The Story of My Heart
Richard Jefferies




THE story of my heart commences seventeen years ago. In the glow
of youth there were times every now and then when I felt the
necessity of a strong inspiration of soulthought. My heart was
dusty, parched for want of the rain of deep feeling; my mind arid and dry,
for there is a dust which settles on the heart as well as that which falls
on a ledge. It is injurious to the mind as well as to the body to be always
in one place and always surrounded by the same circumstances. A species of
thick clothing slowly grows about the mind, the pores are choked, little
habits become a part of existence, and by degrees the mind is inclosed in a
When this began to form I felt eager to escape from it, to throw off the
heavy clothing, to drink deeply once more at the fresh fountations of life.
An inspiration--a long deep breath of the pure air of thought--could alone
give health to the heart.

There is a hill to which I used to resort at such periods. The labour of
walking three miles to it, all the while gradually ascending, seemed to
clear my blood of the heaviness accumulated at home. On a warm summer day
the slow continued rise required continual effort, which caried away the
sense of oppression. The familiar everyday scene was soon out of sight; I
came to other trees, meadows, and fields; I began to breathe a new air and
to have a fresher aspirationn. I restrained my soul till reached the sward
of the hill; psyche, the soul that longed to be loose. I would write psyche
always instead of soul to avoid meanings
which have become attached to the word soul, but it is awkward to do so.
Clumsy inddeed are all words the moment the wooden stage of commonplace life
is left. I restrained psyche, my soul, till I reached and put my foot on
the grass at the beginning of the green hill itself. Moving up the sweet
short turf, at every step my heart seemed to obtain a wider horizon of
feeling; with every inhalation of rich pure air, a deeper desire. The very
light of the sun was whiter and more brilliant here. By the time I had
reached the summit I had entirely forgotten the petty circumstances and the
annoyances of existence. I felt myself, myself. There was an intrenchment
on the summit, and going down into the fosse I walked round it slowly to
recover breath. On the south-western side there was

a spot where the outer bank had partially slipped, leaving a
gap. There the view was over a broad plain, beautiful with
wheat, and inclosed by a perfect amphitheatre of green hills.
Through these hills there was one narrow groove, or pass,
southwards, where the white clouds seemed to close in the
horizon. Woods hid the scattered hamlets and farmhouses, so
that I was quite alone.I was utterly alone with the sun and the earth.
Lying down on the grass, I spoke in my soul to the earth, the sun, the air,
and the distant sea far beyond sight. I thought of the earth's firmness--I
felt it bear me up: through the grassy couch there came an influence as if I
could feel the great earth speaking to me. I thought of the wandering
air--its pureness, which is its beauty; the air touched me and gave me
something of itself. I spoke to the sea: though so far, in my mind I saw
it, green at the rim of the earth and blue in deeper ocean;I desired to have
its strength, its mystery and glory. Then I addressed the sun, desiring the
soul equivalent of
his light and brilliance, his endurance and unwearied race. I turned to the
blue heaven over, gazing into its depth, inhaling its exquisite colour and
sweetness. The rich blue of the unattainable flower of the sky drew my soul
towards it, and there it rested, I for pure colour is rest of heart. By all
these I prayed; I felt an emotion of the soul beyond all definition; prayer
is a puny thing to it, and the word is a rude sign to the feeling, but I
know no other.By the blue heaven, by the rolling sun bursting through
untrodden space, a new ocean of ether every day unveiled. By the fresh and
wandering air encompassing the world; by the sea sounding on the shore--the
green sea white-flecked at the margin and the deep ocean; by the strong
earth under me. Then, returning, I prayed by the
sweet thyme, whose little flowers I touched with my hand ; by the slender
grass; by the crumble of dry chalky earth I took up and let fall through my
fingers. Touching the crumble of earth, the blade of grass, the thyme
flower, breathing the earth-encircling air, thinking of the sea and the sky,
out my hand for the sunbeams to touch it, prone on the sward in token of
deep reverence, thus I prayed that I might touch to the unutterable
existence infinitely higher than deity.

With all the intensity of feeling which exalted me, all the intense
communion I held with the earth, the sun and sky, the stars hidden by the
light, with the ocean--in no manner can the thrilling depth of these
feelings be written--with these I prayed, as if they were the keys of an
instrument, of an organ, with which I swelled forth the note of my soul,
redoubling my own voice by their power. The great sun burning with light;
the strong earth, dear earth; the warm sky; the pure air; the thought of
ocean; the inexpressible beauty of all filled
me with a rapture, an ecstasy, and inflatus. With this inflatus, too, I
prayed. Next to myself I came and recalled myself, my bodily existence. I
held out my hand, the sunlight
gleamed on the skin and the iridescent nails; I recalled the mystery and
beauty of the flesh. I thought of the mind with which I could see the ocean
sixty miles distant, and gather to myself its glory. I thought of my inner
existence, that consciousness which is called the soul. These, that is,
myself-- I threw into the balance to weight the prayer the heavier. My
strength of body, mind and soul, I flung into it; I but forth my strength; I
wrestled and laboured, and toiled in might of prayer. The prayer, this
soul-emotion was in itself-not for an object-it was a passion. I hid my
face in the grass, I was wholly prostrated, I lost myself in the wrestle, I
was rapt and carried away.

Becoming calmer, I returned to myself and thought, reclining in rapt
thought, full of aspiration, steeped to the lips of my soul in desire. I
did not then define, or analyses, or understand this. I see now that what I
laboured for was soul-life, more soul-nature, to be exalted, to be full of
soul-learning. Finally I rose, walked half a mile or so along the summit of
the hill eastwards, to soothe myself and come to the common ways of life
again. Had any shepherd accidentally seen me lying on the turf, he would
only have thought that I was resting a few minutes; I made no outward show.
Who could have imagined the whirlwind of passion that was going on within me
as I reclined there! I was greatly exhausted when I reached home.

Occasionally I went upon the hill deliberately, deeming it good to do so;
then, again, this craving carried me away up there of
itself. Though the principal feeling was the same, there were
variations in the mode in which it affected me.

Sometimes on lying down on the sward I first looked up at the
sky, gazing for a long time till I could see deep into the azure
and my eyes were full of the colour; then I turned my face to
the grass and thyme, placing my hands at each side of my face
so as to shut out everything and hide myself. Having drunk deeply of the
heaven above and felt the most glorious beauty of
the day, and remembering the old, old, sea, which (as it seemed
to me) was but just yonder at the edge, I now became lost, and
absorbed into the being or existence of the universe. I felt
down deep into the earth under, and high above into the sky, and
farther still to the sun and stars. Still farther beyond the stars into the
hollow of space, and losing thus my separateness of being came to seem like
a part of the whole. Then I whisper-ed to the earth beneath, through the gr
ass and thyme, down into the depth of its ear, and again up to the starry
space hid behind the blue of day. Travelling in an instant across the
distant sea, I saw as if with actual vision the palms and
cocoanut trees, the bamboos of India, and the cedars of the extreme south.
Like a lake with islands the ocean lay before me, as clear and vivid as the
plain beneath in the midst of the amphitheatre of hills.

With the glory of the great sea, I said, with the firm, solid,
and sustaining earth; the depth, distance, and expanse of ether;
the age, tamelessness, and ceaseless motion of the ocean; the
stars, and the unknown in space; by all those things which are
most powerful known to me, and by those which exist, but of which I have no
idea whatever, I pray. Further, by my own soul, that secret existence which
above all other things bears the nearest resemblance to the ideal of spirit,
infinitely nearer than earth, sun, or star. Speaking by an inclination
towards, not in words, my soul prays that I may have something from each of
these, that I may gather a flower from them, that I may have in myself the
secret and meaning of the earth, the golden sun, the light, the foam-flecked
sea. Let my soul become enlarged; I am not enough ; I am little and
contemptible. I desire a great-ness of soul, an irradiance of mind, a
deeper insight, a broader
hope. Give me power of soul, so that I may actually effect by
its will that which I strive for.

In winter, though I could not then rest on the grass, or stay
long enough to form any definite expression, I still went up to the hill
once now and then, for it seemed that to merely visit the spot repeated all
that I had previously said. But it was not only then.

In summer I went out into the fields, and let my soul inspire
these thoughts under the trees, standing against the trunk, or looking up
through the branches at the sky. If trees could speak, hundreds of them
would say that I had had these soul-emotions under them. Leaning against the
oak's massive
trunk, and feeling the rough bark and the lichen at my back, looking
southwards over the grassy fields, cowslip-yellow, at the woods on the
slope, I thought my desire of deeper soul-life. Or under the green firs,
looking upwards, the sky was more deeply blue at their tops; then the brake
fern was unroll-
ing, the doves cooing, the thickets astir, the late ash-leaves
coming forth. Under the shapely rounded elms, by the hawthorn bushes and
hazel, everywhere the same deep desire for the soul-nature; to have from all
green things and from the sunlight the inner meaning which was not known to
them, that I might be full of light as the woods of the sun's rays. Just to
touch the lichened bark of a tree, or the end of a spray projecting
over the path as I walked, seemed to repeat
the same prayer in me.

The long-lived summer days dried and warmed the turf in the meadows. I used
to lie down in solitary corners at full length on my back, so as to feel the
embrace of the earth. The grass stood high above me, and the shadows of the
tree-branches danced on my face. I looked up at the sky, with halfclosed
eyes to bear the dazzling light. Bees buzzed over me, sometimes a butterfly
there was a hum in the air, greenfinches sang in the hedge. Gradually
entering into the intense life of the summer days--a life which burned
around as if every grass blade and leaf were a torch--I came to feel the
longdrawn life of the earth back into the dimmest past, while the sun of the
moment was warm on me. Sesostris on the most ancient sands of the south,in
ancient, ancient days, was conscious of himself and of the sun. This
sunlight linked me through the ages to that past consciousness. From all
the ages my soul desired to take that soul-life which had flowed through
them as the sunbeams had continually poured on earth. As the hot sands take
up the heat, so would I take up that soul-energy. Dreamy in appearance, I
was breathing full of
existence; I was aware of the grass blades, the flowers, the leaves on hawth
orn and tree. I seemed to live more largely through them, as if each were a
pore through which I drank.
The grasshoppers called and leaped, the greenfinches
sang, the blackbirds happily fluted, all the air hummed with
life. I was plunged deep in existence, and with all that
existence I prayed.

Through every grass blade in the thousand, thousand grasses;
through the million leaves, veined and edge-cut, on bush and
tree; through the song-notes and the marked feathers of the
birds; through the insects' hum and the colour of the butterflies; through
the soft warm air, the flecks of clouds
dissolving--I used them all for prayer. With all the energy the
sunbeams had poured unwearied on the earth since Sesostris was
conscious of them on the ancient sands; with all the life that
had been lived by vigorous man and beauteous woman since first
in dearest Greece the dream of the gods was woven; with all the
soul-life that had flowed a long stream down to me, I prayed
that I might have a soul more than equal to, far beyond my conception of,
these things of the past, the present, and the fulness of all life. Not
only equal to these, but beyond, higher, and more powerful than I could
imagine. That I might take from all their energy, grandeur, and beauty, and
gather it into me. That my soul might be more than the cosmos of

I prayed with the glowing clouds of sun-set and the soft light of the first
star coming through the violet sky. At night with the stars, according to
the season : now with the Pleiades, now with the Swan or burning Sirius, and
broad Orion's whole
constellation, red Aldebaran, Arcturus, and the Northern Crown;
with the morning star, the lightbringer, once now and then when
I saw it, a white-gold ball in the violet-purple sky, or framed
about with pale summer vapour floating away as red streaks shot
horizontally in the east. A diffused saffron ascended into
the luminous upper azure. The disk of the sun rose over the
hill, fluctuating with throbs of light; his chest heaved in
fervour of brilliance. All the glory of the sunrise filled me with broader
and furnace-like vehemence of prayer. That I might have the deepest of
soul-life, the deepest of all, deeper far than all this greatness of the
visible universe and even of the invisible; that I might have a fulness of
soul till now unknown, and utterly beyond my own conception.

In the deepest darkness of the night the same thought rose in my
mind as in the bright light of noontide. What is there which I
have not used to strengthen the same emotion?


SOMETIMES I went to a deep, narrow valleyin the hills, silent and solitary.
The sky crossed from side to side, like a roof supported on two walls of
green. Sparrows chirped in the wheat at the verge above, their calls
falling like the twittering of swallows from the air. There was no other
sound. The short grass was dried grey as it grew by the heat; the sun hung
over the narrow vale as if it had been put there by hand. Burning, burning,
the sun glowed on the sward at the footof the slope where these thoughts
burned into me. How many, many years, how many cycles of years, how many
bundles ofcycles of years, had the sun glowed down thus on that hollow?
Since it was formed how long? Since it was worn and shaped,groove-like, in
the flanks of the hills by mighty forces which had ebbed. Alone with the
sun which glowed on the work when it was done, I saw back through space to
the old time of tree-ferns, of the lizard
flying through the air, the lizard-dragon wallowing in sea foam, the
mountainous creatures, twice-elephantine, feeding on land; all the crooked
sequence of life. The dragon-fly which passed me traced a continuous
descent from the fly marked on stone in those days. The immense time lifted
me like a wave rolling under a boat; my mind seemed to raise itself as the
swell of the cycles came; it felt strongwith the power of the ages. With
all thattime and power I prayed: that I might have in my soul the
intellectual part of it; theidea, the thought. Like a shuttle the mind shot
to and fro the past and the present, in an instant.

Full to the brim of the wondrous past, I felt the wondrous
present. For the day--the very moment I breathed, that second of time then
in the valley, was as marvellous, as grand, as all
that had gone before. Now, this moment was the wonder and the
glory.Now,this moment was exceedingly wonder-
ful. Now, this moment give me all the
thought, all the idea, ali the soul expressed in the cosmos
around me. Give me still more, for the interminable universe,
past and present, is but earth; give me the unknown soul, wholly
apart from it, the soul of which I know only that when I touch
the ground, when the sunlight touches my hand,it is not there. Therefore
the heart looks into space to be away from earth. With all the cycles, and
the sunlight streaming through them, with all that is meant by the present,
I thought in the deep vale and prayed.

There was a secluded spring to which I sometimes went to drink
the pure water, lifting it in the hollow of my hand. Drinking
the lucid water, clear as light itself in solution, I absorbed
the beauty and purity of it. I drank the thought of the element; I desired
soul-nature pure and limpid. When I saw the
sparkling dew on the grass--a rainbow broken into drops--it called up the
same thought-prayer. The stormy wind whose sudden twists laid the trees on
the ground woke the same feeling; my heart shouted with it. The soft summer
air which entered when I
opened my window in the morning breathed the same sweet desire.
At night, before sleeping, I always looked out at the shadowy trees, the
hills looming indistinctly in the dark, a star seen between the drifting
clouds; prayer of soul-life always. I chose the highest room, bare and
gaunt, because as I sat at work I could look out and see more of the wide
earth, more of the dome of the sky, and could think my desire through these.
When the crescent of the new moon shone, all the old thoughts were renewed.

All the succeeding incidents of the year repeated my prayer as
I noted them. The first green leaf on the hawthorn, the first
spike of meadow grass, the first song of the nightingale, the
green ear of wheat. I spoke it with the ear of wheat as the sun
tinted it golden; with the whitening barley; again with the red gold spots
of autumn on the beech, the buff oak leaves, and the gossamer dew-weighted.
All the larks over the green corn sang it for me, all the dear swallows; the
green leaves rustled it; the green brookflags waved it; the swallows took it
with them to repeat it for me in distant lands. By the running brook I
meditated it; a flash of sunlight here in the curve, a flicker yonderon the
ripples, the birds bathing in the sandy shallow, the rush of falling water.
As the brook ran winding through the
meadow, so one thought ran winding through my days.

The sciences I studied never checked it for a moment; nor did the books of
old philosophy. The sun was stronger than science;
the hills more than philosophy. Twice circumstances gave me a brief view of
the sea then the passion rose tumultuous as the
waves. It was very bitter to me to leave the sea.

Sometimes I spent the whole day walking over the hills
searching for it; as if the labour of walking would force it
from the ground. I remained in the woods for hours, among the
ash sprays and the fluttering of the ring-doves at their nests,
the scent of pines here and there, dreaming my prayer.

My work was most uncongenial and useless, but even then sometimes a
gleam of sunlight on the wall, the buzz of a bee at the window, would bring
the thought to me. Only to make me miserable, for it was a waste of golden
time while the rich sunlight streamed on hill and plain. There was a
wrenching of the mind, a straining of the mental sinews; I was forced to do
this, my mind was yonder. Weariness, exhaustion, nerve-illness often
ensued. The insults which are showered on poverty, long struggle of labour,
the heavy pressure of circumstances, the unhappiness, only stayed the
expression of the feeling. It was always there. Often in the streets of
London, as the red sunset flamed over the houses, the old thought, the old
prayer, came.

Not only in grassy fields with green leaf and running brook did
this constant desire find renewal. More deeply still with
living human beauty; the perfection of form, the simple fact of
form, ravished and always willravish me away. In this lies the outcome and
end of all the loveliness of sunshine and green leaf, of flowers, pure
water, and sweet air. This is embodiment and highest ex-pression; the
scattered, uncertain, and designless loveliness of tree and sunlight brought
to shape. Through this beauty Iprayed deepest and longest, and down to this
hour. The shape--the divine idea of that shape--the swelling muscle or the
dreamy limb, strong sinew or curve of bust, Aphrodite or Hercules, it is the
same. That I may have the soul-life, the soul-nature, let divine beauty
bring to me divine soul. Swart Nubian, white Greek, delicate Italian,
massive Scandinavian, in all the exquisite pleasure the form gave, and
gives, to me immediately becomes intense prayer.

If I could have been in physical shape like these, how
despicable in comparison I am; to be shapely of form is so
infinitely beyond wealth, power, fame, all that ambition can give, that
these are dust before it. Unless of the human form, no pictures hold me;
the rest are flat surfaces. So, too, with
the other arts, they are dead; the potters, the architects,
meaningless, stony, and some repellent, like the cold touch of
porcelain. No prayer with these. Only the human form in art
could raise it, and most in statuary. I have seen so little
good statuary, it is a regret to me; still, that I have is
beyond all other art. Fragments here, a bust yonder, the
broken pieces brought from Greece, copies, plaster casts, a
memory of an Aphrodite, of a Persephone, of an Apollo, that is
all; but even drawings of statuary will raise the prayer.
These statues were like myself full of a thought, for ever
about to burst forth as a bud, yet silent in the same attitude.
Give me to live the soul-life they express. The smallest
fragment of marble carved in the shape of the human arm will wake the desire
I felt in my hill-prayer.

Time went on; good fortune and success never for an instant
deceived me that they were in themselves to be sought; only my
soul-thought was worthy. Further years bringing much suffering,
grinding the very life out; new troubles, renewed insults, loss
of what hard labour had earned, the bitter question: Is it not
better to leap into the sea? These, too, have made no
impression; constant still to the former prayer my mind endures.
It was my chief regret that I had not endeavoured to write these things, to
give expression to this passion. I am now trying, but I see that I shall
only in part succeed.

The same prayer comes to me at this very hour. It is now less
solely associated with the sun and sea, hills, woods, or
beauteous human shape. It is always within. It requires no waking; no
renewal; it is always with me. I am it; the fact of my existence expresses
it.After a long interval I came to the hills again, this time by the coast.
I found a deep hollow on the side of a great hill, a green concave opening
to the sea, where I could rest and think in perfect quiet. Behind me were
furze bushes dried by the heat; immediately in front dropped the steep
descent of the bowl-like hollow which received and brought up to me the
faint sound of the summer waves. Yonder lay the immense plain of sea, the
palest green under the continued sunshine, as though the heat had evaporated
the colour from it; there was no distinct horizon, a heat-mist inclosed it
and looked farther away than the horizon would have done. Silence and
sunshine, sea and hill gradually brought my mind into the condition of
intense prayer. Day after day, forhours at a time, I came there, my
soul-desire always the same. Presently I began to consider how I could put
a part of that prayer into form, giving it an object. Could I bring it into
such a shape as would admit of actually working upon the lines it indicated
for any good ?

One evening, when the bright white star in Lyra was shining
almost at the zenith over me, and the deep concave was the more
profound in the dusk, I formulated it into three divisions.
First, I desired that I might do or find something to exalt the
soul, something to enable it to live its own life, a more
powerful existence now. Secondly, I desired to be able to do something for
the flesh, to make a discovery or perfect a method by which the fleshly body
might enjoy more pleasure, longer life, and suffer less pain. Thirdly, to
construct a more flexible engine with which to carry into execution the
design of the will. I called this the Lyra prayer, to distinguish it from
the far deeper emotion in which the soul was alone

Of the three divisions, the last was of so little importance
that it scarcely deserved to be named in conjunction with the
others. Mechanism increases convenience--in no degree does it
confer physical or moral perfection. The rudimentary engines
employed thousands of years ago in raising buildings were in
that respect equal to the complicated machines of the present
day. Control of iron and steel has not altered or improved the
bodily man. I even debated some time whether such a third
division should be included at all. Our bodies are now conveyed
all round the world with ease, but obtain no advantage. As they start so
they return. The most perfect human families of ancient times were almost
stationary, as those of Greece. Perfection of form was found inSparta; how
small a spot compared to those continents over which we are now taken so
quickly! Such perfection of form might perhaps again dwell, contented and
complete in itself, on such a strip of land as I could see between me and
the sand of the sea. Again, a watch keeping correct time is no guarantee
that the bearer shall not suffer pain. The owner of the watch may be
soulless, without mind-fire, a mere creature. No benefit to the
heart or to the body accrues from the most accurate mechanism.
Hence I debated whether the third division should be included.
But I reflected that time cannot be put back on the dial, we
cannot return to Sparta; there is an existent state of things,
and existent multitudes; and possibly a more powerful engine,
flexible to the will, might give them that freedom which is the
one, and the one only, political or social idea I possess. For
liberty, therefore, let it be included.

For the flesh, this arm of mine, the limbs of others gracefully moving, let
me find something that will give them greater per-
fection. That the bones may be firmer, somewhat larger if that would be an
advantage, certainly stronger, that the cartilage and sinews may be more
enduring, and the muscles more powerful, something after the manner of those
ideal limbs and muscles sculptured of old, these in the flesh and real. That
the organs of the body may be stronger in their action, perfect, and
lasting. That the exterior flesh may be yet more beautiful; that the shape
may be finer, and the motions graceful. These are the soberest words I can
find, purposely chosen; for I am so rapt in the beauty of the human form,
and so earnestly, so inexpressibly, prayerful to see that form perfect, that
my full thought is not to be written. Unable to express it fully, I have
considered it best to put it in the simplest manner of words. I believe in
the human form; let me find something, some method, by which that form may
achieve the utmost beauty. Its beauty is like an arrow, which may be shot
any distance according to the strength of the bow. So the idea expressed in
the human shape is capable of indefinite expansion and elevation of beauty.

Of the mind, the inner consciousness, the soul, my prayer
desired that I might discover a mode of life for it, so that it
might not only conceive of such a life, but actually enjoy it on
the earth. I wished to search out a new and higher set of ideas
on which the mind should work. The simile of a new book of the
soul is the nearest to convey the meaning--a book drawn from
the present and future, not the past. Instead of a set of ideas based on
tradition, let me give the mind a new thought drawn straight from the
wondrous present, direct this very hour. Next, to furnish the soul with the
means of executing its will, of carrying thought into action. In other
words, for the soul to
become a power. These three formed the Lyra prayer, of which the two first
are immeasurably the in more important. I believe in the human being, mind
and flesh; form and soul.

It happened just afterwards that I went to Pevensey, and
immediately the ancient wall swept my mind back seventeen
hundred years to the eagle, the pilum, and the short sword. The
grey stones, the thin red bricks laid by those whose eyes had
seen Caesar's Rome, lifted me out of the grasp of house-life,
of modern civilisation, of those minutiae which occupy the
moment. The grey stone made me feel as if I had existed from
then till now, so strongly did I enter into and see my own
life as if reflected. My own existence was focused back on me;
I saw its joy, its unhappiness, its birth, its death, its
possibilities among the infinite, above all its yearning
Question. Why? Seeing it thus clearly, and lifted out of the
moment by the force of seventeen centuries, I recognised the
full mystery and the depths of things in the roots of the dry
grass on the wall, in the green sea flowing near. Is there
anything I can do? The mystery and the possibilities are not in
the roots of the grass, nor is the depth of things in the sea; they are in
my existence, in my soul. The marvel of existence,
almost the terror of it, was flung on me with crushing force by
the sea, the sun shining, the distant hills. With all their
ponderous weight they made me feel myself: all the time, all the
centuries made me feel myself this moment a hundred-fold. I
determined that I would endeavour to write what I had so long
thought of, and the same evening put down one sentence. There
the sentence remained two years. I tried to carry it on; I hesitated
because I could not express it: nor can I now, though in desperation I am
throwing these rude stones of thought together, rude as those of the ancient


THERE were grass-grown tumuli on the hills to which of old I used to walk,
sit down at the foot of one of them, and think. Some warrior had been
interred there in the antehistoric times. The sun of the summer morning
shone on the dome of sward, and the air came softly up from the wheat below,
the tips of the grasses swayed as it passed sighing faintly, it ceased, and
the bees hummed by to the thyme and heathbells. I became absorbed in the
glory of the day, the sunshine, the sweet air, the yellowing corn turning
from its sappy green to summer's noon of gold, the lark's song like a
waterfall in the sky. I felt at that moment that I was like the spirit of
the man whose body was interred in the tumulus; I could understand and feel
his existence the same as my own. He was as real to me two thousand years
after interment as those I had seen in the body. The abstract personality of
the dead seemed as existent as thought. As my
thought could slip back the twenty centuries in a moment to the forest-days
when he hurled the spear, or shot with the bow, hunting the deer, and could
return again as swiftly to this moment, so his spirit could endure from then
till now, and the time was nothing.

Two thousand years being a second to the soul could not cause
its extinction. Itwas no longer to the soul than my thought occupied to me.
Recognising my own inner consciousness, the psyche, so clearly, death did
not seem to me to affect the personality.In dissolution there was no
bridgeless chasm, no unfathomable gulf of separation; the spirit did not
immediately become inaccesible, leaping at a bound to an immeasurable
distance. Look at another person while living;
the soul is not visible, only the body which it animates. Therefore, merely
because after death the soul is not visible is no demonstration that it does
not still live.
The condition of being unseen is the same condition which occurs
while the body is living, so that intrinsically there is nothing
exceptionable, or supernatural, in the life of the soul after death. Resting
by the tumulus, the spirit of the man who had been interred there was to me
really alive, and very close. This was quite natural, as natural and simple
as the grass waving in the wind, the bees humming, and the larks' songs.
Only by the strongest effort of the mind could I understand the idea of
extinction; that was supernatural, requiring a miracle; the immortality of
the soul natural, like earth. Listening to the sighing of the grass I felt
immortality as I felt the beauty of the summer morning, and I thought beyond
immortality, of other conditions, more beautiful than existence, higher than

That there is no knowing, in the sense of written reasons,
whether the soul lives on or not, I am fully aware. I do not
hope or fear. At least while I am living I have enjoyed the
idea of immortality, and the idea of my own soul. If then,
after death, I am resolved without exception into earth, air,
and water, and the spirit goes out like a flame, still I shall
have had the glory of that thought.

It happened once that a man was drowned while bathing, and his
body was placed in an outhouse near the garden. I passed the
outhouse continually, sometimes on purpose to think about it,
and it always seemed to me that the man was still living.
Separation is not to be comprehended; the spirit of the man did not appear
to have gone to an in conceivable distance. As my thought flashes itself
back through the centuries to the luxury of Canopus, and can see the gilded
couches of a city extinct, so it slips through the future, and immeasurable
time in front is no bounandary to it. Certainly the man was not dead to me.

Sweetly the summer air came up to the tumulus, the grass sighed softly, the
butterflies went by, sometimes alighting on the green dome. Two thousand
years! Summer after summer the blue butterflies had visited the mound, the
thyme had flowered, the wind sighed in the grass. The azure morning had
spread its arms over the low tomb; and full glowing noon burned on it; the
purple of sunset rosied the sward. Stars, ruddy in the vapour of the
southern horizon, beamed at midnight through the mystic summer night, which
is dusky and yet full of light. White mists swept up and hid it; dews rested
on the turf; tender harebells drooped; the wings of the finches fanned the
air--finches whose colours faded from the wings how many centuries ago!
Brown autumn dwelt in the woods beneath; the rime of winter whitened the
beech clump on the ridge; again the buds came on the wind-blown hawthorn
bushes, and in the evening the broad constellation of Orion covered the
east. Two thousand times! Two thousand times the woods grew green, and
ring-doves built their nests. Day and night for two thousand years--light
and shadow sweeping over the mound--two thousand years of labour by day and
slumber by night. Mystery gleaming in the stars, pouring down in the
sunshine, speaking in the night, the wonder of the sun and of far space, for
twenty centuries round about this low and green-grown dome. Yet all that
mystery and wonder is as nothing to the Thought that lies therein, to the
spirit that I feel so close.

Realising that spirit, recognising my own inner consciousness,
the psyche, so clearly, I cannot understand time. It is
eternity now. I am in the midst of it. It is about me in the
sunshine; I am in it, as the butterfly floats in the light-laden
air. Nothing has to come; it is now. Now is eternity; now is
the immortal life. Here this moment, by this tumulus, on earth,
now; I exist in it. The years, the centuries, the cycles are
absolutely nothing; it is only a moment since this tumulus was raised; in a
thousand years it will still be only a moment. To the soul there is no past
and no future; all is and will be
ever, in now. For artificial purposes time is mutually agreed
on, but is really no such thing. The shadow goes on upon the dial, the index
moves round upon the clock, and what is the difference? None whatever. If
the clock had never been set going, what would have been the difference?
There may be time for the clock, the clock may make time for itself; there
is none for me.

I dip my hand in the brook and feel the stream; in an instant
the particles of water which first touched me have floated
yards down the current, my hand remains there. I take my hand
away, and the flow--the time--of the brook does not exist to me.
The great clock of the firmament, the sun and the stars, the
crescent moon, the earth circling two thousand times, is no
more to me than the flow of the brook when my hand is withdrawn; my soul has
never been, and never can be, dipped in
time. Time has never existed, and never will; it is a purely
artificial arrangement. It is eternity now, it always was eternity, and
always will be. By no possible means could I get into time if I tried. I am
in eternity now and must there remain. Haste not, be at rest, this Now is
eternity. Because the idea of time has left my mind--if ever it had any
hold on it--to me the man interred in the tumulus is living now as I live.
We are both in eternity.

There is no separation-no past; eternity, the Now, is
continuous. When all the stars have revolved they only produce
Now again. The continuity of Now is for ever. So that it
appears to me purely natural, and not super natural, that the
soul whose temporary frame was interred in this mound should be
existing as I sit on the sward. How infinitely deeper is thought than the
million miles of the firmament! The wonder is here, not there; now, not to
be, now always. Things that have been miscalled supernatural appear to me
simple,more natural than nature, than earth, than sea,or sun. It is beyond
telling more natural that I should have a soul than not, that there should
immortality; I think there is much more than immortality. It
is matter which is the supernatural, and difficult of under-standing. Why
this clod of earth I hold in my hand? Why this water which drops sparkling
from my fingers dipped in the brook?
Why are they at all? When? How? What for? Matter is beyond understanding,
mysterious, impenetrable; I touch it easily, comprehend it, no. Soul,
mind--the thought, the idea--is easily understood, it understands itself and
is conscious.

The supernatural miscalled, the natural in truth, is the real.
To me everything is supernatural. How strange that condition of mind which
cannot accept anything but the earth, the sea, the tangible universe!
Without the misnamed supernatural these to me seem incomplete, unfinished.
Without soul all these are dead. Except when I walk by the sea, and my soul
is by it, the sea is dead. Those seas by which no man has stood-- which no
soul has been--whether on earth or the planets, are dead. No matter how
majestic the planet rolls in space, unless a soul be there it is dead. As I
move about in the sunshine I feel in the midst of the supernatural: in the
midst of immortal things. It is impossibble to wrest the mind down to the
same laws that rule pieces of timber, water, or earth. They do not control
the soul, however rigidly they may bind matter. So full am I always of a
sense of the immortality now at this moment round about me, that it would
not surprise me in the least if a circumstance outside physical experience
occurred. It would seem to me quite natural. Give the soul the power it
conceives, and there would be nothing wonderful in it.

I can see nothing astonishing in what are called miracles.
Only those who are mesmerised by matter can find a difficulty in
such events. I am aware that the evidence for miracles is
logically and historically untrustworthy; I am not defending
recorded miracles. My point is that in principle I see no
reason at all why they should not take place this day. I do not
even say that there are or ever have been miracles, but I maintain that they
would be perfectly natural. The wonder rather is that they do not happen
frequently. Consider the limitless conceptions of the soul: let it possess
but the power to realise those conceptions for one hour, and how little, how
trifling would be the helping of the injured or the sick to regain health
and happiness--merely to think it. A soul-work would require but a thought.
Soul-work is an expression better suited to my meaning than "miracle," a
term like others into which a special sense has been infused.

When I consider that I dwell this moment in the eternal Now that
has ever been and will be, that I am in the midst of immortal
things this moment, that there probably are Souls as infinitely
superior to mine as mine to a piece of timber, what then, pray,
is a "miracle"? As commonly understood, a "miracle" is a mere nothing. I can
conceive soul-works done by simple will or thought a thousand times greater.
I marvel that they do not
happen this moment. The air, the sunlight, the night, all that
surrounds me seems crowded with inexpressible powers, with the
influence of Souls, or existences, so that I walk in the midst
of immortal things. I myself am a living witness of it.
Sometimes I have concentrated myself, and driven away by continued will all
sense of outward appearances, looking
straight with the full power of my mind inwards on myself.
I find "I" am there; an "I" I do not wholly understand, or know--something
is there distinct from earth and timber, from flesh and bones. Recognising
it, I feel on the margin of a life unknown, very near, almost touching it:
on the verge of powers which if I could grasp would give me an immense
breadth of existence, an ability to execute what I now only conceive; most
probably of far more than that. To see that "I" is to know that I am
surrounded with immortal things. If, when I die, that "I" also dies, and
becomes extinct, still even then I have had the
exaltation of these ideas.

How many words it has taken to describe so briefly the feelings
and the thoughts that came to me by the tumulus; thoughts that
swept past and were gone, and were succeeded by others while yet
the shadow of the mound had not moved from one thyme flower to
another, not the breadth of a grass blade. Softly breathed the sweet south
wind, gently the yellow corn waved beneath; the ancient, ancient sun shone
on the fresh grass and the flower, my heart opened wide as the broad, broad
earth. I spread my arms out, laying them on the sward, seizing the grass, to
take the fulness of the days. Could I have my own way after death I would be
burned on a pyre of pine-wood, open to the air, and placed on the summit of
the hills. Then let my ashes be scattered abroad--not collected urn an
urn--freely sown wide and broadcast. That is the natural interment of
man--of man whose Thought at least has been among the immortals; interment
in the elements. Burial is not enough, it does not give sufficient solution
into the elements speedily; a furnace is confined. The high open air of the
topmost hill, there let the tawny flame lick up the fragment called the
body; there cast the ashes into the space it longed for while living. Such
a luxury of interment is only for the wealthy; I fear I shall not be able to
afford it. Else the smoke of my resolution into the elements should
certainly arise in time on the hill-top.

The silky grass sighs as the wind comescarrying the blue butterfly more
rapidly thanhis wings. A large humble-bee burrs round the green dome against
which I rest; my hands are scented with thyme. The sweetness of the day,
the fulness of the earth, the beauteous earth, how shall I say it?

Three things only have been discovered of that which concerns the inner
consciousness since before written history began. Three things only in
twelve thousand written, or sculptured, years, and in the dumb, dim time
before then. Three ideas the Cavemen primeval wrested from the unknown, the
night which is round us still in daylight--the existence of the soul, im-
mortality, the deity. These things found, prayer followed as a sequential
result. Since then nothing further has been found in all the twelve thousand
years, as if men had been satisfied and had found these to suffice. They do
not suffice me. I desire to advance further, and to wrest afourth, and even
still more than a fourth, from the darkness of thought. I want more ideas of
soul-life. I am certain that there are more yet to be found. A great
life--an entire civilisation--lies just outside the pale of common thought.
Cities and countries, inhabitants, intelligences, culture--an entire
civilisation. Except by illustrations drawn from familiar things, there is
no way of
indicating a new idea. I do not mean actual cities, actual civilisation.
Such life is different from any yet imagined. A nexus of ideas exists of
which nothing is known--a vast system of ideas--a cosmos of thought. There
is an Entity, a Soul-Entity, as yet unrecognised. These, rudely expressed,
constitute my Fourth Idea. It is beyond, or beside, the three discovered by
the Cavemen; it is in addition to the existence of the soul; in addition to
immortality; and beyond the idea of the deity. I think there is something
more than existence.

There is an immense ocean over which the mind can sail, upon which the
vessel of thought has not yet been launched. I hope
to launch it. The mind of so many thousand years has worked
round and round inside the circle of these three ideas as a
boat on an inland lake. Let us haul it over the belt of land,
launch on the ocean, and sail outwards.

There is so much beyond all that has ever yet been imagined.
As I write these words, in the very moment, I feel that the
whole air, the sunshine out yonder lighting up the
ploughed earth, the distant sky, the circumambient ether, and
that far space, is full of soul-secrets, soul-life, things
outside the experience of all the ages. The fact of my own
existence as I write, as I exist at this second, is so
marvellous, so miracle-like, strange, and supernatural to me,
that I unhesitatingly conclude I am always on the margin of life
illimitable, and that there are higher conditions than
existence. Everything around is supernatural; everything so
full of unexplained meaning.

Twelve thousand years since the Caveman stood at the mouth of his cavern and
gazed out at the night and the stars. He looked again and saw the sun rise
beyond the sea. He reposed in the noontide heat under the shade of the
trees, he closed his eyes and looked into himself. He was face to face with
the earth, the sun, the night; face to face with himself. There was nothing
between; no wall of written tradition; no builtup system of
culture--his naked mind was confronted by naked earth. He made
three idea-discoveries, wresting them from the unknown; the
existence of his soul, immortality, the deity. Now, to-day, as
I write, I stand in exactly the same position as the Caveman.
Written tradition, systems of culture, modes of thought, have
for me no existence. If ever they took any hold of my mind it
must have been very slight; they have long ago been erased.

>From earth and sea and sun, from night, the stars, from day,
the trees, the hills, from my own soul--from these I think. I
stand this moment at the mouth of the ancient cave, face to face with
nature, face to face with the supernatural, with myself. My naked mind
confronts the unknown. I see as clearly as the noonday that this is not all;
I see other and higher conditions than existence; I see not only the
existence of the soul, immortality, but, in addition, I realise a soul-life
illimitable; I realise the existence of a cosmos of thought; I
realise the existence of an inexpressible entity infinitely
higher than deity. I strive to give utterance to a Fourth Idea.
The very idea that there is another idea is something gained.
The three found by the Cavemen are but steppingstones: first
links of an endless chain. At the mouth of the ancient cave,
face to face with the unknown, they prayed. Prone in heart to-
day I pray, Give me the deepest soul-life.


THE wind sighs through the grass, sighs in the sunshine; it has
drifted the butterfly eastwards along the hill. A few yards
away there lies the skull of a lamb on the turf, white and
bleached, picked clean long since by crows and ants. Like the
faint ripple of the summer sea sounding in the hollow of the
ear, so the sweet air ripples in the grass. The ashes of the
man interred in the tumuius are indistinguishable; they have
sunk away like rain into the earth; so his body has disappeared.
I am under no delusion; I am fully aware that no demonstration can be given
of the three stepping-stones of the Cavemen. The soul is inscrutable; it is
not in evidence to show that it exists; immortality is not tangible. Full
well I know that
reason and knowledge and experience tend to disprove all three;
that experience denies answer to prayer. I am under no delusion
whatever; I grasp death firmly in conception as I can grasp this
bleached bone; utter extinction, annihilation. That the soul is
a product at best of organic composition; that it goes out like
a flame. This may be the end; my soul may sink like rain into
the earth and disappear. Wind and earth, sea, and night and
day, what then? Let my soul be but a product, what then? I say it is nothing
to me; this only I know, that while I have lived--now, this moment, while I
live--I think immortality, I lift my mind to a Fourth Idea. If I pass into
utter oblivion, yet I have had that.

The original three ideas of the Cavemen became encumbered with
superstition; ritual grew up, and ceremony, and long ranks of
souls were painted on papyri waiting to be weighed in the scales,and to be
punished or rewarded. These cobwebs grotesque have sullied the original
discoveries and cast them
into discredit. Erase them altogether, and consider only the underlying
principles. The principles do not go far enough, but I shall not discard all
of them for that. Even supposing the pure principles to be illusions, and
annihilation the end, even then it is better--it is something gained to have
thought them. Thought is life; to have thought them is to have lived them.
Accepting two of them as true in principle, then I say that these are but
the threshold. For twelve thousand years no effort
has been made to get beyond that threshold. These are but the primer of
soul-life; the merest hieroglyphics chipped out, a little shape given to the

Not to-morrow but to-day. Not the to-morrow of the tumulus, the hour of the
sunshine now. This moment give me to live soul-life, not only after death.
Now is eternity, now I am in the
midst of immortality; now the supernatural crowds around me. Open my mind,
give my soul to see, let me live it now on earth, while I hear the burring
of the larger bees, the sweet air in the grass, and watch the yellow wheat
wave beneath me. Sun and earth and sea, night and day--these are the least
of things. Give me soul-life.

There is nothing human in nature. The earth, though loved so dearly, would
let me perish on the ground, and neither bring forth food nor water. Burning
in the sky the great sun, of whose company I have been so fond, would merely
burn on and make no motion to assist me. Those who have been in an open boat
at sea without water have proved the mercies of the sun, and
of the deity who did not give them one drop of rain, dying
in misery under the same rays that smile so beautifully on the flowers. In
the south the sun is the enemy; night and coolness and rain are the friends
of man. As for the sea, it offers us salt water which we cannot drink. The
trees care nothing for us; the hill I visited so often in days gone by has
not missed me. The sun scorches man, and willing his naked state roast him
alive. The sea and the fresh water alike make no effort to
uphold him if his vessel founders; he casts up his arms in vain, they come
to their level over his head, filling the spot his body occupied. If he
falls from a cliff the air parts; the earth beneath dashes him to pieces.

Water he can drink, but it is not produced for him; how many thousands have
perished for want of it? Some fruits are produced which he can eat, but they
do not produce themselves for him; merely for the purpose of continuing
their species. In wild, tropical countries, at the first glance there
appears to be some consideration for him, but it is on the surface only. The
lion pounces on him, the rhinoceros crushes him, the serpent bites, insects
torture, diseases rack him. Disease worked its dreary will even among the
flower-crowned Polynesians. Returning to our
own country, this very thyme which scents my fingers did not grow for that
purpose, but for its own. So does the wheat beneath; we utilise it, but its
original and native purpose was for itself. By night it is the same as by
day; the stars care not, they pursue their courses revolving, and we are
nothing to them. There is nothing human in the whole round of nature.
All nature, all the universe that we can see, is absolutely indifferent to
us, and except to us human life is of no more value than grass. If the
entire human race perished at this hour, what difference would it make to
earth? What would the earth care? As much as for the extinct dodo, or for
the fate of the elephant now going.

On the contrary, a great part, perhaps the whole, of nature and
of the universe is distinctly anti-human. The term inhuman does
not express my meaning, anti-human is better; outre-human, in
the sense of beyond, outside, almost grotesque in its attitude
towards, would nearly convey it. Everything is anti-human. How
extraordinary, strange, and incomprehensible are the creatures
captured out of the depths of the sea! The distorted fishes; the ghastly
cuttles; the hideous eel-like shapes; the crawling shell-encrusted things;
the centipede-like beings; monstrous
forms, to see which gives a shock to the brain. They shock the
mind because they exhibit an absence of design. There is no
idea in them.

They have no shape, form, grace, or purpose; they call up a vague sense of
chaos, chaos which the mind revolts from. It
would be a relief to the thought if they ceased to be, and
utterly disappeared from the sea. They are not inimical of
intent towards man, not even the shark; but there the shark is,
and that is enough. These miserably hideous things of the sea
are not anti-human in the sense of persecution, they are outside, they are
ultra and beyond. It is like looking into
chaos, and it is vivid because these creatures, interred alive a
hundred fathoms deep, are seldom seen; so that the mind sees
them as if only that moment they had come into existence. Use
has not habituated it to them, so that their anti-human character is at once
apparent, and stares at us with glassy eye.

But it is the same in reality with the creatures on the earth.
There are some of these even now to which use has not accus-
tomed the mind. Such, for instance, as the toad. At its
shapeless shape appearing in an unexpected corner many people
start and exclaim. They are aware that they shall receive no
injury from it, yet it affrights them, it sends a shock to the
mind. The reason lies in its obviously anti-human character.
All the designless, formless chaos of chance-directed matter,
without idea or human plan, squats there embodied in the
pathway. By watching the creature, and convincing the mind
from observation that it is harmless, and even has uses, the
horror wears away. But still remains the form to which the
mind can never reconcile itself. Carved in wood it is still

Or suddenly there is a rustle like a faint hiss in the grass,
and a green snake glides over the bank. The breath in the
chest seems to lose its vitality; for an instant the nerves
refuse to transmit the force of life. The gliding yellow-streaked worm is so
utterly opposed to the ever present Idea in the mind. Custom may reduce the
horror, but no long pondering can ever bring that creature within the pale
of the human Idea. These are so distinctly opposite and anti-human that
thousands of years have not sufficed to soften their outline. Various
insects and creeping creatures excite the same sense in lesser degrees.
Animals and birds in general do not. The tiger is dreaded, but causes no
disgust. The exception is in those that feed on offal. Horses and dogs we
love; we not only do not recognise anything opposite in them, we come to
love them.

They are useful to us, they show more or less sympathy with us,
they possess, especially the horse, a certain grace of movement.
A gloss, as it were, is thrown over them by these attributes and
by familiarity. The shape of the horse to the eye has become
conventional: it is accepted. Yet the horse is not in any
sense human. Could we look at it suddenly, without previous
acquaintance, as at strange fishes in a tank, the ultra-human
character of the horse would be apparent. It is the curves of
the neck and body that carry the horse past without adverse
comment. Examine the hind legs in detail, and the curious
backward motion, the shape and anti-human curves become apparent.
Dogs take us by their intelligence, but they have no hand; pass
the hand over the dog's head, and the shape of the skull to the
sense of feeling is almost as repellent as the form of the toad
to the sense of sight. We have gradually gathered around us all
the creatures that are less markedly anti-human, horses and dogs
and birds, but they are still themselves. They originally
existed like the wheat, for themselves; we utilise them, but they are not of

There is nothing human in any living animal. All nature, the universe as far
as we see, is anti- or ultra-human, outside, and has no concern with man.
These things are unnatural to him. By no course of reasoning, however
tortuous, can nature and the universe be fitted to the mind. Nor can the
mind be fitted to the cosmos. My mind cannot be twisted to it; I am separate
altogether from these designless things. The soul cannot be wrested down to
them. The laws of nature are of no importance to it. I refuse to be bound by
the laws of the tides, nor am I so bound. Though bodily swung round on this
rotating globe, my mind always remains in the centre. No tidal law, no
rotation, no gravitation can control my thought.

Centuries of thought have failed to reconcile and fit the mind
to the universe, which is designless, and purposeless, and
without idea. I will not endeavour to fit my thought to it any longer; I
find and believe myself to be distinct--separate; and I will labour in
earnest to obtain the highest culture for myself. As these natural things
have no connection with man, it follows again that the natural is the
strange and mysterious, and the supernatural the natural.

There being nothing human in nature or the universe, and all
things being ultra-human and without design, shape, or purpose,
I conclude that, no deity has anything to do with nature.
There is no god in nature, nor in any matter anywhere, either
in the clods on the earth or in the composition of the stars.
For what we understand by the deity is the purest form of Idea,
of Mind, and no mind is exhibited in these. That which
controls them is distinct altogether from deity. It is not
force in the sense of electricity, nor a deity as god, nor a
spirit, not even an intelligence, but a power quite different to anything
yet imagined. I cease, therefore, to look for deity in nature or the cosmos
at large, or to trace any marks of divine handiwork. I search for traces of
this force which is not god, and is certainly not the higher than deity of
whom I have written. It is a force without a mind. I wish to indicate
something more subtle than electricity, but absolutely devoid of
consciousness, and with no more feeling than the force which liftsthe tides.

Next, in human affairs, in the relations of man with man, in the
conduct of life, in the events that occur, in human affairs
generally everything happens by chance. No prudence in conduct,
no wisdom or foresight can effect anything, for the most trivial
circumstance will upset the deepest plan of the wisest mind. As
Xenophon observed in old times, wisdom is like casting dice and
determining your course by the number that appears. Virtue, humanity, the
best and most beautiful conduct is wholly in vain. The history of thousands
of years demonstrates it. In all these years there is no more moving
instance on record than that of Danae, when she was dragged to the
precipice, two thousand years ago. Sophron was governor of Ephesus, and
Laodice plotted to assassinate him. Danae discovered the plot,and warned
Sophron, who fled, and saved his life. Laodice--the murderess in intent--had
Danae seized and cast from a cliff. On the verge Danae said that some
persons despised the deity, and they might now prove the justice of their
contempt by her fate. For having saved the man who was to her as a husband,
she was rewarded in this way with cruel death by the deity, but Laodice was
advanced to honour. The bitterness of these words remains to this hour.

In truth the deity, if responsible for such a thing, or for
similar things which occur now, should be despised. One must
always despise the fatuous belief in such a deity. But as
everything in human affairs obviously happens by chance, it is
clear that no deity is responsible. If the deity guides chance
in that manner, then let the deity be despised. Apparently the
deity does not interfere, and all things happen by chance. I
cease, therefore, to look for traces of the deity in life,
because no such traces exist.

I conclude that there is an existence, a something higher than
soul--higher, better, and more perfect than deity. Earnestly I
pray to find this something better than a god. There is something superior,
higher,more good. For this I search, labour, think, and pray. If after all
there be nothing, and my soul has to go out like a flame, yet even then I
have thought this while it lives. With the whole force of my existence, with
the whole force of my thought, mind, and soul, I pray to find this Highest
Soul, this greater than deity, this better than god. Give me to live the
deepest soul-life now and always with this Soul. For want of words I write
soul, but I think that it is something beyond soul.


IT is not possible to narrate these incidents of the mind in
strict order. I must now return to a period earlier than
anything already narrated, and pass in review other phases of my
search from then up till recently. So long since that I have
forgotten the date, I used every morning to visit a spot where I
could get a clear view of the east. Immediately on rising I
went out to some elms; thence I could see across the dewy fields
to the distant hill over or near which the sun rose. These elms partially
hid me, for at that time I had a dislike to being seen, feeling that I
should be despised if I was noticed. This happened once or twice, and I knew
I was watched contemptuously,
though no one had the least idea of my object. But I went
every morning, and was satisfied if I could get two or three minutes to
think unchecked. Often I saw the sun rise over the line of the hills, but if
it was summer the sun had been up a long time.

I looked at the hills, at the dewy grass, and then up through
the elm branches to the sky. In a moment all that was behind
me, the house, the people, the sounds, seemed to disappear, and to leave me
alone. Involuntarily I drew a long breath, then I
breathed slowly. My thought, or inner consciousness, went up through the
illumined sky, and I was lost in a moment of exaltation. This only lasted a
very short time, perhaps only
part of a second, and while it lasted there was no formulated wish. I was
absorbed; I drank the beauty of the morning; I was exalted. When it ceased
I did wish for some increase or enlargement of my existence to correspond
with the largeness of feeling I had momentarily enjoyed. Sometimes the wind
came through the tops of the elms, and the slender boughs bent, and gazing
up through them, and beyond the fleecy clouds, I felt lifted up. The light
coming across the grass and leaving itself on the dew-drops, the sound of
the wind, and the sense of mounting to the lofty heaven, filled me with a
deep sigh, a wish to draw something out of the beauty of it, some part of
that which caused my admiration, the subtle inner essence.

Sometimes the green tips of the highest boughs seemed gilded,
the light laid a gold on the green. Or the trees bowed to a
stormy wind roaring through them, the grass threw itself down, and in the
east broad curtains of a rosy tint stretched along. The light was turned to
redness in the vapour, and rain hid the
summit of the hill. In the rush and roar of the stormy wind the
same exaltation, the same desire, lifted me for a moment. I went there every
morning, I could not exactly define why; it was like going to a rose bush to
taste the scent of the flower and feel the dew from its petals on the lips.
But I desired the beauty--the inner subtle meaning--to be in me, that I
might have it, and with it an existence of a higher kind.

Later on I began to have daily pilgrimages to think these things. There was
a feeling that I must go somewhere, and be alone. It was a necessity to have
a few minutes of this separate life every day; my mind required to live its
own life apart from other things. A great oak at a short distance was one
resort, and sitting on the grass at the roots, or leaning against the trunk
and looking over the quiet meadows towards the bright southern sky, I could
live my own life a little while. Behind the trunk I was alone; I liked to
lean against it; to touch the lichenon the rough bark. High in the wood of
branches the birds were not alarmed; they sang, or called, and passed to and
fro happily. The wind moved the leaves, and they replied to it softly; and
now at this distance of time I can see the fragments of sky up through the
boughs. Bees were always humming in the green field; ring-doves went over
swiftly, flying for the woods.

Of the sun I was conscious; I could not look at it, but the boughs held back
the beams so that I could feel the sun's
presence pleasantly. They shaded the sun, yet let me know that
it was there. There came to me a delicate, but at the same time
a deep, strong, and sensuous enjoyment of the beautiful green
earth, the beautiful sky and sun; I felt them, they gave me
inexpressible delight, as if they embraced and poured out their love upon
me. It was I who loved them, for my heart was broader than the earth; it is
broader now than even then, more thirsty and desirous. After the sensuous
enjoyment always came the thought, the desire: That I might be like this;
that I might have the inner meaning of the sun, the light, the earth, the
trees and grass, translated into some growth of excellence in myself, both
of body and of mind; greater perfection of physique, greater perfection of
mind and soul; that I might be higher in myself. To this oak I came daily
for a long time; sometimes only for a minute, for just to view the spot was
enough. In the bitter cold of spring, when the north wind blackened
everything, I used to come now and then at night to look from under the bare
branches at the splendour of the southern sky. The stars burned with
brilliance, broad Orion and flashing Sirius--there are more or brighter
constellations visible then than all the year: and the clearness of the air
and the blackness of the sky--black, not clouded--let them gleam in their
fulness. They lifted me--they gave me fresh vigour of soul. Not all that the
stars could have given, had they been destinies, could have satiated me.
This, all this, and
more, I wanted in myself.

There was a place a mile or so along the road where the hills
could be seen much better; I went there frequently to think the
same thought. Another spot was by an elm, a very short walk,
where openings in the trees, and the slope of the ground,
brought the hills well into view. This too, was a favourite
thinking-place. Another was a wood, half an hour's walk
distant, through part of which a rude track went, so that it was
not altogether inclosed. The ash-saplings, and the trees, the
firs, the hazel bushes--to be among these enabled me to be
myself. From the buds of spring to the berries of autumn, I
always liked to be there. Sometimes in spring there was a sheen of
blue-bells covering acres; the doves cooed; the blackbirds whistled sweetly;
there was a taste of green things in the air. But it was the tall firs that
pleased me most; the glance rose up the flame-shaped fir-tree, tapering to
its green tip, and above was the azure sky. By aid of the tree I felt the
sky more. By aid of everything beautiful I felt myself, and in that intense
sense of consciousness prayed for greater perfection of soul and body.

Afterwards, I walked almost daily more than two miles along the
road to a spot where the hills began, where from the first rise
the road could be seen winding southwards over the hills, open
and uninclosed. I paused a minute or two by a clump of firs, in
whose branches the wind always sighed--there is always a movement of the air
on a hill. Southwwards the sky was illumined by the sun, southwards the
clouds moved across the opening or pass in the amphitheatre, and southwards,
though far distant, was the sea. There I could think a moment. These
pilgrimages gave me a few sacred minutes daily; the moment seemed holy when
the thought or desire came in its full force.

A time came when, having to live in a town, these pilgrimages
had to be suspended. The wearisome work on which I was engaged
would not permit of them. But I used to look now and then, from
a window, in the evening at a birch-tree at some distance; its
graceful boughs drooped across the glow of the sunset. The
thought was not suspended; it lived in me always. A bitterer
time still came when it was necessary to be separated from those
I loved. There is little indeed in the more immediate suburbs
of London to gratify the sense of the beautiful. Yet there was a cedar by
which I used to walk up and down, and think the
same thoughts as under the great oak in the solitude of the sunlit meadows.
In the course of slow time happier circumstances brought us together again,
and, though near London, at a spot where there was easy access to meadows
and woods. Hills that purify those who walk on them there were
not. Still I thought my old thoughts.

I was much in London, and, engagements completed, I wandered about in the
same way as in the woods of former days. From the
stone bridges I looked down on the river; the gritty dust, the
straws that lie on the bridges, flew up and whirled round with
every gust from the flowing tide; gritty dust that settles in
the nostrils and on the lips, the very residuum of all that is
repulsive in the greatest city of the world. The noise of the
traffic and the constant pressure from the crowds passing,
their incessant and disjointed talk, could not distract me. One moment at
least I had, a moment when I thought of the push of the great sea forcing
the water to flow under the feet of these crowds, the distant sea strong and
splendid; when I saw the sunlight gleam on the tidal wavelets; when I felt
the wind, and was conscious of the earth, the sea, the sun, the air, the
immense forces working on, while the city hummed by the river. Nature was
deepened by the crowds and foot-worn stones. If the tide had ebbed, and the
masts of the vessels were tilted as the hulls rested on the shelving mud,
still even the blackened mud did not prevent me seeing the water as water
flowing to the sea. The sea had drawn down, and the wavelets washing the
strand here as they hastened were running the faster to it. Eastwards from
London Bridge the river raced to the ocean.

The bright morning sun of summer heated the eastern parapet of
London Bridge; I stayed in the recess to acknowledge it. The
smooth water was a broad sheen of light, the built-up river
flowed calm and silent by a thousand doors, rippling only where
the stream chafed against a chain. Red pennants drooped, gilded
vanes gleamed on polished masts, black-pitched hulls glistened
like a black rook's feathers in sunlight; the clear air cut out
the forward angles of the warehouses, the shadowed wharves were
quiet in shadows that carried light; far down the ships that
were hauling out moved in repose, and with the stream floated
away into the summer mist. There was a faint blue colour in the
air hovering between the built-up banks, against the lit walls,
in the hollows of the houses. The swallows wheeled and climbed, twittered
and glided downwards. Burning on, the great sun stood in the sky, heating
the parapet, glowing steadfastly upon me as when I rested in the narrow
valley grooved out in prehistoric
times. Burning on steadfast, and ever present as my thought.
Lighting the broad river, the broad walls; lighting the least speck of dust;
lighting the great heaven; gleaming on my
finger-nail. The fixed point of day--the sun. I was intensely
conscious of it; I felt it; I felt the presence of the immense
powers of the universe; I felt out into the depths of the ether. So
intensely conscious of the sun, the sky, the limitless space, I felt too in
the midst of eternity then, in the midst of the supernatural, among the
immortal, and the greatness of the material realised the spirit. By these I
saw my soul; by these I knew the supernatural to be more intensely real than
the sun. I touched the supernatural, the immortal, there that moment.

When, weary of walking on the pavements, I went to rest in the
National Gallery, I sat and rested before one or other of the
human pictures. I am not a picture lover: they are flat surfaces, but those
that I call human are nevertheless
beautiful. The knee in Daphnis and Chloe and the breast are
like living things; they draw the heart towards them, the heart
must love them. I lived in looking; without beauty there is no
life for me, the divine beauty of flesh is life itself to me.
The shoulder in the Surprise, the rounded rise of the bust, the
exquisite tints of the ripe skin, momentarily gratified the sea-
thirst in me. For I thirst with all the thirst of the salt sea,
and the sun-heated sands dry for the tide, with all the sea I
thirst for beauty. And I know full well that one lifetime,
however long, cannot fill my heart. My throat and tongue and
whole body have often been parched and feverish dry with
this measureless thirst, and again moist to the fingers' ends
like a sappy bough. It burns in me as the sun burns in the

The glowing face of Cytherea in Titian's Venus and Adonis, the
heated cheek, the lips that kiss each eye that gazes on them,
the desiring glance, the golden hair--sunbeams moulded into
features--this face answered me. Juno's wide back and mesial
groove, is any thing so lovely as the back ? Cythereals poised
hips unveiled for judgment; these called up the same thirst I
felt on the green sward in the sun, on the wild beach listening
to the quiet sob as the summer wave drank at the land. I will
search the world through for beauty. I came here and sat to
rest before these in the days when I could not afford to buy so
much as a glass of ale, weary and faint from walking on stone
pavements. I came later on, in better times, often straight
from labours which though necessary will ever be distasteful, always to rest
my heart with loveliness. I go still; the divine beauty of flesh is life
itself to me. It was, and is, one of my London pilgrimages.

Another was to the Greek sculpture galleries in the British
Museum. The statues are not, it is said, the best; broken too, and
mutilated, and seen in a dull, commonplace light. But they were
shape--divine shape of man and woman; the form of limb and torso, of bust
and neck, gave me a sighing sense of rest. These were they who would have
stayed with me under the shadow of the
oaks while the blackbirds fluted and the south air swung the
cowslips. They would have walked with me among the reddened
gold of the wheat. They would have rested with me on the hill-tops and in
the narrow valley grooved of ancient times. They would have listened with me
to the sob of the summer sea drinking theland. These had thirsted of sun,
and earth,
and sea, and sky. Their shape spoke this thirst and desire like
mine--if I had lived with them from Greece till now
I should not have had enough of them. Tracing the form of limb and torso
with the eye gave me a sense of rest.

Sometimes I came in from the crowded streets and ceaseless hum;
one glance at these shapes and I became myself. Sometimes I came from the
Reading-room, where under the dome I often looked up from the desk and
realised the crushing hopelessness of books, useless, not equal to one
bubble borne along on the running brook I had walked by, giving no thought
like the spring when I lifted the water in my hand and saw the light gleam
on it. Torso and limb, bust and neck instantly returned me to myself; I felt
as I did lying on the turf listening to the wind among the grass; it would
have seemed natural to have found butterflies fluttering among he statues.
The same deep desire was with me. I shall always go to speak to them; they
are a place of pilgrimage; wherever there is a beautiful statue there is a
place of pilgrimage.

I always stepped aside, too, to look awhile at the head of
Julius Caesar. The domes of the swelling temples of his broad
head are full of mind, evident to the eye as a globe is full of
substance to the sense of feeling in the hands that hold it.
The thin worn cheek is entirely human; endless difficulties
surmounted by endless labour are marked in it, as the sandblast,
by dint of particles ceaselessly driven, carves the hardest
material. If circumstances favoured him he made those
circumstances his own by marvellous labour, so as justly to
receive the credit of chance. Therefore the thin cheek is entirely
human--the sum of human life made visible in one
face--labour, and endurance, and mind, and all in vain. A
shadow--of deep sadness has gathered on it in the years that
have passed, because endurance was without avail. It is sadder
to look at than the grass-grown tumulus I used to sit by,
because it is a personality, and also on account of the extreme
folly of our human race ever destroying our greatest.

Far better had they endeavoured, however hopelessly, to keep him
living till this day. Did but the race this hour possess one-
hundredth part of his breadth of view, how happy for them! Of
whom else can it be said that he had no enemies to forgive
because he recognised no enemy? Nineteen hundred years ago he
put in actual practice, with more arbitrary power than any
despot, those very principles of humanity which are now put
forward as the highest culture. But he made them to be actual things under
his sway.

The one man filled with mind; the one man without avarice,
anger, pettiness, littleness; the one man generous and truly
great of all history. It is enough to make one despair to think
of the mere brutes butting to death the great-minded Caesar. He
comes nearest to the ideal of a design-power arranging the
affairs of the world for good in practical things. Before his
face--the divine brow of mind above, the human suffering-drawn
cheek beneath--my own thought became set and strengthened. That
I could but look at things in the broad way he did; that I
could not possess one particle of such width of intellect to
guide my own course, to cope with and drag forth from the iron-
resisting forces of the universe some one thing of my prayer for
the soul and for the flesh.


THERE is a place in front of the Royal Exchange where the wide
pavement reaches out like a promontory. It is in the shape of a
triangle with a rounded apex. A stream of traffic runs on either side, and
other streets send their currents down into the
open space before it. Like the spokes of a wheel converging
streams of human life flow into this agitated pool. Horses and carriages,
carts, vans, omnibuses, cabs, every kind of conveyance cross each other's
course in every possible direction. Twisting in and out by the wheels and
under the horses' heads, working a devious way, men and women of
all conditions wind a path over. They fill the interstices
between the carriages and blacken the surface, till the
vans almost float on human beings. Now the streams slacken, and now they
rush amain, but never cease; dark waves are always rolling down the incline
opposite, waves swell out from the side rivers, all London converges into
this focus. There is an indistinguishable noise--it is not clatter, hum, or
roar, it is not resolvable; made up of a thousand thousand footsteps, from a
thousand hoofs, a thousand wheels--of haste, and shuffle, and quick
movements, and ponderous loads; no attention can resolve it into a fixed

Blue carts and yellow omnibuses, varnished carriages and brown
vans, green omnibuses and red cabs, pale loads of yellow straw,
rusty-red iron cluking on pointless carts, high white wool-
packs, grey horses, bay horses, black teams; sunlight sparkling
on brass harness, gleaming from carriage panels; jingle, jingle,
jingle! An intermixed and intertangled, ceaselessly changing jingle, too,of
colour; flecks of colour champed, as it were, like bits in the horses'
teeth, frothed and strewn about, and a surface always of dark-dressed people
winding like the curves on fast-flowing water. This is the vortex and
whirlpool, the centre of human life today on the earth. Now the tide rises
and now it sinks, but the flow of these rivers always continues. Here it
seethes and whirls, not for an hour only, but for all present time, hour by
hour, day by day, year by year.

Here it rushes and pushes, the atoms triturate and grind, and,
eagerly thrusting by, pursue their separate ends. Here it
appears in its unconcealed personality, indifferent to all else
but itself, absorbed and rapt in eager self, devoid and stripped
of conventional gloss and politeness, yielding only to get its own way;
driving, pushing, carried on in a stress of feverish force like a bullet,
dynamic force apart from reason or will, like the force that lifts the tides
and sends the clouds onwards. The friction of a thousand interests evolves a
condition of electricity in which men are moved to and fro without
considering their steps. Yet the agitated pool of life is stonily
indifferent, the thought is absent or preoccupied, for it is evident that
the mass are unconscious of the scene in
which they act.

But it is more sternly real than the very stones, for all these
men and women that pass through are driven on by the push of
accumulated circumstances; they cannot stay, they must go,
their necks are in the slave's ring, they are beaten like
seaweed against the solid walls of fact. In ancient times,
Xerxes, the king of kings, looking down upon his myriads, wept to think that
in a hundred years not one of them would be left. Where will be these
millions of to-day in a hundred years? But, further than that, let us ask,
Where then will be the sum and outcome of their labour? If they wither away
like summer grass, will not at least a result be left which those of a
hundred years hence may be the better for? No, not one jot! There will not
be any sum or outcome or result of this ceaseless labour and movement; it
vanishes in the moment that it is done, and in a hundred years nothing will
be there, for nothing is there now. There will be no more sum or result than
accumulates from the motion of a revolving cowl on a housetop. Nor do they
receive any more sunshine during their lives, for they are unconscious of
the sun.

I used to come and stand near the apex of the promontory of pavement which
juts out towards the pool of life; I still go there to ponder. Burning in
the sky, the sun shone on me as when I rested in the narrow valley carved in
prehistoric time.
Burning in the sky, I can never forget the sun. The heat of summer is dry
there as if the light carried an impalpable dust; dry, breathless heat that
will not let the skin respire, but
swathes up the dry fire in the blood. But beyond the heat and light, I felt
the presence of the sun as I felt it in the solitary valley, the presence of
the resistless forces of the
universe; the sun burned in the sky as I stood and pondered. Is there any
theory, philosophy, or creed, is there any system or
culture, any formulated method able to meet and satisfy each separate item
of this agitated pool of human life? By which they may be guided, by which
hope, by which look forward? Not a mere illusion of the craven
heart--something real, as real as the solid walls of fact against which,
like drifted sea-weed, they are dashed; something to give each separate
personality sunshine and a flower in its own existence now; something to
shape this million-handed labour to an end and outcome that will leave more
sunshine and more flowers to those who must succeed? Something real now, and
not in the spirit-land; in this hour now, as I stand and the sun burns. Can
any creed, philosophy, system, or culture endure the test and remain
unmolten in this fierce focus ofhuman life?

Consider, is there anything slowly painted on the once mystic and now
commonplace papyri of ancient, ancient Egypt, held on the mummy's withered
breast? In that elaborate ritual, in the procession of the symbols, in the
winged circle, in the laborious sarcophagus? Nothing; absolutely nothing!
Before the
fierce heat of the human furnace, the papyri smoulder away as paper
smoulders under a lens in the sun. Remember Nineveh and
the cult of the fir-cone, the turbaned and bearded bulls of
stone, the lion hunt, the painted chambers loaded with tile
books, the lore of the arrow-headed writing. What is in
Assyria? There are sand, and failing rivers, and in Assyria's
writings an utter nothing. The aged caves of India, who shall
tell when they were sculptured? Far back when the sun was
burning, burning in the sky as now in untold precedent time.
Is there any meaning in those ancient caves? The indistinguish-able noise
not to be resolved, born of the human struggle, mocks in answer.

In the strange characters of the Zend, in the Sanscrit, in the
effortless creed of Confucius, in the Aztec coloured-string
writings and rayed stones, in the uncertain marks left of the
sunken Polynesian continent, hieroglyphs as useless as those of
Memphis, nothing. Nothing! They have been tried, and were found an illusion.
Think then, to-day, now looking from this apex
of the pavement promontory outwards from our own land to the utmost bounds
of the farthest sail, is there any faith or culture at this hour which can
stand in this fierce heat? From the various forms of Semitic, Aryan, or
Turanian creed now existing, from the printing-press to the palm-leaf volume
on to those who call on the jewel in the lotus, can aught be gathered which
can face this, the Reality? The indistinguishable noise, non-resolvable,
roars a loud contempt.

Turn, then, to the calm reasoning of Aristotle; is there
anything in that? Can the half-divine thought of Plato, rising
in storeys of sequential ideas, following each other to the
conclusion, endure here? No! All the philosophers in Diogenes
Laertius fade away: the theories of medimval days; the organon
of experiment; down to this hour--they are useless alike. The
science of this hour, drawn from the printing-press in an endless web of
paper, is powerless here; the indistinguishable noise echoed from the
smoke-shadowed walls despises the whole. A thousand footsteps, a thousand
hoofs, a thousand wheels roll over and utterly contemn them in complete
annihilation. Mere illusions of heart or mind, they are tested and thrust
aside by the irresistible push of a million converging feet.

Burning in the sky, the sun shines as it shone on me in the
solitary valley, as it burned on when the earliest cave of India
was carved. Above the indistinguishable roar of the many feet I
feel the presence of the sun, of the immense forces of the
universe, and beyond these the sense of the eternal now, of the
immortal. Full well aware that all has failed, yet, side by
side with the sadness of that knowledge, there lives on in me an
unquenchable belief, thought burning like the sun, that there is yet
something to be found, something real, something to give each separate
personality sunshine and flowers in its own existence now. Something to
shape this million-handed labour to an end and outcome, leaving accumulated
sunshine and flowers to those who shall succeed. It must be dragged forth by
might of thought from the immense forces of the universe.

To prepare for such an effort, first the mind must be cleared of
the conceit that, because we live to-day, we are wiser than the
ages gone. The mind must acknowledge its ignorance; all the
learning and lore of so many eras must be erased from it as an
encumbrance. It is not from past or present knowledge, science
or faith, that it is to be drawn. Erase these altogether as they are erased
under the fierce heat of the focus before me. Begin wholly afresh. Go
straight to the sun, the immense forces of the universe, to the Entity
unknown; go higher than a god; deeper than prayer; and open a new day. That
I might but have a fragment of Caesar's intellect to find a fragment of this

>From my home near London I made a pilgrimage almost daily to an
aspen by a brook. It was a mile and a quarter along the road,
far enough for me to walk off the concentration of mind
necessary for work. The idea of the pilgrimage was to get away
from the endless and nameless circumstances of everyday
existence, which by degrees build a wall about the mind so that
it travels in a constantly narrowing circle. This tether of the
faculties tends to make them accept present knowledge, and
present things, as all that can be attained to. This is all--
there is nothing more--is the iterated preaching of house-life.
Remain; becontent; go round and round in one barren path, a
little money, a little food and sleep, some ancient fables,
old age and death. Of all the inventions of casuistry with man for ages has
in various ways which manacled himself, and stayed his own advance, there is
none equally potent with the supposition that nothing more is possible. Once
well impress on the mind that it has already all, that advance is impossible
because there is nothing further, and it is chained like a horse to an iron
pin in the ground. It is the most deadly--the most fatal poison of the mind.
No such casuistry has ever for a moment held me, but still, if permitted,
the constant routine of house-life, the same work, the same thought in the
work, the little circumstances regularly recurring, will dull the keenest
edge of thought. By my daily pilgrimage, I escaped from it back to the sun.

In summer the leaves of the aspen rustled pleasantly, there was
the tinkle of falling water over a hatch, thrushes sang and
blackbirds whistled, greenfinches laughed in their talk to each
other. The commonplace dusty road was commonplace no longer.
In the dust was the mark of the chaffinches' little feet; the
white light rendered even the dust brighter to look on. The air
came from the south-west--there were distant hills in that
direction--over fields of grass and corn. As I visited the spot
from day to day the wheat grew from green to yellow, the wild
roses flowered, the scarlet poppies appeared, and again the
beeches reddened in autumn. In the march of time there fell
away from my mind, as the leaves from the trees in autumn, the
last traces and relics of superstitions and traditions acquired
compulsorily in childhood. Always feebly adhering, they finally

There fell away, too, personal bias and prejudices, enabling me
to see clearer and with wider sympathies. The glamour of
modern science and discoveries faded away, for I found them no
more than the first potter's wheel. Erasure and reception
proceeded together; the past accumulations of casuistry were
erased, and my thought widened to receive the idea of something
beyond all previous ideas. With disbelief, belief increased.
The aspiration and hope, the prayer, was the same as that which
I felt years before on the hills, only it now broadened.

Experience of life, instead of curtailing and checking my prayer, led me to
reject experience altogether. As well might
the horse believe that the road the bridle forces it to traverse
every day encircles the earth as I believe in experience. All
the experience of the greatest city in the world could not
withhold me. I rejected it wholly. I stood bare-headed before
the sun, in the presence of the earth and air, in the presence
of the immense forces of the universe. I demand that which will make me more
perfect now, this hour. London convinced me of my own thought. That thought
has always been with me, and always grows wider.

One midsummer I went out of the road into the fields, and sat
down on the grass between the yellowing wheat and the green
hawthorn bushes. The sun burned in the sky, the wheat was full
of a luxuriant sense of growth, the grass high, the earth giving
its vigour to tree and leaf, the heaven blue. The vigour and
growth, the warmth and light, the beauty and richness of it
entered into me; an ecstasy of soul accompanied the delicate
excitement of the senses: the soul rose with the body. Rapt in
the fulness of the moment, I prayed there with all that
expansion of mind and frame; no words, no definition,
inexpressible desire of physical life, of soul-life, equal to
and beyond the highest imagining of my heart.

These memories cannot be placed in exact chronological order.
There was a time when a weary restlessness came upon me, perhaps from
too-long-continued labour. It was like a drought--a moral drought--as if I
had been absent for many years from the sources of life and hope. The inner
nature was faint, all was dry and tasteless; I was weary for the pure, fresh
springs of thought. Some instinctive feeling uncontrollable drove me to the
sea; I was so under its influence that I could not arrange the journey so as
to get the longest day. I merely started, and of course had to wait and
endure much inconvenience. To get to the sea at some quiet spot was my one
thought; to do so I had to travel farther, and from want of prearrangement
it was between two and three in the afternoon before I reached the end of my
journey. Even then, being too much preoccupied to inquire the way, I missed
the road and had to walk a long distance before coming to the shore. But I
found the sea at last; I walked beside it in a trance away from the houses
out into the wheat. he ripe corn stood up to the beach, the waves on one
side of the shingle, and the yellow wheat on the other.

There, alone, I went down to the sea. I stood where the foam
came to my feet, and looked out over the sunlit waters. The
great earth bearing the richness of the harvest, and its hills
golden with corn, was at my back; its strength and firmness
under me. The great sun shone above, the wide sea was before
me, the wind came sweet and strong from the waves. The life of
the earth and the sea, the glow of the sun filled me; I touched
the surge with my hand, I lifted my face to the sun, I opened my
lips to the wind. I prayed aloud in the roar of the waves--my
soul was strong as the sea and prayed with the sea's might. Give me fulness
of life like to the sea and the sun, to the earth and the air; give me
fulness of physical life, mind equal and beyond their fulness; give me a
greatness and perfection of soul higher than all things; give me my
inexpressible desire which swells in me like a tide--give it to me with all
the force of the sea.

Then I rested, sitting by the wheat; the bank of beach was
between me and the sea, but the waves beat against it; the sea
was there, the sea was present and at hand. By the dry wheat I
rested, I did not think, I was inhaling the richness of the sea,
all the strength and depth of meaning of the sea and earth came
to me again. I rubbed out some of the wheat in my hands, I took
up a piece of clod and crumbled it in my fingers--it was a joy to touch
it--I held my hand so that I could see the sunlight gleam on the slightly
moist surface of the skin. The earth and sunwere to me like my flesh and
blood, and the air of the sea

With all the greater existence I drew from them I prayed for a
bodily life equal to it, for a soul-life beyond my thought, for
my inexpressible desire of more than I could shape even into
idea. There was something higher than idea, invisible to
thought as air to the eye; give me bodily life equal in fulness
to the strength of earth, and sun, and sea; give me the soul-
life of my desire. Once more I went down to the sea, touched
it, and said farewell. So deep was the inhalation of this life
that day, that it seemed to remain in me for years. This was a
real pilgrimage.

Time passed away, with more labour, pleasure, and again at last, after much
pain and wearinesss of mind, I came down again to the sea. The circumstances
were changed--it was not a hurried glance--there were opportunities for
longer thought. It mattered scarcely anything to me now whether I was alone,
or whether houses and other people were near. Nothing could disturb my
inner vision. By the sea, aware of the sun overhead, and the
blue heaven, I feel that there is nothing between me and space.
This is the verge of a gulf, and a tangent from my feet goes
straight unchecked into the unnknown. It is the edge of the abyss as much as
if the earth were cut away in a sheer fall of
eight thousand miles to the sky beneath, thence a hollow to the
stars. Looking straight out is looking straight down; the eye-
glance gradually departs from the sea-level, and, rising as that
falls, enters the hollow of heaven. It is gazing along the face
of a vast precipice into the hollow space which is nameless.

There mystery has been placed, but realising the vast hollow
yonder makes me feel that the mystery is here. I, who am here
on the verge, standing on the margin of the sky, am in the mystery itself.
If I let my eye look back upon me from the extreme opposite of heaven, then
this spot where I stand is in the centre of the hollow. Alone with the sea
and sky, I presently feel all the depth and wonder of the unknown come back
surging up around, and touching me as the foam runs to my feet. I am in it
now, not to-morrow, this moment; I cannot escape from it. Though I may
deceive myself with labour, yet still I am in it; in sleep too. There is no
escape from this immensity.

Feeling this by the sea, under the sun, my life enlarges and
quickens, striving to take to itself the largeness of the heaven. The frame
cannot expand, but the soul is able to stand
before it. No giant's body could be in proportion to the earth,
but a little spirit is equal to the entire cosmos, to earth and
ocean, sun and star-hollow. These are but a few acres to it.
Were the cosmos twice as wide, the soul could run over it,
and return to itself in a time so small, no measure exists to mete it.
Therefore, I think the soul may sometimes find out an existence as superior
as my mind is to the dead chalk cliff.

With the great sun burning over the foamflaked sea, roofed with
heaven--aware of myself, a consciousness forced on me by these
things--I feel that thought must yet grow larger and correspond
in magnitude of conception to these. But these cannot content
me, these Titanic things of sea, and sun, and profundity; I feel
that my thought is stronger than they are. I burn life like a
torch. The hot light shot back from the sea scorches my cheek--
my life is burning in me. The soul throbs like the sea for a
larger life. No thought which I have ever had has satisfied my


MY strength is not enough to fulfil my desire; if I had the strength of the
ocean,and of the earth, the burning vigour of the sun implanted in my limbs,
it would hardly suffice to gratify the measureless desire of life which
possesses me. I have often walked the day long over the sward, and,
to pause, at length, in my weariness, I was full of the same eagerness with
which I started. The sinews would obey no longer,
but the will was the same. My frame could never take the violent exertion my
heart demanded. Labour of body was like meat
and drink to me. Over the open hills, up the steep ascents, mile after mile,
there was deep enjoyment in the long-drawn breath,
the spring of the foot, in the act of rapid movement. Never have I had
enough of it; I wearied long before I was satisfied,
and weariness did not bring a cessation of desire; the thirst was still
there. I rowed, I used the axe, I split tree-trunks with wedges; my arms
tired, but my spirit remained fresh and chafed against the physical
weariness. My arms were not
strong enough to satisfy me with the axe, or wedges, or oars. There was
delight in the moment, but it was not enough. I swam,
and what is more delicious than swimming? It is exercise and luxury at once.
But I could not swim far enough; I was always dissatisfied with myself on
leaving the water.
Nature has not given me a great frame, and had it done so I should still
have longed for more. I was out of doors all day, and often half the night;
still I wanted more sunshine, more air, the hours were too short. I feel
this even more now than in the violence of early youth: the hours are too
short, the day should be sixty hours long. Slumber, too, is abbreviated and
restricted; forty hours of night and sleep would not be too much. So little
can be accomplished in the longest summer day, so little rest and new force
is accumulated in a short eight hours of sleep.

I live by the sea now; I can see nothing of it in a day; why, I
do but get a breath of it, and the sun sinks before I have well
begun to think. Life is so little and so mean. I dream sometimes backwards
of the ancient times. If I could have the bow of Ninus, and the earth full
of wild bulls and lions, to hunt them down, there would be rest in that. To
shoot with a gun is nothing; a mere touch discharges it. Give me a bow, that
I may enjoy the delight of feeling myself draw the string and
the strong wood bending, that I may see the rush of the arrow, and the broad
head bury itself deep in shaggy hide. Give me an iron mace that I may crush
the savage beast and hammer him down. A spear to thrust through with, so
that I may feel the long blade enter and the push of the shaft. The
unwearied strength of Ninus to hunt unceasingly in the fierce sun. Still I
should desire greater strength and a stouter bow, wilder creatures to
combat. The intense life of the senses, there is never enough for them. I
envy Semiramis; I would have been ten times Semiramis. I envy Nero, because
of the great concourse of beauty he saw. I should like to be loved by every
beautiful woman on earth, from the swart Nubian to the white and divine

Wine is pleasant and meat refreshing; but though I own with
absolute honesty that I like them, these are the least of all.
Of these two only have I ever had enough. The vehemence of exertion, the
vehemence of the spear, the vehemence of sunlight and life, the insatiate
desire of insatiate Semiramis, the still more insatiate desire of love,
divine and beautiful, the uncontrollable adoration of beauty, these--these:
give me these in greater abundance than was ever known to man or woman. The
strength of Hercules, the fulness of the senses, the richness of life, would
not in the least impair my desire of soul-life. On the reverse, with every
stronger beat of the pulse my desire of soul-life would expand. So it has
ever been with me; in hard exercise, in sensuous pleasure, in the embrace of
the sunlight,
even in the drinking of a glass of wine, my heart has been lifted the higher
towards perfection of soul. Fulness of physical life causes a deeper desire
of soul-life.

Let me be physically perfect, in shape, vigour, and movement.
My frame, naturally slender, will not respond to labour, and increase in
proportion to effort, nor will exposure harden a
delicate skin. It disappoints me so far, but my spirit rises with the
effort, and my thought opens. This is the only profit of frost, the pleasure
of winter, to conquer cold, and to feel braced and strengthened by that
whose province it is to wither and destroy, making of cold, life's enemy,
life's renewer. The black north wind hardens the resolution as steel is
tempered in ice-water. It is a sensual joy, as sensuous as the warm
embrace of the sunlight, but fulness of physical life ever brings to me a
more eager desire of soul-life.

Splendid it is to feel the boat rise to the roller, or forced through by the
sail to shear the foam aside like a share; splendid to undulate as the chest
lies on the wave, swimming, the brimming ocean round: then I know and feel
its deep strong tide, its immense fulness, and the sun glowing over;
splendid to climb the steep green hill: in these I feel myself, I drink the
exquisite joy of the senses, and my soul lifts itself with them. It is
beautiful even to watch a fine horse gallop, the long stride, the rush of
the wind as he passes--my heart beats quicker to the thud of the hoofs, and
I feel his strength. Gladly would I have the strength of the Tartar stallion
roaming the wild steppe; that very strength, what vehemence of soul-thought
would accompany it. But I should like it, too, for itself. For I believe,
with all my heart, in the body and
the flesh, and believe that it should be increased and made more
beautiful by every means. I believe--I do more than think--I
believe it to be a sacred duty, incumbent upon every one, man
and woman, to add to and encourage their physical life, by
exercise, and in every manner. A sacred duty each towards himself, and each
towards the whole of the human race. Each one of us should do some little
part for the physical good of the race--health, strength, vigour. here is
no harm therein to the soul: on the contrary, those who stunt their physical
life are most certainly stunting their souls.

I believe all manner of asceticism to be the vilest blasphemy--
blasphemy towards the whole of the human race. I believe in the
flesh and the body, which is worthy of worship--to see a perfect human body
unveiled causes a sense of worship. The ascetics are the only persons who
are impure. Increase of physical beauty is attended by increase of soul
beauty. The soul is the high even by gazing on beauty. Let me be fleshly

It is in myself that I desire increase, profit, and exaltation
of body, mind, and soul. The surroundings, the clothes, the dwelling, the
social status, the circumstances are to me utterly indifferent. Let the
floor of the room be bare, let the furniture be a plank table, the bed a
mere pallet. Let the house be plain and simple, but in the midst of air and
light. These are enough--a cave would be enough; in a warmer climate the
open air would suffice. Let me be furnished in myself with health, safety,
strength, the perfection of physical existence; let my mind be furnished
with highest thoughts of soul-life. Let me be in myself myself fully. The
pageantry of power, the still more
foolish pageantry of wealth, the senseless precedence of place;
words fail me to express my utter contempt for such pleasure or
such ambitions. Let me be in myself myself fully, and those I
love equally so.

It is enough to lie on the sward in the shadow of green boughs,
to listen to the songs of summer, to drink in the sunlight, the air, the
flowers, the sky, the beauty of all. Or upon the hill-tops to watch the
white clouds rising over the curved hill-lines, their shadows descending the
slope. Or on the beach to listen to the sweet sigh as the smooth sea runs up
and recedes. It is lying beside the immortals, in-drawing the life of the
ocean, the earth, and the sun.

I want to be always in company with these, with earth, and sun,
and sea, and stars by night. The pettiness of house-life--chairs and
tables--and the pettiness of observances, the petty necessity of useless
labour, useless because productive of nothing, chafe me the year through. I
want to be always in company with the sun, and sea, and earth. These, and
the stars by night, are my natural companions.My heart looks back and
sympathises with all the joy and life of ancient time. With the circling
dance burned in still attitude on the vase; with the chase and the hunter
eagerly pursuing, whose javelin trembles to be thrown; with the extreme fury
of feeling, the whirl of joy in the warriors from Marathon to the last
battle of Rome, not with the slaughter, but with the passion--the life in
the passion; with the garlands and the flowers; with all the breathing busts
that have panted beneath the sun. O beautiful human life! Tears come in my
eyes as I think of it. So beautiful, so inexpressibly beautiful!

So deep is the passion of life that, if it were possible to live
again, it must be exquisite to die pushing the eager breast
against the sword. In the flush of strength to face the sharp
pain joyously, and laugh in the last glance of the sun--if only
to live again, now on earth, were possible. So subtle is the
chord of life that sometimes to watch troops marching in rhythmic order,
undulating along the column as the feet are lifted, brings tears in my eyes.
Yet could I have in my own heart all the passion, the love and joy, burned
in the breasts that have panted, breathing deeply, since the hour of Ilion,
yet still I should desire more. How willingly I would strew the paths of all
with flowers; how beautiful a delight to make the world joyous! The song
should never be silent, the dance never still, the laugh should sound like
water which runs for ever.

I would submit to a severe discipline, and to go without many
things cheerfully, for the good and happiness of the human race
in the future. Each one of us should do something, however small, towards
that great end. At the present time the labour of our predecessors in this
country, in all other countries of the earth, is entirely wasted. We
live--that is, we snatch an existence--and ourworks become nothing. The
piling up of fortunes, the building of cities, the establishment of immense
commerce, ends in a cipher. These objects are so outside my idea that I
cannot understand them, and look upon the struggle in amazement. Not even
the pressure of poverty can force upon me an understanding of, and sympathy
with, these things. It is the human being as the human being of whom I
think. That the human being as the human being, nude--apart altogether from
money, clothing, houses, properties--should enjoy greater health, strength,
safety, beauty, and happiness, I would gladly agree to a discipline like
that of Sparta. The Spartan method did produce the finest race of men, and
Sparta was famous in antiquity for the most beautiful women. So far,
therefore, it fits exactly to my ideas.

No science of modern times has yet discovered a plan to meet the
requirements of the millions who live now, no plan by which they might
attain similar physical proportion. Some increase of longevity, some slight
improvement in the general health is promised, and these are great things,
but far, far beneath the ideal. Probably the whole mode of thought of the
nations must be altered before physical progress is possible. Not while
money, furniture, affected show and the pageantry of wealth are the
ambitions of the multitude can the multitude become ideal in form. When the
ambition of the multitude is fixed on the ideal of form and beauty, then
that ideal will become immediately possible, and a marked advance towards it
could be made in three generations. Glad, indeed, should I be to discover
something that would help towards this end.

How pleasant it would be each day to think, To-day I have done
something that will tend to render future generations more
happy. The very thought would make this hour sweeter. It is absolutely
necessary that something of this kind should be discovered. First, we must
lay down the axiom that as yet nothing has been found; we have nothing to
start with; all has to be begun afresh. All courses or methods of human life
have hitherto been failures. Some course of life is needed based on things
that are, irrespective of tradition. The physical ideal must be kept
steadily in view.


AN enumeration of the useless would almost be an enumeration of
everything hitherto pursued. For instance, to go back as far as
possible, the study and labour expended on Egyptian inscriptions
and papyri, which contain nothing but doubtful, because laudatory history,
invocations to idols, and similar matters: all these labours are in vain.
Take a broom and sweep the papyri away into the dust. The Assyrian
terra-cotta tablets, some recording fables, and some even sadder--contracts
between men whose bodies were dust twenty centuries since--take a hammer
and demolish them. Set a battery to beat down the pyramids, and
a mind-battery to destroy the deadening influence of tradition.
The Greek statue lives to this day, and has the highest use of
all, the use of true beauty. The Greek and Roman philosophers
have the value of furnishing the mind with material to think
from. Egyptian and Assyrian, mediaeval and eighteenth-century
culture, miscalled, are all alike mere dust, and absolutely

There is a mass of knowledge so called at the present day
equally useless, and nothing but an encumbrance. We are forced
by circumstances to become familiar with it, but the time
expended on it is lost. No physical ideal--far less any soul-
ideal--will ever be reached by it. In a recent generation
erudition in the text of the classics was considered the most
honourable of pursuits; certainly nothing could be less valuable. In our own
generation, another species of erudition
is lauded--erudition in the laws of matter--which, in itself, is
but one degree better. The study of matter for matter's sake is
despicable; if any can turn that study to advance the ideal of life, it
immediately becomes most valuable. But not without the human ideal. It is
nothing to me if the planets revolve around the sun, or the sun around the
earth, unless I can thereby gather an increase of body or mind. As the
conception of the planets revolving around the sun, the present astronomical
conception of the heavens, is distinctly grander than that of Ptolemy, it is
therefore superior, and a gain to the human mind. So with other sciences,
not immediately useful, yet if they furnish the mind with material of
thought, they are an advance.

But not in themselves--only in conjunction with the human ideal.
Once let that slip out of the thought, and science is of no
more use than the invocations in the Egyptian papyri. The world would be the
gainer if the Nile rose and swept away pyramid and tomb, sarcophagus,
papyri, and inscription; for it seems as if most of the superstitions which
still to this hour, in our own country, hold minds in their sway, originated
in Egypt. The world would be the gainer if a Nile flood of new thought arose
and swept away the past, concentrating the effort of all the races of the
earth upon man's body, that it might reach an ideal of shape, and health,
and happiness.

Nothing is of any use unless it gives me a stronger body and
mind, a more beautiful body, a happy existence, and a soul-life
now. The last phase of philosophy is equally useless with the
rest. The belief that the human mind was evolved, in the process of
unnumbered years, from a fragment of palpitating slime through a thousand
gradations, is a modern superstition, and proceeds upon assumption alone.

Nothing is evolved, no evolution takes place, there is no record
of such an event; it is pure assertion. The theory fascinates
many, because they find, upon study of physiology, that the
gradations between animal and vegetable are so fine and so close together,
as if a common web bound them together. But although they stand so near they
never change places. They are like the
figures on the face of a clock; there are minute dots between,
apparently connecting each with the other, and the hands move
round over all. Yet ten never becomes twelve, and each second
even is parted from the next, as you may hear by listening to
the beat. So the gradations of life, past and present, though
standing close together never change places. Nothing is evolved.
There is no evolution any more than there is any design in nature. By
standing face to face with nature, and not from books, I have convinced
myself that there is no design and no evolution. What there is, what was the
cause, how and why, is not yet known; certainly it was neither of these.

But it may be argued the world must have been created, or it
must have been made of existing things, or it must have been
evolved, or it must have existed for ever, through all eternity.
I think not. I do not think that either of these are "musts," nor that any
"must" has yet been discovered; not even that there "must" be a first cause.
There may be other things--other physical forces even--of which we know
nothing. I strongly suspect there are. There may be other ideas altogether
from any we have hitherto had the use of. For many ages our ideas have been
confined to two or three. We have conceived the idea of creation, which is
the highest and grandest of all, if not historically true; we have conceived
the idea of design, that is of an intelligence making order and revolution
of chaos; and we have conceived the idea of evolution by physical laws of
matter, which, though now so much insisted on, is as ancient as the Greek
philosophers. But there may be another alternative; I think there are other

Whenever the mind obtains a wider view we may find that origin.
for instance, is not always due to what is understood by cause.
At this moment the mind is unable to conceive of anything happening, or of
anything coming into existence, without a cause. From cause to effect is the
sequence of our ideas. But I think that if at some time we should obtain an
altogether different and broader sequence of ideas, we may discover that
there are various other alternatives. As the world, and the universe at
large, was not constructed according to plan, so it is clear that the
sequence or circle of ideas which includes
plan, and cause, and effect, are not in the circle of ideas
which would correctly explain it. Put aside the plan-circle of
ideas, and it will at once be evident that there is no inherent
necessity or "must." There is no inherent necessity for a first
cause, or that the world and the universe was created, or that
it was shaped of existing matter, or that it evolved itself and
its inhabitants, or that the cosmos has existed in varying forms
for ever. There may be other alternatives altogether. The only
idea I can give is the idea that there is another idea.

In this "must"--"it must follow"--lies my objection to the logic of science.
The arguments proceed from premises to conclusions, and end with the
assumption "it therefore follows." But I say that, however carefully the
argument be built up, even though apparently flawless, there is no such
thing at present as "it must follow." Human ideas at present naturally form
a plan, and a balanced design; they might be indicated by a geometrical
figure, an upright straight line in the centre, and branching from that
straight line curves on either hand exactly equal to each other. In drawing
that is how we are taught, to balance the outline or curves on one side with
the curves on the other. In nature and in fact there is no such thing. The
stem of a tree represents the upright line, but the branches do not balance;
those on one side are larger or longer than those on the other. Nothing is
straight, but all things curved, crooked, and unequal.

The human body is the most remarkable instance of inequality,
lack of balance, and want of plan. The exterior is beautiful in
its lines, but the two hands, the two feet, the two sides of the
face, the two sides of the profile, are not precisely equal.
The very nails of the fingers are set ajar, as it were, to
the lines of the hand, and not quite straight. Examination of the interior
organs shows a total absence of balance. The heart is not in the centre, nor
do the organs correspond in any way. The viscera are wholly opposed to plan.
Coming, lastly, to the bones, these have no humanity, as it were, of shape;
are neither round nor square; the first sight of them causes a sense of
horror, so extra-human are they in shape; there is no balance of design in
them. These are very brief examples, but the whole universe, so far as it
can be investigated, is equally unequal. No straight line runs through it,
with balanced
curves each side.

Let this thought now be carried into the realms of thought. The mind, or
circle, or sequence of ideas, acts, or thinks, or exists in a balance, or
what seems a balance to it. A straight line of
thought is set in the centre, with equal branches each side, and with a
generally rounded outline.
But this corresponds to nothing in tangible fact. Hence I
think, by analogy, we may suppose that neither does it correspond to the
circle of ideas which caused us and all things to be, or, at all events, to
the circle of ideas which
accurately understand us and all things. There are other ideas altogether.
>From standing face to face so long with the real earth, the real sun, and
the real sea, I am firmly convinced that there is an immense range of
thought quite unknown to us yet.

The problem of my own existence also convinces me that there is much more.
The questions are: Did my soul exist before my body was formed? Or did it
come into life with my body, as a product,
like a flame, of combustion? What will become of it after death? Will it
simply go out like a flame and become non-existent, or will it live for ever
in one or other mode? To these questions
I am unable to find any answer whatsoever. In our present range of ideas
there is no reply to them. I may have previously existed; I may not have
previously existed. I may be a product
of combustion; I may exist on after physical life is suspended,
or I may not. No demonstration is possible. But what I want to
say is that the alternatives of extinction or immortality may
not be the only alternatives. There may be something else, more
wonderful than immortality, and far beyond and above that idea.
There may be something immeasurably superior to it. As our ideas have run in
circles for centuries, it is difficult to find words to express the idea
that there are other ideas. For myself, though I cannot fully express
myself, I feel fully convinced that there is a vast immensity of thought, of
existence, and of other things beyond even immortal existence.


IN human affairs everything happens by chance--that is, in defiance of human
ideas, and without any direction of an intelligence. A man bathes in a pool,
a crocodile seizes and lacerates his flesh. If any one maintains that an
intelligence directed that cruelty, I can only reply that his mind is under
an illusion. A man is caught by a revolving shaft and torn to pieces, limb
from limb. There is no directing intelligence in human affairs, no
protection, and no assistance. Those who act uprightly are not rewarded, but
they and their children often wander in the utmost indigence. Those who do
evil are not always punished, but frequently flourish and have happy
children. Rewards and punishments are purely human institutions, and if
government be relaxed they entirely disappear. No intelligence whatever
interferes in human affairs. There is a most senseless belief now prevalent
that effort, and work, and cleverness,
perseverance and industry, are invariably successful. Were this
the case, every man would enjoy a competence, at least, and be
free from the cares of money. This is an illusion almost equal
to the superstition of a directing intelligence, which every
fact and every consideration disproves.

How can I adequately express my contempt for the assertion that
all things occur for the best, for a wise and beneficent end,
and are ordered by a humane intelligence! It is the most utter
falsehood and a crime against the human race. Even in my brief
time I have been contemporary with events of the most horrible
character; as when the mothers in the Balkans cast their own
children from the train to parish in the snow; as when the Princess Alice
foundered, and six hundred human beings were smothered in foul water; as
when the hecatomb of two thousand maidens were burned in the church at
Santiago; as when the miserable creatures tore at the walls of the Vienna
theatre. Consider only the fates which overtake the little children. Human
suffering is so great, so endless, so awful that I can hardly write of it. I
could not go into hospitals and face it, as some do, lest my mind should be
temporarily overcome. The whole and the worst the worst pessimist can say is
far beneath the least particle of the truth, so immense is the misery of
man. It is the duty of all rational beings to acknowledge the truth. There
is not the least trace of directing intelligence in human affairs. This is
a foundation of hope, because, if the present condition of things were
ordered by a superior power, there would be no possibility of improving it
for the better in the spite of that power. Acknowledging that no such
direction exists, all things become at once plastic to our will.

The credit given by the unthinking to the statement that all
affairs are directed has been the bane of the world since the
days of the Egyptian papyri and the origin of superstition. So
long as men firmly believe that everything is fixed for them, so
long is progress impossible. If you argue yourself into the belief that you
cannot walk to a place, you cannot walk there.
But if you start you can walk there easily. Any one who will
consider the affairs of the world at large, and of the individual, will see
that they do not proceed in the manner they
would do for our own happiness if a man of humane breadth of
view were placed at their head with unlimited power, such as is
credited to the intelligence which does not exist. A man of
intellect and humanity could cause everything to happen in an
infinitely superior manner. Could one like the divine Julius--humane,
generous, broadest of view, deep thinking--wield such power, certainly every
human being would enjoy happiness.

But that which is thoughtlessly credited to a non-existent
intelligence should really be claimed and exercised by the human
race. It is ourselves who should direct our affairs, protecting
ourselves from pain, assisting ourselves, succouring and rendering our lives
happy. We must do for ourselves what
superstition has hitherto supposed an intelligence to do for us.
Nothing whatsoever is done for us. We are born naked, and not even protected
by a shaggy covering. Nothing is done for us.
The first and strongest command (using the word to convey the
idea only) that nature, the universe, our own bodies give, is to
do everything for ourselves. The sea does not make boats for us,
nor the earth of her own will build us hospitals. The injured lie bleeding,
and no invisible power lifts them up. The maidens were scorched in the midst
of their devotions, and their remains make a mound hundreds of yards long.
The infants perished in the snow, and the ravens tore their limbs. Those in
the theatre crushed each other to the death--agony. For how long, for how
many thousand years, must the earth and the sea, and the fire and the air,
utter these things and force them upon us before they are admitted in their
full significance?

These things speak with a voice of thunder. From every human being whose
body has been racked by pain; from every human being who has suffered from
accident or disease; from every human being drowned, burned, or slain by
negligence, there goes up a continually increasing cry louder than the
An awe-inspiring cry dread to listen to, which no one dares listen to,
against which ears are stopped by the wax of superstition and the wax of
criminal selfishness:--These miseries are your doing, because you have mind
and though, and could have prevented them. You can prevent them in the
future. You do not even try.

It is perfectly certain that all diseases without exception are
preventable, or, if not so, that they can be so weakened as to
do no harm. It is perfectly certain that all accidents are
preventable; there is not one that does not arise from folly or
negligence. All accidents are crimes. It is perfectly certain
that all human beings are capable of physical happiness. It is
absolutely incontrovertible that the ideal shape of the human
being is attainable to the exclusion of deformities. It is
incontrovertible that there is no necessity for any man to die
but of old aoe, and that if death cannot be prevented life
can be prolonged far beyond the farthest now known. It is incontrovertible
that at the present time no one ever dies of old age. Not one single person
ever dies of old age, or of natural causes, for there is no such thing as a
natural cause of death. They die of disease or weakness which is the result
of disease either in themselves or in their ancestors. No such thing as old
age is known to us. We do not even know what old age would be like, because
no one ever lives to it.

Our bodies are full of unsuspected flaws, handed down it may be
for thousands of years, and it is of these that we die, and not
of natural decay. Till these are eliminated, or as nearly
eliminated as possible, we shall never even know what true old
age is like, nor what the true natural limit of human life is.
The utmost limit now appears to be about one hundred and five
years, but as each person who has got so far has died of weaknesses
inherited through thousands of years, it is impossible to say to what number
of years he would have reached in a natural state. It seems more than
possible that true old age--the slow and natural decay of the body apart
from inherited
flaw--would be free from very many, if not all, of the petty
miseries which now render extreme age a doubtful blessing. If
the limbs grew weaker they would not totter; if the teeth
dropped it would not be till the last; if the eyes were less
strong they would not be quite dim; nor would the mind lose its

But now we see eyes become dim and artifical aid needed in comparative
youth, and teeth drop out in mere childhood.
Many men and women lose teeth before they are twenty. This simple fact is
evidence enough of inherited weakness or flaw. How could a person who had
lost teeth before twenty be ever said to die of old age, though he died at a
hundred and ten? Death is not a supernatural event; it is an event of the
most materialistic character, and may certainly be postponed, by the united
efforts of the human race, to a period far more distant from the date of
birth than has been the case during the historic period. The question has
often been debated in my mind whether death is or is not wholly preventable;
whether, if the entire human race were united in their efforts to eliminate
causes of decay, death might not also be altogether eliminated.

If we consider ourselves by the analogy of animals, trees, and
other living creatures, the reply is that, however postponed,
in long process of time the tissues must wither. Suppose an ideal man, free
from inherited flaw, then though his age might
be prolonged to several centuries, in the end the natural body
must wear out. That is true so far. But it so happens that the analogy is
not just, and therefore the conclusions it points to are not tenable.

Man is altogether different from every other animal, every other living
creature known. He is different in body. In his purely natural state--in his
true natural state--he is immeasurably stronger. No animal approaches to the
physical perfection of which a man is capable. He can weary the strongest
horse, he can outrun the swiftest stag, he can bear extremes of heat and
cold hunger and thirst, which would exterminate every known living thing.
Merely in bodily strength he is superior to all. The stories of antiquity,
which were deemed fables, may be fables historically, but search has shown
that they are not intrinsically fables. Man of flesh and blood is capable
of all that Ajax, all that Hercules did. Feats in modern days have surpassed
these, as when Webb swam the Channel; mythology contains nothing equal to
that. The difference does not end here. Animals think to a certain extent,
but if their conceptions be ever so clever, not having hands they cannot
execute them.

I myself maintain that the mind of man is practically infinite.
It can understand anything brought before it. It has not the
power of its own motion to bring everything before it, but when
anything is brought it is understood. It is like sitting in a
room with one window; you cannot compel everything to pass the
window, but whatever does pass is seen. It is like a magnifying glass, which
magnifies and explains everything brought into its focus. The mind of man is
infinite. Beyond this, man has a soul. I do not use this word in the common
sense which circumstances have given to it. I use it as the only term to
express that inner consciousness which aspires. These brief reasons show
that the analogy is imperfect, and that therefore, although an ideal
animal--a horse, a dog, a lion--must die, it does not follow that an ideal
man must. He has a body possessed of exceptional recuperative powers, which,
under proper conditions, continually repairs itself. He has a mind by which
he can select remedies, and select his course and carefully restore the
waste of tissue. He has a soul, as yet, it seems to me, lying in abeyance,
by the aid of which he may yet discover things now deemed supernatural.

Considering these things I am obliged by facts and incontrovert-ible
argument to conclude that death is not inevitable to the ideal man. He is
shaped for a species of physical immortality. The beauty of form of the
ideal human being indicates immortality--the contour, the curve, the outline
answer to the idea of life. In the course of ages united effort long
continued may eliminate those causes of decay which have grown up in ages
past, and after that has been done advance farther and improve the natural
state. As a river brings down suspended particles of sand, and depositing
them at its mouth forms a delta and a new country; as the air and the rain
and the heat of the sun desiccate the rocks and slowly wear down mountains
into sand, so the united action of the human race, continued through
centuries, may build up the ideal man and woman.
Each individual labouring in his day through geological time in front must
produce an effect. The instance of Sparta, where so much was done in a few
centuries, is almost proof of it.

The truth is, we die through our ancestors; we are murdered by our
ancestors. Their dead hands stretch forth from the tomb and drag us down to
their mouldering bones. We in our turn are now at this moment preparing
death for our unborn posterity. This day those that die do not die in the
sense of old age, they are slain. Nothing has been accumulated for our
benefit in ages past. All the labour and the toil of so many millions
continued through such vistas of time, down to those millions who at this
hour are rushing to and fro in London, has
accumulated nothing for us. Nothing for our good. The only things that have
been stored up have been for our evil and destruction, diseases and
weaknesses crossed and cultivated and rendered almost part and parcel of our
very bones. Now let us begin to roll back the tide of death, and to set our
steadily to a future of life. It should be the sacred and sworn duty of
every one, once at least during lifetime, to do something in person towards
this end. It would be a delight and pleasure to me to do something every
day, were it ever so minute. To reflect that another human being, if at a
distance of ten thousand years from the year 1883, would enjoy one hour's
more life, in the sense of fulness of life, in consequence of anything I had
done in my little span, would be to me a peace of soul.


UNITED effort through geological time in front is but the beginning of an
idea. I am convinced that much more can be done, and that the length of time
may be almost immeasurably shortened. The general principles that are now in
operation are of the simplest and most elementary character, yet they have
already made considerable difference. I am not content with these. There
must be much more--there must be things which are at present unknown by
whose aid advance may be made. Research proceeds upon the same old lines and
runs in the ancient grooves. Further, it is restricted by the
ultra-practical views which are alone deemed reasonable. But there should be
no limit placed on the mind. The purely ideal is as worthy of pursuit as the
practical, and the mind is not to be pinned to dogmas of science any more
than to dogmas of superstition. Most injurious
of all is the continuous circling on the same path, and it is
from this that I wish to free my mind.

The pursuit of theory--the organon of pure thought--has led
incidentally to great discoveries, and for myself I am convinced
it is of the highest value. The process of experiment has produced much, and
has applied what was previously found.
Empiricism is worthy of careful re-working out, for it is a fact
that most things are more or less empirical, especially in
medicine. Denial may be given to this statement, nevertheless
it is true, and I have had practical exemplification of it in my
own experience. Observation is perhaps more powerful an organon
than either experiment or empiricism. If the eye is always watching, and
the mind on the alert, ultimately chance supplies the solution.

The difficulties I have encountered have generally been solved
by chance in this way. When I took an interest in
archaeological matters--an interest long since extinct--I
considered that a part of an army known to have marched in a
certain direction during the Civil War must have visited a town
in which I was interested. But I exhausted every mode of
research in vain; there was no evidence of it. If the knowledge
had ever existed it had dropped again. Some years afterwards,
when my interest had ceased, and I had put such inquiries for
ever aside (being useless, like the Egyptian papyri), I was
reading in the British Museum. Presently I returned my book to
the shelf, and then slowly walked along the curving wall lined with volumes,
looking to see if I could light on anything to amuse me. I took out a volume
for a glance; it opened of itself at a certain page, and there was the
information I had so long sought--a reprint of an old pamphlet describing
the visit of the army to the town in the Civil War. So chance answered the
question in the course of time.

And I think that, seeing how great a part chance plays in human affairs, it
is essential that study should be made of chance; it seems to me that an
organon from experiment. Then there is the inner consciousness--the
psyche--that has never yet been brought to bear upon life and its questions.
Besides which there is a super-sensuous reason. Often I have argued with
myself that such and such a course was the right one to follow, while in the
intervals of thinking about it an undercurrent of unconscious impulse has
desired me to do the reverse or to remain inactive.
Sometimes it has happened that the supersensuous reasoning has been correct,
and the most faultless argument wrong. I presume this supersensuous
reasoning, preceeding independently in the mind, arises from preceptions too
delicate for analysis. From these considerations alone I am convinced that,
by the aid of ideas yet to be discovered, the geological time in front may
be immeasurably shortened. These modes of research are not all. The
psyche--the soul in me--tells me that there is much more, that these are
merely beginnings of the crudest kind.

I fully recognise the practical difficulty arising from the ingrained,
hereditary, and unconscious selfishness which began before history, and has
been crossed and cultivated for twelve thousand years since. This renders me
less sanguine of united effort through geological time ahead, unless some
idea can be formed to give a stronger impulse even than selfishness, or
unless the selfishness can be utilised. The complacency with which the mass
of people go about their daily task, absolutely
indifferent to all other considerations, is appalling in its
concentrated stolidity. They do not intend wrong--they intend rightly: in
truth, they work against the entire human race.
So wedded and so confirmed is the world in its narrow groove of self, so
stolid and so complacent under the immense weight of misery, so callous to
its own possibilities, and so grown to its chains, that I almost despair to
see it awakened. Cemeteries are often placed on hillsides, and the white
stones are visible far off. If the whole of the dead in a hillside cemetery
were called up alive from their tombs, and walked forth down into the
valley, it would not rouse the mass of people from the dense pyramid of
stolidity which presses on them.

There would be gaping and marvelling and rushing about, and what then? In a
week or two the ploughman would settle down to his plough, the carpenter to
his bench, the smith to his anvil, the
merchant to his money, and the dead come to life would be
utterly forgotten. No matter in what manner the possibilities
of human life are put before the world, the crowd continues as stolid as
before. Therefore nothing hitherto done, or suggested, or thought of,is of
much avail; but this fact in no degree
stays me from the search. On the contrary,the less there has been
accomplished the more anxious I am; the truth it teaches is
that the mind must be lifted out of its old grooves before anything will be
certainly begun. Erase the past from the mind--stand face to face with the
real now--and work out all anew. Call the soul to our assistance; the soul
tells me that outside all the ideas that have yet occurred there are others,
whole circles of others.

I remember a cameo of Augustus Caesar--the head of the emperor is graven in
delicate lines, and shows the most exquisite proportions. It is a balanced
head, a head adjusted to the calmest intellect. That head when it was living
contained a circle of ideas, the largest, the widest, the most profound
current in his time. All that philosophy had taught, all that practice,
experiment, and empiricism had discovered, was familiar to him. There was no
knowledge in the ancient world but what was accessible to the Emperor of
Rome. Now at this day there are amongst us heads as finely proportioned as
that cut out in the cameo. Though these living men do not possess arbitrary
power, the advantages of arbitrary power--as far as knowledge is
concerned--are secured to them by education, by the printing-press, and the
facilities of our era. It is reasonable to imagine a head of our time filled
with the largest, the widest, the most profound ideas current in the age.
Augustus Caesar, however great his intellect, could not in that balanced
head have possessed the ideas familiar enough to the living head of this
day. As we have a circle of ideas unknown to Augustus Caesar, so I argue
there are whole circles of ideas unknown to us. It is these that I am so
earnestly desirous of discovering.

For nothing has as yet been of any value, however good its intent. There is
no virtue, or reputed virtue, which has not
been rigidly pursued, and things have remained as before. Men
and women have practised self-denial, and to what end? They
have compelled themselves to suffer hunger and thirst; in
vain. They have clothed themselves in sack cloth and lacerated the flesh.
They have mutilated themselves. Some have been scrupulous to bathe, and some
have been scrupulous to cake their bodies with the foulness of years. Many
have devoted their lives to assist others in sickness or poverty. Chastity
has been faithfully observed, chastity both of body and mind.
Self-examination has been pursued till it ended in a species of sacred
insanity, and all these have been of no more value than the tortures
undergone by the Indian mendicant who hangs himself up by a hook through his
back. All these are pure folly.

Asceticism has not improved the form, or the physical well-being, or the
heart of any human being. On the contrary, the hetaira is often the warmest
hearted and the most generous. Casuistry and self-examination are perhaps
the most injurious of all the virtues, utterly destroying independence of
mind. Self-denial has had no result, and all the self-torture of centuries
has been thrown away. Lives spent in doing good have been lives nobly
wasted. Everything is in vain. The circle of ideas we possess is too
limited to aid us. We need ideas as far outside our circle as ours are
outside those that were pondered over by Augustus Caesar.

The most extraordinary spectacle, as it seems to me, is the vast
expenditure of labour and time wasted in obtaining mere subsistence. As a
man, in his lifetime, works hard and saves money, that his children may be
free from the cares of penury and may at least have sufficient to eat,
drink, clothe, and roof them, so the generations that preceded us might, had
they so chosen, have provided for our subsistence. The labour and time of
ten generations, properly directed, would sustain a hundred generations
succeeding to them, and that, too, with so little self-denial on the part of
the providers as to be scarcely felt. So men now, in this generation, ought
clearly to be laying up a store, or, what is still more powerful, arranging
and organising that the generations which follow may enjoy comparative
freedom from useless labour. Instead of which, with transcendent
improvidence, the world works only for to-day, as the world worked twelve
thousand years ago, and our children's children will still have to toil and
slave for the bare necessities of life. This is, indeed an extraordinary

That twelve thousand written years should have elapsed, and the
human race--able to reason and to think, and easily capable of
combination in immense armies for its own destruction--should still live
from hand to mouth, like cattle and sheep, like the animals of the field and
the birds of the woods; that there should not even be roofs to cover the
children born, unless those children labour and expend their time to pay for
them; that there should not be clothes, unless, again,time and labour are
expended to procure them; that there should not be even food for the
children of the human race, except they labour as their fathers did twelve
thousand years ago; that even water should scarce be accessible to them,
unless paid for by labour! In twelve thousand written years the world has
not yet built itself a House, nor filled a Granary, nor organised itself for
its own
comfort. It is so marvellous I cannot express the wonder with which it fills
me. And more wonderful still, if that could be,
there are people so infatuated, or, rather, so limited of view,
that they glory in this state of things, declaring that work
is the main object of man's existence--work for subsistence--
and glorying in their wasted time. To argue with such is impossible; to
leave them is the only resource.

This our earth this day produces sufficient for our existence.
This our earth produces not only a sufficiency, but a
superabundance, and pours a cornucopia of good things down upon
us. Further, it produces sufficient for stores and granaries to
be filled to the rooftree for years ahead. I verily believe
that the earth in one year produces enough food to last for
thirty. Why, then, have we not enough? Why do people die of
starvation, or lead a miserable existence on the verge of it?
Why have millions upon millions to toil from morning to evening
just to gain a mere crust of bread? Because of the absolute
lack of Organisation by which such labour should produce its
effect, the absolute lack of distribution, the absolute lack even of the
very idea that such things are possible.
Nay, even to mention such things, to say that they are possible, is criminal
with many. Madness could hardly go farther.

That selfishness has all to do with it I entirely deny. The
human race for ages upon ages has been enslaved by ignorance and
by interested persons whose object it has been to confine the
minds of men, thereby doing more injury than if with infected
hands they purposely imposed disease on the heads of the people. Almost
worse than these, and at the present day as injurious, are those persons
incessantly declaring, teaching, and
impressing upon all that to work is man's highest condition.
This falsehood is the interested superstition of an age
infatuated with money, which having accumulated it cannot even
expend it in pageantry. It is a falsehood propagated for the
doubtful benefit of two or three out of ten thousand, It is the
lie of a morality founded on money only, and utterly outside and
having no association whatever with the human being in itself.
Many superstitions have been got rid of in these days; time it is that this,
the last and worst, were eradicated.

At this hour, out of thirty-four millions who inhabit this
country, two-thirds--say twenty-two millions--live within thirty
years of that abominable institution the poorhouse. That any
human being should dare to apply to another the epithet "pauper" is, to me,
the greatest, the vilest, the most unpardonable crime that could be
committed. Each human being, by mere birth, has a birthright in this earth
and all its productions; and if they do not receive it, then it is they who
are injured, and it is not the "pauper"--oh, inexpressibly wicked word!--it
is the well-to-do, who are the criminal classes.
It matters not in the least if the poor be improvident, or drunken, or evil
in any way. Food and drink, roof and clothes, are the inalienable right of
every child born into the light. If the world does not provide it
freely--not as a grudging gift but as a right, as a son of the house sits
down to breakfast--then is the world mad. But the world is not mad, only in
ignorance--an interested ignorance, kept up by strenuous exertions, from
which infernal darkness it will, in course of time, emerge, marvelling at
the past as a man wonders at and glories in the light who has escaped from


This our earth produces not only a sufficiency a superabundance, but in one
year pours a cornucopia of good things forth, enough to fill us for many
years in succession. The only reason we do not enjoy it is the want of
rational organisation. I know, of course, and all who think know, that some
labour or supervision will always necessary, since the plough must travel
the furrow and the seed must must be sown; but I maintain that a tenth,
nay, a hundredth, part of the labour and slavery now gone through will be
sufficient, and that in the course of time, as organisation perfects itself
and discoveries advance, even that part will diminish. For the rise and fall
of the tides alone furnish forth sufficient power to do automatically all
the labour that is done on the earth. Is ideal man, then, to be idle? I
answer that, if so, I see no wrong, but a great good. I deny altogether that
idleness is an evil, or that it produces evil, and I am well aware why the
interested are so bitter against idleness--namely, because it gives time for
thought, and if men had time to think their reign would come to an end.
Idleness--that is, the absence of the necessity to work for subsistence--is
a great good.

I hope succeeding generations will be able to be ideal. I hope that
nine-tenths of their time will be leisure time; that they may enjoy their
days, and the earth, and the beauty of this beautiful world; that they may
rest by the sea and dream; that they may dance and sing, and eat and drink.
I will work towards that end with all my heart. If employment they must
have--and the restlessness of the mind will insure that some will be
followed--then they will find scope enough in the perfection of their
physical frames, in the expansion of the mind, and in the
enlargement of the soul. They shall not work for bread, but for
their souls. I am willing to divide and share all I shall ever have for this
purpose, though I think the end will rather be gained by organisation than
by sharing alone.

In these material things, too, I think that we require another circle of
ideas, and I believe that such ideas are possible, and, in a manner of
speaking, exist. Let me exhort every one to do their utmost to think outside
and beyond our present circle of ideas. For every idea gained is a hundred
years of slavery remitted. Even with the idea of organisation which promises
most I am not satisfied, but endeavour to get beyond and outside it, so that
the time now necessary may be shortened. Besides which, I see that many of
our difficulties arise from obscure and remote causes--obscure like the
shape of bones, for whose strange curves there is no familiar term. We must
endeavour to understand the crookedness and unfamiliar curves of the
conditions of life. Beyond that still there are other ideas. Never, never
rest contented with any circle of ideas, but always be certain that a wider
one is still possible. For my
thought is like a hyperbola that continually widens ascending.

For grief there is no known consolation. It is useless to fill our hearts
with bubbles. A loved one gone is gone, and as to the future--even if there
is a future--it is unknown. To assure ourselves otherwise is to soothe the
mind with illusions; the bitterness of it is inconsolable. The sentiments of
trust chipped out on tombstones are touching instances of the innate
goodness of the human heart, which naturally longs for good, and sighs
itself to sleep in the hope that, if parted, the parting is for the benefit
of those that are gone. But these inscriptions are also awful instances of
the deep intellectual darkness which presses still on the minds of men. The
least thought erases them. There is no consolation. There is no relief.
There is no hope certain; the whole system is a mere illusion. I, who hope
so much, and am so rapt up in the soul, know full well that there is no

The tomb cries aloud to us--its dead silence presses on the drum
of the ear like thunder, saying, Look at this, and erase your
illusions; now know the extreme value of human life; reflect on
this and strew human life with flowers; save every hour for the
sunshine; let your labour be so ordered that in future times the loved ones
may dwell longer with those who love them; open your
minds; exalt your souls; widen the sympathies of your hearts;
face the things that are now as you will face the reality of death; make joy
real now to those you love, and help forward the joy of those yet to be
born. Let these facts force the mind and the soul to the increase of
thought, and the consequent remission of misery; so that those whose time it
is to die may have enjoyed all that is possible in life. Lift up your mind
and see now in this bitterness of parting, in this absence of certainty, the
fact that there is no directing intelligence; remember that this death is
not of old age, which no one living in the world has ever seen; remember
that old age is possible, and perhaps even more than old age; and beyond
these earthly things-what? None know. But let us, turning away from the
illusion of a directing intelligence, look earnestly for something better
than a god, seek for something higher than
prayer, and lift our souls to be with the more than immortal

A river runs itself clear during the night, and in sleep
thought becomes pellucid. All the hurrying to and fro, the
unrest and stress, the agitation and confusion subside. Like a
sweet pure spring, thought pours forth to meet the light, and
is illumined to its depths. The dawn at my window ever causes
a desire for larger thought, the recognition of the light at
the moment of waking kindles afresh the wish for a broad day of
the mind. There is a certainty that there are yet ideas further, and
greater--that there is still a limitless beyond. I know at that moment that
there is no limit to the things that may be yet in material and tangible
shape besides the immaterial perceptions of the soul. The dim white light of
the dawn speaks it. This prophet which has come with its wonders to the
bedside of every human being for so many thousands of years faces me once
again with the upheld finger of light. Where is the limit to that physical

>From space to the sky, from the sky to the hills, and the sea;
to every blade of grass, to every leaf, to the smallest insect,
to the million waves of ocean. Yet this earth itself appears
but a mote in that sunbeam by which we are conscious of one
narrow streak in the abyss. A beam crosses my silent chamber
from the window, and atoms are visible in it; a beam slants
between the fir-trees, and particles rise and fall within, and cross it
while the air each side seems void. Through the heavens a beam slants, and
we are aware of the star-stratum in which our earth moves. But what may be
without that stratum? Certainly it is not a void. This light tells us much,
but I think in the course of time yet more delicate and subtle mediums than
light may be found, and through these we shall see into the shadows of the
sky. When will it be possible to be certain that the capacity of a single
atom has been exhausted? At any moment some fortunate incident may reveal a
fresh power. One by one the powers of light have been unfolded.

After thousands of years the telescope opened the stars, the
prism analysed the substance of the sun, the microscope showed
the minute structure of the rocks and the tissues of living
bodies. The winged men on the Assyrian bas-reliefs, the gods of
the Nile, the chariot-borne immortals of Olympus, not the
greatest of imagined beings ever possessed in fancied attributes
one-tenth the power of light. As the swallows twitter, the dim
white finger appears at my window full of wonders, such as all
the wise men in twelve thousand precedent years never even hoped
to conceive. But this is not all--light is not all; light conceals more than
it reveals; light is the darkest shadow of the sky; besides light there are
many other mediums yet to be explored. For thousands of years the sunbeams
poured on the earth, full as now of messages, and light is not a hidden
thing to be searched out with difficulty. Full in the faces of men the rays
came with their intelligence from the sun when the papyri were painted
beside the ancient Nile, but they were not understood.

This hour, rays or undulations of more subtle mediums are
doubtless pouring on us over the wide earth, unrecognised, and
full of messages and intelligence from the unseen. Of these we
are this day as ignorant as those who painted the papyri were of
light. There is an infinity of knowledge yet to be known, and
beyond that an infinity of thought. No mental instrument even has yet been
invented by which researches can be carried direct to the object. Whatever
has been found has been discovered by fortunate accident; in looking for one
thing another has been chanced on. A reasoning process has yet to be
invented by which to go straight to the desired end. For now the slightest
particle is enough to throw the search aside, and the most minute
circumstance sufficient to conceal obvious and brilliantly shining truths.
One summer evening sitting by my window I watched for the first star to
appear, knowing the position of the brightest in the southern sky. The dusk
came on, grew deeper, but the star did not shine. By-and-by, other stars
less bright appeared, so that it could not be the sunset which obscured the
expected one. Finally, I considered that I must have mistaken its position,
when suddenly a puff of air blew through the branch of a pear-tree which
overhung the window, a leaf moved, and there was the star behind the leaf.

At present the endeavour to make discoveries is like gazing at
the sky up through the boughs of an oak. Here a beautiful star
shines clearly; here a constellation is hidden by a branch; a
universe by a leaf. Some mental instrument or organon is
required to enable us to distinguish between the leaf which may
be removed and a real void; when to cease to look in one direction, and to
work in another. Many men of broad brow and great intellect lived in the
days of ancient Greece, but for lack of the accident of a lens, and of
knowing the way to use a prism, they could but conjecture imperfectly. I am
in exactly the position they were when I look beyond light. Outside my
present knowledge I am exactly in their condition. I feel that there are
infinities to be known, but they are hidden by
a leaf. If any one says to himself that the telescope, and the microscope,
the prism, and other discoveries have made all plain, then he is in the
attitude of those ancient priests who worshipped the scarabaeus or beetle.
So, too, it is with thought; outside our present circle of ideas I believe
there is an infinity of idea. All this that has been effected with light
has been done by bits of glass--mere bits of shaped glass, quickly broken,
and made of flint, so that by the rude flint our subtlest ideas are gained.
Could we employ the ocean as a lens, and force truth from the sky, even then
I think there would be much more beyond.

Natural things are known to us only under two conditions--matter
and force, or matter and motion. A third, a fourth, a fifth--no
one can say how many conditions--may exist in the ultra-stellar
space, and such other conditions may equally exist about us now
unsuspected. Something which is neither matter nor force is difficult to
conceive, yet, I think, it is certain that there are other conditions. When
the mind succeeds in entering on a wider series, or circle of ideas, other
conditions would appear
natural enough. In this effort upwards I claim the assistance
of the soul--the mind of the mind. The eye sees, the mind
deliberates on what it sees, the soul understands the operation
of the mind. Before a bridge is built, or a structure erected,
or an interoceanic canal made, there must be a plan, and before
a plan the thought in the mind. So that it is correct to say
the mind bores tunnels through the mountains, bridges the
rivers, and constructs the engines which are the pride of the

This is a wonderful tool, but it is capable of work yet more
wonderful in the exploration of the heavens. Now the soul is
the mind of the mind. It can build and construct and look beyond
and penetrate space, and create. It is the keenest, the
sharpest tool possessed by man. But what would be said if a
carpenter about to commence a piece of work examined his tools
and deliberately cast away that with the finest edge? Such is
the conduct of those who reject the inner mind or psyche
altogether. So great is the value of the soul that it seems to
me, if the soul lived and received its aspirations it would not
matter if the material universe melted away as snow. Many turn
aside the instant the soul is mentioned, and I sympathise with
them in one sense; they fear lest, if they acknowledge it, they
will be fettered by mediaeval conditions. My contention is that
the restrictions of the mediaeval era should entirely be cast
into oblivion, but the soul recognised and employed. Instead of
slurring over the soul, I desire to see it at its highest


SUBTLE as the mind is, it can effect little without knowledge.
It cannot construct a bridge, or a building, or make a canal, or
work a problem in algebra, unless it is provided with
information. This is obvious, and yet some say, What can you
effect by the soul? I reply because it has had no employment. Mediaeval
conditions kept it in slumber: science refuses to accept it. We are taught
to employ our minds, and furnished with materials. The mind has its logic
and exercise of geometry, and thus assisted brings a great force to the
solution of problems. The soul remains untaught, and can effect little.

I consider that the highest purpose of study is the education of the soul or
psyche. It is said that there is no proof of the existence of the soul, but,
arguing on the same grounds, there is no proof of the existence of the mind,
which is not a tangible thing. For myself, I feel convinced that there is a
soul, a mind of the mind--and that it really exists. Now, glancing at the
state of wild and uneducated men, it is evident that they work with their
hands and make various things almost instinctively. But when they arrive at
the idea of mind, and say to themselves, I possess a mind, then they think
and proceed
farther, forming designs and constructions both tangible and

Next then, when we say, I have a soul, we can proceed to shape
things yet further, and to see deeper, and penetrate the
mystery. By denying the existence and the power of the soul--
refusing to employ it--we should go back more than twelve
thousand written years of human history. But instead of this,
I contend, we should endeavour to go forward, and to discover a fourth Idea,
and after that a fifth, and onwards continually.

I will not permit myself to be taken captive by observing
physical phenomena, as many evidently are. Some gases are
mingled and produce a liquid; certainly it is worth careful
investigation, but it is no more than the revolution of a
wheel, which is so often seen that it excites no surprise,
though, in truth, as wonderful. So is all motion, and so is a
grain of sand; there is nothing that is not wonderful; as, for
instance, the fact of the existence of things at all. But the
intense concentration of the mind on mechanical effects appears
often to render it incapable of perceiving anything that is not
mechanical. Some compounds are observed to precipitate crystals, all of
which contain known angles. Thence it is argued that all is mechanical, and
that action occurs in set ways only. There
is a tendency to lay it down as an infallible law that because
we see these things therefore everything else that exists in
space must be or move exactly in the same manner. But I do not
think that because crystals are precipitated with fixed angles
therefore the whole universe is necessarily mechanical. I think
there are things exempt from mechanical rules. The restriction
of thought to purely mechanical grooves blocks progress in the
same way as the restrictions of mediaeval superstition. Let the
mind think, dream, imagine: let it have perfect freedom. To
shut out the soul is to put us back more than twelve thousand

Just as outside light, and the knowledge gained from light,
there are, I think, other mediums from which, in times to come,
intelligence will be obtained, so outside the mental and the spiritual ideas
we now possess I believe there exists a whole circle of ideas. In the
conception of the idea that there are others, I lay claim to another idea.

The mind is infinite and able to understand everything that is
brought before it; there is no limit to its understanding. The
limit is in the littleness of the things and the narrowness of
the ideas which have been put for it to consider. For the
philosophies of old time past and the discoveries of modern
research are as nothing to it. They do not fill it. When they
have been read, the mind passes on, and asks for more. The
utmost of them, the whole together, make a mere nothing. These
things have been gathered together by immense labour, labour
so great that it is a weariness to think of it; but yet, when
all is summed up and written, the mind receives it all as
easily as the hand picks flowers. It is like one sentence--
read and gone.

The mind requires more, and more, and more. It is so strong
that all that can be put before it is devoured in a moment.
Left to itself it will not be satisfied with an invisible
idol any more than with a wooden one. An idol whose attributes are
omnipresence, omnipotence, and so on, is no greater than light or
electricity, which are present everywhere and all-powerful, and from which
perhaps the thought arose. Prayer which receives no reply must be pronounced
in vain. The mind goes on and requires more than these, something higher
than prayer, something higher than a god.

I have been obliged to write these things by an irresistible
impulse which has worked in me since early youth. They have not
been written for the sake of argument, still less for any thought of profit,
rather indeed the reverse. They have been forced from me by earnestness of
heart, and they express my most serious convictions. For seventeen years
they have been lying in my mind, continually thought of and pondered over. I
was not more than eighteen when an inner and esoteric meaning began to come
to me from all the visible universe, and indefinable aspirations filled me.
I found them in the grass fields, under the trees, on the hill-tops, at
sunrise, and in the night. There was a deeper meaning everywhere. The sun
burned with it, the broad front of morning beamed with it; a deep feeling
entered me while gazing at the sky in the azure noon, and in the star-lit

I was sensitive to all things, to the earth under, and the
star-hollow round about; to the least blade of grass, to the
largest oak. They seemed like exterior nerves and veins
for the conveyance of feeling to me. Sometimes a very ecstasy
of exquisite enjoyment of the entire visible universe filled
me. I was aware that in reality the feeling and the thought were
in me, and not in the earth or sun; yet I was more conscious of
it when in company with these. A visit to the sea increased
the strength of the original impulse. I began to make efforts
to express these thoughts in writing, but could not succeed to
my own liking. Time went on, and harder experiences, and the
pressure of labour came, but in no degree abated the fire of
first thought. Again and again I made resolutions that I would
write it, in some way or other, and as often failed. I could
express any other idea with ease, but not this. Once especially I remember,
in a short interval of distasteful labour, walking away to a spot by a brook
which skirts an ancient Roman wall, and there trying to determine and really
commence to work. Again I failed. More time, more changes, and still the
same thought running beneath everything. At last, in 1880, in the old castle
of Pevensey, under happy circumstances, once more I resolved, and actually
did write down a few notes. Even then I could not go on, but I kept the
notes(I had destroyed all former begin-
nings), and in the end, two years afterwards, commenced this book.

After all this time and thought it is only a fragment, and a fragment
scarcely hewn. Had I not made it personal I could scarcely have put it into
any shape at all. But I felt that I could no longer delay, and that it must
be done, however imperfectly. I am only too conscious of its imperfections,
for I have as it were seventeen years of consciousness of my own inability
to express this the idea of my life. I can only say that many of these short
sentences are the result of long-continued thought. One of the greatest
difficulties I have encountered is the lack of words to express ideas. By
the word soul, or psyche, I mean that inner consciousness which aspires. By
prayer I do not mean a request for anything preferred to a deity; I mean
intense soul-emotion, intense aspiration. The word immortal is very
inconvenient, and yet there is no other to convey the idea of soul-life.
Even these definitions are deficient, and I must leave my book as a whole to
give its own meaning to its words.

Time has gone on, and still, after so much pondering, I feel
that I know nothing, that I have not yet begun; I have only just
commenced to realise the immensity of thought which lies outside the
knowledge of the senses. Still, on the hills and by the seashore, I seek and
pray deeper than ever.

The sun burns southwards over the sea and before the wave runs
its shadow, constantly slipping on the advancing slope till it curls and
covers its dark image at the shore. Over the rim of the horizon waves are
flowing as high and wide as those that break upon the beach. These that come
to me and beat the trembling shore are like the thoughts that have been
known so long; like the ancient, iterated, and reiterated thoughts that have
broken on the strand of mind for thousands of years. Beyond and over the
horizon I feel that there are other waves of ideas unknown to me, flowing as
the stream of ocean flows. Knowledge of facts is limitless: they lie at my
feet innumerable like the countless pebbles; knowledge of thought so
circumscribed! Ever the same thoughts come that have been written down
centuries and centuries.

Let me launch forth and sail over the rim of the sea yonder,
and when another rim arises over that, and again and onwards
into an ever-widening ocean of idea and life. For with all the
strength of the wave, and its succeeding wave, the depth and
race of the tide, the clear definition of the sky; with all the
subtle power of the great sea, there rises an equal desire.
Give me life strong and full as the brimming ocean; give me
thoughts wide as its plain; give me a soul beyond these. Sweet
is the bitter sea by the shore where the faint blue pebbles are
lapped by the green-grey wave, where the wind-quivering foam is
loth to leave the lashed stone. Sweet is the bitter sea, and
the clear green in which the gaze seeks the soul, looking through the glass
into itself. The sea thinks for me as I listen and ponder; the sea thinks,
and every boom of the wave repeats my prayer.

Sometimes I stay on the wet sands as the tide rises, listening
to the rush of the lines of foam in layer upon layer; the wash
swells and circles about my feet, I have my hands in it, I lift
a little in my hollowed palm, I take the life of the sea to me.
My soul rising to the immensity utters its desire-prayer with all the
strength of the sea. Or, again, the full stream of ocean beats upon the
shore, and the rich wind feeds the heart,
the sun burns brightly; the sense of soul-life burns in me like
a torch.

Leaving the shore I walk among the trees; a cloud passes, and
the sweet short rain comes mingled with sunbeams and flower-
scented air. The finches sing among the fresh green leaves of the beeches.
Beautiful it is, in summer days, to see the wheat
wave, and the long grass foam--flecked of flower yield and return to the
wind. My soul of itself always desires; these are to it as fresh food. I
have found in the hills another valley grooved in prehistoric times, where,
climbing to the top of the hollow, I can see the sea. Down in the hollow I
look up; the sky stretches over, the sun burns as it seems but just above
the hill, and the wind sweeps onward. As the sky extends beyond the valley,
so I know that there are ideas beyond the valley of my thought; I know that
there is something infinitely higher than deity. The great sun burning in
the sky, the sea, the firm earth, all the stars of night are feeble--all,
all the cosmos is feeble; it is not strong enough to utter my prayer-desire.
My soul cannot reach to its full desire of prayer. I need no earth, or sea,
or sun to think my thought. If my thought-part--the psyche--were entirely
separated from the body, and from the earth, I should of myself desire the
same. In itself my soul desires; my existence, my soul-existence is in
itself my prayer, and so long as it exists so long will it pray that I may
have the fullest soul-life.


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