The Sigil of Scoteia*

I quite fixedly believe the Wardens of Earth sometimes unbar strange windows, that face on other worlds than ours. And some of us, I think, once in a while get a peep through these windows. But we are not permitted to get a long peep, or an unobstructed peep, nor very certainly, are we permitted to see all there is — out yonder. The fatal fault, sir, of your theorizing is that it is too complete. It aims to throw light upon the universe, and therefore is self-evidently moonshine. The Wardens of Earth do not desire that we should understand the universe, Mr. Kennaston; it is part of Their appointed task to insure that we never do; and because of Their efficiency every notion that any man, dead, living, or unborn, might form as to the universe will necessarily prove wrong.

Richard Fentnor Harrowby, a character in (and narrator of) James Branch Cabell’s The Cream of the Jest: A Comedy of Evasion (1917), Ch 28 : The Shallowest Sort of Mysticism.

* The coded message on this “sigil” (which can be found as an illustration in every edition of this novel) is “James Branch Cabell made this book so that he who wills may read the story of mans eternally unsatisfied hunger in search of beauty. Ettarre stays inaccessible always and her lovliness is his to look on only in his dreams. All men she must evade at the last and many ar the ways of her elusion.” The sigil was designed by the author, as was the simple code.