Archive for the Philosophy Category

Mercy

Posted in Painting, Philosophy, Poetry with tags , on August 23, 2018 by Dylan Thomas Hayden

mercy1

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The quality of mercy is not strained;
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
‘T is mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown:
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway;
It is enthronèd in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God’s
When mercy seasons justice. Therefore, Jew,
Though justice be thy plea, consider this,
That, in the course of justice, none of us
Should see salvation: we do pray for mercy;
And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
The deeds of mercy.

Text: William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, Act IV, Scene I
Image: Alejo Fernández, La Virgen de los Navegantes, oil on panel, c. 1531–36, Casa de Contratación, Sevilla
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Resurrection

Posted in Art, Philosophy with tags , , , on July 21, 2018 by Dylan Thomas Hayden


Christian art is always an action based on the great idea of redemption. It is an “imitation of Christ” infinitely various in its manifestations, an eternal return to the single creative act that began our historical era. Christian art is free. It is, in the full meaning of the phrase, “art for art’s sake.” No necessity of any kind, even the highest, clouds its bright inner freedom, for its prototype, that which it imitates, is the very redemption of the world by Christ. And so, not sacrifice, not redemption in art, but the free and joyful imitation of Christ—that is the keystone of Christian esthetics. Art cannot be a sacrifice, for a sacrifice has already been made; cannot be redemption, for the world along with the artist has already been redeemed. What then is left? A joyful commerce with the divine, like a game played by the Father with his children, a hide-and-seek of the spirit! The divine illusion of redemption, which is Christian art, is explained precisely by this game Divinity plays with us, permitting us to stray along the byways of mystery so that we would, as it were of ourselves, come upon salvation, having experienced catharsis, redemption in art. Christian artists are as it were the freedmen of the idea of redemption, rather than slaves, and they are not preachers. Our whole two-thousand-year-old culture, thanks to the miraculous mercy of Christianity, is the world’s release into freedom for the sake of play, for spiritual joy, for the free “imitation of Christ.”

Christianity took its place and stood there in an absolutely free relationship to art, and this no human religion of any kind has been able to do either before or after it.

Nourishing art, giving art of its flesh, offering it in the way of a sturdy metaphysical foundation the most real fact of redemption, Christianity demanded nothing in return. Christian culture is therefore not threatened by the danger of inner impoverishment. It is inexhaustible, infinite, because, triumphing over time, again and again it condenses grace into magnificent clouds and lets it pour out in life-giving rain. One cannot be sufficiently emphatic in pointing out the fact that, for its character of eternal freshness and unfadingness, European culture is indebted to the mercy of Christianity in its relationship to art.

Text: Osip Mandelstam, Selected Essays, translated by Sidney Monas. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1977
Image: Andrea del Verrocchio, Resurrezione di Cristo, painted terracotta, c. 1463, Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence

Mirror

Posted in Painting, Philosophy with tags , on April 25, 2018 by Dylan Thomas Hayden

In those moments when our experience of the world awakens us to the strangeness—the utter fortuity and pure givenness—of existence, we are confronted by two mysteries simultaneously, or at least by a mystery with two equally inscrutable poles. No less wonderful than the being of things is our consciousness of them: our ability to know the world, to possess a continuous subjective awareness of reality, to mirror the unity of being in the unity of private cognizance, to contemplate the world and ourselves, to assume each moment of experience into a fuller comprehension of the whole, and to relate ourselves to the world through acts of judgment and will. In a single movement of thought, the mind is capable of receiving the world in both its integrity and its diversity, of holding past, present, and future together, of contemplating reality at once under both its particular (or concrete) and its general (or abstract) aspects, of composing endless imaginative and conceptual variations upon experience, of pondering itself as it ponders the outer world—and all the while preserving that limpid and silent presence to itself in which it indivisibly abides. Being is transparent to mind; mind is transparent to being; each is “fitted” to the other, open to the other, at once containing and contained by the other. Each is the mysterious glass in which the other shines, revealed not in itself but only in reflecting and being reflected by the other.

Text: David Bentley Hart, The Experience of God. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2013
Image: Georges de La Tour, The Penitent Magdalen, oil on canvas, c. 1640, Metropolitan Museum

Several people have complained about it.

Posted in Cinema, Philosophy, Writing with tags on March 22, 2018 by Dylan Thomas Hayden

tarkovsky

Since the war culture has somehow collapsed, fallen apart. All over the world. Along  with spiritual criteria. Here, quite obviously, apart from anything else it’s the result of the consistent, barbaric, annihilation of culture. And without culture society naturally runs wild. God knows where it’s all going to end. Never before has ignorance reached such monstrous proportions. This repudiation of the spiritual can only engender monsters. Now, as never before, we have to make a stand for everything that has the slightest relevance to the spiritual.

How readily man turns away from immortality; surely he is not quintessentially brutish?

It’s far harder to maintain a high moral state than to vegetate in insignificance.

Text: Andrei Tarkovsky, Time Within Time: The Diaries 1970-86. London: Faber & Faber, 1994
Image: Tarkovsky preparing Andrei Rublev

Le veau d’or

Posted in Philosophy with tags on July 6, 2017 by Dylan Thomas Hayden

veaudor

America is on the road to revolutionize this ideal by the introduction of the democratic principle of the equality of individuals in a general equality of functions. Only, when there is nothing left but a multitude of equal individualities, neither young nor old, neither men nor women, neither benefited nor benefactors—all social difference will turn upon money. The whole hierarchy will rest upon the dollar, and the most brutal, the most hideous, the most inhuman of inequalities will be the fruit of the passion for equality. What a result! Plutolatry—the worship of wealth, the madness of gold—to it will be confided the task of chastising a false principle and its followers. And plutocracy will be in its turn executed by equality. It would be a strange end for it, if Anglo-Saxon individualism were ultimately swallowed up in Latin socialism.

It is my prayer that the discovery of an equilibrium between the two principles may be made in time, before the social war, with all its terror and ruin, overtakes us. But it is scarcely likely.

Text: Henri-Frédéric Amiel, Journal Intime, translated by Mrs. Humphrey Ward. London: Macmillan and Co, 1898
Image: Henri Meyer, Le veau d’or, Le Petit Journal, n° 110, samedi 31 décembre 1892

Lectori Benevolo

Posted in Painting, Philosophy with tags , on June 29, 2017 by Dylan Thomas Hayden

Rembrandt, Ascension, 1636

On account of its somewhat unusual content, my little book requires a short preface. I beg of you, dear reader, not to overlook it. For, in what follows, I shall speak of the venerable objects of religious belief. Whoever talks of such matters inevitably runs the risk of being torn to pieces by the two parties who are in mortal conflict about those very things. This conflict is due to the strange supposition that a thing is true only if it presents itself as a physical fact. Thus some people believe it to be physically true that Christ was born as the son of a virgin, while others deny this as a physical impossibility. Everyone can see that there is no logical solution to this conflict and that one would do better not to get involved in such sterile disputes. Both are right and both are wrong. Yet they could easily reach agreement if only they dropped the word “physical.” “Physical” is not the only criterion of truth: there are also psychic truths which can neither be explained nor proved nor contested in any physical way. If, for instance, a general belief existed that the river Rhine had at one time flowed backwards from its mouth to its source, then this belief would in itself be a fact even though such an assertion, physically understood, would be deemed utterly incredible. Beliefs of this kind are psychic facts which cannot be contested and need no proof.

Religious statements are of this type. They refer without exception to things that cannot be established as physical facts. If they did not do this, they would inevitably fall into the category of the natural sciences. Taken as referring to anything physical, they make no sense whatever, and science would dismiss them as non-experienceable. They would be mere miracles, which are sufficiently exposed to doubt as it is, and yet they could not demonstrate the reality of the spirit or meaning that underlies them, because meaning is something that always demonstrates itself and is experienced on its own merits. The spirit and meaning of Christ are present and perceptible to us even without the aid of miracles. Miracles appeal only to the understanding of those who cannot perceive the meaning. They are mere substitutes for the not understood reality of the spirit. This is not to say that the living presence of the spirit is not occasionally accompanied by marvellous physical happenings. I only wish to emphasize that these happenings can neither replace nor bring about an understanding of the spirit, which is the one essential thing.

The fact that religious statements frequently conflict with the observed physical phenomena proves that in contrast to physical perception the spirit is autonomous, and that psychic experience is to a certain extent independent of physical data. The psyche is an autonomous factor, and religious statements are psychic confessions which in the last resort are based on unconscious, i.e., on transcendental, processes. These processes are not accessible to physical perception but demonstrate their existence through the confessions of the psyche. The resultant statements are filtered through the medium of human consciousness: that is to say, they are given visible forms which in their turn are subject to manifold influences from within and without. That is why whenever we speak of religious contents we move in a world of images that point to something ineffable. We do not know how clear or unclear these images, metaphors, and concepts are in respect of their transcendental object. If, for instance, we say “God,” we give expression to an image or verbal concept which has undergone many changes in the course of time. We are, however, unable to say with any degree of certainty—unless it be by faith—whether these changes affect only the images and concepts, or the Unspeakable itself. After all, we can imagine God as an eternally flowing current of vital energy that endlessly changes shape just as easily as we can imagine him as an eternally unmoved, unchangeable essence. Our reason is sure only of one thing: that it manipulates images and ideas which are dependent on human imagination and its temporal and local conditions, and which have therefore changed innumerable times in the course of their long history. There is no doubt that there is something behind these images that transcends consciousness and operates in such a way that the statements do not vary limitlessly and chaotically, but clearly all relate to a few basic principles or archetypes. These, like the psyche itself, or like matter, are unknowable as such. All we can do is to construct models of them which we know to be inadequate, a fact which is confirmed again and again by religious statements.

If, therefore, in what follows I concern myself with these “metaphysical” objects, I am quite conscious that I am moving in a world of images and that none of my reflections touches the essence of the Unknowable. I am also too well aware of how limited are our powers of conception—to say nothing of the feebleness and poverty of language—to imagine that my remarks mean anything more in principle than what a primitive man means when he conceives of his god as a hare or a snake. But, although our whole world of religious ideas consists of anthropomorphic images that could never stand up to rational criticism, we should never forget that they are based on numinous archetypes, i.e., on an emotional foundation which is unassailable by reason. We are dealing with psychic facts which logic.can overlook but not eliminate. In this connection Tertullian has already appealed, quite rightly, to the testimony of the soul. In his De testimonio animae, he says:

These testimonies of the soul are as simple as they are true, as obvious as they are simple, as common as they are obvious, as natural as they are common, as divine as they are natural. I think that they cannot appear to any one to be trifling and ridiculous if he considers the majesty of Nature, whence the authority of the soul is derived. What you allow to the mistress you will assign to the disciple. Nature is the mistress, the soul is the disciple; what the one has taught, or the other has learned, has been delivered to them by God, who is, in truth, the Master even of the mistress herself. What notion the soul is able to conceive of her first teacher is in your power to judge, from that soul which is in you. Feel that which causes you to feel; think upon that which is in forebodings your prophet; in omens, your augur; in the events which befall you, your foreseer. Strange if, being given by God, she knows how to act the diviner for men! Equally strange if she knows Him by whom she has been given!

I would go a step further and say that the statements made in the Holy Scriptures are also utterances of the soul—even at the risk of being suspected of psychologism. The statements of the conscious mind may easily be snares and delusions, lies, or arbitrary opinions, but this is certainly not true of the statements of the soul: to begin with they always go over our heads because they point to realities that transcend consciousness. These entia are the archetypes of the collective unconscious, and they precipitate complexes of ideas in the form of mythological motifs. Ideas of this kind are never invented, but enter the field of inner perception as finished products, for instance in dreams. They are spontaneous phenomena which are not subject to our will, and we are therefore justified in ascribing to them a certain autonomy. They are to be regarded not only as objects but as subjects with laws of their own. From the point of view of consciousness, we can, of course, describe them as objects, and even explain them up to a point, in the same measure as we can describe and explain a living human being. But then we have to disregard their autonomy. If that is considered, we are compelled to treat them as subjects; in other words, we have to admit that they possess spontaneity and purposiveness, or a kind of consciousness and free will. We observe their behaviour and consider their statements. This dual standpoint, which we are forced to adopt towards every relatively independent organism, naturally has a dual result. On the one hand it tells me what I do to the object, and on the other hand what it does (possibly to me). It is obvious that this unavoidable dualism will create a certain amount of confusion in the minds of my readers, particularly as in what follows we shall have to do with the archetype of Deity.

Should any of my readers feel tempted to add an apologetic “only” to the God-images as we perceive them, he would immediately fall foul of experience, which demonstrates beyond any shadow of doubt the extraordinary numinosity of these images. The tremendous effectiveness (mana) of these images is such that they not only give one the feeling of pointing to the Ens realissimum, but make one convinced that they actually express it and establish it as a fact. This makes discussion uncommonly difficult, if not impossible. It is, in fact, impossible to demonstrate God’s reality to oneself except by using images which have arisen spontaneously or are sanctified by tradition, and whose psychic nature and effects the naive-minded person has never separated from their unknowable metaphysical back-ground. He instantly equates the effective image with the transcendental x to which it points. The seeming justification for this procedure appears self-evident and is not considered a problem so long as the statements of religion are not seriously questioned. But if there is occasion for criticism, then it must be remembered that the image and the statement are psychic processes which are different from their transcendental object; they do not posit it, they merely point to it. In the realm of psychic processes criticism and discussion are not only permissible but are unavoidable.

In what follows I shall attempt just such a discussion, such a “coming to terms” with certain religious traditions and ideas. Since I shall be dealing with numinous factors, my feeling is challenged quite as much as my intellect. I cannot, therefore, write in a coolly objective manner, but must allow my emotional subjectivity to speak if I want to describe what I feel when I read certain books of the Bible, or when I remember the impressions I have received from the doctrines of our faith. I do not write as a biblical scholar (which I am not), but as a layman and physician who has been privileged to see deeply into the psychic life of many people. What I am expressing is first of all my own personal view, but I know that I also speak in the name of many who have had similar experiences.

Text: Carl Jung, Answer to Job. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1954
Image: Rembrandt van Rijn, The Ascension of Christ, 1636, Alte Pinakothek Munich

Mirror

Posted in Art, Cinema, Philosophy with tags on June 28, 2017 by Dylan Thomas Hayden

Andrei Tarkovsky with Margarita Terekhova - Mirror

We have almost totally lost sight of the beautiful as a criterion of art: in other words, of the aspiration to express the ideal. Every age is marked by the search for truth. And however grim that truth, it still contributes to the moral health of humanity. Its recognition is a sign of a healthy time and can never be in contradiction with the moral idea. Attempts to hide the truth, cover it, keep it secret, artificially setting it against a distorted moral ideal on the assumption that the latter will be repudiated in the eyes of the majority by the impartial truth—can only mean that ideological interests have been substituted for aesthetic criteria. Only a faithful statement about the artist’s time can express a true, as opposed to a propagandist, moral ideal.

This was the theme of Andrey Rublyov. It looks at first sight as if the cruel truth of life as he observes it is in crying contradiction with the harmonious ideal of his work. The crux of the question, however, is that the artist cannot express the moral ideal of his time unless he touches all its running sores, unless he suffers and lives these sores himself. That is how art triumphs over grim, ‘base’ truth, clearly recognising it for what it is, in the name of its own sublime purpose: such is its destined role. For art could almost be said to be religious in that it is inspired by commitment to a higher goal.

Devoid of spirituality, art carries its own tragedy within it. For even to recognise the spiritual vacuum of the times in which he lives, the artist must have specific qualities of wisdom and understanding. The true artist always serves immortality, striving to immortalise the world and man within the world. An artist who doesn’t try to seek out absolute truth, who ignores universal goals for the sake of accidentals, can only be a time-server.

Text: Andrei Tarkovsky, Sculpting in Time. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1986
Image: Andrei Tarkovsky with Margarita Terekhova on the set of Mirror, 1975