THE LOVE OF THE CREATURE
You asked for a loving God: you have one. The great spirit you so lightly invoked, the "lord of terrible aspect", is present: not a senile benevolence that drowsily wishes you to be happy in your own way, not the cold philanthropy of a conscientious magistrate, nor the care of a host who feels responsible for the comfort of his guests, but the consuming fire Himself, the Love that made the worlds, persistent as the artist's love for his work and despotic as a man's love for a dog, provident and venerable as a father's love for a child, jealous, inexorable, exacting as love between the sexes.- C. S. LEWIS: The Problem of Pain.
There is some secret stirring in the world,
A thought that seeks impatiently its word.
THOMAS LOVELL BEDDOES: (Fragment).
It may be objected that the analogy we have been examining derives from the concept of the Platonic archetype, and is therefore unacceptable to those who reject Platonic ideal philosophy. That way of putting it is, however, not quite accurate; in fact, it puts the cart before the horse. To the creative artist (as we have seen) the archetype is not an a priori theory, but an experience. ( Actually, the concept is Augustinian rather than Platonic.) From this experience he draws his analogy direct, and by its means illustrates and gives form to his philosophy, so that the philosophy is seen to derive from the analogy, and not vice versa. If at any points it coincides with Platonic or Christian philosophy, it does so as an independent witness. The experience is, of course, a particular experience-that of the human creator, and it is irrelevant for the analytical and uncreative critic to object to it on the ground that it is not his experience. For other minds, other analogies; but the artist's experience proves that the Trinitarian doctrine of Idea, Energy, Power is, quite literally, what it purports to be: a doctrine of the Creative Mind.
To the human maker, therefore, accustomed to look within himself for the extra-temporal archetype and pattern of his own creative work, it will also be natural to look beyond himself for the external archetype and pattern of his own creative personality-the threefold Person in whose image he is made, as his own work is made in the image of himself.
At this point, however, he encounters certain difficulties which we shall have to consider, if we are not to be led away into undue literalism by our very natural anxiety to make our analogy go on all-fours.
The whole of existence is held to be the work of the Divine Creator-everything that there is, including not only the human maker and his human public, but all other entities "visible and invisible" that may exist outside this universe. Consequently, whereas the human writer obtains his response from other minds, outside and independent of his own, God's response comes only from His own creatures. This is as though a book were written to be read by the characters within it. And further: the universe is not a finished work. Every mind within it is in the position of the audience sitting in the stalls and seeing the play for the first time. Or rather, every one of us is on the stage, performing a part in a play, of which we have not seen either the script or any synopsis of the ensuing acts.
This, it may be remarked, is no unusual situation, even among human actors. It is said of a famous actress (I think it was Mrs. Pritchard, Johnson's "inspired idiot".) - that for many years she played Lady Macbeth with great success, without having the faintest idea what the play was about or how it ended. She had never troubled to read it, and had always left the theatre at the end of the sleep-walking scene without further inquiry as to the fate of the characters. Again, thousands of film actors turn up daily at the studios, play through the shpts in which they figure (sometimes in the right order, more often in the wrong order) and depart again, ignorant whether they are figuring in a tragedy, a comedy or a melodrama, or what was the nature of the injury which caused them to shoot the stockbroker in the fifth reel or cut their own throats in the seventh. The actor on the stage of the universe cannot even go to the nearest cinema and see the result of his work when the sequences have been fitted together, for the film is still in the making. At the most, perhaps, towards the end of his life, he may see a few episodes in which he figured run through in the pages of contemporary history. And from the completed episodes of the past he may gather, if he is intelligent and attentive, some indication of the author's purpose.
There is one episode in particular to which Christianity draws his attention. The leading part in this was played, it is alleged, by the Author, who presents it as a brief epitome of the plan of the whole work. If we ask, "What kind of play is this that we are acting?" the answer put forward is: "Well, it is this kind of play." And examining the plot of it, we observe at once that if anybody in this play has his feelings spared, it is certainly not the Author.
This is perhaps what we should expect when we consider that a work of creation is a work of love, and that love is the most ruthless of all the passions, sparing neither itself, nor its object, nor the obstacles that stand in its way. The word "love" is by now so over-weighted with associations, from the most trifling to the most tremendous, that it is difficult to use it so as to convey a precise meaning to the reader; but here again the analogy we have chosen may be of some service.
Two popular interpretations of the word we can dismiss at once: the creator's love for his work is not a greedy possessiveness; he never desires to subdue his work to himself but always to subdue himself to his work. The more genuinely creative he is, the more he will want his work to develop in accordance with its own nature, and to stand independent of himself. Well-meaning readers who try to identify the writer with his characters or to excavate the author's personality and opinions from his books are frequently astonished by the ferocious rudeness with which the author himself salutes these efforts at reabsorbing his work into himself. They are an assault upon the independence of his creatures, which he very properly resents. Painful misunderstandings of this kind may rive the foundations of social intercourse, and produce explosions which seem quite out of proportion to their apparent causes.
"I have ordered old brandy; I know you adore old brandy."
"What makes you think so?"
"Oh, I have read your books: I know Lord Peter is a great connoisseur of old brandy."
"He is; that needn't mean that I am."
"Oh! I thought you must be, as he is."
"What on earth have my tastes to do with his?"
It is quite possible that the author does like old brandy (though in this particular instance it happens not to agree with her). But what is intolerable is that the created being should be thus violently stripped of its own precious personality. The violence is none the less odious to the creator, for the ingratiating smirk with which it is offered. Nor is the offence any more excusable when it takes the form of endowing the creature with qualities, however amiable, which run contrary to the law of its being:
"I am sure Lord Peter will end up as a convinced Christian."
"From what I know of him, nothing is more unlikely."
"But as a Christian yourself, you must want him to be one."
"He would be horribly embarrassed by any such suggestion."
"But he's far too intelligent and far too nice, not to be a Christian."
"My dear lady, Peter is not the Ideal Man; he is an eighteenth-century Whig gentleman, born a little out of his time, and doubtful whether any claim to possess a soul is not a rather vulgar piece of presumption."
"I am disappointed."
"I'm afraid I can't help that."
(No; you shall not impose either your will or mine upon my creature. He is what he is, I will work no irrelevant miracles upon him, either for propaganda, or to curry favour, or to establish the consistency of my own principles. He exists in his own right and not to please you. Hands off.)
Sometimes the suggestion to use force is accompanied by obliging offers of assistance. (Incidentally this type of petition must be extremely familiar to God Almighty.) Thus:
"Couldn't you make Lord Peter go to the Antarctic and investigate a
murder on an exploring expedition?"
"Now, from what you know of him, can you imagine his being inveigled into an Antarctic expedition, under any conceivable circumstances?"
"But it would be a new background-I could give you lots of authentic material."
"Thank you, you are very kind." (Get to Gehenna out of this and write up your own confounded material. Leave my creature alone-I will not "make" him do anything.)
It will be seen that, although the writer's love is verily a jealous love, it is a jealousy for and not of his creatures. He will tolerate no interference either with them or between them and himself. But he does not desire that the creature's identity should be merged in his own, nor that his miraculous power should be invoked to wrest the creature from its proper nature. (See Note "A" at end of chapter.)
And if creative love is not possessive, neither is it sentimental. Writers have, admittedly, been sentimental over their creatures from time to time, but never without loss of creative power. The weakness that "interposed the glove of warning and the tear of sensibility between us and the proper ending of Great Expectations" is a black crime against the creature. (G. K. Chesterton: The Victorian Age in Literature.) By not being permitted to suffer loss within their own microcosm, Pip and Estella have suffered irretrievable loss in the macrocosm; the sentimentality that distorted their true natures to give them an artificial happiness was no act of creative love. Bulwer Lytton was the negating spirit that persuaded the god of their little universe to let the cup pass from them-the alteration would, he suggested, make the story "more acceptable". But critical judgment has never accepted the falsification: the devil's gold turned to dust and dead leaves almost in the moment of purchase; it profits a book nothing to gain the whole circulating library, and lose its own soul.
When the story is by its nature a tragedy, then it is abundantly true that "each man kills the thing he loves", and that there are two ways of doing it. The cowardly writer, afraid to face the consequences for himself and his creation of the nature that he has created, "does it with a kiss"-by his kindness, that is, to his creatures, he will slobber away the whole situation, and so kill the work stone dead. "The brave man, with a sword", will execute judgment upon his creatures, and so slay them to preserve the life and power of the work. If, by this integrity, he incidentally alienates his readers and diminishes his immediate cash returns, his sacrifice is sure proof that he genuinely loves his creation. ( An unwise tenderness towards the created characters of fiction is, of course, only one of the forms which the writer's sentimentality may take. The tenderness may be poured out upon words or paragraphs of the book itself, so that the author becomes incapable of that firm massacre of unnecessary purple passages which is known to the literary trade as "murdering one's darlings". The waste-paper baskets of the world are stuffed with unpruned works whose creators suffered from this brand of sentimentality. (I have known a young woman who, in a similar spirit, could not bring herself to trim her "holiday snaps" so as to make them into well-balanced pictures; she protested that she "just couldn't bear" to sacrifice so much as a strip of blank sky or the out-of-focus intrusion of Uncle Bertie's boot from these creative efforts). The tenderness which prompts the biographer to exhibit his subject as a dreary paragon of all the virtues is another, slightly more complicated, version of the sentimental treatment of an imagined hero.)
"Sacrifice" is another word liable to misunderstanding. It is generally held to be noble and loving in proportion as its sacrificial nature.. is consciously felt by the person who is sacrificing himself. The direct contrary is the truth. To feel sacrifice consciously as self-sacrifice argues a failure in love. When a job is undertaken from necessity, or from a grim sense of disagreeable duty, the worker is self-consciously aware of the toils and pains he undergoes, and will say: "I have made such and such sacrifices for this." But when the job is a labour of love, the sacrifices will present themselves to the worker-strange as it may seem-in the guise of enjoyment. Moralists, looking on at this, will always judge that the former kind of sacrifice is more admirable than the latter, because the moralist, whatever he may pretend, has far more respect for pride than for love. The Puritan assumption that all action disagreeable to the doer is ipso facto more meritorious than enjoyable action is firmly rooted in this exaggerated valuation set on pride. I do not mean that there is no nobility in doing unpleasant things from a sense of duty, but only that there is more nobility in doing them gladly out of sheer love of the job. The Puritan thinks otherwise; he is inclined to say, "Of -course So-and-so works very hard and has given up a good deal for such -and-such a cause, but there's no merit in that-he enjoys it." The merit, of course, lies precisely in the enjoyment, and the nobility of So-and-so consists in the very fact that he is the kind of person to whom the doing of that piece of work is delightful. So Spencer;
For some so goodly gratious are by kind,
That every action doth them much commend,
And in the eyes of men great liking find,
Which others that have greater skill in mind,
Though they enforce themselves, cannot attainae;
For everything to which one is enclin'd
Doth best become and greatest grace doth gains:
Yet praise likewise deserve good thewes enforsst with paine.
Faery Queene: VI. 11, 2.
It is because, behind the restrictions of the moral code, we instinctively recognise the greater validity of the law of nature, that we do always in our heart of hearts prefer the children of grace to the children of legality. We recognise a false ring in the demanding voice which proclaims: "I have sacrificed the best years of my life to my profession (my family, my country, or whatever it may be), and have a right to expect some return." The code compels us to admit the claim, but there is something in the expression of it that repels us. Conversely, however, the children of legality are shocked by the resolute refusal of the children of light to insist on this kind of claim and-still more disconcertingly-by their angry assertion of love's right to self-sacrifice. Those, for example, who obligingly inform creative artists of methods by which (with a little corrupting of their creative purpose) they could make more money, are often very excusably shocked by the fury with which they are sent about their business. Indeed, creative love has its darker aspects, and will sacrifice, not only itself, but others to its overmastering ends. Somerset Maugham, in The Moon and Sixpence, has given convincing expression to these dark fires of the artist's devouring passion; and the meaning of the story is lost unless we recognise that Strickland's terrible sacrifices, suffered and exacted, are the assertion of a love so tremendous that it has passed beyond even the desire of happiness. A passion of this temper does not resign itself to sacrifice, but embraces it, and sweeps the world up in the same embrace. It is not without reason that we feel a certain uneasy suspicion of that inert phrase, "Christian resignation"; an inner voice reminds us that the Christian God is Love, and that love and resignation can find no common ground to stand on. So much the human creator can tell us, if we like to listen to him. Our confusion on the subject is caused by a dissipation and eclecticism in our associations with the word "love". We connect it too exclusively with the sexual and material passions, whose anti-passion is possessiveness, and with indulgent affection, whose anti-passion is sentimentality. Concentrated, and freed from its anti-passions, love is the Energy of creation:
In the juvescence of the year
Came Christ the tiger-
a disturbing thought. ( T. S. Eliot: Gerontion)
Tiger, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry? ...
And what shoulder and what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? and what dread feet? ...
When the stars threw down their spears,
And water'd heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee? ( William Blake: Songs of Experience.)
To that question, the creative artist returns an unqualified Yes, exciting thereby consternation, and the hasty passing of resolutions by the guardians of the moral code that artists are dangerous people and a subversive element in the state.
And the kings of the earth, and the great men and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand? (Revelation of St. John vi. 16, 17.)
Who indeed? Neither resistance nor resignation will do anything here. To Love-in-Energy, the only effective response is Love-in-Power, eagerly embracing its own sacrifice. In other words, the perfect work of love demands the co-operation of the creature, responding according to the law of its nature.
For the artist who handles inanimate matter, this co-operation is secured without the creature's self-consciousness or will, so long as the creator has rightly conceived the work in relation to the nature of his material. Inanimate matter, left to itself, tends to fall into randomness along the lines of least resistance, and this tendency determines its natural structure. It is the artist's business to see that this movement of the natural structure co-operates with the structure of his work. The structure of sand does not, for example, adapt itself to the making of ropes, and the folly of the artist who attempts any such unto-operative scheme has passed into a proverb. Certain kinds of sand will, however, readily adapt themselves to the making of glass, though at the sacrifice of their original structure. With living, though unconscious, matter, the creator must still adapt the work to the material, though here he experiences something that can without undue anthropomorphism be called a "response"; plants "respond" to cultivation and cross-fertilization in a sense rather different from that in which iron may be said to "respond" to hammering. Animal matter, again, "responds" upon a rising scale of consciousness, until, with domesticated beasts, we approach very nearly to full self-conscious co-operation. In the relations of man with man, the co-operation contains the highest proportion of self-consciousness.
That no human maker can create a self-conscious being, we have already seen; and seen also that he is always urged by an inward hankering to do so, finding approximate satisfactions for this desire in procreation, in such relations as those of a playwright with his actors, and in the creation of imaginary characters. In all these relations, he is conscious of the same paradoxical neednamely, the complete independence of the creature combined with its willing co-operation in his purpose in conformity with the law of its nature. In this insistent need he sees the image of the perfect relation of Creator and creature, and the perfect reconciliation of divine predestination with free created will.
In the creature also, he recognises a division and a paradox. He is aware at once of its insistent urge to become manifest, and also, at the same time, a resistance to creation and a tendency to fall back into the randomness of negation. It is this resistance that Berdyaev calls the "dark meonic freedom"-the impulse to chaos. It is bound up with the natural law of matter, which is a law of increasing randomness as time goes on. From this point of view, there is some justification for connecting the evil and negative principle with the material part of the universe. But if matter and randomness are inextricably connected, so also are matter and life; we do not know life within the universe, except in association with matter, and the natural tendency of living matter is away from randomness and towards complexity and order. Sir James Jeans has pessimistically expressed the situation:
If the inanimate universe moves in the direction we suppose,
biological evolution moves like a sailor who runs up the rigging in a sinking ship." (Sir James Jeans: Eos.)
The struggle between order and chaos is thus not peculiar to the nature of man; it is found in all life, and perhaps even in all matter, since matter (whether or not it is capable of actually producing life) certainly provides the only known medium for the manifestation of life. This clash and paradox lies at the base of the Doctrine of the Fall, which by some ancient writers was held to be a fall of the whole material universe, though by others, the fall is held to consist in man's ranging of his self-conscious will on the side of the chaotic as against the orderly, of destruction as against life. Inside the time-scheme, there appears to be no possible solution for the antinomy; the synthesis belongs to an eternity which is outside time altogether. This, our analogy would lead us to expect, since all the difficulties and oppositions of a work of creation belong precisely to the effort to make it manifest in material form and in the time-sequence.
The resistance to creation which the writer encounters in his creature is sufficiently evident, both to himself and to others-particularly to those others who have the misfortune to live with him during the period when his Energy is engaged on a job of work. The human maker is, indeed, almost excessively vocal about the perplexities and agonies of creation and the intractability of his material. Almost equally evident, however, though perhaps less readily explained or described, is the creature's violent urge to be created. To the outsider, the spectacle of a writer "taken ill with an idea" usually presents itself as a subject for unseemly mirth; the "Spring poet" is the perennial butt of the plain man, just as, on the stage, any reference to child-birth is a signal for hoots of merriment, especially from the male members of the audience. In both cases, the ridicule is largely defensive-the nervous protest of the negative and chaotic against the mysterious and terrible energy of the creative. But that a work of creation struggles and insistently demands to be brought into being is a fact that no genuine artist would think of denying. Often, the demand may impose itself in defiance of the author's considered interests and at the most inconvenient moments. Publisher, bank-balance, and even the conscious intellect may argue that the writer should pursue some fruitful and established undertaking; but they will argue in vain against the passionate vitality of a work that insists on manifestation. The strength of the insistence will vary from something that looks like direct inspiration to something that resembles a mere whim of the wandering mind; but whenever the creature's desire of existence is dominant, everything else will have to give way to it; the writer will push all other calls aside and get down to his task in a spirit of mingled delight and exasperation. Because of this, the artist ought, above all men, to be chary of basing his philosophy of life on the assumption that "we are brought into this world by no choice of our own". That may be so, but he has no means of proving it, and the analogy of his own creative experience offers evidence to the contrary. He knows very well that he, in his work, is for ever ground between the upper and nether millstones of the universal paradox. His creature simultaneously demands manifestation in space-time and stubbornly opposes it; the will . of his universe is to life as implacably as it is to chaos. (It is, of course, irrelevant to object that this "creature" struggling towards manifestation is "really" only a part of the maker's own ego. All creatures are a part of the Maker's mind, and have no independent existence till they attain partial independence by manifestation.)
But there is this difference: that for the satisfaction of its will to life it depends utterly upon the sustained and perpetually renewed will to creation of its maker. The work can live and grow on the sole condition of the maker's untiring energy; to satisfy its will to die, he has only to stop working. In him it lives and moves and has its being, and it may say to him with literal truth, "thou art my life, if thou withdraw, I die". If the unself-conscious creature could be moved to worship, its thanks and praise would be due, not so much for any incidents of its structure, but primarily for its being and its identity. It would not, if it were wise, petition its maker to wrest its own nature out of truth on any pretext at all, since (as we have seen) any violence of this kind serves only to diminish its vitality and destroy its identity. Still less would it desire him to subdue his own will or alter his purpose in the writing, since any such deviation from the Idea will disintegrate the work and send the fragments sliding the random way to chaos. If it possessed will and consciousness, it could achieve life and individual integrity only by co-operating with the Energy to interpret the Idea in Power.
The human maker, working in unself-conscious matter, receives no worship from his creatures, since their will is no part of his material; he can only receive the response of their nature, and he is alone in fault if that response is not forthcoming. If he tortures his material, if the stone looks unhappy when he has wrought it into a pattern alien to its own nature, if his writing is an abuse of language, his music a succession of unmeaning intervals, the helpless discomfort of his material universe is a reproach to him alone; similarly, if he respects and interprets the integrity of his material, the seemliness of the ordered work proclaims his praise, and his only, without will, but in a passive beauty of right structure. If he works with plants, with animals or with men, the co-operative will of the material takes part in the work in an ascending scale of conscious response and personal readiness to do him honour. But a perfect identity of conscious will between himself and the creature can never be attained; identity is in fact attained in inverse ratio to the consciousness of the creature. A perfect identity of the creature with its creator's will is possible only when the creature is unself-conscious: that is, when it is an externalisation of something that is wholly controlled by the maker's mind. But even this limited perfection is not attainable by the human artist, since he is himself a part of his own material. So far as his particular piece of work is concerned, he is Godlike-immanent and transcendent; but his work and himself both form part of the universe, and he cannot transcend the universe. All his efforts and desires reach out to that ideal creative archetype in whose unapproachable image he feels himself to be made, which can make a universe filled with free, conscious and co-operative wills; a part of his own personality and yet existing independently within the mind of the maker.
NOTE "A"-Independence of the Creature.
It is here that we reach the great watershed that divides Imagination from Fantasy-activities often confused by psychologists. "The subject," they say, "invents things about himself"; as though there were but one kind of invention. In fact, the two things have almost nothing in common, except that the personality is the raw material of both. They can exist side by side in the same man, or the same child, and are distinguished by him immediately and infallibly.
Fantasy works inwards upon its author, blurring the boundary between the visioned and the actual, and associating itself ever more closely with the Ego, so that the child who has fantasied himself a murderer ends by becoming a Loeb or a Leopold. The creative Imagination works outwards, steadily increasing the gap between the visioned and the actual, till this becomes the great gulf fixed between art and nature. Few writers of crime-stories become murderers-if any do, it is not as a result of identifying themselves with their murderous heroes. Detective novelists do not even fancy themselves much as investigators in real life, though newspaper editors delude themselves that they do, and make the author's life a burden by urging him to propound his own solution of the latest Trunk Murder or undertake wearisome railway journeys to report the current Torso Mystery on the spot.
It is hard to persuade psychologists that this distinction between Imagination and Fantasy is fundamental-chiefly because of their rooted refusal to receive the writer's testimony in his own behalf. It is as though they insisted on assuring a gourmet that there was no real difference between assafoetida and Lafitte, and that any distinction made by his palate was a mere rationalisation of some accidental collision with assafoetida in his infancy. It is, of course, undeniable that, when analysis is carried to the final stage, assafoetida and Lafitte, together with the moon and green cheese, can be resolved into the same atomic components, only rather differently arranged. The same thing may be said of Imagination and Fantasy: the personality is the raw material of both; the only difference is in what becomes of it. The stronger the creative impulse, the more powerful is the urge away from any identification of the Ego with the created character.
Creative Imagination is thus the foe and antidote to fantasy -a truth recognised by psychologists in practice, but frequently obscured in their writings by a muddled use of the two terms as though they were interchangeable. Evidence of a habit of fantasy in a child is no proof of creative impulse: on the contrary. The child who relates his fantasied adventures as though they were fact is about as far removed from creativeness as he can possibly be; these dreamy little liars grow up (if into nothing worse) into the feeble little half-baked poets who are the irritation and despair of the true makers. The child who is creative tells himself stories, as they do, but objectively; these usually centre about some hero of tale or history, and are never confused in his mind with the ordinary day-dreams in which he sees himself riding rough-shod over the grown-ups or rescuing beloved prefects from burning buildings. Even if he does dramatise himself, and make "the bard the hero of the story", this is pure dramatisation, and can be carried on parallel with his consciousness of real life, without ever at any point meeting it. It is not that the one kind of fancy develops into the other; they are completely and consciously independent. Accordingly, the first literary efforts of the genuinely creative commonly deal, in a highly imitative manner, with subjects of which the infant author knows absolutely nothing, such as piracy, submarines, snake-infested swamps, or the love-affairs of romantic noblemen. The well - meant exhortations of parents and teachers to "write about something you really know about" should be (and will be) firmly ignored by the young creator as yet another instance of the hopeless stupidity of the adult mind. Later in life, and with increased practice in creation, the drive outward becomes so strong that the writer's whole personal experience can be seen by him objectively as the material for his work.
I am not arguing with the authorities about this; I am telling them, because it is a thing that they often find very foxing. The child who dresses up as Napoleon, and goes about demanding the respect due to Napoleon, is not necessarily a little paranoiac with a Napoleon-fixation; he is just as likely to he an actor.
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