The Soldier and the Hunchback



It is surely time that we began to question the validity of some of our data. So far our scepticism has not only knocked to pieces our tower of thought, but rooted up the foundation-stone and ground it into finer and more poisonous powder than that into which Moses ground the calf. These golden Elohim! Our calf-heads that brought us not out of Egypt, but into a darkness deeper and more tangible than any darkness of the double Empire of Asar.
Hume put his little ? to Berkeley's God-!; Buddha his ? to the Vedic Atman-! — and neither Hume nor Buddha was baulked of his reward. Ourselves may put ? to our own ? since we have found no ! to put it to; and wouldn't it be jolly if our own second ? suddenly straightened its back and threw its chest out and marched off as !?
Suppose then we accept our scepticism as having destroyed our knowledge root and branch — is there no limit to its action? Does it not in a sense stultify itself? Having destroyed logic by logic — if Satan cast out Satan, how shall his kingdom stand?
Let us stand on the Mount, Saviours of the World that we are, and answer "Get thee behind me, Satan!" though refraining from quoting texts or giving reasons.
Oho! says somebody; is Aleister Crowley here? — Samson blinded and bound, grinding corn for the Philistines!
Not at all, dear boy!
We shall put all the questions that we can put — but we may find a tower built upon a rock, against which the winds beat in vain.
Not what Christians call faith, be sure! But what (possibly) the forgers of the Epistles — those eminent mystics! — meant by faith. What I call Samadhi — and as "faith without works is dead," so, good friends, Samadhi is all humbug unless the practitioner shows the glint of its gold in his work in the world. If your mystic becomes Dante, well; if Tennyson, a fig for his trances!
But how does this tower of Samadhi stand the assault of Question-time?
Is not the idea of Samadhi just as dependent on all the other ideas — man, time, being, thought, logic? If I seek to explain Samadhi by analogy, am I not often found talking as if we knew all about Evolution, and Mathematics, and History? Complex and unscientific studies, mere straws before the blast of our hunchback friend!
Well, one of the buttresses is just the small matter of common sense.
The other day I was with Dorothy, and, as I foolishly imagined, very cosy: for her sandwiches are celebrated. It was surely bad taste on the part of Father Bernard Vaughan, and Dr. Torrey, and Ananda Metteyya, and Mr. G. W. Foote, and Captain Fuller, and the ghost of Immanuel Kant, and Mr. Bernard Shaw, and young Neuburg, to intrude. But intrude they did; and talk! I never heard anything like it. Every one with his own point of view; but all agreed that Dorothy was non-existent, or if existent, a most awful specimen, that her buns were stale, and her tea stewed; ergo, that I was having a very poor time of it. Talk! Good God! But Dorothy kept on quietly and took no notice; and in the end I forgot about them.
Thinking it over soberly, I see now that very likely they were quite right: I can't prove it either way. But as a mere practical man, I intend taking the steamer — for my sins I am in Gibraltar — back to Dorothy at the earliest possible moment. Sandwiches of bun and German sausage may be vulgar and even imaginary — it's the taste I like. And the more I munch, the more complacent I feel, until I go so far as to offer my critics a bite.
This sounds in a way like the "Interior Certainty" of the common or garden Christian; but there are differences.
The Christian insists on notorious lies being accepted as an essential part of his (more usually her) system; I, on the contrary, ask for facts, for observation. Under Scepticism, true, one is just as much a house of cards as the other; but only in the philosophical sense.
Practically, Science is is true; and Faith is foolish.
Practically, 3 x 1 = 3 is the truth; and 3 x 1 = 1 is a lie; though, sceptically, both statements may be false or unintelligible.
Practically, Franklin's method of obtaining fire from heaven is better than that of Prometheus or Elijah. I am now writing by the light that Franklin's discovery enabled men to use.
Practically, "I concentrated my mind upon a white radiant triangle in whose centre was a shining eye, for 22 minutes and 10 seconds, my attention wandering 45 times" is a scientific and valuable statement. "I prayed fervently to the Lord for the space of many days" means anything or nothing. Anybody who cares to do so may imitate my experiment and compare his result with mine. In the latter case one would always be wondering what "fervently" meant and who "the Lord" was, and how many days made "many."
My claim, too, is more modest than the Christian's. He (usually she) knows more about my future than is altogether pleasant; I claim nothing absolute from my Samadhi — I know only too well the worthlessness of single-handed observations, even on so simple a matter as a boiling-point determination! — and as for his (usually her) future, I content myself with mere common sense about the probable end of a fool.
So that after all I keep my scepticism intact — and I keep my Samadhi intact. The one balances the other; I care nothing for the vulgar brawling of these two varlets of my mind!
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