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The history and philosophies of remote antiquity are laden with a mystery so obscurely fabled, that much of the patience and ingenuity, which the peculiar interest of the subject has from time to time drawn to it, has been wasted, and the keenest intellects have been baffled in endeavouring to penetrate its original idea. The dissatisfaction with which each successive enquirer has regarded the labours of those who have gone before him, and the evident failure of all to interest greatly the general mind, would indicate that the secret intention and universality which, amid all their varied imagery, so sensibly pervades the old mythologies has not been reached, nor the dull spiritless interpretations of modern learning been able to give a voice to the weighty whisperings of their fable lore.
Page 17, Line 22, for esse read esse
104, 6, for sarting read storting
We have been content to regard the ancients as strangely fanciful, and to impute to their poets and wisest philosophers such vague and futile imaginings as the least learned amongst ourselves would blush to acknowledge, idly supposing those mystic metaphors and allusions to be without meaning and incomprehensible, which we could not immediately or superficially understand. Thus has it been well said of ancient mythology, that it is like a vintage ill pressed ; we have, indeed, gathered little better than the hulls of the vineyard, having valued but for their clothing the gods of Greece, by their mere names seeking to sanctify our clumsy conceptions, or to such dead original as titles, towns, stars, watch towers and warriors, referring their immortal progeny, the nurtured and educated of old Chiron—that ancient school-master, who, when again venerable as of old he shall go
forth instructing, unfolding nature, displaying her occult physics, her mysterious centre, her universal will—in his twofold capacity manifesting, perfecting, shall he not people a new Olympus and herald a golden monarchy once more on earth ?
Then may we cease to congratulate ourselves on the enlightenment of this age, on its practical knowledge and diverse experiments, accumu
lated with little order and uncertain aim; and shall not ancient wisdom, so long neglected, again be eagerly searched out and its sacred relics appreciated, whilst our levity and profane interpretation of their holy breath, may teach humility and draw forth our admiration to its veriest bounds ? For as, by the gradual dawning upon us of their original light, we are enabled more and more closely to scrutinize the source of all obscure tradition, and increasingly to appreciate the vast intellectual labours and reputed endowments of our early ancestors, the less exulting shall we become in the particular manifestation of the progressive law as respects ourselves ; so indeed, that but for an inborn hoping faith in ultimate perfection, and the happy consummation of all things in eternity, we might rather infer that the chain of universal existence grows proportionably weaker as it lengthens out in time.
If wisdom in its completeness has ever existed or been cultivated in any age or country, Egypt would be generally acknowledged as the favoured spot; here, if any where, severe researches were made into the hidden principles and causes of things, hence were avowedly derived many Hebrew mysteries and hence in after times though secretly and partially, the truth imparted
itself to the master minds of Greece; forming for them the profound though unavowed source of that flood of speculation which, with its inner evidence yet darkly wrapped, has so long been the veneration of the Western World. Little light elapsed from the Roman tyranny, and as polite literature gained gradual ascendency over philosophic pursuit, faith supplied the conviction of known reality ; and the truth, which again became concentrated and obscured, was frittered away in those peripatetical abstractions, the fallacy of which Bacon so forcibly perceived and arrested by giving a new impetus to natural experiment, reducing it to system and scientific order. But, to use his own expressive words, truly “this inestimable gift of experience continues to be carried on a slow paced ass;" its application is yet selfish and desultory; for science, except in some sensible particulars and outward adornment, it has done nothing, and as regards humanity, it is but too evidently sacrificed to the low and fluctuating nature of external pursuit ; besides, however well an abundance of facts may serve to satisfy and furnish the mere perceptive intelligence, they do not educate the mind, or evolve that depth and reality of thought which, with the science of Universals, has languished and decayed.
But the result of all knowledge, whether of error or of truth, doubtless tends for ever onward, to diffuse the good and send forth its experience into every condition of existence ; so that although our limited sojourn permits us not always to perceive the general design through its cumbrous crust of partial operations, yet as circle after circle passes over and disappears, it leaves behind it, in its ruins, some improved principle on which to renew itself—as thus, though formerly, in its partial and concentrated form, the manifestation of mind was powerful and brilliant, yet is its diffusion now more generous, stirring, leavening, energizing the general humanity, gaining greater strength as it advances to loosen and remove through every change of opportunity, its long worn fetters of sense and ignorance; and by these means preparing all, as we would hope, to receive worthily, and with due advantage the free radiation of that living light which has so long been dimly burning and struggling within us; but which, every surrounding indication now bids us believe, is about to shine forth with an effulgence more than ever heretofore vigorous and unrestrained. Life is everywhere quickening around us ; the world moves onward at a peculiar speed, accelerating as though it neared some