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Chapter - Introduction by John van Druten

Sitting before a blank sheet of paper and wondering what I was going to say by way of 

introduction to this book which I know so well, leafing its pages in search of some line or 

passage which might cue me to a start, I found my thoughts turning away from its 

contents to the essential mystery of my profession as a writer -- the mystery of whence 

they would be coming, those words that I was going to put down, which are already these 

words that I am putting down. I need hardly say that this was not the first time that I had 

asked myself that question; it confronts me each time that I find myself with no idea of 

what I am going to write next, causing me to ask where they have all come from, all 

those thousands of words and thoughts that I have in the past put down on paper, to be 

reproduced in print or on the stage. It is the sort of question that one is apt to ask only in 

such moments of frustration; for the most part we take for granted these things that are in 

fact the daily miracles of life, as we take for granted the miracle of growth and 

germination, scattering seeds in a garden and never being surprised that from those tiny 

black specks next summer's flowers can be relied upon to come.

That attitude is one for which G. K. Chesterton was always rebuking the world, for taking 

its mysteries and its miracles as a matter of course. It is the theme of his too little known 

fantasy, Manalive, whose hero was in a state of continual amazement at the miracle of 

living, and was so eager to keep that amazement alive that he traveled around the world 

to order to recapture the excitement of coming home to his own house and his own front 

door, and courted, eloped with, and remarried his own wife under six different names, so 

as never to lose sight of the incredible wonder of love.

It is our tragedy that we live so in a state of acceptance, and yet the essentials of daily 

living seem to demand it if we are to get on with our business and our work. I use the 

word "seem" quite deliberately, for, actually, the truth, I think, is just the opposite, and 

what has been called "the rich, full life" is impossible on such a basis. Even an ordinary, 

humdrum life is difficult. Its mechanics have a way of breaking down, and the hard facts 

of opposition and mischance a way of turning into brick walls against which one butts 

one's head in vain. It is in those moments that men start asking themselves questions 

about the world they live in, and to look for some explanation, help, or sustenance. 

Religion, the conventional forms of religion, involving a personal God to whom 

petitionary prayers are addressed, is apt to prove fruitless and to lead to no more than a 

pious, gloomy resignation, and the philosophy of pure materialism, an acceptance of 

"That is the way things are," leads only to a cursing despair.

Something else is needed, has always been needed, and has always been there to find, 

though it would seem that man has almost always missed it. It has eluded him through all 

the writings of the seekers of the truth about the eternal mystery, from orientals such as 

Lao-Tze and Shankara, through Jesus, the mediaeval European mystics, and the thinkers 

of the New World. Essentially, they have all taught the same things, which is why Aldous 

Huxley has named his anthology of religious thought, The Perennial Philosophy. But 

always the answers, as they have been revealed, have remained somehow apart, "out

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