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More by this Author
This chapter is purely practical and is concerned with what
actually is the chief mark and element of insanity; we may say
in summary that it is reason used without root, reason in the void.
The man who begins to think without the proper first principles goes mad;
he begins to think at the wrong end. And for the rest of these pages
we have to try and discover what is the right end. But we may ask
in conclusion, if this be what drives men mad, what is it that keeps
them sane? By the end of this book I hope to give a definite,
some will think a far too definite, answer. But for the moment it
is possible in the same solely practical manner to give a general
answer touching what in actual human history keeps men sane.
Mysticism keeps men sane. As long as you have mystery you have health;
when you destroy mystery you create morbidity. The ordinary man has
always been sane because the ordinary man has always been a mystic.
He has permitted the twilight. He has always had one foot in earth
and the other in fairyland. He has always left himself free to doubt
his gods; but (unlike the agnostic of to-day) free also to believe
in them. He has always cared more for truth than for consistency.
If he saw two truths that seemed to contradict each other,
he would take the two truths and the contradiction along with them.
His spiritual sight is stereoscopic, like his physical sight:
he sees two different pictures at once and yet sees all the better
for that. Thus he has always believed that there was such a thing
as fate, but such a thing as free will also. Thus he believed
that children were indeed the kingdom of heaven, but nevertheless
ought to be obedient to the kingdom of earth. He admired youth
because it was young and age because it was not. It is exactly
this balance of apparent contradictions that has been the whole
buoyancy of the healthy man. The whole secret of mysticism is this:
that man can understand everything by the help of what he does
not understand. The morbid logician seeks to make everything lucid,
and succeeds in making everything mysterious. The mystic allows
one thing to be mysterious, and everything else becomes lucid.
The determinist makes the theory of causation quite clear,
and then finds that he cannot say "if you please" to the housemaid.
The Christian permits free will to remain a sacred mystery; but because
of this his relations with the housemaid become of a sparkling and
crystal clearness. He puts the seed of dogma in a central darkness;
but it branches forth in all directions with abounding natural health.
As we have taken the circle as the symbol of reason and madness,
we may very well take the cross as the symbol at once of mystery and
of health. Buddhism is centripetal, but Christianity is centrifugal:
it breaks out. For the circle is perfect and infinite in its nature;
but it is fixed for ever in its size; it can never be larger
or smaller. But the cross, though it has at its heart a collision
and a contradiction, can extend its four arms for ever without
altering its shape. Because it has a paradox in its centre it can
grow without changing. The circle returns upon itself and is bound.
The cross opens its arms to the four winds; it is a signpost for free