Wednesday, July 16, 2014


One of Humanity's Chronic Weaknesses

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963), "Bacon's Symbolism," Complete Essays, Vol. I: 1920-1925 (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2000), pp. 26-28 (at 26):
All things are profoundly symbolical to those who are ready to believe they are. Men have no tails; neither have guinea-pigs. Death's-heads appear to grin ironically. The stars of heaven fall into patterns of strange and dubious significance; the Great Bear is also a plough, a wain, and a dipper. In the Bestiaries the leopard is made the symbol of Christ because of his habit of sleeping in his den and only waking up after three days, when he exhales a breath so piercingly sweet that all living creatures are drawn towards him and so become his prey. In some Bestiaries the lion also symbolizes the founder of our religion; in others both lion and leopard stand for the devil. All is profoundly mysterious in symbology, and the art of parable and allegory is hard to learn, because there are so many masters, each interpreting the same phenomenon in his own way. Stones will preach as many sermons as there are Jaqueses to contemplate them; the running brooks contain a whole Bodleian. To see the world in terms of symbolism is one of humanity's chronic weaknesses. One must be immensely sophisticated to believe that things are what they seem to be—opaque objects, interesting in themselves and for themselves, and not transparent windows through which to gaze on further and more significant realities beyond.

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