Concentrating Upon the Great Humanists

From The Secret of Self Development (1926), by John Cowper Powys.

The most uneducated peasant or factory-hand, if he has developed an original and sensitive response to life, is in reality more cultivated in the truest sense of that term than many a college-bred professor. And the more deeply cultivated a person is the fewer will be the books he will read. For he will gather the great select spirits of the ages about him and meddle very little with contemporary fashions. He will carry the Sonnets of Shakespeare in his pocket as he goes to his office. Secreted in his desk in his office itself will be found Bayard Taylor’s translation of Faust, or Lang, Butcher and Leaf’s translation of Homer; and, who knows, if on his way home he will not debouch down some side-street to a second-hand book-shop and purchase there some stray volume of Matthew Arnold’s poetry.

I am inclined to think that one definite result of such a person’s concentration upon the great humanists of the world will be the development in him of a certain philosophical skepticism which will be turned just as frequently upon the latest dogmas of science as upon the oldest dogmas of religion! I am inclined to think that although he will love to skim over the gnomic pages of the great metaphysicians he will treat each particular thinker rather as an artist than as a discoverer of pure truth. I think he will visualize his “hard facts” for a month or so, shall we say, according to the vision of Hegel, and then, for another month, transform them according to the vision of Spinoza or of Schopenhauer!