yourself ignorant of his understanding. This golden rule of mine does, I own, resemblethose of Pythagoras in its obscurity rather than in its depth. If however the reader willpermit me to be my own Hierocles, I trust, that he will find its meaning fully explainedby the following instances. I have now before me a treatise of a religious fanatic, full ofdreams and supernatural experiences. I see clearly the writer's grounds, and theirhollowness. I have a complete insight into the causes, which through the medium of hisbody has acted on his mind; and by application of received and ascertained laws I cansatisfactorily explain to my own reason all the strange incidents, which the writerrecords of himself. And this I can do without suspecting him of any intentionalfalsehood. As when in broad day- light a man tracks the steps of a traveller, who had losthis way in a fog or by a treacherous moonshine, even so, and with the same tranquilsense of certainty, can I follow the traces of this bewildered visionary. I understand hisignorance.On the other hand, I have been re-perusing with the best energies of my mind theTIMAEUS of Plato. Whatever I comprehend, impresses me with a reverential sense ofthe author's genius; but there is a considerable portion of the work, to which I can attachno consistent meaning. In other treatises of the same philosopher, intended for theaverage comprehensions of men, I have been delighted with the masterly good sense,with the perspicuity of the language, and the aptness of the inductions. I recollectlikewise, that numerous passages in this author, which I thoroughly comprehend, wereformerly no less unintelligible to me, than the passages now in question. It would, I amaware, be quite fashionable to dismiss them at once as Platonic jargon. But this I cannotdo with satisfaction to my own mind, because I have sought in vain for causes adequateto the solution of the assumed inconsistency. I have no insight into the possibility of aman so eminently wise, using words with such half-meanings to himself, as mustperforce pass into no meaning to his readers. When in addition to the motives thussuggested by my own reason, I bring into distinct remembrance the number and theseries of great men, who, after long and zealous study of these works had joined inhonouring the name of Plato with epithets, that almost transcend humanity, I feel, that acontemptuous verdict on my part might argue want of modesty, but would hardly bereceived by the judicious, as evidence of superior penetration. Therefore, utterly baffledin all my attempts to understand the ignorance of Plato, I conclude myself ignorant ofhis understanding.In lieu of the various requests which the anxiety of authorship addresses to the unknownreader, I advance but this one; that he will either pass over the following chapter
Coleridge / Biographia Literaria / 11altogether, or read the whole connectedly. The fairest part of the most beautiful bodywill appear deformed and monstrous, if dissevered from its place in the organic whole.