THE ENERGY REVEALED IN CREATION
We behold, then, by the sight of the mind, in that eternal truth from which all things temporal are made, the form according to which we are, and according to which we do anything by true and right reason, either in ourselves, or in things corporeal; and we have the true knowledge of things, thence conceived, as it were as a word within us, and by speaking we beget it from within; nor by being born does it depart from us. And when we speak to others, we apply to the word, remaining within us, the ministry of the voice or of some bodily sign, that by some kind of sensible remembrance some similar thing may be wrought also in the mind of him that hears,-similar, I say, to that which does not depart from the mind of him that speaks.... And this word is conceived by love, either of the creature or of the Creator, that is, either of changeable nature or of unchangeable truth.-ST. AUGUSTINE: On the Trinity.
As soon as the mind of the maker has been made manifest in a work, a way of communication is established between other minds and his. That is to say, it is possible for a reader, by reading a book, to discover something about the mind of the writer. And it is interesting to see how, in a minor way, the same difficulties and misunderstandings which are encountered in establishing communication with God crop up in the apparently much simpler matter of communication between writer and reader. The chief riddle that perplexes the common man is that paradox which theologians formulate in the statement that "God is both immanent and transcendent". Is it true, as the Pantheists assert, that the creator is simply the sum of all his works, or, on the other hand, is he something entirely detached from the work he has made and so unknowable in himself that the work provides us with no clue to his personality?
If we put the question like this and apply it analogically to a writer, most people will readily agree that both hypotheses are obviously false. We cannot put our hand on the fat volume containing Shakespeare's Plays and say that this is all there ever was, is, or will be of William Shakespeare. Quite apart from the private activities of Shakespeare, we know very well that his mind must have contained the stuff of many more potential plays, which presumably remained within the heaven of his imagination and were never made manifest in a written work. The mind of Shakespeare, we shall readily admit, transcends his work-transcends, that is, his whole work, not merely any one play or any one character in that play.
The suggestion that it does not seems (when we look at it that way) ridiculous.
And yet, in practice, we are continually tempted to confine the mind of the writer to its expression within his creation, particularly if it suits our purpose to do so. We try to identify him with this or that part of his works, as though it contained his whole mind. We do this, most notoriously and most absurdly, with playwrights. Hamlet, we say, "is" Shakespeare himself. Or we remark: "As Shakespeare says,
"The evil that men do lives after them,
The good is oft interred with their bones"-
quite regardless of the fact that this remark was not made by Shakespeare personally, but put by him into the mouth of a man making a political speech. The accusation of unwarrantable optimism, deaf and blind to the world's suffering, is brought against Browning largely on the strength of
"God's in His Heaven,
All's right with the world"
the song sung by Pippa in a dramatic poem which deals fairly drastically with adultery, treachery, conspiracy to murder and other such unamiable aspects of human society.
We are rather eclectic about these identifications. We seldom bolster up our worst designs with the observation: "As Milton says, `Evil, be thou my good'," or conclude that because Shakespeare created Iago, therefore he "was" Iago. But we do incline to suppose that a writer can be somehow cabined, cribbed, confined inside one of his "favourite" characters or one of his more impassioned utterances.
The reader is, of course, right thus far: that a writer cannot create a character or express a thought or emotion which is not within his own mind. (It will be remembered that we are dealing with an ideal writer; it is always possible for a man to put on paper sentiments and characteristics that are not sincere expressions of himself but merely derivative. Even then, though the manufactured stereotype betrays itself by its falsity, it remains a true expression of an intrinsic spiritual falsity within the writer). Shakespeare is lago as well as Othello; he can. create the one as well as the other, because each is to some extent an expression of himself.
Actually (for those who are interested in the machinery of verbal creation) what happens in the writer's mind is something like this. When making a character he in a manner separates and incarnates a part of his own living mind. He recognises in himself a powerful emotionlet us say, jealousy. His activity then takes this form: Supposing this emotion were to become so strong as to dominate my whole personality, how should I feel and how should I behave? In imagination he becomes the jealous person and thinks and feels within that frame of experience, so that the jealousy of Othello is the true creative expression of the jealousy of Shakespeare. He follows out, in fact, the detective system employed by Chesterton's "Father Brown":
"I mean that I really did see myself, and my real self, committing the murders.... I mean that I thought and thought about how a man might come to be like that, until I realised that I really was like that, in everything except actual final consent to the action."(G. K. Chesterton: The Secret of Father Brown.)
In this sense, therefore, Shakespeare "is" Othello; but we must allow that he "is", in the same sense, Coriolanus and lago, Lear and Cordelia and every other character in his plays, from Hamlet down to Caliban. Or perhaps it would be more in accordance with reality to say that all these characters "are" Shakespeare- externalisations of some part of the writer's self and self-experience.
It is also true, as the reader's critical faculty recognises, that the writer has "favourite" characters, which seem to embody more of or more important parts of his personality than the rest. These are, as it were, the saints and prophets of his art, who speak by inspiration. The creative act is here one of extreme delicacy, and in studying it we gain a kind of illumination upon the variety and inconclusiveness of the world about us. For if a character becomes merely a mouthpiece of the author, he ceases to be a character, and is no longer a living creation. Still more, if all the characters speak with their author's voice, the whole work loses its reality, and with it, its power. We sometimes complain, for example, that "all Oscar Wilde's characters talk like Oscar Wilde", and in saying so we know that we are uttering a condemnation of the work and accusing it of a kind of shallowness or brittleness which damages its claim to be a real act of creative power. This is not wholly because of a certain shallowness and brittleness in the mind of Wilde - we should feel exactly the same about a work in which all the characters spoke like the Prophet Isaiah. The vital power of an imaginative work demands a diversity within its unity; and the stronger the diversity, the more massive the unity. Incidentally, this is the weakness of most "edifying" or "propaganda" literature. There is no diversity. The Energy is active only in one part of the whole, and in consequence the wholeness is destroyed and the Power diminished. You cannot, in fact, give God His due without giving the devil his due also. This strange paradox is bound up with the problem of free will among the characters, to which we shall return later. At the moment we will merely note the fact that a creative work in which all the characters automatically reproduce a single aspect of the writer's mind is a work lacking in creative power. We may also consider the bearing of this fact on the concept of a Utopia, and on the question why, if there had to be a universe, it could not be one which automatically fulfilled the will of its Maker.
The writer, then, if-under the conditions we know - he is to perform an act of power in creation, must allow his Energy to enter with an equal fullness into all his creatures, whatever portions of his personality they emphasise and embody. Not only must his sensitiveness find energetic expression in Hamlet; his insensitiveness must also enter energetically into Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. We all have moments when we desire to take refuge in convention and stand well with every man, and those moments, if the writer will actively embody them in created form, will issue in a true creation-brief and trifling, perhaps, but instinct with power. This is the writer's necessity, no matter what he is writing, and whether his diversity is expressed in the creation of character or merely in the creation of an impersonal argument.
The writer himself becomes intensely conscious of this necessity when, after some years spent in other kinds of writing, he attempts to write for the stage. In writing a novel, for example, it is only too easy for him to neglect this process of self-expression where minor characters are concerned. Let us say that the situation calls for a dialogue among four or five persons. It is probable "that the central character will, so far as he goes, represent a true act of creation: the author will have "entered into him", and his words will be a lively expression of his creator's emotion and experience. But some or all of the other personages may be mere dummies, whose only function is to return the verbal ball to the chief speaker's hand. In that case, the creative act is a failure, so far as they are concerned; in them, the Energy is not incarnate; they do not, as we say "come to life", and as a result of the failure of the Energy to create, no Power flows out upon or from them. The reader and indeed the writer himself, may not notice this very much in reading a novel; but in writing for the stage the failure becomes very apparent, because the actors who have to play the minor parts become instantly aware that the "characters" are not there for them to play. The Energy has not entered into the lines and in consequence, no Power communicates itself to the interpreters. If such a devitalised character is represented in the theatre, any Power that flows from it to the audience can then only issue from the Energy of the actor himself, "creating" the part as well as he may, in accordance with such Idea as he may have been able to find within the resources of his own mind.
The good playwright with dramatic sense-one, that is, who understands the necessity of informing all his characters with his proper vitality-goes through a very curious experience when writing dialogue. He feels within himself a continual shifting of his Energy from the one character to the other as he writes. He is usually (I think) aware of the stage itself in his imagination; by an act of mental vision he disposes his characters upon it, and his centre of consciousness ' shifts as he goes, so that in writing down John's lines he seems to view the stage from John's point of view, while in writing Mary's reply he views it from Mary's point of view. At the same time, he knows quite well that his responsive Power is sitting, so to speak, in the stalls, watching the whole scene from the spectator's point of view, and he is also dimly conscious of the original and controlling Idea, which does not take the stage into account at all, but accepts or rejects every word according to some eternal scheme of values that is concerned only with the reality of all experience.
It is extremely difficult to make this trinity of awareness and this manifold incarnation of activity clear to those who have not experienced it; but if I have succeeded in interpreting the mind of the maker at all, the reader will see how impossible it is to say that the author is fully expressed in any speech, character, or single work of his. One must first put all these together and relate them to a great synthesis of all the work, which will be found to possess a unity of its own, to which every separate work is ultimately related. If we stop here, we have arrived at a pantheistic doctrine of the creative mind. But beyond that, the sum of all the work is related to the mind itself, which made it, controls it, and relates it to its own creative personality. The mind is not the sum of its works, though it includes them all. Though it produced the works one after the other, we cannot say that it is each of these works in turn. Before it made them, it included them all, potentially, and having finished them, it still includes them. It is both immanent in them and transcendent.
It will not, however, do to go further and say that the works themselves have no reality apart from the author's mind. Although his personality includes them all, and although there is nothing in them that is not also in him, yet, as soon as they are expressed in material form they have a separate reality for us. And not only a material reality-that is, we are aware of them not merely as a certain weight and outline of printed paper, but as individualities, exercising as much influence upon us as our own individualities exercise on one another. We can be aware of them without any direct awareness of the author: to put it crudely, we may, and do, know the Iliad without knowing Homer.
That fact does not prevent our being eager to know the author by direct awareness. Homer is out of our reach, and Shakespeare also is a dens absconditus, though we do our inquisitive best to establish contact with him behind and beyond his work as well as within it. Our speculations about Shakespeare are almost as multifarious and foolish as our speculations about the maker of the universe, and, like those, are frequently concerned to establish that his works were not made by him but by another person of the same name. The itch for personally knowing authors torments most of us; we feel that if we could somehow get at the man himself, we should obtain more help and satisfaction from him than from his chosen self-revelation. In certain cases, indeed, we may effect this and establish a real personal contact, but the world of literary appreciation cannot, any more than the world of religion, be populated by pure contemplatives only. And it is desirable to bear in mind-when dealing with the human maker at any rate-that his chosen way of revelation is through his works. To persist in asking, as so many of us do, "What did you mean by this book?" is to invite bafflement: the book itself is what the writer means. It is hopeless to expect, that is, that we can ever be made directly aware of the Idea-the writer himself is not aware of it except through the Energy and all he can communicate to us is the Energy made manifest in Power.
I have spoken from time to time of the author's books as "finished" works. With the human author, working with his finite mind inside the limits of time and space, it is, of course, possible for us to look from time to time upon a work that is finished. In the narrower sense, each separate book is a thing completed; in a rather wider sense, we can say, at the end of the writer's life, that our bookshelf contains his "Complete Works". This privilege is ours because we belong to the same category of being as the writer, so that the memory of the human race includes the whole span of his activity.
When we apply the analogy to the work of the divine Creator, we cannot look at things in quite this way. We consider God as a living author, whose span of activity extends infinitely beyond our racial memory in both directions. We never see His great work finished. Here and there we seem to recognise something which looks like the end of a chapter or the last page of a volume; or an episode presents itself to us as having a kind of completeness and unity in itself. There is, indeed, a school of thought which imagines that God, having created His universe, has now screwed the cap on His pen, put up His feet on the mantelpiece and left the work to get on with itself. This, however, rather comes into St. Augustine's category of figures of speech or enigmatic sayings framed from things which do not exist at all. We simply do not know of any creation which goes on creating itself in variety when the creator has withdrawn from it. The idea is that God simply created a vast machine and has left it working till it runs down for lack of fuel. This is another of those obscure analogies, since we have no experience of machines that produce variety of their own accord: the nature of a machine is to do the same thing over and over again so long as it keeps going. We may perhaps allow the analogy some force if we conceive of the machine as a kind of kaleidoscope, which mechanically shuffles all the physical units of the universe until all the permutations and combinations have been gone through; but this analogy fails to account for the results of human creativeness. If true, it means that not only must the material form of Cervantes be destroyed to produce the material form of Charles Dickens, but that the spiritual form of Don Quixote must be destroyed to produce the spiritual form of Mr. Pickwick. This, as we have already reminded ourselves, Is not the case. The conclusion would seem to be that Don Quixote and Mr. Pickwick are not of this world at all: a theory which is perfectly arguable but which does not come within the ambit of the kaleidoscope-metaphor. We will therefore stick to the analogy which we have chosen-that of the imaginative creator-and continue with it, keeping very clearly in view the limitation that it applies to the living artist, engaged in a creative act, of which we cannot yet see the finished results.
We are thus considering the temporal universe as one of those great serial works of which instalments appear from time to time, all related to a central idea whose completeness is not yet manliest to the reader. Within the framework of its diversity are many minor and partial unties-of plot, of episode, and of character. By our response to it, we are brought within the mind of the author and are caught up into the stream of his Power, which proceeds from his Energy, revealing his Idea to us and to himself.
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