Prophets, poets and philosophers of the ancient world - Henry Osborn Taylor - PDF

Prophets, poets, and philosophers of the ancient world

Henry Osborn Taylor

his book appeared three years ago under the rather blind title of Deliverance. It may have suffered also from the lack of a preface to explain its character and contents. Its object was to set forth, in the briefest possible compass, the various ways in which some of the wisest men of the Ancient World approached the ultimate problems of humanity, and solved them. 

Their solutions embraced convictions concerning God and man, concerning human right- eousness and happiness, and the principles of thought and action. 

Thus these thinkers satisfied their natures, and reached some sovereign reconciliation, some personal adjustment between their concep- tion of the world about them and their own physical and spiritual experience. All of them recognized the fundamental conclusion of the practical reason, that the doer of an act, the thinker of a thought, will not escape its conse- quences. 

This was their common agreement. Yet as they were of divers races, their temperaments differed ; so did their convictions touching God and man, and their conceptions of man's noblest aims and highest good. They could not reach the same self-adjustment or reconciliation with the powers of life. In fact, their thoughts, projected along diverging lines, opened the many ways by which mankind was to explore its destinies. Our own thoughts are very old. 

They have done duty in the minds of bygone men. They were first harnessed in the systems of those Great Ones (to whom I have been referring), those apparent sources of the world's convictions, who in their time set in new-found relationships, and made living, the disjecta membra of human experience and casual reflection. Yet the thoughts may be ours as well as theirs, by virtue of the very same title of having them flash joyfully upon the mind.

 One realizes a universal kinship in human need and aspiration when following such thoughts seemingly afar in the minds of these Founders who have passed on. They who may have died ages ago are nearer to us than the alien masses among whom we move. 

They are the spiritual fathers of us all, and we make ourselves consciously their sons by coming to know them in their achieved or striven-for ad- justment of themselves with the eternal, and in the attunement of their desires to human limita- tions. Some men live in the eternities, and must at their peril keep in tune with them. 

The need for adaptation belongs to them peculiarly. Yet, to some degree, it pertains to all who are touched with meditation; and the endeavor for it, which is an endeavor for peace and spiritual freedom, is an element of life that carries across centuries and millenniums. Although that which those Ancients reached, or even that which they tried for, may not be for us, still the contemplation of their efforts is as the effect of noble sculpture and poetry, bring- ing something like the final calm, the emotional purge, of tragedy. 

The plan of this little book is to attempt some ordering and statement of the ways in which our spiritual ancestors of all times and countries adapted themselves to the fears and hopes of their natures, thus reaching a freedom of action in which they accomplished their lives; or, it may be, they did but find peace; yet brought it forth from such depth of conviction that their peace became peace for thousands and for millions.
Author: Henry Osborn Taylor 
Publication date: 1919

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