My Journey Continues – Instinct
It is unnecessary for me to give the details of the first part of my long journey. My companion was guided by a perceptive faculty that, like the compass, enabled him to keep in the proper course. He did not question those whom we met, and made no endeavor to maintain a given direction; and yet he was traveling in a part of the country that was new to himself. I marveled at the accuracy of his intuitive perception, for he seemed never to be at fault. When the road forked, he turned to the right or the left in a perfectly careless manner, but the continuity of his course was never interrupted. I began mentally to question whether he could be guiding us aright, forgetting that he was reading my thoughts, and he answered: ” There is nothing strange in this self-directive faculty. Is not man capable of following where animals lead? One of the objects of my special study has been to ascertain the nature of the instinct-power of animals, the sagacity of brutes. The carrier pigeon will fly to its cote across hundreds of miles of strange country. The young pig will often return to its pen by a route unknown to it; the sluggish tortoise will find its home without a guide, without seeing a familiar object; cats, horses and other animals possess this power, which is not an unexplainable instinct, but a natural sense better developed in some of the lower creatures than it is in man. The power lies dormant in man, but exists, nevertheless. If we develop one faculty we lose acuteness in some other power. Men have lost in mental development in this particular direction while seeking to gain in others. If there were no record of the fact that light brings objects to the recognition of the mind through the agency of the eye, the sense of sight in an animal would be considered by men devoid of it as adaptability to extraordinary circumstances, or instinct. So it is that animals often see clearly where to the sense of man there is only darkness; such sight is not irresponsive action without consciousness of a purpose. Man is not very magnanimous. Instead of giving credit to the lower animals for superior perception in many directions, he denies to them the conscious possession of powers imperfectly developed in mankind. We egotistically aim to raise ourselves, and do so in our own estimation by clothing the actions of the lower animals in a garment of irresponsibility. Because we can not understand the inwardness of their power, we assert that they act by the influence of instinct. The term instinct, as I would define it, is an expression applied by men to a series of senses which man possesses, but has not developed. The word is used by man to characterize the mental superiority of other animals in certain directions where his own senses are defective. Instead of crediting animals with these, to them, invaluable faculties, man conceitedly says they are involuntary actions. Ignorant of their mental status, man is too arrogant to admit that lower animals are superior to him in any way. But we are not consistent. Is it not true that in the direction in which you question my power, some men by cultivation often become expert beyond their fellows? And such men have also given very little systematic study to subjects connected with these undeniable mental qualities. The hunter will hold his course in utter darkness, passing inequalities in the ground, and avoiding obstructions he can not see. The fact of his superiority in this way, over others, is not questioned, although he can not explain his methods nor understand how he operates. His quickened sense is often as much entitled to be called instinct as is the divining power of the carrier pigeon. If scholars would cease to devote their entire energies to the development of the material, artistic, or scientific part of modern civilization, and turn their attention to other forms of mental culture, many beauties and powers of Nature now unknown would be revealed. However, this can not be, for under existing conditions, the strife for food and warmth is the most important struggle that engages mankind, and controls our actions. In a time that is surely to come, however, when the knowledge of all men is united into a comprehensive whole, the book of life, illuminated, thereby, will contain many beautiful pages that may be easily read, but which are now not suspected to exist. The power of the magnet is not uniform- engineers know that the needle of the compass inexplicably deviates from time to time as a line is run over the earth’s surface, but they also know that aberrations of the needle finally correct themselves. The temporary variations of a few degrees that occur in the running of a compass line are usually overcome after a time, and without a change of course, the disturbed needle swerves back, and again points to the calculated direction, as is shown by the vernier. Should I err in my course, it would be by a trifle only, and we could not go far astray before I would unconsciously discover the true path. I carry my magnet in my mind.”
Many such dissertations or explanations concerning related questions were subsequently made in what I then considered a very impressive, though always unsatisfactory, manner. I recall those episodes now, after other more remarkable experiences which are yet to be related, and record them briefly with little wonderment, because I have gone through adventures which demonstrate that there is nothing improbable in the statements, and I will not consume time with further details of this part of my journey.
We leisurely traversed state after state, crossed rivers, mountains and seemingly interminable forests. The ultimate object of our travels, a location in Kentucky, I afterward learned, led my companion to guide me by a roundabout course to Wheeling, Virginia, by the usual mountain roads of that day, instead of going, as he might perhaps have much more easily done, via Buffalo and the Lake Shore to Northern Ohio, and then southerly across the country. He said in explanation, that the time lost at the beginning of our journey by this route, was more than recompensed by the ease of the subsequent Ohio River trip. Upon reaching Wheeling, he disposed of the team, and we embarked on a keel boat, and journeyed down the Ohio to Cincinnati. The river was falling when we started, and became very low before Cincinnati was reached, too low for steamers, and our trip in that flat-bottomed boat, on the sluggish current of the tortuous stream, proved tedious and slow. Arriving at Cincinnati, my guide decided to wait for a rise in the river, designing then to complete our journey on a steamboat. I spent several days in Cincinnati quite pleasantly, expecting to continue our course on the steamer ” Tecumseh,” then in port, and ready for departure. At the last moment my guide changed his mind, and instead of embarking on that boat, we took passage on the steamer ” George Washington,” leaving Shipping-Port Wednesday, December 13, 1826.
During that entire journey, from the commencement to our final destination, my guide paid all the bills, and did not want either for money or attention from the people with whom we came in contact. He seemed everywhere a stranger, and yet was possessed of a talisman that opened every door to which he applied, and which gave us unlimited accommodations wherever he asked them. When the boat landed at Smithland, Kentucky, a village on the bank of the Ohio, just above Paducah, we disembarked, and my guide then for the first time seemed mentally disturbed.
” Our journey together is nearly over,” he said; ” in a few days my responsibility for you will cease. Nerve yourself for the future, and bear its trials and its pleasures manfully. I may never see you again, but as you are even now conspicuous in our history, and will be closely connected with the development of the plan in which I am also interested, although I am destined to take a different part, I shall probably hear of you again.”
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