Thursday, 2 May 2013
From Orthodoxy, G. K. Chesterton
Monday, 18 March 2013
O no no I see an Innumerable company of the
Heavenly host crying Holy Holy Holy is the Lord God Almighty.
I question not my Corporeal or Vegetative Eye any more than I would Question a Window concerning a Sight, I look thro it & not with it.”
Saturday, 16 March 2013
The ancient rites have lost their effectiveness since Christianity appeared in the world. The Christian and Catholic religion, in fact, is the legitimate daughter of Jesus, king of the Mages. A simple scapular worn by a truly Christian person is a more invincible talisman than the ring and pentacle of Solomon. The Mass is the most prodigious of evocations. Necromancers evoke the dead, the sorcerer evokes the devil and he shakes, but the Catholic Priest does not tremble in evoking the living God.
Catholics alone have Priests because they alone have the altar and the offering, i.e. the whole of religion. To practise high Magic is to compete with the Catholic Priesthood; it is to be a dissident Priest. Rome is the great Thebes of the new initiation … It has crypts for its catacombs; for talismen, its rosaries and medallions; for a magic chain, its congregations; for magnetic fires, its convents; for centres of attraction, its confessionals; for means of expansion, its pulpits and the addresses of its Bishops; it has, lastly, its Pope, the Man-God rendered visible.
Thursday, 14 February 2013
― Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Idiot
An even more recent development is the appearance of devices and software such as smartphones, tablets and browsers aimed at streamlining entertainment, shopping and knowledge content and making it even easier to get hold of. This is a superficially enthralling world, we are like children let loose in sweet shops with a never-ending supply of goodies to get our hands on. And we all know that too many sweets are bad for you. "Distracted from distraction by distraction" wrote T S Eliot nearly 100 years ago, words that were prophetic for an increasingly pick and mix culture enabled by high-speed internet access and handheld devices.
There is nothing particularly original in these observations. They have been made many times in recent years, especially in books like The Shallows and others. I want to focus on the pre-eminence of novelty that seems to come with modernity, where progress and the new are the only criteria of value. I believe they are the concomitants of a focus on knowledge as power, of a narrow definition of truth as that which you can use to predict behaviour or events. Almost the only response you hear to any challenge to the predominant naturalism inherent in the modern west is that the model must be true as with it you can make accurate predictions.
With such a ratiocination of truth you begin to accept a more quantitative approach - what matters in the question of a theory's truth is the amount of predictions it makes and how much power it gives us over the natural world. The aim is absolute mastery of the sheer otherness of things by making them into copies of ourselves. First we empty them of their otherness by calling them matter - and meaning by it a blank colourless formlessness - mere extension in Cartesian terms, and then we fill this with our own desires, making the world into our plaything. In such a world of phantoms, we quickly tire of each new game, as they are merely the flickering of shadows on the cave wall, and we yearn for the new experience to come along and replace the emptiness at the heart of things, which we know is our eternal boredom with staring at our own reflections. This disenchantment is central to the modern experience of the world.
It is manifest in the deadliness and addictive power of technology, which draws us further into the world, offering greater and greater control. It is the promise of the serpent in the book of Genesis: "You will not die - you will become as gods", and it is the lure of magic, which is merely the art of causing changes in accordance with the will, according to the Great Beast himself, Crowley.
How do we free the world from our deadly grasp? We have been given a Midas-like gift and mired ourselves deeper in the illusion of what Buddhists call maya, the play of appearances. We have hoarded the world, so that we don't have to see it anymore.
One thing we can do is to champion the tried and tested, the old, unoriginal and traditional. Doing things how they've always been done is not always such a bad idea. There's usually a reason why they're done that way. If the tradition you are brought up in recommends prayer and sacramental worship, then give it a try. If it recommends meditation, try that. Don't immediately scorn the familiar just because it is familiar.
In art this will lead to an appreciation of the value of many things which seem old-fashioned. In education the same. Something of this is actually in the air in the these spheres anyway. For example in the world of art the old-fashioned atelier is making a reappearance, with its painstaking emphasis on verisimilitude and realism, and the old-fashioned virtues of grace and beauty high on its list. In the sixties many art schools rejected such practices as deadly and barren, with the result that a generation of artists only had a minimal acquaintance with drawing, which I think explains the work of Damien Hirst (and perhaps someone can explain to me why Tracey Emin has been made an RA prof. of drawing? See here for an entertaining piece of self-delusion re Emin - the comments are the best bit! ).
If this was the twenties and I was a Futurist, or it was the 1890s and I was a symbolist, I would put out a manifesto. As it's now I will be content with this blog post. It can function as a kind of manifesto for my vision of art. Here is my vision for my art:
1. It will not seek originality as a virtue.
2. It will have instead as a virtue the creation of the beautiful
3. This will not be for its own sake, but rather for the sake of truth and goodness
4. Its practitioners will continue serenely with their work when people mock them for seeking to express such things as the good, the beautiful and the true in their work.
5. It will be a humble art, inasmuch as it recognises that the work of creation of an artist is a simple re-working of a prior greater creation
6. It will seek to free things from the tyranny of our perception
7. It will thus make use of fantasy
8. However it will not seek the fantastic for its own sake, but will be grounded in the real
9. Through this method the fruits of recovery, consolation, and clarity will be established in the soul of the practitioner
Wednesday, 13 February 2013
"Art reconciles us with life. If an artist does not accomplish the miracle of transforming the soul of the spectator into an attitude of love and forgiveness, then his art is only an ephemeral passion."
"There is no such thing as a creative type. As if creative people can just show up and make stuff up. As if it were that easy. I think people need to be reminded that creativity is a verb, a very time consuming verb... If you're doing it right, it's going to feel like work."
Tuesday, 29 January 2013
In the powerfully social structure of mediaeval civilization, the artist had only the rank of artisan, and every kind of anarchical development was forbidden his individualism, because a natural social discipline imposed on him from the outside certain limiting conditions. He did not work for the rich and fashionable and for the merchants, but for the faithful; it was his mission to house their prayers, to instruct their intelligences, to delight their souls and their eyes. Matchless epoch, in which an ingenuous people was formed in beauty without even realizing it, just as the perfect religious ought to pray without knowing that he is praying; in which Doctors and image-makers lovingly taught the poor, and the poor delighted in their teaching, because they were all of the same royal race, born of water and the Spirit!
Man created more beautiful things in those days, and he adored himself less. The blessed humility in which the artist was placed exalted his strength and his freedom. The Renaissance was to drive the artist mad, and to make of him the most miserable of men -- at the very moment when the world was to become less habitable for him -- by revealing to him his own peculiar grandeur, and by letting loose on him the wild beast Beauty which Faith had kept enchanted and led after it, docile.