The development of the social mind of a particular society up to a particular point is an intricate process. Like the underground course of the water which appears above ground as a spring, or the relative positions of the ships of a fleet during a voyage some time past, it can be traced in detail only by inference from the result and such other data as are obtainable. A complete restoration is impossible, especially if it be undertaken after the lapse of time.

Several years ago I was one of seven - that was the number as I count them up now - who provided themselves with copies of Wundt's Outlines of Psychology and met bi-weekly to read and discuss it. I know who proposed the plan to me, but where he got it I do not know, nor do I know his present whereabouts so that I could find out. Two others of the seven are away; who proposed the plan to them and what motives they had in joining I know not except by inference, though I might perhaps find out by working at it enough. But who was present at any one meeting, or just how many meetings were held, or what anyone learned of anyone else, are questions which could scarcely be answered now.

And so the social mind of even a small group is clear in only a few broad characteristics; the details of it are for the most part shadowy and soon pass into oblivion. In larger groups the complexity of the process increases much more than in proportion to the number of members. All of this comes home to us with special force when we attempt to do a bit of research work in history from the original sources.

Just as the origins of any phase of the social mind are shrouded in mystery, so also are the results. We know that there are results: there is a kind of conservation of energy in the psychical and social world as well as in the physical. We may assume that every member of that group of seven became a different man because of it, and is still passing on the influence of it to others every day he lives. But in what way he became different, or just what influences from that group he is passing on to others, he may not be able to say definitely, and much less can anyone else. Just as the waters of a spring mingle with those of the river and then of the ocean, so the thought of a group soon merges in the common thought of humanity, contributing whatever distinctive quality it has at the same time that it loses itself, though that quality is so combined with others as to be inseparable, and perhaps unrecognizable.

Varieties

When we come to distinguish varieties of the social mind it is difficult to avoid confusion. The varieties which merely run parallel to the varieties of society already distinguished - size of group, etc. - may be disregarded here, because social mind is the underlying force which builds the societies.