Shall the Twain Meet? or, Before Bowers and Gillespie

By John Hertz: (reprinted from Vanamonde 1297) Waiting in the Maguire Garden at the west of the public library down town while a fire alarm was cleared, I saw above the library door in alto-relievo two horsemen passing a torch, under the motto Et quasi cursores vitai lampada tradunt (Latin, “And like runners they hand on the lamp of life”; Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 2:79, 50 b.c.e.).

On the left, over a figure of Phosphor (personification of the Morning Star), was “Wisdom of the East / Moses / Zoroaster / Buddha / Confucius / Mohammed / Lao Tse / Hillel / Avicenna / Al Gazali / Badarayana”.

On the right, over a figure of Hesper (the Evening Star), was “Wisdom of the West / Herodotus / Socrates / Aristotle / Vergil / Augustine / Aquinas / Petrarch / Bacon / Descartes / Kant”.

The architect of the building was Bertram Goodhue 1869-1924 (it was finished 1926); the sculptor, Lee Lawrie 1877-1963; the iconographer, Hartley Alexander 1873-1939 chair of the Univ. Nebraska philosophy department.

They made a conversation piece.  The work of each person named is worth discussing; the inclusion of that person, the omission of others; placement under East or West; each set’s numbering ten; and, as the saying goes, much much more.


Bill Bowers of e.g. Outworlds was, and Bruce Gillespie of e.g. SF Commentary is, famous for lists.

3 thoughts on “Shall the Twain Meet? or, Before Bowers and Gillespie

  1. Alexander’s name rang a bell, so I checked–the Goodhue/Lawrie/Alexander team was also behind the very beautiful Nebraska State Capitol. Follow my link and you will see the north entrance, whose lintel bears the inscription: The Salvation of the State is Watchfulness of the Citizen.

    Link to pictures and history

  2. Bacon – Francis, Roger or streaky? I like all three but I wonder which was meant.

    The main thing about the list is the ‘west’ includes more recent thinkers: Bacon (assuming it is Francis), Descartes and Kant.

    Interesting that Jesus is omitted even though “East” contains the founder of the world’s major biggest religious groupings. Would putting him in the either camp be have been too contentious (upsetting to Western views to put him in the East where he belongs geographically based on the others, biased and/or giving the game away if he is put in the West or heretical to put him in either for Christians or who would see him as universal – but if the latter then why is the Buddha ‘East’ when enlightenment knows no geographic boundaries?)

    Those are my thoughts in order of importance.

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