Skepticism Extolled by a Skeptic

Letter to the Editor, The Sun

Sept. 10, 1905, p. 8

To the Editor of The Sun—Sir: Through all of Mr. Goldwin Smith’s letters to The Sun on religion there runs a kind of regret for his rationalism; an unconscious edging toward the faiths that have been swept away can be seen by the eye that reads between his lines. He would set back Growth itself and substitute the medieval doctrine of blind worship for the splendor of pagan wonder—in itself a kind of worship, though worship can never imply real wonder. Worship—blind worship—is fear, and fear is a form of death.

Wonder rises with insight. The leading characteristic of the superior mind is amazement in the presence of this fine lure called earth life. Only inferior minds worship. Amazement begets poets, seers, philosophers.

A lifelong wonder at everything that is presented to consciousness is a lifelong growth, the soul’s candidature for unseen, undreamed of [m]odes of existence: while worship, being essentially a moral attitude toward that which knows not us, professes, impliedly, to have found a solution to the Great Mystery. Hence it is a stoppage, an end, a form of decay—decay itself, stagnation, senescence.

Strong minds pray thus: Give me this day a corroding skepticism and deliver me from singlemindedness and all faith—that I may grow; whirl from me surface to surface, from pit to star, from nadir to zenith; glut me with all despairs and all joys—that I may grow: and let not my doubts fall away from me and defraud me not of pain.

That way lies glory. It is the pagan lilt. No anodyne and narcotics for free souls. To the hospitals and the morgues with the sick and dead. But give me this day a newer, finer skepticism!

Benjamin De Casseres
New York, Sept. 5