Then came, at a predetermined moment, a moment in time and out of time,

A moment not out of time, but in time, in what we call history; transecting, bisecting the world of time, a moment in time but not like a moment of time,
A moment in time but time was made through that moment: for without the meaning there is no time, and that moment of time gave the meaning.
-T. S. ELIOT: The Rock.

The mind of the maker is generally revealed, and in a manner incarnate, in all its creation. The works, severally and jointly, are manifestations within space-time of the Energy and instinct with the Power of the Idea. Thus the Spirit of God brooded upon the face of the primeval waters and (says St. Irenaeus) "was present from everlasting with the race of men". The personality of the creator is expressed partially, piecemeal, and as it were impersonally or through created persons.

Christian doctrine further affirms that the Mind of the Maker was also incarnate personally and uniquely. Examining our analogy for something to which this may correspond, we may say that God wrote His own autobiography.

Clearly, we cannot press this analogy too far. But we may use it-as we have used all our analogies so far -to assist us in finding out what is meant by some of the more dark and difficult expressions used about this doctrine.

The Idea; in this connection, will be the full personality of the writer, and the Power will be the power of that personality. The Energy (in its discarnate aspect) will be his complete self-awareness of his own personality. This is of course a condition which no human writer can possibly fulfil, but for our purposes we shall have to suppose it, as we suppose the ideal parent and the ideal creative imagination. The Energy, being thus aware of the Idea of itself, manifests its Power in material form: that is to say, it creates for itself an intellectual form and material body.

The first thing we have to notice about this is that the body is created exactly like all the rest of the author's creations and suffers exactly the same limitations. The autobiography is a book like any other; all the ordinary rules of composition apply to it. It is unique, because the author appears, personally and without disguise, as a character in his own story; but it is still a story that he is writing, and he is obliged to handle his own character as a character throughout the succession of events. To himself, the character partakes of the eternal wholeness of his own personal awareness, but to the other characters and the reader it is presented within the space-time-matter frame of the book itself. It is the creator of that frame, since it arranges the formal presentation of the subject-matter, and at the same time it is completely submissive to the frame it has created. It appears with a double nature, "divine and human"; the whole story is contained within the mind of its maker, but the mind of the maker is also imprisoned within the story and cannot escape from it. It is "altogether God", in that it is sole arbiter of the form the story is to take, and yet "altogether man", in that, having created the form, it is bound to display itself in conformity with the nature of that form. (I do not, of course, suggest that the writer can create the spacetime-matter events of his own life-history. The creative power of the human maker is, as we have seen, limited to the creation of significant form and of immaterial entities. It is within this framework of form and imagination that the autobiographical "I" has to conform with the law of its creation.)

A second point to notice is" this: that the autobiography is at one and the same time a single element in the series of the writer's created works and an interpretation of the whole series. If we want (as so many of us do) to find out what the writer "means" by his writings, we shall undoubtedly get some light on the matter by reading his personal revelation of himself. If it is a good autobiography (and by hypothesis we are discussing the perfect autobiography) it, will reveal to us the relation of all the other books to their author's Idea of himself, whether in likeness or unlikeness. It will do so, not only for the books written earlier, and not only in relation to the manifestation in time of the writer's Energy, but also in relation to the timeless Idea that is his personality. We shall be able to trace both his development in his life and works, and also the permanent identity of himself which transcends his development and which constitutes the thing we call his "persona". The exact place and moment, within the series of his works, for the appearance of the autobiography is selected at will by the writer, for reasons which he may or may not choose to explain; but at whatever point it comes, the revelation is valid, both for the past and for the future.

The personal revelation is unique: a writer cannot give us two autobiographies-that is, he cannot display himself as two persons with two different lives; any further revelations will be by the way of imaginative creation. Nor, since all human minds are bound by the ,conditions of humanity, can he very well reveal himself except under human form. If he could do so, the revelation would be of little interest to his readers, since they would not be able to understand it. There is, of course, no reason why an infinite Mind should not reveal itself in an infinite number of forms, each being subject to the nature of that particular form. It was said, sneeringly, by someone that if a clam could conceive of God, it would conceive of Him in the shape of a great, big clam. Naturally. And if God has revealed Himself to clams, it could only be under conditions of perfect clamhood, since any other manifestation would be wholly irrelevant to clam nature. By incarnation, the creator says in effect: "See! this is what my eternal Idea looks like in terms of my own creation; this is my manhood, this is my clamhood, this is my characterhood in a volume of created characters."

Thirdly: though the autobiography "is" the author in a sense in which his other works are not, it can never be the whole of the author. It is still a formal expression and bound by the limitations of all material form, so that though it is a true revelation it is only a partial revelation: it incorporates only so much of the mind as matter is capable of containing. Its incompleteness is not due to any imperfection in the mind; it is simply and solely due to the necessary limitations of literary form. Theologically, the Word is said to be "equal to the Father as touching His Godhead and inferior to the Father as touching His manhood"-which may be translated into the language of our analogy: "Equal to the Idea as touching its essence and inferior to the Idea as touching its expression." It is inferior, not only in the sense that it is limited by form as the Idea is not, but also in the sense that its form is creaturely and therefore subject to the Idea-"I do the will of My Father." This does not mean that the revelation is not perfect; it is, as the phrase goes, "perfect of its kind"; but the kind itself is capable only of so much and no more.

There is a fourth point about the writing of autobiography which may be meditated on with profit (and some uneasiness) by the human creator. Like the creation of imagined character, but in a much higher degree, it is an infallible self-betrayal. The truth about the writer's personality will out, in spite of itself; any illusions which he may entertain about himself become fearfully apparent the moment he begins to handle himself as a created character, subject to the nature of his own art. As in every other work of creation, insincerity issues in false art. Here again, I do not refer to those candid confessions of his own faults which the human writer (if he is honest) will make part of the created character; they are a part of his Idea, and therefore part of the perfection of the autobiography-they are "good" in art. (Moral "goodness" is a different matter.) When, for example, Benvenuto Cellini delightedly lays bare his own rogueries, we acknowledge the perfect "rightness" of his self-expression. If, however, the author either consciously or unconsciously tries to incarnate himself as something other than what he is, there will be a falseness in the artistic expression corresponding to the false relation between Energy and Idea, and the result, as always, will be a failure of Power. This, in Art, is the unalterable law of kind, from which the artist can by no means escape; the truth of what he says about himself is tested by the truth of the form in which he says it. By its truth-not by its elegance or accomplishment, though the more accomplished the form the more readily will it betray its own lack of truth. It will show itself untrue, not in the moral sense of telling lies, but in the structural sense, which is what the builder means by saying that a line is "out of true".

For this reason, no considerations of false reverence should prevent us from subjecting the incarnations of creators to the severest tests of examination. It is right that they should be pulled about and subjected to the most searching kind of inquiry. If the structure is truly knit, it will stand any strain, and prove its truth by its toughness. Pious worshippers, whether of mortal or immortal artists, do their deities little honour by treating their incarnations as something too sacred for rough handling; they only succeed in betraying a fear lest the structure should prove flimsy or false. But the writing of autobiography is a dangerous business; it is a mark either of great insensitiveness to danger or of an almost supernatural courage. Nobody but a god can pass unscathed through the searching ordeal of incarnation.

Chapter 5 Table of Contents Chapter 7