Page:Auerbach-Spinozanovel.djvu/237

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CHAPTER XII.

DISCIPLES OF DESCARTES.

SPINOZA and Oldenburg stood laughing at Meyer, who was playing with a ridiculously impish figure of glass in a long phial; it jumped up and down, and twisted about, as Meyer pressed the india-rubber stopper and declaimed magic incantations. He soon, however, ended the jest by remarking:

"Is philosophy from beginning to end anything more than this hollow imprisoned idea, the glass imp in the phial?" No one answered, and he continued, addressing Spinoza in particular: "What do you think of Descartes' imp? Two thousand years ago the creator of such a wonder might have been the founder of a religion; his praise would have been chanted in hymns to the furthest corners of the earth, and all mankind would have entreated his aid."

"That is very doubtful," was the reply. "Without some new world-stirring idea no mere worker of miracles has made his name immortal. Descartes' imp is nothing to the miracles the Jewish Cabbalists are said to have performed."