Beneath the blaze of a tropical sun the mountain peaks are the Thrones of Frost, this through the absence of objects to reflect the rays.
What no one with us shares, seems scarce our own–we need another to reflect our thoughts.
—Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Samuel T. Coleridge was a thinker, and thinkers are so rarely found that the world must take note of them. John Stuart Mill, writing in Eighteen Hundred Forty, assigned first place among English philosophers to Jeremy Bentham, incidentally mentioning that Samuel Taylor Coleridge was Bentham’s only rival.
In philosophy there is an apostolic succession. We build on the past, and all the centuries of turmoil and travail which have gone before have made this moment possible. There has never been any such thing as “the fall of man”; for the march of the race has been a continual climb–a movement onward and upward. Were it not for Coleridge and Bentham, we could not have had Buckle, Wallace and Spencer, for the minds of men would not have been prepared to give them a hearing. “Half the battle is in catching the Speaker’s eye,” said Thomas Brackett Reed; and a John the Baptist to prepare the way is always necessary. Without Coleridge to quietly ignore the question of precedent, and refuse to accept a thing without proof, and ask eternally and yet again, “How do you know?” Charles Darwin with his “Origin of Species” would have been laughed out of court. Or probably had Darwin been persistent we would have consigned him to the stocks, burned his book in the public square, and with the aid of logical thumbscrews made him recant.
Even as it was, the gibes and guffaws of the press and pulpit came near drowning the modest, moderate voice of Darwin; and for a score of years, his reputation as a scientist seemed to be trembling in the balance. Yet today the man who would seriously attempt in an educated assembly to throw obloquy upon the doctrine of Evolution and the name of Charles Darwin would find himself speedily listed with Brudder Jasper of Richmond, Virginia. The Church now, everywhere, has its Drummonds, who build on Darwin and use his citations as proof; and Drummond merely expressed what the many believe–no more.
The man who has dared to think for himself and voiced his thought–the emancipated man–has been as one in a million. What usually passes for thought is only the repetition of things we have heard or been told. We memorize, repeat by rote and call it thought.
With the Church and State in control of food and clothes, and with spears, clubs, knives and guns ready to suppress whatsoever seemed dangerous to their stability, it is a miracle that men have ever improved on anything–for progress has been for centuries a perilous performance. To question a priest was blasphemy. To reason with a judge was heinous. To think and decide for yourself was to invite torture and death.
And all this was very natural, simply because the superior class who monopolized the good things of earth were obliged, in order to enslave and tax men, to make them believe that their power was derived from God. And thus was taught the “divine right of kings,” the duty of submission, the necessity of belief and the sinfulness of doubt. The source of all knowledge was declared to be a book, and the right of interpretation of this book was given to one class alone–those who sided with and were a part of the Superior Class.
The reason the race has progressed so slowly is because the strong, vigorous and independent have been suppressed, either by legal process, or exterminated through war, which reaps the best and lets the weak, the diseased and the cowards go.
Those who doubted and questioned have been deprived of food and clothes, disgraced, mobbed, robbed, lashed naked at the cart’s tail, burned at the stake, or separated from their families and transported beyond the sea to be devoured by wild beasts, die in jungles, or toil out their lives in slavery.