Thursday, 26 November 2015

Enda Kenny is a Moveable Feast


Enda Kenny, the famous Irish Prime Minister, was speaking on the floor of the House offering his commiserations. That it came out in a garbled Dan Brown way is perhaps the fault of his speech writer, Miriam O’Callaghan (the other one) who does the colour pieces for him. Usually they involve men coming up to him and telling him how surprised and delighted they were with the extra money in their pay packets and other equine compost activator. The story of how the police and the army were going to protect ATM machines during the early days of the financial crisis is probably his own.

A Friday evening in winter.
For many the end of the working week, in the city of Light.
Parisians got ready for the weekend.
Went home to pick up their children for the match, or met friends for a night out at Bataclan, or called into La Belle Equipe or le Petit Cambodge or Le Carillon, for a quick bite, a beer, a well-deserved pastis.
In 1307, almost to the month, the Knights Templar were arrested, interrogated, tortured, charged with heresy.
708 years on, in the particular blue, the cobalt, of an evening in Paris, ordinary yet extraordinary men and women, so many of them so young, paid with their lives, their futures, for another kind of ‘religious’ fear and loathing.
A fear and loathing that have nothing to do with any God, or any ‘faith’.
Its expression in Paris, and in other parts of Europe and the world, proof of the observations of Voltaire.
That those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.

Let’s comb the nits out of this piece. We know as a matter of history that Philip IV of France avid for Templar loot in league with Pope Clement V instigated the action against them. We know that it was Catholics that Voltaire was inveighing against. Could the Paris atrocity be a Vatican false flag black op? If we draw lines between the places that were attacked the resultant figure is a skewed pentacle. That is very significant. Muslims have already suffered at the hands of the Templars and the Knights of Columbanus. Enough is enough.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Insolens Verbum


I am reading The Man who was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton and as ever wonder whether his over use of paradoxes(oi) was a severe defect of his style. They seem like shiny, glittery objects which have a mesmeric effect and stun the judgement by their patent cleverality. It is, I suggest, a corollary of the principle mentioned by Coleridge in Essays on the Principles of Method:

For if he be, as we now assume, a well-educated man as well as a man of superior powers, he will not fail to follow the golden rule of Julius Caesar, Insolens verbum, tanquam scopulum, evitare. (De Analogia) Unless where new things necessitate new terms, he will avoid an unusual word as a rock.

Avoid reefs - you tend to get stuck on them. Unusual juxtapositions have that effect for they require unpacking. Richard Whately in his Rhetoric has the better procedure. First expatiate and then summate by the apothegm or other device. Oops, insolens verba.

Still, I enjoy his paradoxes, which is undoubtedly a defect in me:

"Listen to me," cried Syme with extraordinary emphasis. "Shall I tell you the secret of the whole world? It is that we have only known the back of the world. We see everything from behind, and it looks brutal. That is not a tree, but the back of a tree. That is not a cloud, but the back of a cloud. Cannot you see that everything is stooping and hiding a face? If we could only get round in front—"

((Full Quote from Caesar: tamquam scopulum, sic fugias inauditum atque insolens verbum trans:avoid a strange and unfamiliar word as you would a dangerous reef ))

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Ibn 'Arabi's Four Tender Fire


Ibn ‘Arabi is not just prolific, many writers are, but he is well into the land of graphomania. Stephen Hirtenstein in his book The Unlimited Mercifier quotes from an introduction to one of his multitudinous works:

I what I have written, I have never had a set purpose, as other writers. Flashes of divine inspiration used to come upon me and almost overwhelm me, so that I could only put them from my mind by committing to paper what they revealed to me. If my works evince any kind of composition, that form was unintentional. Some works I wrote at the command of God, sent to me in sleep or through a mystical revelation.

How many works exactly? Hirtenstein tells us ‘over 350‘ of assured provenance and perhaps 700 altogether if one includes works that have not been fully authenticated. Did I read that one of these books runs to 3,000 pages? This is more than automatic writing, it’s automatic shorthand. There doesn’t seem to be a team of amanuenses involved. When you take account of the constant travelling I can only suppose that he wrote from morning till night every day. Naturally you do not revise divine inspiration but there were proof readings in his presence to establish the text and his accompanying disquisitions had an audience of up to 30 people.

He married twice or perhaps four times or more. If it is better to marry than to burn, his was a four tender fire. That is the aspect of Islam that definitively causes me to doubt its moral sense combined as it is with a concern for modesty and propriety in women. There is only a small percentage of polygamous marriages or should I say polygyny as Wikipedia does. One to three percent of all Muslim marriages are multiple even given the fact that it is not legal in every muslim majority country. cf: wikipedia polygyny
Ibn 'Arabi had a late onset of interest in sex. This was in his 30‘s even though in his spiritual tours up till then he had encountered many sufis who value celibacy. To clarify, Hirtenstein is not sure whether these marriages were successive or simultaneous.

I put this together with Arabi’s repeated assertions of spiritual prowess and considering that the philosophy that he wrote might have been the compound of Sufi theosophy with some simples of his own, I suspend judgment on him as a great master.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

The Blue Flower by Penelope Fitzgerald


Could my own preference for writers' - not just Lawrence's - notes and letters be part of a general, historical drift away from the novel? For Lawrence the novel was 'the one bright book of life', 'the highest form of human expression so far attained'. Nowadays most novels are copies of other novels but, for Lawrence, the novel still contained these massive potentialities. Marguerite Yourcenar offers an important qualification to this idea when, in her notes on the composition of Memoirs of Hadrian (a text of far greater interest, to me, than the novel to which it is appended), she writes that 'In our time the novel devours all other forms; one is almost forced to use it as a medium of expression.' No more. Increasingly, the process of novelisation goes hand in hand with a strait-jacketing of the material's expressive potential. One gets so weary watching authors' sensations and thoughts get novelised, set into the concrete of fiction, that perhaps it is best to avoid the novel as a medium of expression. ((from Out of Sheer Rage by Geoff Dyer))

This is the thought of the ‘protagonist’ a near-Dyer beset by velleities from the book, - ‘we don’t like novel’ -, with the post colon - wrestling with D.H. Lawrence. I use quotes to mark the irony of ‘agonia’ or wrestling in Greek. In any case after a while one loses interest in pinning this ‘Dyer’ and not taking the book up again is easy.

How different it is with Penelope Fitzgerald’s The Blue Flower. When for the purpose of this little note I began to read it I found myself being drawn into it again. This author has nothing up her sleeve, no post modern meretriciousness, no theory and yet it’s more than a story. The beginning for instance with the gathering up of the laundry for the year at the home of Novalis.

Jacob Dietmahler was not such a fool that he could not see that they had arrived at his friend's home on the washday. They should not have arrived anywhere, certainly not at this great house, the largest but two in Weissenfels, at such a time. Dietmahler's own mother supervised the washing three times a year, therefore the household had linen and white underwear for four months only. He himself possessed eighty-nine shirts, no more. But here, at the Hardenberg house in Kloster Gasse, he could tell from the great dingy snowfalls of sheets, pillowcases, bolster-cases, vests, bodices, drawers, from the upper windows into the courtyard, where grave-looking servants, both men and women, were receiving them into giant baskets, that they washed only once a year. This might not mean wealth, in fact he knew that in this case it didn't, but it was certainly an indication of long standing. A numerous family, also. The underwear of children and young persons, as well as the larger sizes, fluttered through the blue air, as though the children themselves had taken to flight.

We are being introduced to the aery passage of the souls of the Hardenbergs, vestments that she will fill with their bodies one after the other and at the end of the book empty again with the record of the ways of their passing. It is simple ‘once upon a time’ storytelling that you surrender to with a child’s bated breath. There are 55 chapters, a form which suggests the Fragments of Novalis , occasionally rounded off with unstrained after aphorism.

Hardenberg was not really an old man - he was between fifty and sixty - but he stared at Jacob Dietmahler with an old man's drooping neck and lowered head. 'You are right, quite right. I took the opportunity. Opportunity, after all, is only another word for temptation.'

We know that Fritz von Hardenberg is going to die but this will be after his Sophia, Sophie von Kuhn, has pre-deceased him. That’s true but now in the nunc-stans of the novel he is alive and we forget much as we forget our own mortality. Artfully, Fitzgerald ends the novel with Novalis still alive and Sophie dead. In a previous experience of the flimsy boundary between the dead and the living he has had an intimation of the way to accept his grief:

The creak and thump of the pastor's cows could still be heard far into the burial ground where the graves and the still empty spaces, cut off from each other now by the mist, had become dark green islands, dark green chambers of meditation. On one of them, just a little ahead of him, a young man, still almost a boy, was standing in the half darkness, with his head bent, himself as white, still, and speechless as a memorial. The sight was consoling to Fritz, who knew that the young man, although living, was not human, but also that at the moment there was no boundary between them.
He said aloud, 'The external world is the world of shadows. It throws its shadows into the kingdom of light. How different they will appear when this darkness is gone and the shadow-body has passed away. The universe, after all, is within us. The way leads inwards, always inwards.'

The description of the operation on Sophie without anaesthetic is based on the reality and ought to be compared to that of Dr. Brown the Edinburgh surgeon.
surgeon brown
Sophie’s Operation:
'We will administer the cordial.'
It was a mixture of wine and laudanum, to Dr Brown's prescription, which Sophie drank down without protest. Then to the bedroom, where all must skirt awkwardly round the bed in its unaccustomed place. The students, to be out of the way, stood with their backs to the wall, darting sharp looks, like young crows, each taking out the pen and inkwell from behind his lapel.
Sophie was helped onto the pile of borrowed mattresses. Then the Professor asked her, in tones of grave politeness -suitable, in fact, to a child on its dignity - whether she would like to cover her face with a piece of fine muslin. 'In that way you will be able to see something of what I do, but not too clearly . . . There now, you cannot see me now, can you?'
'I can see something glittering,' she said. Perhaps it was a game, after all. The students wrote a line in their notebooks.
Following the medical etiquette of Jena, the Professor motioned Dietmahler to his side, and asked him,
'Esteemed colleague, am I to make the incision? Is that what you advise?'
'Yes, Herr Professor, I advise it.'
'You would make two incisions, or one only?'
'Two, Herr Professor.'
'So?'
'So.'

It was only after her death that Hardenberg became the Novalis , the clearer of new land. The story of the Blue Flower was never finished.
The novel of this Year and many a year for me.




Monday, 16 November 2015

Novalis and the Unity of Being


What Novalis understood was that ecstasy was amplified inwardness. Calling that a function of his idealism is to ignore his consistent proceeding by homologies. Formal unities are not replicated but are inflected by the possibilities of the material in which they are found. Analogies proceed by a focus on single aspects and that tends to create a pluralism. First there are beings and then there is a unity of beings and finally there is a unity of beings within Being.

The solipsism inherent in Idealism cannot trace 'the paths of Novalis’ and it has amused me that any path through a field making for a gap in the hedge does not proceed by straight logic but is curved into the line of beauty.

All things lead me back upon myself. I well understood what the second Voice said once. I rejoice in the wonderful collections and figures in the study halls; it seems to me as though they were only symbols, veils, decorations enshrouding a Divine Being ; -and this is ever in my thoughts. I do not seek for them, but I often seek in them. It is as though they might show me the path to a place where, slumbering, lies the Virgin for whom my spirit yearns. (The Disciples at Sais)








Sunday, 15 November 2015

The Paths of Novalis


Men travel by many different paths. Whoever tracks and compares their ways will see wonderful figures arising ; figures that seem to belong to the great Manuscript of Design which we descry everywhere, on wings of birds, on the shells of eggs, in clouds, in snow, is crystals, in rock formations, in frozen water, within and upon mountains, in plants, in beasts, in men, in the light of day, in slabs of pitch and glass when they are jarred or struck, in filings around a magnet, and in the singular Coincidences of Chance. In these things we seem to catch an idea of the key, the grammar to this Manuscript, but this idea will not fix itself into any abiding conception, and seems as if it were unwilling to become in its turn the key to higher things. It seems as though an Alcahest had been poured over the mind of man. Only momentarily do his wishes, his thoughts, incorporate themselves. On such wise do his ideas arise, but, after a short while, all swims once more vaguely before his eyes.
(from The Disciples at Sais by Novalis)

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Carlyle and Novalis - The Blue Flower


As a warming up exercise Carlyle lays about him with his blunted and gapped claymore; a weapon which is comically overspecified for the destruction of iridescent soap bubbles.

 Not as if we meant, by this remark, to cast a stone at the old guild of literary Improvisators, or any of that diligent brotherhood, whose trade it is to blow soap-bubbles for their fellow-creatures; which bubbles, of course, if they are not seen and admired this moment, will be altogether lost to men’s eyes the next. Considering the use of these blowers, in civilized communities, we rather wish them strong lungs, and all manner of prosperity : but simply we would contend that such soap-bubble guild should not become the sole one in Literature ; that being indisputably the strongest, it should content itself with this preeminence, and not tyrannically annihilate its less prosperous neighbors. For it should be recollected that Literature positively has other aims than this of amusement from hour to hour; nay perhaps that this, glorious as it may be, is not its highest or true aim.

It is the young Carlyle writing in the Foreign Review (1829) his assessment of Novalis's Writings. Edited by Ludwig Tieck and Friedrich Schlegel). Fourth Edition. 2 vols. Berlin, 1826. He had not yet reached the stage of being a ‘singing razor’ cf.
singing razor
Never mind, he gives good value with 50 odd pages including translations from Flower Pollen and The Disciples at Sais and sundry fragments.

Here’s the one about the famous blue flower from Heinrich von Ofterdingen:

" The old people were already asleep ; the clock was beating its monotonous tick on the wall; the wind blustered over the rattling windows; by turns, the chamber was lighted by the sheen of the moon. The young man lay restless in his bed; and thought of the stranger and his stories. 'Not the treasures is it,' said he to himself, ' that have awakened in me so unspeakable a desire; far from me is all covetousness; but the Blue Flower is what I long to behold. It lies incessantly in my heart, and I can think and fancy of nothing else. Never did I feel so before: it is as if, till now, I had been dreaming, or as if sleep had carried me into another world •, for in the world I used to live in, who troubled himself about flowers ? Such wild passion for a Flower was never heard of there. But whence could that stranger have come ? None of us ever saw such a man; yet I know not how I alone was so caught with his discourse: the rest heard the very same, yet none seems to mind it. And then that I cannot even speak of my strange condition ! I feel such rapturous contentment; and only then when I have not the Flower rightly before my eyes, does so deep, heartfelt an eagerness come over me: these things no one will or can believe.

In a dream Heinrich is visited by the spirit of the Blue Flower:

" Intoxicated with rapture, and yet conscious of every impression, he floated softly down that glittering stream, which flowed out from the basin into the rocks. A sort of sweet slumber fell upon him, in which he dreamed indescribable adventures, and out of which a new light awoke him. He found himself on a soft sward at the margin of a spring, which welled out into the air, and seemed to dissipate itself there. Dark-blue rocks, with many-colored veins, rose at some distance ; the daylight which encircled him was clearer and milder than the common; the sky was black-blue, and altogether pure. But what attracted him infinitely most was a high, light-blue Flower, which stood close by the spring, touching it with its broad glittering leaves. Round it stood innumerable flowers of all colors, and the sweetest perfume filled the air. He saw nothing but the Blue Flower; and gazed on it long with nameless tenderness. At last he was for approaching, when all at once it began to move and change ; the leaves grew more resplendent, and clasped themselves round the waxing stem ; the Flower bent itself towards him; and the petals showed like a blue spreading ruff, in which hovered a lovely face. His sweet astonishment at this transformation was increasing, — when suddenly his mother's voice awoke him, and he found himself in the house of his parents, which the morning sun was already gilding."

There is a coarseness in Carlyle which arises out of his never having passed through the ‘gate of resignation’. His mystical apprehension is Vulcanite and doesn’t quite understand the surrender of Novalis. It’s a Shiva/Shakti polarity. Sophie von Kuhn was the Anima or Shakti rupa of Novalis.
My beloved is an abbreviation of the universe, and the universe is an extension of my beloved.
When you love her, you love life and accept that it has a terminus and after that more life and another death. The ordinary love that Novalis found after the death of Sophie is a puzzle to Carlyle. In Irish lore those that beat the coffin and cry ‘Why did you leave me’ will be remarried within the year.

The other mistake of Carlyle’s is the characterization of Novalis as the German Pascal. There was the love of Mathematics and Science but the crispness and clarity of the Frenchman is quite other than the vague palpations of Novalis. Carlyle admits that much of the writing is opaque to him as it should be given that it was per speculum et in aenigmata for its author also.















Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Wittgenstein on the Scripture of Pain


One may illustrate the distinct uses of Scripture (in all that relates to morals) and of natural Conscience, by the comparison of a sun-dial and a clock. The clock has the advantage of being always at hand, to be consulted at any hour of the day or night; while the dial is of use only when the sun shines on it. But, then, the clock is liable to go wrong and vary from the true time; and it has no power in itself of correcting its own errors; so that these may go on increasing, to any extent, unless it be from time to time regulated by the dial, which alone the unerring guide.
(from Introductory Lessons on Morals and Christian Evidences by Richard Whately pub. 1857)

"But if I suppose that someone is in pain, then I am simply supposing that he has just the same as I have so often had." — That gets us no further. It is as if I were to say: "You surely know what 'It is 5 o'clock here' means; so you also know what 'It's 5 o'clock on the sun' means. It means simply that it is just the same there as it is here when it is 5 o'clock." — The explanation by means of identity does not work here.
(Philosophical Inverstigations by Ludwig Wittgenstein para:350)

The sun-dial/sun/clock analogy may be a common one though it’s not particularly familiar to me. Wittgenstein here might be said to rebut the scripture of pain. There is none. To further expand the Whately/Wittgenstein correspondence in an admittedly fanciful way the word evidences is suggestive of the British Empiricist tenet - if we have valid knowledge
we have evidence. Wittgenstein is impugning this, it seems to me, conscious as I am that one is walking on a quaking bog ascribing a position to him.





Friday, 6 November 2015

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh


What would we do without the English Stately Home(o)? The family dynamics of the Flytes seemingly reflect the classic recipe for the making of the homosexual. Dominant mother, absent father, send the boy to boarding school – stand back. They are Catholics living in the stately home which itself appears to have a non-speaking part in the drama. It is mentioned several times that it is a relatively new establishment having been moved from its original location at Marchmain village. There is a suggestion that this move using the original stones represents a fall from greatness into the filth of modern life. The elder son nicknamed after the seat ‘Bridey’ is the inverse of a spoiled priest. He still wants to be a priest, Jesuit of course, but primogeniture oblige. The great house has its own Arts and Crafts chapel which Lord Marchmain, now resident in Venice with his mistress, had built for his devout wife. He ‘changed’ when he married but it is clear that it was purely to marry. It is the 1920’s when the book opens and Daddy never came back after the war. Still, life goes on, the rosary is said every evening and mass is celebrated in the chapel though this may be stopped shortly as the congregation has dwindled since the old days.

The narrator is Charles Ryder who first saw Brideshead during his first year at Oxford accompanied by the second son Sebastian who goes about with a teddy-bear, a beautiful youth probably based on Waugh’s Other Side dabbling. Young Lord Sebastian’s orientation is lightly intimated, infantile and asexual if anything. The visit to Brideshead is to see Nanny Hawkins who lives on as an old retainer with a room of her own in the dome, surely a symbol of emotional supervenience. Did Aloysius the teddy go with them? I forget. It was just a two seater Morris-Cowley and it might have been unsafe given the drinking that Charles and Sebastian do. The Twenties are on.

What occurs is what Archbishop Whately remarked – without a principle a man grows gradually worse. Sebastian goes to Fez and continues to drink himself to death. By the end of the novel he is living with monks in Tunis. Ryder sees him as a broken saint whose charm remains intact. That may be a sentimental note.

Through the middle of the book Charles Ryder and Lady Julia Marchmain, Sebastian’s sister and double, have an affair. They divorce their spouses. What happens next is the spiritual heart of the book and the reader may take it as a possibility through grace or a flagrant nonsense unconnected to human psychology.

Comic interludes such as Ryder and his Father on the long Vacation are there. Waugh knows well the sort of eccentricity that people with independent income can develop. The Granada T.V. series (on youtube) stays close to the book and in its own way is an independent triumph.
This dialogue:
We dined in a room they called "the Painted Parlour." It was a spacious octagon, later in design than the rest of the house; its walls were adorned with wreathed medallions, and across its dome prim Pompeian figures stood in pastoral groups. They and the satin-wood and ormolu furniture, the carpet, the hanging bronze candelabrum, the mirrors and sconces, were all a single composition, the design of one illustrious hand. "We usually eat here when we're alone," said Sebastian, "it's so cosy."
While they dined I ate a peach and told them of the war with my father.
"He sounds a perfect poppet," said Julia. "And now I'm going to leave you boys."
"Where are you off to?"
"The nursery. I promised Nanny a last game of halma." She kissed the top of Sebastian's head. I opened the door for her. "Good night, Mr. Ryder, and good-bye. I don't suppose we'll meet to-morrow. I'm leaving early." I can't tell you how grateful I am to you for relieving me at the sick-bed."
"My sister's very pompous to-night," said Sebastian, when she was gone.
"I don't think she cares for me," I said.
"I don't think she cares for anyone much. I love her. She's so like me."
"Do you? Is she?"
"In looks I mean and the way she talks. I wouldn't love anyone with a character like mine."

Confession is good for the soul. I had read a lot of Waugh before my recent reading of this book. Is it Waugh without the Waughness, tilting into seriousness and theology? As a devout Filbertine I liked it.


Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Heroes and Hero Worship by Thomas Carlyle


A few days ago on his blog The Victorian Sage
Victorian Sage
Mark Wallace revealed that Huff Po U.K. had mentioned Thomas Carlyle in an introduction to a prospective mens’ month. I felt that the impugning of featuring only male heros in his book Heroes and Hero Worship was waving the bien pensant flag. You Bad Victorian, me Good New Man sort of thing – the breast beating of the Beta New Man as opposed to the breast beating of the Alpha Male Silverback Victorian. Mark in his reply made the point that any mention of Heroes might open up new vistas. He mentioned also the category of the Man of Letters favoured by Carlyle which has led me to read that chapter initially delivered as a lecture entitled The Hero as Man of Letters.

Is it a tract for our times? That’s an interesting question and one fraught with the possibility of being cut off at the gulch by a hashtag posse. Carlyle's early struggles had an heroic quality. There were no networks that he could use. His father was not that sort of Mason. Heroes tend to be one off individuals defined by their own power. How free of ethnic and class considerations can they be? Carlyle’s black humour and his scorn had a Celtic tinge to it. The merry cackling of Jane and Tom in Chelsea over Harriet and John Stuart must have been great crack yet it has to be admitted that Mill’s Utilitarianism is the order of our day with its implicit standardisation and its cult of happiness . The call to Work, to suffer and to grow in power seems demented compared to that.

Bentham and by implication Mill receive a swingeing chastisement:

The other day speaking, without prior purpose that way, of Bentham's theory of man and man's life, I chanced to call it a more beggarly one than Mahomet's. I am bound to say, now when it is once uttered, that such is my deliberate opinion. Not that one would mean offence against the man Jeremy Bentham, or those who respect and believe him. Bentham himself, and even the creed of Bentham, seems to me comparatively worthy of praise. It is a determinate being what all the world, in a cowardly half-and-half manner, was tending to be. Let us have the crisis; we shall either have death or the cure. I call this gross, steam-engine Utilitarianism an approach towards new Faith. It was a laying-down of cant; a saying to oneself: "Well then, this world is a dead iron machine, the god of it Gravitation and selfish Hunger; let us see what, by checking and balancing, and good adjustment of tooth and pinion, can be made of it!" Benthamism has something complete, manful, in such fearless committal of itself to what it finds true; you may call it Heroic, though a Heroism with its eyes put out! It is the culminating point, and fearless ultimatum, of what lay in the half-and-half state, pervading man's whole existence in that Eighteenth Century. It seems to me, all deniers of Godhood, and all lip-believers of it, are bound to be Benthamites, if they have courage and honesty. Benthamism is an eyeless Heroism: the Human Species, like a hapless blinded Samson grinding in the Philistine Mill, clasps convulsively the pillars of its Mill; brings huge ruin down, but ultimately deliverance withal. Of Bentham I meant to say no harm.

But this I do say, and would wish all men to know and lay to heart, that he who discerns nothing but Mechanism in the Universe has in the fatalest way missed the secret of the Universe altogether. That all Godhood should vanish out of men's conception of this Universe seems to me precisely the most brutal error,—I will not disparage Heathenism by calling it a Heathen error,—that men could fall into. It is not true; it is false at the very heart of it. A man who thinks so will think wrong about all things in the world; this original sin will vitiate all other conclusions he can form. One might call it the most lamentable of Delusions,—not forgetting Witchcraft itself! Witchcraft worshipped at least a living Devil; but this worships a dead iron Devil; no God, not even a Devil! Whatsoever is noble, divine, inspired, drops thereby out of life. There remains everywhere in life a despicable caput-mortuum; the mechanical hull, all soul fled out of it. How can a man act heroically? The "Doctrine of Motives" will teach him that it is, under more or less disguise, nothing but a wretched love of Pleasure, fear of Pain; that Hunger, of applause, of cash, of whatsoever victual it may be, is the ultimate fact of man's life. Atheism, in brief;—which does indeed frightfully punish itself. The man, I say, is become spiritually a paralytic man; this godlike Universe a dead mechanical steam-engine, all working by motives, checks, balances, and I know not what; wherein, as in the detestable belly of some Phalaris'-Bull of his own contriving, he the poor Phalaris sits miserably dying!


My final quote from Heroes refers to the Man of Letters but might just as well apply to anyone, man or woman, and in any century, who has not found ‘the path with heart’:

His fatal misery was the spiritual paralysis, so we may name it, of the Age in which his life lay; whereby his life too, do what he might, was half paralyzed! The Eighteenth was a Sceptical Century; in which little word there is a whole Pandora's Box of miseries. Scepticism means not intellectual Doubt alone, but moral Doubt; all sorts of infidelity, insincerity, spiritual paralysis. Perhaps, in few centuries that one could specify since the world began, was a life of Heroism more difficult for a man. That was not an age of Faith,—an age of Heroes! The very possibility of Heroism had been, as it were, formally abnegated in the minds of all. Heroism was gone forever; Triviality, Formulism and Commonplace were come forever. The "age of miracles" had been, or perhaps had not been; but it was not any longer. An effete world; wherein Wonder, Greatness, Godhood could not now dwell;—in one word, a godless world!