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Phaethon: Loose Thoughts For Loose Thinkers
by [?]

“You recollect to whom the Bible applies that text?”

“I do.”

“And yet you say you cannot answer the Professor?”

“I do not care to do so. There are certain root-truths which I know, because they have been discovered and settled for ages; and instead of accepting the challenge of every I-know-not-whom to re- examine them, and begin the world’s work all over again, I will test his theories by them; and if they fail to coincide, I will hear no more speech about the details of the branches and flowers, for I shall know the root is rotten.”

“But he, too, acknowledged certain of those root-truths,” said Templeton, who seemed to have a lingering sympathy with my victim; “he insisted most strongly, and spoke, you will not deny, eloquently and nobly on the Unity of the Deity.”

“On the non-Trinity of it, rather; for I will not degrade the word ‘Him,’ by applying it here. But, tell me honestly-c’est le timbre qui fait la musique-did his ‘Unity of the Deity’ sound in your English Bible-bred heart at all like that ancient, human, personal ‘Hear, O Israel! the Lord thy God is one Lord’?”

“Much more like ‘The Something our Nothing is one Something.'”

“May we not suspect, then, that his notion of the ‘Unity of the Deity’ does not quite coincide with the foundation already laid, whosesoever else may?”

“You are assuming rather hastily.”

“Perhaps I may prove also, some day or other. Do you think, moreover, that the theory which he so boldly started, when his nerves and his manners were relieved from the unwonted pressure by Lady Jane and the ladies going upstairs, was part of the same old foundation?”

“Which, then?”

“That, if a man does but believe a thing, he has a right to speak it and act on it, right or wrong. Have you forgotten his vindication of your friend, the radical voter, and his ‘spirit of truth’?”

“What, the worthy who, when I canvassed him as the Liberal candidate for —, and promised to support complete freedom of religious opinion, tested me by breaking out into such blasphemous ribaldry as made me run out of the house, and then went and voted against me as a bigot?”

“I mean him, of course. The Professor really seemed to admire the man, as a more brave and conscientious hero than himself. I am not squeamish, as you know; but I am afraid that I was quite rude to him when he went as far as that.”

“What-when you told him that you thought that, after all, the old theory of the Divine Right of Kings was as plausible as the new theory of the Divine Right of Blasphemy? My dear fellow, do not fret yourself on that point. He seemed to take it rather as a compliment to his own audacity, and whispered to me that ‘The Divine Right of Blasphemy’ was an expression of which Theodore Parker himself need not have been ashamed.”

“He was pleased to be complimentary. But, tell me, what was it in his oratory which has so vexed the soul of the country squire?”

“That very argument of his, among many things. I saw, or rather felt, that he was wrong; and yet, as I have said already, I could not answer him; and, had he not been my guest, should have got thoroughly cross with him, as a pis-aller.”

“I saw it. But, my friend, used we not to read Plato together, and enjoy him together, in old Cambridge days? Do you not think that Socrates might at all events have driven the Professor into a corner?”

“He might: but I cannot. Is that, then, what you were writing about all last night?”

“It was. I could not help, when I went out on the terrace to smoke my last cigar, fancying to myself how Socrates might have seemed to set you, and the Professor, and that warm-hearted, right-headed, wrong-tongued High-Church Curate, all together by the ears, and made confusion worse confounded for the time being, and yet have left for each of you some hint whereby you might see the darling truth for which you were barking, all the more clearly in the light of the one which you were howling down.”