On the Unity of the World

In many men, the finite self remains always the gaoler of the universal soul; in others, there is a momentary escape; in a few, the prison walls are demolished wholly, and the universal soul remains free through life. It is the escape from prison that gives to some moments and some thoughts a quality of infinity, like light breaking through from some greater world beyond. Sudden beauty in the midst of strife, uncalculating love, or the night wind in trees, seem to suggest the possibility of a life free from the conflicts and pettiness of our everyday world, a life where there is peace which no misfortune can disturb…The things which have this quality of infinity seem to give an insight deeper than the piecemeal knowledge of our daily life.  The quality of infinity which we feel, is not to be accounted for by the perception of new objects, other than those that at most times seem finite; it is to be accounted for, rather, by a different way of regarding the same object, a contemplation more impersonal, more vast, more filled with love, than the fragmentary, disquiet consideration we give to things when we view them as means to help or hinder our purposes. It is not in some other world that beauty and that peace are to be found; it is in this actual everyday world, in the midst of action and business of life. The evils and the smallness are not illusions, but the universal soul finds within itself a love to which imperfections are no barrier, and thus unifies the world by the unity of its own contemplation.