The Subtle Knot: Creative Scepticism in Seventeenth Century England

The Subtle Knot: Creative Scepticism in Seventeenth Century England

The Subtle Knot: Creative Scepticism in Seventeenth Century England

The Subtle Knot: Creative Scepticism in Seventeenth Century England

Excerpt

Since 'all experience is an arch,' one normally spends more of his time looking through it than examining its composition. Yet the individual would be both blind and ungrateful who did not try, on occasion, to call the roll of those influences upon his thought and life of which he is most aware, realizing all the while, of course, that one neither knows what he is nor dares to lay at the door of others the responsibility for what he has thus far become.

This book, for better or for worse, is one of the results of the kind of home my parents and grandparents provided, in which both literature and religion were made abundantly available, without either's having been strained through the sieve of dogma, and where actions spoke louder than words. It stems also from approximately eight years of listening, during youth, to the literate and inspired sermons of the late Dr. Harold H. Griffis in Portland, Oregon, and from an overlapping period of six years of listening to the equally literate and inspired lectures of the late Professor Barry Cerf at Reed College, who made accessible hitherto unexplored realms of the world's literature, philosophy and religion and who struggled persistently, often against stubborn resistance, to bring some order out of the chaos of my undergraduate mind. It was Professor George Williamson who, in a course in seventeenth-century literature at the University of Oregon, first suggested that a study of the co-existing scepticism and faith of the seventeenth century might enable me to make a pattern out of certain trends which I had appreciated without being able to identify. In spite of the dangers inherent in such a topic, Professor Kenneth B. Murdock at Harvard undertook to stand by and offer both moral and bibliographical assistance while I struggled to write something which would satisfy both my own intellectual needs and the standards of a great university. His continuing faith in the project has been invaluable. The very practical suggestion that I should publish separate . . .

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