Page:Essays and phantasies by James Thomson.djvu/215

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
203
OPEN SECRET SOCIETIES

were in the forefront of yours; they desecrate your holy mysteries, they stereotype your rapturous prayers into jargon and cant; for your eucharistic wine they have publican's gin-and-water, and your eucharistic bread they butter on both sides and flavour with slander at tea. Even I, poor heathen and cynic, am nearer to you, ye holy ones, than are ninety-nine in a hundred of these.

There is the Open Secret Society of the Philosophers. Many of them have endeavoured to utter their mystery, and their writings are in all languages; but none save the initiated can read them. These are they who know that the world is but a poor expression of thought, that action is but a rude hieroglyph of soul; that silent and pure and eternal, above the fleeting noisy world with its agitation of action and passion, rests the sphere of intellect, the realm of ideas. These are they of whom Emerson has written worthily: "But I cannot recite, even thus rudely, laws of the intellect, without remembering that lofty and sequestered class of men who have been its prophets and oracles, the high-priesthood of the pure reason, the Trismegisti, the expounders of the principles of thought from age to age. When, at long intervals, we turn over their abstruse pages, wonderful seems the calm and grand air of these few, these great spiritual lords, who have walked in the world—these of the old religion—dwelling in a worship which makes the sanctities of Christianity look parvenues and popular; for 'persuasion is in soul, but necessity is in intellect.' This band of grandees, Hermes, Heraclitus, Empedocles, Plato, Plotinus, Olympiodorus, Proclus, Synesius, and the rest, have somewhat so vast in their logic, so primary in their thinking, that it seems antecedent to all the ordinary distinctions of rhetoric and literature, and to be at once poetry and music and dancing and astronomy and mathematics. I am present at the sowing of the seed of the world. With