Page:Essays and phantasies by James Thomson.djvu/205
OPEN SECRET SOCIETIES.
integral majesty with this sickly mutilated dwarf. It remains then for the Society simply to enfranchise its members by abolishing itself, or (the course it will probably pursue for many years) to take refuge in pretence and deceit, asserting peculiar and mysterious virtues for its specimen, which is only uncommon by stunted deformity, and claiming for it heavenly powers in the absence of earthly fruits.
Secret Societies whose aim is direct action, as the overthrow of political tyranny, are likely to fail yet more conspicuously. The energy and skill which should be employed in pressing onward are mainly absorbed in the endless work of keeping the complex machine and its intricate gear in order. If the Society be swayed by a council, it will go to wreck by internal incoherences; and, at any rate, with the utmost possible harmony, a council of war never equals the inspired daring of a general. If it be wielded by one man, it may hold together and prove a most formidable engine; but will probably prove yet more formidable to the enemies than to the friends of the tyranny it was constructed to overthrow. Every member in the moment of suffering initiation abdicates his personal freedom, loses the very essence of his manhood, is no longer a living will, but the blind and dumb slave of some other unknown will, and must exist thenceforth under a despotism far more absolute than the worst which can grow up publicly to oppress mankind. And the secresy in which all the members are involved intensifies and raises to higher powers the evil of mutual distrust, which is the deepest foundation of all tyrannies in the world. Try to conceive the state of a member in social converse, when the subject of talk is the Government or the Society as rumour with its thousand tongues describes it. The man who speaks most loudly against the Government may be a brother member, may be