Chapter Two - The Double Vision of Nature

Natural and Human Societies

I have taken my title 'The Double Vision' from a phrase in a poem of Blake incorporated in a letter to Thomas Butts (22 November 1802):

                For double the vision my eyes do see, 
                And a double vision is always with me: 
                With my inward eye 'tis an old man grey; 
                With my outward a thistle across my way.

The surface meaning of this appears to be that Blake is adding a subjective hallucination to the sense perception of an object, and that adding this hallucination is what makes him the visionary poet and painter that he is. If this is what Blake is saying, he is talking nonsense, and Blake very seldom talks nonsense. The general idea, however, seems to be that simple sense perception is not enough. We may be reminded of a well known bit of doggerel from Wordsworth: 

                A primrose by a river's brim 
                A yellow primrose was to him, 
                And it was nothing more.

Well, what more should it be? If I were a primrose by a river's brim, I should feel insulted.

Clearly a good deal depends on what is meant by 'more.' If it means something in addition to the perception of the primrose, we seem to be headed for some kind of deliberate program of disorganizing sense experience of a type later proposed by Rimbaud, who said that the poet wishing to be a visionary must go through a long and systematic unsettling (dérèglement) of sense experience. But there seems to be something unreliable about this program, if it had anything to do with the fact that one of the greatest of French poets stopped writing when he was barely out of his teens. If, on the other hand, Wordsworth is simply speaking of seeing the primrose itself with a greater intensity, that may be part of a 'more' stable and continuous process.

We have to give the context of what Blake says at this point, as we shall be referring to it later. He has acquired, he tells us, a double-double or fourfold vision, although it is still essentially twofold, in contrast to what he prays to be delivered from: 

                'Tis fourfold in my supreme delight, 
                And threefold in soft Beulah's night, 
                And twofold always. May God us keep 
                From single vision and Newton's sleep!

However paradoxical his language, Blake is not recommending that one should try to awaken from the sleep of single vision by seeing two objects instead of one, especially when one of the two is not there. I think he means rather that the conscious subject is not really perceiving until it recognizes itself as part of what it perceives. The whole world is humanized when such a perception takes place. There must be something human about the object, alien as it may at first seem, which the perceiver is relating to. The 'old man grey' is clearly an aspect of Blake himself, and stands for the fact that whatever we perceive is a part of us and forms an identity with us.

First, there is the world of the thistle, the world of nature presented directly to us. This is obviously the world within which our physical bodies have evolved, but from which consciousness feels oddly separated. Nature got along for untold ages without us: it could get along very well without us now and may again get along without us in the future. The systematic study of nature, which is the main business of science, reflects this sense of separation. It is impersonal, avoids value judgements and commitments to emotion or imagination, and confines itself to explanations that are largely in terms of mechanism. This is the view that Blake associates with the outlook of Isaak Newton, and although Newton was a religious man who saw many religious implications in his own science, there is a sense in which Blake was right. There is no God in the scientific vision as such: if we bring God into science, we turn him into a mechanical engineer, like the demiurge of Plato's Timaeus or the designing watchmaker God of the various Christian and deistic attempts at natural theology.

True, science has abandoned narrowly mechanistic explanations in one field after another since Blake spoke of Newton's sleep. It is sixty years since Sir James Jeans, in The Mysterious Universe, gave God a degree in mathematics rather than mechanical engineering, mathematics being a field that admits of paradox, even of irrationalities. It is an equally long time since Whitehead criticized the conception of 'simple location' that underlies Blake's polemic against single vision. But scientific explanations are still mainly non-teleological, confining themselves to the how of things, though there are signs that science may be coming to the end of this self-denying ordinance.

The first aspect of the double vision that we have to become aware of is the distinction between the natural and the human environment. There is the natural environment which is simply there, and is, in mythological language, our mother. And there is the human environment, the world we are trying to build out of the natural one. We think of the two worlds as equally real, though we spend practically our whole time in the human one. We wake up in the morning in our bedrooms, and feel that we have abolished an unreal world, the world of the dream, and are now in the world of waking reality. But everything surrounding us in that bedroom is a human artefact.

If science is more impersonal than literature or religion, that is the result of certain conventions imposed on science by its specific subject-matter. It studies the natural environment, but as part of the human constructed world. It discovers counterparts of the human sense of order and predictability in nature, and the scientist as human being would not differ psychologically from the artist in the way he approaches his work. The axiom of the eighteenth-century Italian philosopher Giambattista Vico was verum factum: we understand nothing except what we have made. Again, it is only the human environment that can be personal, and if God belongs in this distinction at all, he must, being a person, be sought for in the human world.

As the natural ancestry of humans is not in dispute, it was inevitable that at some point the question should be raised of how far a 'natural society' is possible, and whether man could simply live in a state of harmony with nature, instead of withdrawing his consciousness from nature and devoting his energies to a separable order of existence. Such speculations arose mainly in the eighteenth century, in the age of Rousseau. They have not stood up very well to what anthropology has since gleaned from the study of primitive societies. There seems to be no human society that does not live within an envelope of law, ritual, custom, and myth that seals it off from nature, however closely its feeding and mating and hunting habits may approximate those of animals.

When our remote ancestors were tree opossums or whatever, avoiding the carnivorous dinosaurs, they were animals totally preoccupied, as other animals still are for the most part, with the primary concerns of food, sex, territory, and free movement on a purely physical level. With the dawn of consciousness humanity feels separated from nature and looks at it as something objective to itself. This is the starting point of Blake's single vision, where we no longer feel part of nature but are helplessly staring at it.

Thomas Pynchon's remarkable novel Gravity's Rainbow is a book that seems to me to have grasped a central principle of this situation. The human being, this novel tells us, is instinctively paranoid: We are first of all expressly convinced that the world was made for us and designed in detail for our benefit and appreciation. As soon as we are afflicted by doubts about this, we plunge into the other aspect of paranoia, feel that our environment is absurd and alienating, and that we are uniquely accursed in being aware, unlike any other organism in nature, of our own approaching mortality. Pynchon makes it clear that this paranoia can be and is transformed into creative energy and becomes the starting point of everything that humanity has done in the arts and sciences. But before it is thus transformed, it is the state that the Bible condemns as idolatry, in which we project numinous beings or forces into nature and scan nature anxiously for signs of its benevolence or wrath directed toward us.

 The Bible is emphatic that nothing numinous exists in nature, that there may be devils there but no gods, and that nature is to be thought of as a fellow-creature of man. However, the paranoid attitude to nature that Pynchon describes survives in the manic-depressive psychosis of the twentieth century. In the manic phase, we are told that the age of Aquarius is coming, and that soon the world will be turned back to the state of innocence. In the depressive phase, news analysts explain that pollution has come to a point at which any sensible nature would simply wipe us out and start experimenting with a new species. In interviews I am almost invariably asked at some point whether I feel optimistic or pessimistic about some contemporary situation. The answer is that these imbecile words are euphemisms for manic-depressive highs and lows, and that anyone who struggles for sanity avoids both. 

We do emerge, however, to some degree, from the illusions of staring at nature into building a human world of culture and civilization, and from that perspective we can see the natural environment as the 'material' world in the sense of providing the materials for our unique form of existence. Practically all of our made world represents a huge waste of effort: it includes the world of war, of cutthroat competition, of stagnating bureaucracies, of the lying and hypocrisy of what is called public relations. Above all, it has not achieved any genuine rapprochement with nature itself, but simply regards nature as an area of exploitation. Where God may belong in this duality we have yet to try to see, but as he is not hidden in nature, he can only be connected with that tiny percentage of human activity that has not been hopelessly botched.

The reason for this is that we have been separated from nature but are still regarding it as a mirror of ourselves, from within the prison of Narcissus. In the state of nature there may well be a good deal of what the anarchist Kropotkin called, on the basis of the studies that he made of the subject, 'mutual aid.' But what are more obvious and picturesque in nature are the patterns of tyranny and anarchy that are constantly appealed to by rationalizers of bad social systems. The communities formed by animals are full of hierarchies and pecking orders, of females forcibly seized by stronger males, of fights over territorial disputes, and the like, even if they fall short of the total obliterating of the individual that we see in communities of social insects. There are patterns of laissez-faire anarchy, too, in the hunting of predators like the great jungle cats: calling the lion the 'king of beasts' helps to reassure us that a society in which the predators are the aristocracy is the right one for us as well.

But humanity's primary duty is not to be natural but to be human. The reason why idolatry is dangerous is that it suggests the attractiveness and the ease with which we may collapse into the preconscious state from which we have been trying to emerge. As long as idolatry persists, and humanity is seeing in nature a mirror of itself, it forms primitive societies (in the sense used earlier) as an imitation of nature. Nearly all human history shows one society after another sinking back into the order of nature as thus conceived, setting up regimes of tyranny and anarchy in which mere survival is all that is left of human life for the great majority. Human beings get along as best they can in such a world, but the human spirit knows that it is living in hell.

While humanity is continually sliding back into a state of nature to which it is totally unadapted, there is still a steady process of work that transforms the natural environment into a human one. In the Bible the images of this transformation, the flocks and herds of the animal world, the harvests and vintages, farms and gardens of the vegetable world, the buildings and highways made from the inorganic world, symbolize the fulfilling of what I call human primary concerns. This process is a social and communal enterprise, and if tyranny and exploitation are relaxed for a moment, the genuinely social virtues of cooperation and neighbourliness soon emerge. But the energy of social work, though certainly intelligent and conscious, tends also to be uncritical and instinctive.

Criticism and Civilization

In the nineteenth-century work that transformed Ontario from a forested environment into an agricultural one, there were many largely unexamined assumptions: the immense destruction of trees and slaughter of forest animals were necessary to 'clear' the land, and nothing else needed to be said about it. In the twentieth century a largely farming and small-town population was transformed into an urban one, a process again largely uncritical. But eventually certain crises, especially pollution and such questions as what to do with our garbage and sewage, force us into a criticism of what such work is doing. Here we have moved into a higher power of consciousness and a new dimension of concern.

In the construction of the human world we recognize two elements. One is the element of work, which is energy expended for a further end in view. The other is play, or energy expended for its own sake. In the animal world play seems to be important mainly to young animals, and to have the function there of a kind of rehearsal for more mature activities. In the human world play is more complex: it opens up a world of freedom and leisure out of which the typically human form of consciousness comes, and it produces the creative arts. In communities preoccupied with physical labour, the members of such communities are usually regarded as either manual workers or slackers, and the creative arts are often thought of as socially expendable, or even irresponsible. But just as the play of puppies indicates something of what they will be as grown dogs, so the creative arts set up models of what I have been calling primary concerns. Fiction and drama in literature, I have said, depict people making love, gaining property, wandering off on adventures, struggling to survive. Some aspects of literature, such as the comic and the romantic, lean in the direction of wish-fulfillment; the tragic and the ironic emphasize frustration and maladjustment. This latter especially means that in the verbal arts at least a creative and a critical element are inseparable. In fact Matthew Arnold even spoke of poetry as a criticism of life.

Every human society is mired in all the miseries of original sin, but we never fail to find something in its culture that is attractive, and not only attractive but communicable, speaking directly to us across the widest abysses of time or space or language. With simpler societies we find most of this sense of a kindred human spirit in what are called useful arts: pottery, textiles, basketwork and the like, which are preserved in museums for their potential contact. It used to be that the fine arts were ranked above the useful arts, which are obviously closer to the world of work, on the analogy of the old social ranking of a leisure class above a working class, but this tiresome nonsense is now abandoned. We no longer think of leisure and work as associated with different classes, but as alternating activities within all classes, so far as we still have classes. What is relevant is that the useful arts may be well designed or badly designed, and may include or exclude ornament. Design and ornament both imply some transcendence of the world of work.

The connection with work, however, makes it clear that creative and critical energies come from human society as a whole. They give the individual a far greater importance in the work of society, but they cannot be simply 'subjective' if by subjective we mean something confined to the individual psyche. Psychology has much to say about the creative process, and psychology, though it is increasingly concerned with group therapies, still takes the individual as its main base of operations. Freud was the first to link the dream within the individual, which expresses the primary concerns of the individual, with the myths that are the main verbal culture of primitive societies and go on to form the shaping narratives of literature. But literature, even in its most mythological phases, communicates, and the dreamer cannot, without special training, understand his own dreams. Jung went a step further in identifying a collective unconscious, where we find images representing rudimentary designs of the human cosmos. But the collective unconscious is by definition still unconscious. The arts, said Plato, are dreams for awakened minds: only a collective consciousness can perform their communicating tasks.

I spoke of the sense of individual integrity as the sign of a mature society, but the isolated individual, even when equipped with a conscience and a private judgement, is essentially a sleeping animal: he can pursue his primary concerns on a physical level, but his creative and critical powers cannot extend beyond dreams. Luther did not say at Worms, 'Here I stand, because my conscience and private judgement tell me to.' He said, 'Here I stand, until I can be convinced otherwise by arguments drawn from the Word of God.' His individuality was rooted in his social and religious conditioning, growing out of them as a tree grows out of its roots; but it was not a simple expression of conditioning, or we should never have heard of him again.

The creative impulse, however central to all that is best in human life, has still much in it of what a more old-fashioned way of speaking calls 'instinctive.' It certainly employs intellectual and rational powers, but often circumvents them, working by an intuitive skill or flair that avoids explicit formulation. For many creative people consciousness would only be a self-consciousness that would block and frustrate them. Let us turn to the critical faculty. The Book of Genesis tells us that God made the world in six days and rested on the seventh, devoting six days to work and one day to the contemplation of what he had done. It adds that as this forms part of God's activity, it is a model for man to imitate. Man's consciousness of being in nature though not wholly of it is potentially a sabbatical vision, and one which includes a more leisurely and detached vision of what he is doing and why he has done it. This kind of leisurely freedom of consciousness is part of what is expressed by the word 'liberal' as applied to education.

New categories of consciousness, such as those expressed in such words as beauty or ugliness begin to arise here. To paraphrase Matthew Arnold again, many things are not seen in their full reality until they are seen, not necessarily as beautiful, but as existing within the context of beauty. Arnold was followed by Ruskin and Morris, who insisted that the reality of Victorian civilization was bound up with the sense of how much ugliness was included in it. For us too, no one who drives through the Ontario countryside can miss the reality of beauty in the woods and crop lands and running streams, or the reality of ugliness in the outskirts of towns and cities. It follows from all we have said about the priority of social to individual consciousness that such helplessly subjective formulas as 'beauty is in the eye of the beholder' will not do, however flexible such judgements may be. If there is not a consensus of some kind, we are not working with very useful conceptions.

The word beauty went out of fashion for a long time because it was subject to heavy ideological pressures of the wrong kind. Whether applied to Mozart's music or Monet's painting, to a nubile young woman in a bikini, or to the trees, flowers, butterflies, and sunsets that we see in nature, it tended to be associated with a sense of what was comfortable or reassuring. Entering the young woman with the bikini in a 'beauty' contest seems to imply that only young, healthy, and, very often, white, bodies can be beautiful. We may come to understand that our sense of the reality of beauty grows in proportion as we abandon this exclusive rubbish and discover beauty in more and more varieties of experience. But something of the static and established convention clings to the word. William Morris urged us to have nothing in our homes that we do not either know to be useful or believe to be beautiful. The shift in the verb is significant: as we saw earlier, belief, like beauty, often seeks the goal of reassurance rather than discovery.

I think we can use our conception of primary concern to come to a more satisfactory criterion of beauty and ugliness. These concerns, food, sex, property, and mobility, obviously have to be central in all the work we do to build a human environment out of the natural one. When the work-energy relaxes to the point at which leisure, contemplation, and critical evaluation begin to supplement it, we start thinking in terms of what in the environment is genuinely human and what is, as we say, 'dehumanizing.' What we accept as beautiful or attractive or in accord with the way we want things to be has some connection, however indirect, with the satisfying of these concerns, and what we call ugly or dehumanized - air choked with pollution, land turned into waste land by speculators, infernos created by technological idiocies from Chernobyl to Exxon Valdez - with the frustration of them. For a long time the established powers in society looked at their civilization and said, 'Probably much of it is very ugly, but that doesn't matter as long as we make profits out of it, and certainly nothing is going to be done about it.' When it becomes clear that ugly is beginning to mean dangerous as well, however, the point of view may slowly change.

The greatest of all philosophers who took criticism as his base of operations, Kant, examined three aspects of the critical faculty. First was pure reason, which contemplates the objective world within the framework of its own categories, and hence sees the objective counterpart of itself, the world as it may really be eluding the categories. Second was practical reason, where a conscious being is assumed to be a concious will, and which penetrates further into the kind of reality we call existential, even into experience relating to God. Third was the aesthetic faculty dealing with the environment within the categories of beauty, a critical operation involving, for Kant, questions of the kind we have just called teleological, relating to purpose and ultimate design.

For Kant, however, the formula of beauty in the natural world at least was 'purposiveness without purpose.' The crystallizing of snowflakes is beautiful because it suggests design and intention and yet eludes these things. To suggest that the design of a snowflake has been produced by a designer, whether Nature or God, suggests also that somebody or something has worked to produce it: such a suggestion limits its beauty by cutting off the sense of a spontaneous bursting into symmetry. 'Fire delights in its form,' says Blake, and Wallace Stevens adds that we trust the world only when we have no sense of a concealed creator.

The argument of Kant's Critique of Judgement thus turns on the close connection between aesthetic and suspended teleological judgements. This is connected with the fact mentioned earlier, that scientific explanations tend to the mechanistic and avoid the teleological. Science is concerned with the parts of a whole: teleological explanations reason from the whole to the parts, and science cannot adopt this perspective unless the scientist is prepared to say that he understands the mind of God or the hidden designs of nature. What teleology we do have is surrounded by a very limited human perspective. Isaiah may imagine a state in which the lion lies down with the lamb, but we live in a state in which the lion could not exist without eating lambs, or something dietetically equivalent. If the lion had a teleology, he would say that lambs exist for the purpose of being eaten by lions; if the lamb had one, its view would be that lambs exist for the sake of being lambs, and that lions are an unwarranted and evil intrusion into their world. So naturally, when we come to the human view, we tend to assume that nature was created for man to exploit, man being the predator set in authority over all other predators.

It is clear that within the last two or three decades we have come to something of a crisis in our view of the relation both of human beings to one another and of the relation of the human to the natural environment. The questions of teleology, of the purposes and final causes of our existence, cannot be ignored much longer, even if we cannot as yet consider such questions outside the human perspective. All around us we hear demands for a society where the concerns of everybody should be recognized, where there is enough peace and freedom to enable human beings to live with full human dignity and self-respect. The Gospels suggest that the ultimate reason for wanting to live in such a world is that only in it can there be any real love. In the civilized state of humanity we love those who are close to us: for those farther away we feel the tolerance and good will which express love at a distance. In the pure state of nature we feel only possessive about those close to us, and hostile and mistrustful of those further away. The latter do all sorts of vaguely irritating things, like speaking different languages, eating different foods, and holding different beliefs.

However, the immense increase in the speed of communication today has also increased our sense of involvement with people at a distance, and even people who are totally alien to ourselves in their mental processes. It is difficult not to feel some involvement even with the fantasies of a psychotic murdering women who want to be engineers. One hopes that underlying the drive toward peace and freedom in our time is an impulse toward love growing out of a new immediacy of contact. The word love may still sound somewhat hazy and sentimental, but it does express some sort of crisis: 'We must love one another or die,' as W. H. Auden says.

Such love readily extends from the human to the natural world, and the feeling that nature should be cherished and fostered rather than simply exploited is one of the few welcome developments of the last generation or so. Here, again, love at a distance expresses itself as tolerance: if we can't exactly love sharks or piranhas we can still be curious about them, study their habits and leave them alone to fulfil their function in maintaining the balance of nature. The balance of nature, as these examples show, is amoral but not immoral: standards of morality are relevant only to the human world. What is immoral is humanity's inept interference with the balance of nature that has encouraged pathological developments like Dutch elm blight or the presence of lampreys and zebra mussels in the Great Lakes.

The Redemption of Nature

To recapitulate, with the coming of consciousness humanity is sufficiently detached from nature to see it as an objective order. Apart from the efforts at survival, we are impressed with nature's size and strength and our own littleness and insignificance. This is the stage in which we find the numinous in nature, the stage that the Bible calls idolatry and that Blake regards as continuing in the mechanistic scientific outlook that he symbolizes by the name of Newton. In the next stage we realize that human values are to be found only in the human world, and that God, as distinct from the gods created by man out of nature, is to be sought for through human and social means. With words like beauty we begin to get some glimpse of Blake's 'threefold [vision] in soft Beulah's night.' Beulah for Blake is the earthly paradise, the state of innocence, the peaceable kingdom and married land of Isaiah 11:6 and 62:4. Beulah in Blake is much the same as the holiday world of the imagination that I identified earlier with literature and the other arts, where there is entertainment without argument. Blake describes it elsewhere as a place 'where no dispute can come.' What he meant by a fourfold vision is beyond our present scope.

There is always something of the kindergarten about garden-paradises: in Isaiah's peaceable kingdom the predatory animals converted to a new way of life are led by a child, and Adam and Eve, living in a garden planted by a benevolent parental figure, are also clearly children whose curiosity and lack of experience get them into trouble. We normally think of an earthly paradise as a world of beauty, and the word beauty, as we saw, has inherited some of these immature and overprotective associations. It was for this reason that the eighteenth century added the conception of 'sublime' to the conception of beauty. The sublime conveys the sense of the majestic and awful in the natural environment: that is, it preserves something of the alienation that we can find exhilarating rather than humiliating. With the present feeling for the importance of 'wet lands' and the like, we begin to understand what the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins meant by his line 'Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet' and take one more step toward envisaging a human order that has come to terms with nature on something more like nature's own terms.

We see, then, human beings continually trying to struggle out of the atavisms of tyranny and anarchy, knowing that they are better than these conditions, repeatedly forced back into them by all the perversities of their own will, yet never quite losing hope or the vision of an ideal. Such an ideal has to be present and realizable, as opposed to the dream of restoring a paradise lost in the past, or in what is symbolized by the past.

From what has been said already it is clear that this realizable ideal is the spiritual kingdom revealed by Jesus in the Gospels, which is something that only Paul's soma pneumatikon can even understand, much less enter. The program of spiritual awareness laid down in that tremendous philosophical masterpiece, Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit, turns on two principles that are relevant here. First is Hegel's introductory principle, 'The true substance is subject.' That is, the gap between a conscious perceiving subject and a largely unconscious objective world confronts us at the beginning of experience. All progress in knowledge, in fact in consciousness itself, consists in bridging the gap and abolishing both the separated subject and the separated object.

At a certain point, for Hegel, we move from the soul-body unit, Paul's natural man, into the realm of Spirit (Geist: the first translation of Hegel's book into English mistranslated Geist as 'mind,' which confuses, among other things, the whole religious dimension of Hegel's argument). Spirit, says Hegel, enters the picture as soon as 'We' and 'I' begin to merge, when the individual speaks to a discriminating and independent unit within his society. In his 'substance is subject' principle Hegel continues a philosophical tradition going back to the Latin church fathers, brooding on the relation of person and substance in the Trinity and translating hypostasis not as substantia but as persona. The problem is to define what is at once spiritual and substantial, the spirit which is also body. The mirror, where a subject sees an object which is both itself and not itself, is a central metaphor of knowledge, and such words as 'speculation' and 'reflection' point to its importance. Hegel is in search of a self-awareness that culminates, for him, in 'absolute knowledge,' where we finally break out of the mirror, the prison of Narcissus.

A celebrated ceramic known as the Grecian urn, which some scholars believe to have been a piece of Wedgwood pottery, informs us, in the context of an ode of Keats, that 

                Beauty is truth, truth beauty: that is all 
                Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

We have seen that a knowledge of ugliness, in both human and natural worlds,is just as essential. Again, gaining knowledge of the physical environment in the natural sciences is a pursuit of truth, even though we accept the fact that there are no permanent or final truths in science or any other human discipline. But truth always has a 'whether we like it or not' element about it, and it is difficult to separate liking or repulsion from the beauty-ugliness category. Keats saw things with an intensity that only the highest genius combined with tuberculosis can give, but here he must be speaking from a different and more idealized context.

I think Keats means that truth and beauty are both fictions, both something created by humanity out of the natural environment. One is concerned with the ordering of what is there, the other with the vision of what ideally should be there. In actual experience these two things are always different, but that is because actual experience is largely unreal. The world in which the real and the ideal become the same thing is by definition real, even if we never live in it. Truth is beauty only if the spiritual is substantial.

This understood, it is clear that the pursuit of truth in science, or anywhere else, opens up an infinite number of roads to beauty. Similarly, there may be, first, a great beauty in a literary structure which is detached but not turned away from the social and natural worlds, regardless of the content, which, because it may reflect any aspect of life, could be squalid, obscene, or insane. Second, imaginative structures contain a vast amount of truth about the human condition that it is not possible to obtain in any other way.

So Matthew Arnold's definition of literature as a criticism of life is a great deal more than a paradox. Creation includes criticism as a part of itself. For Kant, as we saw, aesthetic questions were bound up with the critical faculty of judgment. Critics have been deluded into thinking that their function is to judge works of art, but their judicial role does not go in this direction at all. They do not judge the writer, except incidentally: they work with the writer in judging the human condition. The writer may let them down: there is as much falsehood in literature as there is in any area of human utterance. To give a random example, the adoption of a 'socialist realism' program in Stalinist Russia meant that every Soviet novel had to lie from beginning to end, or its author would find himself in a concentration camp in Siberia. In other societies authors may struggle to tell the truth as they see it, but they are limited beings in a limited society, and what they say will reveal both kinds of limitation. That is why we have to have a tradition of criticism that keeps studying and commenting on the literature of the past, recognizing its relation both to its own time and to the critic's time. Out of this may come, eventually, a consensus that will broaden and deepen our understanding of our imaginative heritage.

The previous chapter drew a distinction between primary and secondary concerns, in which the secondary ones were ideological and the primary ones physical, though the physical concerns needed a spiritual dimension. This immediately raised the question of the difference between secondary concerns and spiritual primary ones. I answered this tentatively by saying that secondary concerns referred to 'primitive' societies that absorbed the individual into the group, and that the spiritual primary ones existed only in 'mature' societies that existed for the sake of individuals. We can perhaps see now that what we have been calling criticism in the larger sense as a process that takes over from the critics is the key to the distinction.

We have to have this critical approach in all the arts, and in fact in every aspect of life, so that the word criticism expands until it is practically synonymous with education itself. It covers all we know on earth and most of what we can know, if not quite, perhaps, all we need to know. In religion, too, we must keep a critical attitude that never unconditionally accepts any socially established form of revelation. Otherwise, we are back to idolatry again, this time a self-idolatry rather than an idolatry of nature, where devotion to God is replaced by the deifying of our own present understanding of God. Paul tells us that we are God's temples: if so, we should be able to see the folly of what was proposed by the Emperor Caligula for the Jerusalem temple, of putting a statue of ourselves in its holy place.

Criticism in the human world, however, is inseparably bound up with creation. We also think of God as above everything else a creator, as the opening sentence of the Bible tells us he is. I said earlier that we have abandoned the snobbish social analogy in the distinction between fine and useful (or 'minor') arts, but another distinction of some importance is involved here,in a different context. We normally say that people 'make' baskets and pots and textiles, but 'create' symphonies and dramas and frescoes. Traditionally, however, we ignore this distinction when we speak of God as having 'made' the world. To call God a maker implies that divine creation is a metaphor projected from something that man does, although the Hebrew word for 'created' (bara) is never used in a human context. There is something denigrating to God in regarding him as a maker, as preoccupied with ingenious designs, to be complimented, as he was by natural theologians in the eighteenth century, in his cleverness in dividing up the orange into sections for convenience in (human, of course) eating. It was this consideration that led Kant to his 'purposiveness without purpose' formula for beauty. God did not make a humanly useful world; his creation relates to a world, or rather to a condition of being, that exists for its own sake, and for his. For a designing craftsman-God, a super-Hephaestus, there would have been no point in a sabbatical vision to become the model for an expanding human consciousness: only a creating God would provide a Sabbath, and with it the escape for man from natural into spiritual vision.

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