Here I am balked: who now can help afford?
The Word?—impossible so high to rate it;
And otherwise I must translate it
If by the spirit I am truly taught.
So he tries again.
In the beginning was the Thought.
Is it the Thought which works, creates, indeed?
Another attempt leads him to translate:
Finally he declares:
The spirit aids me: now I see the light!
In the beginning was the Act, I write.
Many volumes have been written to explain the meaning of the mysterious word Logos, yet the underlying idea does not seem particularly difficult of comprehension. The abstruse doctrines that have been built upon it are another matter. The writer of the fourth gospel understood it to mean the divine reason that existed before anything visible or tangible was created, and through which "everything was made that was made." It was an effort on the part of the dualistic philosophy to account for the creation, or at least for the orderly arrangement of matter, by a power that dwelt outside of it. As matter could not have produced God, God must have produced matter. In the older Jewish philosophy, so far as their thorough-going belief in the constant interference of the Deity in everything can be called a philosophy, the problem never found a place. It also engaged the attention of the early Greek philosophers. We find the same notion underlying Plato's doctrine of ideas, which is not difficult to comprehend in its main outlines. He evidently means that the concept of things exists in the mind of the self-existent designer before the objects themselves are called into being, just as a man who undertakes to make any thing has a plan in mind before he enters upon his work; when it is completed the abstract idea is concretely realized. In like manner, a quality may be conceived abstractly before it is embodied in concrete form. In the Cratylus, Socrates asks whether "our legislator ought not also to know how to put the true natural name of everything into sounds and syllables, and to make and give all names with a view to the ideal name, if he is to be a namer in any true sense." The thought was anterior to the word which expressed it. The mind exists independent of the body; it therefore possesses innate ideas, ideas that had a previous and incorporeal being. The.idea of justice, for example, existed before it was embodied or externalized in just acts. The maker of a statue, or of a table, or of a house, had in mind its idea or mental image before he could give it a visible form. The visible is fleeting, the conceptual is abiding. This doctrine was developed in contradistinction to that of