Puslapio vaizdai
PDF
„ePub“

Accordingly we never hesitate to consign the worst of crimi. nals to the boundless clemency of God. If we really believed the man to be bad in himself, bad independently of his physical and social conditions, we should never dare send him to God. We should do all in our power to hide him from God, as from a devouring pestilence.

Here let us pause a moment to survey the ground we have traversed. We have seen that creation is but the revelation or imaging forth of divine personality. We have consequently seen that nature is incompetent to this revelation, because nature is destitute of personality, destitute of power to originate its own action. And finally we have seen that man is the only competent revelation or image of God, because man alone possesses personality. So far we have attained.

But now, from the definition given of personality, it is manifest that it is to be ascribed to man only in his very inmost or highest development, and not at all in his physical or social relations. For personality, when applied to any subject, affirms the subject's infinitude or perfection, affirms, in other words, the subject's entire sufficiency unto himself. It affirms his self-sufficiency or perfection, because it implies the power of originating his own action. Ile who has power to originate his own action is sufficient unto himself, and to be sufficient unto one's-self is to be infinite or perfect. Infinitude or perfection means self-sufficiency. I admit the words are often used by rote, or without any definite intention. But whenever they are used intelligently, they are designed to express the subject's self-sufficiency. We can form no conception of the divine infinitude or perfection other than is expressed by say. ing that He is sufficient unto Himself. And if we further ask ourselves what we mean by His being sufficient unto Himself, we reply instinctively that we mean to express IIis power to originate His own action. This power, which is inherent in God, is the basis of His personality or character, is that thing without which to our conception He would not be God, that is, would not be infinite or perfect. Had IIe not this power He would be finite or imperfect. His power, like that of nature, would be limited by something external to Himself.

If, therefore, personality, when applied to any subject, expresses his infinitude or perfection, expresses his self-sufficiency, it is manifest, as was said before, that it cannot be applied to man in every aspect of his subjectivity, namely, as a subject either of nature or of his fellow-man, but only in his very highest aspect, which is that of a divine subject. For man's highest or ininost subjection is a subjection to God, which lifts himn entirely beyond the sphere of necessity or duty, and indeed enables him, if need be, to lay off the bodily life and the friendship of men as easily as he lays off bis garments at night. This subjection of man to God is involved in the very relation of Creator and creature. For the Creator being essential life, life in itself, cannot communicate life, save by communicating Hiinself, to the creature. And He cannot com nunicate Hiinself save in so far as the creature be made receptive, which receptivity becomes effected by means of the creature's natural and moral experience, the issue of which is to exalt him above nature and above society, endowing him with the lordship or supremacy of the external universe. Man's natural activity degrades or obscures his personality. It is not spontaneous — does not originate in his internal self, but in a inere necessity of his nature common to all its partakers. Instead of expressing his distinctive personality, therefore, it expresses a common property of all men. Regarded as a subject of nature, therefore, man lacks personality, lacks at least all such personality as reflects the divine.

His moral subjectivity presents a similar fatal defect. Mo rality covers my relations to society or my fellow-man. Thus, as my natural action is conditioned upon a law of necessity, or of subjection to nature, so my moral action is conditioned upon a law of duty, or of subjection to my fellow-man. I act morally only in so far as I act under obligation to others, being morally good when I practically acknowledge, and morally evil when I practically deny, this obligation. Thus morality displays me in subjection not to God, but to society or my fellowman, and thus equally with nature denies me proper personality. For personality implies the subject's absolute property in his action, which property is impossible unless the subject constitute also the object of the action, or, in other words, unless the object of the action fall within, be internal to, the subject's self, and this condition is violated when I act not to please myself, but to please my fellow.man. Hence neither man's natural nor his moral action confers a divine or perfect personality on him. The former does not because it displays him in subjection to nature. The latter does not because it displays him in subjection to his fellow-man. Both the moral and natural man are imperfect. Both fail to exhibit that balanced or self-centred action, which is the exclusive basis of personality, and both alike consequently fail to express the DIVINE MAN, or accomplish the divine image in humanity.

But here it may be asked whether benevolence does not confer personality. Decidedly not, for the reason that benevolent action is not spontaneous, but purely sympathetic. Personal action -- all action which warrants the ascription of personality to the subject -- is of necessity spontaneous, or inwardly begotten. I say of necessity, because action which is outwardly begotten, or originates in something foreign to the subject, does not pertain to him absolutely but only partially, pertains to him only as he stands involved in nature or society. Now sympathetic action evidently falls under this latter category, being begotten not from within but from without the subject's self, as the etymology of the word indicates. It supposes a want on the part of somebody not the subject, disposing the latter to relieve it. If, therefore, you take away suffering from all others, you take from the benevolent subject all power of action. And surely no one will consider that is a divine or perfect personality, whose power of action is controlled by circumstances foreign to himself.

Thus the fundamental requisite of personality, namely, that it attest the subject's self-sufficiency or perfection by exhibiting in him the power of self-derived action, is necessarily madle void in all purely benevolent action. And the inevitable conclusion therefore is that the benevolent man, as such, does not possess true personality, or is incompetent to imaye God.

Who, then, is the true divine man? Who of all mankind possesses personality, and thus constitutes the imaye of God in creation? Evidently it must be some one who unites in himself, or harmonizes, all those finite or imperfect men. For the divine man does not exclude the natural man, nor the moral man, nor the sympathetic man, nor any other phasis of humanity. These are all constituent elements of the human nature, and the perfect man is bound not to exclude but accept them, blending and reconciling all in his own infinite manhood, in his own unitary self. These men are the geometric stones of the divine edifice of humanity; they are by no means the edifice itself, but its indispensable material, and he therefore who should attempt to construct the edifice to their exclusion, would necessarily have his work about his ears.

Who, then, is the perfect or divine man, the man who actually reconciles in himself all the conflicting elements of humanity? Is any such man actually extant ? If so, where shall we find him ? We find him in the æsthetic man, or Artist.

But now observe that when I speak of the æsthetic man or Artist, I do not mean the man of any specific function, as the poet, painter, or mariner. I mean the man of whatsoever function, who in fulfilling it obeys his own inspiration or taste, uncontrolled either by his physical necessities or his social obligations. He alone is the Artist, whatever be his manifest vocation, whose action obeys his own internal taste or attraction, uncontrolled either by necessity or duty. The action may perfectly consist both with necessity and duty; that is to say, it may practically promote both his physical and social welfare ; but these must not be its animating principles, or he sinks at once from the Artist into the artisan. The artisan seeks to gain a livelihood or secure an honorable name. He works for bread, or for fame, or for both together. The Artist abhors these ends, and works only to show forth that immortal beauty whose presence constitutes his inmost soul. He is vowed to Beauty as the bride is vowed to the husband, and beauty reveals herself to him only as he is true to his inmost soul, only as he obeys his spontaneous taste or attraction.

The reason accordingly why the painter, the poet, the musician, and so forth, have so long monopolized the name of Artist, is, not because Art is identical with these forms of action, for it is identical with no specific forms, but simply because the poet, painter, and so forth, more than any other men, have thrown off the tyranny of nature and custom, and followed the inspirations of genius, the inspirations of beauty, in their own souls. These men to some extent have sunk the service of nature and society in the obedience of their own private attractions. They have merged the search of the good and the true in that of the beautiful, and have consequently announced a divinity as yet unannounced either in nature or society. To the extent of their consecration, they are priests after the order of Melchisedec, that is to say, a priesthood, which, not being made after the law of a carnal commandment, shall never pass away. And they are kings, and reign by a direct unction from the Highest. But the priest is not the altar, but the servant of the altar; and the king is not the highest, but the servant of the Highest. So painting, poetry, is not Art, but the servant and representation of Art. “Art is divine, universal, infinite. It therefore exacts to itself infinite

forms or manifestations, here in the painter, there in the actor; here in the musician, there in the machinist ; here in the architect, there in the dancer; here in the poet, there in the costumer. We do not therefore call the painter or poet, Artist, because painting or poetry is a whit more essential to Art than ditching is, but simply because the painter and poet have more frequently exhibited the life of Art by means of a hearty insubjection to nature and convention.

When, therefore, I call the divine man, or God's image in creation, by the name of Artist, the reader will not suppose me to mean the poet, painter, or any other special form of man. On the contrary, he will suppose me to mean that infinite and spiritual man whom all these finite functionaries represent, indeed, but whom none of them constitutes, namely, the man who in every visible form of action acts always from his inmost self, or from attraction, and not from necessity or duty. I mean the man who is a law unto himself, and ignores all outward allegiance, whether to nature or society. This man may indeed have no technical vocation whatever, such as poet, painter, and the like, and yet he could be none the less sure to announce himself. The humblest theatre of action furnishes him a platform. I pay my waiter so much a day for putting my dinner on the table. But he performs his function in a way so entirely sui generis, with so exquisite an attention to beauty in all the details of the service, with so symmetrical an arrangement of the dishes, and so even an adjustment of every thing to its own place, and to the hand that needs it, as to shed an almost epic dignity upon the repast, and convert one's habitual “ grace before meat” into a spontaneous tribute, instinct with a divine recognition.

The charm in this case is not that the dinner is all before me, where the man is bound by his wages to place it. This every waiter I have had has done just as punctually as this man. No, it is exclusively the way in which it is set before me, a way altogether peculiar to this man, which attests that in doing it he is not thinking either of earning his wages, or doing his duty towards me, but only of satisfying his own conception of beauty with the resources before him. The consequence is that the pecuniary relation between us merges in a higher one. He is no longer the menial, but my equal or superior, so that I have felt, when entertaining doctors of divinity and law, and discoursing about divine mysteries, that a living epistle was circulating behind our backs, and quietly

« AnkstesnisTęsti »