Page:Essays and phantasies by James Thomson.djvu/213

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OPEN SECRET SOCIETIES

been published! yet how dark and unintelligible is their simplest vernacular to the learned as to the ignorant, to the learned even more than to the ignorant, who are not of the Society! These are they who know, and live up to the knowledge, that love is the one supreme duty and good, that love is wisdom and purity and valour and peace, and that its infinite sorrow is infinitely better than the world's richest joy.

The solemn artificial burlesques of this Open Secret Society are the Churches, the caricatures of its mysteries are the theologies, the parodies of its sacred watchwords and symbols are the creeds and the rituals and the ceremonies. These Churches have been elaborated and organised by man as patent reservoirs and cisterns (with a parson-tap for nearly every street) of the Waters of Life; and, behold, these waters scarcely flow into them at all, but turn away and make for themselves truly secret and mysterious channels; and stream in pure perennial rills through the souls of humble men and women whom the great chartered companies (strictly limited) for the exploitation of religion despise and perhaps detest; through the souls of poor servants and bondsmen who can barely read or read not at all, of barbarians and idolaters who never heard of the Atonement or the Trinity, of heresiarchs and infidels who never enter kirk or chapel or mosque or cathedral or temple, and whom all the sects furiously revile and persecute and condemn to the abomination of desolation.

Do not be surprised or disappointed if you find very few of this holy sisterhood and brotherhood in the hierarchy of canonised saints, of pontiffs and patriarchs, cardinals, archbishops, bishops, brahmans, imans, lamas; very few of them in the great universities and colleges among the learned divines and subtle theologians, very few of them in monasteries and nunneries, very few of them among the