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morality is to give to human morality an essentially selfish character, we are almost ready to conclude that Mr. Mill, like Tom Paine, must have penned his criticisms in some remote region where there was no Bible at hand, nor any likelihood of obtaining one; this accusation of selfishness does not deserve a serious refutation, as the Christian system is to any even superficial observer) the most unselfish and benevolent system which could possibly be conceived.
But, beyond all this, supposing all these propositions of Mr. Mill were granted, the oft-repeated inquiry arises, what substitute is there for this morality? Will Atheism provide us a better? As a late writer observes, the only two new forms of religion which the nineteenth century has evolved are Mormonism and the religion of Positivism ; the latter being professedly founded on science; and the adoration connected with it is addressed to collective humanity in the form of woman; the worship of woman, then, the best religion which sceptical scientists have produced, will scarcely bear comparison with Christianity in the light of the nineteenth century. This system, it is true, was the invention of a French philosopher; but he is one whom English freethinkers, and Mr. Mill especially, most reverently quote and admire, although they have up to the present been ashamed practically and professedly to adopt his system; the only difference, then, between the French philosopher before-named and his English successor is, that whilst the former attempts to abolish the Christian religion and substitute the hideous abortion of his own mental aberrations, the latter seems not to know where to turn for a substitute; they are both alike illustrative of the impotence of mere philosophy to satiate the spiritual yearnings of humanity. And if the infidelity of culture, which we have now been considering, be unable to supply this felt want of man's spiritual nature, the lower grade of infidel philosophy, that of ignorance and presumption, which is by far the larger section, will be still further from achieving such a result; for it has ever been the case that the advancement of enlightened criticism, instead of dimming, has rather brightened the glory of Christianity; and the increasing revelation of her inherent beauties is destined to fresh enlargements coeval with the march of the centuries.
there any genuine sense in which a man may be said to create
his own thought-forms ? Allowing that a new combination of forms already existing might be called creation, is the man, after all, the author of this new combination ? Did he, with his will and his knowledge, proceed wittingly, consciously, to construct a form which should embody his thought? Or did this form arise within him without will or effort of his-vivid if not clear-certain if not outlined ? Ruskin (and better authority we do not know) will assert the latter, and we think he is right; though perhaps he would insist more upon the absolute perfection of the vision than we are quite prepared to do. Such embodiments are not the result of the man's intention, or of the operation of his conscious nature. His feeling is that they are given to him ; that from the vast unknown, where time and space are not, they suddenly appear in luminous writing upon the wall of his consciousness. Can it be correct, then, to say that he created them ? Nothing less so, as it seems to us. But, can we not say that they are the creation of the unconscious portion of his nature? Yes, provided we can understand that that which is the individual, the man, can know, and not know that it knows, can create and yet be ignorant that virtue has gone
out of it. From that unknown region we grant they come, but not by its own blind working. Nor, even were it so, could any amount of such production, where no will was concerned, be dignified with the name of creation. But God sits in that chamber of our being in which the candle of our consciousness goes out in darkness, and sends forth from thence wonderful gifts into the light of that understanding which is his candle. Our hope lies in no most perfect mechanism even of the spirit, but in the wisdom wherein we live and move and have our being. Thence we hope for endless forms of beauty informed of truth. If the dark portion of our own being were the origin of our imaginations, we might well fear the apparition of such monsters as would be generated in the sickness of a decay which could never feel-only declarea slow return towards primeval chaos. But the Maker is our light.
One word more, ere we turn to consider the culture of this noblest faculty, which we might well call the creative did we not see a something in God for which we would humbly keep our mighty word : the fact that there is always more in a work of art —which is the highest human result of the embodying imagination --than the producer himself perceived while he produced it, seems to us a strong reason for attributing to it a larger origin than the man alone; for saying at the last, that the inspiration of the Almighty shaped its ends.
We return now to the class which, from the first, we supposed hostile to the imagination and its functions generally. Those belonging to it will now say: "It was to no imagination such as you have been setting forth that we were opposed, but to those wild fancies and vague reveries in which young people indulge, to the damage and loss of the real in the world around them.'
And, we insist, you would rectify the matter by smothering the young monster at once; because he has wings, and, young to their use, Autters them about in a way discomposing to your nerves, and destructive to those notions of propriety of which this creatureyou stop not to inquire whether angel or pterodactyle-bas not yet learned even the existence. Or, if it is only the creature's vagaries of which you disapprove, why speak of them as the exercise of the imagination ? As well speak of religion as the mother of cruelty, because religion has given more occasion of cruelty, as of all dishonesty and devilry, than any other object of human interest. Are we not to worship, because our forefathers burned and stabbed for religion ? It is more religion we want. It is more imagination we need. Be assured that these are but the first vital motions of that whose results, at least in the region of science, you are more than willing to accept. That evil may spring from the imagination, as from everything except the perfect love of God, cannot be denied. But infinitely worse evils would be the result of its absence. Selfishness, avarice, sensuality, cruelty, would flourish tenfold ; and the power of Satan would be well established ere some children had begun to choose. Those who would quell the apparently lawless tossing of the spirit, called the youthful imagination, would suppress all that is to grow out of it. They fear the enthusiasm they never felt; and instead of cherishing this divine thing, instead of giving it room and air for healthful growth, they would crush and confine it, with but one result of their victorious endeavours—imposthume, fever, and corruption. And the disastrous consequences would soon appear in the intellect likewise which they worship. Kill that whence spring the crude fancies and wild day-dreams of the young, and you will never lead them beyond dull facts; dull because their relations to each other, and the one life that works in them all, must remain undiscovered. Whoever would have his children avoid this arid region will do well to allow no teacher to approach them, not even of mathematics, who has no imagination.
“But, although good results may appear in a few from the indulgence of the imagination, how will it be with the many ?”
We answer that the antidote to indulgence is development, not
restraint, and that such is the duty of the wise servant of him who made the imagination.
“But will most girls, for instance, rise to those useful uses of the imagination ? Are they not more likely to exercise it in building castles in the air, to the neglect of houses on the earth ? And as the world affords such poor scope for the ideal, will not this babit breed vain desires and vain regrets? Is it not better, therefore, to keep to that which is known, and leave the rest ? "
“ Is the world so poor," we ask in return. The less reason then to be satisfied with it; the more reason to rise above it, into the region of the true, of the eternal, of things as God thinks them. This outward world is but a passing vision of the persistent true. We shall not live in it always. We are dwellers in a divine universe where no desires are in vain, if only they be large enough. Nor even in this world do all disappointments breed only vain regrets.* And as to keeping to that which is known and leaving the rest; how many affairs of this world are so well-defined, so capable of being clearly understood, as not to leave large spaces of uncertainty, whose very correlate faculty is the imagination ? Indeed, it must, in most things, work after some fashion, filling the gaps after some possible plan, before action can even begin. In very truth, a wise imagination, which is the presence of the spirit of God, is the best guide that man or woman can have; for it is not the things we see the most clearly that influence us the most powerfully ; undefined, yet vivid visions of something beyond, something which
eye has not seen nor ear heard, have far more influence than any logical sequences whereby the same things may be demonstrated to the intellect. It is the nature of the thing, not the clearness of its outline, that determines its operation. We live by faith, and not by sight. Put the question to our mathematicians—only be sure the question reaches them-whether they would part with the well-defined perfection of their diagrams, or the dim, strange, possibly balf-obliterated characters woven in the web of their being; their science, in short, or their poetry ; their certainties, or their hopes; their consciousness of knowledge, or their vague sense of that which cannot be known absolutely : will they hold by their craft or by their inspirations, by their intellects or their imaginations? If they say the former in each alternative I shall yet doubt whether the objects of the choice are actually before them, and with equal presentation.
* “We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind;
What can be known must be known severely; but is there, therefore, no faculty for those infinite lands of uncertainty lying all about the sphere hollowed out of the dark by the glimmering lamp of our knowledge? Are they not the natural property of the imagination ? there, for it, that it may have room to grow? there, that the man may learn to imagine greatly like God who made him, himself discovering their mysteries, in virtue of his following and worshipping imagination ?
All that has been said, then, tends to enforce the culture of the imagination. But the strongest argument of all remains behind. For, if the whole power of pedantry should rise against her, the imagination will yet work; and if not for good, then for evil; if not for truth, then for falsehood ; if not for life, then for death; the evil alternative becoming the more likely from the unnatural treatment she has experienced from those who ought to have fostered her. The power that might have gone forth in conceiving the noblest forms of action, in realizing the lives of the true-hearted, the self-forgetting, will go forth in building airy castles of vain ambition, of boundless riches, of unearned admiration. The imagination that might be devising how to make home blessed, or to help the poor neighbour, will be absorbed in the invention of the new dress, or worse, in devising the means of procuring it. For if she be not occupied with the beautiful, she will be occupied by the pleasant; that which goes not out to worship will remain at home to be sensual. Cultivate the mere intellect as you may, it will never reduce the passions: the imagination, seeking the ideal in everything, will elevate them to their true and noble service. Seek not that your sons and your daughters should not see visions, should not dream dreams; seek that they should see true visions, that they should dream noble dreams. Such out-going of the imagination is one with aspiration, and will do more to elevate above what is low and vile than all possible inculcations of morality. Nor can religion herself ever rise up into her own calm home, her crystal shrine, when one of her wings, one of the twain with which she flies, is thus broken or paralysed.
“The universe is infinitely wide,
In progress towards the fount of love." The danger that lies in the repression of the imagination may be well illustrated from the play of “ Macbeth.' The imagination of the hero (in him a powerful faculty), representing how the deed would appear to others, and so representing its true nature to himself was his great impediment on the path to crime. Nor