Saturday, November 27, 2004 +

JB: The Future of the Arts (1976)

From Jacques Barzun, “The Future of the Arts,” Britannica Book of the Year 1976

The state of the arts leads us to infer that the continuous period of 500 years of individualist art that has lasted since the Renaissance, the high, complicated art of the museum, the library, and concert hall, has come to an end. There is nothing more to be squeezed out of its principles and methods. Mankind has moved away from its premises—in both senses of the word. If we look at our political and social institutions, our manners and mores, our philosophical beliefs, and our old mother tongue, we observe the same confusion, the same diversity, and the same self-destruction. Consequently, the image of leveling down should not be taken as signifying merely the equalizing of social and economic conditions; it also means the tearing down of an edifice to make the ground level for another. The edifice is the culture of the West since the Renaissance.

That is the first plausible inference from the scene before us. A second is that when the ground is leveled, when the young of the next generation, or the second or third after that, have completely lost touch with what we mean by art, they will then be in a position to create a new art of their own—together with devising means of using and spreading it. For art in its essence is not what is found in libraries and museums; art originally and eternally resides in the human breast, and it will spring up again, as fresh as on the first day, when the old memories are gone. It is futile to speculate on what this art will look like or sound like. If we knew what it would be, its creation and enjoyment would be possible now—and this, obviously, is not possible. I would risk saying only that the chances are good that the future will create a collective, popular art, like the art of the Middle Ages—an art that has the wide appeal of simplicity—and scarcity. It will be produced under hard conditions of life. For I assume that we stand at one of those great historical turnarounds, when everything or nearly everything seems to go to pieces at once, defies patchwork reforms, and calls for a succession of improvised makeshifts on the part of the gifted and energetic, who are often the crude and single-minded.


From Dorothy L, Sayers, The Mind of the Maker, “III. Idea, Energy, Power”

Since this chapter—and indeed this whole book—is an expansion of the concluding speech of St. Michael in my play The Zeal of Thy House, it will perhaps be convenient to quote that speech here:

   For every work [or act] of creation is threefold, an earthly trinity to match the heavenly.
   First, [not in time, but merely in order of enumeration] there is the Creative Idea, passionless, timeless, beholding the whole work complete at once, the end in the beginning: and this is the image of the Father.
   Second, there is the Creative Energy [or Activity] begotten of that idea, working in time from the beginning to the end, with sweat and passion, being incarnate in the bonds of matter: and this is the image of the Word.
   Third, there is the Creative Power, the meaning of the work and its response in the lively soul: and this is the image of the indwelling Spirit.
   And these three are one, each equally in itself the whole work, whereof none can exist without the other; and this is the image of the Trinity.

The very formulation of the Idea in the writer’s mind is not the Idea itself, but its self-awareness in the Energy. Everything that is conscious, everything that has to do with form and time, and everything that has to do with process, belongs to the working of the Energy or Activity or “Word.&rdquo . . . That being so, how can we know that the Idea itself has any real existence apart from the Energy? Very strangely; by the fact that the Energy itself is conscious of referring all its acts to an existing and complete whole. In theological terms, the Son does the will of the Father. . . .

The whole complex relation that I have been trying to describe may remain entirely within the sphere of the imagination, and is there complete. . . . To write a poem (or, of course, to give it material form in speech or song), is an act of love towards the poet’s own imaginative act and towards his fellow-beings. It is a social act; but the poet is, first and foremost, his own society, and would be none the less a poet if the means of material expression were refused by him or denied him. . . .


From Dorothy L. Sayers' The Mind of the Maker, “II. The Image of God”

The fact is, all language about everything is analogical; we think in a series of metaphors. We can explain nothing in terms of itself, but only in terms of other things. . . . It may quite well be perilous, as it must be inadequate, to interpret the mind of our pet dog by analogy with ourselves; we can by no means enter directly into the nature of a dog; behind the appealing eyes and the wagging tail lies a mystery as inscrutable as the mystery of the Trinity. . . . To complain that man measures God by his own experience is a waste of time; man measures everything by his own experience; he has no other yardstick. . . .

[The] experience of the creative imagination in the common man or woman and in the artist is the only thing we have to go upon in entertaining and formulating the concept of creation. Outside our own experience of procreation and creation we can form no notion of how anything comes into being. The expressions “God the Father” and “God the Creator” are thus seen to belong to the same category—that is, of analogies base on human experience, and limited or extended by a similar mental process in either case. . . .


From Dorothy L, Sayers, The Mind of the Maker, “I. The ‘Laws’ of Nature and Opinion”

The moral code depends for its validity upon a consensus of human opinion about what man’s nature really is, and what it ought to be, when freed from . . . self-contradiction and enabled to run true to itself. If there is no agreement about these things, then it is useless to talk of enforcing the moral code. It is idle to complain that a society is infringing a moral code intended to make people behave like St. Francis of Assisi if the society retorts that it does not wish to behave like St. Francis, and considers it more natural and right to behave like the Emperor Caligula. When there is a genuine conflict of opinion, it is necessary to go behind the moral code and appeal to the natural law—to prove, that is, at the bar of experience, that St. Francis does in fact enjoy a freer truth to essential human nature than Caligula, and that a society of Caligulas is more likely to end in catastrophe than a society of Franciscans. . . .

The God of the Christians is too often looked upon as an old gentleman of irritable nerves who beats people for whistling. This is the result of a confusion between arbitrary “law” and the “laws” which are statements of fact. Breach of the first is “punished” by edict; but breach of the second, by judgment. . . .

We may hear a saying . . . a thousand times, and find in it nothing but mystification and unreason; the thousand-and-first time, it falls into our recollection pat upon some vital experience, and we suddenly know it to be a statement of inexorable fact. . . . The cursing of the barren fig-tree looks like an outburst of irrational bad temper, “for it was not yet the time of figs” till some desperate crisis confronts us with the challenge of that acted parable and we know that we must perform impossibilities or perish. . . .

The necessary condition for assessing the value of creeds is that we should fully understand that they claim to be, not idealistic fancies, not arbitrary codes, not abstractions irrelevant to human life and thought, but statements of fact about the universe as we know it. . . .


From Dorothy L. Sayers, “Preface” to The Mind of the Maker

The Christian affirmation is . . . that the Trinitarian structure which can be shown to exist in the mind of man and in all his works is, in fact, the integral structure of the universe, and corresponds, not by pictorial imagery but by a necessary uniformity of substance with the nature of God, in Whom all that is exists. This, I repeat, is the Christian affirmation. It is not my invention, and its truth or falsehood cannot be affected by any opinions of mine. I shall try only to demonstrate that the statements made in the Creeds about the Mind of the Divine Maker represent, so far as I am able to check them by my experience, true statements about the mind of the human maker. If the statements are theologically true [i.e., true about God], then the inference to be drawn about the present social and educational system is important, and perhaps alarming, but I have expressed [in The Mind of the Maker] no personal opinion about their theological truth or otherwise. . . .

Friday, November 26, 2004 +

Hidden Jesus

We remember the prophets, stand again in the holy darkness which surrounded them, and muffle our souls in the veil of their ancient visions.
—Bishop Ottokar Prohászka, “The Beginning of Advent,” Meditations on the Gospels

For a snapshot, see Hidden Jesus for Halloween.

Notes 61

The Contractual View of Society: Solipsists in a world of solipsists.

Mark G. Malvasi

“It has in some ways become more difficult to believe in the historical and human attributes of Christ, which requires the emulation of His conduct, than it is to believe in the eternal and divine attributes of Christ, which may require nothing more than credulity.”
Mark G. Malvasi, from “At Century's End: A Historical Meditation,” The Intercollegiate Review, Volume 36, Number 1–2 (Fall 2000/Spring 2001)

Thursday, November 25, 2004 +

Thanksgiving 02004 +

We had as guests Dot, Jude Raphael, and Mary Ellen Stewart. Dot is staying overnight.

The Need for Appreciation the outer... recently asked himself:

why am I blogging? Do I blog so that I get visitors, 90% of whom who have no interest in what I have to say, and can't wait to get out of my site, or do I blog for me?

Actually that is the key reason I started this blog. For me. But, of course, part of the ‘me’ reason, I suppose, is also this ego-driven craving for an audience—the need to have an interaction with the outside world. Perhaps, that is the problem.

Though all is vanity, the need for appreciation is human and divine:

No artist, I now realize, can be satisfied with art alone. There is a natural craving for recognition that cannot be gainsaid. I have, let me confess in all humility, a pitiful human wish that someone should know just how clever I have been....
—Justice Lawrence Wargrave, in Agatha Christie, Ten Little Indians

Nothing is so obvious in a child—not in a conceited child, but in a good child—as its great and undisguised pleasure in being praised. Not only in a child either, but even in a dog or a horse.
—C. S. Lewis, “The Weight of Glory”

No man is pleased to have his all neglected, be it ever so little.
—Samuel Johnson, Letter to Lord Chesterfield, February 7, 1755

What every genuine philosopher (every genuine man, in fact) craves most is PRAISE—although the philosophers generally call it ‘recognition’!
—William James to Henri Bergson, 13 June 1907

For a writer there is no substitute for being published and read.
—Charles Scribner, Jr.

An artist has every right—one may even say a duty—to exhibit his productions as prominently as he can.
—Jacques Barzun, “Berlioz as man and thinker”, in Bloom, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Berlioz

[Barzun summarizing Dorothy L. Sayers’ The Mind of the Maker] Its thesis is that the ordinary experience of making anything—creating art or applying workmanshnip to any object—corresponds to the meanings symbolized by the Trinity. First comes the creative Idea, which forsees the whole work as finished. This is the Father. Next the creative Energy, which engages in a vigorous struggle with matter and overcomes one obstacle after another. This is the Son. Third is the creative Power of the work, its influence on the world through its effect on the soul of the user-beholder. This is the Holy Spirit. All three are indispensable to completeness as they unite in the work.
--From Dawn to Decadence

[Before blogs] And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.
--Genesis, 1, 31

In any case, this is what I am going to do in for at least the next seven days. I am going to resist the temptation to surf for credits, even if that means a reduction of visitors to my site, and I am going to spend the next week, writing and visiting blogs like I used to do before BlogExplosion, with the exception of also visiting the blogmarked sites as well. Let’s see how long I can withstand the temptation not do the click-clickety thingy. . .

Silence is also appropriate:

Silence is precious. It is the foundation upon which beauty of soul materializes. . . . If we we control our tongues for but one or two days, we shall see our faith and duties and ideals in a new and wonderfully clear light. How often speech serves not merely to clothe thought, but to drive it away as well!
—Bishop Ottokar Proháskza, “The Man of the Desert [John the Baptist]”, in Meditations on the Gospels

Wednesday, November 24, 2004 +

Christian Carnival XLV

Tuesday, November 23, 2004 +

Notes 60

Secularization: not that the world does not know you but that it is forgetting you.

What do you have that the world should be reminded of you?

Will the world only listen to disaster? But the world will not listen to disaster.

Will you be reduced to punishing us? Doesn't that mean: you lose?

How to feel that one is not a chump for believing in you.

So Paul: If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.

When I think of heaven, earth brightens.

If there is no God, everything is permitted, even belief in God.

Needed: a theory of deep happiness.

Northern Ireland: Is it a religious conflict?

Excerpts from a talk given by Peter Brooke:

[On the isolation of Ireland before the 12th century] I have long felt that the place to go for some feel for Celtic Christianity—monastic, with an intense emphasis on asceticism and on local traditions evolved in isolation from the great metropolitan centres (Rome, Alexandria, Antioch, Constantinople)—would be Ethiopia. . . .

The Norman invasions which began informally in 1169 may be seen as a political/legal complement to the ecclesiastical reform [of 12th century Ireland]. Ireland was granted by the Pope to the Norman King of England, Henry II. It happens that the Pope in question, Hadrian IV, was himself an Englishman—Nicholas Brakespeare, the only Englishman ever to hold the office. But he was also an important figure in the overall Roman European project and it seems to me that his motives are better understood as an attempt to incorporate Ireland into the European system than simply as an expression of Anglo-Norman imperialism.

In the event, however, the Norman invasion did not ‘take’. . . . By the sixteenth century, the period of the Tudors and of the English Reformation, ‘civilisation’ was reduced to a small area round Dublin, the ‘Pale’, while most of the country was in the hands of a multitude of more or less independent chieftains mostly Gaelic and without legal title to their land but some of them, with recognised titles and of Anglo-Norman descent but otherwise barely distinguishable from the Gaels. . . .

The Norman invasion of Ireland was part of the process by which Europe had been constructed as a new political order with the papacy as its moral centre. The Elizabethan conquest of Ireland was part of the English Reformation by which England separated itself from this European order and set itself up as it anti-type. In the context, this meant England was repudiating the then generally admitted system of international law. It had become a ‘rogue state’; and the invasion of the Spanish armada can perhaps be compared to the United Nations assault on Iraq in 1991, except of course that it failed. . . .

The Protestant aggression produced among the Roman Catholics in Ireland a rapid process of what might be called ‘modernisation’. Which took two contradictory forms. In Ireland itself there was the formation of a unified nation attached to the Stuart dynasty. . . . The other tendency, more typical of the rapidly growing Irish diaspora in mainland Europe, argued for Ireland’s separation from England and for unconditional loyalty to the papacy. . . . The Jacobite tendency was dominant in Ireland until the end of the eighteenth century and the Catholic Nationalism that took hold in the nineteenth century and triumphed in the twentieth resembles the seventeenth century separatist movement. Nonetheless, there is very little personal or intellectual continuity between them. . . .

In Northern Ireland at the present time the term ‘Protestant’ covers a large variety of different religious groupings but for the purposes of this simplified account they can be reduced, historically, to two: Anglican [the ‘Protestant ascendancy’ scattered throughout Ireland] and Presbyterian. I shall mainly be talking about the Presbyterians, who belonged to the Reformed tradition [the Church claiming independence from civil authority]. . . .

The Presbyterians in Ireland were concentrated in the North East corner, in Ulster. It was an area that had been devastated by war, plague and famine induced by deliberate English policy. The Gaelic aristocracy had been expelled, the native population for the most part destroyed. The Presbyterians were a new population largely transplanted from Scotland. . . .

The Ulster Presbyterians stood in a position of radical opposition to nearly all the mainstream English tendencies including Puritanism, once English Puritanism adopted the principle of Independency [no church authority above the individual congregation]. Defining a ‘connexional church’ as a church structure possessing a collective authority able to impose itself on the individual congregation, the Ulster Presbyterians may claim the remarkable distinction of being the first dissenting connexional church in the British Isles. . . . By establishing their own church discipline in defiance of the episcopal Church of Ireland, the Ulster Presbyterians were effectively setting themselves up as a nation within the nation. . . . It was in its own way a political society in itself, fulfilling many of the functions that we . . . would normally associate with government.

[Discussing the ‘United Irishmen’ movement] The Presbyterians had supported Catholics for reasons that—at least when seen from a nineteenth century Irish Catholic point of view—were essentially anti-Catholic. They believed that the Catholics were in the process of detaching themselves from the Pope and from the pretensions of their Church to be at the centre of a great international order. In fact what happened was the opposite. The nineteenth century sees the Roman Catholics emerging as a nation whose national ideology was, very distinctly, ‘papist’. . . .

At the end of the eighteenth century, the Irish Catholics had been largely a demoralised mass with a lovely but non-functional national [Gaelic] culture and no apparent possibility for political advance. Even under the United Irishmen the role envisaged for them was to act as footsoldiers for an essentially Protestant leadership. By the end of the nineteenth century they were sending missionaries to China; they had broken the back of the Protestant church establishment; the Catholic Church had gained control over an education system that had originally been devised to subvert it; the Church was in many respects more powerful than the government itself; and in the early twentieth century, the last in a series of land acts (Wyndham’s, passed by the Tory government in 1903) had finally wrested the land away from the Cromwellian and Williamite ascendancy. . . .

The demand for a repeal of the Act of Union, for an independent or at least autonomous Ireland was a demand for a state to be constructed on the basis of Catholic social principles. Catholicism—not Gaelic tradition—was the main defining principle of the nation that marked it out as being other than British. The establishment of a Catholic state was seen as a great revolutionary adventure. There was widespread confidence, well into the twentieth century, that Catholicism was the way of the future—that, for example, the forces of Communism, Fascism and liberal democracy would exhaust each other in the 1939 war leaving the Church to pick up the pieces. Ireland was the only European Catholic country that did not develop an anti-clerical movement. ‘Republicanism’ in Ireland had a content that was quite different from Republicanism on the continent. And this predominance of the Catholic idea was abundantly expressed with virtually no opposition in the state that finally came into existence in 1920 [check]. . . .

The Irish Catholics’ emergence as a self sufficient political community based on the Church more or less parallels a decline in the social self sufficiency of the Presbyterians. In the nineteenth century, they became part of a wider—British—society. . . .

Northern Ireland was established as a result of the refusal of the Ulster Protestants to be incorporated as a minority into a Roman Catholic state. It was not established as a result of any positive desire for a Protestant—much less a Presbyterian—state. Nor did the Ulster Protestant refusal to be governed by Irish Roman Catholics necessarily mean that Catholics in Ulster had to be governed by Ulster Protestants. This was a consequence of the imposition of a devolved government on Northern Ireland, against the wishes of the Unionist leadership, who essentially wanted Northern Ireland to continue under the direct rule of Westminster. . . .

[Grievances of Ulster Catholics before 1972]. . .

The position of the Catholics has been transformed beyond recognition since Stormont was abolished in 1972. In particular, almost immediately Catholics began to join the civil service in Northern Ireland in large numbers. Previously, whether because of discrimination by the Protestants or because of a Catholic boycott, there were very few Catholic civil servants. Catholics felt much more comfortable serving under British ministers than under Ulster Unionist ministers. It is this increasing participation of Catholics in the administration of the entity that has changed everything, eventually resulting in the IRA's turning to politics as the sense of grievance which fuelled the military campaign withered away. The spectacular initiatives—Anglo-Irish and Good Friday Agreements—were, I would argue, irrelevant to the process and indeed probably harmful.

On the negative side, the Ulster Protestants, deprived of the only political role that had been allotted to them under the old system—that of keeping the Catholics in order—and unable to generate a new politics more in keeping with their new, not particularly undesirable, condition (they are still in the UK and the union is strengthened not weakened by the demise of the Catholic sense of grievance), have undergone a collapse into alcohol- and drug-befuddled gangsterism on a horrifying scale. . . .

[Decline of Catholic Ireland after Vatican II:] Secularism on the continent developed in the form of militant anti-clerical (Socialist or Republican) movements; in Britain it developed through the conflict between different religious movements which were in themselves anything but secularist. In Ireland it emerged through initiatives undertaken by the Church itself at the height of its power. It is now sweeping all before it. To my perhaps jaundiced eye (I am after all an Ulster Protestant by origin) it appears rather facile and derivative. It has not developed through political struggle but rather on the basis of the morally self satisfied consumerism of the post-Thatcher era. Nonetheless, through it, Catholic Ireland could be said to be at last entering into the front rank of the forces of progress and civilisation.

The Fifth Catholic Carnival

Monday, November 22, 2004 +

The Jaki-Gödel Theorem

From Stanley L. Jaki, “A Late Awakening to Gödel in Physics”:

Gödel himself retained something of his childhood belief in God. He felt a thorough disdain for materialistic positivism and saw his theorem as a devastating weapon against it. Surely, the idea of a God who can freely create one particular universe out of an infinitely large number of possibilities, could not be alien to Gödel’s thinking. He could have therefore found an inner prompting to connect physics with his theorem. It is therefore somewhat puzzling that he did not see his theorem as a proof that one cannot turn physics into an argument against the contingency of the universe.

Herein lies the ultimate bearing of Gödel’s theorem on physics. It does not mean at all the end of physics. It means only the death knell on endeavours that aim at a final theory according to which the physical world is what it is and cannot be anything else. Gödel’s theorem does not mean that physicists cannot come up with a theory of everything or TOE in short. They can hit upon a theory which at the moment of its formulation would give an explanation of all known physical phenomena. But in terms of Gödel’s theorem such a theory cannot be taken for something which is necessarily true.

Father Jaki adds:

Apart from Gödel’s theorem, such a theory [of everything] cannot be a guarantee that in the future nothing essentially new would be discovered in the physical universe which would then demand another final theory. . . .

Notes 59

Everything that is not God is not good.

Why did you choose me? I wish you had not chosen me, but since you have, do not abandon me. Or if you have not chosen me, let me not believe that you have.

Sunday, November 21, 2004 +

Feast of Christ the King

If your audience is in heaven, don't expect applause on earth. If your king is in heaven, don't expect honors on earth.

Notes 58

It is presumptuous to think that I shall recognize or cherish the New.

02004 11 21 +

"Life in a prison cell may well be compared to Advent; one waits, hopes, and does this, that, or the other—things that are really of no consequence—the door is shut, and can be opened only from the outside."
—Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 21 November 1943, Letters and Papers from Prison

With Oliv, read Paul Zindel's play The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds.