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Full text of "We moderns: enigmas and guesses"

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IV. We Moderns 

By Edwin Muir 



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THE FREE'LANCE BOOKS f EDITED BY H. L. MENCKEN 




Class 

Book___ 
Copyriglit^J^ 



COEailGHT DEPOSm 



WE MODERNS: 

ENIGMAS AND GUESSES 



THE FREE-LANCE BOOKS 

Edited with Introductions 
By H. L. Mencken 

i youth and egolatry 
By Pio Baroja 

ii ventures in common sense 
By E. W. Howe 

iii the antichrist 

By F. W. Nietzsche 

iv we moderns 

By Edwin Muir 

Other volumes in preparation. 

For sale at all bookshops 

ALFRED A. KNOPF, PUBLISHER 



THE FREE LANCE BOOKS. IV 

EDITED WITH INTRODUCTIONS BY H. L. MENCKEN 

WE MODERNS: 

ENIGMAS AND GUESSES 
By EDWIN MUIR 




NEW YORK ALFRED • A • KNOPF mcmxx 



COPYRIGHT, 1920, BY 
ALFRED A. KNOPF, Inc. 



JUL 30 19-2.0 * 



PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATEg OF AMKHIOA 



©CI.A597138 



(^ 



CONTENTS 

Introduction, 7 
I. The Old Age, 25 
11. Original Sin, 69 

III. What IS Modern? 103 

IV. Art and Literature, 145 
V. Creative Love, 185 

VI. The Tragic View, 225 



INTRODUCTION 

That a young Scotsman, reacting from the 
vast emotional assault of the late ferocious war, 
should have withdrawn himself into an ivory 
tower in Glasgow town, and there sat himself 
down in heroic calm to wrestle with the vexa- 
tious and no doubt intrinsically insoluble prob- 
lems of being and becoming — this was surely 
nothing to cause whispers among connoisseurs of 
philosophical passion, for that grim, persistent, 
cold-blooded concern with the fundamental 
mysteries of the world has been the habit of the 
Scots ever since they emerged from massacre 
and blue paint. From blue paint, indeed, the 
transition was almost instantaneous to blue souls, 
and the conscience of Britain, such as it is, has 
dwelt north of the Cheviot Hills ever since. 
Find a Scot, and you are at once beset by a 
metaphysician, or, at all events, by a theologian. 
But for a young man of those damp, desolate 
parts, throwing himself into the racial trance, to 
emerge with a set of ideas reaching back, through 
— 7 — 



INTRODUCTION 



Nietzsche and even worse heretics, to the 
spacious, innocent, somewhat gaudy days of the 
Greek illumination — for such a fellow, so bred 
and circumscribed, to come out of his tower with 
a concept of life as a grand and glittering adven- 
ture, a tremendous spectacle, an overpowering 
ecstasy, almost an orgy — such a phenomenon 
was, and is, quite sufficient to lift the judicious 
eyebrow. Yet here is this Mr. Edwin Muir of 
Caledonia bearing just that outlandish contra- 
band, offering just that strange flouting of all 
things traditionally Scotch. What he preaches 
in the ensuing aphorisms is the emancipation of 
the modern spirit from its rotting heritage of 
ingenuous fears and exploded certainties. What 
he denounces most bitterly is the abandonment 
of a world that is beautifully surprising and 
charming to the rule of sordid, timid and un- 
imaginative men — the regimentation of ideas 
in a system that is half a denial of the obvious 
and half a conglomeration of outworn metaphors, 
all taken too literally. And what he pleads for 
most eloquently, with his cold, reserved northern 
eloquence, is the whole-hearted acceptance of 
" life as a sacrament, . . . life as joy triumph- 
ing over fate, . . . life made innocent, . . . 
— 8 — 



INTRODUCTION 



life washed free from how much filth of re- 
morse, guilt, contempt, ' sin '." . . . 

It goes without saying that the red hand of 
Nietzsche is in all this. The Naumburg Anti- 
christ, damned for five years running by the 
indignation of all right-thinking men, has made 
steady and enormous progress under cover. 
There has never been a time, indeed, when his 
notions enjoyed a wider dispersion or were poll- 
parrotted unwittingly by greater numbers of the 
righteous. Excessive draughts of the democratic 
cure-all, swallowed label, cork, testimonials and 
all, have brought Christendom to bed with 
Katzenjammer — and there stands the seductive 
antidote in its leering blue bottles. Where 
would philosophical opponents of Bolshevism 
be without Nietzsche? Who would devise argu- 
ments for them, eloquence for them, phrases for 
them? On all sides one hears echoes of him — 
often transformed from his harsh bass to a piping 
falsetto, but nevertheless recognizable enough. 
Any port in a storm! If God is asleep, then turn 
to the Devil! The show offers the best laughing 
that heathen have enjoyed, perhaps, since the 
Hundred Years' War. And there is an extra 
snicker in the fact that Scotland, once again, 
_9_ 



INTRODUCTION 



seems to resume the old trade of intellectual 
smuggling. If one Scot is to the front with so 
forthright a piece as " We Moderns," then 
surely there must be a thousand other Scots hard 
at it in a pianissimo manner. Thus, I suppose, 
the crime of Carlyle is repeated on a wholesale 
scale, and once again the poor Sassenach is 
inoculated with pathogenic Prussian organisms. 
On this side of the ocean the business is less 
efficiently organized; we have no race of illicit 
metaphysicians on our border. But the goods 
come in all the same. I have heard more prat- 
tling of stale Nietzscheism of late, from men 
bearing the flag in one hand and the cross in the 
other, than I ever heard in the old days from 
parlour anarchists and unfrocked priests. 
Nietzsche, belatedly discovered by a world beset 
by terrors too great for it and mysteries too pro- 
found, becomes almost respectable, nay, almost 
Episcopalian! 

What ails it, at bottom, is the delusion that all 
the mysteries, given doctors enough, theories 
enough, pills enough, may be solved — that it 
is all a matter of finding a panacea, unearth- 
ing a prophet, passing a bill. If it turns to 
Nietzsche, however gingerly and suspiciously, it 
— 10 — 



INTRODUCTION 



will turn only to fresh disappointment and dis- 
may, for Nietzsche is no quack with another sure 
cure, but simply an iconoclast who shows that 
all the sure cures of the past and present have 
failed, and must fail — and particularly the sure 
cure of the mob, the scheme of determining the 
diagnosis by taking a vote, the notion that the 
medicine which most pleases the grossest palates 
is the medicine to get the patient upon his legs. 
Nietzsche is no reformer; he is an assassin of 
reformers; if he preaches anything at all, it 
is that reform is useless, illusory — above all, 
unnecessary. The patient is really not dying at 
all. Let him get up and dance! Let him pick 
up his bed and employ it upon the skulls of his 
physicians! Life is not a disease to be treated 
with boluses and philtres, not an affliction to be 
shirked and sentimentalized, but an adventure to 
be savoured and enjoyed — life, here and now, 
is the highest imaginable experience. What the 
world needs is not a cure for it, but room for it, 
freedom for it, innocent zest for it. So ac- 
cepted and regarded, half of its terrors vanish at 
once, and even its unescapable catastrophes take 
on a certain high stateliness, a fine aesthetic 
dignity. This is the tragic view that Mr. Muir 
— 11 — 



INTRODUCTION 



cries up — life as joy triumphing over fate. 
" For the character of tragedy is not negative 
and condemnatory, but deeply affirmative and 
joyous." The ideal man is not the time-serving 
slave of Christendom, in endless terror of God, 
forever flattering and bribing God, but the 
Nietzschean Ja-sager, the yes-sayer, facing des- 
tiny courageously and a bit proudly, living to 
the full the life that lies within his grasp in the 
present, accepting its terms as he finds them, 
undaunted by the impenetrable shadows that 
loom ahead. 

What Mr. Muir, following Nietzsche, is most 
dissatisfied with in the modern spirt is its intoler- 
able legalism — its fatuous frenzy to work every- 
thing out to nine places of constabulary decimals, 
to establish windy theories and principles, to 
break the soul of man to a rule. In part, of 
course, that eff"ort is of respectable enough 
origin. It springs from intelligent self-asser- 
tion, healthy curiosity, the sense of compe- 
tence; it is a by-product of the unexampled con- 
quests of nature that have gone on in the modern 
age. But in other parts it is no more than a by- 
product of the democratic spirit, the rise of the 
inferior, the emancipation of the essentially in- 
— 12 — 



INTRODUCTION 



competent. Science is no longer self-sufficient, 
isolated from moral ideas, an end in itself; it 
tends to become a mere agent of mob tyranny; 
it takes on gratuitous and incomprehensible 
duties and responsibilities; like the theology that 
it has supplanted, it has friendlier and friendlier 
dealings with the secular arm. And art, too, 
begins to be poisoned by this moral obsession of 
the awakened proletariat. It ceases to be an 
expression of well-being, of healthy function- 
ing, of unpolluted joy in life, and becomes a 
thing of obscure and snuffling purposes, a servant 
of some low enterprise of the cocksure. The 
mob is surely no scientist and no artist; it is, 
in fact, eternally the anti-scientist, the anti-artist; 
science and art offer it unscalable heights and 
are hence its enemies. But in a world dominated 
by mob yearnings and mob passions, even science 
and art must take on some colour from below. 
The enemies, if they cannot be met and over- 
thrown on a fair field, can at least be degraded. 
And when the mob degrades, it always degrades 
to moral tunes. Morality is its one avenue 
to superiority — false but none the less sooth- 
ing. It can always be good. It can always 
dignify its stupidity, its sordidness and its 
— 13 — 



INTRODUCTION 



cowardice with terms borrowed from ethical 
revelation. The good man is a numskull, but 
nevertheless he is good. 

Mr. Muir has at the modem spirit on many 
other counts, but nearly all of them may be 
converted with more or less plausibility into an 
objection to its ethical obsession, its idiotic craze 
to legislate and admonish. When he says, for 
example, that realism in the novel and the drama 
is hollow, he leaves his case but half stated; 
there is undoubtedly a void where imagination, 
feeling and a true sense of the tragic ought to 
be, but it is filled with the common garbage of 
mob thinking, to wit, with the common garbage 
of moral purpose. All of the chief realists, 
from Zola to Barbusse, are pre-eminently 
moralists disguised as scientists; what one 
derives from them, reading them sympatheti- 
cally, is not illumination but merely indignation. 
They are always violently against something — 
and that something is usually the fact that the 
world is not as secure and placid a place as a 
Methodist Sunday-school. Their affectation of 
moral agnosticism need deceive no one. They 
are secretly appalled (and delighted) by their 
own " scientific " pornographies, just as their 
— 14 — 



INTRODUCTION 



brethren of the vice crusades are appalled and 
delighted. Realism, of course, can never be 
absolute. It must always stress something and 
leave out something. What it commonly 
stresses is the colossal failure of society to fit into 
an orderly scheme of causes and effects, virtues 
and rewards, crimes and punishments. What 
it leaves out is the glow of romance that hangs 
about that failure — the poignant drama of blind 
chance, the fascination of the unknowable. The 
realists are bad artists because they are 
anaesthetic to beauty. And a good many scien- 
tists are bad scientists for precisely the same rea- 
son. In their hands the gorgeous struggle of 
man against the mysteries and foul ambus- 
cades of nature is converted into a banal cause 
before a police court, with the complainant put 
on the stand to prove that his own hands are 
clean. One cannot read some of the modem 
medical literature, particularly on the side of 
public hygiene, without giving one's sympathy 
to the tubercle bacilli and the spirochaetae. 
Science of that sort ceases to be a fit concern for 
men of dignity, superior men, gentlemen; it 
becomes a concern for evangelists, uplifters, 
bounders. Its aim is no longer to penetrate the 
— 15 — 



INTRODUCTION 



impenetrable, to push forward the bounds of 
human knowledge, to overreach the sinister 
trickeries of God; its aim is simply to lengthen 
the lives of human ciphers and to reinforce their 
delusion that they confer a favour upon the 
universe by living at all. Worse, it converts the 
salvation of such vacuums into a moral obliga- 
tion, and sets up the absurd doctrine that human 
progress is furthered by diminishing the death- 
rate in the Balkans, by rescuing Georgia crackers 
from the hookworm and by reducing the whole 
American people, the civilized minority with the 
barbarian mass, to a race of teetotalling ascetics, 
full of pious indignations and Freudian suppres- 
sions. 

The western world reeks with this new senti- 
mentality. It came on in Europe with the fall 
of feudalism and the rise of the lower orders. 
Even war, the last surviving enterprise of 
natural man, has been transformed from a 
healthy play of innocent instincts into a combat 
of moral ideas, nine-tenths of them obviously 
unsound. It no longer offers a career to a 
Gustavus Adolphus, a Prince Eugene or a 
Napoleon I. It loses even the spirit of gallant 
adventure that dignified the theological balder- 
— 16 — 



INTRODUCTION 



dash of the Crusades — in which, as every one 
knows, the balderdash was quickly absorbed 
altogether by the adventure. It becomes the 
business of specialists in moral indignation. 
The modern general must not only know the 
elements of military science; he must also show 
some of the gifts of a chautauqua orator, includ- 
ing particularly the gift of right-thinking; it 
would do him more harm to speak of his oppo- 
nent with professional politeness, as one lawyer 
might speak of another, than it would do him to 
lose an important battle. Worse, war gets out of 
the hands of soldiers altogether. It becomes an 
undertaking of boob-bumpers, spy-hunters, 
emotion-pumpers, propaganda-mongers — all 
sorts of disgusting cads. Its great prizes tend to 
go, not to the men fighting in the field, but to the 
man manufacturing shells, alarms, and moral in- 
dignation. At the time of the last great series of 
wars it was said that every musketeer of France 
carried a marshal's baton in his haversack. The 
haversack of the musketeer now contains only 
official literature, informing him of the causes 
of the war as most lately determined, the names 
of its appointed moral heroes, and the penalties 
for discussing its aims, for swapping tobacco 
— 17 — 



INTRODUCTION 



with the boys on the other side, and for inviting 
a pretty peasant-girl into his shell-hole. The 
baton is being fought for by a press-agent, a 
labour leader and a Y.M.C.A. secretary. 

It is against such degradations that Mr. Muir 
raises his voice, and in particular against such 
degradations in the field of the fine arts. The 
superficial, I daresay, will mistake him (once 
they get over the sheer immorality of his rela- 
tion to Nietzsche) as simply one more pleader 
for I'art pour Vart — one more prophet of a 
superior and disembodied aestheticism. Well, 
tiirn to his singularly acute and accurate esti- 
mate of Walter Pater: there is the answer to 
that error. He has, in fact, no leanings what- 
soever in any such direction. The thing he 
argues for, despite all his fury against the de- 
basement of art to mob uses, is not an art that 
shall be transcendental, but an art that shall 
relate itself to life primarily and unashamedly, 
an art that shall accept and celebrate life. He 
preaches, of course, out of season. There has 
never been a time in the history of the world 
when the natural delight of man in himself was 
held in greater suspicion. Christianity, after 
two thousand years, seems triumphant at last. 
— 18 — 



INTRODUCTION 



From the ashes of its barbaric theology there 
arises the phoenix of its maudlin sentimentality; 
the worship of inferiority becomes its dominat- 
ing cult. In all directions that worship goes 
on. It gives a new colour to politics, and not 
only to politics, but also to the sciences and the 
arts. Perhaps we are at the mere beginning of 
the process. The doctrine that all men are equal 
in the sight of God is now defended and propa- 
gated by machine guns; it becomes a felony to 
deny it; one is already taxed in America to make 
good the lofty aspirations of Poles, Jugo-Slavs 
and Armenians. In England there are signs of 
a further step. An Ehrlich or a Koch, miracu- 
lously at work there, might be jailed for slitting 
the throat of a white rat: all the lower animals, 
too, it appears, are God's creatures. So viewed, 
a guinea-pig becomes the peer of a Beethoven, 
as a farm-hand is already the peer of a Bach. 
It is too late to turn back; let us hope that the 
logic of it is quickly worked out to its unescap- 
able conclusion. Once the pediculus vestimenti 
and the streptococcus are protected, there will 
be a chance again, it may be, for the law of 
natural selection to achieve its benign purga- 
tion. 

— 19 — 



INTRODUCTION 



Meanwhile, Mr. Muir cannot expect his ideas 
to get much attention. A gaudy parade is pass- 
ing and the populace is busy cheering. Never- 
theless, they were ideas worth playing with, and 
they are now worth printing and pondering. It 
seems to me that, in more than one way, they 
help to illuminate the central aesthetic question 
— the problem as to the nature and function of 
artistic representation. They start from Nietz- 
schean beginnings, but they get further than 
Nietzsche ever got. His whole aesthetic was 
hampered by the backwardness of psychology in 
his time. He made many a brilliant guess, but 
more than once he was hauled up rather sharply 
by his ignorance of the machinery of thought. 
Mr. Muir not only has Nietzsche behind him; 
he also has Freud, as he shows, for example, 
in §145. Beyond him there is still a lot of room. 
He will not stop the parade — but he will help 
the next man. 

Edwin Muir was bom in the Orkney Islands in 
1887. His father was a small crofter there. 
When he was fourteen years old the family 
moved to Glasgow. Within four years his 
father, his mother and two older brothers died, 
— 20 — 



INTRODUCTION 



and he was forced to fend for himself. He be- 
came a clerk in a Glasgow office and remained 
there until very recently, when he moved to Lon- 
don. Like all other young men with the itch to 
write, he tried poetry before prose, and his 
first verses were printed in The New Age. But 
his discovery of Nietzsche, at the age of twenty- 
two, exerted such a powerful influence upon him 
that he soon turned to prose, and five or six years 
later his first philosophical speculations were 
printed, again in The New Age. They attracted 
attention and were republished in book-form, in 
1918, as " We Modems." At the last minute 
the author succumbed to modesty and put the 
nom de plume of Edward Moore upon his book. 
But now, in this American edition (for which 
he has made certain revisions), he returns to his 
own name. 

H. L. Mencken. 



— 21 — 



THE OLD AGE 



The Old Age 



The Advanced 

Among the advanced one observes a strange 
contradiction: the existence in one and the same 
person of confidence and enthusiasm about cer- 
tain aspects of life along with diffidence and 
pessimism about life itself. The advanced have 
made up their minds about all the problems of 
existence but not about the problem of existence. 
In dealing with these problems they find their 
greatest happiness; they are there sure-footed, 
convinced and convincing. But brought face to 
face with that other problem, how helpless, 
vacillating and spiritless are they! What! are 
propaganda, reform, and even revolution, per- 
chance, with many of them simply their escape 
from their problem? 

— 25 — 



WE MODERNS 



The Intellectual Coquettes 

An intellectual coquetry is one of the worst 
vices of this age. From what does it arise? 
From fear of a decision? Or from love of free- 
dom? It cannot be from the latter, for to ab- 
stain from a choice is not freedom but irre- 
sponsibility. To be free, is, on the contrary, 
itself a choice, a decision involving, in its ac- 
ceptance, responsibility. And it is responsibility 
that the intellectual coquettes fear: rather than 
admit that one burden they will bear all the 
others of scepticism, pessimism and impotence. 
To accept a new gospel, to live it out in all its 
ramifications, is too troublesome, too dangerous. 
The average man in them pleads, " Be prudent! 
Where may not this resolution lead you? 
Through what perils? Into what hells? " And 
so they remain in their prison house of doubt, 
neither Pagans nor Christians, neither Theists 
nor Atheists, ignorant of the fact that they are 
slaves and that a decision would set them free. 

But in the end the soul has its revenge, for 
their coquetry destroys not only the power but 
the will to choose. To flirt with dangerous ideas 
— 26 — 



THE OLD AGE 



in a graceful manner : that becomes their destiny. 
For the intellectual coquette, like other coquettes, 
dislikes above everything passion — passion with 
its seriousness, sincerity and — demand for a 
decision. 



Modern Realism 

How crude and shallow is the whole theory 
of modern realism: a theory of art by the average 
man for the average man! It makes art in- 
telligible by simplifying or popularizing it; in 
short, as Nietzsche would say, by vulgarizing it. 
The average man perceives, for instance, that 
there is in great drama an element of representa- 
tion. Come, he says, let us make the repre- 
sentation as " thorough " as possible! Let every 
detail of the original be reproduced! Let us 
have life as it is lived! And when he has 
accomplished this, when representation has be- 
come reproduction, he is very well pleased and 
thinks how far he has advanced beyond the poor 
Greeks. But it is hardly so! For the Greeks 
did not aim at the reproduction but at the inter- 
pretation of life, for which they would accept 
no symbol less noble than those ideal figures 
— 27 — 



WE MODERNS 



which move in the world of classical tragedy. 
To the Greeks, indeed, the world of art was pre- 
cisely jjiis world: not a paltry, sober and con- 
scientious dexterity in the " catching " of the 
aspects of existence (nothing so easy!), but a 
symbolizing of the deepest questions and enigmas 
of life — a thing infinitely more noble, profound 
and subtle than realistic art. The Greeks would 
have demanded of realism, Why do you exist? 
What noble end is served by the reproduction of 
ordinary existence? Are you not simply super- 
fluous — and vilely smelling at that? And 
realism could have given no reply, for the truth 
is that realism is superfluous. It is without a 
raison d'etre. 

The average man, however, takes a second 
glance at classical tragedy and reaches a second 
discovery. There is something enigmatical, he 
finds, behind the Greek clearness of representa- 
tion, something unexplained; in short, a prob- 
lem. This problem, however, is not sufficiently 
clear. Let us state our problems clearly, he 
cries! Let us have problems which can be recog- 
nized at a glance by every one! Let us write a 
play about " the marriage question," or bad- 
housing, or the Labour Party! But, again, the 
— 28 — 



THE OLD AGE 



theory of the Greeks, at least before Euripides, 
was ahogether different. The " problem " in 
their tragedies was precisely not a problem which 
could be stated in a syllogism or solved in a 
treatise: it was the eternal problem, and it was 
not stated to be " solved." 

Thus the Modems, in their attempt to simplify 
art, to understand it or misunderstand it — what 
does it matter which word is used? — have suc- 
ceeded in destroying it. The realistic and the 
" problem " drama alike are for the inartistic. 
The first is drama without a raison d'etre, the 
second is a raison d'etre without drama. 



The Modern Tragic 

In realistic novels and dramas a new type 
of the tragic has been evolved. It may be called 
tragedy without a meaning. In classical and 
Shakespearean tragedy, the inevitable calamities 
incident to human existence were given signifi- 
cance and nobility by the poets. That inter- 
pretive power of drama was, indeed, the essential 
thing to the great artists, to whom representa- 
tion was only a means. But the realists with 
their shallow rationalizing of art have changed 
— 29 — 



WE MODERNS 



all that. They have cut out the essential part 
of drama so as to make the other part more 
" complete " : in short, their tragedy is now 
simply " tragedy " in the newspaper sense. And 
it is obvious that this kind of " art " is much 
easier to produce than tragedy in the grand 
style: one has not even to read a meaning into 
it. This absence of meaning, however, is itself, 
in the long run, made to appear the last word 
of an unfathomably ironical wisdom. And in 
this light, how much modern wisdom is under- 
stood! The superficiality which can see only 
the surface here parades as the profundity which 
has dived into every abyss and found it empty. 
No! it is not tragedy but the modern tragedian 
who is without a raison d'etre! 



Realism as a Symptom of Poverty 

In an age in which the power of creation is 
weak, men will choose the easiest forms: those 
in which sustained elevation is not demanded and 
creation itself is eked out in various ways. The 
world of our day has therefore as its charac- 
teristic production the realistic novel, which in 
form is more loose, in content and execution more 
— 30 — 



THE OLD AGE 



unequal, and in imaginative power less rich and 
inventive than poetic drama, or any of the higher 
forms of literature. If we deduct from the 
modern " literary artist," the diarist, the 
sociologist, the reporter, and the collector of 
documents, there is not much left. For creation 
there is very little room in his works; perhaps 
it is as well! 



Compliments and Art 

The convention of gallantry observed by the 
sexes is the foundation of all refined understand- 
ing between them. For in the mutual game of 
compliment it is the spiritual attitude and not 
the spoken word that matters. There is truth in 
this attitude, however unreal the words may 
seem: a thousand times more truth than in the 
modem egalitarian, go-as-you-please camarad- 
erie of the sexes. Here there is truth neither 
in the spirit nor in the letter. To be candid, 
about this new convention there is something 
faintly fatuous: the people who act thus are not 
subtle! Yet they are hardly to be blamed; it 
is the age that is at fault. There is no time for 
reflection upon men, women and manners, and 
— 31 — 



WE MODERNS 



consequently no refinement of understanding, no 
form in the true sense. We work so hard and 
have so little leisure that when we meet we are 
tired and wish to " stretch our legs," as 
Nietzsche said. It is far from our thoughts that 
a convention between men and women might be 
necessary; we are not disposed to inquire why 
this convention arose; it presents itself to us 
as something naively false; and we have time 
only to be unconventional. 

The ceremonious in manners arose from the 
recognition that between the sexes there must be 
distance — respect as well as intimacy — un- 
derstanding. The old gallantry enabled men 
and women to be intimate and distant at the same 
time: it was the perfection of the art of manners. 
Indeed, we can hardly have sufficient respect for 
this triumphant circumvention of a natural 
difficulty, whereby it was made a source of actual 
pleasure. But now distance and understanding 
have alike disappeared. The moderns, so obtuse 
have they become, see here no difficulty at all, 
consequently no need for manners: brotherhood 
— comradeship — laziness has superseded that. 
Nothing is any longer understood; but a conven- 
tion means essentially that something is under- 
— 32 — 



THE OLD AGE 



stood. Indeed, it is already a gaucherie to ex- 
plain the meaning of a good convention. But 
what can one do? Against obtuseness the only 
weapon is obtuseness. 

In literature this decline into bad taste and 
denseness is most clearly to be seen. So incapa- 
ble have readers become, so resourceless writers, 
that whatever is said now must be said right out; 
sex must be called sex; and no one has sufficient 
subtlety to suggest or to follow a suggestion. 
Hence, Realism. An artist has to write exactly 
what he means : the word must be word and noth- 
ing more. But this is to misunderstand art. 
For the words of the true artist undergo a transub- 
stantiation and become flesh and blood, even 
spirit. His words are deeds — to say nothing 
of what he writes between his lines! Realism in 
art and " comradeship " between the sexes are 
two misunderstandings, or, rather, two aspects of 
a misunderstanding. And that misunderstand- 
ing is perhaps attributable to a lack of leisure? 
And that to modern hurry? And that to the 
industrial system? 



33 — 



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A Modern Problem 

It has been observed again and again that as 
societies — forms of production, of government, 
and so on — become more complex, the mastery 
of the individual over his destiny grows weaker. 
In other words, the more man subjugates " na- 
ture," the more of a slave he becomes. The in- 
dustrial system, for instance, which is the greatest 
modem example of man's subjugation of nature, 
is at the same time the greatest modem example 
of man's enslavement. What are we to think, 
then? Is the problem a moral one, and shall 
we say that a conquest of nature which is not 
preceded by a conquest of human nature is bound 
to be bad? In a society which has not surpassed 
the phase of slavery does every addition to man's 
power over nature simply intensify the slavery? 
Or is the problem intellectual? And when the 
intellect concentrates upon one branch of knowl- 
edge to the neglect of the other, is the outcome 
bound to be the enslavement of the others? For 
instance the nineteenth century devoted far more 
of its brains to industry than to politics — its 
politics, indeed, was merely the reflection of its 
— 34 — 



THE OLD AGE 



industry — with the resuh that industry has now 
enslaved us all. Yes, it has enslaved us all — 
not merely the wage-earners, not merely the 
salariat! In the old days the workman, indeed, 
wag a slave, but now the employer is a slave as 
well. 

In this age, therefore, in which man appears 
as the helpless appendage of a machine too 
mighty for him, it is natural that theories of De- 
terminism should flourish. It is natural, also, 
that the will should become weak and dis- 
couraged, and, consequently, that the power of 
creation should languish. And so the world of 
art has withered and turned barren. The artist 
needs above all things a sense of power; it is 
out of the abundance of this sense that he creates. 
But confronted with modem society, that vast 
machine, and surrounded by its hopeless me- 
chanics and slaves, he feels the sense dying within 
him ; nor does the evil cease there, for along with 
the sense of power, power itself dies. 

Well, does not the moral become clearer and 
clearer? If art and literature are to flourish 
again, artists, writers, nay, the whole community 
must regain the sense of power. Therefore, 
economic emancipation first! 
— 35 — 



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8 

Leisure and Good Things 

The very greatest danger confronts a people 
who renounce leisure: that people will become 
shallow — just consider England! For of all 
things noble it is hard to see the immediate 
utility : patience and reverence are needed before 
one can see in them a meaning at all. Art, litera- 
ture and philosophy are not obvious goods: at 
the first glance they appear even repellent: alas, 
then, for them in an age of first glances! In 
such an age, it is true, they will not altogether 
disappear. Something worse will happen. 
They will be degraded, made obvious, misunder- 
stood ; in one word, popularized — the fate of 
our time. Society should be organized so as to 
give to its members the maximum of leisure; 
thus would the dissemination of art and philos- 
ophy be made at least possible. But society 
should at the same time provide for a privileged 
class of artists and philosophers, with absolute 
leisure, who would work only when the inner 
compulsion made them. The second condition is 
at least as important as the first. 



36 



THE OLD AGE 



Wanted: A History of Hurry 

Is there a critic who wishes to be at once edify- 
ing and entertaining? Let him write a history 
of hurry in its relation to literature and art. 
Has literature decayed as hurry has intensified? 
Have standards of balance, repose and leisured 
grace gradually shrunk since, say, the Industrial 
Revolution? Has the curtailment of the realm 
of literature, its reduction from the Romantic 
school to the Victorian circle and from that to 
the Decadent clique, been due to the everstrength- 
ening encroachment of hurry? And has hurry 
now become finally triumphant so that our critics 
and even our artists and savants are nothing 
more than journalists? For certainly they seem 
to be so. 

These are questions to be investigated by our 
historian. 

10 

The Sex Novel 

How did the vogue of the sex novel arise? 
Perhaps from the great attention which was in 
the last century given to the sciences of biology 
— 37 — 



WE MODERNS 



and physiology; and perhaps, more especially 
from the popularization of these sciences. Love 
was, under the spell of science, translated by the 
novelists into sex. Not the psychology, but the 
physiology of love was found interesting: with 
the result that for the production of a modern 
novel one qualification alone is now necessary: 
a " knowledge of the simple facts of physiology," 
as the primer-writers say. Well, what is the 
remedy for this? Not a denial of physiology: 
those who have learned it cannot now erase it 
from their memory and become voluntarily igno- 
rant. No; let, rather, the opposite course be 
taken! Let us popularize psychology as well! 

11 

These Advanced People 

A. Free Love is all right in theory, but all 
wrong in practice. B. On the contrary! I 
think it is all right in practice, but all wrong in 
theory. 

12 

Sex in Literature 

In English literature, until very modern times, 
sex was treated only within the limits of a very 
— 38 — 



THE OLD AGE 



well-understood convention. From this conven- 
tion the physiological was strictly excluded. 
Yet, of our classical writers, even in the most 
artificial periods, it cannot be said that they did 
not understand sex. No matter how " unreal " 
they might be in writing about Love, the physi- 
ological contingencies of Love were unmistak- 
ably implied in their works, but only, it is true, 
implied. The modems, however, saw in this 
treatment of Love nothing but a convention, a 
" lie " ; and they became impatient of the arti- 
ficiality, as if art could be anything but artificial! 
To what was the change of attitude due? Not 
to a failure in the artistic convention: that was 
perfectly sound. No, it was the reader who had 
failed: a generation of readers had arisen who 
had not learnt the art of reading, who did not 
understand reading as a cultured amateur of the 
eighteenth century, for instance, understood it. 
Literature was to this reader a document, not an 
art. He had no eye for what is written between 
the lines — for symbolism, idealization, " liter- 
ature." And it was to satisfy him that the 
realistic school arose: it arose, indeed, out of 
himself. In the realist the modern reader has 
become writer: the man who could not learn the 
— 39 — 



WE MODERNS 



art of reading has here essayed the more difficult 
art of writing — documentary art! 

13 

History of a Realist 

Who will write a series of biographies of 
modem writers, illustrating this thesis: that they 
are nothing more than modem readers wielding 
a hasty pen? Such a set of memoirs would 
almost compensate us for having read the works 
of these writers. How interesting, for instance, 
it would be to know how many years — surely 
it would be years? — they spent in trying to 
understand literature before they dedicated 
themselves to its service. How interesting, 
again, to discover how many hours each day X, 
the celebrated novelist, devotes to contemplation, 
how many to writing for the newspapers, and 
how many to his present masterpiece. What! 
one hour's thought has actually preceded five 
hours' dictation! This revelation is, after all, 
not so startling. On second thought, these 
memoirs seem superfluous; we can read every- 
thing we wish to know of the moderns in their 
works. 

Yet, for our better amusement, will not some 
— 40 — 



THE OLD AGE 



one write his one and only novel, giving the true 
history of the novelist? A novel against novels! 
But for that we need a second Cervantes, yet how 
unlike the first! For on this occasion it is not 
Don Quixote that must be satirized, but Sancho 
Panza. 

14 
Novelists by Habit 

All of us who read are novelists more or less 
nowadays: that is to say, we collect " impres- 
sions," " analyse " ourselves, make a pother 
about sex, and think that people, once they are 
divorced, live happily ever after. The habit of 
reading novels has turned us into this! When 
one of us becomes articulate, however — in the 
form of a novel — he only makes explicit his 
kinship with the rest; he proclaims to all the 
world that he is a mediocrity. 

15 

The Only Course 

All the figures in this novel are paltry; we 
despise them, and, if we were in danger of meet- 
ing them in real life, would take steps to avoid 
them; yet such is the author's adroitness that we 
are led on helplessly through the narrative, 
— 41 — 



WE MODERNS 



through unspeakable sordidness of circumstance 
and soul, hating ourselves and him, and feeling 
nothing better than slaves. To rouse our anxiety 
lest Herbert lose five pounds, or Mabel find it 
impossible to get a new dress, this is art, this is 
modern art! But to feel anxiety about such 
things is ignoble; and to live in a sordid 
atmosphere, even if it be of a book, is the part 
of a slave. And yet we cannot but admire. For 
in this novel what subtlety in the treatment there 
must be overlying the fundamental vulgarity of 
the theme! How is Art, which should make 
Man free, here transformed into a potent means 
for enslaving him! It is impossible to yield 
oneself to the sway of a modem realist without 
a loss in one's self-respect. To what is due this 
conspicuous absence of nobility in modem 
writers? But is the question, indeed, worth 
the asking? For to the artist and to him who 
would retain freedom of soul, there is only one 
course with the paltry in literature — to avoid 
it. 

16 
The Average Man 

It is surely one of G. K. Chesterton's para- 
doxes that he praises the average man. For he 
— 42 — 



THE OLD AGE 



is not himself an average man, but a man of 
genius; he does not write of the average man, but 
of grotesques; he is not read by the average man, 
but by intellectuals and the nonconformist 
middle-class. The true prophets of the average 
man are the popular realistic novelists. For they 
write of him and for him — yes, even when 
they write " for themselves," when they are 
" serious artists." Who, then, but them should 
extol him? It is their metier. 

17 

The " New " Writers 

The fault of the most modem writers — and 
especially of the novelists — is not that they are 
too modern, but that they are too traditional. It 
is true, they are not traditional in the historical 
manner of G. K. Chesterton, who wishes to de- 
stroy one tradition — the modern tradition — in 
order to get back to another — the mediaeval. 
To Mr. Chesterton tradition is a matter of selec- 
tion; tiie dead tradition seems to him nobler than 
the living; and, deliberately, therefore, he would 
return to it. The new writers, however, fol- 
low a tradition also, though a much narrower 
one; they, too, believe in the past, but only, alas, 
— 43 — 



WE MODERNS 



in the immediate past; they are slaves to the 
generation which preceded theirs. In short, that 
which is disgusting in them is their inability to 
rise high enough to see their little decade or two, 
and to challenge it, if they cannot from the stand- 
point of a nobler future, then, at least, from that 
of the noblest past. But how weak must a 
generation be which is not strong enough to 
challenge and supersede Arnold Bennett, for 
instance. 

18 

The Modern Reader 

What is it that the modern reader demands 
from those who write for him? To be chal- 
lenged, and again to be challenged, and ever- 
more to be challenged — but on no account to be 
asked to accept a challenge, on no account to be 
expected to take sides! A seat at the tourna- 
ment is all that he asks, where he may watch 
the most sincere and intrepid spirits of his time 
waging their desperate battle and spilling their 
life blood upon the sand. How he loves them 
when, with high gesture, they fling down their 
gauntlets and utter their blasphemies! His 
heart then exults within him; but, why? 
— 44 — 



THE OLD AGE 



Simply because he is a connoisseur; simply 
because he collects gauntlets! 

19 

The Public 

Of the modern writers who are in earnest, 
Mr. Chesterton has had the most ironical fate: 
he has been read by the people who will never 
agree with him. To the average man for whom 
he writes he is an intellectual made doubly in- 
accessible by his orthodoxy and his paradoxy. 
It is the advanced, his bete noire, who read him, 
admire him, and — disagree with him. 

20 

Reader and Writer 

The modern reader loves to be challenged. 
The modern writer, if he is in earnest, however, 
is bound to challenge him. This is his greatest 
burden; that he must fall a victim of the ad- 
vanced idlers. But one day he thinks he see a 
way of escape. He has noticed that the reader 
desires not only to be challenged, but to be able 
to understand the challenge at a glance. And 
here he sees his advantage. I shall write, he 
says, to himself, in a manner beautiful, exact, 
— 45 — 



WE MODERNS 



and yet not easily understood; so I shall throw 
off the intellectual coquettes and secure my 
audience of artists, for my style is beautiful; 
an audience of critics, for my style is exact; an 
audience of patient, resolute, conscientious in- 
tellects, for my style is difficult. This, per- 
haps, was the conscious practice of Nietzsche. 
But he did not foresee that, for the benefit of 
the intellectual coquettes, who must have hold 
of new thoughts by one end or another, a host 
of popularizers would be bom; he did not 
reckon with the Nietzscheans! 

21 

Popularity- 
How amazingly popular he is. Even the man 
in the street reads him. Yes; but it is because 
he has first read the man in the street. 

22 

Middle Age's Betrayals 

It is not easy to tell by a glance what is the 
character of a young man; his soul has not yet 
etched itself clearly enough upon his body. But 
one may read a middle-aged man's soul with 
perfect ease; and not only his soul but his 
— 46 — 



THE OLD AGE 



history. For when a man has passed five-and- 
forty, he looks — not what he is, perhaps — 
but certainly what he has been. If he has been 
invariably respectable, he is now the very pic- 
ture of respectability. If he has been a man 
about town or a secret toper, the fact is blazoned 
so clearly on his face that even a child can read 
it. If he has studied, his very walk, to use a 
phrase of Nietzsche's, is learned. As for the 
poet, we know how terribly poetical he looks in 
middle age — poor devil ! Well, to every one 
of you, I say, Beware! 

23 

The Novelists and the Artist 

Is it the modem novelists who are to be blamed 
for the degraded image of the artist which lives 
in the minds of the cultured populace? 
Turgenieff in " On the Eve," and Henry James in 
" Roderick Hudson " display the artist simply as 
a picturesque waster, an oh so. charming, im- 
pulsive, childlike, naive waster. But, in doing 
so, they surely confused the artist with the man 
of artistic temperament. Of the artistic tempera- 
ment, however, the great artists had very often 
little or nothing — far less, certainly, than either 
— 47 — 



WE MODERNS 



Shubin or Roderick. The great examples of 
last century, the Goethes, Ibsens, and Nietzsches, 
knew that there were qualities more essential to 
them than temperament; discipline, for instance, 
perseverance, truth to themselves, self-control. 
How is it possible, indeed, without these virtues 

— virtues of the most difficult and heroic kind 

— for the artist to bring his gifts to maturity, to 
become great? His discipline to beauty must be 
as severe as the discipline of the saint to holiness. 
And, then, how has his sensuousness been mis- 
construed and vulgarized ; and treated precisely, 
indeed, as if it were the licentiousness of a 
present-day Tom Jones! That artists can be 
thought about in such a way proves only one 
thing, namely, in what poor esteem they are now 
held. We need a new ideal of the artist; or, 
failing that, an old one, that of Plato, perhaps, or 
of Leonardo, or of Nietzsche. 

24 

Decadence and Health 

It is in the decadent periods that the most 

triumphantly healthy men — one or two — 

appear. The corrupt Italy of the Renaissance 

gave birth to Leonardo; the Europe of Gautier, 

— 48 — 



THE OLD AGE 



Baudelaire and Wilde produced Nietzsche. In 
decadent eras both disease and health become 
more self-conscious; they are cultivated, en- 
hanced and refined. It has been said that the 
best way to remain healthy is not to think of 
health. But lack of self-consciousness speaks 
here. Perhaps the Middle Ages were as diseased 
as our own — only they did not know it! Is 
decadence nothing more than the symptom of a 
self-conscious age? And is " objectivity " the 
antidote? Well, we might believe this if we 
could renounce our faith that mankind will yet 
become healthy — if we could become optimists 
in the present-day sense! 

25 

Art in Modern Society 

An object of beauty has in modem surround- 
ings a dangerous seduction which it did not 
possess in less hideous eras. In this is there to 
be found a contributory explanation of Decad- 
ence — the decadent being one who feels the 
power of beauty intensely, and the repulsion 
from his environment as intensely, and who 
plunges into the enjoyment of beauty madly, 
with abandonment? In a society, however, 
— 49 — 



WE MODERNS 



which was not hideous as ours is, and in which 
beauty was distributed widely over all the 
aspects and forms of existence, the intoxication 
of beauty would not be felt with the same ter- 
rible intensity; a beautiful object would be en- 
joyed simply as one among many lovely things. 
In short, it would be enjoyed in the manner of 
health, not in that of sickness. It is the contrast 
that is dangerous; the aridity of modern life 
arouses a terrible thirst, which is suddenly pre- 
sented with the spectacle of a beauty unaccount- 
able and awful; and this produces a disloca- 
tion and convulsion of the very soul. So that 
the present-day artist, if he would retain his 
health — if he would remain an artist — must 
curb his very love of the beautiful, and treat 
beauty, when he meets it, as he always does, in 
the gutter, a little cynically. Otherwise he will 
lose his wits, and Art will become his Circe. 
Therefore, mockery and hard laughter — alas, 
that it must be so! 

26 

Art in Industry 

In those wildernesses of dirt, ugliness and 
obscenity, our industrial towns, there are 
— 50 — 



THE OLD AGE 



usually art galleries, where the daintiest and 
most beautiful things, the flowers of Greek 
statuary, for instance, bloom among the grime 
like a band of gods imprisoned in a slum. The 
spectacle of art in such surroundings sometimes 
strikes us as being at once ludicrous and 
pathetic, like something delicate and lovely 
sprawling in the gutter, or an angel with a dirty 
face. 

27 
Conventions 

The revolt against conventions in art, thought, 
life and manners may be due to at least more 
than one cause. It is usually ascribed to 
" vitality " which " breaks through " forms, 
because it desires to be " free." But common 
sense tells us that more than two or three of our 
friends abjure convention for an altogether dif- 
ferent reason — to be candid, on account of a 
lack of vitality resulting in laziness and the 
inability to endure restraint of any kind. And, 
for the others, we shall judge their " vitality " 
to be justified when they build new conventions 
worthy of observance, instead of running their 
heads finally into illimitable space. Or does 
their strength not go just so far? There is some- 
— 51 — 



WE MODERNS 



thing suspicious about tliis vitality which can- 
not create: it resembles impotence so much! 
Heaven preserve the modems from their " vital- 
ity"! 

28 

" Vitality " 

When modems talk of the " vitality " of their 
most lauded writer, what they mean is finally the 
size of his muscles, physical energy, or, at the 
most, strong emotions; not vigour of mind. 
Well, let us on no account make the opposite 
mistake and revile the large muscle and 
energetic feelings: they are admirable things. 
Let us point out, however, that vitality of emo- 
tion undisciplined by vitality of thought leads 
nowhere, is often disruptive and cannot build. 
But to build is our highest duty and our pecu- 
liar form of freedom — we who have realized 
that there is no freedom without power. As 
for the old freedom — it is only the slaves who 
are not already tired of it. 

29 

Decadence 

The decisive thing, determining whether an 
artist shall be major or minor, is very often not 
— 52 — 



THE OLD AGE 



artistic at all, but moral. Yes, though it shock 
our modem ears, let this be proclaimed! The 
more " temperament " an artist has, the more 
character he requires to govern it, to make it 
fruitful for him, if he would not have it get 
beyond control, and wreck both him and itself. 
And, consequently, the great artists show, as a 
rule, less " temperament " than the minor; they 
appear more self-contained and less " artis- 
tic." Indeed, they smile with the hint of irony 
at the merely " artistic." 

It is, perhaps, when the traditions of artistic 
morality and discipline have broken down, 
when the " temperament " has, therefore, be- 
come unfettered and lawless, that decadence in 
art is born. The sincerity of the artist, his 
chief virtue, is gone — the sincerity which 
commands him to create only under the pressure 
of an artistic necessity, which tells him, in other 
words, to produce nothing which is not genuine. 
Without sincerity, severity and patience, noth- 
ing great in art can be created. And it is pre- 
cisely in these virtues that the decadent is lack- 
ing. A love of beauty is his only credential 
as an artist, but, undisciplined, it degenerates 
very soon into a love of mere effect. An effect 
— 53 — 



JFE MODERNS 



of beauty at all costs, whether it be the true 
beauty or not! That becomes his object. With- 
out a root in any soil, he aspires to the condi- 
tion of the water lily, and, in due time, becomes 
a full-blown aesthete. Is it because he is inca- 
pable of becoming anything else? Has he in 
despair grown " artistic " simply because he is 
not an artist? Is Decadence the most subtle 
disguise of impotence? And are decadents 
those who, if they had submitted to an artistic 
discipline of sincerity, would never have writ- 
ten at all? Of some of them this is true, but 
of others it is not; and in that lies the tragedy 
of Decadence. Wilde himself was, perhaps, a 
decadent by misadventure; for on occasion he 
could rise above decadence into sincerity. 
"The Ballad of Reading Gaol" proves that. 
He was the victim of a bad aesthetic morality, to 
which, it is true, he had a predisposition. And 
if this is true of him, it is true, also, of his 
followers. A baleful artistic ethic still rules, 
demoralizing the young artist at the moment 
when he should be disciplining himself; and 
turning, perhaps, some one with the potentiality 
of greatness into a minor artist. By neglect- 
ing the harder virtues, the decadents have made 
— 54 — 



THE OLD AGE 



minor art inevitable and great art almost im- 
possible. 

The old tradition of artistic discipline must 
be regained, then, or a new and even more severe 
tradition inaugurated. A text-book of moral- 
ity for artists is now overdue. When it has 
been written, and the new discipline has been 
hailed and submitted to by the artists, who can 
say if greatness may not again be possible? 

30 

Decadence Again 

How is the dissolution of the tradition of 
artistic discipline to be explained? To what 
cause is it to be traced? Perhaps to the more 
general dissolution of tradition which has taken 
place in modem times. When theological dog- 
mas and moral values are thrown into the melt- 
ing-pot, and the discipline of centuries is dis- 
solved into anarchy, it is natural that artistic 
traditions should perish along with them. De- 
cadence followjs free-thought: it appears at the 
time when the old values lie deliquescent and the 
new values have not yet risen, the dry land has 
not yet appeared. But this does not happen 
always: the old traditions of morality, theology, 
— 55 — 



WE MODERNS 



politics and industry are overthrown, the begin- 
nings of a new tradition appear tentatively, 
everything fixed has vanished, the wildest hopes 
and the most chilling despair are the common 
possession of one and the same generation — 
but, throughout, the artistic tradition is held 
securely and confidently, it remains the one thing 
fixed in a world of dissolution. Then an art 
arises greater even than that of the eras of tradi- 
tion. The pathos of the dying and the inex- 
pressible hope of die newly born find expression 
side by side; all chains are broken, and the world 
appears suddenly to be immeasurable. Is this 
what happened at the Renaissance? 

31 

Wilde 

The refined degeneracy of Oscar Wilde might 
be explained on the assumption that he was at 
once over — and under — civilized : he had ac- 
quired all the exquisite and superfluous without 
the necessary virtues. These " exquisite " vir- 
tues are unfortunately dangerous to all but those 
who have become masters of the essential ones; 
they are qualities of the body more than of the 
mind; they are developments and embellish- 
— 56 — 



THE OLD AGE 



ments of the shell of man. In acquiring them, 
Wilde ministered to his body merely, and, as a 
consequence, it became more and more powerful 
and subtle — far more powerful and subtle than 
his mind. Eventually this body — senses, pas- 
sions and appetite — actually became the intel- 
lectual principle in him, of which his mind was 
merely a drugged and stupefied slave! 

32 

Wilde and the Sensualists 

The so-called Paganism of our time, the move- 
ment towards sensualism of the followers of 
Wilde, is not an attempt, however absurd, to 
supersede Christianity; nor is it even in essence 
anti-Christian. At the most it is a reaction — 
not a step beyond current religion into a new 
world of the spirit, but a changing from one 
foot to the other, a reliance on the senses for a 
little, so that the over-laboured soul may rest. 
And there is still much of Christianity in this 
modern Paganism. Its devotees are too deeply 
corrupted to be capable either of pure sensuous- 
ness or of pure spirituality. They speak of 
Christ like voluptuaries, and of Eros like peni- 
tents. But it is impossible now to become a 
— 57 — 



WE MODERNS 



Pagan: one must remember Ibsen's Julian and 
take warning. Two thousand years of " bad 
conscience," of Christian self-probing, with its 
deepening of the soul, cannot be disavowed, 
forgotten, unlived. For Paganism a simpler 
spirit, mind and sensuousness are required than 
we can reproduce. We cannot feel, we cannot 
think, above all, we cannot feel without thinking 
of our feelings, as the Pagans did. Our mod- 
ern desire to take out our soul and look at it 
separates us from the naive classic sensuousness. 
What, then, does modern sensualism mean? 
What satisfaction does it bring to those, by no 
means few in number, its " followers "? A 
respite, an escapade, a holiday from Christian- 
ity, from the inevitable. For Christianity is as- 
sumed by them to be the inevitable, and it fills 
them with the loathing which is evoked by the 
enforced contemplation of things tyrannical and 
permanent. To escape from it they plunge 
madly into sensuality as into a sea of redemp- 
tion. But the disgust which drives them there 
will eventually drive them forth again — into 
asceticism and the denial of the senses. Christ- 
ianity will then appear stronger than ever, hav- 
ing been purged of its " uncleanness." Yes, the 
— 58 — 



THE OLD AGE 



sensualists of our time are the best unconscious 
friends of Christianity, its " saviours," who have 
taken its sins upon their shoulders. 

There still remain the few who do not assume 
Christianity to be inevitable, who desire, no mat- 
ter how hopeless the fight may seem, to sur- 
mount it, and who see that men have played too 
long the game of reaction. " To cure the senses 
by the soul and the soul by the senses " seems 
to them a creed for invalids. And, therefore, 
that against which, above all, they guard, is a 
mere relapse into sensualism. Not by fleeing 
from Christianity do they hope to reach their 
goal; but by understanding it, perhaps by " see- 
ing through " it, certainly by benefiting in so 
far as they can by it, and, finally, emancipating 
themselves from it. They know that the soil no 
longer exists out of which grew the flower of 
Paganism, and that they must pass through 
Christianity if they would reach a new sensuality 
and a new spirituality. But their motto is. 
Spirituality first, and, after that, only as much 
sensuality as our spirituality can govern! They 
hold that as men become more spiritual they may 
safely become more sensual; but that, to the man 
without spirit, sensuality and asceticism are alike 
— 59 — 



WE MODERNS 



an indulgence and a curse. That the spirit 
should rule — such is their desire ; but it must 
rule as a constitutional governor, not as an arbi- 
trary tyrant. For the senses, too, as Heine said, 
have their rights. 

33 

Arnold Going Down the Hill 

One section of the realist school — that repre- 
sented by Bennett and John Galsworthy — may 
be described as a reaction from asceticism. 
Men had become tired of experiencing Life only 
in its selected and costly " sensations," and 
sought an escape from " sensations," sought the 
ordinary. But another section of the school — 
George Moore, for example — was merely a bad 
translation of aestheticism. Equally tired of 
the exquisite, already having sampled all that 
luxury in " sensation " could provide, the artists 
now sought new " sensations " — and nothing else 
— in the squalid. It was the role of the 
aesthetes to go downhill gracefully, but when 
they turned realists they ceased even to do that. 
They went downhill sans art. Yet, in doing so, 
did they not rob aestheticism of its seductiveness? 
And should we not, therefore, feel grateful to 
— 60 — 



THE OLD AGE 



them? Alas, no; for to the taste of this age, 
grace and art have little fascination: it is the 
heavy, unlovely and sordid that seduces. To 
disfigure aestheticism was to popularize it. And 
now the very man in the street is — artistically 
speaking — corrupted : a calamity second in im- 
portance only to the corruption of the artists 
and thinkers. 

34 

Pater and the /Esthetes 

How much of Walter Pater's exclusiveness 
and reclusiveness was a revulsion from the 
ugliness of his time — an ugliness which he 
was not strong enough to contemplate, far 
less to fight — it is hard to say. Perhaps his 
phase of the Decadence may be defined as 
largely a reaction against industrialism, just 
as that of Wilde may be defined as largely a 
reaction against Christianity: but, in the 
former case as in the latter, that against which 
the reaction was made was assumed to be 
permanent. Indeed, by escaping from indus- 
trialism instead of fighting it, Pater and his 
followers made its persistence only a little more 
secure. It is true, there are excuses enough to 
— 61 — 



WE MODERNS 



palliate their weakness: the delicateness of their 
own nerves and senses, making them peculiarly 
liable to suffering, the ugliness and apparent 
invulnerability of industrialism, the beauty and 
repose of the world of art wherein they might 
take refuge and be happy. Art as forgetful- 
ness, art as Lethe, the seduction of that cry was 
strong! But to yield to it was none the less 
unforgivable: it was an act traitorous not only 
to society but to art itself. For what was the 
confession underlying it? That the society of 
today and of tomorrow is, and must be, barren; 
that no great art can hereafter be produced; 
that there is nothing left but to enjoy what has 
been accomplished! Against that presumption, 
not the Philistines but the great artists will cry 
as the last word of Nihilism. 

F^a'ter's creed marks, therefore, a degrada- 
tion of the conception of art. Art as something 
exclusive, fragile and a little odd, the occupa- 
tion of a few aesthetic eccentrics — this is the 
most pitiable caricature! To make themselves 
understood by one another, this little clique in- 
vented a jargon of their own; in this jargon 
Pater's books are written, and not only his, but 
those of his followers to this day. It is a style 
— 62 — 



THE OLD AGE 



lacking, above all, in good taste; it very easily 
drops into absurdity; indeed, it is always on 
the verge of absurdity. It has no masculinity, 
no hardness; and it is meant to be read by peo- 
ple a little insincerely " aesthetic," who are con- 
scious that they are open to ridicule, and who 
are accordingly indulgent to the ridiculous; the 
Fabians of art. To admire Pater's style, it is 
necessary first to put oneself into the proper at- 
titude. 

35 

Creator and TEsthete 

The true creators and the mere aesthetes agree 
in this, that they are not realists. Neither of 
them copies existence in its external details: 
wherein do they differ? In that the creators 
write of certain realities behind life, and the 
aesthetes — of the words standing for these reali- 
ties. 

36 

Hypocrisy of Words 

The aesthetes, and Pater and Wilde in par- 
ticular, made a cult of the use of decorative 
words. They demanded, not that a word should 
— 63 — 



WE MODERNS 



be true, nor even that it should be true and 
pretty at the same time, but simply that it 
should be pretty. It cannot be denied that 
writers here and there before them had been 
guilty of using a fine word where a common one 
was most honest; but this had been generally 
regarded as a forgiveable, " artistic " weakness. 
Wilde and his followers, however, chose 
" exquisite " words systematically, in conform- 
ity to an artistic dogma, and held that literature 
consisted in doing nothing else. And that was 
dangerous; for truth was thereby banished from 
the realm of diction and a hypocrisy of words 
arose. In short, language no longer grasped 
at realities, and literature ceased to express any 
thing at all, except a writer's taste in words. 

37 

The Average Man 

In this welter of dissolving values, the intel- 
lectuals of our time find themselves struggling, 
and liable at any moment to be engulfed. A few 
of them, however, have snatched at something 
which, in the prevailing deliquescence, appears 
to be solid — the average man. Encamped 
upon him, they have won back sanity and hap- 
— 64 — 



THE OLD AGE 



piness. But their act is nevertheless simply 
a reaction; here the real problem has not yet 
been faced! What is it that makes the average 
man more sane and happy than the modern 
man? The possession of dogmas, says G. K. 
Chesterton; let us therefore have dogmas! 
But, alas, for them he goes back and not for- 
ward. And not only back, but back to the very 
dogmas against which modern thought, and 
Decadence with it, are a reaction, nay, the 
inevitable reaction. What! has Mr. Chester- 
ton, then, postponed the solution of the prob- 
lem? And on the heels of his remedy does 
there tread the old disease over again? Per- 
haps it is so. The acceptance of the old dogmas 
will be followed by a new reaction from them, 
a new disintegration of values therefore, and 
a new Decadence. The hands of the clock can 
be put back, it is true; but they will eventually 
reach the time when the hour shall strike again 
for the solution of the modern problem. 

And that is the criticism which modern men 
must pass upon Mr. Chesterton; that he inter- 
posed in the course of their malady to bring 
relief with a remedy which was not a remedy. 
The modem problem should have been worked 
— 65 — 



WE MODERNS 



out to a new solution, to its own solution. In- 
stead of going back to the old dogmas, we should 
have strained on towards the new. And if, in 
this generation, the new dogmas are still out of 
sight, if we have meantime to live our lives with- 
out peace or stability, does it matter so very- 
much? To do so is, perhaps, our allotted task. 
And as sacrifices to the future we justify our 
very fruitlessness, our very modernity! 



66 — 



ORIGINAL SIN 



II 

Original Sin 

38 

Original Sin 

Original Sin and the Future are essentially ir- 
reconcilable conceptions. The believer in the 
future looks upon humanity as plastic: the good 
and the bad in man are not fixed quantities, al- 
ways, in every age, past and future, to be found 
in the same proportions: an " elevation of the 
type man " is, therefore, possible. But the be- 
liever in Original Sin regards mankind as that 
in which — the less said about the good, the bet- 
ter — there is, at any rate, a fixed substratum of 
the bad. And that can never be lessened, never 
weakened, never conquered. Therefore, man 
has to fight constantly to escape the menace of 
an ever-present defeat. A battle in which vic- 
tory is impossible; a contest in which man has 
to climb continually in order not to fall lower; 
— 69 — 



WE MODERNS 



existence as the tread mill: that is what is meant 
by Original Sin. 

And as such it is the great enemy of the 
Future, the believers in which hold that there is 
not this metaphysical drag. But it is more. 
At all things aspiring it sets the tongue in the 
cheek, gladly provides a caricature for them, 
and becomes their Sancho Panza. To the great 
man it says, through the mouths of its chosen 
apostles, the average men, " What matter how 
high you climb! This load which you carry 
even as we will bring you back to us at last. 
And the higher you climb the greater will be 
your fall. Humanity cannot rise above its own 
level." And therefore, humility, equality, 
radicalism, comradeship in sin — the ideas of 
Christianity! 

39 

Again 

Distrust of the future springs from the same 
root as distrust of great men. It derives from 
the belief in the average man, which derives 
from the belief in Original Sin. The egali- 
tarian sentiment strives always to become un- 
conditional. It claims not only that all men 
— 70 — 



ORIGINAL SIN 



are equal, but that the men who live now are 
no more than the equals of those who lived one, 
or five, thousand years ago, and no less than the 
equals of those who will live in another one, 
or five, thousand years. And it desires that this 
should be so: its jealousy embraces not only 
the living, but the dead and the unborn. 

40 

Again 

Society is a conspiracy, said Emerson, against 
the great man. And to blast him utterly in the 
centre of his being, it invented Original Sin. Is 
Original Sin, then, a theological dogma or a 
political device? 

41 

Equality- 
Is equality, in truth, a generous dogma? 
Does it express, as every one assumes, the 
solidarity of men in their higher attributes? It 
is time to question this, and to ask if inequality 
be not the more noble and generous belief. 
For, surely, it is in their nobler qualities that 
men are most unequal. It was not in his genius 
that Shakespeare was only the equal, for 
— 71 — 



WE MODERNS 



instance, of his commentators; it was in the 
groundwork of his nature, in those feelings and 
desires without which he would not have been 
a man at all, in the things which made him 
human, but which did not make him Shakes- 
peare: in a word, in that which is for us of no 
significance. Equality in the common part of 
man's nature, equality in sin, equality before 
God — it is the same thing — that is the only 
equality which can be admitted. And if its ad- 
mission is insisted upon by apologists for Chris- 
tianity, that is because to the common part 
of man's nature they give so much importance, 
because they are believers in Original Sin. In 
their equality there is accordingly more malice 
than generosity. The belief that no one is other 
than themselves, the will that no one shall be 
other than themselves — there is nothing gener- 
ous in that belief and that will. For man, ac- 
cording to them, is guilty from the womb. And 
what, then, is equality but the infinitely consol- 
ing consciousness of tainted creatures that every 
one on this earth is tainted? 

The believer in Original Sin will, of course, 
deny this, and say that in his philosophy men are 
equals also in their higher role as " sons of God." 
— 72 — 



ORIGINAL SIN 



But is this so? Is salvation, like sin, com- 
mon to all men? Is it not, on the contrary, 
something conferred as the reward of a belief 
and a choice — a belief and a choice which an 
Atheist, for instance, simply cannot embrace? 
So that here, touching the highest part of men, 
their soul, there is introduced, by Christianity 
itself, a distinction, an inequality — the dis- 
tinction, the inequality between the " saved " 
and the " lost." Men are equal inasmuch as 
they are all damned, but they are not equal inas- 
much as they are not all redeemed. 

Gazing at man, however, no longer through the 
eyes of the serpent, shall we not be bound to 
find, if we look high enough, distinction, superi- 
ority, inferiority, valuation? The dogma of 
equality is itself a device to evade valuation. 
For valuation is difficult, and demands gener- 
osity for its exercise. To recognize that one 
is greater than you, and cheerfully to acknowl- 
edge it; to see that another is less than you, and 
to treat the inferiority as a trifling thing, that is 
difficult, that requires generosity. But one who 
believes in inequality will always be looking 
for greatness in others; his eye, habituated to 
the contemplation of lofty things, will become 
— 73 — 



WE MODERNS 



subtle in the detection of concealed nobility; 
while to the ignoble he will give only a glance — 
and is it not good, where one may not help, to 
pass on the other side? The egalitarians will 
cry that it is ungenerous to believe that some 
men are vile; but it is a strange generosity 
which would persuade us with them that all 
men are vile. Let us be frank. To those who 
believe in the future, inequality is a holy thing; 
their pledge that greatness shall not disappear 
from the earth; the rainbow assuring them that 
Man shall not go down beneath the vast tide 
of mankind. All great men are to them at once 
forerunners and sacrifices; the imperfect forms 
which the Future has shattered in trying to 
incarnate itself; the sublime ruins of future 
greatness. 

42 

// Men Were Equal 

If men had been equal at the beginning, they 
would never have risen above the savage. For 
in absolute equality even the concept of great- 
ness could not have come into being. Inequal- 
ity is the source of all advancement. 

— 74^ 



ORIGINAL SIN 



43 

The Fall of Man 

In very early times men must have had a 
deep sense of the tragicality of existence: life 
was then so full of pain; death, as a rule, so 
sudden and unforeseen, and the world generally 
so beset with terrors. The few who were for- 
tunate enough to escape violent death had yet 
to toil incessantly to retain a footing on this un- 
kind star. Life would, accordingly, appear to 
them in tlie most sombre tones and colours. 
And it was to explain this human misfortune, 
and not sin at all, that the whole fable of Adam 
and Eve and the Fall was invented. The doc- 
trine of Original Sin was simply an interpreta- 
tion which was afterwards read into the story, 
an interpretation, perhaps, as arbitrary as the 
orthodox interpretation of the Song of Songs. 

How would the fable arise? Well, a primi- 
tive poet one day in a fit of melancholy made 
the whole thing up. Out of his misery his 
desires created for him an imaginary state, its 
opposite, the Garden of Eden. But this state 
being created, the problem arose, How did Man 
fall from it? And the Tree was brought in. 
— 75 — 



WE MODERNS 



But to the naive, untheological poet, this tree 
had nothing to do with metaphysics or with sin, 
the child of metaphysics. It was simply a 
magical tree, and if Man ate of the fruit of it, 
something terrible would happen to him. The 
Fall of Man was a mystery to the poet, which he 
did not rationalize or theologize. Well, Man 
succumbed to curiosity, and pain and misfor- 
tune befell the human race. But we must not 
assume in the modern manner that with the eat- 
ing of the fruit early man associated any idea 
of guilt. Rather the contrary; he regarded the 
act simply as unfortunate, just as at the present 
day we regard as unfortunate the foolish prin- 
cess in some fairy tale. So the Fall was not 
to him a crime, branding all mankind with a 
metaphysical stigma. 

That conception came much later, when the 
conscience had become deeper, more subtle and 
more neurotic; w^hen individualism had been 
introduced into morality. And at that time, too, 
the ideal of the Redeemer became vitiated. 
Early man, if he did envisage a Redeemer, en- 
visaged him as one who would set him back in 
the Garden of Eden again, in the literal, terres- 
trial Garden of Eden, be it understood: the- 
— 76 — 



ORIGINAL SIN 



ology had not yet been etherealized. And this 
Redeemer would redeem all men: the distinc- 
tion of the individual came afterwards. It was 
not until later, too, that this ideal was " in- 
terpreted," and, as a concession to the con- 
science, salvation was made a conditional thing: 
the reward of those who were sucessful in a 
competition in credulity, in which the first prize 
went to the most simple, most stupid. The 
" guilt " now implicated in the Fall was not 
purged away from all men by the Redeemer, but 
only from such as would " accept " it. And, 
lastly, with the passing of Jesus, the redemption 
was still further de-actualized. It was found 
that acceptance of the Redeemer did not rein- 
state Man in an earthly Garden: paradise was, 
therefore, drawn on the invisible wires of 
theology into the inaccessible heavens. Salva- 
tion lay at ihe other side of the grave, and there 
it was safe from assault. 

Nevertheless, what our primitive poet meant 
by the Fall and the Redemption was probably 
something entirely different. The Fall to him 
was the fall into misfortune, not into sin: the 
Redemption to him was the redemption from 
misfortune, not from sin. And his Redeemer 
— 77 — 



WE MODERNS 



would be, therefore — whom? Perhaps it is 
impossible for us to imagine the nature of such 
a being. 

This is not an interpretation, but an attempted 
explanation of the story of the Fall. 

44 

Interpretations 

How inexhaustible is myth! In the story 
of the Fall is a meaning for every age and 
every creed. The interpretation called Original 
Sin is only one of a thousand, and not the 
greatest of them. Let us dip our bucket into 
the well. 

The tree of the knowledge of good and evil — 
that was the tree of morality! And morality 
was then the original sin? And through it 
Man lost his innocence? The antithesis of 
morality and innocence is as old as the world. 
And if we are to capture innocence again, if 
the world is to become aesthetically acceptable 
to us, we must dispense more and more with 
morality and limit its domain. This, one des- 
perate glance into the depths of the myth tells 
us. Instinct is upheld in it against isolated rea- 
son and exterior law. Detached, " abstract " 
— 78 — 



ORIGINAL SIN 



Reason brought sin into the world, but Instinct, 
which is fundamentally Love, Creation, Will to 
Power, is forever innocent, beyond good and evil. 
It was when Reason, no longer the sagacity of 
Instinct, no longer the eyes of Love, became its 
opponent and oppressor, that morality arose and 
Man fell. 

Or to take another guess, granted we read 
Original Sin in the Fall, must we not read there, 
also, the way to get rid of it? If by Original 
Sin Man fell, then by renouncing it let him arise 
again. But how renounce it? What! Can- 
not Man renounce a metaphor? 

Yet how powerful is metaphor! Man is 
ruled by metaphor. The gods were nothing but 
that, some sublime, some terrible, some lovely, 
all metaphors, Jehovah, Moloch, Apollo, Eros. 
Life is now stained through and through with 
metaphor. And there are further transfigura- 
tions still possible! Yet we would not destroy 
the beauty already starring Life's skies, the 
lovely hues lent by Aphrodite, and Artemis, and 
Dionysos, or the sublime colours of Jehovah and 
Thor. But the heavy disfiguring blot tarnish- 
ing all. Love, Innocence, Ecstasy, Wrath, that 
we would rather altogether extirpate and annul. 
— 79 — 



WE MODERNS 



Original Sin we would cut off as a disfigure- 
ment and disease of Life. 

Or, again, may not the myth be an attempt 
to glorify Man and to clothe him with a sad 
splendour. And not Original Sin, but Original 
Innocence is the true reading of the fable? Its 
raison d'etre is the Garden of Eden, not the 
Fall? To glorify Humanity at its source it 
set there a Superman. The fall from innocence 
— that was the fall from the Superman into 
Man. And how, then, is Man to be redeemed? 
By the return of the Superman! Let that be 
our reading of the myth! 

45 

The Use of Myth 

In the early world myth was used to dignify 
Man by idealizing his origin. Henceforward 
it must be used to dignify him by idealizing his 
goal. Thca is the task of the poets and artists. 

46 

Before the Fall 

Innocence is the morality of the instincts. 
Original Sin — that was war upon the instincts, 
morality become abstract, separate, self-centred, 
— 80 — 



ORIGINAL SIN 



accusing and tyrannical. This self-conscious- 
ness of morality, this disruption in the nature of 
Man, was the Fall. 

47 

Beyond Original Sin 

How far is Man still from his goal? How 
sexual, foul in word and thought, naively 
hedonistic! How little of spirit is in him! 
How clumsily his mind struggles in the dark- 
ness! How far he is still from his goal! — 
This is a cry which the believer in Original Sin 
cannot understand, because he accepts all this 
imperfection as inevitable, as the baleful heri- 
tage of Man, from which he cannot escape. 

The feeling of pure joy in life, the feeling 
that Life is a sacrament — that also is forever 
denied to the believer in Original Sin. For 
Life is not a sacrament to him, but a sin of 
which joy itself is only an aggravation. 

48 

The Eternal Bluestocking 

The bluestocking is as old as mankind. Her 
original was Eve, the first dabbler in moral 
philosophy. 

— 81 — 



WE MODERNS 



49 

The Sin of Intellectualism 

The first sin, the original sin was that of the 
intellectuals. The knowledge of Good and Evil 
was not an instantaneous "illumination"; it 
was the result of long experiment and analysis: 
the apple took perhaps hundreds of years to 
eat! Before that, in the happy day of in- 
nocence, Good and Evil were not, for instinct 
and morality were one and not twain. As time 
passed, however, the physically lazy, who had 
been from the beginning, became weaker and 
wiser. Enforced contemplation, the contempla- 
tion of those who were not strong enough to 
hunt or to labour, made them more subtle than 
their simple brethren; they formed themselves 
into a priesthood, and created a theology. In 
these priests instinct was not strong: they were 
invalids with powerful reason. But they had 
the lust for power; they wished to conquer by 
means of their reason; therefore, they said to 
themselves, belittle instinct, tyrannize over in- 
stinct, discover an absolute " good " and an ab- 
solute " evil," become moral. Morality, which 
had in the days of innocence been unconscious, 
— 82 — 



ORIGINAL SIN 



the harmony of the instincts, was now given a 
separate existence. The cry was morality 
against the instincts. Thus triumphed the 
priests, the intellectuals, by means of their rea- 
son. Original Sin was their sin — the result of 
the analysis by which they had separated moral- 
ity and the instincts. If we are to speak of 
Original Sin at all, let it be in this manner. 

50 

Once More 

The belief in Original Sin — that was itself 
Man's original sin. 

51 

Apropos Gautier 

He had just read " Mile, de Maupin," " What 
seduction there is still for Man in the senses! " 
he exclaimed. " How much more of an animal 
than a spirit he must be to be charmed and en- 
slaved by this book ! " Yet, what ground had he 
to conclude that because the sensual intoxicates 
Man, therefore Man is more sensual than 
spiritual? For we are most fatally attracted by 
what is most alien to us. 

— 83 — 



WE MODERNS 



52 

Psychology of the Humble 

There is something very naive in those who 
speak of humility as a certain good and of 
pride as a proven evil. In the first place these 
are not opposites at all; there are a hundred 
kinds of both, and humility is sometimes simply 
a refined form of pride. Humility may be pru- 
dence, or good taste, or timidity, or a conceal- 
ment, or a sermon, or a snub. How much of it, 
for instance, is simple prudence? Is not this, 
indeed, its chief utility, that it saves men from 
the dangers which accompany pride? On the 
day on which some one discovered that " Pride 
goeth before a fall," humility became no mean 
virtue. For if one become the servant and pro- 
claim himself the least of all, how can he still 
fall? Yet if he does it is a fall into greater 
humility, and his virtue only shows the brighter. 
This is the sagacity of the humble, that they 
turn even ignominy to their glorification. 

Humility is most commonly used with a dif- 
ferent meaning, however. There are people who 
wish to be anonymous and uniform, and people 
who desire to be personal and distinct. Or, 
— 84 — 



ORIGINAL SIN 



more exactly, it is their instincts that seek these 
ends. The first are humble in the fundamental 
sense that they are instinctively so; the latter 
are proud in the same sense. Humility, then, 
is the desire to be as others are and to escape 
notice; and this desire can only be realized in 
conformity. It is true, people become con- 
ceited after a while about their very conformity, 
and would be wounded in their vanity if they 
failed to comply with fashion; but vanity and 
humility are not incompatible. 

Pride, however, is something much more 
subtle. The naive, unconditional contemners 
of pride, who plead with men to cast it out, have 
certainly no idea what would happen if they 
were obeyed. For pride is the condition of all 
fruitful action. This thought must be con- 
sciously or subconsciously present in the doer. 
What I do is of value! I am capable of doing 
a thing which is worth doing! The Christian, 
it is true, still acts, though he is convinced that 
all action is sinful and of little worth. But it 
is only his mind that is convinced: his instincts 
are by no means persuaded of the truth of this! 
For though in the conscious there may be self- 
doubt, in the unconscious there must be pride, 
— 85 — 



WE MODERISS 



or actions would not be performed at all. 
Moreover, in all those qualities which are per- 
sonal and not common — in personality — 
pride is an essential ingredient. The pronoun 
" I " is itself an affirmation of pride. The feel- 
ing, This is mjself, this quality is my quality, 
by possessing it I am different from you, these 
things constitute my personality and are me: 
what a na'ive assumption of the valuableness of 
these qualities do we have there, how much pride 
is there in that unconscious confession! And 
without this instinctive pride, these qualities, 
personality could never have been possible. In 
the heart of all distinct, valuable and heroic 
things, pride lies coiled. Yes, even in the 
heart of humility, of the most refined, spiritual 
humility. For such humility is not a conform- 
ity; it separates and individualizes its possessor 
as effectually as pride could; it takes its own 
path and not that of the crowd; and so its source 
must be in an inward sense of worth, of indepen- 
dence: it is a form of pride. But pride is so 
closely woven into life that to wound it is to 
wound life; to abolish it, if that were possible, 
would be to abolish life. Well do its subtler 
— 86 — 



ORIGINAL SIN 



defamers know that! And when they shoot 
their arrows at pride, it is Life they hope to hit. 

53 

Les Humbles 

Humility is the chief virtue, said a humble 
man. Then are you the vainest man, said his 
friend, for you are renowned for your humility. 
Good taste demands from writers who praise 
humility a little aggressiveness and dogmatism, 
lest they be taken for humble, and, therefore, 
proud. On the other hand, if humility is the 
chief virtue, it is immoral not to practise it. 
And, therefore, one should praise humility, and 
practise it? Or praise it and not practise it? 
Or not praise it and practise it? There is con- 
tradiction in every course. That is the worst 
of believing in paradoxical virtues! 

54 

Against the Ostentatiously Humble 

He who is truly humble conceals even his 
humility. 



— 87 — 



E MODERNS 



55 

The Pessimists 

In pessimistic valuations of Life, the alterna- 
tive contemplated is generally not between Life 
and Death, but between different types of Life. 
The real goal of Schopenhauerism is not the 
extinction of life, for death is a perfectly normal 
aspect of existence, and Life would not be 
denied even if death became universal. In 
order to deny Life and to triumph over it, the 
pessimist must continue at least to exist, in a 
sort of death in life: he must be dead, but he 
must also know it. That is the goal of 
Schopenhauerism; perhaps not so difficult, per- 
haps frequently attained! "They have not 
enough life even to die," said Nietzsche. 

56 

Sickness and Health 

Some men have such unconquerable faith in 
Life that they defy their very maladies, creat- 
ing out of them forms of ecstasy: that is their 
way of triumphing over them. Perhaps some 
poetry, certainly not a little religion has sprung 
from this. In religions defaming the senses 
— 88 — 



ORIGINAL SIN 



and enjoining asceticism, or, in other words, a 
lowering of vitality, the chronic sufferers affirm 
Life in their own way; for sickness is their life: 
their praise of sickness is their praise of Life. 
And if they sometimes morbidly invite death, 
that is because death is nothing but another form 
of experience, of Life. To the sick, if they are 
to retain self-respect and pride, these doctrines 
are perhaps the best possible; it is only to the 
healthy that they are noxious. For the healthy 
who are converted by them, become sick through 
them, yet not so sick as to find comfort in them. 
The aspiration after an ascetic life contends in 
these men with their old health, their desire to 
live fully, and causes untold perplexities and 
conflicts; leaving them at last with nothing but 
a despairing desire for release. Thus, a 
religion of consolation becomes for the strong 
a Will to Death — the very opposite of that 
which it was to those who created it. 

57 

The Pride of the Sterile 

Ecclesiastical, ceremonious humility is the 
pride of those who cannot create or initiate, 
either because they are sterile, or because the 
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obstacles in their way are too great. Their 
pride is centred, not on what they can do, but on 
what they can endure. The anchorite goes into 
the wilderness, perhaps rather to get his back- 
ground than to escape attention, and there im- 
poses upon himself the most difficult and loath- 
some tasks, enduring not only outward penances, 
fasting and goading of the flesh, but such inward 
convulsions, portents and horrors, as the soul 
of man has by no other means experienced. 
Here, in endurance, is his power, and here, 
therefore, is his pride : the poor Atlas, who does 
not remove, but supports mountains, and these 
of his own making! 

Men who have the power to create but are 
at the same time extremely timid belong to this 
class. Rather than venture outside themselves 
they will do violence to their own nature. The 
forces which in creation would have been 
liberated are pent within them and cause untold 
restlessness, uneasiness and pain. Religions 
which stigmatize " self-expression," separating 
the individual into an " outward " and an " in- 
ward " and raising a barrier between the two, 
encourage the growth of this type of man. 
These religions themselves have their roots in a 
— 90 — 



ORIGINAL SIN 



timidity, a fear of pain. For self-expression is 
by no means painless; it is, on the contrary, a 
great cause of suffering. Essentially its out- 
come is strife, the clash of egos: Tragedy is the 
great recognition in Art of this truth. Christi- 
anity saw the suffering which conflict brought 
with it, said it was altogether evil, and sought 
to abolish it. But a law of Life cannot be 
abolished: strife, driven from the world of out- 
ward event, retreated into the very core of man, 
and there became baleful, indeed, disintegrating, 
and subversive. The early Christians did not 
see that men would suffer more from that in- 
ward psychic conflict than from the other. It 
was the Greeks who elevated conflict to an 
honourable position in their outward actions; 
with them, as Nietzsche said, there was no dis- 
tinction between the " outward " and " in- 
ward " ; they lived completely and died once. 
But the Christians, to use the words of St. Paul, 
" died daily." How true was that of those 
proudly humble anchorites! What a light it 
throws upon their sternly endured convulsions 
of the soul! In the end. Death itself came no 
doubt to many of them as a relief from this 
terribly protracted " dying." Perhaps one 
— 91 — 



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thing, however, made their lives bearable and 
even enjoyable — the power of the soul to 
plumb its own sufferings and capacity for en- 
durance. Psychology arose first among the ec- 
clesiastically humble men. 

Well, let us count up our gains and losses. 
Spiritual humility, wherever it has spread, has 
certainly weakened the expression of Life: for 
it has weakened man by introducing within him 
a disrupting conflict. But it has also made 
Life subtler and deeper; it has enlarged the in- 
ward world of man, even if it has straitened the 
world outside. So that when we return — as 
we must — to the Pagan ideal of " expression," 
our works shall be richer than those of the 
Pagans, for man has now more to express. 

58 

When Pride is Necessary 

Perhaps in all great undertakings into which 
uncertainty enters pride is necessary. In the 
Elizabethan age, our most productive and ad- 
venturous age, pride was at its zenith. Was that 
pride the necessary condition of that productive- 
ness? Would the poets, the thinkers and the dis- 
coverers have attempted what they did attempt, 
— 92 — 



ORIGINAL SIN 



had they been humble men? What is needed 
is more enquiry: a new psychology, and, above 
all, a new history of pride. 

59 

Humility and the Artists 

There is one man, at any rate, who has always 
owed more to pride than to humility — the 
artist. Whether it be in himself, where it is 
almost the condition of productiveness, or in 
others, where it is the cause of all actions and 
movements aesthetically agreeable. Pride is his 
great benefactor. All artists are proud, but not 
all have the good conscience of their pride. In 
their thoughts they permit themselves to be per- 
suaded too much by the theologians; they have 
not enough " free spirit " to say, " Pride is my 
atmosphere, in which I create. I do not choose 
to refuse my atmosphere." 

But if pride were banished even from the 
remainder of Life, how poor would the artists 
be left! For every gesture that is beautiful, all 
free, spirited, swift movement and all noble 
repose have in them pride. Humility uglifies, 
except, indeed, the humility which is a form of 
pride; that has a sublimity of its own. Even 
— 93 — 



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the Christian Church — the Church of the 
humble — had to make its ceremonies magnif- 
icent to make itself aesthetically presentable; 
without its magnificence it would have been an 
impossible institution. Humility, to be sup- 
portable, must have in it an admixture of pride. 
That gives it standing. It was His subtle pride 
that communicated to the humility of Jesus its 
gracious " charm." 

Poetic tragedy and pride are profoundly as- 
sociated. No event is tragic which has not 
arisen out of pride, and has not been borne 
proudly: the Greeks knew that. But, as well, 
is not pride at times laughable and absurd? 
Well, what does that prove, except that comedy 
as well as tragedy has been occasioned by it? 
Humility is not even laughable! 

60 

Love and Pride 

Pride is so indissolubly bound up with every- 
thing great — Joy, Beauty, Courage, Creation — 
that surely it must have had some celestial origin. 
Who created it? Was it Love, who wished to 
shape a weapon for itself, the better to fashion 
things? Pride has so much to do with creation 
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ORIGINAL SIN 



that sometimes it imagines it is a creator. But 
that it is not. Only Love can create. Pride 
was fashioned out of a rib taken from the side 
of Love. 

61 

Pride and the Fall 

It was not humilty that was the parent of the 
fable of the Fall. Or is it humility to boast of 
one's high ancestry, and if the ancestry does not 
exist, to invent it? The naive poet who created 
that old allegory did not foresee the number of 
interpretations which would be read into it. He 
did not foresee that it would be used to humili- 
ate Man instead of to exalt him; he did not at 
all foresee Original Sin. As less than justice, 
then, has been meted to him, let us now accord 
him more than justice. Let us say that he was 
a divine philosopher who perceived that in un- 
conditional morality lay the grand misfortune 
of mankind. Man is innocent; thus, he said, it 
is an absolute ethic that defiles him — the knowl- 
edge of Good and Evil. Sweep that away, and 
he is innocent and back in the Garden of Eden 
again. Let us say this of the first poet, for cer- 
tainly he did not mean it! Perhaps he knew 
— 95 — 



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nothing at all about morality! All that he 
wished for was to provide a dignified family 
tree for his generation. 

62 

The Good Conscience 

What a revolution for mankind it would be 
to get back " the good conscience "? Life made 
innocent, washed free from how much filth of 
remorse, guilt, contempt, " sin " — that vision 
arouses a longing more intense than that of the 
religious for any heaven. And it seems at least 
equally possible of realization! Bad con- 
science arises when religion and the instincts 
are in opposition; the more comprehensive and 
deep this conflict, the more guilty the conscience. 
But there have been religions not antagonistic 
to the instincts, which, instead of condemning 
them, have thought so well of them as to become 
their rule, their discipline. The religion of the 
Greeks was an example of this; and in Greece, 
accordingly, there was no " bad conscience '* in 
our sense. Well, how is it possible, if it is 
possible, to regain " the good conscience "? 
Not by any miracle! Not by an instantaneous 
— 96 — 



ORIGINAL SIN 



" change of heart," for even the heart changes 
slowly. But suppose that a new instinctive reli- 
gion and morality were to be set up, and pain- 
fully complied with, until they became a second 
nature as ours have become, should we not then 
gradually lose our bad conscience, bom as it is 
out of the antagonism between instinct and 
morality? Nay, if we were to persevere still 
further until instinct and religion and morality 
became intermingled and indistinguishable, 
might we not enter the Garden of Eden again, 
might not innocence itself become ours? But 
to attain that end, an unremitting discipline, 
extending over hundreds of years, might be nec- 
essary; and who, in the absence of gods, is to 
impose that discipline? 

63 

The Other Side 

The life-defaming creeds are not to be con- 
demned unconditionally: even they are not evil. 
" Guilt," asceticism, contempt for the world — 
these are the physiologically bad things which 
have sharpened, deepened and made subtle the 
soul of man. The Greeks were simple com- 
pared with modern man; a thousand times more 
— 97 — 



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healthy, it is true — perhaps because they were 
incapable of contracting our maladies. Well, 
let us judge Christianity, which in Europe was 
mainly responsible for this deepening of Man, 
by an artistic criterion: let us judge it by the 
effects it achieved, not by what it said. 

64 

Effects of Christianity 

If there are gods who take an interest in Man, 
and experiment upon him, what better means 
could they have devised for getting out of him 
certain " effects," not Christian at all, than 
Christianity? Far more significant for man- 
kind than the virtues of Christianity, are its 
contradictions, excesses and " states of mind." 
The " way of life," Christian morality, is of 
little account compared with the permanent 
physiological and psychological transformations 
effected upon Man by the discipline of centuries 
of religion. Not that Man has been forced into 
the mould of Christian morality, but that in the 
process he has undergone the most unique con- 
vulsions, adaptations and permutations, that an 
entire new world of conflict, pain, fear, horror, 
exaltation, faith and scepticism has been bom 
— 98 — 



ORIGINAL SIN 



within him, that Life, driven within itself, has 
deepened, enriched and invested him — that is 
from the standpoint of human culture the most 
important thing, beside which what is usually 
understood by the Christianizing of Europe is 
relatively insignificant. Not Christian moral- 
ity, but the effects of Christian morality it is 
that now concern us. And these effects are 
not themselves Christian; rather the contrary. 
Christianity has made Man more complex, con- 
tradictory, sceptical, tragic and sublime; it has 
given him more capacity for good and for evil, 
and has added to these two qualities subtlety 
and spirituality. 



99 — 



WHAT IS MODERN? 



Ill 

What Is Modern? 

65 

Whither? 

The fever of modern thought which bums in 
our veins, and from which we refuse to escape 
by reactionary backdoors — Christianity and the 
like — is not without its distinction: it is an 
" honourable sickness," to use the phrase of 
Nietzsche. I speak of those who sincerely strive 
to seek an issue from this fever; to pass through 
it into a new health. Of the others to whom 
fever is the condition of existence, who make a 
profession of their maladies, the valetudinarians 
of the spirit, the dabblers in quack soul-remedies 
for their own sake, it is impossible to speak 
without disdain. Our duty is to exterminate 
them, by ridicule or any other means found 
effectual. But we are ourselves already too 
grievously harassed; we are caught in the 
whirlwind of modem thought, which contains 
— 103 — 



WE MODERNS 



as much dust as wind. We see outside our field 
of conflict a region of Christian calm, but never, 
never, never can we return there, for our in- 
stincts as well as our intellect are averse to it. 
The problem must have a different solution. 
And what, indeed, is the problem? To some of 
us it is still that of emancipation — that which 
confronted Goethe, Ibsen, Nietzsche, and the 
other great spirits of last century. It is an error 
to think that these men have yet been refuted or 
even understood; they have simply been buried 
beneath the corpses of later writers. Arid it is 
the worst intellectual weakness, and, therefore, 
crime, of our age that ideas are no longer dis- 
proved, but simply superseded by newer ideas. 
The latest is the true, and Time refutes every- 
thing! That is our modern superstition. We 
have still, then, to go back — or, rather, forward 

— to Goethe, Ibsen and Nietzsche. Our prob- 
lem is still that of clearing a domain of freedom 
around us, of enlarging our field of choice, and 
so making destiny itself more spacious; and, 
then, having delivered ourselves from prejudice 
and superstition — and how many other things! 

— of setting an aim before us for the unflinch- 
ing pursuit of which we make ourselves responsi- 

— 104 — 



WHAT IS MODERN? 



ble. Greater freedom, and therefore greater 
responsibility, above all greater aims, an en- 
largement of life, not a whittling of it down to 
Christian standards — that is our problem still! 

66 

The " Restoration " of Christianity 

Will Christianity ever be established again? 
It is doubtful. At the most, it may be " re- 
stored " — in the manner of the architectural 
" restorations," against which Ruskin declaimed. 
The difficulty of re-establishing it must needs be 
greater than that of establishing it. For it 
has now been battered by science (people no 
longer believe in miracles) and by history (peo- 
ple have read what the Church has done — or 
has not done). Christianity has become a 
Church, and the Church, an object of criticism. 
As the body which housed the spirit of Christian- 
ity, men have studied it with secular eyes, and 
have found little to reverence, much to censure; 
and in the disrepute into which the body has 
fallen, the spirit, also, has shared. And now 
the atmosphere cannot be created in which 
Christianity may grow young again and re- 
capture its faith. The necessary credulity, or, 
— 105 — 



E MODERNS 



at any rate, the proper kind of credulity, is no 
longer ours. For Christianity grew, like the 
mushrooms, in the night. Had there been news- 
papers in Judea, there had been no Christianity. 
And this age of ours, in which the clank of the 
printing press drowns all other sounds, is fatal 
to any noble mystery, to any noble birth or re- 
birth. That night, at all events, we can never 
pass through again, and, therefore, Christianity 
will probably never renew itself. 

67 , 

A Drug for Diseased Souls 

The utmost that can be expected is a " restora- 
tion," and in that direction we have gone already 
a long way. For Christianity is not now, as it 
was at the beginning, a spring of inspiration, a 
thing spiritual, spontaneous, Dionysian. It is 
mainly a remedy, or, more often, a drug for 
diseased souls; and, therefore, to be husbanded 
strictly by the modern medicine men, to be dis- 
pensed carefully, and, yes, to be advertised as 
well! Its birth was out of an exuberance of 
spiritual life; its " restoration " will be out of a 
hopeless debility and fatigue. And, there- 
fore 

— 106 — 



WHAT IS MODERN ? 



68 

The Dogmatists 

All religions may be regarded from two sides; 
from that of their creators, and from that of 
their followers. Among the creators are to be 
numbered not only the founders of religion, but 
the saints, the inspired prophets and every one 
who has in some degree the genius for religion. 
They are not distinguished by much reverence 
for dogma, but by the " religious feeling " ; and 
when this emotion d&rries them away in its flood 
they often treat dogma in a way to make the or- 
thodox gape with horror. But, in truth, they do 
not themselves take much account of dogma; 
every dogma is a crutch, and they do not feel the 
need of one. But the people who are not sus- 
tained by this inward spring of emotion, who can 
never know what religion really is, these need 
a crutch; it is for them that dogma was designed. 
And, of course, the real religious men see their 
advantage also in the adherence of the dog- 
matists, the many ; for the more widely a religion 
is spread, the more secure it becomes, and the 
greater chance it has of enduring. Dogma, 
then, is religion for the irreligious. To the saint 
— 107 — 



WE MODERNS 



religion is a thing inward and creative; to the 
dogmatist it is a thing outward, accomplished 
and fixed, to which he may cling. The former 
is the missionary of religion, the latter, its con- 
server. The one is religious because he has re- 
ligion, the other, because he needs it. 

69 

The Religious Impulse 

The time comes in the history of a faith when 
the " religious feeling " dies, and nothing is left 
but dogma. The dogmatists then become the 
missionaries of religion. The fount is dried up; 
there is no longer an inward force seeking for 
expression; there is only the fear of the dog- 
matist lest his staff, his guide, his horizon should 
be taken from him. Religion is then supported 
most frenziedly by the irreligious; weakness 
then speaks with a more poignant eloquence than 
strength itself. And that is what is happening 
with Christianity. Its " religious feeling " is 
dead: there has been no great religious figure in 
Europe in our time. And the Church is now 
being defended on grounds neither religious nor 
theological, but secular and even utilitarian. 
The real religious impulse is now to be found in 
— 108 — 



WHAT IS MODERN ? 



the movement outside, and, therefore, against 
Christianity. But, alas, as Nietzsche feared, 
there may not after all be " sufficient religion in 
the world to destroy religion." 

70 

The Decay of Prophecy 

The past should be studied only in order to 
divine the future. The new soothsayers should 
seek for omens, not, as their ancient brethren 
did, in the stars and the entrails of animals, but 
in the book of history, past and becoming. 
" The new soothsayers," for soothsaying has not 
died; it has become popular — and degenerate. 
Every one may now foretell the future, but no 
one may believe what is foretold. And that is 
because the soothsayers do not themselves believe 
their auguries; when they happen to speak the 
truth, no one is more surprised than they. But 
in the antique world the augurs had, at any rate, 
responsibility; to foretell the future was not to 
them an amusement but a vocation. 

To what is due the decay of the art of sooth- 
saying? Partly, no doubt, to the dissemination 
of popular knowledge, by which people have be- 
come less credulous; partly to the " scientific 
— 109 — 



WE MODERNS 



temper " of those who, had they lived in the old 
world, would have been the soothsayers; partly 
to other causes known to every one. But, allow- 
ing for these, may there not be something due to 
the fact that people are no longer interested, as 
they used to be, in the future? They know the 
past, ah, perhaps too well: they have looked into 
it so long that at length they feel that the future 
holds nothing which it has not held, that Fate 
has now no fresh metamorphosis or apotheosis, 
and that Time must henceforth be content to 
plagiarize itself. And so the future has lost the 
seduction which it once held for the noblest 
spirits. It is true, men still amuse themselves 
by guessing which of Time's well-thumbed and 
greasy cards will turn up at the next deal, or by 
playing at patience with the immemorial pos- 
sibilities. But that is not soothsaying, nor is it 
even playing with the future: it is playing with 
the past. And the great modern discovery is 
not the discovery of the future, but the discovery 
of the past. 

And as with soothsaying, so with prophecy. 

If we could but look for a moment into the soul 

of an old prophet and see his deepest thoughts 

and visions, what a conception of the future 

— 110 — 



WHAT IS MODERN ? 



would be ours! But that is impossible. We 
cannot now understand the faith of the men who, 
unmoved, prophesied the advent of supernat- 
ural beings, the Christ or another; to whom the 
future was a new world more strange than Amer- 
ica was to Columbus. That attitude of mind has 
been killed; and now comes one who says the 
belief in the future is a weakness. Would he, 
perchance, have said that to John the Baptist, 
the great modern of his time? Had he lived in 
that pre-Christian world, would he have believed 
in the God in whom he now believes? The or- 
thodox Christian here finds himself in a laugh- 
able dilemma. Admitting nothing wonderful in 
the future, he is yet constrained to believe in a 
past wonderful beyond the dreams of poets or of 
madmen — a past in which supernatural beings, 
miracles and portents were almost the rule. And 
so the future is to him not even so wonderful as 
the past. It is an expurgated edition of the 
past — an edition with the incidents and marvels 
left out, a novel without a hero or a plot. 

So, for good or for evil, we no longer believe 

in the future as we did: it is steadily becoming 

less marvellous, and, therefore, less seductive 

for us. But, without the bait of the strange and 

— 111 — 



WE MODERNS 



the new to lure it on, must not humanity halt on 
its way? Can man act at all without believing 
in the future in some fashion? Must not things 
be foreseen before they can be accomplished? 
Is not soothsaying implicit in every deliberate 
act? Are not all sincere ideals involuntary 
auguries? Is it not the future rather than the 
prophecy which " comes true "? Did not the 
old prophecies " come true " because they were 
prophesied? Did not Christ arise because He 
was foretold? And are not the believers in the 
future, then, the creators of the future, and the 
true priests of progress? When we can envisage 
a future noble enough, it will not then be weak- 
ness to believe in it. 

71 

The Great Immoralists 

The morality of Nietzsche is more strict and 
exacting than that of Christianity. When the 
Christians argue against it, therefore, they are 
arguing in favour of a morality more comfort- 
able, pleasing and indulgent to the natural man; 
consequently, even on religious grounds, of a 
morality more immoral. What! is Nietzsche, 
— 112 — 



HAT IS MODERN? 



then, the great moralist, and are the Christians 
the great immoralists? 

This notion may appear to us absurd, or 
merely ingenious, but will it appear so to future 
generations? Will timidity, conformity, medi- 
ocrity, judicious blindness, unwillingness to of- 
fend, be synonymous, to them also, with moral- 
ity? Or will they look back upon Christianity 
as a creed too indulgent and not noble enough? 
As a sort of Epicureanism, for instance? 

72 

The First and the Last 

We all know what the weak have suffered 
from the strong; but who shall compute what the 
strong have suffered from the weak? " The last 
shall be first " ; but when they become first they 
become also the worst tyrants — impalpable, an- 
onymous and petty. 

73 

Humility in Pride 

The pride of some gifted men is not pride in 
their person, but in something within them, of 
which they regard themselves the guardians and 
— 113 — 



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servants. If there is dignity in their demeanour 
it is a reflected, impersonal dignity. Just so a 
peasant might feel ennobled who guarded a king 
in danger and exile. 

74 

The Modern Devil 

The devil is not wicked but corrupt, in modem 
phraseology, decadent. The qualities of the 
mediaeval devil, rage, cruelty, hatred, pride, 
avarice, are in their measure necessary to Life, 
necessary to virtue itself. But corruption is 
wholly bad ; it contaminates even those who fight 
it. Hell relaxes: Mr. Shaw's conception is 
profoundly true. 

But if the devil is corruption, cannot the devil 
be abolished? It is true, Man cannot extirpate 
cruelty, hatred and pride without destroying 
Life; but Life is made more powerful by the 
destruction of the corrupt. God created Man; 
but it was Man that created the devil. 

75 

Master and Servant 

To summon out of the void a task, and then 
incontinently to make of himself its slave: that 
— 114 — 



WHAT IS MODERN ? 



is the happiness of many a man. A great means 
of happiness! 

76 

Criterions 

It is not expedient to choose on every occasion 
the higher rather than the lower, for one may not 
be able to endure too much living on the heights. 
If will and capacity were always equal! Then, 
it is true, there would not be any difficulty; but 
Life is Life, after all — that is, our will is 
greater than our capacity. On the other hand, 
it is not well to develop equally all our faculties 
— the formula of the Humanist — for among 
them there is a hierarchy, and some are more 
worthy of development than others. What 
course is left? To act always in the interest of 
what is highest in us, and when we partake of a 
lower pleasure to regard it as a form of sleep, of 
necessary forgetting? For even the mind must 
slumber occasionally if it is to remain healthy. 

77 

Intellectual Prudence 

Among athletes there is a thing known as over- 
training: if it is persisted in it wrecks the body. 
— 115 — 



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A similar phenomenon is to be found among 
thinkers: thought too severe and protracted may 
ruin the mind. Was this the explanation of Niet- 
zsche's downfall? Certainly, his intellectual 
health was that of the athlete who remains vig- 
orous by virtue of a never-sleeping discipline, 
who maintains his balance by a continuous ef- 
fort. This is perhaps the highest, the most ex- 
quisite form of health, but it is at the same time 
the most dangerous — a little more, a little less, 
and the engine of thought is destroyed. It is 
important that the thinker should discover ex- 
actly how far he may discipline himself, and how 
far permit indulgence. What in the ordinary 
man — conscious of no secondary raison d'etre 
— is performed without fuss by the instincts, 
must by him be thought out — a task of great 
peril. 

78 

A Dilemmia 

To be a man is easy: to be a purpose is more 
difficult; but, on the whole — easy. In the first 
instance, one has but to exist; in the second, to 
act. But to unite man and purpose in the same 
person — to be a type — is both difficult and 
— 116 — 



WHAT IS MODERN? 



precarious. For that a balance is imperative: 
" being " and " doing " must be prevented from 
injuring each other: action must become rhythm, 
and rest, a form of energy. To be in doing, to 
do in being — that is the task of the future man. 
The danger of our being mere man is that man- 
kind may remain forever stationary, without a 
goal. The danger of our being mere purpose is 
that our humanity may altogether drop out and 
nothing but the purpose be left. And would not 
that defeat the purpose? 

79 

Dangers of Genius 

Why is it that so many men of genius have 
been destroyed by falling into chasms of desire 
which are safely trodden by common men? Is 
it because there is within the exceptional man 
greater compass, and, therefore, greater danger? 
The genius has left the animal further behind 
than the ordinary man; indeed, in the genius of 
the nobler sort there is an almost passionate 
avoidance and disavowal of the animal. In this 
disavowal lie at once his safety and his danger: 
by means of it he climbs to perilous heights, and 
is also secure upon them. But let him abrogate 
— 117 — 



JFE MODERNS 



even once this denial of kinship, and he is in the 
utmost danger. He now finds himself stationed 
on the edge of a precipice up to which he seems 
to have climbed in a dream, a dreadful dizziness 
assails him, along with a mad desire to fling him- 
self into the depths. It was perhaps a leap of 
this kind that Marlowe made, and Shelley. 
Meantime, the ordinary man lives in safety at 
the foot of the precipice: he is never so far above 
the animal as to be injured by a fall into animal- 
ism. Only to the noble does spiritual danger 
come. 

80 

A Strange Failure 

He failed; for the task was too small for him 
— a common tale among men of genius. You 
have been unsuccessful in trivial things? There 
is always a remedy left : to essay the great. How 
often has Man become impotent simply because 
there was no task heroic enough to demand 
greatness of him! 

81 

Dangers of the Spiritual 

If you are swept off your feet by a strongly 
sensuous book, it is probably a sign that you 
— 118 — 



WHAT IS MODERN ? 



have become too highly spiritualized. For a 
sensualist would simply have enjoyed it, while 
feeling, perhaps, a little bored and dissatisfied. 
It was only a religious anchorite who could have 
lost his soul to Anatole France's Thais. For 
the salvation of Man it is more than ever im- 
perative that a reconciliation should be effected 
between the spirit and the senses. Until it is, 
the highest men — the most spiritual — will be 
in the very greatest peril, and will almost in- 
evitably be wrecked or frustrated. It is for the 
good of the soul that this reconciliation must now 
be sought. 

82 

Again 

From the diabolization of the senses innumera- 
ble evils have flowed; physical and mental dis- 
ease, disgust with the world, cruelty towards 
everything natural. But, worst of all, it has 
made sensuality a greater danger than it was 
ever before. In the anchorite, seeking to live 
entirely in the spirit, and ignoring or chastising 
the body, sensuality was driven into the very 
soul, and there was magnified a hundredfold. 
To the thinker avoiding the senses as much as 
— 119 — 



WE MODERNS 



possible — for he had been taught to distrust 
them — sensuality, in the moments when he was 
brought face to face with it, had acquired a 
unique seductiveness, and had become a problem 
and a danger. If he yielded, it was perilous in 
a degree unknown to the average sensual man; 
if he resisted, a good half of his spiritual energy 
was wasted in keeping the senses at bay. In 
either case, the thinker suffered. So that now 
it is the spirit that has become the champion of 
the senses, but for the good of the spirit. 

83 

God and Animal 

Until the marriage of the soul and the senses 
has been accomplished, Man cannot manifest 
himself in any new type. What has been the 
history of humanity during the last two thousand 
years? The history of humanity, that is, as dis- 
tinct from the history of communities? A rec- 
ord of antithetic tyrannies, the spiritual alter- 
nating with the sensual; an uncertain tussle be- 
tween God and animal, now one uppermost, now 
the other; not a tragedy — for in Tragedy there 
is significance — but a gloomy farce. And this 
farce must continue so long as the spirit con- 
— 120 — 



WHAT IS MODERN ? 



temns sense as evil in itself — for neither of 
them can be abolished! Whether we like it or 
not, the senses, so long as they are oppressed and 
defamed, will continue to break out in terrible 
insurrections of sensuality and excess, until, tired 
and satiated, they return again under the tyranny 
of the spirit — at the appointed time, however, 
to revolt once more. From this double cul de 
sac Man can be freed only by a reconciliation 
between the two. When this happens, however, 
it will be the beginning of a higher era in the 
history of humanity; Man will then become 
spiritual in a new sense. Spirit will then affirm 
Life, instead of, as now, slandering it; existence 
will become joyful and tragic; for to live in 
accordance with Life itself — voluntarily to ap- 
prove struggle, suffering and change — is the 
most difficult and heroic of lives. The softening 
of the rigour of existence, its reduction and 
weakening by asceticism, humility, " sin," is the 
easier path; narrow is the way that leads to 
Nihilism! The error of Heine was that he prop- 
hesied a happier future from the reconciliation 
of the body and the soul: his belief in the efficacy 
of happiness was excessive. But this reconcilia- 
tion is, nevertheless, of importance for nothing 
— 121^ 



WE MODERNS 



else than its spiritual significance: by means of 
it Man is freed from his labyrinth, and can at 
last move forward — he becomes more tragic. 

84 

Ultimate Pessimism 

To the most modem man must have come at 
some time the thought, What if this thing spirit 
be essentially the enemy of the senses? What 
if, like the vampire, it can live only by drinking 
blood? What if the conflict between spirit and 
" life " is and must forever be an implacable 
and destructive one? He is then for a moment 
a Christian, but with an added bitterness which 
few Christians have known. For if his thought 
be true, then the weakening and final nullifica- 
tion of Life must be our object. 

To prove that the spirit and the senses are not 
eternally irreconcilable enemies is still a task. 
Those who believe they are, do so as an act of 
faith: their opponents are in the same case. We 
should never cease to read spirit into Life-affirm- 
ing things, such as pride, heroism and love, and 
to magnify and exalt these aspects of the spirit. 



— 122 — 



WHAT IS MODERN? 



85 

Leisure and Productiveness 

Granted that the society whidh produces the 
highest goods in the greatest profusion is the best 
— let us not argue from this that society should 
be organized with the direct aim of producing 
goods. For what if goods be to society what 
happiness is said to be to men — things to be 
attained only by striving for something else? 
In all good things — whether it be in art, litera- 
ture or philosophy — there is much of the 
free, the perverse, the unique, the incalculable. 
In short, good things can only be produced by 
great men — and these are exceptions. The best 
we can do, then, is to inaugurate a society in 
which great men will find it possible to live, will 
be even encouraged to live. Can a society in 
which rights are affixed to functions serve for 
that? A function, in practice, in a democratic 
state — that will mean something which can be 
seen to be useful for today, but not for tomor- 
row, far less for any distant future. The more 
subtle, spiritual, posthumous the activity of a 
man the less it will be seen to be a function. Art 
and philosophy arise when leisure and not work 
— 123 — 



WE MODERNS 



is the ruling convention. It is true that artists 
and philosophers work, and at a higher tension 
than other men; but it is in leisure that they must 
conceive their works: what obvious function do 
they then fulfil? Even the most harassed of 
geniuses, even Burns would never have become 
immortal had he not had the leisure to ponder, 
dream and love. Idleness is as necessary for 
the production of a work of art as labour. And 
with some men perhaps whole years of idleness 
are needed. Artists must always be privileged 
creatures. It is privileges, and not rights, that 
they want. 

86 

What is Freedom? 

The athlete, by the disciplining of his body, 
creates for himself a new world of actions; he 
can now do things which before were prohibited 
to him; in consequence, he has enlarged the 
sphere of his freedom. The thinker and the 
artist by discipline of a different kind are re- 
warded in the same way. They are now more 
free, because they have now more capacity. 

There are people, however, who think one can 
be free whether one has the capacity for freedom 
— 124 — 



WHAT IS MODERN ? 



or not — a characteristically modem fallacy. 
But a man the muscles of whose body and mind 
are weak cannot do anphing; how can he be 
free? The concept of Freedom cannot be sepa- 
rated from that of Power. 

87 

Freedom in the Dance 

Even the most unbridled dance is a form of 
constraint. The completest freedom of move- 
ment is the reward of the severest discipline. 

88 

A Moral for Moderns 

A spring gushed forth here on the airy height; 
but the soil was not hard enough to retain it ; and 
the water sapped away among the soft moss. 
One day a man came and laid down a hard chan- 
nel for the spring. Imprisoned on both sides, it 
now imperiously sought an outlet and — a mira- 
cle! — leapt glittering into the sunshine. The 
history of Freedom. 

89 

The Renaissance: A Thesis 

How unsatisfactory are those explanations of 
— 125 — 



WE MODERNS 



the Renaissance which give as its cause the break- 
ing up of the restrictive intellectual canons of 
the Middle Ages — as if a mere negation could 
explain such a unique creative era! What has 
here to be discovered is how freedom and the 
capacity for freedom should have appeared at 
the same moment. Perhaps the Middle Ages 
have now been sufficiently reviled by the admir- 
ers of the Renaissance; perhaps that event owed 
more than we are willing to acknowledge to the 
centuries of mediaeval repression and discipline. 
During these centuries the human spirit had been 
confined in the granite channel cut for it by 
mediaeval Christianity, a channel of which even 
the mouth was stopped. In the fifteenth century 
the stream swept away every obstacle and leapt 
forth, a brilliant cascade, scattering almost pagan 
warmth and light. The fall of Constantinople 
and the other circumstances usually given as the 
explanation of this outburst were only its oc- 
casion; the cause lay much deeper, in the long 
storing up, conserving and strengthening of hu- 
man powers. The freedom of which the Renais- 
sance was an expression was more, then, than the 
simple removal of restriction. It was a freedom 
not political or moral, but vital; a positive en- 
— 126 — 



WHAT IS MODERN? 



hancement if the natural power of man, who 
could now do things which hitherto he could not 
do — an event in the history, not merely of so- 
ciety, but of Man. Accordingly, the " freedom 
of the individual," so dear to some modems, 
does not teach us much here. It was not because 
freedom was given to them that men now created : 
the freedom was claimed because they now pos- 
sessed more power, could do more, and had, 
therefore, the right to a larger sphere of freedom. 
The more naturally free — that is, individually 
powerful — a people become, the more they will 
demand and obtain of " individual freedom " ; 
but it is perhaps inexpedient to offer to a people 
individually weak any more freedom than they 
can use. They are still at the disciplinary 
stage; they are preparing for their renaissance; 
and to the student of human culture the periods 
of preparation, of unproductiveness, are more 
worthy of consideration than the productive 
periods. For in the future we must prepare 
for our eras of fruition, and not leave them, as in 
the past, to pure chance. 

At the Renaissance, however, it was not even 
individual freedom in the modern democratic 
sense that was claimed and allowed; it was at 
— 127 — 



WE MODERNS 



the most the freedom of certain individuals, the 
naturally free, the powerful. Not until a later 
time was this claim to be universalized by the un- 
conditional theorists, the generalizers sans dis- 
tinction, the egalitarians. The French Revolu- 
tion was the Renaissance rationalized and popu- 
larized. 

90 

The Unproductive Periods 

Without the Middle Ages the Renaissance 
would have been impossible; the one, therefore, 
was as necessary as the other; and our reproba- 
tion of the former for its comparative sterility 
is entirely without justification. If we happen 
to be living in an unproductive age, it is our 
misfortune, then; but we are not entitled, in con- 
templating this age, to the luxury of condemna- 
tion, reproof or scorn. What we may demand 
of any period now is that it should be a period 
either of preparation or of fruition. So the 
present era is, after all, deserving of condemna- 
tion, but only because it is not an era of prepara- 
tion — not for any other reason. 



— 128 



WHAT IS MODERN? 



91 

Duties of the Unproductive 

The history of culture is the history of long 
ages of unproductiveness broken by short eras 
of production; but unproductiveness is the rule. 
The men bom in barren periods have not, then, 
the right to bewail their lot: we have not that 
right. But what is of the first importance, for 
the sake of culture, is to find out what are the 
duties proper to men in a sterile age. Certainly 
their duty it is not to produce whether they are 
productive or not; that can only result in abor- 
tions and painful caricatures: does not con- 
temporary literature demonstrate it? The work 
that is bom out of the poverty of the artist is, as 
Nietzsche pointed out, decadent work, and de- 
bases the spectator, lowers his vitality. 

What, then, are the tasks of a writer in an 
unproductive age? To live sparely and con- 
serve strength? To make discipline more rigid? 
To preserve and fortify the tradition of culture? 
To render more accessible the sources from 
which creative literature draws its life, so that 
the next generation may be better placed? To 
observe vigilantly the signs of today — and not 
— 129 — 



WE MODERNS 



only of today? It may be so; but, also, when 
necessary, to throw these prudent and preserva- 
tive tasks to the winds and spend his last ounce 
of strength in battling with the demons who make 
a productive era forever impossible. Yes, this 
last duty is for us today — the most important. 
And, we may depend, it is the creators — those 
who produce what they should not — who will 
fight most bitterly on the opposite side. 

92 

" Emancipation " 

The rallying cry of the great writers of the last 
century was " emancipation." Goethe, Heine 
and Ibsen alike professed as their task the eman- 
cipation of man; Nietzsche, their successor, 
elevated the freed man, the Superman, into an 
ideal, in the pursuit of which it was necessary 
meantime that men should discipline themselves. 
The later moderns, our own contemporaries, 
have belittled this freedom, seeing in it nothing 
but a negation, the freedom from some one thing 
or another. But Ibsen and Heine, these men of 
true genius, who believed most sincerely that 
they were " brave soldiers in the war of the libe- 
ration of humanity " did not perhaps waste their 
— 130 — 



WHAT IS MODERN? 



powers in battling for a thing so trivial! It is 
barely possible that they meant by emancipation 
something much more profound; something 
spiritual and positive; indeed, nothing less 
than an enhancement of the powers of man! 
Certainly both poets looked forward to new 
" developments " of man: Heine with his 
" happier and more perfect generations, begot in 
free and voluntary embraces, blossoming forth 
in a religion of joy "; Ibsen with his perplexed 
figures painfully " working their way out to 
Freedom." It was the task of us in this genera- 
tion, who should have been the heirs of this 
tradition, but are not, to supply the commentary 
to this noble vision, to carry forward this religion 
of hope further and further. But the cult of 
modernity has itself prevented this; the latest 
theory has always seized us and exacted our be- 
lief for its hour; the present has invariably 
triumphed ; and we have discarded the great work 
of last century before we have understood it. 
Heine has been seized mainly by the decadents; 
his healthy and noble sensuousness, his desire to 
restore the harmony between the senses and the 
soul, 05 a means towards the emancipation of 
man, and as nothing else, has been perverted by 
— 131 — 



WE MODERNS 



them into worship of the senses for their own 
sake — a thing which to Heine would have 
seemed despicable. Ibsen has fallen among the 
realists and propagandists; all the spiritual value 
of his work has for this age been lost — and 
what a loss ! — his battle to deliver man from 
his weakness and inward slavery has been re- 
duced — it is no exaggeration — to a battle to 
deliver the women of the middle classes from 
their husbands. The old story of emanation has 
been again repeated, with the distinction that 
here there is no trace left of the original source 
except negative ones! Well, we have to turn 
back again, our task, second to none in grandeur, 
before which we may well feel abashed, is still 
the same as that of Goethe, Ibsen and Nietzsche, 
the task of emancipation. To restore dignity to 
literature, indeed, it would be necessary to create 
such a task if it did not already exist. 

93 

Genealogy of the Moderns 

This is what has happened. The conventional 

modems of our time are the descendants not of 

Heine and Ibsen, but of the race against which 

the poets fought. They live unthinkingly in the 

— 132 — 



WHAT IS MODERN ? 



present, just as their spiritual ancestors lived un- 
thinkingly in the past. But slavery to the past 
has long ago fallen into the second place among 
dangers to humanity: it is slavery to the present 
that is now by far the greatest peril. Not be- 
cause they broke the tyranny of the past, but 
because they had an ideal in the future are the 
great fighters of last century significant. To 
think of them as iconoclasts is to mistake for 
their aim the form of their activity: the past lay 
between them and their object: on that account 
alone did they destroy it. But the great obstacle 
now is the domination of the present; and were 
the demigods of last century alive today, they 
would be fighting precisely against you, my dear 
moderns, who live so complacently in your pro- 
vincial present, making of it almost a cult. To 
be a modem in the true sense, however, is to be a 
forerunner; there is in this age, an age of prepa- 
ration, no other test of the modem. To believe 
that there are still potentialities in man; to have 
faith that the " elevation of the type Man " is 
possible, yes, that the time is ripe to prepare 
for it; and to write and live in and by that 
thought: this is to be modern. 



— 133 — 



WE MODERNS 



94 

Domination of the Present 

To be modem in the accepted, intellectually 
fashionable sense: what is that? To propagate 
always the newest theory, whatever it be; to be 
the least possible distance behind the times, be- 
hind the latest second of the times, whether they 
be good or bad; and, of course, to assume one 
is *' in the circle " and to adopt the tone of the 
circle: in short, to make ideas a matter of fash- 
ion, to choose views as a well-to-do woman 
chooses dresses — to be intellectually without 
foundation, principles or taste. How did this 
convention arise? Perhaps out of lack of leis- 
ure: superficiality is bound to engulf a genera- 
tion who abandon leisure. But to be enslaved 
to the present in this way is the most dangerous 
form of superficiality: it is to be ignorant of the 
very thing that makes Man significant, and with 
idiotic cheerfulness and unconcern to render his 
existence meaningless and trivial. In two ways 
can Man become sublime; by regarding himself 
as the heir of a great tradition: by making of 
himself a fore-runner. Both ways are open to 
the true modern, and both must be followed by 
— 134 — 



WHAT IS MODERN ? 



him. For the past and the future are greater 
than the present: the sense of continuity is nec- 
essary for human dignity. 

The men of this age, however, are isolated — 
to use an electrical metaphor — from the current 
of Humanity: they have become almost entirely 
individuals, temporal units, "men"; what has 
been the outcome? Inevitably the loss of the 
concept Man, for Man is a concept which can be 
understood only through the contemplation on a 
grand scale of the history of mankind. Man 
ceases to be dramatic when there are no longer 
spectators for the drama of Humanity. The 
present generation have, therefore, no sentiment 
of the human sublime; they see that part of the 
grand tragedy which happens to pass before 
them, but without caring about what went before 
or what will come after, without a clue, however 
poor, to the mystery of existence. They know 
men only, the men of their time. They are 
provincial — that is, lacking the sentiment of 
Man. 

How much decadence may not be traced to 

this! In Art, the conventions of Realism and 

of -^stheticism have arisen. The first is just the 

portrayal of present-day men as present-day 

— 135 — 



WE MODERNS 



men; nothing more, therefore, than " contempor- 
ary art " ; an appendage of the present, a trivial- 
ity. The second has as its creed enjoyment of 
the moment; and if it contemplates the past at 
all, it is with the eyes of the voluptuous antiquary 
— but a collector is not an heir. Art has in our 
time, both in theory and in practice, become de- 
liberately more fleeting. In morality, there is 
Humanitarianism, or, in other words, the convic- 
tion that the suffering of today is the most im- 
portant thing, coupled with the belief that there 
is nothing at present existing which can justify 
and redeem this suffering: therefore, uncondi- 
tional pity, alleviation, " the greatest happiness 
of the greatest number." Modern pessimism, 
which springs from the same source, is the ob- 
verse of this belief. It, also, regards only the 
present, and says, perhaps with truth, that it, at 
any rate, is not noble enough to deserve and de- 
mand the suffering necessary for its existence — 
consequently, all life is an error! All these 
theories, however, are breaks with the spiritual 
tradition of emancipation; they are founded on 
the magnification of the temporary — of that 
which only in a present continually carried for- 
ward seems to be important. This judgment of 
— 136 — 



WHAT IS MODERN ? 



Life with the eyes of the present, this narrowest 
and most false of interpretations: how has it con- 
fused and finally stultified the finest talents of 
our time! The modern man is joyless; his joy- 
lessness has arisen out of his modernity; and 
now to find forgetfulness of it he plunges more 
madly than before — into modernity! For his 
own sake, as much as for that of Humanity, it is 
our duty to free him from his wheel. One can 
live with dignity only if one have a sense of the 
tragedy of Man. It is the first task of the true 
modem to destroy the domination of the present. 

95 

Encyclopcedists 

Strange that the great dramatic poets of mod- 
ern times have had a weakness for turning 
their tragedies into encyclopaedias! Consider 
" Faust " and " Brand," for instance. Is it that 
the sentiment of the eternal was already begin- 
ning to weaken in Goethe and Ibsen? Were 
they overburdened by their oAvn age? Their 
world was too much with them; and so they did 
not reach the highest peaks of tragedy : they were 
not universal. 

—137 — 



WE MODERNS 



96 

What is Modern 

It is time we erected a standard whereby to 
test what is modem. To be an adherent of all 
the latest movements — that is at most to be an- 
archistic, eclectic, inconsistent — call it what you 
will. Futurism, Realism, Feminism, Tradition- 
alism may be all of them opposed or irrelevant to 
modernity. It is not sufficient that movements 
should be new — if they are ever new ; the ques- 
tion is, To what end are they? If they are 
movements in the direction of emancipation, 
" the elevation of the type Man," then they are 
modern; if they are not, then they are move- 
ments to be opposed or ignored by modems. If 
modernism be a vital thing it must needs have 
roots in the past and be an essential expression 
of humanity, to be traced, therefore, in the his- 
tory of humanity : in short, it can only be a tradi- 
tion. The true modem is a continuator of tradi- 
tion as much as the Christian or the conservative: 
the ti-ue fight between progress and stagnation is 
always a fight between antagonistic traditions. 
To battle against tradition as such is, therefore, 
not the task of the modern; but rather to enter 
— 138 — 



WHAT IS MODERN ? 



the conflict — an eternal one — for his tradition 
against its opposite: Nietzsche found for this 
antithesis the symbolism of Dionysus and Apollo. 
Does such a tradition of modernity exist? Is 
there a " modem spirit " not dependent upon 
time and place, and in all ages modern? If 
there is — and there is — the possession of it in 
some measure will alone entitle us to the name 
of modems, give us dignity and make the history 
of Man once more dramatic and tragical. It is 
a pity that some historian has not yet traced, in 
its expression in events, the history of this con- 
flict — a task requiring the deepest subtlety and 
insight. Meantime, for this tradition may be 
claimed with confidence such events as Greek 
Tragedy, most of the Renaissance, and the 
emancipators of last century. These are tri- 
umphant expressions of " the modem spirit," 
but that spirit is chiefly to be recognized as a 
principle not always triumphant or easy of per- 
ception, constantly struggling, assuming many 
disguises and tirelessly creative. It is not, in- 
deed, only a tradition of persons, of dogmas, or 
of sentiments: it is a principle of Life itself. 
This conception, it is true, is grand, and even 
terrifying — a disadvantage in this age. But 
— 139 — 



WE MODERNS 



is there any other which grants modernity more 
than the status of an accident of time and fash- 
ion? 

97 

How We Shall Be Known 

In an age it is not always what is most charac- 
teristic that survives: posterity will probably 
know us not by our true qualities, but by the 
exceptions to them. The present-day writers in 
English who will endure after their age has 
passed are probably Joseph Conrad, W. H. Hud- 
son, and Hillaire Belloc for a few of his essays 
and lyrics — none of them representative, none 
of them modern. They might have been born 
in any era: they are in the oldest tradition. 
The most striking characteristic of our time, 
however, is its lack of a tradition. The senti- 
ment of transiency is our most deeply rooted 
sentiment: it is the very spirit of the age. But 
by its essential nature it cannot hope to endure, 
to be known by future generations; for we shall 
not produce immortal works until we become 
interested in some idea long enough to be in- 
spired by it, and to write monumentally and 
surely of it. We hold our ideas by the day; 
— 140 — 



WHAT IS MODERN? 



but for a masterpiece to be born, an idea must 
have taken root and defied time. Permanence 
of form, moreover, would seriously embarrass a 
modem writer, who wishes to change with the 
hour, and does not want his crotchets of yester- 
day to live to be refutations of his fads of today. 
Thus we are too fleeting to make even our 
transitoriness eternal. The very sentiment of 
immortality has perished amongst us, and we 
actually prefer that our work should die — wit- 
ness the Futurists! The most self-conscious 
heirs of modernity, these propounded the theory 
that it is better that works of art should not en- 
dure: well, in that case, their own creations have 
been true works of art! Nevertheless, all they 
did in this theory was to erect into a system 
the shallowness, provinciality and frivolousness 
of the present — and thereby to proclaim them- 
selves the enemies of the future. 



141 — 



ART AND LITERATURE 



IV 

Art and Literature 

98 

Psychology of Style 

There are writers with a style — it may be 
either good or bad — and writers with no style 
at all, who just write badly. What quality or 
combination of qualities is it which makes a 
writer a stylist? 

Style probably arises out of a duality; the 
association in a writer of the scribe and the spec- 
tator. The first having set down his thought, the 
second goes aside, contemplates it, as things 
should be contemplated, from a distance, and 
and asks, " How does this strike me? How does 
it look, sound, move? " And he suggests here 
a toning down of colour, there an acceleration 
of speed, somewhere else, it may be, an added 
lucidity, for clearness is an aesthetic as well as 
an intellectual virtue. 

The writer without style, however, just writes 
— 145 — 



WE MODERNS 



on without second thought; the spectator is 
altogether lacking in him; he cannot contem- 
plate his work from a distance, nor, indeed, at 
all. This explains the unconsciousness and in- 
nocence in bad writing — not in bad style, 
which is neither unconscious nor innocent! 
The stylist, on the other hand, is always the 
actor to his own spectator; he must get his 
effect; even Truth he uses as a means to his 
effect. If a truth is too repulsive, he throws 
this or that cloak over it; if it is uninteresting, 
he envelops it in mysticism (mysticism is 
simply an artist's trick) ; in a word, he aestheti- 
cizes, that is, falsifies everything, to please the 
second person in his duality, the spectator. 
Even if he gets his effects by moderation of 
statements, he is to be distrusted, for it is the 
moderation and not Truth that is aimed at. 
And, then, his temptation to employ metaphors, 
to work up an interesting madness, to rhapsodize 
— these most potent means to great effects, these 
falsifications! Well, are we to assent, then, to 
the old philosophic prejudice against style and 
refuse to believe any philosopher who does not 
write badly? 



146 



ART AND LITERATURE 

99 

Modern Writing 

The greatest fault of modem style is that it 
is a smirking style. It fawns upon the reader, 
it insinuates, it has the manner of an amiable 
dog. If it does something smart, it stops im- 
mediately, wags its tail, and waits confidently 
for your approval. You will guess now why 
those little regiments of dots are scattered so 
liberally over the pages of the best-known Eng- 
lish novelist. It is H.G. Wells's style wagging 
its tail. 

100 

The Precise 

There have been writers — there are writers 
— whose only title to fame is an interesting de- 
fect. They are unable to write soundly, and 
this inability, being abnormal, is more in- 
teresting than sound writing, which is only nor- 
mal. For to limp or to hop on one leg is 
never pedestrian — what do I say? — is not 
even pedestrian. 



147 — 



WE MODERNS 



101 

Paradox 

What is paradox? The " bull " raised to a 



form of literary art? 



102 



The Platitude 

There should be no platitudes in the works 
of a sincere author. A platitude is an idea not 
understood by its writer — in one word, a shib- 
boleth. 

103 

Praise? 

It is usual to extol the industry of those 
realists who put everything into their books, but 
they should rather be censured for their want of 
taste. The truth is that they lack the selective 
faculty — lack, that is, art. Afraid to omit 
anything from their reproductions of existence 
— lest they omit what is most significant — 
they include all: the easiest course. The 
easiest course, that is — for the writers. 



148 



ART AND LITERATURE 

104 

Hostility of Thinkers 

When a thinker has a world of thought of his 
own, he generally becomes cold towards other 
thinkers, and to none more than to him whose 
star is nearest his own. It is necessary, there- 
fore, that he should read, above all, the philo- 
sopher whose thought most closely resembles his, 
for to him he is most likely to be unjust. We 
are the most hostile to those who say what we 
say, but say it in a way we do not like. 

105 

The Twice Subtle 

The thinker who has been twice subtle arrives 
at simplicity. And in doing so he has, at the 
same time, discovered a new truth. But this 
other thinker has possessed simplicity from the 
beginning. Has he also possessed this truth? 
At any rate, he does not know it. 

106 

Mastery of One^s Thoughts 

One should know how to keep one's thoughts 
at a distance. The French can do this, and, 
therefore, write at once wittily and profoundly 
— 149 — 



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of serious things. But the Germans live, per- 
haps, too near their thoughts, and are possessed 
by them: hence, their obscurity and heaviness. 
Wit — lightness of hand — shows that one is 
master of one's thought, and is not mastered by 
it. Nevertheless, the thoughts of the Germans 
may be the mightier. In this matter the com- 
plete thinker should be able to become French or 
German as occasion demands. 

107 

Psychologists 

The keenest psychologists are those who are 
burdened with no social mission and get along 
with a minimum of theory. Joseph Conrad, for 
instance, is infinitely more subtle in his analysis 
of the human mind and heart than is H. G. Wells 
or John Galsworthy. He has the happy un- 
concern and detachment of a connoisseur in 
humanity, of one who experiences the same fine 
interest in an unusual human situation as the 
dilettante finds in some recondite trifle. Henry 
James carried this attitude to a high degree of re- 
finement. He walked among men and women 
as a botanist might walk among a collection of 
" specimens," dismissing the ordinary with the 
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ART AND LITERATURE 

assured glance of an expert, and lingering only 
before the distinctive and the significant. 
Should we who nurse a mission deplore the 
spirit in which these disinterested observers 
enter into their task? By no means. But for 
them, certain domains of human nature would 
never have been discovered, and we should have 
been correspondingly the losers. For we re- 
volutionists must know the human kind before 
we can alter them. The non-missionary is as 
necessary as the missionary, and to none more 
than to the missionary. 

108 

Realism 

Novels which take for their subject-matter 
mere ordinary, pedestrian existence — and of 
this kind are three-fourths of present-day novels 
— are invariably dull in one of two ways. In 
the first instance, they are written by pettifog- 
ging talents to whom only the ordinary is of in- 
terest, by people, that is to say, who are inca- 
pable of writing a book that is not dull. In the 
other, they are written by men generally of 
considerable, sometimes of brilliant, ability, 
who, misled by a theory, concern themselves 
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laboriously with a domain of life which they 
dislike and which even bores them. But if the 
writer is bored, how much more so must be the 
reader! In short, the realist theory produces 
bad books because it forces the writer to select 
subjects the only emotion towards which it is 
possible to feel is boredom. And great art 
may arise out of hate, grief, even despair, but 
never out of boredom. 

109 

Fate and Mr. Wells 

Fate has dealt ironically with H. G. Wells. It 
has turned his volumes of fiction into prophecies, 
and his volumes of prophecies into fiction. 

110 

Mr. G. K. Chesterton 

A man's philosophy may be uninteresting, 
although he writes about it in an interesting 
manner. Just as the many write dully about in- 
teresting things, so a few write interestingly 
about dull things. And Mr. Chesterton is one 
of these. Equality is a dull creed, Christianity 
is a dry bone, tradition is wisdom for ants and 
the Chinese. But Mr. Chesterton is a very in- 
— 152 — 



ART AND LITERATURE 

teresting man. How is it possible for an in- 
teresting man to have an uninteresting philos- 
ophy? Is this simply the last paradox of a 
master of paradox? 

Mr. Chesterton's most charming quality is a 
capacity for being surprised. He writes para- 
doxically, because to him everything is a para- 
dox — the most simple thing, the most unin- 
teresting thing. And that is his weakness, as 
well as his strength. He has found the common 
things so wonderful that he has not searched for 
the uncommon things. The average man is to 
him such a miracle, that he will not admit the 
genius is a far greater miracle. The theories 
he finds established, Christianity, equality, 
democracy, traditionalism, interest him so much 
that he has not gone beyond them to inquire into 
other theories perhaps more interesting. And 
this, because he lacks intellectual curiosity, along 
with that which frequently accompanies it, 
subtlety of mind. For the intellectually curious 
man is precisely the man who is not interested in 
things, or, at any rate, is interested in them 
only for a little, and then passes on or burrows 
deeper to find something further. One dogma 
after another he studies and deserts, this faith- 
— 153 — 



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less searcher, this philanderer, this philosopher; 
and that which leads him on is the hope that at 
last he will find something to interest him for 
an eternity. Perhaps it is this dissatisfaction of 
the mind which has always driven men to seek 
knowledge; perhaps, if all mankind had been 
like Mr. Chesterton, we should not have had 
even Christianity, equality, democracy and the 
other theories which he holds and adorns. 

For Mr. Chesterton's impressions are all first 
impressions. Like his own deity, he sees 
everything for the first time always. And he 
lacks, therefore, the power, called vision, of 
seeing into things: the outside of things is 
already sufficiently interesting to him. He pos- 
sesses imagination, however, and kindly and 
grotesque fancies which he hangs on the ear of 
the most common clodhopper of a reality. In 
fantasy he reaches greatness. But his phi- 
losophy is not interesting. It is himself that 
is interesting. 

Ill 

Nietzsche 

Nietzsche loved Man, but not men: in that 
love were comprehended his nobility and his 
— 154 — 



ART AND LITERATURE 

cruelty. He demanded that men should become 
Man before they asked to be loved. 

112 

Strindberg 

This writer, despite his genius, earnestness 
and courage, arouses in us a feeling of profound 
disappointment. Nor is the cause very far to 
seek. For along with earnestness and courage 
in a writer we instinctively look for nobility and 
joy: if the latter qualities are absent we feel 
that the raison d'etre of the former is gone, and 
that earnestness and courage divorced from 
nobility and joy are aimless, wasted, almost in- 
conceivable. And in Strindberg they are so 
divorced. A disappointed courage; an ignoble 
earnestness! These are his pre-eminent quali- 
ties. And with them he essayed tragedy — the 
form of art in which nobility and joy are most 
required! As a consequence, the problems 
which he treats are not only treated inade- 
quately; the inadequacy, when we stop to re- 
flect upon it, absolutely amazes us. His crises 
are simply rows. His women, when they are 
angry, are intellectual fishwives ; and — more 
disgusting still — so are his men. All his 
— 155 — 



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characters, indeed, intellectual and talented as 
they are, move on an amazingly low spiritual 
plane. The worst in their nature comes to light 
at the touch of tragedy, and an air of sordidness 
surrounds all. Posterity will not tolerate this 
" low " tragedy, this tragedy without a raison 
d'etre, this drama of the dregs. 

113 

Dostoieffsky 

Dostoieffsky depicted the subconscious as 
conscious; that was how he achieved his com- 
plex and great effects. For the subconscious is 
the sphere of all that is most primeval, mys- 
terious and sublime in man ; the very bed out of 
which springs the flower of tragedy. But did 
Dostoieffsky do well to lay bare that world pre- 
viously so reverently hidden, and to bring the 
reader behind the scenes of tragedy? The 
artist will deny it — the artist who always de- 
mands as an ingredient in his highest effects 
mystery. For how can mystery be retained 
when the very realm of mystery, the subcon- 
scious, is surveyed and mapped? In Dos- 
toieffsky's imperishable works the spirit of full 
tragedy is perhaps never evoked. What he pro- 
— 156 — 



ART AND LITERATURE 

vides in them, however, is such a criticism of 
tragedy as is nowhere else to be found. His 
genius was for criticism; the artist in him 
created these great figures in order that after- 
wards the psychologist might dissect them. 
And so well are they dissected, even down to 
the subconsciousness, that, to use a phrase of the 
critics, we know them better than the people we 
meet. Well, that is precisely what we object to 
— as lovers of art! 

114 

Again 

Not only is Dostoieffsky himself a great 
psychologist; all his chief characters are great 
psychologists as well. Raskolnikoff, for 
instance. Porphyrins Petrovitch, Svidragailoff, 
Prince Muishkin, walk through his pages as 
highly self-conscious figures, and as people who 
have one and all looked deeply into the shadowy 
world of human motives, and have generalized. 
The crises in Dostoieffsky's books are, therefore, 
of a peculiarly complex kind. It is not only 
the human passions and desires that meet one 
another in a conflict more or less spontaneous; 
the whole wealth of psychological observation 
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and generalization of the conflicting character is 
thrown into their armoury, and with that, too, 
they do battle. The resulting effect is more 
large, rich and subtle than anything else in 
modern fiction, but also, if the truth must be 
told, more impure, in the artistic sense, more 
sophisticated. Sometimes, so inextricably are 
passion and " psychology " mingled, that the 
crises are more like the duels of psychologists 
than the conflicts of human souls. In the end, 
one turns with relief to the pure tragedy of the 
classical writers, the tragedy which is not 
brought about by people who act like amateur 
psychologists. 

115 

Tolerance of Artists 

No matter what their conscious theories may 
be, all artists are unconsciously aristocratic, and 
even intolerant in tlieir attitude to other men. 
They are more blind than most people to the 
raison d'etre of the politician, the business man 
and the philosopher — these unaccountable 
beings who will not acknowledge the primacy 
of Creation and Beauty. But at last they mag- 
nanimously conclude that these exist to form 
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ART AND LITERATURE 

their audience, not the subject-matter of their art 
— that is the modem fallacy! 

116 

Climate 

There are natures exquisitely sensitive to 
their human environment. This man depresses 
them, they feel the vitality ebbing out of them 
in his presence; that other brings exhilaration, 
at the touch of his mind their powers increase 
and become creative. It is a question of 
atmosphere. The first has a wintry, grey soul; 
the latter carries a sun — their sun — in his 
bosom. And these artists require sunlight and 
soft air, before the flowers and fruit can hang 
from their boughs. Every artist of this type 
should go to Italy or France and live there; or, 
failing that, create for himself an Italy or 
France of friends. Others require the tempest 
with its lowering skies. But that is easier to 
seek; they can generally find it within them- 
selves. 

117 

Sensibility 

It may be wisdom for the man of action to 
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smother his griefs, and follow resolutely his 
course. But with the artist it is different. He 
should not close his heart against sorrow, for 
sorrow is of use to him; his task is to transfigure 
it; thus he makes himself richer. Every con- 
quest of suffering which is attained hy isolating 
the pang makes the artist poorer; the part of 
him so isolated dies: he loses bit by bit his 
sensitiveness, and how much does his sensitive- 
ness mean to him! The artist is more defence- 
less than other men, and he must be so. For 
his sensitiveness should be such that the faintest 
rose-leaf of emotion or thought cannot touch his 
heart without evoking in him infinite delight or 
pain; and, at the same time, he should be able 
to respond to the great tempests and terrible 
moods of life. Great strength, great love, great 
productiveness, these are required if he is to 
endure his sensitiveness; alas, for him, if he 
have them not! Then he must suffer and suffer, 
until he has cut off one by one the sources of 
his suffering, until he has mutilated and lamed 
what is most godlike in him, and has made him- 
self ordinary at last — or a Schopenhauerian. 



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ART AND LITERATURE 

118 

The Artistes Enemy 

I waited once beside a lake, created surely 
to mirror Innocence, so pure it was. The pas- 
sage of a butterfly over it or the breath of a rose- 
leaf's fall was enough to stir its surface, in- 
finitely delicate and sensitive. Yet tempests did 
not affright it, for it laughed and danced be- 
neath the whip of the fiercest storm. And it 
could bury, as in a bottomless tomb, the stones 
thrown at it by the most spiteful hands; to these, 
indeed, it responded with a Puck-like radiating 
smile that spread until it broke in soft laughter 
upon its marge. So strong and delicate it lay, 
and yet, it seemed, so defenceless. Yet what 
could harm it? Storm, shower, sunshine, and 
darkness alike but ministered to it, and even the 
missiles of its enemies were lost in its boundless 
security. It seemed invulnerable. I returned 
years later, and looked once, looked and fled. 
For the lake had grown old, blind and torpid, 
so that even the light lay dead in it. Then I 
noticed that on every side, almost invisible, 
there were innumerable black streams oozing — 
infection! The tragedy of the artist. 
— 161 — 



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119 

Uniformity 

In the mien of children there is sometimes 
to be noted a natural nobility and pride; they 
walk with the imconscious grace of conquerors. 
But this grace and freedom soon disappear, and 
when the child has become man there is noth- 
ing left of them: his bearing is as undis- 
tinguished as his neighbour's. Nowhere, now, 
is nobility of presence and movement to be 
found, except among children, the chieftains of 
half-barbarous peoples, and some animals. 
The farther man departs from the animal the 
less dignified he becomes, and the more his ap- 
pearance conforms to a common level: indeed, 
civilization seems, on one side, to be a labourious 
attempt to arrive at the undistinguished and in- 
distinguishable. Is Man, then, the mediocre 
animal par excellence? Only, perhaps, under 
an egalitarian regime. Wherever a hierarchy 
exists in Europe there is more of nobility of 
demeanour than elsewhere. Equality and hu- 
mility are the great fosterers of the mediocre: 
and not only, alas! of the mediocre in de- 
meanour. Who can tell how many proud, 
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ART AND LITERA TURE 

graceful and gallant thoughts and emotions 
have been killed by shame — the shame which 
the egalitarians and the humble have heaped 
upon them? And how much Art, therefore, has 
lost? Certainly, in the minds of children there 
are many brave, generous and noble thoughts 
which are never permitted to come to maturity. 
Ye must become as little children . 

120 

Immortality of the Artist 

An artist one day forgot Death, so entirely 
had he become Life's, rapt in a world of liv- 
ing contemplation; and, established there, he 
created a form. That hour was immortal, and, 
therefore, the form was immortal. This is the 
" timelessness " of true art-work; they are 
fashioned " in eternity," as Blake said, and so 
speak to the eternal in Man. 

121 

The Descent of the Artist 

At the beginning of his journey he climbed 

daringly, leaping from rock to rock, exuberant, 

tireless, until he reached what he thought was his 

highest peak. Then began his descent, and, lo, 

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immediately great weariness fell upon him. A 
friend of his wondered, Is he going downhill 
because he is tired? Or is he tired because he 
is going downhill? 

122 

Apropos the Cynic 

He wrote with an assumption of extreme 
heartlessness, and the public said, " How tender 
his heart must be when he hides it under such 
a disguise! " But what he was hiding all the 
time was his lack of heart. 

123 

Artist and Philosopher 

In all ages the philosophers have pardoned 
the artists their lack of depth, on account of 
their divine love of the beautiful. In our 
time, however, this only reason for pardoning 
them has disappeared, and they are now entirely 
deserving of condemnation. For the realists 
abjure equally thought — interpretation, and 
beauty — selection. To be an eye, with a foun- 
tain pen attached to it; that is their aim, suc- 
cessfully attained, alas! A single eye and not 
a single thought: the definition of the realist. 
— 164 — 



ART AND LITERATURE 



124 

An Evil 

Art is at the present day far too easy for com- 
prehension, far too obvious. Our immediate 
task should be to make it difficult, and the con- 
cern of a dedicated few. Thus only shall we 
win back reverence for it. When it is rever- 
enced, however, it will then be time to extend 
its sway; but not until then. Art must be ap- 
proached with reverence, or not at all. A 
democratic familiarity with it — such as exists 
among the middle classes, not among the work- 
ing classes, in whom reverence is not yet dead 
— is an abomination. 

125 

Modern Art Themes 

How sordid are the themes which modern art 
has chosen for itself! The loss of money or of 
position, poverty, social entanglements — the 
little accidents which a thinker laughs at! Are 
modern artists as bourgeois as this? A coterie 
of shop-keepers? Tragic art has no concern with 
the accidental: that is the sphere of comedy. 
Tragedy should move inevitably once it has be- 
— 165 — 



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gun to revolve; it is beyond fashion, universal, 
essential; Fate, not Circumstance, is its theme. 
The presence of the accidental in a tragedy is 
sufficient to condemn it. For it is the inevitable, 
the " Fate " in Tragedy, that makes of it a heroic 
and joyful thing. It cannot be improvised like 
Comedy. It demands in its creator a sense of 
the eternal, just as Comedy, on the other hand, 
demands an exquisite appreciation of temporal 
fashion. Tragedy is the greater art; Comedy, 
perhaps, the more difficult. Our modern trage- 
dies, however, are mainly about accidents, and 
very mean accidents; they are improvised mis- 
fortunes and their effect is depressing. 

126 

The Illusionists 

How shallow are most artists! How child- 
ish! How subject to illusion! This novelist at 
the end of his novels leaves his characters in a 
Utopia, from which all sorrow and trial have 
been banished, a condition absolutely unreal, 
contemptible and absurd. And all his readers 
admire without thinking, and call the author pro- 
found! He is not profound, but shallow and 
commonplace. Except for his gift of mimicry, 
— 166 — 



ART AND LITERATURE 

which he calls Art, he is just an average man. 
And, moreover, he is tired : the " happy end- 
ing " is his exhaustion speaking through his 
art, his will to stagnation and surrender. Works 
of art should only end tragically, or enigmati- 
cally, as in " A Doll's House," or at the gate- 
way of a new ideal, as in " An Enemy of the 
People." 

127 

Majorities and Art 

When it is said that in modern society poetic 
tragedy is out of season and cannot succeed, an 
assumption is made which on literary grounds 
can never be admitted. It is that majorities 
count in literature as in politics; that " Brand " 
was a failure and " A Doll's House " a suc- 
cess. But from another point of view, 
" Brand " was the success, " A Doll's House " 
the failure. And the whole " problem " drama 
a failure with it, and all the realistic schools, 
as well — a failure! This is certainly how the 
future historian of literature will regard it. 
Our era with its depressing " masterpieces " will 
be called the barren era, because the grand ex- 
ception, great art, has not bloomed in it, be- 
— 167 — 



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cause even our critics have judged contemporary 
art by a criterion of success instead of the 
eternal spiritual criterion: their championship 
of " problem " art proves it! In the meantime, 
then, realism is considered " the thing," and peo- 
ple speak pityingly of poetic tragedy. Only 
those forms of art which can " survive " in the 
struggle for existence are counted good — so 
deeply, so unwisely have we drunk at the Dar- 
winian spring! 

128 

The Decay of Man 

The aim of Art was once to enrich existence 
by the creation of gods and demi-gods; it is 
now to duplicate existence by the portrayal of 
men. Art has become imitation, Realism has 
triumphed. And how much has materialism 
had to do with this! In an age lacking a vivid 
ideal of Man, men become interesting. The 
eyes of the artist, no longer having an ideal to 
feed upon, are turned towards the actual, and 
imitation succeeds creation. Every one busies 
himself in the study of men, and Art becomes 
half a science, the artists actually collecting their 
data, as if they were professors of psychology! 
— 168 — 



ART AND LITERA TURE 

Theories glorifying men are born, and the cult 
of the average man arises, which is nothing but 
the exaltation of men at the expense of Man. 
In due time all ideals perish, only an inspira- 
tion towards averageness remains, and equality 
is everywhere enthroned. Art has no longer 
a heaven to fly to, there to create loftier heavens. 
In despair, she descends to earth and the ordi- 
nary, and for her salvation must find the ordi- 
nary interesting, must make the ordinary in- 
teresting. Realism arises when ideals of Man 
decay: it is the egalitarianism of Art. 

129 

A New Valuation 

But why do ideals of Man decay — why did 
the ideal of Man decay? Because there were 
no longer examples to inspire the artists in the 
creation of their grand, superhuman figures. 
Suspicion, envy, equality — call it what you 
will — had become strong : the great man could 
no longer fight it and remain great. By the 
radicals the genius was regarded as an insult 
to the remainder of mankind. And how ordi- 
nary he was, this genius, compared with the 
grand figures of the time of the Renaissance; 
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that time when men were weighed and valued, 
when elevation and inequality were acknowl- 
edged and acted upon, and Man became greater 
in stature, with Art his Will to Greatness! 
Well, we must weigh men again; we must deny 
equality ; we must affirm aristocracy — in 
everything but commerce and production, where 
democracy is really a return to the aristocratic 
tradition. And, you artists, you must turn from 
men to Man, from Realism to Myth. And if 
you can find in your age no example to inspire 
you to the creation of a great ideal of Man, then 
become your own examples! Man must be born 
again, if you would enter into your heaven. 

130 

The Man and the Hour 

A. Let people say about aristocracy what 
they will, it remains true that Man generally is 
equal to the event. Events are the true stepping- 
stones on which Man rises to higher things. B. 
Ah! you are not speaking of Man, but of men, 
of the many. The great man, however, does not 
require an event to call his greatness forth. He 
is his own event — and also that of others ! 

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ART AND LITERATURE 

131 

The Lover to the Artists 

Love idealizes the object. If you would 
create an ideal Art, must you not, then, learn 
to love? And that you are Realists — does it 
not prove that you have not Love? 

132 

Origin of the Tragic 

Here is yet another guess at the origin of the 
tragic: 

A man is told of some calamity, altogether 
unexpected, the engulfing of a vessel by the sea, 
an avalanche which wipes out a town, or a fire 
in which a family of little ones perish, leaving 
the father and mother unharmed and disconso- 
late; and at once the very grandest feelings 
awaken within him, he finds himself enlarged 
spiritually, and life itself is enriched for him — 
the people in the vessel and in the town, the 
children and the parents of the children, are 
raised to a little more than human elevation by 
the favouritism of calamity. Next day he hears 
that the news was false, and immediately, along 
with the feeling of relief, he experiences an un- 
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mistakable disappointment and loss; for all 
those grand emotions and the contemplation of 
life in that greater aspect are snatched from 
him! Perhaps in primitive times, when the 
means of disseminating news were more un- 
trustworthy than they are today, disappoint- 
ments of this kind would occur very often; and 
one day some rude poet, having noted the 
elevation which calamity brings, would in 
luxurious imagination invent a calamity, in 
order to experience at will this enlargement of 
the soul. But a tale of calamity, being invented, 
would inevitably please the poet's hearers, both 
for the feelings it aroused and the grand image 
of Man it represented. So much for the origin 
and persistence — not the meaning — of the 
tragic. 

133 

Tragedy and Comedy 

Tragedy is the aristocratic form of art. In 
it the stature of Man is made larger. The great 
tragic figures are superhuman, unapproachable: 
we do not sorrow with them, but for them, with 
an impersonal pity and admiration. And that 
is because Man, and not men, is represented by 
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ART AND LITERATURE 



them: idealization and myth are, therefore, pro- 
per to their delineation. 

But Comedy is democratic. Its subject is 
men, the human-all-too-human, the unrepresen- 
tative: it belittles men in a jolly egalitarianism. 
This static fraternity, this acceptance of men as 
they are, is resented by the aristocratic natures, 
who would make Man nobler; but to the average 
men it is flattering, for it proclaims that the great 
are absurd even as they, it unites men in a 
brotherhood of absurdity. Thus, all comedy is 
an involuntary satire, all tragedy an involuntary 
idealization of men. 

Tragedy is the supreme affirmation of Life, for 
it affirms Life even in its most painful aspects, 
struggle, suffering, death; so that we say, " Yes, 
this, too, is beautiful! " That was the raison 
d'etre of classical tragedy — and not Nihilism! 
Well, in which of these forms. Tragedy or 
Comedy, may our hopes and visions of the 
Future best be expressed? Surely in that which 
idealizes Man and says Yea to suffering. 
Tragedy, the dynamic form of Art. 



173 — 



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134 

Super -Art 

In the works of some artists everything is on 
a slightly superhuman scale. The figures they 
create fill us with astonishment; we cannot un- 
derstand how such unparalleled creatures came 
into being. When we contemplate them, in the 
works of Michelangelo or of Nietzsche, there 
arise unvoluntarily in our souls sublime dreams 
of what Man may yet attain. Our thoughts 
travel into the immeasurable, the undiscovered, 
and the future becomes almost an intoxication 
to us. 

In Neitzsche, especially, this attempt to make 
Art perform the impossible — this successful 
attempt to make Art perform the impossible — 
is to be noted in every book, almost in every 
word. For he strains language to the utmost 
it can endure; his words seem to be striving to 
escape from the bonds of language, seeking to 
transcend language. " It is my ambition," he 
says in " The Twilight of the Idols," " to say 
in ten sentences what every one else says in a 
whole book — what every one else does not say 
in a whole book." In the same way, when in 
— 174 — 



ART AND LITERATURE 

his first book he wrote about Tragedy, he raised 
it to an elevation greater than it had ever known 
before, except, perhaps, in the works of 
-^schylus; when, in his essay upon " Schopen- 
hauer as Educator," he adumbrated his concep- 
tion of the philosopher, philosophy seemed to 
become a task for the understandings of gods; 
and when, having criticized the prevailing moral- 
ity, he set up another, it seemed to his generation 
an impossible code for human beings, a code 
cruel, over-noble. Finally, when he wrote of 
Man, it was to create the Superman. He 
touched nothing which he did not ennoble. And, 
consequently, in Art his chosen form was Myth; 
he held it beneath the nobility of great art to 
create anything less than demi-gods; religion 
and art were in him a unity. 

In super-art, in these works of Leonardo and 
Michelangelo, of ^^schylus and Nietzsche, Man 
is incited again and again to surpass himself, 

to become more than " human." 

> 

135 

Love Poetry- 
hove poetry, so long as it glorifies Love, is 
supremely worthy of our reverence. Every- 
— 175 — 



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r,.,^,.jy^ thing that idealizes and transfigures Love, mak- 
ing it more desirable and full even of transcen- 
dental meaning, is of unquestionable advantage 
to mankind; on the other hand, a crudely 
physiological statement, even though this may be 
formally true, serves neither Love nor Life. It 
is assuredly not the function of art to treat Love 
in this way. On the contrary, amatory poetry 
by its idealization allures to Love; this is true 
even of such of it as is tragic: we are prepared 
by it to experience gladly even the suffering of 
Love. The only poetry that is noxious is that 
which bewails the " vanity " of Love, and that 
in which a deliberate sterility is adumbrated. 
These are decadent. 

136 

Literature and Literature 

Literature that is judged by literary standards 
merely is not of the highest rank. For the 
greatest works are themselves the standards by 
which literature is judged. How, then, are they 
to be valued? By a standard outside of liter- 
ature, by their consonance with that which is the 
raison d'etre of literature? In them a far 
greater problem than any literary problem faces 
— 176 — 



ART AND LITERA TURE 

us, the problem, Why does literature exist? 
What is the meaning of literature? 

Through whole generations men forget this 
problem, and literature becomes to them a 
specialized form of activity to be pursued for 
its own sake, a part of Man's soul, thrown off and 
become static and separate, with a sterile life 
of its own. The more shallow theory and prac- 
tice of literature then come into being; Realism 
and Art for Art's sake flourish. But the eternal 
question always returns again. Why does liter- 
ature exist? What is its meaning? And, then, 
the possibility of another blossoming of litera- 
ture is not far away. 

137 

The Old Poet 

An old poet who had lived in the good days 
when poets were makers — of moralities and 
gods, among other things — lately re-visited the 
earth, and after a study of the very excellent 
exercises in literature to be found in our 
libraries, delivered himself thus: — 

" How has our power decayed! Into littera- 
teurs have we declined who were creators. 
Perish all literature that is only literature! 
— 177 — 



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Poets live to create gods; to glorify gods should 
all their arts of adornment and idealization be 
used. But I see here adornment without the ob- 
ject worthy of adornment; beautification for the 
sake of beautification; Art for Art's sake. 
These artists are only half artists. They have 
surely made Art into a game." 

The critics did not understand him, and, there- 
fore, disagreed. The artists thought he was 
mad, besides knowing nothing of aesthetics. 
The moral fanatics acclaimed him vociferously, 
mistaking him for a popular preacher. Only a 
philosophico-artistic dilettante listened atten- 
tively, and said, a little patronizingly, " He is 
wrong, but he is more right than wrong." 

138 

The Old Gods 

Perhaps there is too much made of anthro- 
pomorphism. Man's first gods were not " hu- 
man " gods; they were stars, animals, plants and 
the like. It was not until he became an artist 
that he made gods after his own form: anthro- 
pomorphism is just an artistic convention! For 
gods are in their content superhuman. There 
has never been a man like Jehovah or Zeus or 
— 178 — 



ART AND LITERATURE 

Odin. The essential thing in them is that they 
embody an ideal, a fiction, adumbrating some- 
thing more than Man. Religion is poetry in 
the grand style, and, as poetry, must have its 
conventions. 

139 

The Old Poets 

In primitive times the poet was far more both 
of an inventor and a liar than he is at present. 
For many centuries the lies of the poets have 
been innocent lies, a convention merely, and to 
be recognized as such before " aesthetic " enjoy- 
ment can begin. But the lies the old poets told 
were believed literally — as they were meant 
to be! Yes, the poet at the beginning was just 
a liar, a great liar. How else, if he had not 
deceived Man, could he have peopled the 
heavens with Man's deities? And as the father 
of whole familes of gods, he has done more to 
decide the fate of Humanity than all the 
philosophers, heroes and martyrs. These are 
only his servants, who explain war or die for 
his fictions. And not merely error, as Nietzsche 
held, but lying has from the earliest times been 
the most potent factor of progress. But not all 
— 179 — 



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lying; only the lies told out of great love have 
been creative and life-giving. Art, imagination, 
prophecy, hallucination, ecstasy, vision — all 
these were united in the first poets, the true 
creators. 

140 

The Creator Redivivus 

The only modern who has dared to be a poet 
through and through, that is, a liar in the noble 
and tragic sense, is the author of the Superman. 
In Nietzsche, again, after centuries of divine 
toying, the poet has appeared in his great role 
of a creator of gods, a figure beside whom the 
" poet " seems like nothing more than the page 
boy of the Muse. 

141 

Literature as Praise 

A. Would you erase from the book of liter- 
ature all that is not idealization and myth, you 
neo-moderns? Would you deprive us of all the 
charming, serious, whimsical, and divinely 
frivolous works which are human-all-too-hu- 
man? B. If we could — a thousand times no! 
We would only destroy what defames Life. All 
that praises Life, all that enchants to Life, we 
— 180 — 



ART AND LITERATURE 



would cherish as things holy. Idealization, it is 
true, is the highest form of praise, because it 
arises out of Love; but there are other forms. 
Modern Realism, however, is a calumny against 
Life. Ecrasez I'm fame! 

142 

The Poet Speaks 

How unhappy must all those poor mortals be 
who are not poets! They feel and cannot 
express. They are dumb when their soul would 
utter its divinest thoughts. Cloddish and frag- 
mentary, they are scarcely human, these poor 
mortals! For one must be a poet to be alto- 
gether human. Yes! in the ideal society of the 
future every one will be a poet, even the average 
man! 

143 
Myth 

The worst evil of our time is this, that there 
is nothing greater than the current average exist- 
ence to which man can look; Religion has dried 
up. Art has decayed from an idealization of life 
into a reflection of it. In short. Art has become 
a passive thing, where once it was the " great 
stimulus to Life." The idealization and en- 
— 181 — 



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chantment which the modems have so carefully 
eliminated from it was precisely its raison d'etre. 
And modem Art, which sets out to copy life, has 
forgotten Art altogether, its origin, its meaning 
and its end. 

Against this aimless Realism, we must oppose 
idealization, and especially that which is its 
highest expression. Myth. And let no one say 
that it is impossible at this stage in Man's his- 
toiy to resuscitate Myth. The past has certainly 
lost its mystery for us, and it was in the past, 
at the source of Humanity, that the old poets set 
their sublime fictions. But the future is still 
ours, and there, at Man's goal, our myths must 
be planted. And thither, indeed, has set the 
great literature of the last hundred years. 
Faust, Mephistopheles, Brand, Peer Gynt, Zara- 
thustra — there were no greater figures in the 
literature of the last century — were all myths, 
and all forecasts of the future. The soil out of 
which literature grows, then, has not yet been 
exhausted! If we but break away from 
Realism, if we make Art symbolic, if we bring 
about a marriage between Art and Religion, Art 
will rise again. That this is possible, we who 
have faith in the Future must believe. 
— 182 — 



CREATIVE LOVE 



V 

Creative Love 

144 

Creative Love 

To us who nourish hopes for the future of 
Man, the important distinction to be drawn in 
Love is not that between the sacred and the pro- 
fane. We ask, rather. Is our Love creative or 
barren? That Love should bring happiness, or 
union, or fulfilment, seems to us not such a 
very great matter! The will to create some- 
thing, out of oneself, not oneself, whether it be 
in bodies, or in Art or Philosophy — that is the 
thing for ever worthy of our reverence. 

There is another Love; that whose end is en- 
joyment. It is the enemy of creative Love. It is 
the Love which, in various forms, is known as 
Liberalism, or Humanitarianism, or the greatest 
happiness of the greatest number. Sympathy is 
its central dogma; and it is never tired of exalt- 
ing itself at the expense of the other Love, which 
it calls cruel, senseless and unholy. But the 
— 185 — 



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same blasphemy is here repeated that Socrates 
once was guilty of and afterwards so divinely 
atoned. For it is not creative Love, but sympa- 
thetic Love, that is unholy. This would spare 
the beloved the pangs of love, even if, in doing 
so, it had to sacrifice the fruits of love. It 
springs from disbelief in existence. Life is suf- 
fering, it cries, suffering must be alleviated, and, 
therefore, Life must be abated, weakened and 
lamed! And this love is barren. But creative 
Love does not bring enjoyment, but rapture and 
pain. It is the will to suffer gladly; it finds 
relief from the pains of existence, not in allevia- 
tion, but in creation. This Love is, indeed, a 
Siren — we would not mitigate the awfulness 
of that symbol — luring Man to peril, perhaps 
to shipwreck. Yet, by the holiest law of his 
being, he listens, he follows. And, if his ears 
have been sealed by reason he unseals them 
again, he listens with his very soul, yielding to 
that which is for him certainly danger, perhaps 
Death, knowing that, even in Death, he will be 
affirming Life in the highest. This Love, the 
earnest of future greatness, this terrible, un- 
conditional and innocent thing, we cannot but 
reverence. 

— 186 — 



CREATIVE LOVE 



145 

Where Man is Innocent 

There is one region in Man where innocence 
and a good conscience still reign — in the un- 
conscious. Love and the joy in Love are of the 
unconscious. The rapture which Love brings is 
neither, as Schopenhauer said, merely a device 
to ensure the propagation of mankind, nor the 
race rejoicing in and through the individual to 
its own perpetuation; but the joy of uncon- 
scious Man, still innocent as before the Fall, 
with a good conscience enjoying the anticipa- 
tory rapture of new life. The instincts believe 
in Life entirely without questioning; doubt and 
guilt are simply not present in their world: it 
is reflection that makes sinners of us all. 

The thoughts that come to us in the season 
of Love — we do not need to search in meta- 
physical heavens for their source. They arise 
from the very well spring, the very central ego 
of Man, out of the unconscious, the innocent, the 
real. Poetry, in that which is incomprehen- 
sible and mystical in it, arises from this also. 
So there is hope still for Man, all ye who believe 
not in primal depravity! The real man is even 
— 187 — 



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now innocent: Original Sin is only mind deep, 
conscience deep. The instincts still behave as 
if Life-defaming doctrines were not: they have 
not yet begun to mourn at the Spring and exult 
at the Autumn. And in the ecstasies of creative 
Love, whether it be of persons or of things, they 
continue to celebrate, without misgiving, their 
jubilee. 

146 

A Criterion 

To find out whether a thing is decadent or no, 
let us henceforth put this question, Does it spring 
from creative Love? Is the Will to suffering in- 
carnate in it, or the will to alleviate suffering? 
How much must by this standard be condemned! 
Humanitarianism and its child, Reform, or the 
desire to alleviate others' pain; i^stheticism and 
its step-brother. Realism, or the wish to alleviate 
one's own: these spring from the same source 
— a dearth of Love. For creative Love would 
enjoin, not sympathy with suffering, but the will 
to transcend suffering; not reform, whose aim 
is happiness, but revolution, whose aim is 
growth; not Art for Art's sake, an escape from 
Life into a stationary aesthetic world, but the 
— 188 — 



CREATIVE LOVE 



creation, out of Life, of ever new Art; not 
Realism or the need to find men interesting; 
but idealization, or the desire to make men in- 
teresting. John Galsworthy and Oscar Wilde 
alike are decadent for this reason, that they lack 
Love. The real difference between them is that 
the one is a Collectivist, and sympathizes with 
the people, and the other is an Individualist, and 
sympathizes with himself. But both degrade 
Love to the level of Hedonism; both rebel 
against the cruelty of Love, desiring a Love 
which will not hurt, and, therefore, must be 
barren. 

But wherever peoples, faiths or arts decay, the 
decay of Love — this strong, energetic Love — 
has come first. The current frivolousness about 
intellectual matters, the philandering of the 
literary coquettes, springs simply from a lack of 
Love. For the great problems demand passion 
for their comprehension, and our intellectuals 
dislike passion. In politics and in religion it 
is the same: creative Love has everywhere dis- 
appeared to be replaced by barren Sympathy. 
But is it possible by preaching to increase Love? 
Can it be willed into power? Well, praise may 
call it forth. 

— 189 — 



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147 

Love at the Renaissance 

How may a great creative age like the Re- 
naissance be interpreted on the hypothesis of 
Love? Shall it yet be found that the mainspring 
of the Renaissance was a newly discovered love 
of Life and, therefore, of Man? 

In the Middle Ages that part of Life, then 
called God, had become isolated and abstract, 
and was worshipped to the detriment of all 
other Life; while Man was neglected where he 
was not belittled. Thus, a strong current of 
Man's love was diverted away from Man alto- 
gether, and the earth became dark and sterile. 
How was the earth to recapture its love again, 
and drink back into itself its rapture and cre- 
ativeness? By a marriage in which God and 
the Universe were made one flesh; by the incor- 
poration of God into Life, and, therefore, into 
Man. Hence arose the Pantheism of the Re- 
naissance. To love Life with a good conscience, 
to love Life unconditionally, it was necessary to 
call Life God. Out of this Love sprang not only 
the art but the science of the Renaissance. For 
Man once more became interested in himself, 
— 190 — 



CREATIVE LOVE 



and, from himself, in Life; ultimately dis- 
coveries were made and more than one New 
World was brought to light. 

Perhaps it is the defect of all theistic, objec- 
tive theologies that they become, sooner or later, 
barren. Only by being translated into the sub- 
jective do they regain their creative power: 
Pantheism is the remedy for Theism. Yet to 
Theism we owe this, that it lent intensity and 
elevation to Love. The Love of the Pantheists of 
the Renaissance was not ordinary human Love; 
it united in a unique emotion the love that had 
formerly been given to Man along with that 
which had formerly been given to God. It loved 
Man as God should be loved — a dangerous 
thing. But out of this love of God in Man it 
created, nevertheless, something great, some- 
what less than the one, somewhat more than the 
other — the demi-god. Tlie Renaissance was 
the age of the demi-gods. 

148 

Sympathy 

Sympathy is Love bereft of his bow and ar- 
rows — but still blind. 

— 191 — 



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149 

A Self-Evident Proposition 

This is certain, that God is Love. How, else, 
could He have created the Universe? 

150 

" God is Love " 

When Jesus said, " God is Love," He defined 
a religion of Becoming. Was it not necessarily 
so? For Love is not something which may 
choose to create; it must create, it is fundamen- 
tally the will and the power to create. And 
Eternal Love, or God, is, therefore, eternal cre- 
ation, eternal change, eternal Becoming. Con- 
sequently, there is no ultimate goal, no Perfec- 
tion, except that which is realized at every mo- 
ment in the self-expression of Love. A vision? 
A nightmare? Well, it depends whether one is 
in favour of Life, or of Death; whether one 
lives, or is lived. And, therefore, whether re- 
ligion is subjective, or objective? Whether God 
is within us, or outside us? For so long as God 
is within us, we must create. That should be 
our Becoming! 



192 



CREATIVE LOVE 



151 

Love and Mr. Galsworthy 

The art of Mr. Galsworthy is such an am- 
biguous thing — half impersonal portrayal, half 
, personal plea, the Art pour VArt of a social re- 
former — and the subjects he chooses are so 
controversial — the abuses of society — that it 
is hard to place him as an artist. When " The 
Dark Flower " appeared, however, we thought 
we had him. Here was a great subject to his 
hand, an artist's question at last. Love. Alas! 
even in writing about it, he could not altogether 
exclude the reformer. Well, that itself, per- 
haps, told us something! However that may be, 
we do get here Mr. Galsworthy's conception of 
Love. It is an inadequate conception, a realist's 
conception: Love, with the meaning left out. 
The ardours, the longing, the disappointment and 
anguish — all the symptoms — of Love are 
given; but not a hint that Love has any signifi- 
cance beyond the emotions it brings: that which 
redeems Love, creation, is ignored altogether! 
Mr. Galsworthy has seen that Love is cruel, but 
he has not seen beyond the cruelty: it is the ulti- 
mate thing to him. Well, that is perhaps the 
— 193 — 



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most that could be expected of a humanitarian 
trying to comprehend Love! In this book are 
all the symptoms of Humanitarianism — pity 
for every one, reform of institutions, suffering 
always considered the sufficient reason for abol- 
ishing or palliating things: a creed thrice inade- 
quate, thrice shallow, thrice blind. Love would 
find relief from suffering in creation. But one 
feels that Mr. Galsworthy would abolish Life if 
he could. Humanitarianism unconsciously 
seeks the annihilation of Life, for in Life suffer- 
ing is integral. 

152 

Mr, Thomas Hardy 

In Mr. Hardy's conception of Love, unlike 
Mr. Galsworthy's, the contingency of creation is 
never absent; but to him creation is not a justi- 
fication of the pangs of Love. It is an intensi- 
fication of them; it is Love's last and worst in- 
dignity. But even when Love does not bestow 
this ultimate insult of creation, it cannot resist 
the satisfaction of torturing its victims; it is 
wanton and irrelevant in its distribution of pain. 
Mr. Hardy's books are filled with the torments 
of Love. Was it not fitting that he should aim 
— 194 — 



CREATIVE LOVE 



his main indictment of Life against it, seeing 
that it is the trick whereby the blunder of Life 
is perpetuated? And so Mr. Hardy is certainly 
a decadent; but he is a great decadent — one of 
those who by the power of their denial of Life 
seem to make Life more profound and tragic, 
and inspire the healthy artists to an even greater 
love and reverence for it. 

He is great, however, not by his theories, but 
by his art. The contrast between the sordidness 
of his thought and the splendidness of his art 
fills us sometimes with amazement. He sets out 
in his books to prove that Life is a mean blunder; 
and, in spite of himself, the tragedy of this 
blunder becomes in his hands splendid and im- 
pressive, so that Life is enriched even while it is 
defamed. Art, which is necessarily idealization 
and glorification, triumphs in him over even his 
most deeply founded conscious ideas. In all his 
greater books, it refutes his pessimism and turns 
his curses into involuntary blessings. So divine 
is Art! 

153 

Mr. George Moore 
In writing about Love, Mr. Moore falls into the 
— 195-^ 



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same realistic error as Mr. Galsworthy: he 
writes about its manifestations without knowl- 
edge of that which gives them meaning and con- 
nection. Love to him is just certain sensations 
— and not only Love, but everything else. Art 
is a sensation; religion, a sensation; the soul, a 
sensation. Take out of his books sensation, and 
there will be little of account left. He knows 
the religious feeling, but not religion : he always 
confounds spirituality with refined sensualism. 
So he knows the sensation of Love, but not Love. 
But Mr. Moore is learned in the senses: he 
knows them in everything but their purity. Yes, 
even sensuality is in his books corrupted. How 
true this is we realize when in " Evelyn Innes " 
he compares one of his characters to a faun. 
We are almost distressed at this, for we feel that 
the word is not only coarsened, but used with a 
wrong meaning altogether: we feel that Mr. 
Moore is incapable of understanding what a faun 
is! These sophisticated, scented and somewhat 
damaged voluptuaries of his, in whose conversa- 
tion there is always an atmosphere of expensive 
feminine lingerie, and who " know " women so 
intimately; how perverted must be the taste 
which can compare them with the hardy, nimble, 
— 196 — 



CREATIVE LOVE 



unconscious creatures of ancient Greece! But 
Mr. Moore is much nearer in temper to Oscar 
Wilde than to the realists. He is an aesthete es- 
sentially, and a realist only in the second place, 
and only because he is an aesthete. The province 
of selected exquisite beauty had been exhausted 
by Wilde and his school; so Mr. Moore turned 
to the squalid, the commonplace and the diseased 
in Life, there to find his " aesthetic emotion." 
This explains the curious effect at once of colour 
and of drabness in his books. He is a perverted 
Wilde; doubly a decadent. 

154 

Mr. Bernard Shaw 

Both the strength and the weakness of Mr. 
Shaw spring from a defect — his lack of Love. 
Freedom from illusion is his strength. He pos- 
sesses common sense minus common sentiment; 
that, and probably nothing more; and that gives 
to his thought an appearance of subtlety, though 
it is not really subtle. Thus, his common sense 
tells him that Love is essentially creation. He 
sees through the illusions which Love spins round 
its purpose, because he does not see these illu- 
sions at all. Love, indeed, is known to him in 
— 197 — 



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all but its illusions; but who knows Love that 
knows not Love's illusions? Still, it is to his 
honour that he has conceived Love as creation. 
His weakness consists in that his attitude to Love 
is purely intellectual. He lacks Love more than 
any other man of his time. In grappling with 
the great problems of existence, it is not Love 
but the very absence of Love that has been his 
most useful weapon; and so he has seen much, 
but grasped nothing, created nothing. And be- 
cause he has never loved, he can never be called 
an artist. For how can one who has not loved 
idealize? And how can one who has not ideal- 
ized be an artist? In Mr. Shaw, Nature has 
gone out of her way to create the very antithesis 
of the artist. 

What Nietzsche said about Socrates is true 
of Mr. Shaw even in a higher degree; that his 
reason is stronger than his instincts, and has 
usurped the place of his instincts. Without 
Love, he yet affirms creation. What can be his 
reason for doing so? Why should he wish Life 
to persist if he does not love Life? Is it in order 
that people might still converse wittily, and the 
epigram might not die? Or so that exceptional 
men might experience forever the joy of intel- 
— 198 — 



CREATIVE LOVE 



lectual conflict, the satisfaction found in the ruth- 
less exposure of fallacy and weakness, and the 
proud feeling of mental power? We know that 
Mr. Shaw regards the brain as an end — the pur- 
pose of Life being to perfect a finer and finer 
brain — and we know, too, that to Mr. Shaw the 
highest joy the brain can experience is not that 
of knowing, but of fighting. Knowledge to him 
is a weapon with which to wage war. Does he 
desire Life to continue so that controversy might 
continue? Well, let us look, then, for some 
other reason for his praise of Love. He him- 
self lacks Love: — Can it be that he praises it 
for the same reason for which the Christian 
praises what he is not but would fain be? And 
his love of Love is then something pathetic, 
founded on " unselfishness "? And himself, a 
Romantic? 

155 

Mr. H. G. Wells 

How much has Mr. Wells's scientific training 
had to do with his conception of Love? As a 
student of biology, it was natural he should see 
Love as sex. In all his theories, indeed, there is 
more of the scientist than of the artist. Scien- 
— 199 — 



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tific certainly, is his simple acceptance of sex 
as a fact, and his unhesitating association of it 
with generation, and of both with Love. The in- 
nocence of the scientist and not of the artist is 
his, an innocence Darwinian, not Goethean. 
And so, although his purpose is fine — to restore 
in his books an innocent conception of sexual 
Love — in doing so, his biology always runs 
away with his art. For he would render sex 
significant by reading it into all creation, as the 
meaning of creation; thus making the instru- 
ment more than the agent, the very meaning of 
the agent! But this robs both creation and sex 
of their significance. The way to restore an in- 
nocent conception of sexual Love is by reading 
creation into it, by seeing it as part of the univer- 
sal Becoming, by carrying it away on the great 
purifying stream of Becoming. In spite of his 
genius, and still more of his cleverness, Mr. 
Wells here began at the wrong end. But it is 
doubtful whether any one in this generation has 
sufficient artistic power and elevation to express 
in art this conception of Love. Within the 
limts of Realism, especially of " physiological 
Realism," it certainly cannot be expressed. 
Nothing less than the symbolic may serve for it. 
— 200 — 



CREATIVE LOVE 



156 

The Idealism of Love 

The writer who discovered that love idealizes 
the object might have pushed his discovery a 
little further; for it is no less true that love 
idealizes the subject. None knows better than 
the poets how to take advantage of this self- 
idealization: one has only to read their love 
poems to find out how much more is said about 
the poet's beautiful feelings than about the object 
which presumably evoked them. Heine, par- 
ticularly, was a shameless offender in this way. 
A woman was to him simply an excuse for seeing 
himself in imagination in a romantic attitude. 
But even with the others who appear less obtru- 
sive and more disinterested the implication is the 
same. How elevated and even divine we must 
be, they seem to say, when we can feel in this 
manner; and how happy, when we are privi- 
leged to love an object of such loveliness! Yes! 
love has such power that it idealizes everything 
— even the subject! 

157 

Love and Becoming 

The great Heraclitus propounded the doctrine 
— 201 — 



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of Becoming. Everything changes, is built up 
and dissolved; " stability " is only a little slug- 
gishness in the flux of things. Zeus, the great 
child, the divine artist, constructs and destroys 
at his pleasure and for his amusement: all the 
worlds are his playthings. This conception of 
the Universe is innocent and beautiful, an artist's 
conception; but it is at the same time terrifying. 
And that because all meaning is left out of it; 
for all things without meaning, no matter how 
beautiful they may be, are in the end terrifying. 
Nietzsche, the modem counterpart of Heracli- 
tus, re-affirmed this doctrine; but he coupled 
with it the idea of creative Love: that is his 
chief distinction. Certainly, those who do not 
comprehend Nietzsche's Love do not comprehend 
Nietzsche. It is the key to his religion of Be- 
coming. Becoming without Love is meaning- 
less; Love without Becoming is meaningless. 
But, united, each gives its meaning to the other, 
each redeems the other. But have things a 
meaning in themselves? Is it not Man that 
forever interprets and interprets? Very well. 
But is not a thing incomplete without its interpre- 
tation? Is not its interpretation a part of it? 
— 202 — 



CREATIVE LOVE 



158 

Static Values 

Stagnant waters become noisome after a while. 
And stagnant values? Certainly within these 
eternal pools not a few repulsive things have 
been bom: in Perfection, Sin; in Justice, Guilt. 
It was when human judgments were apotheosized 
and became Eternal Justice that guilt was insinu- 
ated into the core of Life. A falsehood, a pre- 
sumption! What man found necessary at one 
moment in his history for his preservation, that, 
forsooth, was a law governing the spheres, the 
everlasting edict of God Himself. And when 
Life did not operate in conformity with this law, 
it was Life that must needs be guilty — a very 
ingenious method of world-vilification! It was 
human vanity that created the eternal verities. 
And how much have we suffered from them! 
For the deification of Things meant the diaboli- 
zation of Man, nay, of Life itself. The meta- 
physician who created Heaven created Hell at 
the self -same moment; but, ever since, it has 
been Hell that has given birth to the metaphysi- 
cians. Being condemns Becoming, and pollutes 
— 203 — 



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all Life with sin. So in the pools of Being we 
can no longer cleanse ourselves, and our pref- 
erence for a doctrine of Becoming may be at 
bottom a hygienic preference. 

159 

The God of Becoming 

Love is the God of Becoming. All the other 
gods are static gods, changeless for yesterday, 
today and tomorrow. But Love belongs alto- 
gether to the future. It is the deity of those who 
would create a future. 

160 

Utopias 

It is sympathy that has built the Utopias. On 
every one of them is written, " Conflict and suf- 
fering are bad." Utopia is nothing but a place 
where men are happy, like how many heavens, 
an ideal of exhaustion. The thing that is 
omitted from it is always Love, for Love would 
shatter all Utopias and leave them behind. In 
Nowhere Man no longer creates, but enjoys. 
But creation and pain go hand in hand; for 
what is creation? The dissolution of the out- 
worn, the birth of the new; a continuous fury 
— 204 — 



CREATIVE LOVE 



in which the throes of death and of life are 
mingled. And Love calls Man to that fate. 

What we need is an ideal of energy. But that 
must needs be an ideal of Man, not of Society; 
for Man is the dynamic. Society the static. 
Utopia is a goal, but the Superman is a goal be- 
yond a goal; for, once attained, he is naught but 
the arrow to shoot into his future. To attain the 
Superman is to surpass the Superman. Only 
ideals of this kind are unassailable by Love. 

161 

" Primacy of Things " 

If we aim at a state of society in which static 
values, as far as we can know them, are con- 
formed with, we aim at a state in which the 
creative impulse will not only be needless, but 
harmful. For does not belief in absolute values 
necessarily imply belief in a Utopia? And 
therefore in something antagonistic to Love? 
The metaphor of static Perfection, lovely as it is, 
has perhaps ruled us too long, and it is time we 
superseded it by another. Or is it still, as it 
has always been, a crime to substitute one meta- 
phor for another? Even if it is Love that drives 
us on? 

— 205 — 



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Progress conceived as a discovery of the un- 
known instead of as a pursuit of Perfection — 
might not that take us a long way? Did 
Nietzsche, perhaps, create his Superman, and 
give him his hardness and lightness for no other 
purpose than to carry out that task? Perfec- 
tion is something that we have yet to discover! 
In this conception of progress all Utopias are 
transcended, all goals renounced, yet a set of 
values, a morality, is retained. The morality 
might be judged by the criterion. Does it aid us 
in our quest? A future of discovery, of cre- 
ation and change, not of enjoyment: what a task 
for energetic Love does that open out! The 
Superman is a goal, but what is the Superman's 
goal? The Superman is something that must 
be surpassed! 

162 

Perfection 

When men write largely of Perfection, as if 
it were a concept every one could understand, 
we are entitled to ask what exactly they mean. 
Do they mean a sort of synthesis or hotchpotch 
of the virtues in which they believe? Does X 
believe in a Christian and Y in a Nietzschean per- 
— 206 — 



CREATIVE LOVE 



fection? As a rule, conceptions of Perfection 
are offshoots of the morality prevalent at any 
given time. And, for action, people's concep- 
tion of Perfection is much more important than 
Perfection itself. Therefore, let us ceaselessly 
repeat. Perfection is something still to be dis- 
covered! As for the current conception, is con- 
flict an ingredient in it, or rest? Is it an ideal 
of Life, or a thing impossible, self -contradictory, 
static, an eternal stick with which to chastise 
existence? The first question to be asked. 

163 

Goals 

When people speak of the unthinkableness of 
eternal Becoming which has no goal in Being, 
what they express is their longing for rest. It 
is unendurable, they feel, that Life, creation, 
change, should travel on their way forever: at 
the very thought their minds become tired, and 
Being is conjured up. Hitherto, our goals have 
not been resting stages, but eternal termini. 
But a true goal should not be a cul-de-sac, but 
the peak from which to descry our next goal. 
And so on eternally? Well, why not? Finality 
was bom when the mind became weary at the 
— 207 — 



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thought of eternal ascent and found refuge in that 
of eternal rest. We have not fully learned yet 
how to live: struggle is still with us an argu- 
ment against Life. What we need is perhaps a 
few re-incarnations! When we have learned to 
live, however, we shall welcome struggle as a 
necessary part of Life, and Becoming will be as 
desirable to us as Being now. And not till then 
shall we be fit for immortality. 

164 

Love and Sympathy 

Lov 5 and Hatred are not the true opposites, 
but Love and Sympathy. Love is creation, that 
is to say, strife: a battle between the inanimate 
not yet dead, and the living still unborn. And 
it is also, therefore, the hatred of the one for the 
other? True, this hatred may not be of individ- 
uals but of things; but does that make it any 
more harmless? It is na'ive democratic preju- 
dice to think that hatred of things is less wicked 
than hatred of individuals; the very opposite is 
the case! The former is a thousand times more 
dangerous and destructive than the latter, which, 
indeed, is little more than an idiosyncrasy. 
Hatred is contained in and is an aspect of Love; 
— 208 — 



CREATIVE LOVE 



it is Love seen as destruction. Well, only Love 
has a right to Hatred, for only Love can create. 
Sympathy, however, would maintain in exist- 
ence what should be dead, and would bid what 
should be living remain forever unborn. For 
in death and in birth alike there is pain. Sym- 
pathy — that is. Sympathy with the necessary 
suffering of existence — is a far greater danger 
than Hatred. 

165 

The Humanitarians 

Hatred only to things, not to men; Love only 
to men, not to things: the formula of the half- 
and-half. 

166 

Love and the Virtues 

Love is the mother of all the harder virtues, 
and that because she requires them. For how 
without them could she suffer to create, and 
endure the pain of Becoming? Everything 
dynamic must become virtuous. The soft, 
hedonistic, and degenerate in morality, however, 
arise from Sympathy. Sympathy needs the 
comfortable virtues; it seeks the static, for 
— 209 — 



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movement is pain, and pain, of the devil — if 
Sympathy will admit a devil! Its virtues are all 
in bad training. 

167 
The Other Side 

He ceaselessly groaned that he was weary of 
life and wished to be rid of it; but all the time 
it was life that wished to be rid of him. 

168 

Love and Danger 

The fear that danger might perish — the im- 
mortal fear of Nietzsche — need cause us no 
anxiety, could we but believe that creative Love 
will continue to exist. For Love is the great 
source of danger, and of the heroic in action and 
thought. If military wars were to disappear 
from the earth, danger need not be diminished; 
it might become emancipated and voluntary: it 
might be raised from a common necessity to an in- 
dividual task. Perhaps in the distant future na- 
tions will become more pacific, men more war- 
like ; peace will be maintained among nations in 
order that individuals may have a free arena in 
which to carry on their great contests — " with- 
out powder," as Nietzsche said. The battles, 
— 210 — 



CREATIVE LOVE 



born of Love, of the Brands and Zarathustras, 
not those of the Napoleons : that is what creative 
Love would envisage! But this prophecy has 
not sufficient foundation as yet, alas, to be called 
even a conjecture! 

169 

Fellowship and Love 

Fellowship is of two kinds: that which is in- 
spired by Sympathy, and that which is an expres- 
sion of Love. Men unite for the mere satis- 
faction which union brings, or for that which is 
found in the struggle for more remote things — 
an aspiration or a vision. This latter thing, im- 
practical and paradoxical, which lends Man 
what nobility he has — it was Love that gave it 
to him. Fellowship is the sublime attempt to 
complete the figure of Man. My friend is he 
who possesses the qualities which I lack and 
most need: in that sense, he creates me. Fel- 
lowship should enrich all who partake of it, make 
their highest qualities productive, and throw 
bridges over the chasms of their defects. But 
the association of men for mere enjoyment is 
not worthy the name of Friendship. Sympathy 
is its parent. 

— 211 — 



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170 

The Paradox 

It is possible to live nobly without Happiness, 
but not without Love. Love, however, confers 
the highest happiness. Is it because Love is in- 
different to Happiness that Happiness flutters 
around it, and caresses it with its wings? 

171 

Moral Indignation 

We should altogether eschew moral censorious- 
ness in our contemplation of Life, for it is 
merely destructive. To destroy that which we 
cannot re-create in a better form is a crime. 
Only Love should condemn, for only Love can 
create. To bring the good into existence, or 
prepare the way of those who can create the good 
— that should be our only form of condemna- 
tion. In what consists the passion of the moral 
fanatic? In respect for the law, that it should 
not be violated. So he would extirpate what- 
ever does not conform, even though thus he 
should destroy all life, and have no power to 
create it anew. No wonder he is gloomy; the 
vulture is not a bird of cheerful mien. 
— 212 — 



CREATIVE LOVE 



172 

Morality and Love 

Into what a dilemma falls the poor lover of life 
who goes to make the choice of morality! He 
sees that both great types of morality, the hu- 
manitarian and the military, the Hedonistic and 
the Spartan, lead in the end to Nihilism, the one 
by liquefying, the other by hardening. The 
former becomes too sensitive to endure Life ; the 
latter, too insensible to feel it. Yet they were 
to serve Life; but they soon forgot the purpose 
for which they were formed ; they exalted them- 
selves as something higher than Life; they be- 
come " absolute," and a stumbling-block to exist- 
ence. And this was because they were not 
founded in the beginning upon the very principle 
of Life, which is Love, but upon accidentals. 
The conflict between Morality and Love has ac- 
cordingly been a conflict between the forces of 
Death and of Life: for " works " without Love 
are dead. Morality should be but the discipline 
which Love imposes upon itself in order to cre- 
ate. It should crown all the virtues which op- 
pose a gallant and affirmative coimtenance to suf- 
fering and change, such as heroism, fortitude, 
— 213 — 



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joy, temperance. This morality is the antithesis 
of the humanitarian morality sprung from Sym- 
pathy. 

173 

Paradise Regained 

If Life is but an expression of creative Love, 
then a morality founded upon Love must be the 
only true morality. And, moreover, in it ethics 
and the instincts are reconciled; innocence is 
grasped. 

174 

Love and Knowledge 

If in all Life there is change, creation. Becom- 
ing, and if in our lives we know these things 
only in the interpretation of them which we call 
Love, must not Love be a necessary part of our 
knowledge of Life? Observation, investigation 
and the weighing of results may tell us much 
about Life, and show it to us in many aspects, 
but it does not give us immediate knowledge. Is 
it possible to know Life? If Life be the expres- 
sion of Love ! Upon that " if " depends 

everything. For if it is justified, then we have 

within us the clue to the riddle of existence. 

— 214 — 



CREATIVE LOVE 



Perhaps here we discern the faint struggling for 
birth of that undiscovered faculty of the mind 
of which men speak. The comprehension of 
Life through Love! The profoundest of intui- 
tions? The maddest of dreams? 

175 

Proverb and Commentary 

Love is blind, but it is with excess of light. 

176 

Bad Thoughts 

She was as perfect as a drop of dew or a beam 
of light; a pure thought of God, delicate, spon- 
taneous and finished. There was nothing mis- 
shapen in body or soul; Love did well to create 
such a being. But the others, the crooked, 
blind and defiled ! Are these the bad thoughts of 
God? From whence do they come? Whither 
do they go? Conceived in darkness, born for 
destruction? 

177 

Love and Sympathy 

We must not think of Love as a mere concept. 
For it is something more real than Life itself: 
— 215 — 



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the very Life of Life, the very soul of Becoming. 
It is a force both spiritual and physical, but tran- 
scending the distinction of spiritual and physical. 
We must not conceive Love as a thing akin to 
Sympathy. It is not humanitarian or even hu- 
man; it is a force as unsullied by humanity as 
the mountain winds or the tides of the ocean. 
Nevertheless, it is within Man, just as it is within 
the stars and seas; a great creative, destructive, 
transforming and purifying force; beyond Good 
and Evil as the dew and the lightning are. This 
is the power that is known by Man in his mo- 
ments of love. He is then free to create and 
enjoy, as if he were re-born, with a will new, 
joyful and innocent. But seldom does he attain 
this knowledge: his moments of exultation are 
brief. Yet Love has not on that account lost any 
of its potence. Man may decay and become 
corrupt; but Love remains unalterable, forever 
pure, incapable of corruption. 

178 

Multum in Parvo 

You are but a drop in the ocean of Life. 
True: but it is in the ocean of Life! 



216 — 



CREA TIVE LOVE 



179 

Love and the Senses 

When one loves, the distinction between soul 
and body is passed. In Love alone is the dream 
of Goethe, Heine, and the moderns realized: 
here the reconciliation of the spirit and the senses 
is celebrated in perfect innocence. For Love ir- 
radiates and makes fragrant the body in which it 
dwells, and raises it aloft to sit by its brother the 
soul. 

180 

Love and Innocence 

Life takes us back to its bosom when we love. 
The heavens, the earth and the race of men no 
longer appear things external and hostile, against 
which we must arm ourselves. We return from 
exile in personality; our thought sweeps to the 
farthest horizons, and plunges into the deepest 
gulfs of existence, at home in all places. The 
" external " is no longer external: we contem- 
plate it from the inside, we gaze through its 
eyes. For the very principle of Life, of which 
all living things are the expression, has been ap- 
prehended by us. Our personality has been 
— 217 — 



WE MODERNS 



emancipated. This feeling of universal compre- 
hension is called Innocence. 

181 

Love and the Fall 

Has the fable of the Fall still another inter- 
pretation for us? Was the Fall of Man the fall 
from Love? When the feeling of universal com- 
prehension was lost, personality in the individu- 
alistic sense arose. And Sin was the child of 
this Individualism. To the first man bereft of 
Love, the earth assumed a terrible mien; nature 
glared at him with a million baleful eyes : he be- 
came an outcast in his home. No longer know- 
ing the earth or other men, he experienced terror, 
hatred and despair. To protect himself against 
existence, he created Love's substitute, morality. 
And with morality arose sin, and perished in- 
nocence. 

182 

Love and its Object 

Nietzsche's psychology was wrong when he 
spoke of Love as a narrowly egoistic thing isolat- 
ing two people and making them indifferent to 
every one else. There is too much of the philos- 
— 218 — 



CREATIVE LOVE 



opher and too little of the psychologist in this 
observation. For mankind cannot be loved, Life 
cannot be loved, until One has been loved. Only- 
lovers can generate such wealth of life that it 
overflows, enriching their friends, their enemies, 
all the world. To love one is to love all. 

183 

Freedom in Love 

In true love there is a feeling of entire free- 
dom. Is it because the lovers have by a divine 
chance found their true path, have become a pulse 
in the very heart of Life? If Love is the prin- 
ciple of Life, then in Love alone is perfect free- 
dom. Ethics and instinct become one. This is 
the road that leads beyond good and evil: Man 
must learn to love. 

184 

Love and the Sensualists 

On those who affirm Life as innocent and holy, 
there is an obligation laid. Their lives must be 
innocent: Life must be to them a sustained act 
of worship. How many of them have been lack- 
ing just here! Heine failed, in spite of his real 
nobility. Goethe, however, attained unity and 
— 219 — 



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sincerity; and Neitzsche was a figure of beauti- 
ful integrity and innocence. They were neither 
of them mere " writers." Nor must we be: 
there is upon us the compulsion to prove that a 
life of innocence is possible. And as a first step, 
we must separate ourselves from those who, be- 
fore they have sought innocence, praise the 
senses. For they confuse and defile everything. 

185 

Free Will 

Only those who have knowledge of Becoming 
can know what the freedom of the will is. Free- 
dom — that is to will Becoming with all its suf- 
fering, voluntarily to go on the way which Fate 
and the highest Life direct us. Slavery — that 
is to deny Becoming, to cling to the static, and 
to be dragged along the stream of change. To 
be dragged, not to remain stationary; for men 
by taking thought cannot gain immunity from 
change. Their will and their desires avail them 
nothing. For the stream of Becoming is un- 
changeable in its power. It is Man that changes. 
When he affirms Becoming, he is enlarged; when 
he denies it, he is straitened. 

— 220 — 



CREATIVE LOVE 



186 

Tragedy, Life and Love 

In the highest Life two qualities are always to 
be found together, exuberance and suffering. 
Life is founded on this paradox, which is funda- 
mental; for in the emotion of Love we are most 
conscious of it. Love is the most joyful and 
most suffering thing: its plenitude of joy is so 
great that it can endure gladly the worst griefs. 
And tragedy is the truest expression in art of 
Life and of Love; for its characteristic, too, is 
a Joy triumphing over Fate. 



221 — 



THE TRAGIC VIEW 



VI 

The Tragic View 

187 

Life as Expression 

Schopenhauer interpreted life as the expres- 
sion of a Will to Live. Nietzsche showed with 
profound truth that beneath this will there was 
something more fundamental, the Will to Power. 
Have we here got to the foundation, or shall we 
find that underlying the Will to Power there is 
something more fundamental still? Why do all 
living things strive for power? Is it, indeed, 
power that they desire in their striving, power 
for the sake of power? That which everything 
by a law of its being searches for is expression: 
the Will to Power is merely an outcome of that 
search. For seeing that the sun of created Life 
is split up into individuals, related and yet 
diverse, the expression of one unit is bound to 
collide with that of another, and the outcome is a 
— 225 — 



WE MODERNS 



conflict. Life, therefore, is essentially some- 
thing that injures itself, and injures itself the 
more the more powerful it is; in a word, Life 
is essentially tragic. Most people, however, live 
in illusion, knowing nothing of this. The philos- 
ophers, and, before them, the priests, were those 
who perceived that Life was of this nature; but, 
alas, from the truth they drew the immediate and 
not the more profound conclusion. They sought, 
unconscious Hedonists, a palliative for Life, and 
contemned expression, which they saw was the 
cause of suffering. These were the creators of 
that morality which has prevailed to our own day; 
a morality antagonistic to Life, anti-tragic, nega- 
tive. All the systems which have been created 
in this way are colossal panaceas and remedies: 
they are not fundamental. 

There were others, however, who saw as the 
priests did that Life was tragic, but who at the 
same time affirmed it. These were the tragic 
poets. They were more deeply versed in Life 
than the priests : tragic art is more profound than 
morality. For morality is based on the belief 
that man desires above everything else Happi- 
ness. But Tragedy has perceived that this is not 
so. Man will express himself, it proclaims, 
226 



THE TRAGIC VIEW 



whatever the outcome, whether it be joy or suf- 
fering. 

Since then morality has sunk deep into Life, 
and there is now ahnost a second instinct in man 
striving against expression. Consequently there 
are many existences passed without expression; 
sometimes even in a resolute struggle against it, 
as in the case of innumerable religious men and 
ascetics. To some men it seems that their spirit 
has been lying frozen and dead within them, 
until one day an influence touches them, and they 
feel an imperious desire to express themselves, 
to create. This influence is nothing else than 
Love, which is the desire for expression itself. 
When its rule is recognized and obeyed Life 
reaches its highest degree of joy and of pain, 
and becomes creative. This is the state which is 
glorified by the tragic poets. To those who 
affirm, it is the highest condition of Life. 

188 

" Self -Expression " 

Self-expression is something infinitely more 

subtle than the modems conceive. This man 

studied to express himself: he investigated his 

ego, and thereby cut himself off^ from Life more 

227 



WE MODERNS 



completely than any anchorite, for the anchorite 
had at least heaven in addition to himself. This 
neo-anchorite, however, turned his eyes deliber- 
ately inward and strove to find expression for 
what he discovered there, but for nothing more. 
Thus he became his own prison. Eventually he 
turned out an aesthete. 

This other man found that his thoughts and 
desires flew away from him as irrevocably as a 
flock of wild birds and became lost or strangers. 
He seemed constrained to express everything not 
himself, everything foreign, remote and as ex- 
alted; but in the end he discovered that it was 
himself he had expressed. " Thy true being," 
said Nietzsche, " lies not deeply hidden in thee, 
but an infinite height above thee, or at least above 
that which thou dost commonly take to be thy- 
self." 

189 

Life as a Value 

Those who say that the belief in Life as a 
value is not a belief which will arouse the heroic 
passions and make men die for it, use a form of 
reasoning, at any rate, which is erroneous. They 
first confuse the ideal of more complete exist- 
228 



THE TRAGIC VIEW 



ence with the more complete existence of an in- 
dividual, and then demonstrate that this individ- 
ual will not lay down his life for the sake of his 
more complete existence! But Life as an ideal 
is just as impersonal as any other ideal, whether 
it be Justice or Perfection or Renunciation. 
True, it has not yet become static, but on that 
account its attraction is only the stronger; it 
arouses our very love. And men will die for 
what they love : they will die for Life. 

190 

HebbeVs Theory of Tragedy 

Hebbel's theory of Tragedy is noble and pro- 
found. Not in the misdirection of wills does 
he find the source of the tragic, but in the core of 
the will itself, in the inexorable expression and 
collision of wills. This conception raises 
Tragedy from a mere consequence and punish- 
ment of sin to an expression of Life itself, to 
the most profound and essential expression of 
Life. And this is just and worthy of Tragedy. 
For the character of Tragedy is not negative and 
condemnatory, but deeply affirmative and joyous. 
How shallow then must be the theories which 
would deny Tragedy to the good, to those whose 
229 



WE MODERNS 



wills are highly directed! Tragedy is not a 
punishment. The more noble man becomes the 
more tragic he will also become. 

191 

Tragic Philosophy 

The belief, against which Nietzsche declaimed, 
that Reason brings Happiness has become to the 
modern man second nature, so that now the no- 
tions of Reason and Happiness are indissolubly 
connected in his mind. Any argument for a 
tragic view of Life must therefore appear, first 
of all, unreasonable; for Happiness as an end is 
the only reason that will be acknowledged. It 
remains for us to show that Happiness is itself 
unreasonable, an impossibility, a chimera. 
There is no Happiness as an end. Reason does 
not bring Happiness, nor does virtue, nor does 
asceticism, nor does comfort. Happiness is an 
accident. And not even a modem can make ac- 
cidents happen ! 

To this modern world, with its belief in Hap- 
piness, Nietzsche was bound to appear unreason- 
able, for he brought with him not only a tragic 
conception of Life, but a tragic philosophy. A 
tragic philosophy — the marriage of Knowledge 
230 



THE TRAGIC VIEW 



and Tragedy: nothing could have seemed more 
irrational to modern Europe than that! 

192 

Tragedy and Arguments 

Those who desire to restore a tragic concep- 
tion of Life should not use these arguments: that 
Happiness is a condition which, if it were possible 
of realization, would become intolerable, pro- 
ducing its opposite, unhappiness; or that only 
when the individual renounces Happiness does 
Happiness become his. These are the statements 
of a Hedonism once removed. The argument 
for the tragic view should be founded on consid- 
erations altogether irrelevant to Happiness. It 
should not care enough about Happiness even to 
disdain it. 

193 

Morality and Happiness 

Philosophers have from the beginning acknowl- 
edged that Happiness is not won by seeking for 
it, but by striving for other things. This, how- 
ever, has not prevented them from proclaiming 
Happiness as the goal of Man and as the deliber- 
ate object of ethics. Contradiction upon contra- 
231 



WE MODERNS 



diction! If the individual cannot by taking 
thought capture Happiness, is it conceivable that 
a community can, or the human race, in toto? 
To throw a net round this mirage compounded of 
desire and fancy — surely Reason was itself the 
most unreasonable thing to attempt that. And, 
after all, does Man desire Happiness? Tragedy 
denies it. 

194 

End or Effect 

One may possess all the virtues save Love, and 
remain unhappy. Love, however, brings Hap- 
piness with it as the sun brings light. Is Happi- 
ness, then, the end of morality? Or an effect of 
Love? 

195 

Superiority 

In order to despise enjoyment, one need only 
be supremely happy or supremely wretched. 

196 

Beauty and Tragedy 

In every beautiful face there is nobility, 
strength and a touch of sadness — the seal of 
232 



THE TRAGIC VIEW 



tragedy is upon it. To make Life beautiful, 
then, would be to make it tragic? Nay, rather 
let us say that to make Life tragic is to make it 
beautiful. Supreme beauty is but the expression 
in which are comprised in a miracle of unity the 
sorrow and the joy of Tragedy. For in the most 
radiant manifestation of Beauty there is a brood- 
ing solemnity; in the most sorrowful there is 
triumph. 

197 

Experimenting in Life 

The aim of the aesthetes was without enduring 
Tragedy to enjoy Beauty. To that end they de- 
vised their creed of experimentation in Life: they 
wished to know all the joys of the soul and of the 
senses without inconvenience to themselves. 
Perceiving that Love and Beauty bring suffering 
in their train, they decided to take the initiative 
against them, in other words, to " experience " 
them. All they experienced, however, was — 
their experiences. That, indeed, was all they de- 
sired : their " experimenting in Life " was escap- 
ing from Life. Without the courage to accept 
Life with the Dionysians or to renounce it with 
the ascetics, they hit upon the plan of stealing 
233 



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a march upon it. Well, it was certainly not upon 
Life that they stole a march! 

198 

Christian and Dionysian 

The Christian and the Dionysian are both of 
them step-children and solutions of Pessimism. 
A gloomy and realistic view of the world was 
necessary before either of them could be born. 
In Christianity Pessimism was translated into 
symbols. " Original Sin " and " transgression 
against God " — these were the theological 
counterparts of the pessimist's " suffering," " the 
tyranny of the Will." How did Christinaity find 
relief from this fundamental pessimism? By a 
pathetic illusion in which mankind were trans- 
formed into erring children, who, however, were 
forgiven by an indulgent Father. Here suffer- 
ing was still an argument against Life, and a pal- 
liative was sought and found. The Dionysian, 
however, affirmed Life in the very tragicality of 
its aspect, and, by so doing, achieved a victory 
over it. In short, to the Dionysian Life is a 
tragedy; to the Christian it is a pathetic tale with 
a happy ending. 



234 



THE TRAGIC VIE 



199 

History of the Dionysian 

In the beginning he possessed innocence: the 
world appeared to him as beautiful, Man as good, 
and the future as immeasurable. The great il- 
lusion of Rousseau was his — a " natural man " 
himself, believing in the " natural man," a ro- 
manticist, a credulous, not too sincere, " beau- 
tiful " soul — a youth with the qualities of youth. 
But a day came when unwillingly and painfully 
his soul forced his eyes open and compelled them 
to look, and he saw without illusion; the cruelty 
beneath smiling Appearance, the red claw, and 
conscienceless, inappeasable appetite. Looking 
at Man he found him a powerless little creature, 
condemned to a few years in this world, cut off 
by Death, and even during his life circumscribed 
by invincible limitation. Nevertheless, this man 
disdained to hide his head in the sands of il- 
lusion; and immediately he became altogether 
more worthy of respect, more real, almost sub- 
lime. A noble resignation to Life now charac- 
terized him; the classical writers, especially the 
Greeks with their naturalistic pessimism, seemed 
to him the highest thing; and he accepted the 
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theory of Original Sin. All honour to him when 
he reached, after a painful journey, this spare 
but real conclusion! All honour to this pes- 
simist who would not deceive himself! 

One day, however, the thought came to him, 
" Even if pain and necessity be the truths of 
Life! There is something within me which can 
turn these, also, to account! I can transfigure 
them. Pain, Struggle, Change — these will no 
longer enslave me; for these shall be my slaves! " 
At that moment he became a Dionysian: he had 
turned the corner of pessimism, and had gained 
freedom. Original Sin was no longer true for 
him; for a new truth had dawned in whose light 
the old was quenched. 

From an illusive freedom in the beginning, 
through bondage to necessity, to a new freedom 
— the history of the Dionysian. The pessimist 
is more profound than the " natural man," but 
the Dionysian is the most profound of all. He 
burrows deeper than pessimism itself; he grows, 
the most happy of men, out of the very soil of 
pessimism. 



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THE TRAGIC VIEW 



200 

Tragic Affirmation 

To feel happy at this moment — is not that to 
approve of your whole life, of its suffering, con- 
flict, ennui and scepticism no less than its vic- 
tories and festivals? This moment is what it is 
by virtue of these experiences; justify it and you 
justify them. The physical agony which left 
its mark upon you; the anguish of bereavement 
and of disillusionment; the cynicism with which 
you consoled yourself; the years when you lived 
altogether bereft of hope; your most profound 
and most petty thoughts and actions; your mean- 
est, bitterest and noblest experiences: all these 
are unconsciously affirmed in your affirmation 
of this moment. Let them be affirmed con- 
sciously! Or is your soul afraid to go as far 
as your will? Looking back now with new eyes 
over your life, you find that precisely what you 
cannot do is to repent — least of all of your 
sins and griefs! For to repent is to will Life 
to be other than Life, and essentially not to af- 
firm. 

He who contemplates his life thus, perhaps 
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understands for the first time what is the mean- 
ing of Tragedy. 

201 

Mastery and Tragedy 

The desire of Man to subjugate Nature and 
Fate and obtain mastery over his resources — 
perhaps it is as well that tliis is meantime unat- 
tainable! For Man's spirit is not yet noble 
enough for him to use his power aright : he would 
use it, if he could grasp it now, as a means to 
Happiness! Our first duty is to fight the idea 
of Happiness, to make Man tragic. Once Man 
wills Tragedy, however, the more mastery he 
acquires the better. 

202 

The Hidden Faculty 

When we speak hopefully of the discovery of 
still undiscovered faculties in Man, to what do 
we look forward? In plain terms, how do we 
expect this faculty to be of use to us? In bring- 
ing about Happiness? It is almost a tragedy — 
it is a tragedy without the nobility — that in 
our time the most beautiful, heroic and powerful 
things have to bow their heads and become slaves 
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THE TRAGIC VIEW 



to this weak and pathetic tyrant, Happiness. 
Should we then oppose the addition of one more 
divine power to the imprisoned? Well, a hope 
consoles us. For the discovery of a new faculty 
in Man will not make him more happy, but 
simply more powerful; his self-expression in ac- 
tion will be the more complete ; the essential con- 
flict of Life will be magnified; Life will become 
more tragic. So think well, you votaries of 
Happiness, before you bring to life another 
power of the tragic creature, Man. Far better 
for your ends if you could but succeed in killing 
some of those he already possesses. But have 
you not sometimes tried to do that? 

203 

The Other Side 

And yet Man cannot create without Happi- 
ness. The soul that lives in shadow becomes 
unhealthy and sterile: sunshine is after all the 
great health-bringing and fructifying thing. 
Happiness does make a man nobler; more ready 
to generosity and heroism; more careless of en- 
joyment. Happiness! But what is Happiness? 
The Happiness that is essential to the best life is 
a state of the soul: this is doubtless that which 
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Goethe and Heine praised. But the other, the 
Happiness of the utilitarian, is an effect of cal- 
culated action, the reward of a sort of ethical 
thrift. The first, however, is independent of 
calculation, and even a little scornful of it; for 
in its confidence and plenitude it dares to put 
out on the gloomiest seas. It is not unrelated 
to Love, this effect of an affirmative attitude to 
Life. When people praise Happiness, how one 
desires to believe it is this that they praise. 

204 

The Two Species 

The few have a conception of Life different 
from that of the many. To the latter still per- 
tain such notions as " do as you would be done 
by," and so forth. They understand a morality 
but not the end of morality. The few, however, 
who understand both the morality and the reason 
for it, who have a conception of Life more diffi- 
cult and unyielding, seem to the many cold and 
a little inhuman. The lives of the latter, on the 
other hand, appear to the few as a naively happy, 
narrow and absurd form of existence. 



240 



THE TRAGIC VIEW 



205 

Nietzsche 

What was Nietzsche, that subtlest of modern 
riddles? First, a great tragic poet: it was by a 
divine accident that he was at the same time a 
profound thinker and the deepest psychologist. 
But his tragic affirmative was the core of his 
work, of which thought and analysis were but 
outgrowths. Without it, his subtlety might have 
made him another Pascal. The Will to Power, 
which makes suffering integral in Life; the Order 
of Rank whereby the bulk of mankind are 
doomed to slavery; the Superman himself, that 
most sublime child of Tragedy; and the last af- 
firmation, the Eternal Recurrence: these are the 
conceptions of a tragic poet. It is, indeed, by 
virtue of his tragic view of Life that Nietzsche is 
for us a force of such value. For only by means 
of it could modern existence, sunk in scepticism, 
pessimism and the greatest happiness of the 
greatest number, be re-created. 

For the last two centuries Europe has been 
under the domination of the concept of Happi- 
ness as progress. Altruism, the ideology of the 
greatest happiness of the greatest number, al- 
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truism as a means of universalizing Happiness, 
was preached in the eighteenth century; until 
after a while it was seen by such clear-sighted 
observers as Voltaire that men did not obey this 
imperative of altruism; therefore they were con- 
demned: the moral indignation of the eighteenth 
century, the century of censoriousness par ex- 
cellence, was the result. First, an impossible 
morality was demanded, and for the attainment 
of an unattainable ideal; then Man was con- 
demned because he failed to comply with it, be- 
cause he was Man. Thus in the end the ideal of 
the greatest happiness worked out in pessimism: 
Life became hideous and, worst of all, immoral, 
to the utilitarian, when it was seen that altruism 
and happiness are alike impossible. Schopen- 
hauer is here the heir of Voltaire: the moral 
condemnation of the one has become in the other 
a condemnation of Life itself, more profound, 
more poetical, more logical. Altruism has in 
Schopenhauer deepened into Pity; for Pity is 
altruism bereft of the illusion of Happiness. 

How was Man to avoid now the almost inevi- 
table bourne of Nihilism? By renouncing alto- 
gether Happiness as a value; by restoring a con- 
ception of Life in which Happiness was neither 
242 



THE TRAGIC VIEW 



a positive nor a negative standard, but something 
irrelevant, an accident: in short, by setting up a 
tragic conception of Life. This was the task 
of Nietzsche: in how far he succeeded how can 
we yet say? 

206 

Again 

Nietzsche loved not goodness but greatness: 
the True, the Great and the Beautiful. Was not 
this the necessary corollary of his aesthetic evalu- 
ation of Life? 

207 

Sacrifices 

" The first of the first fruits of thy land thou 
shalt bring into the house of the Lord thy God." 

Thus spoke the oldest reverence. We should 
not scoff at this feeling but rather try to under- 
stand it; for it is only too rare in our time. 
What was its meaning to the rulers of Israel? 
Gratitude, a beautiful, affirmative thing. To en- 
rich Life with our highest gifts, which we freely 
offer in thanksgiving for what Life has given 
us, — that should be our form of sacrifice. And 
we should perform it gladly, with festive, over- 
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flowing heart, not with sullen and conscientious 
face, as if Life were a usurer. 

208 

Our Poverty 

The spiritual poverty of modem life is ap- 
palling; and all the more because men are un- 
conscious of it. Prayer was in former times the 
channel whereby a profound current of spiritual 
life flowed into the lives of men and enriched 
them. This source of wealth has now almost 
ceased, and Man has become less spiritual, more 
impoverished. We must seek a new form of 
prayer. Better not live at all than live without 
reverence and gratitude! Let our sacramental 
attitude to Life be our form of prayer. Let us 
no longer desire to live when that has perished. 

209 

Finis 

" To abjure half measures and to live reso- 
lutely in the Whole, the Full, the Beautiful." — 
Goethe. 

" To try to see in all things necessity as 
beauty." — Nietzsche. 

THE END 

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