Divine Personality and the Æsthetic Life
pass from the scientific to the æsthetic activity of the human spirit. This activity is displayed both in the creation of works of Art and also in the pleasure taken in the beauty whether of such works or of Nature. These various manifestations of the activity we are now to consider are not so heterogeneous as the description of them just given might at first suggest. In our appreciation of works of Art our imagination is stimulated by them to reproduce although in a fainter and weaker fashion the activity which created them; and in the delight which we take in the beauty of Nature there is an activity which expresses itself in the perception of this beauty where a Peter Bell for the lack of such an activity perceives nothing of the sort; an activity of the same kind though at a lower level as that which in a Turner or a Wordsworth creates a great landscape painting or a great descriptive poem.1
It might perhaps be thought that the conception of Divine Personality would be especially congenial to the human mind when engaged in this particular form of spiritual activity. For even those who would deny to this conception any scientific value would often allow to it an imaginative one; and the æsthetic activity would seem to be pre-eminently one of the Imagination.
Yet it will on closer attention be found that the artist is indeed ready to use the conception for his own purpose if it be expressly recognized as a product of Imagination and as free for him to manipulate as he will; but if it be granted an independent and objective validity he is apt to regard it as suggestive of a tyrannical Power cruelly or fiendishly denying its rights to that impulse of self-expression which is his very life and holier to him than any repressive law can possibly be. This matter can I am disposed to think be nowhere better studied than in the works of Blake enigmatical as they are sometimes even to the very bounds of sanity or beyond them. For few if any artists have combined with genius so powerful in the creation of beauty a religious mysticism for all its obscurity and wilfulness so profound and original as that of this singular poet and painter neglected in his own day but now acknowledged as a prophet of much that is most stirring and challenging in the thought and temper of the present generation. I make for myself no claim for any special scholarship in this sphere. I do not pretend to have more than a vague and general acquaintance with his intricate mythology; I must confess that there is much in the ‘Prophetical Books’ which fails to convey any definite meaning to my mind. Nevertheless I will venture a few observations suggested by my reading of this strange master which it seems to me may throw some light on the subject of my present Lecture.
We may say that Blake is at once boldly anthropomorphic in his representations of God and frankly hostile to the thought of a God external and remote especially when such a God is represented after the fashion favoured by the theology of the eighteenth century as the Author of Nature and the Moral Governor of man.2
It is noteworthy that of all the mighty figures of his mythology none is as it seems to me so clearly drawn none stands out as a living person with a character of his own so distinctly as Urizen who symbolizes precisely this to Blake hateful aspect of Divinity. If the artist is often repelled by the thought of a ‘personal God’ it is I suspect because he is apt like Blake to suppose that what the orthodox religious world has in view when urging the claims of that thought upon him is a Being of this kind gloomy and inexorable a foe to joy and to all that is impulsive and childlike whose kingdom whether in nature or in human life is a ‘reign of law’ enforced by terrible penalties; one who (so Blake at least is convinced) must himself be no less unhappy than he makes all who are subject to his sway.
But Urizen is only one of the beings among whom Blake distributes the various aspects under which men have envisaged the Object of their worship. And here we come upon another feature of his theology in which he is decidedly representative of a general bent of artists in this regard namely his leaning towards polytheism. Now in this leaning towards polytheism the religious tendency engendered by the æsthetic activity is in marked contrast with that engendered by the scientific. Philosophy in all countries is found to speak of God or the Godhead in the singular even where the popular religion is polytheistic and whether the philosopher himself adopts towards that religion a hostile an indifferent or a patronizing attitude. And in my first course of Lectures when tracing the history of the attribution of Personality to God I had occasion to point out how the great advance in the knowledge of the system of Nature which distinguished the period illustrated by the names of Galileo and Newton so greatly impressed men's minds with the unity of the Divine Source of that system as decidedly to encourage a Unitarian tendency in the religious thought of contemporary Christendom.
In sharp contradiction to this scientific monotheism stands the attractive force so constantly exercised upon poets and artists living under the shadow of a religion which has adopted the confession of the divine unity as its primary article of faith by the memories of an older day when the imagination could delight itself among the “fair humanities of old religion”3
unsaddened by the thought that they were unreal and unchecked by the fear that they might be held to be profane. The long tradition subsiding at times into a frigid convention which has kept alive in European poetry and art the names and attributes of the Greek and Roman gods is in itself a witness to this regretful retrospect in the souls of those who have clung to it; and in our own national literature since the great revival of poetry at the end of the eighteenth century not a few of the chief masters a Wordsworth a Coleridge a Shelley a Keats—to name no others—have given memorable expression to the sentiment.4
The instinctive revulsion of the artistic temperament from the austerity of a strict monotheism should have been familiar enough to philosophic students of religion to prevent them from being startled as I fear some of us were when the late William James5
with characteristic disregard of tradition suggested that there was something to be said on philosophical grounds in favour of a recognition of “Gods many.” What seems to have attracted James in polytheism was indeed the spirit of adventure congenial to his personal temperament which it appeared to him to call for in the man who committed himself to the care of one out of many gods thus to cut himself adrift from the chance of availing himself of the help of another in time of need. “If there be different gods each caring for his part” he observes “some portion of some of us might not be covered with divine protection and our religious consolations would thus fail to be complete.” This objection to polytheism did not in his eyes put it out of court. “For” as he says “no fact in human nature is more characteristic than its willingness to live on a chance.”
To pursue the more general question thus raised would however take us too far from our immediate subject of the religious attitude induced by the æsthetic activity of the human spirit. I will only take occasion to remark that James had not failed to perceive the true ethical and religious significance of the issue between monotheism and polytheism. This is already clearly pointed out by St. Thomas Aquinas in his Summa contra Gentiles
It is not the mere number of those to whom the name ‘God’ is applied that is principally in question. Belief in a host of beings called Gods under a single supreme chief is compatible with a theology essentially monotheistic. What is not so compatible is a doctrine like that of the Manichean dualism which in St. Thomas's own day was the most dangerous speculative opponent of Christianity in Western Europe—a doctrine which would leave us with two ultimate and eternal Principles opposed the one to the other as good to evil thus opening up to the soul of man a choice of sovereignties to either of which allegiance may with equal reasonableness be sworn and under either of which a career is open to spiritual ambition.
That in Blake we have a representative of the artistic temperament as in other respects so in this particular respect of a tendency towards polytheism in religion we have already seen. With him however the tendency did not take the form as with Wordsworth of a yearning after or as with Keats of a resuscitation to new life of “the beautiful mythology of Greece.”7
He had taken indeed a great dislike to the whole classical tradition as being responsible for the fetters which the Age of Reason seemed to have cast upon the limbs of the Imagination. “The Stolen and Perverted Writings of Homer and Ovid of Plato and Cicero which all men ought to condemn are set up by artifice against the Sublime of the Bible.” So begins the Preface to his Milton
. This may seem a strange saying with which to introduce a book the hero whereof is the glorified spirit of the English poet who of all others drank most deeply of the Greek and Roman fountains of inspiration. But the author was not unaware of the paradox; for he held it to be a fault in Milton that he had submitted himself so much to influences that to Blake seemed perverse and profane. For his own part Blake turns aside from them altogether.
Nor does he despite the singular nationalism which leads him to insist so much upon the fancy that
All Things Begin and End in Albion's Ancient Druid Rocky Shore8
seek for a mythology ready to his hand which might be identified with that of the ancient inhabitants of his own country as Morris resorted to the Norse Eddas or Wagner to the Nibelungenlied; though it must be admitted that the nomenclature of his prophetic books owes something to the pseudo-Ossian who passed with those who accepted his pretensions as the British analogue of Homer. On the Bible which he held to be the true source of the Sublime Blake indeed drew for much of his material; but in the sacred books of a monotheistic faith it was not possible to find fully developed a mythology adequate to his purpose; and he was thus thrown back upon the resources of his own invention.
This is not the place even if I were competent to enter upon a detailed still less a critical description of the mysterious world which revealed itself to the inward vision of the poet-painter and in which he lived a life of intense experience which included and interpreted for him the outward events trivial and commonplace as they must have seemed in the eyes of his neighbours which make up the story of his earthly life. I can pretend to do no more than call attention to certain features of his mythology which may prove instructive to us in the pursuit of our present inquiry.
At first sight Blake's polytheism undoubtedly suggests that it is a genuine polytheism of the type that as St. Thomas insists is more opposed to the Christian faith in the unity of God than any which like the polytheism found by the Angelic Doctor in Plato's Timœus makes one Supreme Deity the Master and Creator of the rest. There is division and strife among the Beings whom Blake calls ‘the Eternals’; and he not unfrequently uses language which suggests an ultimate plurality of Divine Beings with no supreme unity except what may arise from the concord and co-operation of these.
Nevertheless it would be I think an error to regard his mythology as the symbol of a doctrine fundamentally at variance in the same sense as the Manichean dualism with the doctrine of the unity of God as asserted by Christianity. Other poets as we have seen in turning away from a monotheism which they had no intention of seriously rejecting to forget it for the moment in an imaginative reversion to “a creed outworn” found in the legends of classical antiquity an opportunity for a freer exercise of the imagination than was possible to them in dealing with themes which would perhaps lend themselves less readily to variation and elaboration and would certainly be considered by their readers if not by themselves as too sacred to admit of such treatment. Blake who held himself for a veritable prophet and could say in all sincerity “Mark well my words! They are of your eternal salvation!”9
could not take a like course. The polytheistic imagery which he no less than they found congenial to the inventive spontaneity of his genius he must bring if he was to use it at all into the closest connexion with his deepest religious and philosophical convictions. Consequently one is not tempted as in the case of other poets one may be tempted to think of it as a mere play of fancy committing him to no denial of the article that God is one. Nevertheless though one is doubtless right in not thus dismissing it as no evidence for his real belief our very reason for taking it seriously is also a reason for taking no less seriously the monotheistic language which we also find him using on occasion. The “Divine Family” of which he sometimes speaks is several times represented as appearing not as many but as one man often described as ‘Jesus the Saviour.’10
Without pursuing the subject further I will content myself with saying that I think we shall come nearest to the truth if we think of Blake's polytheism in the light of the theosophical speculations (which we know him to have studied) of the sixteenth-century German mystic Jacob Behmen. The god-like forms whom he presents to us as mutually distinct and even mutually opposed I take him to have regarded rather as spiritual Principles which though when severed from the unity of the Divine Life they appear thus as diverse and conflicting elements in the process of the world's history yet find their “perfect consummation and bliss”11
only in the realization of their true and eternal nature as integral factors of that Supreme Unity.
We have now to inquire into the relation between Blake's representations of God in a human form or forms and the religious attitude commonly suggested by the expression ‘belief in a personal God.’ And here we are met by what looks at any rate like a marked difference of opinion between two of his best-known interpreters. On the one hand the late Mr. Swinburne in his celebrated Essay which did so much to call general attention to the claims of Blake on the admiration of posterity constantly speaks of him as a champion of pantheism against theism. On the other hand Mr. Chesterton in his interesting little book on the same subject expresses himself strongly in the sense that as he puts it Blake “was on the side of historical Christianity on the fundamental question on which it confronts the East; the idea that personality is the glory of the universe and not its shame; that creation is higher than evolution because it is more personal; that pardon is higher than Nemesis because it is more personal.” And commenting on the lines of Blake which tell us that
God appears and God is light
To those poor souls that dwell in night
But does a human form display
To those that dwell in realms of day
he expounds them thus: “God is merely light to the merely unenlightened. God is a man to the enlightened. We are permitted to remain for a time evolutionary or pantheistic until the time comes when we are worthy to be anthropomorphic.”12
Now no doubt if by theism
we mean what Blake calls deism
the belief in the remote Creator and stern Lawgiver of what was in his day described by the name which he regarded as so monstrous of ‘Natural Religion’ then Blake was as Swinburne says an enemy to theism. If by pantheism>
he meant the doctrine that human nature is in the fullest sense the image of God and itself divine then Blake was certainly a pantheist. But to much that is usually called pantheism he would have been uncompromisingly hostile. I do not recollect that he anywhere names Spinoza and probably he had never read him. But had he done so I suspect that he would have placed him under the same ban as Locke in whom he saw a type of the Reason which was the enemy and tyrannical oppressor of Imagination; a protagonist of the ‘Natural Religion’ which he fiercely denounced as no religion at all. And Mr. Chesterton is no doubt right in holding that no way of thinking which finds God in what is not
human and personal no less if not more than in what is such would have won any sympathy from Blake. In what we call Nature as distinguished from man he could only discover divinity by discovering humanity also. It is only a “spectrous chaos” that speaks thus to Albion in the familiar vein of rationalistic philosophy “I am your rational power O Albion and that Human Form You call Divine is but a Worm seventy inches long That creeps forth in a night and is dead in the morning sun The fortuitous concourse of memorys accumulated and lost.”13
The precise opposite is in Blake's view the truth. For him even a real worm could not say with the Psalmist “I am a worm and no man
“Everything” he cries “is Human.”15
M. Maurice Maeterlinck in L'Oiseau Bleu
feigns that in the dog and the cat in bread and in sugar in water and in light a human spirit lies concealed which can assume on occasion a human form. So Blake not in playful fancy but in bitter earnest sees everywhere under the mask of bird and beast even of river and mountain and city not as with M. Maeterlinck a quasi-human nature which can take sides with or against our race as such but a true humanity.16
All reality is for him in its innermost essence personal. Hence I do not question that Mr. Chesterton's interpretation of the verses I quoted above is essentially correct. True religion for Blake is personal intercourse with the Divine; and ‘cosmic emotion’ but a makeshift for those who are still in darkness and the shadow of death.
But it would be rash to assume that Blake though certainly no ordinary pantheist can be depended upon as a supporter of ordinary theism. “The worship of God is: Honouring his gifts in other men each according to his genius and loving the greatest men best; those who envy or calumniate great men hate God; for there is no other God.” So says the Devil in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell; and those who know that strange and profound work of the singular genius whom we have been studying in this Lecture will remember it is the Devil's party (to which we are incidentally told Milton being a true Poet belonged without knowing it and so in despite of himself made his Satan the hero of Paradise Lost) which is here represented as being on the right side. And indeed in his own person Blake had shortly before declared that “God only acts in existing beings or men.”
Such a declaration reminding us as it does almost to the very words of some pronouncements by Signor Croce which I quoted in my first course of Lectures seem to place Blake despite his high estimate of the dignity of human personality definitely on the side of a theology which like Signor Croce's will have nothing to do with a transcendent Deity but only with Deus in nobis et nos God in us and not other than we. It would take us too far from our main theme to pursue any further our investigations into Blake's religious teaching. It will be sufficient for the present to indicate the relation which so far as the exploration we have already made has carried us we find it to bear to that ‘historical Christianity’ on the side of which Mr. Chesterton affirms him to stand in respect of the article of Divine Personality. For as we saw in the earlier course it is in historical Christianity that a stress has been laid on Personality in God which is absent from the other great religions of mankind.
Now on the one hand there is much in the doctrine of this historical Christianity which is (as Blake was well aware) to a considerable degree in accord with this notion of his of God as only known in the persons of men. According to that religion although there is from eternity Personality in God yet this has only been revealed in connexion with the appearance as very man among men of a Person in whose personal relation to his Father was manifested a permanent and inalienable feature of the Divine Life. God indeed according to the dogma of Catholic Christianity is as we have often insisted not a
person at all. Nor does the correspondence of the Christian creed with such a view as Blake's or Croce's end here. It is Christ's own express teaching that a personal relation to himself is secured and only secured in personal service of his brethren: “Inasmuch as ye did it unto one of the least of these ye did it unto me.”17
God in Jesus Jesus in his brethren: this is a doctrine which lies at the very heart of the Christian religion.
While the main tradition of Christian theology is very far from endorsing views of the extreme kind held by some of the school of Albrecht Ritschl—and especially by Professor Wilhelm Herrmann of Marburg18
—who express themselves as if no knowledge of God which has come otherwise than through the historic Jesus can have real value for a Christian yet to suppose that there is any source of such knowledge independent of the Person who was incarnate in him that the Father can be approached except through the Son would be to violate the deepest instinct of Christian piety. And if it cannot be denied that Christians have often indulged in a devotion to Jesus Christ of which the service of their Christian brethren might seem to form no essential part it has been generally recognized that such a strain of sentiment has peculiar dangers. The soundest and most central type of practical Christianity has been at pains never to separate what Jesus himself so emphatically joined together.
On the other hand there is a feature the absence of which from the religious temper of any one would I think at once stamp it as foreign to the Christian type and which is missing in Blake as also unless I am mistaken in Signor Croce—I mean the note of humility towards God. Blake constantly expresses his contempt for this in words which although possibly susceptible of an interpretation which might bring them under the rubric of Christian orthodoxy yet strike us at once as unquestionably discordant in tone not only with a merely conventional Christianity but with the profoundest convictions of the Christian conscience. Such a saying as “Thou art a man God is no more”19
will illustrate what I mean; and it is noteworthy that when showing in some striking lines that the hero of the Gospels is no pattern of a righteousness of the sort ascribed there to the Scribes and Pharisees a righteousness of strict conformity to Law and not of virtuous impulse he notwithstanding seems to find in the humility towards God which he cannot deny Jesus to have exhibited an exception to the triumphant splendour of his example:—
And when he humbled himself to God
Then descended the cruel rod.20
A passage quoted in one of the lectures of my previous course from Signor Croce according to which the “man of reason's” words “Courage and forward” are fully equivalent to the religious man's “Let us leave it in God's hands”21
show that the Italian philosopher would have been much of Blake's way of thinking in this regard. I venture to think that this consequence of a doctrine of pure immanence even in a prophet of the dignity of Personality like Blake reveals its inadequacy to give theoretical expression to the full demands of the religious consciousness. Signor Croce would probably not dispute this holding as he does that the religious consciousness just in this demand for the transcendence of its Object is convicted of being no necessary or permanent form of spiritual experience but a ‘childish thing’ to be put away on the coming of a full spiritual manhood. I will only repeat for myself with a full realization of the fact that the confession must write me down in Signor Croce's judgment as—I will not say an ass but—a child in philosophy that such an estimate of the religious consciousness seems to me wholly arbitrary and impossible to anyone who has a real and intimate religious experience of his own.
There is however as one would expect much to be learned from the sympathetic study of such a religious experience as Blake's—a deep and genuine religious experience in the soul of a great artist of a type diverging as we have seen in some respects from the Christian yet in some very close to it. There is a certain way of speaking about Divine Personality which may well find in it a valuable corrective. This is a way which is at once convicted of ineptitude by such a tale as the following. A certain schoolmaster speaking of one who had presented a sum of money to his school said: “This generous benefactor desires to remain anonymous—and so his name will be known only to himself and to me and to God—and” (he added recollecting that the secret had not been so closely kept as he had implied)—“and to one or two others.” Everyone laughs at this story perceiving at once the absurdity of reckoning God in as one of three or four possessors of a certain piece of information; and in so laughing we instinctively acknowledge that God is not a person among others the transcendence implied in the religious experience of worship requiring if our theology is to be adequate to that experience correction by the confession of his immanence in the worshipper even in the very act of worship.
A theology which neglects the immanence of God must not only fail so long as there is genuine worship at all to represent truly the facts of that religious experience which it claims to interpret but may have an ill-effect on the piety which looks to it for intellectual guidance. It will tend to widen the breach between this piety and the mood natural to the artist who thus comes into danger of deifying impersonal Nature and so falling back into a religion which misses the truth that was never out of Blake's sight the truth which he expresses by his discovery in everything not only of Deity but of Humanity and therefore of Personality. Nevertheless it is not to be overlooked that the attitude towards Nature even of the artist who finds satisfaction in the thought that Nature is not human does in fact imply a personification of Nature; and that on the other hand the most devout worshipper under the forms of traditional religion is often found dwelling in like manner on the contrast between God and man saying it may be with David in the Bible story: “Let us fall into the hand of the Lord for very great are his mercies but let me not fall into the hand of man.”22
I do not intend to enter at this point into a discussion of the religious value of a worship which finds God in Nature apart from man rather than in the activities of the human spirit as compared with one for which it is precisely in these latter that the Divinity hidden in Nature is properly speaking revealed.
The facts are by no means to be ignored which led Coleridge to say that the world (by which in this context he means the same as is meant by Nature in the sense in which we are here using the expression) “so far from being a goddess in petticoats is rather the Devil in a straight waistcoat”;23
or Mrs. Browning to affirm in more poetical language that we “may discern the heart of a lost angel in the earth.”24
These facts at the very least militate strongly against an identification of Nature with God and may well suggest that there exist in the universe wills other than human which like many human wills are evil or at any rate not wholly good and that to such imperfect wills are to be ascribed what in nature we must reckon evil and yet cannot ascribe to human sin.25
Into these questions I do not propose now to enter and I mention them only to show that I am not unaware of their urgency and that I perceive them to have a bearing on the problem whether a purely natural religion is possible. For our present purpose it is quite sufficient to remark that as has been already observed the worshipper of Nature personifies the object of his worship and thus may be called as a witness to the need for Religion of acknowledging Personality in God; while the artist's discontent like that of the man of science with a certain way of representing Divine Personality serves rather to purify and enrich than to render untenable the Theism which it tends to reject.
This work of purification and enrichment may be said where we are concerned with the artist to take two forms. In the first place we have the correction after a fashion which in a Lecture of my former course26
I suggested was desirable of an inadequate mode of envisaging Divine Personality by the recognition that in the artist no less than in the geometer or in the moralist may the ‘image of God’ be traced. In the second place the artist's or poet's impatience of the seemingly incomprehensible restrictions imposed upon the free exercise of imagination by creeds or dogmas may call attention to the element of artistic creation which is involved in all our representations of God even in those which assume dogmatic form. The recognition of such an element is in no wise incompatible with regarding Religion as genuine experience the apprehension of an independent or objective Reality. It has been lately pointed out by Signor Croce that in all perception there is an element of self-expression which is fundamentally of the same nature as that which appears with greater intensity in the creative activity of the artist. For we may gratefully accept the light here thrown by this acute thinker upon our present problem without committing ourselves to the systematic mapping out of the forms of our spiritual life with which it is connected.
We may say that the higher the object which we apprehend the larger is the measure in which this element of self-expression is present. Thus for intimate acquaintance with another person we need imagination in a greater degree than for the study of impersonal beings. No one would deny that without imagination the sympathetic understanding of a friend's character (or even for that matter the intelligent comprehension of an enemy's) would be impossible; yet few would doubt that what is thus understood is independently real. Just so in Religion which is communion with the Divine we may recognize the exercise of imagination and that in an eminent degree to be indispensable without on that account disputing the genuine reality of its Object.
An eminent German writer of our own day has observed that “creative geniuses in every field even where they come into sharp conflict with the traditional religion have felt as though they were led and guarded by an unseen Power.”27
“This consciousness” he continues “takes a different form in each of life's different departments. The great artist feels it differently from the great thinker. He will be more directly conscious of his creative power as being a gift and something that lifts him above himself.” I think that on the whole these remarks are justified; and that in the temper characteristic of those who represent the æsthetic activity at its best the sense of a creative energy within themselves which disdains to be controlled by the ‘dead hand’ of institutions or creeds is balanced by a consciousness of being in the very exercise of that creative energy the instruments and vehicles of a transcendent Power even though envisaged in a form no less vague than that of the Principle of Beauty towards which (along with the Eternal Being and the Memory of great men) Keats in the Preface to Endymion
expresses a “feel of humility.” Even Blake from whom such a ‘feel of humility’ seems as we have seen to be markedly absent regarded his ‘prophetical books’ as written at the dictation of his ‘friends in Eternity.’28
This being so there is nothing one would say alien to such a temperament in the recognition of Personality in God. For the humility which is naturally engendered by the consciousness in religious worship of a personal relation to the Highest has nothing in it inconsistent with the profoundest sense on the artist's part of a creative energy expressing itself in his special activity; on the contrary it agrees very well with the deep-seated consciousness that this very energy is itself a gift; and may naturally be felt even to involve a sense of the high dignity of his own vocation. But he will rightly refuse to think of God after a fashion which would make him not the inspirer of the artist's imagination but merely the beneficiary of his achievements; so that his offering of his own peculiar endowments in God's service should appear a treatment of them as mere means to an end in no wise æsthetic. A God who should thus accept the works of a poet or artist in the spirit of a preacher or missioner who wants a revival hymn set to a taking tune or of a clergyman who desires to attract a congregation to his church by an ornate ritual—such a God can assuredly be no God for the artist. But to conceive God in this manner is for everyone who like the artist is capable of a genuine appreciation of beauty to misconceive him and to set up a false God in the place of the true; since it is to conceive him as less than the highest that we can conceive.
The quarrel of the artist with Theism is often the expression of his dissatisfaction with a morality which seems to disapprove and condemn what he is sure is good; and he thinks of the God of whom he hears from the pulpit as just this censorious morality imagined as seated upon the throne of the universe. It is remarkable that Blake whom we took in an earlier part of this Lecture as a type of the artist has sometimes flung himself into outbursts in which he flouts and outrages the most sacred canons of the accepted moral code. Such passages seem strangely at variance with their author's simple and blameless life and yet they were most certainly seriously intended; one cannot conceive him as excusing himself like Martial on the ground that “his page was wanton but his life was clean.”29
What inspires even the most extravagant of them is the artist's passionate refusal to deny in obedience to a law which has no care for beauty the goodness of anything that is beautiful. If we identify Religion with Morality or (which is the same thing) affirm that God is such an one as the Urizen of Blake's mythology we shall never be able to overcome the artist's alienation from Religion. But Religion is not merely another name for Morality. I would end this Lecture if I may by repeating words which I have used elsewhere and in which I have tried to express what I believe to be the true relation which it bears to two great forms of spiritual activity which often seem to clash—the æsthetic with which we have been dealing to-day and the ethical to which my next Lecture will be devoted.
“It is Religion—that is the experience in which the soul is aware of itself as one or as capable of being one with the heart of Reality—which guarantees what we perceive of Beauty and of Goodness alike as no merely subjective or superficial appearances but as intimations of the ultimate nature of that Reality whose essential attributes are manifested therein. Not only does Religion in this way guarantee Art and Morality as laying hold of Reality but also by its interpretation of both as witnesses to different attributes of one Reality it secures each against the dangers which threaten it from its complete separation from the other. The selfishness and cruelty which sometimes attend upon one-sided æsthetic ism lose their inspiration when those elements of value in the world to which the sense of Beauty testifies are held to be secure in God although certain modes of their expression are found to be incompatible with Duty. And that censoriousness of a one-sided moralism which is constantly imposing limits upon artistic expression limits which seem to the artist with his passionate sense of Beauty the fetters of an intolerable slavery is corrected by the faith which even in denying the legitimacy of certain modes of artistic expression affirms that that which they would fain express is so far as it is beautiful also divine and even although it remain here and thus unexpressed eternally secure in God.”30