The New Word
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Pages (PDF): 198
Publication Date: 1910
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The term Scientology was first coined in this book by Allen Upward although the philosophy which Upward expounds in The New Word has nothing to do with any of the ideas of the latter-day Scientologists. In fact, Upward uses it here as a disparaging term, to indicate a blind, unthinking acceptance of scientific doctrine. Nor is the 'New Word' of the title Scientology. Rather, the word here is Idealist, drawn from Alfred Nobels' will, the starting point for Upward's essay. Intensely critical of everything and often funny, Upward's book is enjoyable reading in its own right, even if it is not exactly the Nobel prize material which he hoped for. He was apparently as obsessed with the Nobel prize as this book intimates.
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AS the astronomer, in order to tell fairly the time kept by a star in heaven, must first record the time taken by his own thought, and thereby correct his reckoning; and as Descartes did not deem it beside the purpose to tell the Sorbonne that he was in his dressing-gown when he sat down to prove the existence of God; so it will not be vain for me to describe with what bias I approached my present task.
An eloquent writer upon Art, in a work called The Seven Lamps of Architecture, has chosen Truth to be his second Lamp, and thereby shown that it was not his first wish to tell the truth about architecture. Accordingly it is no surprise to see him begin by defining architecture as useless building, and end, in a preface written long afterwards, by complaining that this very book had proved useless for its purpose. For if architecture be useless building, literature must be useless writing. It is significant, and it will not be found beside the question, that neither in this book, nor in other books treating of Gothic architecture, is there the least allusion to the architecture of the Goths. The origin of the Gothic church, like the origin of everything else in Europe, has been sought on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. No one has asked why the Italian masons, when they crossed the Alps, as they are still crossing them to-day, in search of work, left off building like the Romans, and began building otherwise. No one seems to know that the Gothic church, in its essential features, features that have been copied in St. Peter's, is a copy of the Gothic hall as it was built in Iceland in the days of Charlemagne, and as it was built in Gothland in the days of Herod.
To say that truth had been my first lamp in this inquiry would be only to say that I was a Gothic writer, or, as men write it in my native land, a Jute. I have approached the word Idealist in the spirit of a Goth seeking to understand a Mediterranean word. I have approached it in the spirit of a child seeking to understand a schoolmaster's word. I have been like a sleeper, waking out of an enchanted sleep, and seeking to understand an enchanter's word.
My first, and, to the best of my endeavour, my only, light in this inquiry has been the light of verihood.
The foreword of this Letter was really written thirty years ago, when a mere schoolboy, hardly knowing what he did, chose Truth as being for him the one sacred Name. Afterwards, when I had read the book in which Darwin reminded us clearly of a fact dimly familiar to our forefathers, I laid it down with the reflection that most other books would have to be re-written in the light of that forgotten fact.—The question was how to begin.
I spent the next twenty years in exploring the human mind as it is revealed in literature, and as it is revealed in life. I have not passed the time shut up in libraries. I have been a speaker and a writer; I have been a lawyer and a soldier; I have been a ruler and a judge. I have taught children, and learned from them. I have talked with the learned in their colleges, and talked with the Black men in their own land beside the Black River, in the oldest and most catholic speech, the language of Signs. In a place where no White man had been before me, I found a Black king and his folk withheld by an old curse from planting a medicinal tree; and I broke the curse by showing to them a stone whereon a Greek of long ago had carved the figure of his God.—In such ways I have learned somewhat of the nature of words.
At the same time I have learned somewhat of the feelings that words express, and found the same feeling underlying many different words; as if all men, in all ages, and in all lands, were trying to say much the same thing. And hardly knowing whether I had found anything worth saying, nor how far the words that were right for me would be right for others, I doubted whether I should speak.
In our time there are many honourable men and women who share my doubt. They have been put to sleep in childhood with certain words, most true and beautiful to those who spoke them first; and they have awakened out of that sleep with great pain, and as those who are bereft of hope. Now such a man as I speak of, a Materialist, came to me one day, and told me he had been consulted by a mother, who was also a Materialist, about the education of her child, a child who will one day occupy a great place in the world, and influence the lives of many other children. And, both being Materialists, he had given her the advice, and she had taken it, that the child's mind should be put to sleep by the words which they themselves both believed to be untrue.
The following day I found in the organ of my trades-union as an author the announcement of Nobel's Testament.
On reading the Fourth Bequest my first reflection was the sad one that such a Trust was not likely to be carried out. Then I asked myself why? What books did the Testator wish to be written; why were they not being written; and why, if they should be written, must they nevertheless fail of their reward? The answer seemed to lie in the meaning of the word Idealist.—What was its meaning? or rather what was its meaning for other minds than my own?—I turned to the dictionary; what I found led me further; I began to make notes, and presently saw they were the book I had waited for so long to begin.
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