Philosophy

n. A route of many roads leading from nowhere to nothing.

The Mask of the Philosopher

Amongst tragic masks may be counted all systems of philosophy and religion. So long as they are still plastic in the mind of their creator, they seem to him to wear the very lineaments of nature. He cannot distinguish the comic cast of his own thought; yet inevitably it shows the hue and features of his race; it has its curious idiom and constitutional grammar, its quite personal rhetoric, its ridiculous ignorances and incapacities, and when his work is finished and its expression set, and other people behold it, it becomes under his name one of the stock masks or dramatis personae  of the moral world. In it every wrinkle of his soul is eternalized, its old dead passion persisted in, its open mouth, always with the same rictus, bawling one deaf thought for ever. Even to himself, if he could have seen his mind at a distance, it would have appeared limited and foreign, as to an old man the verses of his youth, or like one's own figure seen unexpectedly in a mirror and mistaken at first for another person. His own system, as much as those of others, would have seemed to him a mask for the truth, partial, over-emphatic, exaggerating one feature and distorting another, and above all severed from the context of nature, as a picture in a frame, where much may be shown with a wonderfully distilled beauty, yet without its substance, and without its changeful setting in the moving world. Yet this fate is in part a favour. A system, like a tell-tale glass, may reveal by a trick of reflection many a fact going on behind one's back. By it the eye of the mind travels where experience cannot penetrate; it turns into a spectacle what was never open to sight, and it disentangles things seen from the personal accidents of vision. The mask is greater than the man. In isolating what was important and pertinent in his thoughts, it rescues his spirit from the contamination of all alien dyes, and bequeaths it to posterity such as it would have wished to be.