The Real and Its Symbol

Probably no metaphysical idea is more real to mankind in general than the idealistic concept which is identified by the word liberty. For countless generations, men have talked liberty, thought liberty, fought for liberty, and died for liberty; and thus has the race of men proved that it does not question the reality of liberty, though that reality is purely metaphysical,—a state of mind not directly cognizable by the material senses.

In New York harbor there stands a giant Statue of Liberty,—the bold attempt of an ambitious sculptor to embody in matter an artistic ideal; but no one, not even the sculptor himself, fancies for a moment that the Statue of liberty is liberty. The statue is merely the symbolic statement in terms of matter of a metaphysical reality, which has absolutely no connection with matter. So far from liberty the Statue of Liberty, that the statue is meaningless, even is a symbol, except as the imaginative thought of each individual perceives the artist's ideal above, beyond, and apart from its crude material embodiment. The Statue of Liberty is therefore seen for what it is, as a suggestive symbol, only as the thought of those who gaze upon it is in touch with the purely ideal.

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