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The passages here subjoined, from modern works in scre repute, may serve as specimens (and a multitude of such m have been added) of the kind of style alluded to:
'In truth, then, the idea (call it that of day or that night) is threefold, not twofold:-day, night, and their re tion.. Day is the thesis, night the antithesis, their rela the mesothesis of the triad,-for triad it is, and not a n pair or duad, after all. It is the same with all the or couples cited above, and with all couples, for every idea is a trinitarian. Positive pole, negative one, and that middle t wherein they are made one; sun, planet, their relation; s atom, planetary one, their conjunction, and so forth. The t of relation betwixt the opposites in these ideal pairs is so times called the point of indifference, the mesoteric point, mid-point. This mid-point is to be seen standing betwixt right and left fellow-elements in every dictionary: for exam men, man, women; or adjectively, male, human, female. God created man in His own image: in the image of ( 1 created He him; male and female created He them.''
'Now, this threefold constitution of ideas is universal. all things seem to go in pairs to sense, and to the understa. !ing, so all are seen in threes by reason. This law of antinc is no limited, no planetary law, nor yet peculiarly human; i cosmical, all-embracing, ideal, divine. Not only is it imposs for man to think beauty without simultaneously thinking formity and their point of indifference, justice without injus and theirs, unity without multiplicity and theirs, but tl several theses (beauty, justice, unity, namely) cannot be thou without these their antitheses, and without the respec middle terms of the pairs. As the eye of common-sense car have an inside without an outside, nor a solar orb withou planetary orbicle (inasmuch as it ceases to be solar the ins it is stript of its planet), so the eye of reason cannot see inside without seeing an outside, and also their connexion the inside and the outside of one and the same thing, no
sun without his planet and their synthesis in a solar system. In short, three-in-one is the law of all thought and of all things. Nothing has been created, nothing can be thought, except upon the principle of three-in-one. Three-in-one is the deepest-lying cypher of the universe."1
Again: 'The 'relativity' of human knowledge, i.e., the metaphysical limitation of it, implies, we are told, the relation of a subject knowing to an object known. And what is known must be qualitatively known, inasmuch as we must conceive every object of which we are conscious, in the relation of a quality depending upon a substance. Moreover, this qualitatively known object must be protended, or conceived as existing in time, and extended, or regarded as existing in space; while its qualities are intensive, or conceivable under degree. The thinkable, even when compelled by analysis to make the nearest approach that is possible to a negation of intelligibility, thus implies phenomena objectified by thought, and conceived to exist in space and time. With the help of these data, may we not discover and define the highest law of intelligence, and thus place the key-stone in the metaphysic arch?'
'If thou hast any tidings' (says Falstaff to Ancient Pistol) ' prithee deliver them like a man of this world.'
Again: Thus to the ancient, well-known logic, which we might call the logic of identity, and which has for its axiom, 'A thing can never be the contrary of that which it is,' Hegel opposes his own logic, according to which everything is at once that which it is, and the contrary of that which it is.' By means of this he advances a priori; he proposes a thesis, from which he draws a new synthesis, not directly (which might be impossible), but indirectly, by means of an antithesis.'
Again: 'It [Religion] is a mountain air; it is the embalmer
1 This must have been in the mind of the poet who wrote
'So down thy hill, romantic Ashbourne, glides
of the world. It is myrrh, and storax, and chlorine, and rosemary. It makes the sky and the hills sublime; and the silent song of the stars is it.
Always the seer is a sayer. Somehow his dream is told, somehow he publishes it with solemn joy, sometimes with pencil on canvas, sometimes with chisel on stone; sometimes in towers and aisles of granite,
his soul's worship is builded. Man is the wondermaker. He is seen amid miracles. The stationariness of religion; the assumption that the age of inspiration is past, that the Bible is closed; the fear of degrading the character of Jesus by representing him as a man, indicate with sufficient clearness the falsehood of our theology. It is the office of a true teacher to show us that God is, not was-that He speaketh, not spoke. The true Christianity-a faith like Christ's in the infinitude of Man-is lost. None believeth in the soul of Man, but only in some man or person old and departed! In how many churches, and by how many prophets, tell me, is Man made sensible that he is an infinite soul; that the earth and heavens are passing into his mind; and that he is drinking for ever the soul of God!
'The very word Miracle, as pronounced by christian Churches, gives a false impression; it is a monster; it is not one with the blowing clover and the falling rain. . . . Man's life is a miracle, and all that man doth. . . . A true conversion, a true Christ, is now, as always, to be made by the reception of beautiful sentiments. . . . The gift of God to the soul is not a vaunting, overpowering, excluding sanctity, but a sweet natural goodness like thine and mine, and that thus invites thine and mine to be and to grow.'
Now, without presuming to insinuate that such passages as these convey no distinct meaning to any reader, or to the writer, it may safely be maintained that to above ninety-nine hundredths—including, probably, many who admire them as profoundly wise they are very dimly, if at all, intelligible. If the writers of them were called on to explain their meaning, as
Mr. Bayes is, in The Rehearsal, they might perhaps confess as frankly as he does, that the object was merely to elevate and surprise.'
One may often hear some writers of the 'magic-lanthorn school' spoken of as possessing wonderful power, even by those who regret that this power is not better employed. It is pity,' we sometimes hear it said, 'that such and such an author does not express in simple, intelligible, unaffected English such admirable matter as his.' They little think that it is the strangeness and obscurity of the style that make the power displayed seem far greater than it is; and that much of what they now admire as originality and profound wisdom, would appear, if translated into common language, to be mere commonplace matter. Many a work of this description may remind one of the supposed ancient shield which had been found by the antiquary Martinus Scriblerus, and which he highly prized, incrusted as it was with venerable rust. He mused on the splendid appearance it must have had in its bright newness; till, one day, an over-sedulous house-maid having scoured off the rust, it turned out to be merely an old pot-lid.
It is chiefly in such foggy forms that the metaphysics and theology of Germany, for instance, are exercising a greater influence every day on popular literature. It has been zealously instilled into the minds of many, that Germany has something far more profound to supply than anything hitherto extant in our native literature; though what that profound something is, seems not to be well understood by its admirers. They are, most of them, willing to take it for granted, with an implicit faith, that what seems such hard thinking, must be very accurate and original thinking also. What is abstruse and recondite they suppose must be abstruse and recondite wisdom; though, perhaps, it is what, if stated in plain English, they would throw aside as partly trifling truisms, and partly stark folly.
It is a remark which I have heard highly applauded, that a clear idea is generally a little idea; for there are not a few
persons who estimate the depth of thought as an unskilful eye would estimate the depth of water. Muddy water is apt to be supposed to be deeper than it is, because you cannot see to the bottom; very clear water, on the contrary, will always seem less deep than it is, both from the well-known law of refraction, and also because it is so thoroughly penetrated by the sight. Men fancy that an idea must have been always obvious to every one, when they find it so plainly presented to the mind that every one can easily take it in. An explanation that is perfectly clear, satisfactory, and simple, often causes the unreflecting to forget that they had needed any explanation at all. And truths that are, in practice, frequently overlooked, they will deride as 'vapid truisms' if very plainly set forth, and will wonder that any one should think it worth while to notice them.
Now, Bacon is a striking instance of a genius who could think so profoundly, and at the same time so clearly, that an ordinary man understands readily some of his wisest sayings, and, perhaps, thinks them so self-evident as hardly to need mention. But, on re-consideration and repeated meditation, you perceive more and more what extensive and important application one of his maxims will have, and how often it has been overlooked: and on returning to it again and again, fresh views of its importance will continually open on you. One of his sayings will be like some of the heavenly bodies that are visible to the naked eye, but in which you see continually more and more, the better the telescope you apply to them.
The 'dark sayings,' on the contrary, of some admired writers, may be compared to a fog-bank at sea, which the navigator at first glance takes for a chain of majestic mountains, but which, when approached closely, or when viewed through a good glass, proves to be a mere mass of unsubstantial vapours.
A large proportion of Bacon's works has been in great