Page:Path of Vision; pocket essays of East and West.djvu/33

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III


THE HIGHEST IDEAL


THE living spirit of the ages is made up of ideals more or less visionary in their inception, more or less unattainable in their plenitude. And in nations, as in individuals, they are subject to the law of growth and decay—the law that governs the seed in the soil, the star-dust in the planetary system—as well as to the law of conservation.

Like matter itself, an ideal is mutable, but indestructible. It does not die; it only undergoes a change. It expresses itself in art and literature and religion only after it has attained a certain degree of common conception. An idealist is ahead of his time only in the sense that he is articulate. The same is true of a nation. For even primitive people, even effete races have a message for those above or below them. The heritage of the Ideal, however small can not be exhausted.

That is why in periods of awakening, or of cataclysmic change, the light often comes

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