Like a light in a window or a candle in a room…



But men like Mr. Shaw have already left that behind, in the years of wandering starting from the Dublin of the Protestants and the Darwin of the Professors. They already realized that there is “a soul in every dogma”, that religion cannot be left out of account, that rationalism cannot be left in control. Now if we are to look sympathetically for the soul in every dogma, surely we must look for that something in the soul which makes it clothe itself in every case in a particular and personal body. If this particularism always stubbornly recurs even in poetry, how can it be left out of philosophy? What is the meaning of this incurable itch to give to airy nothing, or still more airy everything, a local habitation and a name? Why is it always something at once odd and objective, a precious fruit or a flying cup or a buried key, that symbolizes the mystery of the world? Why should not the world symbolize the world? Why should not a sphere sufficiently represent universalism; so that the faithful might be found adoring a plum-pudding or a cannon-ball? Why should not a spiral sufficiently represent progress; and the pious bow down before a corkscrew? In practice we know that it would be impossible to dissociate a Christmas pudding from the sacramental specialism of Christmas; and the worship of the corkscrew, that hieratic serpent, would probably be traced to the mysteries of Dionysius. In a word, why are all mysteries concerned with the notion of finding a particular thing in a particular place? If we are to find the real meaning of every element in mythology, what is the real meaning of that element in it? I can see only one possible answer that satisfies the new more serious and sympathetic study of religion, even among sceptics; and that is that there really is something to which all these fancies are what forgeries are to a signature; that if the soul could be satisfied with the truth it would find it a tale as particular, as positive and as personal; that the light which we follow first as a wide white star actually narrows as we draw nearer to it, till we find that trailing meteor is something like a light in a window or a candle in a room.

-G. K. Chesterton, The Soul In Every Legend, Part One: Essays on Literature in General, The Spice of Life.


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