning, was taken up into a larger circle of experiences. And yet

1 " Psychology of Reasoning," p. 104, ff.

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