Page:Essays and phantasies by James Thomson.djvu/216

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a geometry of sunbeams the soul lays the foundations of nature. The truth and grandeur of their thought is proved by its scope and applicability, for it commands the entire schedule and inventory of things for its illustrations. But what marks its elevation, and has even a comic look to us, is the innocent serenity with which these babe-like Jupiters sit in their clouds, and from age to age prattle to each other and to no contemporary. Well assured that their speech is intelligible, and the most natural thing in the world, they add thesis to thesis, without a moment's heed of the universal astonishment of the human race below, who do not comprehend their plainest argument; nor do they ever relent so much as to insert a popular or explaining sentence; nor testify the least displeasure or petulance at the dulness of their amazed auditory."

Very ponderous burlesques of this Open Secret Society are exhibited in the universities and colleges and schools. Professors build up complicated systems with the lumber they have gathered into their uninhabited upper storeys, and these systems pass for philosophy. Other erudite professors are salaried to expound Plato and the rest; brilliant and acute scholars win reputation by writing brilliantly about ideas, archetypes, dialectics, realism, nominalism, and so forth; but where among the professors and the scholars are the Platonists? Some quiet modest man, who has never read a work on metaphysics and knows nothing of the systems, shall meet with a golden sentence of Plato or Spinoza, Bacon or Berkeley, Fichte or Schelling, and at once feel: This is what I have known so long, yet could never thus express. But he has expressed it in his life, which is utterance far superior to the most eloquent rhetoric.