FEW of the perils which beset the path of the serious aspirant are more depressing in their nature, more fatal in their effects, than what is called spiritual darkness - the gloom which descends on the heart and brain, wrapping the whole nature in its sombre folds, blotting out all memories of past peace, all hopes of future progress. As a dense fog pervades a great city, stealing into every nook and corner, effacing every familiar landmark, shutting off every vista, blurring into dimness even the brilliant lights, until, to the bewildered wayfarer, nothing seems left save himself and the stifling mephitic vapour that enfolds him, so is it when the fog of spiritual darkness comes down on the aspirant or the disciple. All his landmarks disappear, and the way vanishes in the gloom; his wonted lights are shorn of their lustre, and human beings are mere shadows that now and again push up against him out of the night and into the night again disappear. He is alone and lost; a sense of terrible isolation shuts him in, and no one shares his solitude. The human faces that smiled on him have vanished; the human voices that cheered him are silent: the human love that caressed him has grown chill. His “lovers and friends are put away from” him; and no words of comfort reach him across the deadly stillness. To move forward, when the ground on which the foot must be planted is invisible, feels as if he were stepping over a precipice, and a dull surging of waves at a far depth seems to threaten destruction, while their very distance below intensifies the nearer silence. Heaven is shut out as well as earth; sun, moon and stars have vanished, and no glimmer of their radiance pierces the gloom from above. He feels as though suspended in an abyss of nothingness, and as though he would shortly pass into that nothingness himself; his flame of life seems to flicker in the darkness, as though, in sympathy with the universal gloom, it would itself cease to shine. The “horror of great darkness” is upon him, paralysing every energy, crushing every hope. God and man have deserted him - he is alone, alone.
From the principle that the interest of the ruling body should be as closely as possible identified with that of the people, follow most of the conclusions respecting the constitution of the supreme legislature, which are commonly contended for by the thorough reformers. Such are—first, that the utmost possible publicity should be given to the proceedings of parliament: secondly, that its members should be elected at stated periods: thirdly, that these periods should be short; sufficiently so, to render the sense of responsibility a perpetual, not an occasional feeling. Our author thinks, with most of the complete reformers, that three years are “the longest period consistent with a salutary sense of accountableness.” (P. 203.) Fourthly, the votes at elections must be so taken, as to express the real sentiments of the electors, and not the sentiments merely of some person who has the means of bribing or of coercing them. This, where there are great inequalities of fortune, and where the majority of all classes but the richest are more or less in a dependent condition, requires that the votes be taken in secret. All these topics are handled in our author’s best manner. We shall quote one passage from near the end of the discussion on the ballot; and should have extended our quotation, had not the subject been so recently and so fully treated by ourselves. After replying to some of the common objections on the ballot, our author says—
Seven Pleasures: Essays on Ordinary Happiness by Willard Spiegelman
ed. Francis E. Mineka and Dwight N. Lindley XVII (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1972), 1957. Subsequent references to the four volumes of (including some earlier letters, such as this one discovered after the appearance of the earlier volumes), as well as to the two volumes of (ed. Mineka [Toronto University of Toronto Press, 1963]), are given (when practicable, in the text) simply by (for ) or (for ) and with the volume and page number, and, where necessary, the date in short form (23/5/32 means 23 May, 1832).