The Unknown Guest

Author: Maurice Maeterlinck


I am fully aware that this explanation by means of the subliminal consciousness will not explain very much and will at most invoke the aid of the unknown to illuminate the incomprehensible. But to explain a phenomenon, a Dr. J. de Modzelwski very truly says, "is to put forward a theory which is more familiar and more easily comprehensible to us than the phenomenon at issue." This is really what we are constantly and almost exclusively doing in physics, chemistry, biology and in every branch of science without exception. To explain a phenomenon is not necessarily to make it as clear and lucid as that two and two are four; and, even so, the fact that two and two are four is not, when we go to the bottom of things, as clear and lucid as it seems. What in this case, as in most others, we wrongfully call explaining is simply confronting the unexpected mystery which these horses offer us with a few phenomena which are themselves unknown, but which have been perceived longer and more frequently. And this same mystery, thus explained, will serve one day to explain others. It is in this way that science goes to work. We must not blame it: it does what it can; and it does not appear that there are other ways.


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Chicago: Maurice Maeterlinck, "29," The Unknown Guest, trans. Macaulay, Thomas Babington Macaulay, Baron, 1800-1859 in The Unknown Guest (London: Effingham Wilson, Royal Exchange, 1831), Original Sources, accessed March 18, 2019,

MLA: Maeterlinck, Maurice. "29." The Unknown Guest, translted by Macaulay, Thomas Babington Macaulay, Baron, 1800-1859, in The Unknown Guest, London, Effingham Wilson, Royal Exchange, 1831, Original Sources. 18 Mar. 2019.

Harvard: Maeterlinck, M, '29' in The Unknown Guest, trans. . cited in 1831, The Unknown Guest, Effingham Wilson, Royal Exchange, London. Original Sources, retrieved 18 March 2019, from