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apologue in Plato so striking upon this subject, that we cannot but call to it the notice of our readers. It is to be found in the opening of the seventh book of the Republic, and it does most beautifully illustrate the source of very many of the complaints of " mysticism," both philosophical and spiritual. The beauty of the extract will be sufficient apology for its length, and its appositeness will save our being accused of digression.
« Consider men as in a subterraneous habitation, resembling a cave, with its entrance expanding to the light, and answering to the whole extent of the cave. Suppose them to have been in this cave from their childhood, with chains on both their legs and necks, so as to remain there, and only be able to look before them, but by the chain incapable to turn their heads round. Suppose them likewise to have the light of a fire burning far above and behind them; and that between the fire and the fettered men there is a road above. Along this road observe a wall built like that which hedges in the stage of mountebanks, on which they exhibit their wonderful tricks. I observe it, said he. Behold now along this wall men bearing all sorts of utensils, raised above the wall, and human statues, and other animals in wood and stone, and furniture of every kind. And, as is likely, some of those who are carrying these are speaking, and others silent. You mention, said he, a wonderful comparison, and wonderful feitered men, But such, however, as resemble us, said I; for, in the first place, do you think that such as these see any thing of themselves, or of one another, but the shadows formed by the fire, falling on the opposite part of the cave? How can they, said he, if, through the whole of life, they be under a necessity, at least, of having their heads unmoved ? But what do they see of what is carrying along? Is it not the very same? Why not? If then they were able to converse with one another, do you not think they would deem it proper to give names to those very things which they saw before then? Of necessity they must. And what if the opposite part of the prison had an echo; when any of those, who passed along spake, do you imagine they would reckon that what spake was any thing else than the passing shadow ? Not I, said he. Such as these, then, said I, will entirely judge that there is nothing true but the shadows of utensils. By an abundant necessity, replied he. With reference, then, both to their freedom from these chains, and their cure of this ignorance, consider the nature of it, if such a thing should happen to them. When any one should be loosed, and obliged on a sudden to rise up, turn round his neck and walk, and look up towards the light, and in doing all these things should be pained, and unable, from the splendors, to behold the things, of which he formerly saw the shadows, what do you think he would say, if one should tell him that formerly he had seen trifles, but now, being somewhat nearer to reality, and turning toward what was more real, he saw with more rectitude; and 60, pointing out to him each of the things passing along, should question him, and oblige him to tell what it was; do you not think he would be both in doubt, and would deem what he had formerly seen
to be more true, than what was now pointed out to him? By far, said he. And if he should oblige him to look at the light itself, would he not find pain in his eyes, and shun it; and turning to such things as he is able to behold, reckon that these are really more clear than those pointed out ? Just so, replied he.
"But if one, said I, should drag him from thence, violently, through a rough and steep ascent, and never stop till he drew him up to the light of the sun, would he not, while he was thus drawn, both be in torment, and be filled with indignation ? And after he had even come to the light, having his eyes filled with splendor, he would be able to see none of those things now called true. He would not, said he, suddenly, at least. But he would require, I think, to be accustomed to it some time, if he were to perceive things above. And first of all, he would most easily perceive shadows, and afterwards the images of men and other things in water, and after that the things themselves. And with reference to these he would more easily see the things in the heavens, and the heavens themselves, by looking in the night to the light of the stars and the moon, ihan by day looking on the sun, and the light of the sun. How can it be otherwise ? And last of all, he may be able, I think, to perceive and contemplate the sun himself, not in water, nor resemblances of him in a foreign seat, but himself by himself, in his own proper region. Of necessity, said he. And aiter this, he would now reason with himself concerning him, that it is he who gives the seasons and years, and governs all things in the visible place; and that of all those things which he formerly saw, he is in a certain manner the cause. It is evident, said he, that after these things he may arrive at such reasonings as these. But what ? When he remembers his first habitation, and the vision which was there, and those who were then his companions in bonds, do you not think he will esteem himself happy by the change, and pity them; and that greatly? And if there were any honors and encomiums and rewards among themselves for him who most acutely perceived what passed along, and best remembered which of the shadows was wont to pass foremost, which latest, and which of them went together, and from these observations were best able to presage what was to happen; does it appear to you that he would be desirous of such honors, or envy those who among these are honored or in power? Or would he not rather wish to suffer that of Homer, and vehemently desire,
As laborer to some ignoble man,
To work for hire, and rather suffer any thing, than to possess such opinions, and live after such a manner? I think so, replied he, that he would rather suffer and embrace any thing, rather than live in that manner.
“But consider this farther, said I:-if such an one should descend, and sit down again in the same seat, would not his eyes be filled with darkness, in consequence of coming suddenly from the sun ? Very much so, replied he. And should he now again be obliged to give his opinion of those shadows, and to dispute about them with those who are there eternally chained, whilst yet his eyes were dazzled, and before they recovered their former state (which would not be
effected in a short time), would he not afford them laughter? And would it not be said of him, that having ascended, he was returning with vitiated eyes, and that it was not proper even to attempt to go above, and that whoever should attempt to liberate them and lead them up, if ever they were able to get him into their hands, should be put to death? They would by all means, said he, PUT HIM TO DEATH.'
Now from generation to generation we have all dwelt deep down in Plato's cave; and we have ever, in this miserable world, kept the habit of crucifying our teachers and deliverers. And the prophetic truths in this extract make one of the most remarkable passages in all ancient literature. That some men should even take it as a half-inspired prediction of the death of Christ would be no way wonderful; but putting that aside, it illustrates with a power, wisdom, and beauty, for which we reverence the academic philosopher, the habits of men in their dungeons of sense, and the difficulty of reclaiming them to light and knowledge.
There is the same relation of the fallen mind to what is spiritual in philosophy, that there is among the multitude to the theory of ghosts and apparitions. Men start back from them affrighted ; and as the only effectual way to conquer this fear is to entertain the fullest belief in the world of spirits, and to act accordingly, so in philosophy. Men are as much afraid of a spiritual philosophy at noonday, as they are of a ghost in the darkness. Robert Hall said of Macknight the commentator, that he would never step into the spiritual world, so long as he could retain a foothold in the material. Thus do men in the cave cling to materialism. Out of the very senses and sensible forms which God meant to lead us to himself, we make barriers and hedges of our faith, and objects of worship. Hezekiah contemptuously denominated the Brazen Serpent, Nehushtan, a piece of brass, and ordered it to be ground to powder. It was a signal proof both of the Popish idolatrous tendency of the best part of the world in those times, and of Hezekiah's great strength of mind in resisting it. Now our philosophy in these days, and to some extent our religion too, is full of Nehushtans, pieces of brass; and some men burn incense to them; and iconoclasts are needed as much now as ever; though a man, in dedicating himself to this work, except his own interest in fashion, place and influence be already secured, runs the hazard of breaking his own head instead of that of the image, against some disastrous theological ban or anathema, cross-bolted against him. Just as good Hezekiah, had he, instead of being king of Israel, occupied the place of some humble servant or worshipper in the temple, would have had his own head broken, or perhaps his whole body burned alive, for his daring defiance of the popular prejudices.
There are dangers of another kind, in the passionate pursuit of systems. A man deep in philosophy runs into extremes; and even in the honest, eager hunt, as he thinks, after truth, finds himself, unawares, very far from the highway of divine truth. What a lesson is taught, on this subject, in the philosophical history of the Christian Fathers! There are some rules that ought to be regarded. A man is never to let an uncertain philosophy interfere with the reception of certain Scriptural truth. Take, for example, the doctrine of election. It is so clearly revealed in the Scriptures, that no psychological or philosophical theory, or argument, or deduction of consequences, can stand against it. If my philosophy does not coincide with it, then, instead of seeking to clear up the Scriptures consentaneously with my philosophy, I will let my philosophy wait upon the Scriptures. It shall be the servant, and not the master. And if my philosophy is such, that it makes me shy of certain doctrines, which, nevertheless, I see reason to believe the Scriptures teach, I conclude that I have reason to be shy of my philosophy. The true philosophy, I am sure, as an atmosphere, so to speak, for the word of God, will clearly transmit, and not darken its rays; it will increase and not weaken my convictions of divine truth.
Again, if my philosophy is one that perplexes the mind of an inquirer on the subject of religion, if, driven to its consequences, it seems to give cover to infidelity, and to increase rather than diminish the objections of a doubting mind against the truth, I have great reason to mistrust my philosophy. Truth is never at war with truth. The word of God and the soul of man are each a revelation of the Deity, and the right interpretation of the one cannot contradict the meaning of the other. If my philosophy darkens the divine attributes, I have reason to set it down as a wrong philosophy
There are systems, which, like the mastodon or megatherium skeletons, dug up from the ruins of a former world, on being put together, indicate a sort of animal that, if living now, would eat up a hemisphere for its subsistence. We do not want a philosophy that, like the progeny of sin, feeds upon its mother's womb." X philosophy that destroys first causes, that, strictly
driven, would lead to fatalism, or deny the sovereignty or the righteousness of God, or obliterate the seals of God's image in the creature, a philosophy that perplexes the common consciousness, and contradicts the common sense of mankind, though a very subtile sophistry may be armed for its support, and in books it may have a strong place, is not the philosophy that can, or ought to prevail. It may exercise a temporary despotism in the schools, but it will not command men's belief or affections.
Again, if a philosophy be recommended, which disclaims and despises experience and common sense, we have almost as much reason to reject it, as if it denied the authority of the Scriptures. The true philosophy will be one, which puts experience and common sense in their legitimate position, and makes the proper use of them, as a truly inductive philosophy; though these qualities are not to be the regent of the mind, any more than the engine of a steam-ship is to be put in place of the compass or the rudder. And if, under the misnomer of transcendentalism, a vaunted philosophy runs into all the vagaries of pantheisin, we are sure it is not the true philosophy which has produced this; it is neither philosophy nor religion, but an element opposed to both.
We admire the presentation of this subject by professor Lewis, * and especially his abhorrence of invidious distinctions.
"There have been men, who have been ranked in the sensual school of philosophy, adorned with every Christian virtue. There have been men very slow of belief, whose faith notwithstanding has produced a rich harvest of good works, and of laborious efforts to promote the best interests of mankind; whilst others, who have declaimed the loudest about spirituality and high belief, have scattered wide around them the seeds of a pantheistic skepticism. Such facts, however, only show the results of the two states, when the barrenness of the one has been cured by the fertilizing dews of grace, and the exuber. ance of the other has been left to the blighting influence of native de
“In the hands of irreligious men, that is, men who are not in mind and heart Christians, all philosophy is irreligious. The system, which subsequently bore the name of Locke, was atheism as taught by Hobbes. By later writers of the same school, it has been shown, and truly shown, that it leads directly to materialism. The philosophy of Kant, meeting with the believing spirit of the pious Stilling, gave his soul á resting place from the difficulties which had arisen from an
* Discourse on The Believing Spirit. By Taylor Lewis, Prosessor of Greek in the University of New York.
SECOND SERIES, VOL. VII. NO. II.