Of Sonnets, Symphonies, and Socrates

Hamilton, Edith


  • Edith Hamilton talks about "spiritual truth" and why faith, not facts, are necessary for understanding it.
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And now, This I Believe. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. Edith Hamilton is a scholar and a writer. She was educated at Bryn Mawr College and for twenty-six years she was headmistress of the Bryn Mawr School. She then started a new career as a writer and became an outstanding interpreter to this generation of Greek civilization. She is the author of The Greek Way, Spokesmen for God, and Witness to the Truth. Here are the beliefs of Miss Edith Hamilton.
“I see in Shakespeare,” the poet Keats said, “the power of resting in uncertainty without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.” What Shakespeare knew, he could not prove by fact and reason. In the truth he was seeking there could not be certainty logically demonstrated or factually self-evident. There can never be that kind of certainty in the things that are greatest and most important to us. To me in the course of my long life, this has become a profound conviction. No facts, no reasoning, can prove to me that Beethoven’s music is beautiful or that it is more blessed to give than to receive. No facts can prove to me that God is. There is an order of truth where we cannot have the proved certainties of the mind and where we do not need them.
The search for spiritual truth may be hampered by them, not helped. When people are certain they know, the way to more knowledge is closed. But to see beauty opens the way to a fuller perception of beauty. To love goodness creates more goodness. Spiritual certainty leads to greater certainty.
The truths of the spirit are proved not by reasoning about them or finding explanations of them, but only by acting upon them. Their life is dependent upon what we do about them. Mercy, gentleness, forgiveness, patience—if we do not show them, they will cease to be. Upon us depends the reality of God here on the earth today. “If we love one another God dwelleth in us.” Lives are the proof of the reality of God.
When the world we are living in is storm-driven and the bad that happens and the worse that threatens press urgently upon us, there is a strong tendency to emphasize men’s baseness or their impotent insignificance. Modern philosophy has turned that way; modern art, too. Is this the way the world is to go or not? It depends upon us.
St. John spoke of the true light that lighteth every man coming into the world. Belief in the indestructible power of that light makes it indestructible. This lifts up the life of every man to an overwhelming importance and dignity.
God leaves us free. We are free to choose Him or reject Him. No tremendous miracle will come down from heaven to compel us to accept as a fact a Being powerful enough to work it. What would that kind of belief do toward making love or compassion a reality? God puts the truth of Himself into our hands. We must carry the burden of the proof, for His truth can be proved in no other way. “Glorious is the venture,” Socrates said.
Those were the beliefs of Edith Hamilton, authority on Greek civilization.