Page:Psychology and preaching.djvu/71

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MENTAL SYSTEMS 53

approximate each other will the meanings be similar; in so far as they diverge will the meanings be different. The same is true of the same person at different stages of his development. Think what the sun means to a child of three or four summers and what it means to the same person after he has become a scientific astronomer. In the first case the sun is just a great luminous body in the sky; in the latter case he thinks of the sun in terms of the immeas urable spaces and magnitudes of the heavens and thei unnumbered aeons of cosmic development. The difference in the meaning of the same object to the same person at different stages of development indicates what great differ ences of meanings may attach to the same objects in the minds of men who stand on different levels of culture. To convey a meaning from one mind to another absolutely without modification is impossible. The possibility of doing so would imply identical mental systems in the two minds, which is out of the question. A statement made to a group of persons will receive a somewhat different interpretation in each mind. This is true even of a mathematical formula, which is the nearest possible approach to the fixation of a meaning in a pattern invariable for all minds. Certainly in this extreme case there is a very different atmosphere of meaning for different persons. Would not the same mathe matical formula arouse a very different set of associations, remote references and suggestions, a different atmosphere of meaning, in the mind of the average school boy from what it would in the mind of Pierre Simon La Place? In the case of a formula of physical science the difference would probably be greater, because the subject matter of physical science does not lend itself to exact definitions, can not be cut into invariable patterns, like the subject matter of mathematics. In the use of a theological formula the diver gence of meanings is still greater. It seems to be inevitable that men who subscribe to the same theological formulas should fill them with more or less different meanings, each interpreting the formulas through the medium of his own

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