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The New Word, by Allen Upward, [1910], at

p. 178



Course of the Inquiry.—1. The Common Term.—2. A Magical Spark.—3. The Atom of Thought.—4. The Swirl.—5. The Name.

THE course taken by this inquiry is not without significance. At the outset it seemed to be going round and round, without drawing nearer to the sought-for end. It has since steadied into the form of a whirlpool, drawing me down in ever narrowing rings until at last the whirl-point is in sight; and we may foresee that it will turn out to be a starting-point, so that as soon as I have passed through it I shall begin to come up again on the other side.

Setting out to discover what books were, in the opinion of no mean judge, most beneficial to mankind, we found them described by the word Idealist. We had not the endless task of finding what that word meant by itself; we had to find what the Testator meant by it.

We found in the first place, that it was a new word, not yet admitted to the Book of Words, and thus there was no distinct class of books, to which it had already by common usage been applied.

We found next that it was a half outlandish word, whose birth and history were not enough to guide

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us as to its meaning. We found again that this would not have mattered if it had named a thing already there, but that it mattered very much when we had got to find a thing to fit the name.

We found next that the Testator's word was being used in many meanings which seemed to have little in common with one another. We examined some of them, and found they were not in harmony with the context of the Will.

At length we settled upon what seemed to be the common element, or beginning, of all these meanings. We polarised the word Idealist by means of the word Materialist.

We found there was a class of books to which the word Materialist had been applied by common usage, and we examined them. As a result this word was melted down to the word Strength.

We sought to polarise the word Strength, and we were thrown back upon words of a kind which we had looked into already, and found not in accord with the Testator's general mind. This time I bade them take their true shape, and they appeared as ciphers.

Nothing is made up of Ciphers, and Everything is made up of Strength.


The opposite to strength is strength.

It is not lack of strength,—weakness is only the

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slack tide of strength. It is not no strength,—nothingness has neither position nor opposition. It is strength going the other way, as in the yea and nay of the electric atom, as in the force and energy of the mechanical universe, the Ebb and Flow of Everything.

The word Power, like so many words used by materialists, is a bad one. Because Power means the same as Potency, and strength is not potential, but kinetic. All force is pulling. All energy is pushing. All strength is Going Strength. As we have seen, the tying up of strength is flatter.

And as we have seen again, Matter is wrought by the crossing of two Ways of Strength. It is not the Rest, but the full Strain of the wrestlers—the deadlock of those great Twin 'Wrestlers whose wrestle is the All-Thing.

Opposite is also a bad word, because it makes us think in one measure, and we ought to think in three. The right word is inversion, which is to say, in English, turning inside out.

The turning inside out of strength is the key to the riddle. It will be found the key to many other riddles. For rightly to interpret one word is rightly to interpret all words.

The word Strength, which thus meets us at the end of the enchanted wood, has been with us all the way in many different disguises. The Testator uses it when he asks for works that shall have a tendency. I have used it whenever I have spoken of the meaning,

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that is to say the strength, of a word. Doctor Latham used it in his explanation of Idealism. The Ideas of Plato were imperfect because he forgot to use it. The House of Cards was vainly built without it. It was what Pure Reason could not prove. It was included in the inventory of the universe. It was found hidden in the fallen stone, and in the going crumb. It was the subject of Euclid's conjuring trick; and it was only got rid of at last by Babbage's machine.

Strength is the common term, the first word in the idealist, as well as in the materialist, lexicon. It is the word which I find at the core of all words, the one which I cannot explain, but by which I have to explain all others. It is the axle of the wheel of self-knowledge, the end of that whirl which I call my mind. Because it is that, I do not understand it. I use it as a gibberish word. Somewhere we must break off the endless decimal, and put on a dot. Here is where I break off my decimal, and put on my dot.


Not very long before I came across Nobel's puzzle, a young friend of mine showed me one evening a common trick. He placed one end of a piece of string in the fire, till there came a red spark, and then whirled the string round so quickly that instead of a spark I saw a fiery ring. And while I watched,

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it struck me that I had before me at last in its simplest form a puzzle which I had often had before me in other forms, which I had found lurking in many quarters, under much learned language, as I was to find it in Nobel's Will.

Here was the question in its fiery shape.—If the moving spark made me see the ring, what made me see the spark?

I knew that the ring was only such to the eye, and that if I put out my finger I should not feel a ring. But then I knew farther that this was only because the spark was not going round fast enough. If it had gone fast enough I should have felt the ring, in the same way as when a wheel goes round fast enough the spokes give a steady pressure.

So, if it were true that things like stones and air are made up of tiny crumbs and nothing more, I should have expected to learn that the greater hardness of the stone was due, not to the greater stillness of its crumbs, but to their greater speed. I should have expected to learn that the air crumbs were going with a soft and gliding pace about their roomy abodes in ether, as heavenly spirits do, while the stone crumbs were banging about in their narrow quarters like angry men on earth. The stone would seem to me more like the sleeping top; the air like the top running down. In that famous story of the Man in the Crumb, did not the gas get harder as it shrank into less room? To speak more carefully, the stone would seem to be keeping time with that

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ever-quickening inward beat of strength which is called Force, and the air with that ever-slowing outward beat which is called Energy.

All this is said by the word fast itself; for it means quickly, and yet it also means firm. These common words ought not to be despised. Is not the one thing which the chemists have failed to melt called by the common folk quicklime? Words like these are revelations. They are the hoarded knowledge of a hundred thousand years; yet no one thinks them worth his care. They are the pearls which we have exchanged like foolish savages for the glass beads from oversea.

The guesses of those old learners ought not to be despised. Are not the old elements coming back to us as states of matter? Perhaps fire is a state of matter. Perhaps it is the next state, not to the air, but to the stone. I know nothing of these things; I only know that a flame leaves a worse bruise than an iron hammer.

At the time when I asked myself these questions the scientific lexicon held no such words as radium and radio-activity. The only answer I could find to the puzzle was a logical one. I said that the spark must be moving to and from me, going away and coming back, going out and coming alight again.

And no sooner had I said this than I turned it the other way round, and put the question: What if it be myself, and not the spark, that is going and coming,

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passing to and fro between wake and sleep, too quickly for me to catch the beat?—What if that which we call life be such a going out and coming in again, a passing to and fro between this sphere of ours and that Other Dimension whose symbol is not 4, but 0; so that each of us dies and comes to life again a million times betwixt breath and breath?

There I had left the question. I put the spark away, as it were, in my mind, and left it. And now I found it waiting for me at the end of this inquiry.


I have left out of the story, lest it should grow too long, many strange things that befell me as I came through the enchanted wood. Other adventures I had, other goblins I met and laid with Nobel's talisman, but time would fail me to tell of them. Of the last one I will tell.

The question before me worded itself thus:—What is the idealist crumb? What is the atom of thought?

The logical answer led me back through ciphering, measure and materialism. I thought of one, I thought of a ball-shape, I thought of a real ball. At that stage I recalled the spark and I renewed my former question thus:—What is the simplest motion I can give to the ball to make it stand out?—the Babu word is exist. How can the ball be? 

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My former answer had been, by coming and going, becoming and unbecoming. The ball must move in and out of "existence" too fast for me to feel the gaps. But that was Andronican language—I fancy it is to be found in Hegel or some Andronican book. Tried by the golden touchstone which Nobel had provided, it showed itself to be nonsense. All at once I saw that it might easily become very good counter-sense.

I recalled to my aid one of the goblins that I had conjured in the enchanted wood, the goblin of ideal dynamite. The fiery shape of that goblin had been, not the kind of dynamite which does not explode, but the kind which interplodes, which shrinks violently instead of swelling violently. I saw that the motion of this ball of mine must be that of shrinking and swelling, shrinking into a point, and swelling into a ball, shrinking towards nothing, and swelling towards Everything.

How could a real ball do that? Of what must such a ball be made?

If I were to say that it was made of pure strength, I might seem to talk like Andrónikos of Rhodes. And yet when we looked hard at other balls they faded away before our eyes from crumbs into whirl-rings, and from ether into ethereon, until we drew near to a "perfect fluid" that could not be told apart from pure strength. Again, and since I wrote what goes before, a learner working towards the same point from the other side, has told the story of a

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thousand balls of pure strength bound within one ball.

At the same time, while I had found that I could not understand the word strength, I had yet found it to be the most real of all words; it was the core of the word-book, as it was the core of the atom, and as it was the core of the All-Thing.—For rightly to explain the atom is rightly to explain the All-Thing.

Such, then, and so formed, was the thought-atom which I found in my mind, after ransacking the store-houses of sense, and weeding the garden of language down to a single word.

And no sooner had I created it in the way I have described than all at once it seemed to change, and to be in nowise a new idea, but a very old one; and not to belong to me, but to be a reflection, or, as it were, a composite photograph, of the ideas of those great learners who had explored Everything before me on my behalf. Those vortices of Descartes, those whirlrings in the ether, all seemed to come together and to blend in the ball which I thought that I had shaped.

By their means I was enabled to see the ball more clearly and to guess that it might turn out to be, not an Andronican creation, but a real ball, a ball of living strength. And since living strength does not shrink and swell along straight lines, I caught a glimpse of mysterious spirals leading inwards and outwards; and then I knew that this was a magic

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ball indeed, and that it was far older than the great astronomers, old when there was yet no cleavage between astronomy and astrology—between the lore of heaven and the lore of Heaven; when man felt knowledge flowing in on him from all sides, and counted it all divine; it was as old as that forgotten voice of the Chaldean whose mystic oracle was conned by the Theurgists in the last hours before the Shadow fell upon mankind:

"The God of the World, everlasting, boundless,
 Young and old, of a spiral Form."


The figure of strength turning inside out is now before us. It is strength shrinking into a point, and swelling into a ball, the inward beat changing into the outward beat, and the outward back into the inward, as force changes into energy, and energy into force. So far it is merely a mathematical figure. Yet it will serve to mark the first parting of the ways between the Materialist and the Idealist.

The Materialist, as his name bewrays, tries to believe in Matter. He does not believe in it, because no man can do so, but his mind is turned matterward. The mind of the Idealist is turned strengthward. The Idealist tries to believe in United Strength, commonly called the Absolute. He does

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not succeed any better than the Materialist. But that is the way in which the two minds are first opposed. It is the difference between potential and kinetic. And this difference is exhibited in the field of Literature in the difference between the Academician and the Prophet. The Academician cannot write without a meaning, nor the Prophet without words. But the one is turned formward and the other spiritward.

However, that distinction is partly unreal. It partakes of the unreality of Matter itself. The real distinction is the unreal one repeated in terms of Strength. As we have seen, the Materialist has given up his mock-belief in Matter, and the Idealist must now give up his mock-belief in the Absolute. The two meet on the common ground of Strength. The mathematical figure of the strength-ball is not other than the figure which has been forming in the mind of great materialist learners. It is in their ways of looking at it that the real difference between the two minds will be found.

We cannot think of strength going only one way, or shrinking in any measure without swelling in equal measure. We cannot think of strength going out into the dustbin of Andronicus Rhodius. Nor can we think of it shrinking into the point of Euclid, and staying there. As fast as it whirls inward it must swirl outward, and the whirl and swirl must compensate each other. So that the strength-ball ought rightly to be called a Whirl-Swirl.

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Now the materialist is busy measuring the whirl, and as it seems to me his eyes are sometimes so far dazed by watching it as to be no longer able to mark the swirl. Again his speech bewrays him, when he uses words like whirl and universe, as though he had nothing but a whirlpool before him. One materialist has likened the life of man to a whirlpool. Whereas what we have before us is more like a waterspout, and the spiral of life points upward instead of downward. Now the business of the Idealist is measuring the swirl.

This is the real parting of the ways. And the unreality of the other is shown by this, that when the Materialist does enter the field of literature, his work is apt to be unbearably informal, and his words unbearably bad; and his highest achievement is History; whereas when the Idealist enters the same field, his work is apt to take on the severe and crystal form of poetry; his words are apt to be the most careful words; and his highest achievement is the Creed. And all that is the turning inside out of strength.

It seems to me, therefore, that it is the word Swirl which we have been in search of all along, as the interpretation of the word Idealist. I still like it better than radio-activity. The swirl is the inversion of the whirl. It is a whirl going the other way. It is to whirl what Energy was to Force. It is a very common word. The children know it well. And yet—what sounds too strange for a coincidence—

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the learned Doctor Latham, in his four huge volumes, somehow has succeeded in leaving out this very word.

So, after diving through the end of the whirl, I have come up in the swirl, bringing in my hand this poor little forgotten word, shimmering to my eyes like a tiny seed-pearl of verihood, though it should show to other eyes like a glass bead, not worth the fetching up.

Let us put this word inside the Testator's word, as the child puts a little candle inside a toy house, and look how it will light it up.


My selfish interest in this inquiry has here reached its end. The search for the right name of Idealism has brought me to the right name of Truth. I have found it, not in the tidily arranged and ticketed glass-cases of learned museums, but in the lonely wind-swept barrow of the Viking. I am as one of those who

         From grass-grown hills,
Their ancient and forgotten burial-places,
Draw forth the dragon hoard of gold and gems.

And lo! the right Name is a mighty spell, and no sooner is it uttered than Verihood herself is called

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out of her enchanted sleep; she stirs, and the vain cerements are rent; she rises up, and the gravestone is rolled away.

Well did they who cast her into that trance, and bound the graveclothes round about her, and set the gravestone in its place,—well did they know the might that is in Names. Is it not written in one of the books of the enchanters,—"Thou shalt not take my Name in vain;" and in another,—

"Lo! dreadful faces show, and, threatening Troy,
 The mighty Names of Gods."

Magical lore is this: the secret lies here: I also am a magician; I understand that other oracle of the Chaldeans-

"Never change native Names;
 For there are Names in every nation, God-given,
 Of untold power in the Mysteries."


Next: 14. Metastrophe: The Magic Crystal