Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: We Moderns - Enigmas and Guesses
Author: Mencken, H. L. (Henry Louis), Muir, Edwin
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "We Moderns - Enigmas and Guesses" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



in an extended version, also linking to free sources for
education worldwide ... MOOC's, educational materials,...)
Images generously made available by the Internet Achive.



WE MODERNS:

ENIGMAS AND GUESSES

By EDWIN MUIR

Edited with Introduction by H. L. Mencken

NEW YORK ALFRED. A. KNOPF

MCMXX



CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION

    I. THE OLD AGE,
   II. ORIGINAL SIN,
  III. WHAT IS MODERN?
   IV. ART AND LITERATURE,
    V. CREATIVE LOVE,
   VI. THE TRAGIC VIEW.



INTRODUCTION


That a young Scotsman, reacting from the vast emotional assault of
the late ferocious war, should have withdrawn himself into an ivory
tower in Glasgow town, and there sat himself down in heroic calm
to wrestle with the vexatious and no doubt intrinsically insoluble
problems of being and becoming--this was surely nothing to cause,
whispers among connoisseurs of philosophical passion, for that grim,
persistent, cold-blooded concern with the fundamental mysteries of the
world has been the habit of the Scots ever since they emerged from
massacre and blue paint. From blue paint, indeed, the transition was
almost instantaneous to blue souls, and the conscience of Britain,
such as it is, has dwelt north of the Cheviot Hills ever since.
Find a Scot, and you are at once beset by a metaphysician, or, at
all events, by a theologian. But for a young man of those damp,
desolate parts, throwing himself into the racial trance, to emerge
with a set of ideas reaching back, through Nietzsche and even worse
heretics, to the spacious, innocent, somewhat gaudy days of the Greek
illumination--for such a fellow, so bred and circumscribed, to come
out of his tower with a concept of life as a grand and glittering
adventure, a tremendous spectacle, an overpowering ecstasy, almost
an orgy--such a phenomenon was, and is, quite sufficient to lift the
judicious eyebrow. Yet here is this Mr. Edwin Muir of Caledonia bearing
just that outlandish contraband, offering just that strange flouting
of all things traditionally Scotch. What he preaches in the ensuing
aphorisms is the emancipation of the modern spirit from its rotting
heritage of ingenuous fears and exploded certainties. What he denounces
most bitterly is the abandonment of a world that is beautifully
surprising and charming to the rule of sordid, timid and unimaginative
men--the regimentation of ideas in a system that is half a denial of
the obvious and half a conglomeration of outworn metaphors, all taken
too literally. And what he pleads for most eloquently, with his cold,
reserved northern eloquence, is the whole-hearted acceptance of "life
as a sacrament,... life as joy triumphing over fate,... life made
innocent,... life washed free from how much filth of remorse, guilt,
contempt, 'sin'."...

It goes without saying that the red hand of Nietzsche is in all
this. The Naumburg Antichrist, damned for five years running by
the indignation of all right-thinking men, has made steady and
enormous progress under cover. There has never been a time, indeed,
when his notions enjoyed a wider dispersion or were poll-parrotted
unwittingly by greater numbers of the righteous. Excessive draughts
of the democratic cure-all, swallowed label, cork, testimonials and
all, have brought Christendom to bed with _Katzenjammer--_and there
stands the seductive antidote in its leering blue bottles. Where would
philosophical opponents of Bolshevism be without Nietzsche? Who would
devise arguments for them, eloquence for them, phrases for them? On all
sides one hears echoes of him--often transformed from his harsh bass
to a piping falsetto, but nevertheless recognizable enough. Any port
in a storm! If God is asleep, then turn to the Devil! The show offers
the best laughing that heathen have enjoyed, perhaps, since the Hundred
Years' War. And there is an extra snicker in the fact that Scotland,
once again, seems to resume the old trade of intellectual smuggling.
If one Scot is to the front with so forthright a piece as "We Moderns,"
then surely there must be a thousand other Scots hard at it in a
_pianissimo_ manner. Thus, I suppose, the crime of Carlyle is repeated
on a wholesale scale, and once again the poor Sassenach is inoculated
with pathogenic Prussian organisms. On this side of the ocean the
business is less efficiently organized; we have no race of illicit
metaphysicians on our border. But the goods come in all the same. I
have heard more prattling of stale Nietzscheism of late, from men
bearing the flag in one hand and the cross in the other, than I ever
heard in the old days from parlour anarchists and unfrocked priests.
Nietzsche, belatedly discovered by a world beset by terrors too great
for it and mysteries too profound, becomes almost respectable, nay,
almost Episcopalian!

What ails it, at bottom, is the delusion that all the mysteries, given
doctors enough, theories enough, pills enough, may be solved--that it
is all a matter of finding a panacea, unearthing a prophet, passing
a bill. If it turns to Nietzsche, however gingerly and suspiciously,
it will turn only to fresh disappointment and dismay, for Nietzsche
is no quack with another sure cure, but simply an iconoclast who shows
that all the sure cures of the past and present have failed, and
_must_ fail--and particularly the sure cure of the mob, the scheme
of determining the diagnosis by taking a vote, the notion that the
medicine which most pleases the grossest palates is the medicine to get
the patient upon his legs. Nietzsche is no reformer; he is an assassin
of reformers; if he preaches anything at all, it is that reform is
useless, illusory--above all, unnecessary. The patient is really not
dying at all. Let him get up and dance! Let him pick up his bed and
employ it upon the skulls of his physicians! Life is not a disease to
be treated with boluses and philtres, not an affliction to be shirked
and sentimentalized, but an adventure to be savoured and enjoyed--life,
here and now, is the highest imaginable experience. What the world
needs is not a cure for it, but room for it, freedom for it, innocent
zest for it. So accepted and regarded, half of its terrors vanish at
once, and even its unescapable catastrophes take on a certain high
stateliness, a fine æsthetic dignity. This is the tragic view that Mr.
Muir cries up--life as joy triumphing over fate. "For the character of
tragedy is not negative and condemnatory, but deeply affirmative and
joyous." The ideal man is not the time-serving slave of Christendom,
in endless terror of God, forever flattering and bribing God, but the
Nietzschean _Ja-sager,_ the yes-sayer, facing destiny courageously and
a bit proudly, living to the full the life that lies within his grasp
in the present, accepting its terms as he finds them, undaunted by the
impenetrable shadows that loom ahead.

What Mr. Muir, following Nietzsche, is most dissatisfied with in the
modern spirt is its intolerable legalism--its fatuous frenzy to work
everything out to nine places of constabulary decimals, to establish
windy theories and principles, to break the soul of man to a rule.
In part, of course, that effort is of respectable enough origin. It
springs from intelligent self-assertion, healthy curiosity, the sense
of competence; it is a by-product of the unexampled conquests of nature
that have gone on in the modern age. But in other parts it is no more
than a by-product of the democratic spirit, the rise of the inferior,
the emancipation of the essentially in competent. Science is no
longer self-sufficient, isolated from moral ideas, an end in itself;
it tends to become a mere agent of mob tyranny; it takes on gratuitous
and incomprehensible duties and responsibilities; like the theology
that it has supplanted, it has friendlier and friendlier dealings with
the secular arm. And art, too, begins to be poisoned by this moral
obsession of the awakened proletariat. It ceases to be an expression
of well-being, of healthy functioning, of unpolluted joy in life, and
becomes a thing of obscure and snuffling purposes, a servant of some
low enterprise of the cocksure. The mob is surely no scientist and no
artist; it is, in fact, eternally the anti-scientist, the anti-artist;
science and art offer it unscalable heights and are hence its enemies.
But in a world dominated by mob yearnings and mob passions, even
science and art must take on some colour from below. The enemies, if
they cannot be met and overthrown on a fair field, can at least be
degraded. And when the mob degrades, it always degrades to moral tunes.
Morality is its one avenue to superiority--false but none the less
soothing. It can always be good. It can always dignify its stupidity,
its sordidness and its cowardice with terms borrowed from ethical
revelation. The good man is a numskull, but nevertheless he is good.

Mr. Muir has at the modern spirit on many other counts, but nearly
all of them may be converted with more or less plausibility into an
objection to its ethical obsession, its idiotic craze to legislate
and admonish. When he says, for example, that realism in the novel
and the drama is hollow, he leaves his case but half stated; there
is undoubtedly a void where imagination, feeling and a true sense
of the tragic ought to be, but it is filled with the common garbage
of mob thinking, to wit, with the common garbage of moral purpose.
All of the chief realists, from Zola to Barbusse, are pre-eminently
moralists disguised as scientists; what one derives from them, reading
them sympathetically, is not illumination but merely indignation. They
are always violently against something--and that something is usually
the fact that the world is not as secure and placid a place as a
Methodist Sunday-school. Their affectation of moral agnosticism need
deceive no one. They are secretly appalled (and delighted) by their
own "scientific" pornographies, just as their brethren of the vice
crusades are appalled and delighted. Realism, of course, can never be
absolute. It must always stress something and leave out something. What
it commonly stresses is the colossal failure of society to fit into
an orderly scheme of causes and effects, virtues and rewards, crimes
and punishments. What it leaves out is the glow of romance that hangs
about that failure--the poignant drama of blind chance, the fascination
of the unknowable. The realists are bad artists because they are
anæsthetic to beauty. And a good many scientists are bad scientists
for precisely the same reason. In their hands the gorgeous struggle of
man against the mysteries and foul ambuscades of nature is converted
into a banal cause before a police court, with the complainant put
on the stand to prove that his own hands are clean. One cannot read
some of the modern medical literature, particularly on the side of
public hygiene, without giving one's sympathy to the tubercle bacilli
and the spirochætæ. Science of that sort ceases to be a fit concern
for men of dignity, superior men, gentlemen; it becomes a concern for
evangelists, uplifters, bounders. Its aim is no longer to penetrate
the impenetrable, to push forward the bounds of human knowledge, to
overreach the sinister trickeries of God; its aim is simply to lengthen
the lives of human ciphers and to reinforce their delusion that they
confer a favour upon the universe by living at all. Worse, it converts
the salvation of such vacuums into a moral obligation, and sets up
the absurd doctrine that human progress is furthered by diminishing
the death-rate in the Balkans, by rescuing Georgia crackers from the
hookworm and by reducing the whole American people, the civilized
minority with the barbarian mass, to a race of teetotalling ascetics,
full of pious indignations and Freudian suppressions.

The western world reeks with this new sentimentality. It came on in
Europe with the fall of feudalism and the rise of the lower orders.
Even war, the last surviving enterprise of natural man, has been
transformed from a healthy play of innocent instincts into a combat
of moral ideas, nine-tenths of them obviously unsound. It no longer
offers a career to a Gustavus Adolphus, a Prince Eugene or a Napoleon
I. It loses even the spirit of gallant adventure that dignified the
theological balderdash of the Crusades--in which, as every one knows,
the balderdash was quickly absorbed altogether by the adventure. It
becomes the business of specialists in moral indignation. The modern
general must not only know the elements of military science; he
must also show some of the gifts of a chautauqua orator, including
particularly the gift of right-thinking; it would do him more harm
to speak of his opponent with professional politeness, as one lawyer
might speak of another, than it would do him to lose an important
battle. Worse, war gets out of the hands of soldiers altogether. It
becomes an undertaking of boob-bumpers, spy-hunters, emotion-pumpers,
propaganda-mongers--all sorts of disgusting cads. Its great prizes
tend to go, not to the men fighting in the field, but to the man
manufacturing shells, alarms, and moral indignation. At the time of
the last great series of wars it was said that every musketeer of
France carried a marshal's baton in his haversack. The haversack of the
musketeer now contains only official literature, informing him of the
causes of the war as most lately determined, the names of its appointed
moral heroes, and the penalties for discussing its aims, for swapping
tobacco with the boys on the other side, and for inviting a pretty
peasant-girl into his shell-hole. The baton is being fought for by a
press-agent, a labour leader and a Y.M.C.A. secretary.

It is against such degradations that Mr. Muir raises his voice, and
in particular against such degradations in the field of the fine
arts. The superficial, I daresay, will mistake him (once they get
over the sheer immorality of his relation to Nietzsche) as simply one
more pleader for _l'art pour l'art--_one more prophet of a superior
and disembodied æstheticism. Well, turn to his singularly acute and
accurate estimate of Walter Pater: there is the answer to that error.
He has, in fact, no leanings whatsoever in any such direction. The
thing he argues for, despite all his fury against the debasement of
art to mob uses, is not an art that shall be transcendental, but an
art that shall relate itself to life primarily and unashamedly, an art
that shall accept and celebrate life. He preaches, of course, out of
season. There has never been a time in the history of the world when
the natural delight of man in himself was held in greater suspicion.
Christianity, after two thousand years, seems triumphant at last.
From the ashes of its barbaric theology there arises the phoenix of
its maudlin sentimentality; the worship of inferiority becomes its
dominating cult. In all directions that worship goes on. It gives a new
colour to politics, and not only to politics, but also to the sciences
and the arts. Perhaps we are at the mere beginning of the process. The
doctrine that all men are equal in the sight of God is now defended
and propagated by machine guns; it becomes a felony to deny it; one is
already taxed in America to make good the lofty aspirations of Poles,
Jugo-Slavs and Armenians. In England there are signs of a further step.
An Ehrlich or a Koch, miraculously at work there, might be jailed for
slitting the throat of a white rat: all the lower animals, too, it
appears, are God's creatures. So viewed, a guinea-pig becomes the peer
of a Beethoven, as a farm-hand is already the peer of a Bach. It is too
late to turn back; let us hope that the logic of it is quickly worked
out to its unescapable conclusion. Once the _pediculus vestimenti_ and
the streptococcus are protected, there will be a chance again, it may
be, for the law of natural selection to achieve its benign purgation.

Meanwhile, Mr. Muir cannot expect his ideas to get much attention.
A gaudy parade is passing and the populace is busy cheering.
Nevertheless, they were ideas worth playing with, and they are now
worth printing and pondering. It seems to me that, in more than one
way, they help to illuminate the central æsthetic question--the problem
as to the nature and function of artistic representation. They start
from Nietzschean beginnings, but they get further than Nietzsche ever
got. His whole æsthetic was hampered by the backwardness of psychology
in his time. He made many a brilliant guess, but more than once he was
hauled up rather sharply by his ignorance of the machinery of thought.
Mr. Muir not only has Nietzsche behind him; he also has Freud, as he
shows, for example, in §145. Beyond him there is still a lot of room.
He will not stop the parade--but he will help the next man.

       *       *       *       *       *

Edwin Muir was born in the Orkney Islands in 1887. His father was a
small crofter there. When he was fourteen years old the family moved
to Glasgow. Within four years his father, his mother and two older
brothers died, and he was forced to fend for himself. He became a
clerk in a Glasgow office and remained there until very recently, when
he moved to London. Like all other young men with the itch to write, he
tried poetry before prose, and his first verses were printed in _The
New Age._ But his discovery of Nietzsche, at the age of twenty-two,
exerted such a powerful influence upon him that he soon turned to
prose, and five or six years later his first philosophical speculations
were printed, again in _The New Age._ They attracted attention and were
republished in book-form, in 1918, as "We Moderns." At the last minute
the author succumbed to modesty and put the _nom de plume_ of Edward
Moore upon his book. But now, in this American edition (for which he
has made certain revisions), he returns to his own name.

H. L. MENCKEN.



I


THE OLD AGE


1

_The Advanced_

Among the advanced one observes a strange contradiction: the existence
in one and the same person of confidence and enthusiasm about certain
aspects of life along with diffidence and pessimism about life
itself. The advanced have made up their minds about all the problems
of existence but not about the problem of existence. In dealing with
these problems they find their greatest happiness; they are there
sure-footed, convinced and convincing. But brought face to face with
that other problem, how helpless, vacillating and spiritless are they!
What! are propaganda, reform, and even revolution, perchance, with many
of them simply their escape from their problem?


2

_The Intellectual Coquettes_

An intellectual coquetry is one of the worst vices of this age. From
what does it arise? From fear of a decision? Or from love of freedom?
It cannot be from the latter, for to abstain from a choice is not
freedom but irresponsibility. To be free, is, on the contrary, itself
a choice, a decision involving, in its acceptance, responsibility. And
it is responsibility that the intellectual coquettes fear: rather than
admit that one burden they will bear all the others of scepticism,
pessimism and impotence. To accept a new gospel, to live it out in all
its ramifications, is too troublesome, too dangerous. The average man
in them pleads, "Be prudent! Where may not this resolution lead you?
Through what perils? Into what hells?" And so they remain in their
prison house of doubt, neither Pagans nor Christians, neither Theists
nor Atheists, ignorant of the fact that they are slaves and that a
decision would set them free.

But in the end the soul has its revenge, for their coquetry destroys
not only the power but the will to choose. To flirt with dangerous
ideas in a graceful manner: that becomes their destiny. For the
intellectual coquette, like other coquettes, dislikes above everything
passion--passion with its seriousness, sincerity and--demand for a
decision.


3

_Modern Realism_

How crude and shallow is the whole theory of modern realism: a
theory of art by the average man for the average man! It makes art
intelligible by simplifying or popularizing it; in short, as Nietzsche
would say, by vulgarizing it. The average man perceives, for instance,
that there is in great drama an element of representation. Come, he
says, let us make the representation as "thorough" as possible! Let
every detail of the original be reproduced! Let us have life as it
is lived! And when he has accomplished this, when representation has
become reproduction, he is very well pleased and thinks how far he has
advanced beyond the poor Greeks. But it is hardly so! For the Greeks
did not aim at the reproduction but at the interpretation of life,
for which they would accept no symbol less noble than those _ideal_
figures which move in the world of classical tragedy. To the Greeks,
indeed, the world of art was precisely this world: not a paltry,
sober and conscientious dexterity in the "catching" of the aspects
of existence (nothing so easy!), but a symbolizing of the deepest
questions and enigmas of life--a thing infinitely more noble, profound
and subtle than realistic art. The Greeks would have demanded of
realism, Why do you exist? What noble end is served by the reproduction
of ordinary existence? Are you not simply superfluous--and vilely
smelling at that? And realism could have given no reply, for the truth
is that realism _is_ superfluous. It is without a _raison d'être._

The average man, however, takes a second glance at classical tragedy
and reaches a second discovery. There is something enigmatical,
he finds, behind the Greek clearness of representation, something
unexplained; in short, a problem. This problem, however, is not
sufficiently clear. Let us state our problems clearly, he cries! Let
us have problems which can be recognized at a glance by every one! Let
us write a play about "the marriage question," or bad-housing, or the
Labour Party! But, again, the theory of the Greeks, at least before
Euripides, was altogether different. The "problem" in their tragedies
was precisely not a problem which could be stated in a syllogism or
solved in a treatise: it was the eternal problem, and it was not stated
to be "solved."

Thus the Moderns, in their attempt to simplify art, to understand it
or misunderstand it--what does it matter which word is used?--have
succeeded in destroying it. The realistic and the "problem" drama alike
are for the inartistic. The first is drama without a _raison d'être,_
the second is a _raison d'être_ without drama.


4

_The Modern Tragic_

In realistic novels and dramas a new type of the tragic has been
evolved. It may be called tragedy without a meaning. In classical
and Shakespearean tragedy, the inevitable calamities incident to
human existence were given significance and nobility by the poets.
That interpretive power of drama was, indeed, the essential thing to
the great artists, to whom representation was only a means. But the
realists with their shallow rationalizing of art have changed all
that. They have cut out the essential part of drama so as to make the
other part more "complete": in short, their tragedy is now simply
"tragedy" in the newspaper sense. And it is obvious that this kind
of "art" is much easier to produce than tragedy in the grand style:
one has not even to read a meaning into it. This absence of meaning,
however, is itself, in the long run, made to appear the last word of an
unfathomably ironical wisdom. And in this light, how much modern wisdom
is understood! The superficiality which can see only the surface here
parades as the profundity which has dived into every abyss and found it
empty. No! it is not tragedy but the modern tragedian who is without a
_raison d'être!_


5

_Realism as a Symptom of Poverty_

In an age in which the power of creation is weak, men will choose the
easiest forms: those in which sustained elevation is not demanded and
creation itself is eked out in various ways. The world of our day has
therefore as its characteristic production the realistic novel, which
in form is more loose, in content and execution more unequal, and
in imaginative power less rich and inventive than poetic drama, or
_any_ of the higher forms of literature. If we deduct from the modern
"literary artist," the diarist, the sociologist, the reporter, and the
collector of documents, there is not much left. For creation there is
very little room in his works; perhaps it is as well!


6

_Compliments and Art_

The convention of gallantry observed by the sexes is the foundation
of all refined understanding between them. For in the mutual game of
compliment it is the spiritual attitude and not the spoken word that
matters. There is truth in this attitude, however unreal the words
may seem: a thousand times more truth than in the modern egalitarian,
go-as-you-please camaraderie of the sexes. Here there is truth
neither in the spirit nor in the letter. To be candid, about this new
convention there is something faintly fatuous: the people who act thus
are not subtle! Yet they are hardly to be blamed; it is the age that is
at fault. There is no time for reflection upon men, women and manners,
and consequently no refinement of understanding, no form in the true
sense. We work so hard and have so little leisure that when we meet
we are tired and wish to "stretch our legs," as Nietzsche said. It is
far from our thoughts that a convention between men and women might be
_necessary_; we are not disposed to inquire why this convention arose;
it presents itself to us as something naively false; and we have time
only to be unconventional.

The ceremonious in manners arose from the recognition that
between the sexes there must be distance--respect as well as
intimacy--understanding. The old gallantry enabled men and women to
be intimate and distant at the same time: it was the perfection of
the art of manners. Indeed, we can hardly have sufficient respect for
this triumphant circumvention of a natural difficulty, whereby it was
made a source of actual pleasure. But now distance and understanding
have alike disappeared. The moderns, so obtuse have they become,
see here no difficulty at all, consequently no need for manners:
brotherhood--comradeship--laziness has superseded that. Nothing is any
longer _understood;_ but a convention means essentially that something
is understood. Indeed, it is already a gaucherie to explain the
meaning of a good convention. But what can one do? Against obtuseness
the only weapon is obtuseness.

In literature this decline into bad taste and denseness is most
clearly to be seen. So incapable have readers become, so resourceless
writers, that whatever is said now must be said right out; sex must
be called sex; and no one has sufficient subtlety to suggest or to
follow a suggestion. Hence, Realism. An artist has to write exactly
what he means: the word must be word and nothing more. But this
is to misunderstand art. For the words of the true artist undergo
a transubstantiation and become flesh and blood, even spirit. His
words are deeds--to say nothing of what he writes _between_ his
lines! Realism in art and "comradeship" between the sexes are two
misunderstandings, or, rather, two aspects of a misunderstanding. And
that misunderstanding is perhaps attributable to a lack of leisure? And
that to modern hurry? And that to the industrial system?


7

_A Modern Problem_

It has been observed again and again that as societies--forms of
production, of government, and so on--become more complex, the mastery
of the individual over his destiny grows weaker. In other words, the
more man subjugates "nature," the more of a slave he becomes. The
industrial system, for instance, which is the greatest modern example
of man's subjugation of nature, is at the same time the greatest
modern example of man's enslavement. What are we to think, then? Is
the problem a moral one, and shall we say that a conquest of nature
which is not preceded by a conquest of human nature is bound to be
bad? In a society which has not surpassed the phase of slavery does
every addition to man's power over nature simply intensify the slavery?
Or is the problem intellectual? And when the intellect concentrates
upon one branch of knowledge to the neglect of the other, is the
outcome bound to be the enslavement of the others? For instance the
nineteenth century devoted far more of its brains to industry than
to politics--its politics, indeed, was merely the reflection of its
industry--with the result that industry has now enslaved us all. Yes,
it has enslaved us all--not merely the wage-earners, not merely the
salariat! In the old days the workman, indeed, was a slave, but now the
employer is a slave as well.

In this age, therefore, in which man appears as the helpless appendage
of a machine too mighty for him, it is natural that theories of
Determinism should flourish. It is natural, also, that the will should
become weak and discouraged, and, consequently, that the power of
creation should languish. And so the world of art has withered and
turned barren. The artist needs above all things a sense of power; it
is out of the abundance of this sense that he creates. But confronted
with modern society, that vast machine, and surrounded by its hopeless
mechanics and slaves, he feels the sense dying within him; nor does the
evil cease there, for along with the sense of power, power itself dies.

Well, does not the moral become clearer and clearer? If art and
literature are to flourish again, artists, writers, nay, the whole
community must regain the sense of power. Therefore, economic
emancipation first!


8

_Leisure and Good Things_

The very greatest danger confronts a people who renounce leisure: that
people will become shallow--just consider England! For of all things
noble it is hard to see the immediate utility: patience and reverence
are needed before one can see in them a meaning at all. Art, literature
and philosophy are not obvious goods: at the first glance they appear
even repellent: alas, then, for them in an age of first glances! In
such an age, it is true, they will not altogether disappear. Something
worse will happen. They will be degraded, made obvious, misunderstood;
in one word, popularized--the fate of our time. Society should be
organized so as to give to its members the maximum of leisure; thus
would the dissemination of art and philosophy be made at least
possible. But society should at the same time provide for a privileged
class of artists and philosophers, with _absolute_ leisure, who would
work only when the inner compulsion made them. The second condition is
at least as important as the first.


9

_Wanted: A History of Hurry_

Is there a critic who wishes to be at once edifying and entertaining?
Let him write a history of hurry in its relation to literature and
art. Has literature decayed as hurry has intensified? Have standards
of balance, repose and leisured grace gradually shrunk since, say, the
Industrial Revolution? Has the curtailment of the realm of literature,
its reduction from the Romantic school to the Victorian circle and
from that to the Decadent clique, been due to the everstrengthening
encroachment of hurry? And has hurry now become finally triumphant so
that our critics and even our artists and savants are nothing more than
journalists? For certainly they seem to be so.

These are questions to be investigated by our historian.


10

_The Sex Novel_

How did the vogue of the sex novel arise? Perhaps from the great
attention which was in the last century given to the sciences of
biology and physiology; and perhaps, more especially from the
popularization of these sciences. Love was, under the spell of science,
translated by the novelists into sex. Not the psychology, but the
physiology of love was found interesting: with the result that for the
production of a modern novel one qualification alone is now necessary:
a "knowledge of the simple facts of physiology," as the primer-writers
say. Well, what is the remedy for this? Not a denial of physiology:
those who have learned it cannot now erase it from their memory and
become voluntarily ignorant. No; let, rather, the opposite course be
taken! Let us popularize psychology as well!


11

_These Advanced People_

A. Free Love is all right in theory, but all wrong in practice. B. On
the contrary! I think it is all right in practice, but all wrong in
theory.


12

_Sex in Literature_

In English literature, until very modern times, sex was treated only
within the limits of a very well-understood convention. From this
convention the physiological was strictly excluded. Yet, of our
classical writers, even in the most artificial periods, it cannot
be said that they did not understand sex. No matter how "unreal"
they might be in writing about Love, the physiological contingencies
of Love were unmistakably implied in their works, but only, it is
true, implied. The moderns, however, saw in this treatment of Love
nothing but a convention, a "lie"; and they became impatient of the
artificiality, as if art could be anything but artificial! To what
was the change of attitude due? Not to a failure in the artistic
convention: that was perfectly sound. No, it was the reader who had
failed: a generation of readers had arisen who had not learnt the art
of reading, who did not understand reading as a cultured amateur of
the eighteenth century, for instance, understood it. Literature was to
this reader a document, not an art. He had no eye for what is written
between the lines--for symbolism, idealization, "literature." And it
was to satisfy him that the realistic school arose: it arose, indeed,
out of himself. In the realist the modern reader has become writer: the
man who could not learn the art of reading has here essayed the more
difficult art of writing--documentary art!


13

_History of a Realist_

Who will write a series of biographies of modern writers, illustrating
this thesis: that they are nothing more than modern readers wielding a
hasty pen? Such a set of memoirs would almost compensate us for having
read the works of these writers. How interesting, for instance, it
would be to know how many years--surely it would be years?--they spent
in trying to understand literature before they dedicated themselves to
its service. How interesting, again, to discover how many hours each
day X, the celebrated novelist, devotes to contemplation, how many to
writing for the newspapers, and how many to his present masterpiece.
What! one hour's thought has actually preceded five hours' dictation!
This revelation is, after all, not so startling. On second thought,
these memoirs seem superfluous; we can read everything we wish to know
of the moderns in their works.

Yet, for our better amusement, will not some one write his one and
only novel, giving the true history of the novelist? A novel against
novels! But for that we need a second Cervantes, yet how unlike
the first! For on this occasion it is not Don Quixote that must be
satirized, but Sancho Panza.


14

_Novelists by Habit_

All of us who read are novelists more or less nowadays: that is to say,
we collect "impressions," "analyse" ourselves, make a pother about
sex, and think that people, once they are divorced, live happily ever
after. The habit of reading novels has turned us into this! When one of
us becomes articulate, however--in the form of a novel--he only makes
explicit his kinship with the rest; he proclaims to all the world that
he is a mediocrity.


15

_The Only Course_

All the figures in this novel are paltry; we despise them, and, if we
were in danger of meeting them in real life, would take steps to avoid
them; yet such is the author's adroitness that we are led on helplessly
through the narrative, through unspeakable sordidness of circumstance
and soul, hating ourselves and him, and feeling nothing better than
slaves. To rouse our anxiety lest Herbert lose five pounds, or Mabel
find it impossible to get a new dress, this is art, this is modern art!
But to feel _anxiety_ about such things is ignoble; and to live in a
sordid atmosphere, even if it be of a book, is the part of a slave.
And yet we cannot but admire. For in this novel what subtlety in the
treatment there must be overlying the fundamental vulgarity of the
theme! How is Art, which should make Man free, here transformed into a
potent means for enslaving him! It is impossible to yield oneself to
the sway of a modern realist without a loss in one's self-respect. To
what is due this conspicuous absence of nobility in modern writers? But
is the question, indeed, worth the asking? For to the artist and to him
who would retain freedom of soul, there is only one course with the
paltry in literature--to avoid it.


16

_The Average Man_

It is surely one of G. K. Chesterton's paradoxes that he praises the
average man. For he is not himself an average man, but a man of
genius; he does not write of the average man, but of grotesques; he is
not read by the average man, but by intellectuals and the nonconformist
middle-class. The true prophets of the average man are the popular
realistic novelists. For they write of him and for him--yes, even when
they write "for themselves," when they are "serious artists." Who,
then, but them should extol him? It is their _métier_.


17

_The "New" Writers_

The fault of the most modern writers--and especially of the
novelists--is not that they are too modern, but that they are too
traditional. It is true, they are not traditional in the historical
manner of G. K. Chesterton, who wishes to destroy one tradition--the
modern tradition--in order to get back to another--the mediæval. To
Mr. Chesterton tradition is a matter of selection; the dead tradition
seems to him nobler than the living; and, deliberately, therefore, he
would return to it. The new writers, however, follow a tradition also,
though a much narrower one; they, too, believe in the past, but only,
alas, in the immediate past; they are slaves to the generation which
preceded theirs. In short, that which is disgusting in them is their
inability to rise high enough to _see_ their little decade or two, and
to challenge it, if they cannot from the standpoint of a nobler future,
then, at least, from that of the noblest past. But how weak must a
generation be which is not strong enough to challenge and supersede
Arnold Bennett, for instance.


18

_The Modern Reader_


What is it that the modern reader demands from those who write for
him? To be challenged, and again to be challenged, and evermore to be
challenged--but on no account to be asked to accept a challenge, on no
account to be expected to take sides! A seat at the tournament is all
that he asks, where he may watch the most sincere and intrepid spirits
of his time waging their desperate battle and spilling their life blood
upon the sand. How he loves them when, with high gesture, they fling
down their gauntlets and utter their blasphemies! His heart then exults
within him; but, why? Simply because he is a connoisseur; simply
because he _collects_ gauntlets!


19

_The Public_

Of the modern writers who are in earnest, Mr. Chesterton has had the
most ironical fate: he has been read by the people who will never agree
with him. To the average man for whom he writes he is an intellectual
made doubly inaccessible by his orthodoxy and his paradoxy. It is the
advanced, his _bête noire,_ who read him, admire him, and--disagree
with him.


20

_Reader and Writer_

The modern reader loves to be challenged. The modern writer, if he is
in earnest, however, is bound to challenge him. This is his greatest
burden; that he _must_ fall a victim of the advanced idlers. But one
day he thinks he see a way of escape. He has noticed that the reader
desires not only to be challenged, but to be able to understand the
challenge at a glance. And here he sees his advantage. I shall write,
he says, to himself, in a manner beautiful, exact, and yet not easily
understood; so I shall throw off the intellectual coquettes and secure
my audience of artists, for my style is beautiful; an audience of
critics, for my style is exact; an audience of patient, resolute,
conscientious intellects, for my style is difficult. This, perhaps, was
the conscious practice of Nietzsche. But he did not foresee that, for
the benefit of the intellectual coquettes, who must have hold of new
thoughts by one end or another, a host of popularizers would be born;
he did not reckon with the Nietzscheans!


21

_Popularity_

How amazingly popular he is. Even the man in the street reads him. Yes;
but it is because he has first read the man in the street.


22

_Middle Age's Betrayals_

It is not easy to tell by a glance what is the character of a young
man; his soul has not yet etched itself clearly enough upon his
body. But one may read a middle-aged man's soul with perfect ease;
and not only his soul but his history. For when a man has passed
five-and-forty, he looks--not what he is, perhaps--but certainly what
he has been. If he has been invariably respectable, he is now the very
picture of respectability. If he has been a man about town or a secret
toper, the fact is blazoned so clearly on his face that even a child
can read it. If he has studied, his very walk, to use a phrase of
Nietzsche's, is learned. As for the poet, we know how terribly poetical
he looks in middle age--poor devil! Well, to every one of you, I say,
Beware!


23

_The Novelists and the Artist_

Is it the modern novelists who are to be blamed for the degraded
image of the artist which lives in the minds of the cultured
populace? Turgenieff in "On the Eve," and Henry James in "Roderick
Hudson" display the artist simply as a picturesque waster, an oh so
charming, impulsive, childlike, naïve waster. But, in doing so, they
surely confused the artist with the man of artistic temperament.
Of the artistic temperament, however, the great artists had very
often little or nothing--far less, certainly, than either Shubin or
Roderick. The great examples of last century, the Goethes, Ibsens,
and Nietzsches, knew that there were qualities more essential to them
than temperament; discipline, for instance, perseverance, truth to
themselves, self-control. How is it possible, indeed, without these
virtues--virtues of the most difficult and heroic kind--for the
artist to bring his gifts to maturity, to become great? His discipline
to beauty must be as severe as the discipline of the saint to holiness.
And, then, how has his sensuousness been misconstrued and vulgarized;
and treated precisely, indeed, as if it were the licentiousness of a
present-day Tom Jones! That artists can be thought about in such a way
proves only one thing, namely, in what poor esteem they are now held.
We need a new ideal of the artist; or, failing that, an old one, that
of Plato, perhaps, or of Leonardo, or of Nietzsche.


24

_Decadence and Health_

It is in the decadent periods that the most triumphantly healthy
men--one or two--appear. The corrupt Italy of the Renaissance gave
birth to Leonardo; the Europe of Gautier, Baudelaire and Wilde
produced Nietzsche. In decadent eras both disease and health become
more self-conscious; they are cultivated, enhanced and refined. It
has been said that the best way to remain healthy is not to think
of health. But lack of self-consciousness speaks here. Perhaps the
Middle Ages were as diseased as our own--only they did not know it! Is
decadence nothing more than the symptom of a self-conscious age? And
is "objectivity" the antidote? Well, we might believe this if we could
renounce our faith that mankind will yet become healthy--if we could
become optimists in the present-day sense!


25

_Art in Modern Society_

An object of beauty has in modern surroundings a dangerous seduction
which it did not possess in less hideous eras. In this is there to be
found a contributory explanation of Decadence--the decadent being one
who feels the power of beauty intensely, and the repulsion from his
environment as intensely, and who plunges into the enjoyment of beauty
madly, with abandonment? In a society, however, which was not hideous
as ours is, and in which beauty was distributed widely over all the
aspects and forms of existence, the intoxication of beauty would not
be felt with the same terrible intensity; a beautiful object would be
enjoyed simply as one among many lovely things. In short, it would be
enjoyed in the manner of health, not in that of sickness. It is the
_contrast_ that is dangerous; the aridity of modern life arouses a
terrible thirst, which is suddenly presented with the spectacle of a
beauty unaccountable and awful; and this produces a dislocation and
convulsion of the very soul. So that the present-day artist, if he
would retain his health--if he would remain an artist--must curb his
very love of the beautiful, and treat beauty, when he meets it, as he
always does, in the gutter, a little cynically. Otherwise he will lose
his wits, and Art will become his Circe. Therefore, mockery and hard
laughter--alas, that it _must_ be so!


26

_Art in Industry_

In those wildernesses of dirt, ugliness and obscenity, our industrial
towns, there are usually art galleries, where the daintiest and most
beautiful things, the flowers of Greek statuary, for instance, bloom
among the grime like a band of gods imprisoned in a slum. The spectacle
of art in such surroundings sometimes strikes us as being at once
ludicrous and pathetic, like something delicate and lovely sprawling in
the gutter, or an angel with a dirty face.


27

_Conventions_

The revolt against conventions in art, thought, life and manners may
be due to at least more than one cause. It is usually ascribed to
"vitality" which "breaks through" forms, because it desires to be
"free." But common sense tells us that more than two or three of our
friends abjure convention for an altogether different reason--to be
candid, on account of a _lack_ of vitality resulting in laziness and
the inability to endure restraint of any kind. And, for the others,
we shall judge their "vitality" to be justified when they build new
conventions worthy of observance, instead of running their heads
finally into illimitable space. Or does their strength not go just so
far? There is something suspicious about this vitality which cannot
create: it resembles impotence so much! Heaven preserve the moderns
from their "vitality"!


28

_"Vitality"_

When moderns talk of the "vitality" of their most lauded writer,
what they mean is finally the size of his muscles, physical energy,
or, at the most, strong emotions; not vigour of mind. Well, let us
on no account make the opposite mistake and revile the large muscle
and energetic feelings: they are admirable things. Let us point out,
however, that vitality of emotion undisciplined by vitality of thought
leads nowhere, is often disruptive and cannot build. But to build is
our highest duty and our peculiar form of freedom--we who have realized
that there is no freedom without power. As for the old freedom--it is
only the slaves who are not already tired of it.


29

_Decadence_

The decisive thing, determining whether an artist shall be major or
minor, is very often not artistic at all, but moral. Yes, though it
shock our modern ears, let this be proclaimed! The more "temperament"
an artist has, the more character he requires to govern it, to make
it fruitful for him, if he would not have it get beyond control,
and wreck both him and itself. And, consequently, the great artists
show, as a rule, less "temperament" than the minor; they appear more
self-contained and less "artistic." Indeed, they smile with the hint of
irony at the merely "artistic."

It is, perhaps, when the traditions of artistic morality and discipline
have broken down, when the "temperament" has, therefore, become
unfettered and lawless, that decadence in art is born. The sincerity of
the artist, his chief virtue, is gone--the sincerity which commands him
to create only under the pressure of an artistic necessity, which tells
him, in other words, to produce nothing which is not genuine. Without
sincerity, severity and patience, nothing great in art can be created.
And it is precisely in these virtues that the decadent is lacking. A
love of beauty is his only credential as an artist, but, undisciplined,
it degenerates very soon into a love of mere effect. An effect of
beauty at all costs, whether it be the true beauty or not! That becomes
his object. Without a root in any soil, he aspires to the condition of
the water lily, and, in due time, becomes a full-blown æsthete. Is it
because he is incapable of becoming anything else? Has he in despair
grown "artistic" simply because he is not an artist? Is Decadence the
most subtle disguise of impotence? And are decadents those who, if they
had submitted to an artistic discipline of sincerity, would never have
written at all? Of some of them this is true, but of others it is not;
and in that lies the tragedy of Decadence. Wilde himself was, perhaps,
a decadent by misadventure; for on occasion he could rise above
decadence into sincerity. "The Ballad of Reading Gaol" proves that. He
was the victim of a bad æsthetic morality, to which, it is true, he
had a predisposition. And if this is true of him, it is true, also,
of his followers. A baleful artistic ethic still rules, demoralizing
the young artist at the moment when he should be disciplining himself;
and turning, perhaps, some one with the potentiality of greatness into
a minor artist. By neglecting the harder virtues, the decadents have
made minor art inevitable and great art almost impossible.

The old tradition of artistic discipline must be regained, then, or a
new and even more severe tradition inaugurated. A text-book of morality
for artists is now overdue. When it has been written, and the new
discipline has been hailed and submitted to by the artists, who can say
if greatness may not again be possible?


30

_Decadence Again_

How is the dissolution of the tradition of artistic discipline to
be explained? To what cause is it to be traced? Perhaps to the more
general dissolution of tradition which has taken place in modern
times. When theological dogmas and moral values are thrown into the
melting-pot, and the discipline of centuries is dissolved into anarchy,
it is natural that artistic traditions should perish along with them.
Decadence follows free-thought: it appears at the time when the old
values lie deliquescent and the new values have not yet risen, the
dry land has not yet appeared. But this does not happen always: the
old traditions of morality, theology, politics and industry are
overthrown, the beginnings of a new tradition appear tentatively,
everything fixed has vanished, the wildest hopes and the most chilling
despair are the common possession of one and the same generation--but,
throughout, the artistic tradition is held securely and confidently,
it remains the one thing fixed in a world of dissolution. Then an art
arises greater even than that of the eras of tradition. The pathos of
the dying and the inexpressible hope of the newly born find expression
side by side; all chains are broken, and the world appears suddenly to
be immeasurable. Is this what happened at the Renaissance?


31

_Wilde_

The refined degeneracy of Oscar Wilde might be explained on the
assumption that he was at once over--and under--civilized: he had
acquired all the exquisite and superfluous without the necessary
virtues. These "exquisite" virtues are unfortunately dangerous to all
but those who have become masters of the essential ones; they are
qualities of the body more than of the mind; they are developments
and embellishments of the shell of man. In acquiring them, Wilde
ministered to his body merely, and, as a consequence, it became more
and more powerful and subtle--far more powerful and subtle than his
mind. Eventually this body--senses, passions and appetite--actually
became the intellectual principle in him, of which his mind was merely
a drugged and stupefied slave!


32

_Wilde and the Sensualists_

The so-called Paganism of our time, the movement towards sensualism
of the followers of Wilde, is not an attempt, however absurd, to
supersede Christianity; nor is it even in essence anti-Christian. At
the most it is a reaction--not a step beyond current religion into a
new world of the spirit, but a changing from one foot to the other, a
reliance on the senses for a little, so that the over-laboured soul
may rest. And there is still much of Christianity in this modern
Paganism. Its devotees are too deeply corrupted to be capable either of
pure sensuousness or of pure spirituality. They speak of Christ like
voluptuaries, and of Eros like penitents. But it is impossible now to
become a Pagan: one must remember Ibsen's Julian and take warning. Two
thousand years of "bad conscience," of Christian self-probing, with its
deepening of the soul, cannot be disavowed, forgotten, unlived. For
Paganism a simpler spirit, mind and sensuousness are required than we
can reproduce. We cannot feel, we cannot think, above all, we cannot
feel without thinking of our feelings, as the Pagans did. Our modern
desire to take out our soul and look at it separates us from the naïve
classic sensuousness.

What, then, does modern sensualism mean? What satisfaction does it
bring to those, by no means few in number, its "followers"? A respite,
an escapade, a holiday from Christianity, from the inevitable. For
Christianity is assumed by them to be the inevitable, and it fills
them with the loathing which is evoked by the enforced contemplation
of things tyrannical and permanent. To escape from it they plunge
madly into sensuality as into a sea of redemption. But the disgust
which drives them there will eventually drive them forth again--into
asceticism and the denial of the senses. Christianity will then
appear stronger than ever, having been purged of its "uncleanness."
Yes, the sensualists of our time are the best unconscious friends
of Christianity, its "saviours," who have taken its sins upon their
shoulders.

There still remain the few who do not assume Christianity to be
inevitable, who desire, no matter how hopeless the fight may seem, to
surmount it, and who see that men have played too long the game of
reaction. "To cure the senses by the soul and the soul by the senses"
seems to them a creed for invalids. And, therefore, that against
which, above all, they guard, is a mere relapse into sensualism. Not
by fleeing from Christianity do they hope to reach their goal; but
by understanding it, perhaps by "seeing through" it, certainly by
benefiting in so far as they can by it, and, finally, emancipating
themselves from it. They know that the soil no longer exists out
of which grew the flower of Paganism, and that they must pass
through Christianity if they would reach a new sensuality and a new
spirituality. But their motto is, Spirituality first, and, after that,
only as much sensuality as our spirituality can govern! They hold that
as men become more spiritual they may safely become more sensual; but
that, to the man without spirit, sensuality and asceticism are alike
an indulgence and a curse. That the spirit should rule--such is their
desire; but it must rule as a constitutional governor, not as an
arbitrary tyrant. For the senses, too, as Heine said, have their rights.


33

_Arnold Going Down the Hill_

One section of the realist school--that represented by Bennett and
John Galsworthy--may be described as a reaction from asceticism.
Men had become tired of experiencing Life only in its selected and
costly "sensations," and sought an escape from "sensations," sought
the ordinary. But another section of the school--George Moore, for
example--was merely a bad translation of æstheticism. Equally tired of
the exquisite, already having sampled all that luxury in "sensation"
could provide, the artists now sought _new "sensations"_--and nothing
else--in the squalid. It was the _rôle_ of the æsthetes to go downhill
gracefully, but when they turned realists they ceased even to do that.
They went downhill _sans_ art. Yet, in doing so, did they not rob
æstheticism of its seductiveness? And should we not, therefore, feel
grateful to them? Alas, no; for to the taste of this age, grace and
art have little fascination: it is the heavy, unlovely and sordid that
seduces. To disfigure æstheticism was to popularize it. And now the
very man in the street is--artistically speaking--corrupted: a calamity
second in importance only to the corruption of the artists and thinkers.


34

_Pater and the Æsthetes_

How much of Walter Pater's exclusiveness and reclusiveness was a
revulsion from the ugliness of his time--an ugliness which he was
not strong enough to contemplate, far less to fight--it is hard to
say. Perhaps his phase of the Decadence may be defined as largely a
reaction against industrialism, just as that of Wilde may be defined
as largely a reaction against Christianity: but, in the former case as
in the latter, that against which the reaction was made was assumed
to be permanent. Indeed, by escaping from industrialism instead of
fighting it, Pater and his followers made its persistence only a
little more secure. It is true, there are excuses enough to palliate
their weakness: the delicateness of their own nerves and senses,
making them peculiarly liable to suffering, the ugliness and apparent
invulnerability of industrialism, the beauty and repose of the world of
art wherein they might take refuge and be happy. Art as forgetfulness,
art as Lethe, the seduction of that cry was strong! But to yield to it
was none the less unforgivable: it was an act traitorous not only to
society but to art itself. For what was the confession underlying it?
That the society of today and of tomorrow is, and _must be,_ barren;
that no great art can hereafter be produced; that there is nothing left
but to enjoy what has been accomplished! Against that presumption, not
the Philistines but the great artists will cry as the last word of
Nihilism.

Pater's creed marks, therefore, a degradation of the conception of art.
Art as something exclusive, fragile and a little odd, the occupation
of a few æsthetic eccentrics--this is the most pitiable caricature! To
make themselves understood by one another, this little clique invented
a jargon of their own; in this jargon Pater's books are written, and
not only his, but those of his followers to this day. It is a style
lacking, above all, in good taste; it very easily drops into absurdity;
indeed, it is always on the verge of absurdity. It has no masculinity,
no hardness; and it is meant to be read by people a little insincerely
"æsthetic," who are conscious that they are open to ridicule, and who
are accordingly indulgent to the ridiculous; the Fabians of art. To
admire Pater's style, it is necessary first to put oneself into the
proper attitude.


35

_Creator and Æsthete_

The true creators and the mere æsthetes agree in this, that they are
not realists. Neither of them copies existence in its external details:
wherein do they differ? In that the creators write of certain realities
behind life, and the æsthetes--of the words standing for these
realities.


36

_Hypocrisy of Words_

The æsthetes, and Pater and Wilde in particular, made a cult of the
use of decorative words. They demanded, not that a word should be
_true,_ nor even that it should be true and pretty at the same time,
but simply that it should be pretty. It cannot be denied that writers
here and there before them had been guilty of using a fine word where
a common one was most honest; but this had been generally regarded as
a forgiveable, "artistic" weakness. Wilde and his followers, however,
chose "exquisite" words systematically, in conformity to an artistic
dogma, and held that literature consisted in doing nothing else. And
that was dangerous; for truth was thereby banished from the realm of
diction and a hypocrisy of words arose. In short, language no longer
grasped at realities, and literature ceased to express any thing at
all, except a writer's taste in words.


37

_The Average Man_

In this welter of dissolving values, the intellectuals of our time find
themselves struggling, and liable at any moment to be engulfed. A few
of them, however, have snatched at something which, in the prevailing
deliquescence, appears to be solid--the average man. Encamped upon him,
they have won back sanity and happiness. But their act is nevertheless
simply a reaction; here the real problem has not yet been faced! What
is it that makes the average man more sane and happy than the modern
man? The possession of dogmas, says G. K. Chesterton; let us therefore
have dogmas! But, alas, for them he goes back and not forward. And not
only back, but back to the very dogmas against which modern thought,
and Decadence with it, are a reaction, nay, the _inevitable_ reaction.
What! has Mr. Chesterton, then, postponed the solution of the problem?
And on the heels of his remedy does there tread the old disease over
again? Perhaps it is so. The acceptance of the old dogmas will be
followed by a new reaction from them, a new disintegration of values
therefore, and a new Decadence. The hands of the clock can be put back,
it is true; but they will eventually reach the time when the hour shall
strike _again_ for the solution of the modern problem.

And that is the criticism which modern men must pass upon Mr.
Chesterton; that he interposed in the course of their malady to bring
relief with a remedy which was not a remedy. The modern problem should
have been worked out to a new solution, to its own solution. Instead
of going back to the old dogmas, we should have strained on towards the
new. And if, in this generation, the new dogmas are still out of sight,
if we have meantime to live our lives without peace or stability, does
it matter so very much? To do so is, perhaps, our allotted task. And as
sacrifices to the future we justify our very fruitlessness, our very
modernity!



II


ORIGINAL SIN


38

_Original Sin_

Original Sin and the Future are essentially irreconcilable conceptions.
The believer in the future looks upon humanity as plastic: the good
and the bad in man are not fixed quantities, always, in every age,
past and future, to be found in the same proportions: an "elevation of
the type man" is, therefore, possible. But the believer in Original
Sin regards mankind as that in which--the less said about the good,
the better--there is, at any rate, a fixed substratum of the bad.
And _that_ can never be lessened, never weakened, never conquered.
Therefore, man has to fight constantly to escape the menace of an
ever-present defeat. A battle in which victory is impossible; a contest
in which man has to climb continually in order not to fall lower;
existence as the tread mill: that is what is meant by Original Sin.

And as such it is the great enemy of the Future, the believers in which
hold that there is not this metaphysical drag. But it is more. At
all things aspiring it sets the tongue in the cheek, gladly provides
a caricature for them, and becomes their Sancho Panza. To the great
man it says, through the mouths of its chosen apostles, the average
men, "What matter how high you climb! This load which you carry even
as we will bring you back to us at last. And the higher you climb the
greater will be your fall. Humanity cannot rise above its own level."
And therefore, humility, equality, radicalism, comradeship in sin--the
ideas of Christianity!


39

_Again_

Distrust of the future springs from the same root as distrust of great
men. It derives from the belief in the average man, which derives from
the belief in Original Sin. The egalitarian sentiment strives always
to become unconditional. It claims not only that all men are equal,
but that the men who live now are no more than the equals of those who
lived one, or five, thousand years ago, and no less than the equals
of those who will live in another one, or five, thousand years. And
it desires that this should be so: its jealousy embraces not only the
living, but the dead and the unborn.


40

_Again_

Society is a conspiracy, said Emerson, against the great man. And to
blast him utterly in the centre of his being, it invented Original Sin.
Is Original Sin, then, a theological dogma or a political device?


41

_Equality_

Is equality, in truth, a generous dogma? Does it express, as every one
assumes, the solidarity of men in their higher attributes? It is time
to question this, and to ask if inequality be not the more noble and
generous belief. For, surely, it is in their nobler qualities that men
are most unequal. It was not in his genius that Shakespeare was only
the equal, for instance, of his commentators; it was in the groundwork
of his nature, in those feelings and desires without which he would not
have been a man at all, in the things which made him human, but which
did not make him Shakespeare: in a word, in that which is for us of no
significance. Equality in the common part of man's nature, equality
in sin, equality before God--it is the same thing--that is the only
equality which can be admitted. And if its admission is insisted upon
by apologists for Christianity, that is because to the common part of
man's nature they give so much importance, because they are believers
in Original Sin. In their equality there is accordingly more malice
than generosity. The belief that no one is other than themselves, the
will that no one shall be other than themselves--there is nothing
generous in that belief and that will. For man, according to them, is
guilty from the womb. And what, then, is equality but the infinitely
consoling consciousness of tainted creatures that every one on this
earth is tainted?

The believer in Original Sin will, of course, deny this, and say that
in his philosophy men are equals also in their higher _rôle_ as "sons
of God." But is this so? Is salvation, like sin, common to all men?
Is it not, on the contrary, something _conferred_ as the reward of
a belief and a choice--a belief and a choice which an Atheist, for
instance, simply cannot embrace? So that here, touching the highest
part of men, their soul, there is introduced, by Christianity itself, a
distinction, an inequality--the distinction, the inequality between the
"saved" and the "lost." Men are equal inasmuch as they are all damned,
but they are not equal inasmuch as they are not all redeemed.

Gazing at man, however, no longer through the eyes of the serpent,
shall we not be bound to find, if we look _high_ enough, distinction,
superiority, inferiority, valuation? The dogma of equality is itself
a device to evade valuation. For valuation is difficult, and demands
generosity for its exercise. To recognize that one is greater than
you, and cheerfully to acknowledge it; to see that another is less
than you, and to treat the inferiority as a trifling thing, that is
difficult, that requires generosity. But one who believes in inequality
will always be looking for greatness in others; his eye, habituated
to the contemplation of lofty things, will become subtle in the
detection of concealed nobility; while to the ignoble he will give only
a glance--and is it not good, where one may not help, to pass on the
other side? The egalitarians will cry that it is ungenerous to believe
that some men are vile; but it is a strange generosity which would
persuade us with them that all men are vile. Let us be frank. To those
who believe in the future, inequality is a holy thing; their pledge
that greatness shall not disappear from the earth; the rainbow assuring
them that Man shall not go down beneath the vast tide of mankind. All
great men are to them at once forerunners and sacrifices; the imperfect
forms which the Future has shattered in trying to incarnate itself; the
sublime ruins of _future_ greatness.


42

_If Men Were Equal_

If men had been equal at the beginning, they would never have risen
above the savage. For in absolute equality even the concept of
greatness could not have come into being. Inequality is the source of
all advancement.


43

_The Fall of Man_

In very early times men must have had a deep sense of the tragicality
of existence: life was then so full of pain; death, as a rule, so
sudden and unforeseen, and the world generally so beset with terrors.
The few who were fortunate enough to escape violent death had yet to
toil incessantly to retain a footing on this unkind star. Life would,
accordingly, appear to them in the most sombre tones and colours. And
it was to explain this human misfortune, and not sin at all, that the
whole fable of Adam and Eve and the Fall was invented. The doctrine
of Original Sin was simply an interpretation which was afterwards
read into the story, an interpretation, perhaps, as arbitrary as the
orthodox interpretation of the Song of Songs.

How would the fable arise? Well, a primitive poet one day in a fit
of melancholy made the whole thing up. Out of his misery his desires
created for him an imaginary state, its opposite, the Garden of Eden.
But this state being created, the problem arose, How did Man fall from
it? And the Tree was brought in. But to the naïve, untheological poet,
this tree had nothing to do with metaphysics or with sin, the child of
metaphysics. It was simply a magical tree, and if Man ate of the fruit
of it, something terrible would happen to him. The Fall of Man was a
_mystery_ to the poet, which he did not rationalize or theologize.
Well, Man succumbed to curiosity, and pain and misfortune befell the
human race. But we must not assume in the modern manner that with the
eating of the fruit early man associated any idea of guilt. Rather the
contrary; he regarded the act simply as unfortunate, just as at the
present day we regard as unfortunate the foolish princess in some fairy
tale. So the Fall was not to him a crime, branding all mankind with a
metaphysical stigma.

That conception came much later, when the conscience had become deeper,
more subtle and more neurotic; when individualism had been introduced
into morality. And at that time, too, the ideal of the Redeemer became
vitiated. Early man, if he did envisage a Redeemer, envisaged him as
one who would set him back in the Garden of Eden again, in the literal,
terrestrial Garden of Eden, be it understood: theology had not yet
been etherealized. And this Redeemer would redeem _all_ men: the
distinction of the individual came afterwards. It was not until later,
too, that this ideal was "interpreted," and, as a concession to the
conscience, salvation was made a conditional thing: the reward of those
who were successful in a competition in credulity, in which the first
prize went to the most simple, most stupid. The "guilt" now implicated
in the Fall was not purged away from all men by the Redeemer, but
only from such as would "accept" it. And, lastly, with the passing of
Jesus, the redemption was still further de-actualized. It was found
that acceptance of the Redeemer did _not_ reinstate Man in an earthly
Garden: paradise was, therefore, drawn on the invisible wires of
theology into the inaccessible heavens. Salvation lay at the other side
of the grave, and there it was safe from assault.

Nevertheless, what our primitive poet meant by the Fall and the
Redemption was probably something entirely different. The Fall to him
was the fall into misfortune, not into sin: the Redemption to him was
the redemption from misfortune, not from sin. And his Redeemer would
be, therefore--whom? Perhaps it is impossible for us to imagine the
nature of such a being.

This is not an interpretation, but an attempted explanation of the
story of the Fall.


44

_Interpretations_

How inexhaustible is myth! In the story of the Fall is a meaning for
every age and every creed. The interpretation called Original Sin is
only one of a thousand, and not the greatest of them. Let us dip our
bucket into the well.

The tree of the knowledge of good and evil--that was the tree of
morality! And morality was then the original sin? And through _it_ Man
lost his innocence? The antithesis of morality and innocence is as old
as the world. And if we are to capture innocence again, if the world is
to become æsthetically acceptable to us, we must dispense more and more
with morality and limit its domain. This, one desperate glance into the
depths of the myth tells us. Instinct is upheld in it against isolated
reason and exterior law. Detached, "abstract" Reason brought sin into
the world, but Instinct, which is fundamentally Love, Creation, Will to
Power, is forever innocent, beyond good and evil. It was when Reason,
no longer the sagacity of Instinct, no longer the eyes of Love, became
its opponent and oppressor, that morality arose and Man fell.

Or to take another guess, granted we read Original Sin in the Fall,
must we not read there, also, the way to get rid of it? If by Original
Sin Man fell, then by renouncing it let him arise again. But how
renounce it? What! Cannot Man renounce a metaphor?

Yet how powerful is metaphor! Man is ruled by metaphor. The gods
were nothing but that, some sublime, some terrible, some lovely, all
metaphors, Jehovah, Moloch, Apollo, Eros. Life is now stained through
and through with metaphor. And there are further transfigurations still
possible! Yet we would not destroy the beauty already starring Life's
skies, the lovely hues lent by Aphrodite, and Artemis, and Dionysos, or
the sublime colours of Jehovah and Thor. But the heavy disfiguring blot
tarnishing all, Love, Innocence, Ecstasy, Wrath, that we would rather
altogether extirpate and annul. Original Sin we would cut off as a
disfigurement and disease of Life.

Or, again, may not the myth be an attempt to glorify Man and to clothe
him with a sad splendour. And not Original Sin, but Original Innocence
is the true reading of the fable? Its _raison d'être_ is the Garden of
Eden, not the Fall? To glorify Humanity at its source it set there a
Superman. The fall from innocence--that was the fall from the Superman
into Man. And how, then, is Man to be redeemed? By the return of the
Superman! Let that be our reading of the myth!


45

_The Use of Myth_

In the early world myth was used to dignify Man by idealizing his
origin. Henceforward it must be used to dignify him by idealizing his
goal. _That_ is the task of the poets and artists.


46

_Before the Fall_

Innocence is the morality of the instincts. Original Sin--that was war
upon the instincts, morality become abstract, separate, self-centred,
accusing and tyrannical. This self-consciousness of morality, this
disruption in the nature of Man, was the Fall.


47

_Beyond Original Sin_

How far is Man still from his goal? How sexual, foul in word and
thought, naively hedonistic! How little of spirit is in him! How
clumsily his mind struggles in the darkness! How far he is still from
his goal!--This is a cry which the believer in Original Sin cannot
understand, because he accepts all this imperfection as inevitable, as
the baleful heritage of Man, from which he cannot escape.

The feeling of pure joy in life, the feeling that Life is a
sacrament--that also is forever denied to the believer in Original Sin.
For Life is not a sacrament to him, but a sin of which joy itself is
only an aggravation.


48

_The Eternal Bluestocking_

The bluestocking is as old as mankind. Her original was Eve, the first
dabbler in moral philosophy.


49

_The Sin of Intellectualism_

The first sin, the original sin was that of the intellectuals. The
knowledge of Good and Evil was not an instantaneous "illumination"; it
was the result of long experiment and analysis: the apple took perhaps
hundreds of years to eat! Before that, in the happy day of innocence,
Good and Evil were not, for instinct and morality were one and not
twain. As time passed, however, the physically lazy, who had been
from the beginning, became weaker and wiser. Enforced contemplation,
the contemplation of those who were not strong enough to hunt or to
labour, made them more subtle than their simple brethren; they formed
themselves into a priesthood, and created a theology. In these priests
instinct was not strong: they were invalids with powerful reason.
But they had the lust for power; they wished to conquer by means of
their reason; therefore, they said to themselves, belittle instinct,
tyrannize over instinct, discover an absolute "good" and an absolute
"evil," become moral. Morality, which had in the days of innocence been
unconscious, the harmony of the instincts, was now given a separate
existence. The cry was morality against the instincts. Thus triumphed
the priests, the intellectuals, by means of their reason. Original Sin
was their sin--the result of the analysis by which they had separated
morality and the instincts. If we are to speak of Original Sin at all,
let it be in this manner.


50

_Once More_

The belief in Original Sin--that was itself Man's original sin.


51

_Apropos Gautier_

He had just read "Mlle. de Maupin," "What seduction there is still for
Man in the senses!" he exclaimed. "How much more of an animal than a
spirit he must be to be charmed and enslaved by this book!" Yet, what
ground had he to conclude that because the sensual intoxicates Man,
therefore Man is more sensual than spiritual? For we are most fatally
attracted by what is most alien to us.


52

_Psychology of the Humble_

There is something very naïve in those who speak of humility as a
certain good and of pride as a proven evil. In the first place these
are not opposites at all; there are a hundred kinds of both, and
humility is sometimes simply a refined form of pride. Humility may be
prudence, or good taste, or timidity, or a concealment, or a sermon, or
a snub. How much of it, for instance, is simple prudence? Is not this,
indeed, its chief _utility,_ that it saves men from the dangers which
accompany pride? On the day on which some one discovered that "Pride
goeth before a fall," humility became no mean virtue. For if one become
the servant and proclaim himself the least of all, how can he still
fall? Yet if he does it is a fall into greater humility, and his virtue
only shows the brighter. This is the sagacity of the humble, that they
turn even ignominy to their glorification.

Humility is most commonly used with a different meaning, however. There
are people who wish to be anonymous and uniform, and people who desire
to be personal and distinct. Or, more exactly, it is their instincts
that seek these ends. The first are humble in the fundamental sense
that they are instinctively so; the latter are proud in the same sense.
Humility, then, is the desire to be as others are and to escape notice;
and this desire can only be realized in conformity. It is true, people
become conceited after a while about their very conformity, and would
be wounded in their vanity if they failed to comply with fashion; but
vanity and humility are not incompatible.

Pride, however, is something much more subtle. The naïve, unconditional
contemners of pride, who plead with men to cast it out, have certainly
no idea what would happen if they were obeyed. For pride is the
condition of all fruitful action. This thought must be consciously or
subconsciously present in the doer, What I do is of value! I am capable
of doing a thing which is worth doing! The Christian, it is true, still
acts, though he is convinced that all action is sinful and of little
worth. But it is only his mind that is convinced: his instincts are by
no means persuaded of the truth of this! For though in the conscious
there may be self-doubt, in the unconscious there _must_ be pride,
or actions would not be performed at all. Moreover, in all those
qualities which are personal and not common--in personality--pride is
an essential ingredient. The pronoun "I" is itself an affirmation of
pride. The feeling, This is myself, this quality is _my_ quality, by
possessing it I am different from you, these things constitute _my_
personality and _are_ me: what a naïve assumption of the valuableness
of these qualities do we have there, how much pride is there in that
unconscious confession! And without this instinctive pride, these
qualities, personality could never have been possible. In the heart of
all distinct, valuable and heroic things, pride lies coiled. Yes, even
in the heart of humility, of the most refined, spiritual humility. For
such humility is _not_ a conformity; it separates and individualizes
its possessor as effectually as pride could; it takes its own path and
not that of the crowd; and so its source must be in an inward sense of
worth, of independence: it is a form of pride. But pride is so closely
woven into life that to wound it is to wound life; to abolish it, if
that were possible, would be to abolish life. Well do its subtler
defamers know that! And when they shoot their arrows at pride, it is
Life they hope to hit.


53

_Les Humbles_

Humility is the chief virtue, said a humble man. Then are you the
vainest man, said his friend, for you are renowned for your humility.
Good taste demands from writers who praise humility a little
aggressiveness and dogmatism, lest they be taken for humble, and,
therefore, proud. On the other hand, if humility is the chief virtue,
it is immoral not to practise it. And, therefore, one should praise
humility, and practise it? Or praise it and not practise it? Or not
praise it and practise it? There is contradiction in every course. That
is the worst of believing in paradoxical virtues!


54

_Against the Ostentatiously Humble_

He who is truly humble conceals even his humility.


55

_The Pessimists_

In pessimistic valuations of Life, the alternative contemplated is
generally not between Life and Death, but between different types of
Life. The real goal of Schopenhauerism is not the extinction of life,
for death is a perfectly normal aspect of existence, and Life would
not be denied even if death became universal. In order to deny Life
and to triumph over it, the pessimist must continue at least to exist,
in a sort of death in life: he must be dead, but he must also know it.
That is the goal of Schopenhauerism; perhaps not so difficult, perhaps
frequently attained! "They have not enough life even to die," said
Nietzsche.


56

_Sickness and Health_

Some men have such unconquerable faith in Life that they defy their
very maladies, creating out of them forms of ecstasy: that is their way
of triumphing over them. Perhaps some poetry, certainly not a little
religion has sprung from this. In religions defaming the senses and
enjoining asceticism, or, in other words, a lowering of vitality, the
chronic sufferers _affirm_ Life in their own way; for sickness _is_
their life: their praise of sickness is their praise of Life. And if
they sometimes morbidly invite death, that is because death is nothing
but another form of experience, of Life. To the sick, if they are to
retain self-respect and pride, these doctrines are perhaps the best
possible; it is only to the healthy that they are noxious. For the
healthy who are converted by them, become sick through them, yet not
so sick as to find comfort in them. The aspiration after an ascetic
life contends in these men with their old health, their desire to live
fully, and causes untold perplexities and conflicts; leaving them at
last with nothing but a despairing desire for release. Thus, a religion
of consolation becomes for the strong a Will to Death--the very
opposite of that which it was to those who created it.


57

_The Pride of the Sterile_

Ecclesiastical, ceremonious humility is the pride of those who cannot
create or initiate, either because they are sterile, or because the
obstacles in their way are too great. Their pride is centred, not on
what they can do, but on what they can endure. The anchorite goes
into the wilderness, perhaps rather to get his background than to
escape attention, and there imposes upon himself the most difficult
and loathsome tasks, enduring not only outward penances, fasting
and goading of the flesh, but such inward convulsions, portents and
horrors, as the soul of man has by no other means experienced. Here, in
endurance, is his power, and here, therefore, is his pride: the poor
Atlas, who does not remove, but supports mountains, and these of his
own making!

Men who have the power to create but are at the same time extremely
timid belong to this class. Rather than venture outside themselves
they will do violence to their own nature. The forces which in
creation would have been liberated are pent within them and cause
untold restlessness, uneasiness and pain. Religions which stigmatize
"self-expression," separating the individual into an "outward" and an
"inward" and raising a barrier between the two, encourage the growth
of this type of man. These religions themselves have their roots in a
timidity, a fear of pain. For self-expression is by no means painless;
it is, on the contrary, a great cause of suffering. Essentially its
outcome is strife, the clash of egos: Tragedy is the great recognition
in Art of this truth. Christianity saw the suffering which conflict
brought with it, said it was altogether evil, and sought to abolish
it. But a law of Life cannot be abolished: strife, driven from the
world of outward event, retreated into the very core of man, and
there became baleful, indeed, disintegrating, and subversive. The
early Christians did not see that men would suffer more from that
inward psychic conflict than from the other. It was the Greeks who
elevated conflict to an honourable position in their outward actions;
with them, as Nietzsche said, there was no distinction between the
"outward" and "inward"; they lived completely and died once. But the
Christians, to use the words of St. Paul, "died daily." How true was
that of those proudly humble anchorites! What a light it throws upon
their sternly endured convulsions of the soul! In the end, Death
itself came no doubt to many of them as a relief from this terribly
protracted "dying." Perhaps one thing, however, made their lives
bearable and even enjoyable--the power of the soul to plumb its own
sufferings and capacity for endurance. Psychology arose first among the
ecclesiastically humble men.

Well, let us count up our gains and losses. Spiritual humility,
wherever it has spread, has certainly weakened the expression of
Life: for it has weakened man by introducing within him a disrupting
conflict. But it has also made Life subtler and deeper; it has enlarged
the inward world of man, even if it has straitened the world outside.
So that when we return--as we must--to the Pagan ideal of "expression,"
our works shall be richer than those of the Pagans, for man has now
_more_ to express.


58

_When Pride is Necessary_

Perhaps in all great undertakings into which uncertainty enters
pride is necessary. In the Elizabethan age, our most productive and
adventurous age, pride was at its zenith. Was that pride the necessary
condition of that productiveness? Would the poets, the thinkers and the
discoverers have attempted what they did attempt, had they been humble
men? What is needed is more enquiry: a new psychology, and, above all,
a new history of pride.


59

_Humility and the Artists_

There is one man, at any rate, who has always owed more to pride than
to humility--the artist. Whether it be in himself, where it is almost
the condition of productiveness, or in others, where it is the cause
of all actions and movements æsthetically agreeable, Pride is his
great benefactor. All artists are proud, but not all have the good
conscience of their pride. In their thoughts they permit themselves to
be persuaded too much by the theologians; they have not enough "free
spirit" to say, "Pride is my atmosphere, in which I create. I do not
choose to refuse my atmosphere."

But if pride were banished even from the remainder of Life, how poor
would the artists be left! For every gesture that is beautiful, all
free, spirited, swift movement and all noble repose have in them pride.
Humility uglifies, except, indeed, the humility which is a form of
pride; that has a sublimity of its own. Even the Christian Church--the
Church of the humble--had to make its ceremonies magnificent to make
itself æsthetically presentable; without its magnificence it would
have been an impossible institution. Humility, to be supportable, must
have in it an admixture of pride. That gives it _standing._ It was His
subtle pride that communicated to the humility of Jesus its gracious
"charm."

Poetic tragedy and pride are profoundly associated. No event is tragic
which has not arisen out of pride, and has not been borne proudly:
the Greeks knew that. But, as well, is not pride at times laughable
and absurd? Well, what does that prove, except that comedy as well as
tragedy has been occasioned by it? Humility is not even laughable!


60

_Love and Pride_

Pride is so indissolubly bound up with everything great--Joy, Beauty,
Courage, Creation--that surely it must have had some celestial origin.
Who created it? Was it Love, who wished to shape a weapon for itself,
the better to fashion things? Pride has so much to do with creation
that sometimes it imagines it is a creator. But that it is not. Only
Love can create. Pride was fashioned out of a rib taken from the side
of Love.


61

_Pride and the Fall_

It was not humility that was the parent of the fable of the Fall. Or is
it humility to boast of one's high ancestry, and if the ancestry does
not exist, to invent it? The naïve poet who created that old allegory
did not foresee the number of interpretations which would be read into
it. He did not foresee that it would be used to humiliate Man instead
of to exalt him; he did not at all foresee Original Sin. As less than
justice, then, has been meted to him, let us now accord him more than
justice. Let us say that he was a divine philosopher who perceived that
in unconditional morality lay the grand misfortune of mankind. Man is
innocent; thus, he said, it is an absolute ethic that defiles him--the
knowledge of Good and Evil. Sweep that away, and he is innocent and
back in the Garden of Eden again. Let us say this of the first poet,
for certainly he did not mean it! Perhaps he knew nothing at all about
morality! All that he wished for was to provide a dignified family tree
for his generation.


62

_The Good Conscience_

What a revolution for mankind it would be to get back "the good
conscience"? Life made innocent, washed free from how much filth of
remorse, guilt, contempt, "sin"--that vision arouses a longing more
intense than that of the religious for any heaven. And it seems at
least equally possible of realization! Bad conscience arises when
religion and the instincts are in opposition; the more comprehensive
and deep this conflict, the more guilty the conscience. But there
have been religions not antagonistic to the instincts, which, instead
of condemning them, have thought so well of them as to become their
rule, their discipline. The religion of the Greeks was an example of
this; and in Greece, accordingly, there was no "bad conscience" in our
sense. Well, how is it possible, if it _is_ possible, to regain "the
good conscience"? Not by any miracle! Not by an instantaneous "change
of heart," for even the heart changes slowly. But suppose that a new
instinctive religion and morality were to be set up, and painfully
complied with, until they became a second nature as ours have become,
should we not then gradually lose our bad conscience, born as it is out
of the antagonism between instinct and morality? Nay, if we were to
persevere still further until instinct and religion and morality became
intermingled and indistinguishable, might we not enter the Garden of
Eden again, might not innocence itself become ours? But to attain that
end, an unremitting discipline, extending over hundreds of years,
might be necessary; and who, in the absence of gods, is to impose that
discipline?


63

_The Other Side_

The life-defaming creeds are not to be condemned unconditionally: even
they are not evil. "Guilt," asceticism, contempt for the world--these
are the physiologically bad things which have sharpened, deepened and
made subtle the soul of man. The Greeks were simple compared with
modern man; a thousand times more healthy, it is true--perhaps because
they were incapable of contracting our maladies. Well, let us judge
Christianity, which in Europe was mainly responsible for this deepening
of Man, by an artistic criterion: let us judge it by the effects it
achieved, not by what it said.


64

_Effects of Christianity_


If there are gods who take an interest in Man, and experiment upon
him, what better means could they have devised for getting out of
him certain "effects," not Christian at all, than Christianity? Far
more significant for mankind than the virtues of Christianity, are
its contradictions, excesses and "states of mind." The "way of life,"
Christian morality, is of little account compared with the permanent
physiological and psychological transformations effected upon Man by
the discipline of centuries of religion. Not that Man has been forced
into the mould of Christian morality, but that in the process he has
undergone the most unique convulsions, adaptations and permutations,
that an entire new world of conflict, pain, fear, horror, exaltation,
faith and scepticism has been born within him, that Life, driven
within itself, has deepened, enriched and invested him--_that_ is
from the standpoint of human culture the most important thing, beside
which what is usually understood by the Christianizing of Europe is
relatively insignificant. Not Christian morality, but the effects of
Christian morality it is that now concern us. And these effects are
not themselves Christian; rather the contrary. Christianity has made
Man more complex, contradictory, sceptical, tragic and sublime; it has
given him more capacity for good and for evil, and has added to these
two qualities subtlety and spirituality.



III


WHAT IS MODERN?


65

_Whither?_

The fever of modern thought which burns in our veins, and from which
we refuse to escape by reactionary backdoors--Christianity and the
like--is not without its distinction: it is an "honourable sickness,"
to use the phrase of Nietzsche. I speak of those who sincerely strive
to seek an issue from this fever; to pass through it into a new health.
Of the others to whom fever is the condition of existence, who make a
profession of their maladies, the valetudinarians of the spirit, the
dabblers in quack soul-remedies for their own sake, it is impossible
to speak without disdain. Our duty is to exterminate them, by ridicule
or any other means found effectual. But we are ourselves already too
grievously harassed; we are caught in the whirlwind of modern thought,
which contains as much dust as wind. We see outside our field of
conflict a region of Christian calm, but never, never, never can we
return there, for our instincts as well as our intellect are averse
to it. The problem must have a different solution. And what, indeed,
is the problem? To some of us it is still that of emancipation--that
which confronted Goethe, Ibsen, Nietzsche, and the other great spirits
of last century. It is an error to think that these men have yet been
refuted or even understood; they have simply been buried beneath the
corpses of later writers. And it is the worst intellectual weakness,
and, therefore, crime, of our age that ideas are no longer disproved,
but simply superseded by newer ideas. The latest is the true, and Time
refutes everything! That is our modern superstition. We have still,
then, to go back--or, rather, forward--to Goethe, Ibsen and Nietzsche.
Our problem is still that of clearing a domain of freedom around us,
of enlarging our field of choice, and so making destiny itself more
spacious; and, then, having delivered ourselves from prejudice and
superstition--and how many other things!--of setting an aim before us
for the unflinching pursuit of which we make ourselves responsible.

Greater freedom, and therefore greater responsibility, above all
greater aims, an enlargement of life, not a whittling of it down to
Christian standards--that is our problem still!


66

_The "Restoration" of Christianity_

Will Christianity ever be established again? It is doubtful. At the
most, it may be "restored"--in the manner of the architectural
"restorations," against which Ruskin declaimed. The difficulty of
re-establishing it must needs be greater than that of establishing
it. For it has now been battered by science (people no longer believe
in miracles) and by history (people have read what the Church has
done--or has not done). Christianity has become a Church, and the
Church, an object of criticism. As the body which housed the spirit
of Christianity, men have studied it with secular eyes, and have
found little to reverence, much to censure; and in the disrepute into
which the body has fallen, the spirit, also, has shared. And now the
atmosphere cannot be created in which Christianity may grow young again
and recapture its faith. The necessary credulity, or, at any rate,
the proper kind of credulity, is no longer ours. For Christianity
grew, like the mushrooms, _in the night._ Had there been newspapers in
Judea, there had been no Christianity. And this age of ours, in which
the clank of the printing press drowns all other sounds, is fatal to
any noble mystery, to any noble birth or rebirth. _That_ night, at all
events, we can never pass through again, and, therefore, Christianity
will probably never renew itself.


67

_A Drug for Diseased Souls_

The utmost that can be expected is a "restoration," and in that
direction we have gone already a long way. For Christianity is not now,
as it was at the beginning, a spring of inspiration, a thing spiritual,
spontaneous, Dionysian. It is mainly a remedy, or, more often, a
drug for diseased souls; and, therefore, to be husbanded strictly by
the modern medicine men, to be dispensed carefully, and, yes, to be
advertised as well! Its birth was out of an exuberance of spiritual
life; its "restoration" will be out of a hopeless debility and fatigue.
And, therefore----


68

_The Dogmatists_

All religions may be regarded from two sides; from that of their
creators, and from that of their followers. Among the creators are to
be numbered not only the founders of religion, but the saints, the
inspired prophets and every one who has in some degree the genius for
religion. They are not distinguished by much reverence for dogma, but
by the "religious feeling"; and when this emotion carries them away in
its flood they often treat dogma in a way to make the orthodox gape
with horror. But, in truth, they do not themselves take much account of
dogma; every dogma is a crutch, and they do not feel the need of one.
But the people who are not sustained by this inward spring of emotion,
who can never know what religion really is, these need a crutch; it is
for them that dogma was designed. And, of course, the real religious
men see their advantage also in the adherence of the dogmatists, the
many; for the more widely a religion is spread, the more secure it
becomes, and the greater chance it has of enduring. Dogma, then, is
religion for the irreligious. To the saint religion is a thing inward
and creative; to the dogmatist it is a thing outward, accomplished
and fixed, to which he may cling. The former is the missionary of
religion, the latter, its conserver. The one is religious because he
has religion, the other, because he needs it.


69

_The Religious Impulse_

The time comes in the history of a faith when the "religious feeling"
dies, and nothing is left but dogma. The dogmatists then become the
missionaries of religion. The fount is dried up; there is no longer
an inward force seeking for expression; there is only the fear of the
dogmatist lest his staff, his guide, his horizon should be taken from
him. Religion is then supported most frenziedly by the irreligious;
weakness then speaks with a more poignant eloquence than strength
itself. And that is what is happening with Christianity. Its "religious
feeling" is dead: there has been no great religious figure in Europe
in our time. And the Church is now being defended on grounds neither
religious nor theological, but secular and even utilitarian. The real
religious impulse is now to be found in the movement outside, and,
_therefore,_ against Christianity. But, alas, as Nietzsche feared,
there may not after all be "sufficient religion in the world to destroy
religion."


70

_The Decay of Prophecy_

The past should be studied only in order to divine the future. The new
soothsayers should seek for omens, not, as their ancient brethren did,
in the stars and the entrails of animals, but in the book of history,
past and becoming. "The new soothsayers," for soothsaying has not died;
it has become popular--and degenerate. Every one may now foretell the
future, but no one may believe what is foretold. And that is because
the soothsayers do not themselves believe their auguries; when they
happen to speak the truth, no one is more surprised than they. But
in the antique world the augurs had, at any rate, responsibility; to
foretell the future was not to them an amusement but a vocation.

To what is due the decay of the art of soothsaying? Partly, no doubt,
to the dissemination of popular knowledge, by which people have become
less credulous; partly to the "scientific temper" of those who, had
they lived in the old world, would have been the soothsayers; partly to
other causes known to every one. But, allowing for these, may there not
be _something_ due to the fact that people are no longer interested,
as they used to be, in the future? They know the past, ah, perhaps too
well: they have looked into it so long that at length they feel that
the future holds nothing which it has not held, that Fate has now no
fresh metamorphosis or apotheosis, and that Time must henceforth be
content to plagiarize itself. And so the future has lost the seduction
which it once held for the noblest spirits. It is true, men still amuse
themselves by guessing which of Time's well-thumbed and greasy cards
will turn up at the next deal, or by playing at patience with the
immemorial possibilities. But that is not soothsaying, nor is it even
playing with the future: it is playing with the past. And the great
modern discovery is not the discovery of the future, but the discovery
of the past.

And as with soothsaying, so with prophecy. If we could but look for a
moment into the soul of an old prophet and see his deepest thoughts and
visions, what a conception of the future would be ours! But that is
impossible. We cannot now understand the faith of the men who, unmoved,
prophesied the advent of supernatural beings, the Christ or another;
to whom the future was a new world more strange than America was to
Columbus. That attitude of mind has been killed; and now comes one who
says the belief in the future is a weakness. Would he, perchance, have
said that to John the Baptist, the great modern of his time? Had he
lived in that pre-Christian world, would he have believed in the God
in whom he now believes? The orthodox Christian here finds himself in
a laughable dilemma. Admitting nothing wonderful in the future, he is
yet constrained to believe in a past wonderful beyond the dreams of
poets or of madmen--a past in which supernatural beings, miracles and
portents were almost the rule. And so the future is to him not even
so wonderful as the past. It is an expurgated edition of the past--an
edition with the incidents and marvels left out, a novel without a hero
or a plot.

So, for good or for evil, we no longer believe in the future as we did:
it is steadily becoming less marvellous, and, therefore, less seductive
for us. But, without the bait of the strange and the new to lure it
on, must not humanity halt on its way? _Can_ man act at all without
believing in the future in some fashion? Must not things be _foreseen_
before they can be accomplished? Is not soothsaying implicit in every
deliberate act? Are not all sincere ideals involuntary auguries? Is it
not the future rather than the prophecy which "comes true"? Did not
the old prophecies "come true" _because_ they were prophesied? Did not
Christ arise _because_ He was foretold? And are not the believers in
the future, then, the creators of the future, and the true priests of
progress? When we can envisage a future noble enough, it will not then
be weakness to believe in it.


71

_The Great Immoralists_

The morality of Nietzsche is more strict and exacting than that of
Christianity. When the Christians argue against it, therefore, they
are arguing in favour of a morality more comfortable, pleasing and
indulgent to the natural man; consequently, even on religious grounds,
of a morality more immoral. What! is Nietzsche, then, the great
moralist, and are the Christians the great immoralists?

This notion may appear to us absurd, or merely ingenious, but will it
appear so to future generations? Will timidity, conformity, mediocrity,
judicious blindness, unwillingness to offend, be synonymous, to them
also, with morality? Or will they look back upon Christianity as a
creed too indulgent and not noble enough? As a sort of Epicureanism,
for instance?


72

_The First and the Last_

We all know what the weak have suffered from the strong; but who shall
compute what the strong have suffered from the weak? "The last shall
be first"; but when they become first they become also the worst
tyrants--impalpable, anonymous and petty.


73

_Humility in Pride_

The pride of some gifted men is not pride in their person, but in
something within them, of which they regard themselves the guardians
and servants. If there is dignity in their demeanour it is a
reflected, impersonal dignity. Just so a peasant might feel ennobled
who guarded a king in danger and exile.


74

_The Modern Devil_

The devil is not wicked but corrupt, in modern phraseology, decadent.
The qualities of the mediæval devil, rage, cruelty, hatred, pride,
avarice, are in their measure necessary to Life, necessary to virtue
itself. But corruption is wholly bad; it contaminates even those who
fight it. Hell relaxes: Mr. Shaw's conception is profoundly true.

But if the devil is corruption, cannot the devil be abolished? It is
true, Man cannot extirpate cruelty, hatred and pride without destroying
Life; but Life is made more powerful by the destruction of the corrupt.
God created Man; but it was Man that created the devil.


75

_Master and Servant_

To summon out of the void a task, and then incontinently to make of
himself its slave: that is the happiness of many a man. A great means
of happiness!


76

_Criterions_

It is not expedient to choose on _every_ occasion the higher rather
than the lower, for one may not be able to endure too much living on
the heights. If will and capacity were always equal! Then, it is true,
there would not be any difficulty; but Life is Life, after all--that
is, our will _is_ greater than our capacity. On the other hand, it is
not well to develop equally all our faculties--the formula of the
Humanist--for among them there is a hierarchy, and some are more worthy
of development than others. What course is left? To act always in the
interest of what is highest in us, and when we partake of a lower
pleasure to regard it as a form of sleep, of necessary forgetting? For
even the mind must slumber occasionally if it is to remain healthy.


77

_Intellectual Prudence_

Among athletes there is a thing known as over-training: if it is
persisted in it wrecks the body. A similar phenomenon is to be found
among thinkers: thought too severe and protracted may ruin the mind.
Was this the explanation of Nietzsche's downfall? Certainly, his
intellectual health was that of the athlete who remains vigorous by
virtue of a never-sleeping discipline, who maintains his balance by
a continuous effort. This is perhaps the highest, the most exquisite
form of health, but it is at the same time the most dangerous--a
little more, a little less, and the engine of thought is destroyed. It
is important that the thinker should discover exactly how far he may
discipline himself, and how far permit indulgence. What in the ordinary
man--conscious of no _secondary raison d'être_--is performed without
fuss by the instincts, must by him be _thought out_--a task of great
peril.


78

_A Dilemma_

To be a man is easy: to be a purpose is more difficult; but, on the
whole--easy. In the first instance, one has but to exist; in the
second, to act. But to unite man and purpose in the same person--to
be a type--is both difficult and precarious. For that a balance is
imperative: "being" and "doing" must be prevented from injuring each
other: action must become rhythm, and rest, a form of energy. To be in
doing, to do in being--that is the task of the future man. The danger
of our being mere man is that mankind may remain forever stationary,
without a goal. The danger of our being mere purpose is that our
humanity may altogether drop out and nothing but the purpose be left.
And would not that defeat the purpose?


79

_Dangers of Genius_

Why is it that so many men of genius have been destroyed by falling
into chasms of desire which are safely trodden by common men? Is it
because there is within the exceptional man greater compass, and,
therefore, greater danger? The genius has left the animal further
behind than the ordinary man; indeed, in the genius of the nobler sort
there is an almost passionate avoidance and disavowal of the animal. In
this disavowal lie at once his safety and his danger: by means of it
he climbs to perilous heights, and is also secure upon them. But let
him abrogate even once this denial of kinship, and he is in the utmost
danger. He now finds himself stationed on the edge of a precipice up to
which he seems to have climbed in a dream, a dreadful dizziness assails
him, along with a mad desire to fling himself into the depths. It was
perhaps a leap of this kind that Marlowe made, and Shelley. Meantime,
the ordinary man lives in safety at the foot of the precipice: he
is never so far above the animal as to be injured by a fall into
animalism. Only to the noble does spiritual _danger_ come.


80

_A Strange Failure_

He failed; for the task was too _small_ for him--a common tale among
men of genius. You have been unsuccessful in trivial things? There is
always a remedy left: to essay the great. How often has Man become
impotent simply because there was no task heroic enough to demand
greatness of him!


81

_Dangers of the Spiritual_

If you are _swept off your feet_ by a strongly sensuous book, it is
probably a sign that you have become too highly spiritualized. For
a sensualist would simply have enjoyed it, while feeling, perhaps, a
little bored and dissatisfied. It was only a religious anchorite who
could have lost his _soul_ to Anatole France's Thaïs. For the salvation
of Man it is more than ever imperative that a reconciliation should be
effected between the spirit and the senses. Until it is, the highest
men--the most spiritual--will be in the very greatest peril, and will
almost inevitably be wrecked or frustrated. It is for the good of the
_soul_ that this reconciliation must now be sought.


82

_Again_

From the diabolization of the senses innumerable evils have flowed;
physical and mental disease, disgust with the world, cruelty towards
everything natural. But, worst of all, it has made sensuality a greater
_danger_ than it was ever before. In the anchorite, seeking to live
entirely in the spirit, and ignoring or chastising the body, sensuality
was driven into the very soul, and there was magnified a hundredfold.
To the thinker avoiding the senses as much as possible--for he had
been taught to distrust them--sensuality, in the moments when he was
brought face to face with it, had acquired a unique seductiveness, and
had become a problem and a danger. If he yielded, it was perilous in a
degree unknown to the average sensual man; if he resisted, a good half
of his spiritual energy was wasted in keeping the senses at bay. In
either case, the thinker suffered. So that now it is the spirit that
has become the champion of the senses, but for the good of the spirit.


83

_God and Animal_

Until the marriage of the soul and the senses has been accomplished,
Man cannot manifest himself in any _new_ type. What has been the
history of humanity during the last two thousand years? The history
of humanity, that is, as distinct from the history of communities? A
record of antithetic tyrannies, the spiritual alternating with the
sensual; an uncertain tussle between God and animal, now one uppermost,
now the other; not a tragedy--for in Tragedy there is significance--but
a gloomy farce. And this farce must continue so long as the spirit
contems sense as evil in itself--for neither of them can be abolished!
Whether we like it or not, the senses, so long as they are oppressed
and defamed, will continue to break out in terrible insurrections of
sensuality and excess, until, tired and satiated, they return again
under the tyranny of the spirit--at the appointed time, however, to
revolt once more. From this double _cul de sac_ Man can be freed only
by a reconciliation between the two. When this happens, however, it
will be the beginning of a higher era in the history of humanity; Man
will then become spiritual in a new sense. Spirit will then affirm
Life, instead of, as now, slandering it; existence will become joyful
and tragic; for to live in accordance with Life itself--voluntarily
to approve struggle, suffering and change--is the most difficult
and heroic of lives. The softening of the rigour of existence, its
reduction and weakening by asceticism, humility, "sin," is the _easier_
path; _narrow_ is the way that leads to Nihilism! The error of Heine
was that he prophesied a _happier_ future from the reconciliation of
the body and the soul: his belief in the efficacy of happiness was
excessive. But this reconciliation is, nevertheless, of importance for
_nothing else_ than its _spiritual_ significance: by means of it Man
is freed from his labyrinth, and can at last _move forward_--he becomes
more tragic.


84

_Ultimate Pessimism_

To the most modern man must have come at some time the thought, What if
this thing spirit be _essentially_ the enemy of the senses? What if,
like the vampire, it _can_ live only by drinking blood? What if the
conflict between spirit and "life" is and must forever be an implacable
and destructive one? He is then for a moment a Christian, but with an
added bitterness which few Christians have known. For if his thought be
true, then the weakening and final nullification of Life must be our
object.

To prove that the spirit and the senses are not eternally
irreconcilable enemies is still a task. Those who believe they are, do
so as an act of faith: their opponents are in the same case. We should
never cease to read spirit into Life-affirming things, such as pride,
heroism and love, and to magnify and exalt these aspects of the spirit.


85

_Leisure and Productiveness_

Granted that the society which produces the highest goods in the
greatest profusion is the best--let us not argue from this that
society should be organized with the direct aim of producing goods. For
what if goods be to society what happiness is said to be to men--things
to be attained only by striving for something else? In all good
things--whether it be in art, literature or philosophy--there is much
of the free, the perverse, the unique, the incalculable. In short, good
things can only be produced by great men--and these are exceptions. The
best we can do, then, is to inaugurate a society in which great men
will find it possible to live, will be even encouraged to live. Can
a society in which rights are affixed to functions serve for that? A
function, in practice, in a democratic state--that will mean something
which can be seen to be useful for today, but not for tomorrow, far
less for any distant future. The more subtle, spiritual, posthumous the
activity of a man the less it will be seen to be a function. Art and
philosophy arise when leisure and not work is the ruling convention.
It is true that artists and philosophers work, and at a higher tension
than other men; but it is in leisure that they must _conceive_ their
works: what obvious function do they then fulfil? Even the most
harassed of geniuses, even Burns would never have become immortal
had he not had the leisure to ponder, dream and love. Idleness is as
necessary for the production of a work of art as labour. And with some
men perhaps whole years of idleness are needed. Artists must always be
privileged creatures. It is privileges, and not rights, that they want.


86

_What is Freedom?_

The athlete, by the disciplining of his body, creates for himself a new
world of actions; he can now do things which before were prohibited to
him; in consequence, he has enlarged the sphere of his freedom. The
thinker and the artist by discipline of a different kind are rewarded
in the same way. They are now more free, because they have now more
capacity.

There are people, however, who think one can be free whether one
has the capacity for freedom or not--a characteristically modern
fallacy. But a man the muscles of whose body and mind are weak cannot
do _anything;_ how can he be free? The concept of Freedom cannot be
separated from that of Power.


87

_Freedom, in the Dance_

Even the most unbridled dance is a form of constraint. The completest
freedom of movement is the reward of the severest discipline.


88

_A Moral for Moderns_

A spring gushed forth here on the airy height; but the soil was not
hard enough to retain it; and the water sapped away among the soft
moss. One day a man came and laid down a hard channel for the spring.
Imprisoned on both sides, it now imperiously sought an outlet and--a
miracle!--leapt glittering into the sunshine. The history of Freedom.


89

_The Renaissance: A Thesis_

How unsatisfactory are those explanations of the Renaissance which
give as its cause the breaking up of the restrictive intellectual
canons of the Middle Ages--as if a mere negation could explain such a
unique creative era! What has here to be discovered is how freedom and
the _capacity_ for freedom should have appeared at the same moment.
Perhaps the Middle Ages have now been sufficiently reviled by the
admirers of the Renaissance; perhaps that event owed more than we are
willing to acknowledge to the centuries of mediæval repression and
discipline. During these centuries the human spirit had been confined
in the granite channel cut for it by mediæval Christianity, a channel
of which even the mouth was stopped. In the fifteenth century the
stream swept away every obstacle and leapt forth, a brilliant cascade,
scattering almost pagan warmth and light. The fall of Constantinople
and the other circumstances usually given as the explanation of this
outburst were only its occasion; the cause lay much deeper, in the
long storing up, conserving and strengthening of human powers. The
freedom of which the Renaissance was an expression was more, then,
than the simple removal of restriction. It was a freedom not political
or moral, but vital; a positive enhancement if the natural power of
man, who could now do things which hitherto he could not do--an event
in the history, not merely of society, but of Man. Accordingly, the
"freedom of the individual," so dear to some moderns, does not teach us
much here. It was not because freedom was given to them that men now
created: the freedom was claimed because they now possessed more power,
could do more, and had, therefore, the _right_ to a larger sphere of
freedom. The more naturally free--that is, individually powerful--a
people become, the more they will demand and obtain of "individual
freedom"; but it is perhaps inexpedient to offer to a people
individually weak any more freedom than they can use. They are still
at the disciplinary stage; they are preparing for their renaissance;
and to the student of human culture the periods of preparation, of
unproductiveness, are more worthy of consideration than the productive
periods. For in the future we must prepare for our eras of fruition,
and not leave them, as in the past, to pure chance.

At the Renaissance, however, it was not even individual freedom in
the modern democratic sense that was claimed and allowed; it was at
the most the freedom of certain individuals, the naturally free, the
powerful. Not until a later time was this claim to be universalized by
the unconditional theorists, the generalizers _sans_ distinction, the
egalitarians. The French Revolution was the Renaissance rationalized
and popularized.


90

_The Unproductive Periods_

Without the Middle Ages the Renaissance would have been impossible;
the one, therefore, was as necessary as the other; and our reprobation
of the former for its comparative sterility is entirely without
justification. If we happen to be living in an unproductive age, it
is our misfortune, then; but we are not entitled, in contemplating
this age, to the luxury of condemnation, reproof or scorn. What we
_may_ demand of any period now is that it should be a period either
of preparation or of fruition. So the present era _is,_ after all,
deserving of condemnation, but only because it is not an era of
preparation--not for any other reason.


91

_Duties of the Unproductive_

The history of culture is the history of long ages of unproductiveness
broken by short eras of production; but unproductiveness is the
rule. The men born in barren periods have not, then, the right to
bewail their lot: _we_ have not that right. But what is of the first
importance, for the sake of culture, is to find out what are the duties
proper to men in a sterile age. Certainly their duty it is not to
produce whether they are productive or not; that can only result in
abortions and painful caricatures: does not contemporary literature
demonstrate it? The work that is born out of the poverty of the artist
is, as Nietzsche pointed out, decadent work, and debases the spectator,
lowers his vitality.

What, then, are the tasks of a writer in an unproductive age? To
live sparely and conserve strength? To make discipline more rigid?
To preserve and fortify the tradition of culture? To render more
accessible the sources from which creative literature draws its
life, so that the _next_ generation may be better placed? To observe
vigilantly the signs of today--and not only of today? It may be so;
but, also, when necessary, to throw these prudent and preservative
tasks to the winds and spend his last ounce of strength in battling
with the demons who make a productive era forever impossible. Yes, this
last duty is for us today--the most important. And, we may depend, it
is the creators--those who produce what they should not--who will fight
most bitterly on the opposite side.


92

_"Emancipation"_

The rallying cry of the great writers of the last century was
"emancipation." Goethe, Heine and Ibsen alike professed as their
task the emancipation of man; Nietzsche, their successor, elevated
the freed man, the Superman, into an ideal, in the pursuit of which
it was necessary meantime that men should discipline themselves. The
later moderns, our own contemporaries, have belittled this freedom,
seeing in it nothing but a negation, the freedom _from_ some one
thing or another. But Ibsen and Heine, these men of true genius, who
believed most sincerely that they were "brave soldiers in the war of
the liberation of humanity" did not perhaps waste their powers in
battling for a thing so trivial! It is barely possible that they meant
by emancipation something much more profound; something spiritual
and positive; indeed, nothing less than an enhancement of the powers
of man! Certainly both poets looked forward to new "developments" of
man: Heine with his "happier and more perfect generations, begot in
free and voluntary embraces, blossoming forth in a religion of joy";
Ibsen with his perplexed figures painfully "working their way out to
Freedom." It was the task of us in this generation, who should have
been the heirs of this tradition, but are not, to supply the commentary
to this noble vision, to carry forward this religion of hope further
and further. But the _cult_ of modernity has itself prevented this;
the latest theory has always seized us and exacted our belief for its
hour; the present has invariably triumphed; and we have discarded the
great work of last century before we have understood it. Heine has been
seized mainly by the decadents; his healthy and noble sensuousness,
his desire to restore the harmony between the senses and the soul,
_as a means_ towards the emancipation of man, and as nothing else,
has been perverted by them into worship of the senses for their own
sake--a thing which to Heine would have seemed despicable. Ibsen has
fallen among the realists and propagandists; all the spiritual value
of his work has for this age been lost--and what a loss!--his battle
to deliver man from his weakness and inward slavery has been reduced
--it is no exaggeration--to a battle to deliver the women of the middle
classes from their husbands. The old story of emanation has been again
repeated, with the distinction that here there is no trace left of
the original source except negative ones! Well, we have to turn back
again, our task, second to none in grandeur, before which we may well
feel abashed, is still the same as that of Goethe, Ibsen and Nietzsche,
the task of emancipation. To restore dignity to literature, indeed, it
would be necessary to create such a task if it did not already exist.


93

_Genealogy of the Moderns_

This is what has happened. The conventional moderns of our time are
the descendants _not_ of Heine and Ibsen, but of the race against
which the poets fought. They live unthinkingly in the present, just
as their spiritual ancestors lived unthinkingly in the past. But
slavery to the past has long ago fallen into the second place among
dangers to humanity: it is slavery to the present that is now by far
the greatest peril. Not because they broke the tyranny of the past, but
because they had an ideal in the future are the great fighters of last
century significant. To think of them as iconoclasts is to mistake for
their aim the form of their activity: the past lay between them and
their object: on that account alone did they destroy it. But the great
obstacle now is the domination of the present; and were the demi-gods
of last century alive today, they would be fighting precisely against
_you,_ my dear moderns, who live so complacently in your provincial
present, making of it almost a cult. To be a modern in the true sense,
however, is to be a fore-runner; there is in this age, an age of
preparation, no other test of the modern. To believe that there are
still potentialities in man; to have faith that the "elevation of the
type Man" is possible, yes, that the time is ripe to prepare for it;
and to write and live in and by that thought: this is to be modern.


94

_Domination of the Present_

To be modern in the accepted, intellectually fashionable sense: what is
that? To propagate always the newest theory, whatever it be; to be the
least possible distance behind the times, behind the latest second of
the times, whether they be good or bad; and, of course, to assume one
is "in the circle" and to adopt the tone of the circle: in short, to
make ideas a matter of fashion, to choose views as a well-to-do woman
chooses dresses--to be intellectually without foundation, principles or
taste. How did this convention arise? Perhaps out of lack of leisure:
superficiality is bound to engulf a generation who abandon leisure.
But to be enslaved to the present in this way is the most _dangerous_
form of superficiality: it is to be ignorant of the very thing that
makes Man significant, and with idiotic cheerfulness and unconcern to
render his existence meaningless and trivial. In two ways' can Man
become sublime; by regarding himself as the heir of a great tradition:
by making of himself a fore-runner. Both ways are open to the true
modern, and both must be followed by him. For the past and the future
are greater than the present: the sense of continuity is necessary for
human dignity.

The men of this age, however, are isolated--to use an electrical
metaphor--from the current of Humanity: they have become almost
entirely individuals, temporal units, "men"; what has been the outcome?
Inevitably the loss of the concept Man, for Man is a concept which can
be understood only through the contemplation on a grand scale of the
history of mankind. Man ceases to be dramatic when there are no longer
spectators for the drama of Humanity. The present generation have,
therefore, no sentiment of the human sublime; they see that part of the
grand tragedy which happens to pass before them, but without caring
about what went before or what will come after, without a clue, however
poor, to the mystery of existence. They know men only, the men of their
time. They are provincial--that is, lacking the sentiment of Man.

How much decadence may not be traced to this! In Art, the conventions
of Realism and of Æstheticism have arisen. The first is just the
portrayal of present-day men _as_ present-day men; nothing more,
therefore, than "contemporary art"; an appendage of the present, a
triviality. The second has as its creed enjoyment of the moment; and if
it contemplates the past at all, it is with the eyes of the voluptuous
antiquary--but a collector is not an heir. Art has in our time, both
in theory and in practice, become deliberately more fleeting. In
morality, there is Humanitarianism, or, in other words, the conviction
that the suffering of today is the most important thing, coupled with
the belief that there is nothing at present existing which can justify
and redeem this suffering: therefore, unconditional pity, alleviation,
"the greatest happiness of the greatest number." Modern pessimism,
which springs from the same source, is the obverse of this belief.
It, also, regards only the present, and says, perhaps with truth,
that _it,_ at any rate, is not noble enough to deserve and demand the
suffering necessary for its existence--consequently, _all life_ is
an error! All these theories, however, are breaks with the spiritual
tradition of emancipation; they are founded on the magnification of
the temporary--of that which only in a present continually carried
forward seems to be important. This judgment of Life with the eyes
of the present, this narrowest and most false of interpretations:
how has it confused and finally stultified the finest talents of our
time! The modern man is joyless; his joylessness has arisen out of his
modernity; and now to find forgetfulness of it he plunges more madly
than before--into modernity! For his own sake, as much as for that of
Humanity, it is our duty to free him from his wheel. One can live with
dignity only if one have a sense of the tragedy of Man. It is the first
task of the true modern to destroy the domination of the present.


95

_Encyclopædists_

Strange that the great dramatic poets of modern times have had a
weakness for turning their tragedies into encyclopædias! Consider
"Faust" and "Brand," for instance. Is it that the sentiment of the
eternal was already beginning to weaken in Goethe and Ibsen? Were they
overburdened by their own age? Their world was too much with them;
and so they did not reach the highest peaks of tragedy: they were not
universal.


96

_What is Modern_

It is time we erected a standard whereby to test what is modern. To
be an adherent of all the latest movements--that is at most to be
anarchistic, eclectic, inconsistent--call it what you will. Futurism,
Realism, Feminism, Traditionalism may be all of them opposed or
irrelevant to modernity. It is not sufficient that movements should be
new--if they are ever new; the question is, To what end are they? If
they are movements in the direction of emancipation, "the elevation
of the type Man," then they are modern; if they are not, then they
are movements to be opposed or ignored by moderns. If modernism be a
vital thing it must needs have roots in the past and be an essential
expression of humanity, to be traced, therefore, in the history of
humanity: in short, it can only be a tradition. The true modern is a
continuator of tradition as much as the Christian or the conservative:
the tine fight between progress and stagnation is always a fight
between antagonistic _traditions._ To battle against tradition _as
such_ is, therefore, not the task of the modern; but rather to enter
the conflict--an eternal one--for his tradition against its opposite:
Nietzsche found for this antithesis the symbolism of Dionysus and
Apollo. Does such a tradition of modernity exist? Is there a "modern
spirit" not dependent upon time and place, and in all ages modern?
If there is--and there is--the possession of it in some measure will
alone entitle us to the name of moderns, give us dignity and make the
history of Man once more dramatic and tragical. It is a pity that some
historian has not yet traced, in its expression in events, the history
of this conflict--a task requiring the deepest subtlety and insight.
Meantime, for this tradition may be claimed with confidence such events
as Greek Tragedy, most of the Renaissance, and the emancipators of
last century. These are triumphant expressions of "the modern spirit,"
but that spirit is chiefly to be recognized as a principle not always
triumphant or easy of perception, constantly struggling, assuming many
disguises and tirelessly creative. It is not, indeed, only a tradition
of persons, of dogmas, or of sentiments: it is a principle of Life
itself. This conception, it is true, is grand, and even terrifying--a
disadvantage in this age. But is there any other which grants
modernity more than the status of an accident of time and fashion?


97

_How We Shall Be Known_

In an age it is not always what is most characteristic that survives:
posterity will probably know us not by our true qualities, but by the
exceptions to them. The present-day writers in English who will endure
after their age has passed are probably Joseph Conrad, W. H. Hudson,
and Hillaire Belloc for a few of his essays and lyrics--none of them
representative, none of them modern. They might have been born in any
era: they are in the oldest tradition. The most striking characteristic
of our time, however, is its lack of a tradition. The sentiment of
transiency is our most deeply rooted sentiment: it is the very spirit
of the age. But by its essential nature it cannot hope to endure, to be
known by future generations; for we shall not produce immortal works
until we become interested in some idea long enough to be inspired by
it, and to write monumentally and surely of it. We hold our ideas by
the day; but for a masterpiece to be born, an idea must have taken
root and defied time. Permanence of form, moreover, would seriously
embarrass a modern writer, who wishes to change with the hour, and does
not want his crotchets of yesterday to live to be refutations of his
fads of today. Thus we are too fleeting to make even our transitoriness
eternal. The very sentiment of immortality has perished amongst us, and
we actually prefer that our work should die--witness the Futurists! The
most self-conscious heirs of modernity, these propounded the theory
that _it is better_ that works of art should not endure: well, in that
case, their own creations have been true works of art! Nevertheless,
all they did in this theory was to erect into a system the shallowness,
provinciality and frivolousness of the present--and thereby to proclaim
themselves the enemies of the future.



IV


ART AND LITERATURE



98

_Psychology of Style_

There are writers with a style--it may be either good or bad--and
writers with no style at all, who just write badly. What quality or
combination of qualities is it which makes a writer a stylist?

Style probably arises out of a duality; the association in a writer
of the scribe and the spectator. The first having set down his
thought, the second goes aside, contemplates it, as things should be
contemplated, _from a distance,_ and and asks, "How does this strike
me? How does it look, sound, move?" And he suggests here a toning
down of colour, there an acceleration of speed, somewhere else, it
may be, an added lucidity, for clearness is an æsthetic as well as an
intellectual virtue.

The writer without style, however, just writes on without second
thought; the spectator is altogether lacking in him; he cannot
contemplate his work from a distance, nor, indeed, at all. This
explains the unconsciousness and innocence in bad writing--not in
bad style, which is neither unconscious nor innocent! The stylist,
on the other hand, is always the actor to his own spectator; he must
get his effect; even Truth he uses as a means to his effect. If a
truth is too repulsive, he throws this or that cloak over it; if it
is uninteresting, he envelops it in mysticism (mysticism is simply
an artist's trick); in a word, he æstheticizes, that is, falsifies
everything, to please the second person in his duality, the spectator.
Even if he gets his effects by moderation of statements, he is to
be distrusted, for it is the moderation and not Truth that is aimed
at. And, then, his temptation to employ metaphors, to work up an
interesting madness, to rhapsodize--these most potent means to great
effects, these falsifications! Well, are we to assent, then, to the
old philosophic prejudice against style and refuse to believe any
philosopher who does not write badly?


99

_Modern Writing_

The greatest fault of modern style is that it is a smirking style. It
fawns upon the reader, it insinuates, it has the manner of an amiable
dog. If it does something smart, it stops immediately, wags its tail,
and waits confidently for your approval. You will guess now why those
little regiments of dots are scattered so liberally over the pages of
the best-known English novelist. It is H.G. Wells's style wagging its
tail.


100

_The Precise_

There have been writers--there _are_ writers--whose only title to fame
is an interesting defect. They are unable to write soundly, and this
inability, being abnormal, is more interesting than sound writing,
which is only normal. For to limp or to hop on one leg is never
pedestrian--what do I say?--is _not even_ pedestrian.


101

_Paradox_

What is paradox? The "bull" raised to a form of literary art?


102

_The Platitude_

There should be no platitudes in the works of a sincere author. A
platitude is an idea not understood by its writer--in one word, a
shibboleth.


103

_Praise?_

It is usual to extol the industry of those realists who put
_everything_ into their books, but they should rather be censured
for their want of taste. The truth is that they lack the selective
faculty--lack, that is, art. Afraid to omit anything from
their reproductions of existence--lest they omit what is most
significant--they include _all_: the easiest course. The easiest
course, that is--for the writers.


104

_Hostility of Thinkers_

When a thinker has a world of thought of his own, he generally becomes
cold towards other thinkers, and to none more than to him whose star is
nearest his own. It is necessary, therefore, that he should read, above
all, the philosopher whose thought most closely resembles his, for to
him he is most likely to be unjust. We are the most hostile to those
who say what we say, but say it in a way we do not like.


105

_The Twice Subtle_

The thinker who has been twice subtle arrives at simplicity. And in
doing so he has, at the same time, discovered a new truth. But this
other thinker has possessed simplicity from the beginning. Has he also
possessed this truth? At any rate, he does not know it.


106

_Mastery of One's Thoughts_

One should know how to keep one's thoughts at a distance. The French
can do this, and, therefore, write at once wittily and profoundly of
serious things. But the Germans live, perhaps, too near their thoughts,
and are possessed by them: hence, their obscurity and heaviness.
Wit--lightness of hand--shows that one is master of one's thought, and
is not mastered by it. Nevertheless, the thoughts of the Germans may
be the mightier. In this matter the complete thinker should be able to
become French or German as occasion demands.


107

_Psychologists_

The keenest psychologists are those who are burdened with no social
mission and get along with a minimum of theory. Joseph Conrad, for
instance, is infinitely more subtle in his analysis of the human mind
and heart than is H. G. Wells or John Galsworthy. He has the happy
unconcern and detachment of a connoisseur in humanity, of one who
experiences the same fine interest in an unusual human situation as the
dilettante finds in some recondite trifle. Henry James carried this
attitude to a high degree of refinement. He walked among men and women
as a botanist might walk among a collection of "specimens," dismissing
the ordinary with the assured glance of an expert, and lingering
only before the distinctive and the significant. Should we who nurse
a mission deplore the spirit in which these disinterested observers
enter into their task? By no means. But for them, certain domains of
human nature would never have been discovered, and we should have been
correspondingly the losers. For we revolutionists must know the human
kind before we can alter them. The non-missionary is as necessary as
the missionary, and to none more than to the missionary.


108

_Realism_

Novels which take for their subject-matter mere ordinary, pedestrian
existence--and of this kind are three-fourths of present-day novels
-are invariably dull in one of two ways. In the first instance, they
are written by pettifogging talents to whom only the ordinary is of
interest, by people, that is to say, who are incapable of writing a
book that is not dull. In the other, they are written by men generally
of considerable, sometimes of brilliant, ability, who, misled by a
theory, concern themselves laboriously with a domain of life which
they dislike and which even bores them. But if the writer is bored, how
much more so must be the reader! In short, the realist theory produces
bad books because it forces the writer to select subjects the only
emotion towards which it is possible to feel is boredom. And great art
may arise out of hate, grief, even despair, but never out of boredom.


109

_Fate and Mr. Wells_

Fate has dealt ironically with H. G. Wells. It has turned his volumes
of fiction into prophecies, and his volumes of prophecies into fiction.


110

Mr. G. K. Chesterton

A man's philosophy may be uninteresting, although he writes about it in
an interesting manner. Just as the many write dully about interesting
things, so a few write interestingly about dull things. And Mr.
Chesterton is one of these. Equality is a dull creed, Christianity
is a dry bone, tradition is wisdom for ants and the Chinese. But Mr.
Chesterton is a very interesting man. How is it possible for an
interesting man to have an uninteresting philosophy? Is this simply the
last paradox of a master of paradox?

Mr. Chesterton's most charming quality is a capacity for being
surprised. He writes paradoxically, because to him everything is a
paradox--the most simple thing, the most uninteresting thing. And
that is his weakness, as well as his strength. He has found the common
things so wonderful that he has not searched for the uncommon things.
The average man is to him such a miracle, that he will not admit the
genius is a far greater miracle. The theories he finds established,
Christianity, equality, democracy, traditionalism, interest him so much
that he has not gone beyond them to inquire into other theories perhaps
more interesting. And this, because he lacks intellectual curiosity,
along with that which frequently accompanies it, subtlety of mind.
For the intellectually curious man is precisely the man who is _not_
interested in things, or, at any rate, is interested in them only for a
little, and then passes on or burrows deeper to find something further.
One dogma after another he studies and deserts, this faith--- less
searcher, this philanderer, this philosopher; and that which leads him
on is the hope that at last he will find something to interest him
for an eternity. Perhaps it is this dissatisfaction of the mind which
has always driven men to seek knowledge; perhaps, if all mankind had
been like Mr. Chesterton, we should not have had even Christianity,
equality, democracy and the other theories which he holds and adorns.

For Mr. Chesterton's impressions are all first impressions. Like
his own deity, he sees everything for the first time always. And he
lacks, therefore, the power, called vision, of seeing _into_ things:
the outside of things is already sufficiently interesting to him. He
possesses imagination, however, and kindly and grotesque fancies which
he hangs on the ear of the most common clodhopper of a reality. In
fantasy he reaches greatness. But his philosophy is not interesting. It
is himself that is interesting.


111

_Nietzsche_

Nietzsche loved Man, but not men: in that love were comprehended his
nobility and his cruelty. He demanded that men should become Man
before they asked to be loved.


112

_Strindberg_

This writer, despite his genius, earnestness and courage, arouses
in us a feeling of profound disappointment. Nor is the cause very
far to seek. For along with earnestness and courage in a writer we
instinctively look for nobility and joy: if the latter qualities are
absent we feel that the _raison d'être_ of the former is gone, and that
earnestness and courage divorced from nobility and joy are aimless,
wasted, almost inconceivable. And in Strindberg they are so divorced. A
disappointed courage; an ignoble earnestness! These are his pre-eminent
qualities. And with them he essayed tragedy--the form of art in which
nobility and joy are most required! As a consequence, the problems
which he treats are not only treated inadequately; the inadequacy, when
we stop to reflect upon it, absolutely amazes us. His crises are simply
rows. His women, when they are angry, are intellectual fishwives;
and--more disgusting still--so are his men. All his characters,
indeed, intellectual and talented as they are, move on an amazingly low
spiritual plane. The worst in their nature comes to light at the touch
of tragedy, and an air of sordidness surrounds all. Posterity will not
tolerate this "low" tragedy, this tragedy without a _raison d'être,_
this drama of the dregs.


113

_Dostoieffsky_

Dostoieffsky depicted the subconscious as conscious; that was how he
achieved his complex and great effects. For the subconscious is the
sphere of all that is most primeval, mysterious and sublime in man;
the very bed out of which springs the flower of tragedy. But did
Dostoieffsky do well to lay bare that world previously so reverently
hidden, and to bring the reader behind the scenes of tragedy? The
artist will deny it--the artist who always demands as an ingredient
in his highest effects mystery. For how can mystery be retained when
the very realm of mystery, the subconscious, is surveyed and mapped?
In Dostoieffsky's imperishable works the spirit of full tragedy is
perhaps never evoked. What he provides in them, however, is such a
criticism of tragedy as is nowhere else to be found. His genius was for
criticism; the artist in him created these great figures in order that
afterwards the psychologist might dissect them. And so well are they
dissected, even down to the subconsciousness, that, to use a phrase of
the critics, we know them better than the people we meet. Well, that is
precisely what we object to--as lovers of art!


114

_Again_

Not only is Dostoieffsky himself a great psychologist; all his chief
characters are great psychologists as well. Raskolnikoff, for instance,
Porphyrius Petrovitch, Svidragaïloff, Prince Muishkin, walk through
his pages as highly self-conscious figures, and as people who have one
and all looked deeply into the shadowy world of human motives, and
have generalized. The crises in Dostoieffsky's books are, therefore,
of a peculiarly complex kind. It is not only the human passions and
desires that meet one another in a conflict more or less spontaneous;
the whole wealth of psychological observation and generalization of
the conflicting character is thrown into their armoury, and with that,
too, they do battle. The resulting effect is more large, rich and
subtle than anything else in modern fiction, but also, if the truth
must be told, more impure, in the artistic sense, more sophisticated.
Sometimes, so inextricably are passion and "psychology" mingled, that
the crises are more like the duels of psychologists than the conflicts
of human souls. In the end, one turns with relief to the pure tragedy
of the classical writers, the tragedy which is not brought about by
people who act like amateur psychologists.


115

_Tolerance of Artists_

No matter what their conscious theories may be, all artists are
unconsciously aristocratic, and even intolerant in their attitude
to other men. They are more blind than most people to the _raison
d'être_ of the politician, the business man and the philosopher--these
unaccountable beings who will not acknowledge the primacy of Creation
and Beauty. But at last they magnanimously conclude that these exist to
form their audience, _not_ the subject-matter of their art--that is
the modern fallacy!


116

_Climate_

There are natures exquisitely sensitive to their human environment.
This man depresses them, they feel the vitality ebbing out of them
in his presence; that other brings exhilaration, at the touch of his
mind their powers increase and become creative. It is a question of
atmosphere. The first has a wintry, grey soul; the latter carries a
sun--_their_ sun--in his bosom. And these artists require sunlight and
soft air, before the flowers and fruit can hang from their boughs.
Every artist of this type should go to Italy or France and live there;
or, failing that, create for himself an Italy or France of friends.
Others require the tempest with its lowering skies. But that is easier
to seek; they can generally find it within themselves.


117

_Sensibility_

It may be wisdom for the man of action to smother his griefs, and
follow resolutely his course. But with the artist it is different. He
should not close his heart against sorrow, for sorrow is of use to him;
his task is to transfigure it; thus he makes himself richer. Every
conquest of suffering which is attained by isolating the pang makes the
artist poorer; the part of him so isolated dies: he loses bit by bit
his sensitiveness, and how much does his sensitiveness mean to him! The
artist is more defenceless than other men, and he must be so. For his
sensitiveness should be such that the faintest rose-leaf of emotion
or thought cannot touch his heart without evoking in him infinite
delight or pain; and, at the same time, he should be able to respond to
the great tempests and terrible moods of life. Great strength, great
love, great productiveness, these are required if he is to endure
his sensitiveness; alas, for him, if he have them not! Then he must
suffer and suffer, until he has cut off one by one the sources of his
suffering, until he has mutilated and lamed what is most godlike in
him, and has made himself ordinary at last--or a Schopenhauerian.


118

_The Artist's Enemy_

I waited once beside a lake, created surely to mirror Innocence, so
pure it was. The passage of a butterfly over it or the breath of a
rose-leaf's fall was enough to stir its surface, infinitely delicate
and sensitive. Yet tempests did not affright it, for it laughed and
danced beneath the whip of the fiercest storm. And it could bury, as
in a bottomless tomb, the stones thrown at it by the most spiteful
hands; to these, indeed, it responded with a Puck-like radiating
smile that spread until it broke in soft laughter upon its marge. So
strong and delicate it lay, and yet, it seemed, so defenceless. Yet
what could harm it? Storm, shower, sunshine, and darkness alike but
ministered to it, and even the missiles of its enemies were lost in its
boundless security. It seemed invulnerable. I returned years later,
and looked once, looked and fled. For the lake had grown old, blind
and torpid, so that even the light lay dead in it. Then I noticed that
on every side, almost invisible, there were innumerable black streams
oozing--infection! The tragedy of the artist.


119

_Uniformity_

In the mien of children there is sometimes to be noted a natural
nobility and pride; they walk with the unconscious grace of
conquerors. But this grace and freedom soon disappear, and when the
child has become man there is nothing left of them: his bearing is
as undistinguished as his neighbour's. Nowhere, now, is nobility
of presence and movement to be found, except among children, the
chieftains of half-barbarous peoples, and some animals. The farther
man departs from the animal the less dignified he becomes, and the
more his appearance conforms to a common level: indeed, civilization
seems, on one side, to be a labourious attempt to arrive at the
undistinguished and indistinguishable. Is Man, then, the mediocre
animal par excellence? Only, perhaps, under an egalitarian régime.
Wherever a hierarchy exists in Europe there is more of nobility of
demeanour than elsewhere. Equality and humility are the great fosterers
of the mediocre: and not only, alas! of the mediocre in demeanour. Who
can tell how many proud, graceful and gallant thoughts and emotions
have been killed by shame--the shame which the egalitarians and the
humble have heaped upon them? And how much Art, therefore, has lost?
Certainly, in the minds of children there are many brave, generous and
noble thoughts which are never permitted to come to maturity. Ye must
become as little children----.


120

_Immortality of the Artist_

An artist one day forgot Death, so entirely had he become Life's, rapt
in a world of living contemplation; and, established there, he created
a form. That hour was immortal, and, therefore, the form was immortal.
This is the "timelessness" of true art-work; they are fashioned "in
eternity," as Blake said, and so speak to the eternal in Man.


121

_The Descent of the Artist_

At the beginning of his journey he climbed daringly, leaping from rock
to rock, exuberant, tireless, until he reached what he thought was
his highest peak. Then began his descent, and, lo, immediately great
weariness fell upon him. A friend of his wondered, Is he going downhill
because he is tired? Or is he tired because he is going downhill?


122

_Apropos the Cynic_

He wrote with an assumption of extreme heartlessness, and the public
said, "How tender his heart must be when he hides it under _such_ a
disguise!" But what he was hiding all the time was his lack of heart.


123

_Artist and Philosopher_

In all ages the philosophers have _pardoned_ the artists their lack of
depth, on account of their divine love of the beautiful. In our time,
however, this only reason for pardoning them has disappeared, and they
are now entirely deserving of condemnation. For the realists abjure
equally thought--interpretation, and beauty--selection. To be an eye,
with a fountain pen attached to it; that is their aim, successfully
attained, alas! A single eye and not a single thought: the definition
of the realist.


124

_An Evil_

Art is at the present day far too easy for comprehension, far too
obvious. Our immediate task should be to make it _difficult,_ and the
concern of a dedicated few. Thus only shall we win back reverence for
it. When it is reverenced, however, it will then be time to extend its
sway; but not until then. Art must be approached with reverence, or
not at all. A democratic familiarity with it--such as exists among the
middle classes, _not_ among the working classes, in whom reverence is
not yet dead--is an abomination.


125

_Modern Art Themes_

How sordid are the themes which modern art has chosen for itself!
The loss of money or of position, poverty, social entanglements--the
little accidents which a thinker laughs at! Are modern artists as
bourgeois as this? A coterie of shop-keepers? Tragic art has no
concern with the accidental: that is the sphere of comedy. Tragedy
should move inevitably once it has begun to revolve; it is beyond
fashion, universal, essential; Fate, not Circumstance, is its theme.
The presence of the accidental in a tragedy is sufficient to condemn
it. For it is the inevitable, the "Fate" in Tragedy, that makes of it
a heroic and _joyful_ thing. It cannot be improvised like Comedy. It
demands in its creator a sense of the eternal, just as Comedy, on the
other hand, demands an exquisite appreciation of temporal fashion.
Tragedy is the greater art; Comedy, perhaps, the more difficult.
Our modern tragedies, however, are mainly about accidents, and very
mean accidents; they are improvised misfortunes and their effect is
depressing.


126

_The Illusionists_

How shallow are most artists! How childish! How subject to illusion!
This novelist at the end of his novels leaves his characters in a
Utopia, from which all sorrow and trial have been banished, a condition
absolutely unreal, contemptible and absurd. And all his readers admire
without thinking, and call the author profound! He is not profound,
but shallow and commonplace. Except for his gift of mimicry, which he
calls Art, he is just an average man. And, moreover, he is tired: the
"happy ending" is his exhaustion speaking through his art, his will
to stagnation and surrender. Works of art should only end tragically,
or enigmatically, as in "A Doll's House," or at the gateway of a new
ideal, as in "An Enemy of the People."


127

_Majorities and Art_

When it is said that in modern society poetic tragedy is out of season
and cannot _succeed,_ an assumption is made which on literary grounds
can never be admitted. It is that majorities count in literature as in
politics; that "Brand" was a failure and "A Doll's House" a success.
But from another point of view, "Brand" was the success, "A Doll's
House" the failure. And the whole "problem" drama a failure with it,
and all the realistic schools, as well--a failure! This is _certainly_
how the future historian of literature will regard it. Our era with its
depressing "masterpieces" will be called the barren era, because the
grand _exception,_ great art, has not bloomed in it, because even our
critics have judged contemporary art by a criterion of success instead
of the eternal spiritual criterion: their championship of "problem" art
proves it! In the meantime, then, realism is considered "the thing,"
and people speak pityingly of poetic tragedy. Only those forms of art
which can "survive" in the struggle for existence are counted good--so
deeply, so unwisely have we drunk at the Darwinian spring!


128

_The Decay of Man_

The aim of Art was once to enrich existence by the creation of gods
and demi-gods; it is now to duplicate existence by the portrayal of
men. Art has become imitation, Realism has triumphed. And how much has
materialism had to do with this! In an age lacking a vivid ideal of
Man, men become interesting. The eyes of the artist, no longer having
an ideal to feed upon, are turned towards the actual, and imitation
succeeds creation. Every one busies himself in the study of men, and
Art becomes half a science, the artists actually collecting their data,
as if they were professors of psychology! Theories glorifying men are
born, and the cult of the average man arises, which is nothing but
the exaltation of men at the expense of Man. In due time all ideals
perish, only an inspiration towards averageness remains, and equality
is everywhere enthroned. Art has no longer a heaven to fly to, there
to create loftier heavens. In despair, she descends to earth and the
ordinary, and for her salvation _must_ find the ordinary interesting,
must _make_ the ordinary interesting. Realism arises when ideals of Man
decay: it is the egalitarianism of Art.


129

_A New Valuation_

But why do ideals of Man decay--why _did_ the ideal of Man decay?
Because there were no longer examples to inspire the artists in
the creation of their grand, superhuman figures. Suspicion, envy,
equality--call it what you will--had become strong: the great man could
no longer fight it and remain great. By the radicals the genius was
regarded as an insult to the remainder of mankind. And how ordinary
he was, this genius, compared with the grand figures of the time of
the Renaissance; that time when men were weighed and valued, when
elevation and inequality were acknowledged and acted upon, and Man
became greater in stature, with Art his Will to Greatness! Well,
we must weigh men again; we must deny equality; we must affirm
aristocracy--in everything but commerce and production, where democracy
is really a return to the aristocratic tradition. And, you artists, you
must turn from men to Man, from Realism to Myth. And if you can find
in your age no example to inspire you to the creation of a great ideal
of Man, then become your own examples! Man must be born again, if you
would enter into your heaven.


130

_The Man and the Hour_

A. Let people say about aristocracy what they will, it remains
true that Man generally is equal to the event. Events are the true
stepping-stones on which Man rises to higher things. B. Ah! you are
not speaking of Man, but of men, of the many. The great man, however,
does not require an event to call his greatness forth. He is his own
event--and also that of others!


131

_The Lover to the Artists_

Love idealizes the object. If you would create an ideal Art, must you
not, then, learn to love? And that you are Realists--does it not prove
that you have not Love?


132

_Origin of the Tragic_

Here is yet another guess at the origin of the tragic:

A man is told of some calamity, altogether unexpected, the engulfing
of a vessel by the sea, an avalanche which wipes out a town, or a fire
in which a family of little ones perish, leaving the father and mother
unharmed and disconsolate; and at once the very grandest feelings
awaken within him, he finds himself enlarged spiritually, and life
itself is enriched for him--the people in the vessel and in the town,
the children and the parents of the children, are raised to a little
more than human elevation by the favouritism of calamity. Next day he
hears that the news was false, and immediately, along with the feeling
of relief, he experiences an unmistakable disappointment and loss;
for all those grand emotions and the contemplation of life in that
greater aspect are snatched from him! Perhaps in primitive times, when
the means of disseminating news were more untrustworthy than they are
today, disappointments of this kind would occur very often; and one day
some rude poet, having noted the elevation which calamity brings, would
in luxurious imagination _invent_ a calamity, in order to experience
_at will_ this enlargement of the soul. But a tale of calamity, being
invented, would inevitably please the poet's hearers, both for the
feelings it aroused and the grand image of Man it represented. So much
for the origin and persistence--not the meaning--of the tragic.


133

_Tragedy and Comedy_

Tragedy is the aristocratic form of art. In it the stature of Man is
made larger. The great tragic figures are superhuman, unapproachable:
we do not sorrow with them, but for them, with an impersonal pity and
admiration. And that is because Man, and not men, is represented by
them: idealization and myth are, therefore, proper to their delineation.

But Comedy is democratic. Its subject is men, the human-all-too-human,
the unrepresentative: it belittles men in a jolly egalitarianism. This
static fraternity, this acceptance of men as they are, is resented by
the aristocratic natures, who would make Man nobler; but to the average
men it is flattering, for it proclaims that the great are absurd even
as they, it unites men in a brotherhood of absurdity. Thus, all comedy
is an involuntary satire, all tragedy an involuntary idealization of
men.

Tragedy is the supreme affirmation of Life, for it affirms Life even
in its most painful aspects, struggle, suffering, death; so that we
say, "Yes, this, too, is beautiful!" _That_ was the _raison d'être_ of
classical tragedy--and not Nihilism!

Well, in which of these forms, Tragedy or Comedy, may our hopes and
visions of the Future best be expressed? Surely in that which idealizes
Man and says Yea to suffering, Tragedy, the dynamic form of Art.


134

_Super-Art_

In the works of some artists everything is on a slightly superhuman
scale. The figures they create fill us with astonishment; we cannot
understand how such unparalleled creatures came into being. When we
contemplate them, in the works of Michelangelo or of Nietzsche, there
arise unvoluntarily in our souls sublime dreams of what Man may yet
attain. Our thoughts travel into the immeasurable, the undiscovered,
and the future becomes almost an intoxication to us.

In Nietzsche, especially, this attempt to make Art perform the
impossible--this _successful_ attempt to make Art perform the
impossible--is to be noted in every book, almost in every word. For
he strains language to the utmost it can endure; his words seem to be
striving to escape from the bonds of language, seeking to transcend
language. "It is my ambition," he says in "The Twilight of the
Idols," "to say in ten sentences what every one else says in a whole
book--what every one else does _not_ say in a whole book." In the same
way, when in his first book he wrote about Tragedy, he raised it to
an elevation greater than it had ever known before, except, perhaps,
in the works of Æschylus; when, in his essay upon "Schopenhauer as
Educator," he adumbrated his conception of the philosopher, philosophy
seemed to become a task for the understandings of gods; and when,
having criticized the prevailing morality, he set up another, it
seemed to his generation an impossible code for human beings, a code
cruel, over-noble. Finally, when he wrote of Man, it was to create
the Superman. He touched nothing which he did not ennoble. And,
consequently, in Art his chosen form was Myth; he held it beneath the
nobility of great art to create anything less than demi-gods; religion
and art were in him a unity.

In super-art, in these works of Leonardo and Michelangelo, of Æschylus
and Nietzsche, Man is incited again and again to surpass himself, to
become more than "human."


135

_Love Poetry_

Love poetry, so long as it glorifies Love, is supremely worthy of
our reverence. Everything that idealizes and transfigures Love,
making it more desirable and full even of transcendental meaning, is
of unquestionable advantage to mankind; on the other hand, a crudely
physiological statement, even though this may be _formally_ true,
serves neither Love nor Life. It is assuredly not the function of art
to treat Love in this way. On the contrary, amatory poetry by its
idealization allures to Love; this is true even of such of it as is
tragic: we are prepared by it to experience gladly even the suffering
of Love. The only poetry that is noxious is that which bewails
the "vanity" of Love, and that in which a deliberate sterility is
adumbrated. These are decadent.


136

_Literature and Literature_

Literature that is judged by literary standards merely is not of the
highest rank. For the greatest works are themselves the standards by
which literature is judged. How, then, are they to be valued? By a
standard outside of literature, by their consonance with that which is
the _raison d'être_ of literature? In them a far greater problem than
any literary problem faces us, the problem, Why does literature exist?
What is the meaning of literature?

Through whole generations men forget this problem, and literature
becomes to them a specialized form of activity to be pursued for its
own sake, a part of Man's soul, thrown off and become static and
separate, with a sterile life of its own. The more shallow theory and
practice of literature then come into being; Realism and Art for Art's
sake flourish. But the eternal question always returns again, Why does
literature exist? What is its meaning? And, then, the possibility of
another blossoming of literature is not far away.


137

_The Old Poet_

An old poet who had lived in the good days when poets were _makers_--of
moralities and gods, among other things--lately re-visited the earth,
and after a study of the very excellent exercises in literature to be
found in our libraries, delivered himself thus:--

"How has our power decayed! Into litterateurs have we declined who were
creators. Perish all literature that is only literature! Poets live
to create gods; to glorify gods should all their arts of adornment
and idealization be used. But I see here adornment without the object
worthy of adornment; beautification for the sake of beautification; Art
for Art's sake. These artists are only half artists. They have surely
made Art into a game."

The critics did not understand him, and, _therefore,_ disagreed. The
artists thought he was mad, besides knowing nothing of æsthetics. The
moral fanatics acclaimed him vociferously, mistaking him for a popular
preacher. Only a philosophico-artistic dilettante listened attentively,
and said, a little patronizingly, "He is wrong, but he is more right
than wrong."


138

_The Old Gods_

Perhaps there is too much made of anthropomorphism. Man's first gods
were not "human" gods; they were stars, animals, plants and the like.
It was not until he became an artist that he made gods after his own
form: anthropomorphism is just an artistic convention! For gods are in
their _content_ superhuman. There has never been a man like Jehovah
or Zeus or Odin. The essential thing in them is that they embody an
ideal, a fiction, adumbrating something _more_ than Man. Religion is
poetry in the grand style, and, as poetry, must have its conventions.


139

_The Old Poets_

In primitive times the poet was far more both of an inventor and a liar
than he is at present. For many centuries the lies of the poets have
been innocent lies, a convention merely, and to be recognized as such
before "æsthetic" enjoyment can begin. But the lies the old poets told
were believed literally--as they were meant to be! Yes, the poet at
the beginning was just a liar, a great liar. How else, if he had not
deceived Man, could he have peopled the heavens with Man's deities? And
as the father of whole families of gods, he has done more to decide the
fate of Humanity than all the philosophers, heroes and martyrs. These
are only his servants, who explain war or die for his fictions. And not
merely error, as Nietzsche held, but lying has from the earliest times
been the most potent factor of progress. But not all lying; only the
lies told out of great love have been creative and life-giving. Art,
imagination, prophecy, hallucination, ecstasy, vision--all these were
united in the first poets, the true creators.


140

_The Creator Redivivus_

The only modern who has dared to be a poet through and through,
that is, a liar in the noble and tragic sense, is the author of the
Superman. In Nietzsche, again, after centuries of divine toying, the
poet has appeared in his great _rôle_ of a creator of gods, a figure
beside whom the "poet" seems like nothing more than the page boy of the
Muse.


141

_Literature as Praise_

A. Would you erase from the book of literature all that is not
idealization and myth, you neo-moderns? Would you deprive us of all the
charming, serious, whimsical, and divinely frivolous works which are
human-all-too-human? B. If we could--a thousand times no! We would only
destroy what defames Life. All that praises Life, all that enchants to
Life, we would cherish as things holy. Idealization, it is true, is
the highest form of praise, because it arises out of Love; but there
are other forms. Modern Realism, however, is a calumny against Life.
_Écrasez l'infâme!_



142

_The Poet Speaks_

How unhappy must all those poor mortals be who are not poets! They
feel and cannot express. They are dumb when their soul would utter its
divinest thoughts. Cloddish and fragmentary, they are scarcely human,
these poor mortals! For one must be a poet to be altogether human. Yes!
in the ideal society of the future every one will be a poet, even the
average man!



143

_Myth_

The worst evil of our time is this, that there is nothing greater than
the current average existence to which man can look; Religion has dried
up, Art has decayed from an idealization of life into a reflection of
it. In short, Art has become a passive thing, where once it was the
"great stimulus to Life." The idealization and enchantment which the
moderns have so carefully eliminated from it was precisely its _raison
d'être._ And modern Art, which sets out to copy life, has forgotten Art
altogether, its origin, its meaning and its end.

Against this aimless Realism, we must oppose idealization, and
especially that which is its highest expression, Myth. And let no one
say that it is impossible at this stage in Man's history to resuscitate
Myth. The past has certainly lost its mystery for us, and it was in
the past, at the source of Humanity, that the old poets set their
sublime fictions. But the future is still ours, and there, at Man's
goal, our myths must be planted. And thither, indeed, has set the
great literature of the last hundred years. Faust, Mephistopheles,
Brand, Peer Gynt, Zarathustra--there were no greater figures in the
literature of the last century--were all myths, and all forecasts of
the future. The soil out of which literature grows, then, has not yet
been exhausted! If we but break away from Realism, if we make Art
symbolic, if we bring about a marriage between Art and Religion, Art
will rise again. That this is possible, we who have faith in the Future
_must_ believe.



V


CREATIVE LOVE


144

_Creative Love_

To us who nourish hopes for the future of Man, the important
distinction to be drawn in Love is not that between the sacred and the
profane. We ask, rather, Is our Love creative or barren? That Love
should bring happiness, or union, or fulfilment, seems to us not such
a very great matter! The will to create something, out of oneself, not
oneself, whether it be in bodies, or in Art or Philosophy--that is the
thing for ever worthy of our reverence.

There is another Love; that whose end is enjoyment. It is the enemy
of creative Love. It is the Love which, in various forms, is known
as Liberalism, or Humanitarianism, or the greatest happiness of the
greatest number. Sympathy is its central dogma; and it is never tired
of exalting itself at the expense of the other Love, which it calls
cruel, senseless and unholy. But the same blasphemy is here repeated
that Socrates once was guilty of and afterwards so divinely atoned.
For it is not creative Love, but sympathetic Love, that is unholy.
This would spare the beloved the pangs of love, even if, in doing so,
it had to sacrifice the fruits of love. It springs from disbelief in
existence. Life is suffering, it cries, suffering must be alleviated,
and, therefore, Life must be abated, weakened and lamed! And this love
is barren. But creative Love does not bring enjoyment, but rapture
and pain. It is the will to suffer gladly; it finds relief from the
pains of existence, not in alleviation, but in creation. This Love
is, indeed, a Siren--we would not mitigate the awfulness of that
symbol--luring Man to peril, perhaps to shipwreck. Yet, by the holiest
law of his being, he listens, he follows. And, if his ears have been
sealed by reason he _unseals_ them again, he listens with his very
soul, yielding to that which is for him certainly danger, perhaps
Death, knowing that, even in Death, he will be affirming Life in the
highest. This Love, the earnest of future greatness, this terrible,
unconditional and innocent thing, we _cannot but_ reverence.


145

_Where Man is Innocent_

There is one region in Man where innocence and a good conscience
still reign--in the unconscious. Love and the joy in Love are of the
unconscious. The rapture which Love brings is neither, as Schopenhauer
said, merely a device to ensure the propagation of mankind, nor the
race rejoicing in and through the individual to its own perpetuation;
but the joy of unconscious Man, still innocent as before the Fall, with
a good conscience enjoying the anticipatory rapture of new life. The
instincts believe in Life entirely without questioning; doubt and guilt
are simply not present in their world: it is reflection that makes
sinners of us all.

The thoughts that come to us in the season of Love--we do not need to
search in metaphysical heavens for their source. They arise from the
very well spring, the very central ego of Man, out of the unconscious,
the innocent, the real. Poetry, in that which is incomprehensible and
mystical in it, arises from this also. So there is hope still for Man,
all ye who believe not in primal depravity! The real man is _even
now_ innocent: Original Sin is only mind deep, conscience deep. The
instincts still behave as if Life-defaming doctrines _were not_: they
have not yet begun to mourn at the Spring and exult at the Autumn.
And in the ecstasies of creative Love, whether it be of persons or of
things, they continue to celebrate, without misgiving, their jubilee.


146

_A Criterion_

To find out whether a thing is decadent or no, let us henceforth
put this question, Does it spring from creative Love? Is the Will
to suffering incarnate in it, or the will to alleviate suffering?
How much must by this standard be condemned! Humanitarianism and its
child, Reform, or the desire to alleviate others' pain; Æstheticism
and its step-brother, Realism, or the wish to alleviate one's own:
these spring from the same source--a dearth of Love. For creative Love
would enjoin, not sympathy with suffering, but the will to transcend
suffering; not reform, whose aim is happiness, but revolution, whose
aim is growth; not Art for Art's sake, an escape from Life into a
stationary æsthetic world, but the creation, out of Life, of ever new
Art; not Realism or the need to find men interesting; but idealization,
or the desire to _make_ men interesting. John Galsworthy and Oscar
Wilde alike are decadent for this reason, that they lack Love. The
real difference between them is that the one is a Collectivist, and
sympathizes with the people, and the other is an Individualist, and
sympathizes with himself. But both degrade Love to the level of
Hedonism; both rebel against the cruelty of Love, desiring a Love which
will not hurt, and, therefore, _must_ be barren.

But wherever peoples, faiths or arts decay, the decay of Love--this
strong, energetic Love--has come first. The current frivolousness about
intellectual matters, the philandering of the literary coquettes,
springs simply from a lack of Love. For the great problems demand
passion for their comprehension, and our intellectuals dislike
passion. In politics and in religion it is the same: creative Love has
everywhere disappeared to be replaced by barren Sympathy. But is it
possible by preaching to increase Love? Can it be willed into power?
Well, praise may call it forth.


147

_Love at the Renaissance_

How may a great creative age like the Renaissance be interpreted on the
hypothesis of Love? Shall it yet be found that the mainspring of the
Renaissance was a newly discovered love of Life and, therefore, of Man?

In the Middle Ages that part of Life, then called God, had become
isolated and abstract, and was worshipped to the detriment of all other
Life; while Man was neglected where he was not belittled. Thus, a
strong current of Man's love was diverted away from Man altogether, and
the earth became dark and sterile. How was the earth to recapture its
love again, and drink back into itself its rapture and creativeness? By
a marriage in which God and the Universe were made one flesh; by the
incorporation of God into Life, and, therefore, into Man. Hence arose
the Pantheism of the Renaissance. To love Life with a good conscience,
to love Life unconditionally, it was necessary to call Life God. Out of
this Love sprang not only the art but the science of the Renaissance.
For Man once more became interested in himself, and, from himself, in
Life; ultimately discoveries were made and more than one New World was
brought to light.

Perhaps it is the defect of all theistic, objective theologies that
they become, sooner or later, barren. Only by being translated into the
subjective do they regain their creative power: Pantheism is the remedy
for Theism. Yet to Theism we owe this, that it lent intensity and
elevation to Love. The Love of the Pantheists of the Renaissance was
not ordinary human Love; it united in a unique emotion the love that
had formerly been given to Man along with that which had formerly been
given to God. It loved Man as God should be loved--a dangerous thing.
But out of this love of God in Man it created, nevertheless, something
great, somewhat less than the one, somewhat more than the other--the
demi-god. The Renaissance was the age of the demi-gods.


148

_Sympathy_

Sympathy is Love bereft of his bow and arrows--but still blind.


149

A Self-Evident Proposition

This is certain, that God is Love. How, else, could He have created the
Universe?


150

_"God is Love"_

When Jesus said, "God is Love," He denned a religion of Becoming. Was
it not necessarily so? For Love is not something which may _choose_ to
create; it _must_ create, it is fundamentally the will and the power
to create. And Eternal Love, or God, is, therefore, eternal creation,
eternal change, eternal Becoming. Consequently, there is no ultimate
goal, no Perfection, except that which is realized at every moment in
the self-expression of Love. A vision? A nightmare? Well, it depends
whether one is in favour of Life, or of Death; whether one lives, or is
lived. And, therefore, whether religion is subjective, or objective?
Whether God is within us, or outside us? For so long as God is within
us, we must create. That should be our Becoming!


151

_Love and Mr. Galsworthy_

The art of Mr. Galsworthy is such an ambiguous thing--half impersonal
portrayal, half personal plea, the _Art pour l'Art_ of a social
reformer--and the subjects he chooses are so controversial--the
abuses of society--that it is hard to place him as an artist. When
"The Dark Flower" appeared, however, we thought we had him. Here was
a great subject to his hand, an artist's question at last, Love.
Alas! even in writing about it, he could not altogether exclude the
reformer. Well, that itself, perhaps, told us something! However
that may be, we do get here Mr. Galsworthy's conception of Love. It
is an inadequate conception, a realist's conception: Love, with the
meaning left out. The ardours, the longing, the disappointment and
anguish--all the _symptoms_--of Love are given; but not a hint that
Love has any significance beyond the emotions it brings: that which
redeems Love, creation, is ignored altogether! Mr. Galsworthy has
seen that Love is cruel, but he has not seen beyond the cruelty: it
is the ultimate thing to him. Well, that is perhaps the most that
could be expected of a humanitarian trying to comprehend Love! In this
book are all the symptoms of Humanitarianism--pity for every one,
reform of institutions, suffering always considered the sufficient
reason for abolishing or palliating things: a creed thrice inadequate,
thrice shallow, thrice blind. Love would find relief from suffering in
creation. But one feels that Mr. Galsworthy would abolish Life if he
could. Humanitarianism unconsciously seeks the annihilation of Life,
for in Life suffering is integral.


152

_Mr. Thomas Hardy_

In Mr. Hardy's conception of Love, unlike Mr. Galsworthy's, the
contingency of creation is never absent; but to him creation is not
a justification of the pangs of Love. It is an intensification of
them; it is Love's last and worst indignity. But even when Love does
not bestow this ultimate insult of creation, it cannot resist the
satisfaction of torturing its victims; it is wanton and irrelevant
in its distribution of pain. Mr. Hardy's books are filled with the
torments of Love. Was it not fitting that he should aim his main
indictment of Life against it, seeing that it is the trick whereby
the blunder of Life is perpetuated? And so Mr. Hardy is certainly a
decadent; but he is a great decadent--one of those who by the power of
their denial of Life seem to make Life more profound and tragic, and
inspire the healthy artists to an even greater love and reverence for
it.

He is great, however, not by his theories, but by his art. The contrast
between the sordidness of his thought and the splendidness of his art
fills us sometimes with amazement. He sets out in his books to prove
that Life is a mean blunder; and, in spite of himself, the tragedy of
this blunder becomes in his hands splendid and impressive, so that
Life is enriched even while it is defamed. Art, which is _necessarily_
idealization and glorification, triumphs in him over even his most
deeply founded conscious ideas. In all his greater books, it refutes
his pessimism and turns his curses into involuntary blessings. So
divine is Art!


153

_Mr. George Moore_

In writing about Love, Mr. Moore falls into the same realistic error
as Mr. Galsworthy: he writes about its manifestations without knowledge
of that which gives them meaning and connection. Love to him is just
certain sensations--and not only Love, but everything else. Art is
a sensation; religion, a sensation; the soul, a sensation. Take out
of his books sensation, and there will be little of account left. He
knows the religious feeling, but not religion: he always confounds
spirituality with refined sensualism. So he knows the sensation of
Love, but not Love.

But Mr. Moore is learned in the senses: he knows them in everything
but their purity. Yes, even sensuality is in his books corrupted. How
true this is we realize when in "Evelyn Innes" he compares one of his
characters to a faun. We are almost distressed at this, for we feel
that the word is not only coarsened, but used with a wrong meaning
altogether: we feel that Mr. Moore is incapable of understanding what a
faun is! These sophisticated, scented and somewhat damaged voluptuaries
of his, in whose conversation there is always an atmosphere of
expensive feminine lingerie, and who "know" women so intimately; how
perverted must be the taste which can compare them with the hardy,
nimble, unconscious creatures of ancient Greece! But Mr. Moore is much
nearer in temper to Oscar Wilde than to the realists. He is an æsthete
essentially, and a realist only in the second place, and only because
he is an æsthete. The province of selected exquisite beauty had been
exhausted by Wilde and his school; so Mr. Moore turned to the squalid,
the commonplace and the diseased in Life, there to find his "æsthetic
emotion." This explains the curious effect at once of colour and of
drabness in his books. He is a perverted Wilde; doubly a decadent.


154

_Mr. Bernard Shaw_

Both the strength and the weakness of Mr. Shaw spring from a
defect--his lack of Love. Freedom from illusion is his strength. He
possesses common sense minus common sentiment; that, and probably
nothing more; and that gives to his thought an appearance of subtlety,
though it is not really subtle. Thus, his common sense tells him that
Love is essentially creation. He sees through the illusions which Love
spins round its purpose, because he does not see these illusions at
all. Love, indeed, is known to him in all but its illusions; but who
knows Love that knows not Love's illusions? Still, it is to his honour
that he has conceived Love as creation. His weakness consists in that
his attitude to Love is purely intellectual. He lacks Love more than
any other man of his time. In grappling with the great problems of
existence, it is not Love but the very absence of Love that has been
his most useful weapon; and so he has seen much, but grasped nothing,
created nothing. And because he has never loved, he can never be called
an artist. For how can one who has not loved idealize? And how can one
who has not idealized be an artist? In Mr. Shaw, Nature has gone out of
her way to create the very antithesis of the artist.

What Nietzsche said about Socrates is true of Mr. Shaw even in a
higher degree; that his reason is stronger than his instincts, and
has usurped the place of his instincts. Without Love, he yet affirms
creation. What can be his reason for doing so? Why should he wish
Life to persist if he does not love Life? Is it in order that people
might still converse wittily, and the epigram might not die? Or so
that exceptional men might experience forever the joy of intellectual
conflict, the satisfaction found in the ruthless exposure of fallacy
and weakness, and the proud feeling of mental power? We know that Mr.
Shaw regards the brain as an end--the purpose of Life being to perfect
a finer and finer brain--and we know, too, that to Mr. Shaw the highest
joy the brain can experience is not that of knowing, but of fighting.
Knowledge to him is a weapon with which to wage war. Does he desire
Life to continue so that controversy might continue? Well, let us look,
then, for some other reason for his praise of Love. He himself lacks
Love:--Can it be that he praises it for the same reason for which
the Christian praises what he is not but would fain be? And his love
of Love is then something pathetic, founded on "unselfishness"? And
himself, a Romantic?


155

_Mr. H. G. Wells_

How much has Mr. Wells's scientific training had to do with his
conception of Love? As a student of biology, it was natural he should
see Love as sex. In all his theories, indeed, there is more of the
scientist than of the artist. Scientific certainly, is his simple
acceptance of sex as a fact, and his unhesitating association of it
with generation, and of both with Love. The innocence of the scientist
and not of the artist is his, an innocence Darwinian, not Goethean. And
so, although his purpose is fine--to restore in his books an innocent
conception of sexual Love--in doing so, his biology always runs away
with his art. For he would render sex significant by reading it into
all creation, as the meaning of creation; thus making the instrument
more than the agent, the very meaning of the agent! But this robs both
creation and sex of their significance. The way to restore an innocent
conception of sexual Love is by reading creation into it, by seeing it
as part of the universal Becoming, by carrying it away on the great
purifying stream of Becoming. In spite of his genius, and still more
of his cleverness, Mr. Wells here began at the wrong end. But it is
doubtful whether any one in this generation has sufficient artistic
power and elevation to express in art this conception of Love. Within
the limits of Realism, especially of "physiological Realism," it
certainly cannot be expressed. Nothing less than the symbolic may serve
for it.


156

_The Idealism of Love_

The writer who discovered that love idealizes the object might have
pushed his discovery a little further; for it is no less true that love
idealizes the subject. None knows better than the poets how to take
advantage of this self-idealization: one has only to read their love
poems to find out how much more is said about the poet's beautiful
feelings than about the object which presumably evoked them. Heine,
particularly, was a shameless offender in this way. A woman was to
him simply an excuse for seeing himself in imagination in a romantic
attitude. But even with the others who appear less obtrusive and more
disinterested the implication is the same. How elevated and even divine
we must be, they seem to say, when we can feel in this manner; and how
happy, when we are privileged to love an object of such loveliness!
Yes! love has such power that it idealizes everything--even the
subject!


157

_Love and Becoming_

The great Heraclitus propounded the doctrine of Becoming. Everything
changes, is built up and dissolved; "stability" is only a little
sluggishness in the flux of things. Zeus, the great child, the divine
artist, constructs and destroys at his pleasure and for his amusement:
all the worlds are his playthings. This conception of the Universe is
innocent and beautiful, an artist's conception; but it is at the same
time terrifying. And that because all meaning is left out of it; for
all things without meaning, no matter how beautiful they may be, are in
the end terrifying.

Nietzsche, the modern counterpart of Heraclitus, re-affirmed this
doctrine; but he coupled with it the idea of creative Love: that is his
chief distinction. Certainly, those who do not comprehend Nietzsche's
Love do not comprehend Nietzsche. It is the key to his religion of
Becoming. Becoming without Love is meaningless; Love without Becoming
is meaningless. But, united, each gives its meaning to the other, each
redeems the other. But have things a meaning in themselves? Is it not
Man that forever interprets and interprets? Very well. But is not a
thing incomplete without its interpretation? Is not its interpretation
a part of it?


158

_Static Values_

Stagnant waters become noisome after a while. And stagnant values?
Certainly within these eternal pools not a few repulsive things have
been born: in Perfection, Sin; in Justice, Guilt. It was when human
judgments were apotheosized and became Eternal Justice that guilt was
insinuated into the core of Life. A falsehood, a presumption! What man
found necessary at one moment in his history for his preservation,
that, forsooth, was a law governing the spheres, the everlasting edict
of God Himself. And when Life did not operate in conformity with this
law, it was Life that must needs be guilty--a very ingenious method
of world-vilification! It was human vanity that created the eternal
verities. And how much have we suffered from them! For the deification
of Things meant the diabolization of Man, nay, of Life itself. The
metaphysician who created Heaven created Hell at the self-same
moment; but, ever since, it has been Hell that has given birth to the
metaphysicians. Being _condemns_ Becoming, and pollutes all Life with
sin. So in the pools of Being we can no longer cleanse ourselves, and
our preference for a doctrine of Becoming may be at bottom a hygienic
preference.


159

_The God of Becoming_

Love is the God of Becoming. All the other gods are static gods,
changeless for yesterday, today and tomorrow. But Love belongs
altogether to the future. It is the deity of those who would create a
future.


160

_Utopias_

It is sympathy that has built the Utopias. On every one of them is
written, "Conflict and suffering are bad." Utopia is nothing but
a place where men are happy, like how many heavens, an ideal of
exhaustion. The thing that is omitted from it is always Love, for
Love would shatter all Utopias and leave them behind. In Nowhere Man
no longer creates, but enjoys. But creation and pain go hand in hand;
for what is creation? The dissolution of the outworn, the birth of the
new; a continuous fury in which the throes of death and of life are
mingled. And Love calls Man to that fate.

What we need is an ideal of energy. But that must needs be an ideal
of Man, not of Society; for Man is the dynamic, Society the static.
Utopia is a goal, but the Superman is a goal beyond a goal; for, once
attained, he is naught but the arrow to shoot into _his_ future. To
attain the Superman is to surpass the Superman. Only ideals of this
kind are unassailable by Love.


161

_"Primacy of Things"_

If we aim at a state of society in which static values, as far as we
can know them, are conformed with, we aim at a state in which the
creative impulse will not only be needless, but harmful. For does not
belief in absolute values necessarily imply belief in a Utopia? And
therefore in something antagonistic to Love? The metaphor of static
Perfection, lovely as it is, has perhaps ruled us too long, and it is
time we superseded it by another. Or is it still, as it has always
been, a crime to substitute one metaphor for another? Even if it is
Love that drives us on?

Progress conceived as a discovery of the unknown instead of as
a pursuit of Perfection--might not that take us a long way? Did
Nietzsche, perhaps, create his Superman, and give him his hardness and
lightness for no other purpose than to carry out that task? Perfection
is something that we have yet to discover! In this conception of
progress all Utopias are transcended, all goals renounced, yet a set
of values, a morality, is retained. The morality might be judged by
the criterion, Does it aid us in our quest? A future of discovery, of
creation and change, not of enjoyment: what a task for energetic Love
does that open out! The Superman is a goal, but what is the Superman's
goal? The Superman is something that must be surpassed!


162

_Perfection_

When men write largely of Perfection, as if it were a concept every
one could understand, we are entitled to ask what exactly they mean.
Do they mean a sort of synthesis or hotchpotch of the virtues in which
they believe? Does X believe in a Christian and Y in a Nietzschean
perfection? As a rule, conceptions of Perfection are offshoots of
the morality prevalent at any given time. And, for action, people's
conception of Perfection is much more important than Perfection itself.
Therefore, let us ceaselessly repeat, Perfection is something still to
be discovered! As for the current conception, is conflict an ingredient
in it, or rest? Is it an ideal of Life, or a thing impossible,
self-contradictory, static, an eternal stick with which to chastise
existence? The first question to be asked.


163

_Goals_

When people speak of the unthinkableness of eternal Becoming which has
no goal in Being, what they express is their longing for rest. It is
unendurable, they feel, that Life, creation, change, should travel on
their way forever: at the very thought their minds become tired, and
Being is conjured up. Hitherto, our goals have not been resting stages,
but eternal termini. But a true goal should not be a cul-de-sac, but
the peak from which to descry our next goal. And so on eternally? Well,
why not? Finality was born when the mind became weary at the thought
of eternal ascent and found refuge in that of eternal rest. We have not
fully learned yet how to live: struggle is still with us an argument
against Life. What we need is perhaps a few re-incarnations! When we
have learned to live, however, we shall welcome struggle as a necessary
part of Life, and Becoming will be as desirable to us as Being now. And
not till then shall we be _fit_ for immortality.


164

_Love and Sympathy_

Love and Hatred are not the true opposites, but Love and Sympathy. Love
is creation, that is to say, strife: a battle between the inanimate
not yet dead, and the living still unborn. And it is also, therefore,
the hatred of the one for the other. True, this hatred may not be of
individuals but of things; but does that make it any more harmless? It
is naïve democratic prejudice to think that hatred of things is less
_wicked_ than hatred of individuals; the very opposite is the case!
The former is a thousand times more dangerous and destructive than the
latter, which, indeed, is little more than an idiosyncrasy. Hatred is
contained in and is an aspect of Love; it is Love seen as destruction.
Well, only Love has a right to Hatred, for only Love can create.

Sympathy, however, would maintain in existence what should be dead, and
would bid what should be living remain forever unborn. For in death and
in birth alike there is pain. Sympathy--that is, Sympathy with the
_necessary_ suffering of existence--is a far greater danger than Hatred.


165

_The Humanitarians_

Hatred only to things, not to men; Love only to men, not to things: the
formula of the half-and-half.


166

Love and the Virtues

Love is the mother of all the harder virtues, and that because she
requires them. For how without them could she suffer to create, and
endure the pain of Becoming? Everything dynamic must become virtuous.
The soft, hedonistic, and degenerate in morality, however, arise from
Sympathy. Sympathy needs the comfortable virtues; it seeks the static,
for movement is pain, and pain, of the devil--if Sympathy will admit a
devil! Its virtues are all in bad training.


167

_The Other Side_

He ceaselessly groaned that he was weary of life and wished to be rid
of it; but all the time it was life that wished to be rid of him.


168

_Love and Danger_

The fear that danger might perish--the immortal fear of Nietzsche--need
cause us no anxiety, could we but believe that creative Love will
continue to exist. For Love is the great source of danger, and of the
heroic in action and thought. If military wars were to disappear from
the earth, danger need not be diminished; it might become emancipated
and voluntary: it might be raised from a common necessity to an
individual task. Perhaps in the distant future nations will become more
pacific, men more war-like; peace will be maintained among nations
_in order_ that individuals may have a free arena in which to carry
on their great contests--"without powder," as Nietzsche said. The
battles, born of Love, of the Brands and Zarathustras, not those of
the Napoleons: that is what creative Love would envisage! But this
prophecy has not sufficient foundation as yet, alas, to be called even
a conjecture!


169

_Fellowship and Love_

Fellowship is of two kinds: that which is inspired by Sympathy,
and that which is an expression of Love. Men unite for the mere
satisfaction which union brings, or for that which is found in the
struggle for more remote things--an aspiration or a vision. This latter
thing, impractical and paradoxical, which lends Man what nobility
he has--it was Love that gave it to him. Fellowship is the sublime
attempt to complete the figure of Man. My friend is he who possesses
the qualities which I lack and most need: in that sense, he creates me.
Fellowship should enrich _all_ who partake of it, make their highest
qualities productive, and throw bridges over the chasms of their
defects. But the association of men for mere enjoyment is not worthy
the name of Friendship. Sympathy is its parent.


170

_The Paradox_

It is possible to live nobly without Happiness, but not without Love.
Love, however, confers the highest happiness. Is it because Love
is indifferent to Happiness that Happiness flutters around it, and
caresses it with its wings?


171

_Moral Indignation_

We should altogether eschew moral censoriousness in our contemplation
of Life, for it is merely destructive. To destroy that which we cannot
re-create in a better form is a crime. Only Love should condemn, for
only Love can create. To bring the good into existence, or prepare the
way of those who can create the good--that should be our only form
of condemnation. In what consists the passion of the moral fanatic?
In respect for the law, that it should not be violated. So he would
extirpate whatever does not conform, even though thus he should destroy
all life, and have no power to create it anew. No wonder he is gloomy:
the vulture is not a bird of cheerful mien.


172

_Morality and Love_

Into what a dilemma falls the poor lover of life who goes to make
the choice of morality! He sees that both great types of morality,
the humanitarian and the military, the Hedonistic and the Spartan,
lead in the end to Nihilism, the one by liquefying, the other by
hardening. The former becomes too sensitive to endure Life; the
latter, too insensible to feel it. Yet they were to serve Life; but
they soon forgot the purpose for which they were formed; they exalted
themselves as something higher than Life; they become "absolute," and
a stumbling-block to existence. And this was because they were not
founded in the beginning upon the very principle of Life, which is
Love, but upon accidentals. The conflict between Morality and Love
has accordingly been a conflict between the forces of Death and of
Life: for "works" without Love are dead. Morality should be but the
discipline which Love imposes upon itself in order to create. It
should crown all the virtues which oppose a gallant and affirmative
countenance to suffering and change, such as heroism, fortitude,
joy, temperance. This morality is the antithesis of the humanitarian
morality sprung from Sympathy.


173

_Paradise Regained_

If Life is but an expression of creative Love, then a morality founded
upon Love must be the only true morality. And, moreover, in it ethics
and the instincts are reconciled; innocence is grasped.


174

_Love and Knowledge_

If in all Life there is change, creation, Becoming, and if in our
lives we know these things only in the interpretation of them which we
call Love, must not Love be a necessary part of our knowledge of Life?
Observation, investigation and the weighing of results may tell us much
_about_ Life, and show it to us in many aspects, but it does not give
us immediate knowledge. Is it possible to know Life? If Life be the
expression of Love----! Upon that "if" depends everything. For if it is
justified, then we have within us the clue to the riddle of existence.
Perhaps here we discern the faint struggling for birth of that
undiscovered faculty of the mind of which men speak. The comprehension
of Life through Love! The profoundest of intuitions? The maddest of
dreams?


175

_Proverb and Commentary_

Love is blind, but it is with excess of light.


176

_Bad Thoughts_

She was as perfect as a drop of dew or a beam of light; a pure thought
of God, delicate, spontaneous and finished. There was nothing misshapen
in body or soul; Love did well to create such a being. But the others,
the crooked, blind and defiled! Are these the bad thoughts of God? From
whence do they come? Whither do they go? Conceived in darkness, born
for destruction?


177

_Love and Sympathy_

We must not think of Love as a mere concept. For it is something
more real than Life itself: the very Life of Life, the very soul of
Becoming. It is a force both spiritual and physical, but transcending
the distinction of spiritual and physical. We must not conceive Love
as a thing akin to Sympathy. It is not humanitarian or even human; it
is a force as unsullied by humanity as the mountain winds or the tides
of the ocean. Nevertheless, it is within Man, just as it is within
the stars and seas; a great creative, destructive, transforming and
purifying force; beyond Good and Evil as the dew and the lightning are.
This is the power that is known by Man in his moments of love. He is
then free to create and enjoy, as if he were re-born, with a will new,
joyful and innocent. But seldom does he attain this knowledge: his
moments of exultation are brief. Yet Love has not on that account lost
any of its potence. Man may decay and become corrupt; but Love remains
unalterable, forever pure, incapable of corruption.


178

_Multum in Parvo_

You are but a drop in the ocean of Life. True: but it is in the ocean
_of Life!_


179

_Love and the Senses_

When one loves, the distinction between soul and body is passed. In
Love alone is the dream of Goethe, Heine, and the moderns realized:
here the reconciliation of the spirit and the senses is celebrated in
perfect innocence. For Love irradiates and makes fragrant the body in
which it dwells, and raises it aloft to sit by its brother the soul.


180

_Love and Innocence_

Life takes us back to its bosom when we love. The heavens, the
earth and the race of men no longer appear things external and
hostile, against which we must arm ourselves. We return from exile
in personality; our thought sweeps to the farthest horizons, and
plunges into the deepest gulfs of existence, at home in all places.
The "external" is no longer external: we contemplate it from the
inside, we gaze through its eyes. For the very principle of Life, of
which all living things are the expression, has been apprehended by
us. Our personality has been emancipated. This feeling of universal
comprehension is called Innocence.


181

_Love and the Fall_

Has the fable of the Fall still another interpretation for us? Was
the Fall of Man the fall from Love? When the feeling of universal
comprehension was lost, personality in the individualistic sense
arose. And Sin was the child of this Individualism. To the first man
bereft of Love, the earth assumed a terrible mien; nature glared at
him with a million baleful eyes: he became an outcast in his home.
No longer knowing the earth or other men, he experienced terror,
hatred and despair. To protect himself against existence, he created
Love's substitute, morality. And with morality arose sin, and perished
innocence.


182

_Love and its Object_

Nietzsche's psychology was wrong when he spoke of Love as a narrowly
egoistic thing isolating two people and making them indifferent to
every one else. There is too much of the philosopher and too little of
the psychologist in this observation. For mankind cannot be loved, Life
cannot be loved, until One has been loved. Only lovers can generate
such wealth of life that it overflows, enriching their friends, their
enemies, all the world. To love one is to love all.


183

_Freedom in Love_

In true love there is a feeling of entire freedom. Is it because the
lovers have by a divine chance found their true path, have become a
pulse in the very heart of Life? If Love is the principle of Life, then
in Love alone is perfect freedom. Ethics and instinct become one. This
is the road that leads beyond good and evil: Man must learn to love.


184

_Love and the Sensualists_

On those who affirm Life as innocent and holy, there is an obligation
laid. Their lives must be innocent: Life must be to them a sustained
act of worship. How many of them have been lacking just here! Heine
failed, in spite of his real nobility. Goethe, however, attained unity
and sincerity; and Nietzsche was a figure of beautiful integrity and
innocence. They were neither of them mere "writers." Nor must we be:
there is upon us the compulsion to prove that a life of innocence is
possible. And as a first step, we must separate ourselves from those
who, before they have sought innocence, praise the senses. For they
confuse and defile everything.


185

_Free Will_

Only those who have knowledge of Becoming can know what the freedom of
the will is. Freedom--that is to will Becoming with all its suffering,
voluntarily to go on the way which Fate and the highest Life direct
us. Slavery--that is to deny Becoming, to cling to the static, and to
be dragged along the stream of change. To be dragged, not to remain
stationary; for men by taking thought cannot gain immunity from change.
Their will and their desires avail them nothing. For the stream of
Becoming is unchangeable in its power. It is Man that changes. When he
affirms Becoming, he is enlarged; when he denies it, he is straitened.


186

_Tragedy, Life and Love_

In the highest Life two qualities are always to be found together,
exuberance and suffering. Life is founded on this paradox, which is
fundamental; for in the emotion of Love we are most conscious of
it. Love is the most joyful and most suffering thing: its plenitude
of joy is so great that it can endure gladly the worst griefs. And
tragedy is the truest expression in art of Life and of Love; for its
characteristic, too, is a Joy triumphing over Fate.



VI


THE TRAGIC VIEW



187

_Life as Expression_

Schopenhauer interpreted life as the expression of a Will to Live.
Nietzsche showed with profound truth that beneath this will there was
something more fundamental, the Will to Power. Have we here got to the
foundation, or shall we find that underlying the Will to Power there is
something more fundamental still? _Why_ do all living things strive for
power? Is it, indeed, power that they desire in their striving, power
for the sake of power? That which everything by a law of its being
searches for is _expression:_ the Will to Power is merely an outcome of
that search. For seeing that the sun of created Life is split up into
individuals, related and yet diverse, the expression of one unit is
bound to collide with that of another, and the outcome is a conflict.
Life, therefore, is essentially something that injures itself, and
injures itself the more the more powerful it is; in a word, Life is
essentially tragic. Most people, however, live in illusion, knowing
nothing of this. The philosophers, and, before them, the priests, were
those who perceived that Life was of this nature; but, alas, from the
truth they drew the immediate and not the more profound conclusion.
They sought, unconscious Hedonists, a palliative for Life, and
contemned expression, which they saw was the cause of suffering. These
were the creators of that morality which has prevailed to our own day;
a morality antagonistic to Life, anti-tragic, negative. All the systems
which have been created in this way are colossal panaceas and remedies:
they are not fundamental.

There were others, however, who saw as the priests did that Life was
tragic, but who at the same time affirmed it. These were the tragic
poets. They were more deeply versed in Life than the priests: tragic
art is more profound than morality. For morality is based on the belief
that man desires above everything else Happiness. But Tragedy has
perceived that this is not so. Man will express himself, it proclaims,
whatever the outcome, whether it be joy or suffering.

Since then morality has sunk deep into Life, and there is now almost a
second instinct in man striving against expression. Consequently there
are many existences passed without expression; sometimes even in a
resolute struggle against it, as in the case of innumerable religious
men and ascetics. To some men it seems that their spirit has been lying
frozen and dead within them, until one day an influence touches them,
and they feel an imperious desire to express themselves, to create.
This influence is nothing else than Love, which is the desire for
expression itself. When its rule is recognized and obeyed Life reaches
its highest degree of joy and of pain, and becomes creative. This is
the state which is glorified by the tragic poets. To those who affirm,
it is the highest condition of Life.


188

_"Self-Expression"_

Self-expression is something infinitely more subtle than the moderns
conceive. This man studied to express himself: he investigated his
ego, and thereby cut himself off from Life more completely than
any anchorite, for the anchorite had at least heaven in addition to
himself. This neo-anchorite, however, turned his eyes deliberately
inward and strove to find expression for what he discovered there, but
for nothing more. Thus he became his own prison. Eventually he turned
out an æsthete.

This other man found that his thoughts and desires flew away from him
as irrevocably as a flock of wild birds and became lost or strangers.
He seemed constrained to express everything _not_ himself, everything
foreign, remote and as exalted; but in the end he discovered that it
was himself he had expressed. "Thy true being," said Nietzsche, "lies
not deeply hidden in thee, but an infinite height above thee, or at
least above that which thou dost commonly take to be thyself."


189

_Life as a Value_

Those who say that the belief in Life as a value is not a belief which
will arouse the heroic passions and make men die for it, use a form
of reasoning, at any rate, which is erroneous. They first confuse the
ideal of more complete existence with the more complete existence
of an individual, and then demonstrate that this individual will not
lay down his life for the sake of _his_ more complete existence! But
Life as an ideal is just as impersonal as any other ideal, whether it
be Justice or Perfection or Renunciation. True, it has not yet become
static, but on that account its attraction is only the stronger; it
arouses our very love. And men will die for what they love: they will
die for Life.


190

_Hebbel's Theory of Tragedy_

Hebbel's theory of Tragedy is noble and profound. Not in the
misdirection of wills does he find the source of the tragic, but in the
core of the will itself, in the inexorable expression and collision
of wills. This conception raises Tragedy from a mere consequence and
punishment of sin to an expression of Life itself, to the most profound
and essential expression of Life. And this is just and worthy of
Tragedy. For the character of Tragedy is not negative and condemnatory,
but deeply affirmative and joyous. How shallow then must be the
theories which would deny Tragedy to the good, to those whose wills
are highly directed! Tragedy is not a punishment. The more noble man
becomes the more tragic he will also become.


191

_Tragic Philosophy_

The belief, against which Nietzsche declaimed, that Reason brings
Happiness has become to the modern man second nature, so that now the
notions of Reason and Happiness are indissolubly connected in his mind.
Any argument for a tragic view of Life must therefore appear, first of
all, unreasonable; for Happiness as an end is the only reason that will
be acknowledged. It remains for us to show that Happiness is itself
unreasonable, an impossibility, a chimera. There is no Happiness as
an end. Reason does not bring Happiness, nor does virtue, nor does
asceticism, nor does comfort. Happiness is an accident. And not even a
modern can make accidents happen!

To this modern world, with its belief in Happiness, Nietzsche was bound
to appear unreasonable, for he brought with him not only a tragic
conception of Life, but a tragic philosophy. A tragic philosophy--the
marriage of Knowledge and Tragedy: nothing could have seemed more
irrational to modern Europe than that!


192

_Tragedy and Arguments_

Those who desire to restore a tragic conception of Life should not
use these arguments: that Happiness is a condition which, if it were
possible of realization, would become intolerable, producing its
opposite, unhappiness; or that only when the individual renounces
Happiness does Happiness become his. These are the statements of a
Hedonism once removed. The argument for the tragic view should be
founded on considerations altogether irrelevant to Happiness. It should
not care enough about Happiness even to disdain it.


193

_Morality and Happiness_

Philosophers have from the beginning acknowledged that Happiness is
not won by seeking for it, but by striving for other things. This,
however, has not prevented them from proclaiming Happiness as the goal
of Man and as the deliberate object of ethics. Contradiction upon
contradiction! If the individual cannot by taking thought capture
Happiness, is it conceivable that a community can, or the human race,
in toto? To throw a net round this mirage compounded of desire and
fancy--surely Reason was itself the most unreasonable thing to attempt
that. And, after all, does Man desire Happiness? Tragedy denies it.


194

_End or Effect_

One may possess all the virtues save Love, and remain unhappy.
Love, however, brings Happiness with it as the sun brings light. Is
Happiness, then, the end of morality? Or an effect of Love?

195

_Superiority_

In order to despise enjoyment, one need only be supremely happy or
supremely wretched.


196

_Beauty and Tragedy_

In every beautiful face there is nobility, strength and a touch of
sadness--the seal of tragedy is upon it. To make Life beautiful, then,
would be to make it tragic? Nay, rather let us say that to make Life
tragic is to make it beautiful. Supreme beauty is but the expression
in which are comprised in a miracle of unity the sorrow and the joy of
Tragedy. For in the most radiant manifestation of Beauty there is a
brooding solemnity; in the most sorrowful there is triumph.


197

_Experimenting in Life_

The aim of the æsthetes was without enduring Tragedy to enjoy Beauty.
To that end they devised their creed of experimentation in Life: they
wished to know all the joys of the soul and of the senses without
inconvenience to themselves. Perceiving that Love and Beauty bring
suffering in their train, they decided to _take the initiative_ against
them, in other words, to "experience" them. All they experienced,
however, was--their experiences. That, indeed, was all they desired:
their "experimenting in Life" was escaping from Life. Without the
courage to accept Life with the Dionysians or to renounce it with the
ascetics, they hit upon the plan of stealing a march upon it. Well, it
was certainly not upon Life that they stole a march!


198

_Christian and Dionysian_

The Christian and the Dionysian are both of them step-children and
solutions of Pessimism. A gloomy and realistic view of the world
was necessary before either of them could be born. In Christianity
Pessimism was translated into symbols. "Original Sin" and
"transgression against God"--these were the theological counterparts
of the pessimist's "suffering," "the tyranny of the Will." How did
Christianity find relief from this fundamental pessimism? By a pathetic
illusion in which mankind were transformed into erring children, who,
however, were forgiven by an indulgent Father. Here suffering was
still an argument against Life, and a palliative was sought and found.
The Dionysian, however, affirmed Life in the very tragicality of its
aspect, and, by so doing, achieved a victory over it. In short, to the
Dionysian Life is a tragedy; to the Christian it is a pathetic tale
with a happy ending.


199

_History of the Dionysian_

In the beginning he possessed innocence: the world appeared to him
as beautiful, Man as good, and the future as immeasurable. The great
illusion of Rousseau was his--a "natural man" himself, believing in the
"natural man," a romanticist, a credulous, not too sincere, "beautiful"
soul--a youth with the qualities of youth. But a day came when
unwillingly and painfully his soul forced his eyes open and compelled
them to look, and he saw without illusion; the cruelty beneath smiling
Appearance, the red claw, and conscienceless, inappeasable appetite.
Looking at Man he found him a powerless little creature, condemned
to a few years in this world, cut off by Death, and even during his
life circumscribed by invincible limitation. Nevertheless, this man
disdained to hide his head in the sands of illusion; and immediately he
became altogether more worthy of respect, more real, almost sublime. A
noble resignation to Life now characterized him; the classical writers,
especially the Greeks with their naturalistic pessimism, seemed to him
the highest thing; and he accepted the theory of Original Sin. All
honour to him when he reached, after a painful journey, this spare but
real conclusion! All honour to this pessimist who would not deceive
himself!

One day, however, the thought came to him, "Even if pain and necessity
be the truths of Life! There is something within me which can turn
these, also, to account! I can transfigure them. Pain, Struggle,
Change--these will no longer enslave me; for these shall be my slaves!"
At that moment he became a Dionysian: he had turned the corner of
pessimism, and had gained freedom. Original Sin was no longer true for
him; for a new truth had dawned in whose light the old was quenched.

From an illusive freedom in the beginning, through bondage to
necessity, to a new freedom--the history of the Dionysian. The
pessimist is more profound than the "natural man," but the Dionysian is
the most profound of all. He burrows deeper than pessimism itself; he
grows, the most happy of men, out of the very soil of pessimism.


200

_Tragic Affirmation_

To feel happy at this moment--is not that to approve of your whole
life, of its suffering, conflict, ennui and scepticism no less than
its victories and festivals? This moment is what it is by virtue of
these experiences; justify it and you justify them. The physical
agony which left its mark upon you; the anguish of bereavement and of
disillusionment; the cynicism with which you consoled yourself; the
years when you lived altogether bereft of hope; your most profound
and most petty thoughts and actions; your meanest, bitterest and
noblest experiences: all these are unconsciously affirmed in your
affirmation of this moment. Let them be affirmed consciously! Or is
your soul afraid to go as far as your will? Looking back now with new
eyes over your life, you find that precisely what you cannot do is to
repent--least of all of your sins and griefs! For to repent is to will
Life to be other than Life, and essentially not to affirm.

He who contemplates his life thus, perhaps understands for the first
time what is the meaning of Tragedy.


201

_Mastery and Tragedy_

The desire of Man to subjugate Nature and Fate and obtain mastery
over his resources--perhaps it is as well that this is meantime
unattainable! For Man's spirit is not yet noble enough for him to use
his power aright: he would use it, if he could grasp it now, as a means
to Happiness! Our first duty is to fight the idea of Happiness, to
make Man tragic. Once Man wills Tragedy, however, the more mastery he
acquires the better.


202

_The Hidden Faculty_

When we speak hopefully of the discovery of still undiscovered
faculties in Man, to what do we look forward? In plain terms, how do we
expect this faculty to be of use to us? In bringing about Happiness?
It is almost a tragedy--it is a tragedy without the nobility--that
in our time the most beautiful, heroic and powerful things have to
bow their heads and become slaves to this weak and pathetic tyrant,
Happiness. Should we then oppose the addition of one more divine power
to the imprisoned? Well, a hope consoles us. For the discovery of a new
faculty in Man will not make him more happy, but simply more powerful;
his self-expression in action will be the more complete; the essential
conflict of Life will be magnified; Life will become more tragic. So
think well, you votaries of Happiness, before you bring to life another
power of the tragic creature, Man. Far better for your ends if you
could but succeed in killing some of those he already possesses. But
have you not sometimes tried to do that?


203

_The Other Side_

And yet Man cannot create without Happiness. The soul that lives
in shadow becomes unhealthy and sterile: sunshine is after all the
great health-bringing and fructifying thing. Happiness does make a
man nobler; more ready to generosity and heroism; more careless of
enjoyment. Happiness! But what is Happiness? The Happiness that is
essential to the best life is a state of the soul: this is doubtless
that which Goethe and Heine praised. But the other, the Happiness
of the utilitarian, is an effect of calculated action, the reward
of a sort of ethical thrift. The first, however, is independent of
calculation, and even a little scornful of it; for in its confidence
and plenitude it dares to put out on the gloomiest seas. It is not
unrelated to Love, this effect of an affirmative attitude to Life. When
people praise Happiness, how one desires to believe it is this that
they praise.


204

_The Two Species_

The few have a conception of Life different from that of the many. To
the latter still pertain such notions as "do as you would be done by,"
and so forth. They understand a morality but not the end of morality.
The few, however, who understand both the morality and the reason for
it, who have a conception of Life more difficult and unyielding, seem
to the many cold and a little inhuman. The lives of the latter, on the
other hand, appear to the few as a naively happy, narrow and absurd
form of existence.


205

_Nietzsche_

What was Nietzsche, that subtlest of modern riddles? First, a great
tragic poet: it was by a divine accident that he was at the same
time a profound thinker and the deepest psychologist. But his tragic
affirmative was the core of his work, of which thought and analysis
were but outgrowths. Without it, his subtlety might have made him
another Pascal. The Will to Power, which makes suffering integral in
Life; the Order of Rank whereby the bulk of mankind are doomed to
slavery; the Superman himself, that most sublime child of Tragedy; and
the last affirmation, the Eternal Recurrence: these are the conceptions
of a tragic poet. It is, indeed, by virtue of his tragic view of Life
that Nietzsche is for us a force of such value. For only by means of it
could modern existence, sunk in scepticism, pessimism and the greatest
happiness of the greatest number, be re-created.

For the last two centuries Europe has been under the domination of
the concept of Happiness as progress. Altruism, the ideology of the
greatest happiness of the greatest number, altruism as a means of
universalizing Happiness, was preached in the eighteenth century; until
after a while it was seen by such clear-sighted observers as Voltaire
that men did not obey this imperative of altruism; therefore they were
condemned: the moral indignation of the eighteenth century, the century
of censoriousness par excellence, was the result. First, an impossible
morality was demanded, and for the attainment of an unattainable ideal;
then Man was condemned because he failed to comply with it, because he
was Man. Thus in the end the ideal of the greatest happiness worked
out in pessimism: Life became hideous and, worst of all, immoral, to
the utilitarian, when it was seen that altruism and happiness are
alike impossible. Schopenhauer is here the heir of Voltaire: the moral
condemnation of the one has become in the other a condemnation of Life
itself, more profound, more poetical, more logical. Altruism has in
Schopenhauer deepened into Pity; for Pity is altruism bereft of the
illusion of Happiness.

How was Man to avoid now the almost inevitable bourne of Nihilism? By
renouncing altogether Happiness as a value; by restoring a conception
of Life in which Happiness was neither a positive nor a negative
standard, but something irrelevant, an accident: in short, by setting
up a tragic conception of Life. This was the task of Nietzsche: in how
far he succeeded how can we yet say?


206

_Again_

Nietzsche loved not goodness but greatness: the True, the _Great_ and
the Beautiful. Was not this the necessary corollary of his æsthetic
evaluation of Life?


207

_Sacrifices_

"The first of the first fruits of thy land thou shalt bring into the
house of the Lord thy God."

Thus spoke the oldest reverence. We should not scoff at this feeling
but rather try to understand it; for it is only too rare in our time.
What was its meaning to the rulers of Israel? Gratitude, a beautiful,
affirmative thing. To enrich Life with our highest gifts, which we
freely offer in thanksgiving for what Life has given us,--that should
be our form of sacrifice. And we should perform it gladly, with
festive, overflowing heart, not with sullen and conscientious face, as
if Life were a usurer.


208

_Our Poverty_

The spiritual poverty of modern life is appalling; and all the more
because men are unconscious of it. Prayer was in former times the
channel whereby a profound current of spiritual life flowed into the
lives of men and enriched them. This source of wealth has now almost
ceased, and Man has become less spiritual, more impoverished. We must
seek a new form of prayer. Better not live at all than live without
reverence and gratitude! Let our sacramental attitude to Life be our
form of prayer. Let us no longer desire to live when that has perished.


209

_Finis_

"To abjure half measures and to live resolutely in the Whole, the Full,
the Beautiful."--GOETHE.

"To try to see in all things necessity as beauty."--NIETZSCHE.

THE END





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "We Moderns - Enigmas and Guesses" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home