Chapter Three - The Preconscious Life of the Intellect
Art Bitten by Poetry Longs to Be Freed from Reason
1. I have insisted, in the preceding chapter, that art is rooted in the intellect. Art is a virtue of the practical intellect; art is, and especially the fine arts are, to a considerable degree more intellectual than prudence: art is the very virtue of working reason. Now we are faced with a paradox, a fact which seems diametrically opposed to this contention: namely, the fact that modern art–I mean in its finest achievements, as well as in its deepest trends–modern art longs to be freed from reason (logical reason).
It is, of course, easy, too easy, to relate this fact to a much more general phenomenon, conspicuous enough indeed: what the French philosopher Blanc-de-Saint-Bonnet called the progressive weakening of reason in modern times. Then one would say, with some people inspired by a bitter zeal, that modern art suffers from the same general weakening of reason, or (and this would be perhaps a little more relevant) that modern art, being surrounded on all sides, and threatened, by modern reason–a so-called reason as afraid of looking at things as it is busy digging in all the detail around them, and as fond of illusory explanations as it is insistent in its claim to recognize only statements of fact, the reason of those who believe that poetry is a substitute for science intended for feeble-minded persons –modern art has endeavored to defend itself by seeking refuge in irrationalism.
Yet such an explanation would fall short of the mark and remain extraneous to the issue. For the yearning for liberation from reason of which we are speaking is in reality a phenomenon very much deeper and more significant. It has to do with a typical aspiration of art in its own line and inner life, in so far as it has become conscious of itself during the last century to an unprecedented degree, and has found, at the center of this self-awareness, poetry, naked and wild poetry. Modern art has been bitten by poetry. And that is the very cause of its estrangement from reason. I am not trying to discuss now what poetry is. I am only concerned with the effects that poetry produces.
Shall I try to describe, in a brief and, to be sure, oversimplified manner, the process, normal in itself and extraordinarily illuminating for the philosophy of art, which the evolution of modern art has enabled us to contemplate? I would say that all is appendent to the fact of art's becoming more and more fully aware–of its freedom with respect to everything which is not its own essential law–of the necessity which binds it to master everything which is not its own creative and engendering virtue–and of the kind of loyalty to truth which is required from the artist, and which is loyalty to his own singular vision. The formulas I just used have been the occasion for a swarm of inept claims and sickening commonplaces. They remain true in themselves.
I would also say that the process in question is essentially a process of liberation or enfranchisement, but liberation or enfranchisement of that intrinsic impulse, one with the nature of art, which requires it to transform the things it uses. For just as the art of the craftsman, while watching the natural properties of the materials it uses, deprives these materials of their natural form ( I mean the form which wood is possessed of in trees, or metals in the mines of the earth) in order to bring them into a form born out of his mind, so the art of the painter or the poet, while watching the natural appearances of the realities of the world, deprives these realities of their own natural form and beauty, and the instruments of the mind of the age-old patterns of operation established by the common use of men, in order to produce a work invested with a new form and beauty born out of the artist's soul. Liberation and transformation, therefore, keep pace with one another.
Now it seems to me that three principal steps might be discerned in the evolution of modern art, especially modern painting and poetry.
First, it endeavors to free itself from nature and the forms of nature. It transforms nature, not only by carrying to extremes the law of deformation of natural appearances which painting has always brought into play, but also by causing another universe of forms and relations between forms–disclosing a deeper reality, more akin to our dreams, angers, anguish, or melancholy–to arise from nature in art's own fabric of colors or of words. And in great artists this in no way implies any contempt for or divorce from nature. They rather steal from nature its own secrets of poetry.1
The second step is liberation from and transformation of language, I mean rational language. Rational language is not cut out to express the singular, it is burdened with social and utilitarian connotations, ready-made associations, and worn-out meanings, it is invaded by the inevitable insipidity which results from habit. So it does not only interfere with poetry, it perpetually sidetracks it and makes poetry say something other than what poetry wants to say. The same observation can be made with regard to that intelligible discursus–organizing together, according to the accustomed patterns of the pleasure of the eyes or the ears, the movements of the design or the sounds of the melody–which is the rational language of painting and music. Why should we be surprised by the fact that modern artists struggle to free themselves from rational language and its logical laws? Never did they pay more attention to words, never did they attach greater importance to words: but in order to transfigure them, and to get clear of the language of discursive reason. Joyce creates with all the words of the earth a new language conveying an intelligible sense, but intelligible to himself alone. As a rule the other searchers conceal the logical or intelligible sense in a language made up of images, to the evocation of which the words are dedicated. The Impressionists and Neoimpressionists on the one hand, Cézanne, Gauguin, van Gogh on the other, are also more concerned than ever with the elements of the painter's language, its words–but in order to discover a new pictorial language liberated from that intelligible external consistency, that immediate rational legibility of visible aspects which was still present even in the drawings of a William Blake. Be it a poem or a painting, the work speaks: it speaks no longer in terms of logical reason.
Thus art enters the regions of obscurity. "le suis obscur comme le sentiment," I am obscure as feeling is, Pierre Reverdy said. This darkness grows deeper when we arrive at the third step in the process. Then art endeavors to get free from the intelligible or logical sense itself. Think of certain poems of René Char or Henri Michaux, Hart Crane or Dylan Thomas, or of certain cubist canvases. The work, more eager than ever to communicate an invaluable content, speaks no longer, as it were, seems mute. It strikes us at the heart through forbidden ways. Is it true that the logical sense has disappeared? No, that's impossible. But the logical sense has been digested, so to speak, by the poetic sense, it has been broken up, dislocated, to subsist only as a kind of variegated matter of the poetic sense. The poetic sense alone gleams in the dark. This poetic sense, which is but one with poetry itself, is the inner, ontologic entelechy of the poem, and gives it its very being and substantial significance. "It is in no way identical with the intelligible sense, as the soul of a man is in no way identical with his speech; and it is inseparable from the formal structure of the poetic work: whether the work is clear or obscure, the poetic sense is there, whatever becomes of the intelligible sense. The poetic sense is substantially bound to the form, immanent in the organism of words, immanent in the poetic structure as a whole."2 In modern art it demands to be definitively freed, at any cost.
The process I just described is a process of liberation from conceptual, logical, discursive reason. Though it may entail accidentally a general disregard for the intellect, and a suicidal attitude of contempt for reason, it is by no means, in its essence, a process of liberation from reason itself, if it is true that reason possesses a life both deeper and less conscious than its articulate logical life. For reason indeed does not only articulate, connect, and infer, it also sees; and reason's intuitive grasping, intuitus rationis, is the primary act and function of that one and single power which is called intellect or reason. In other words, there is not only logical reason, but also, and prior to it, intuitive reason.
. . . whence the soul
Reason receives, and reason is her being,
Discursive or intuitive.3
Coleridge invoked the authority of Milton to confirm his own views on reason's intuitivity.4 He might also have invoked the authority of Aristotle.5 Already in the domain of speculative knowledge, science, and, philosophy, intuitive reason is fundamentally at work: any demonstration finally resolves into first principles which are not demonstrated, but seen; and any discovery which really reveals a new aspect of being is born in a flash of intuitivity before being discursively tested and justified. But when it comes to poetry, the part of intuitive reason becomes absolutely predominant. Then, as our further analyses will show, we are confronted with an intuition of emotive origin, and we enter the nocturnal empire of a primeval activity of the intellect which, far beyond concepts and logic, exercises itself in vital connection with imagination and emotion. We have quit logical reason, and even conceptual reason, yet we have to do more than ever with intuitive reason–functioning in a nonrational way.
In all that I have just said, moreover, about the yearning for liberation from logical reason, I have tried, quite inadequately, I fear, somehow to disengage the pure meaning of the task progressively accomplished in the laboratories of modern poetry. It is an ideal line that I have tried to follow. In actual fact, the greatest among modern artists, though deeply involved in the general movement, never made for the extremes. They freed themselves from logical reason in the sense that they transformed the use of logical reason, not in the sense that they abolished it.
2. A process like the one we are discussing is of course full of serious dangers. The undertaking was heroical, it was paid for at the price of many casualties. The process took place, moreover, in a variety of ways, quite different in quality, in which genuine and spurious trends were in mutual contact, and sometimes intermingled. Now, to pursue our analysis, I should like to distinguish between three main lines of orientation, which, it seems to me, have passed, like arrows, through the whole process in question.
There has been a direction–the right one–which pointed straight to poetry itself. In the process of transforming nature, language, and the logical or intelligible sense, everything was directed, as to the final end, to the poetic sense itself: in other words, to the pure, free, and immediate passage, into the work, of the creative intuition born in the depths of the soul. Let us think, for instance, of the artistic lineage composed of such men as Rouault and Chagall,6 Satie or Debussy, Hopkins, Apollinaire, Hart Crane, Reverdy, T. S. Eliot, St.-John Perse (I name only the most significant), not to speak of the great originator, Baudelaire.
Another direction has pointed, I would say, to the pure creativity of art. The emphasis had shifted to something which was not the absolutely central element, yet was still essential. The creative power of the human spirit craved after pure creation–jealous, as it were, of God, Who was tactless enough to create before us. Poetry, and great poetry, was attained and seized upon but, so to speak, in addition, in a supererogatory manner. Let us think of Picasso. That's why he pushed forward along so many different ways of approach.7 Yet pure creation is not possible to man. Some inner content, received from elsewhere, is necessarily present. Picasso now gives expression to a bitter and desperate detestation of the world of today (after all, his distorted human faces are perhaps our true likeness, when we are seen by the angels). And contemporary abstract painting falls short of releasing a world of pure self-sufficient forms; it cannot help conveying symbolic meanings, only in a barer–and poorer–manner.
And there has been still another direction–an aberrant one, this time –which means in reality, despite all high ambitions, a diligent effort toward self-deception. For, here, the direction has been reversed; the supreme goal is neither the deliverance of the poetic sense nor even pure creation, but man's self-research through poetry. Narcissism was the beginning–entailing a search either for the subjective enjoyment of the poetic state itself (let us think of Rimbaud–a certain aspect of Rimbaud) or (let us think of Gide) for the bursting forth of a free or gratuitous act with no countenance, and of a power of choosing without making a choice, or (let us think of Mallarmé) for the elaboration of a pure and perfect artifact mirroring only the void, and exercising through the words a power of magic to transmute reality, at least as it exists in the souls of men. Then, narcissism gave place to a kind of Prometheism. Finally we had Surrealism, in which the meaning and direction of the impulse in question were revealed in full. With Surrealism the entire dynamism of deviated poetry tends, in the last analysis, to the liberation of the omnipotence of man or the conquest of infinity by man through the powers of unreason.
3. I think that particular attention should be paid to Surrealism, by reason of its exceptional significance for all the problems we are dealing with. I am interested in the Surrealists because there are real poets among them, and because I remember how they were able to awaken to poetry and to threaten with destruction some young people, now dead, who were among the most purely gifted and the most imperiled in a period still capable of what Rimbaud called the combat d'esprit. First of all I have a respect, not for Surrealist bombast and sophistry, but for Surrealism as a spiritual phenomenon–of considerable intensity, in which we see high qualities of the spirit fall from above, and poetry fated to doom cast its last secret flame at the boundaries of death.
I do not intend to embark on a full discussion of this phenomenon. It is enough for my purpose to observe that with Surrealism we have no longer simply a process of liberation from conceptual, logical, discursive reason. We have a process of liberation from reason, absolutely speaking; a deliberate and systematic craving to deny the supreme autonomy of a power which is spiritual in nature, to reject everywhere and in every respect both the control of conscious reason and, even in its preconscious life, the superior intuitivity of the intellect, and to let loose the infinite powers of the irrational in man–with a view to setting free the Ubermensch in man. This rejection of reason, this total breaking with reason, not only in its conceptual and discursive life but absolutely, marks the essential limit which separates Surrealism from all the other currents I previously mentioned.
André Breton's texts are quite significant in this regard.8 In the definition of Surrealism offered by him, the "absence of any control exercised by reason" is central, as well as the "pure psychic automatism"–which means a total release, entirely screened from any guiding activity of intelligence, of the wild powers of the unconscious and of an imagination separated from the intellect. "Automatic writing," therefore, becomes the ideal "limit toward which Surrealist poetry must tend."
Here we are faced with a basic illusion. For automatism "unbinds that which had been brought to the unity of life by concentration," and by that brooding repose of the soul which we call in French recueillement.9 Automatism does not produce freedom, but only dispersion. Separated from intellectual light, the automatic life of the unconscious is fundamentally unable to reveal anything really new. To the extent to which there is genuine poetry in Surrealist poets, they fall short of their own dogma, and obey despite themselves the secret music of intelligence.
Yet Surrealism in reality tends to aims which are quite other than poetry. As Breton put it, it leaves aside "any aesthetic" as well as any "moral concern." The aim is to express "the real functioning of thought." This, at first glance, seems to be a sort of scientific aim, psychological in nature. In reality, such a formula is rather an esoteric one, and conveys infinitely larger ambitions; it points to a kind of prophetic revelation of the magic powers involved in human "thought" as bound to the cosmic whole. Yet, in any case, whether we have to do with experimental science or with gnosis, the aim is beyond the province of poetry. Or else, if they say that poetry has no province of its own, and is as universal as "thought," then poetry dissipates in the whole, and loses its identity.
As a matter of fact. poetry has become for Surrealists a mere instrument of prospecting, it has been made subservient to all spiritual ambitions of man, it has been required to provide man with deceptive and flashy substitutes for science, metaphysics, mysticism, sanctity. All that poetry is permitted to be is a hungry void, an altogether empty poetic perceptiveness, which satisfies itself outside, with the pseudo miracles offered by chance or sorcery. We might expect as much: because poetry, in reality, is an end in itself, and an absolute.10 And for Surrealism there is and there must be no end in itself, and no absolute, except man himself in his possibilities of development.
Mania from Below and Mania from Above.
The Platonic Muse
4. The Surrealists have had no composers. They have had painters, and good painters. Some particularly interesting observations may be made about these Surrealist painters. (I mean orthodox Surrealist painters clinging to Breton's group and ideology;11 Miró, for instance, whose forms moving free have such freshness, is not a Surrealist, any more than Calder. Gargallo, who disclosed through the suggestions of the void a new poetry of sculpture, owed nothing to Surrealism.)
First, the Surrealist painters have restored in full the most baneful and antipoetic tenet of academicism, against which every genuine art, and modern art for its part, have Waged war, namely the primacy of the subject represented. Now of course it was not a question of the beauty of this subject, but of its mysterious horror. The great trick was to represent things devised both to captivate the eves and to wound and shatter at the same time the heart of the spectator, to disorganize him and destroy something in him, to catch him in a trap, by means of a certain monstrous contrivance suddenly revealed in the spectacle. Such a procedure, in which all the mystery, instead of deriving from the creative process itself, is demanded of the pictured subject, is the exact opposite of the nature-transforming expression of a creative vision. And in this return to the primacy of the subject represented, we have but a token of that displacement of poetry, transferred to the outside world, of which I spoke a moment ago.
After that, we must observe that the Surrealist painters made use of an extremely clever and reasoned-out art. With them we are very far from automatic writing and from that pure automatism which allegedly reveals the real functioning of thought. They know all the tricks and recipes of technique. Well, if our remark is true that Surrealism provides them only with an empty poetic perceptiveness mistaken for poetry, what will occur when they–anyway, those who have not received the gift of poetry on their own account–happen to fall out with the Surrealist group and Surrealist illusionism? They will simply appear as they are, shrewd craftsmen –sometimes doing their worst: Chirico, whom André Breton lauded to the skies as a revealer of deepest poetry and metaphysical emotions, has now dedicated himself to awful academic and pseudoclassical painting. I hope that Dali will not meet with the same adventure, thanks to the resources of his talented and well-calculated eccentricity.
In any case what I should like to retain is the fact that these madmen are crafty artisans. Here we are faced with a particular instance of that element of imposture and quackery which is so deep-rooted in Surrealism. Surrealism simply lies to us when it pretends to break with reason in the very field of art properly so called, or of technè in the Platonic sense: just as we lie to ourselves when we wish to think that poiesis proceeds in a rational way, and does not break with the measures of conceptual, logical, or discursive reason. For at this point we must recognize the importance of the task achieved by Surrealism in calling attention to many invidiosi veri which the rationalist bias of our everyday dealings, our classical teaching, our industrial civilization, and our moral prudery would prefer us not to see.The Surrealists were right in unmasking the part (not principal, but real indeed) played by the workings of the automatic or animal unconscious in the soul of the poet, and in emphasizing (as others had done be-fore them) the longing for the world of the marvelous, the availability of sensitiveness to all the allurements of chance, the congeniality with the irrational, in short the element of madness which inhabits him. As William Blake put it:
All Pictures that's Painted with Sense and with Thought
Are Painted by Madmen, as sure as a Groat;
For the Greatest the Fool is the Pencil more blest,
And when they are drunk they always paint best.
(That's perhaps why the pencil of our dear Utrillo is less blest, now that he is a teetotaller.) "Great wits," Dryden had said, "are sure to madness near allied."12 And Novalis, in much deeper terms: "The poet is literally out of his senses – in exchange, all comes about within him. He is, to the letter, subject and object at the same time, soul and universe."13
5. This element of madness Plato had seen before the Surrealists, and forcefully brought to light. They invoice him on this score, though in reality he is at the opposite pole from them.
The famous passages from the Phaedrus and the Ion about the poets have such lyrical brilliance that we risk not paying sufficiently serious attention to their significance in the systematic context of Plato's philosophy. For Plato the concept of the Muse is bound to passion, mania and madness, childlike play, and unconsciousness. He never tires of praising mania, or that enthusiasm which abolishes reflection and logical thought, as the finest gift of the gods to mortal beings. So there is no blame involved in his emphasis on the ignorance of poets, or in the lines of the Apology asserting that poets speak much and say fine things, but understand nothing of what they say.14 And he expresses a firm and reasoned out conviction of his own, founded on his very dialectics, when he says that the poets are possessed and out of their senses, and carried along by passion and madness, that common sense is the greatest obstacle to poetry, and that neither concepts nor logic nor rational knowledge have any part in it. And not only the poets, but their listeners also, not only the poem, but also the delight and the contact with beauty that it brings to us, depend on an inspiration superior to reason; so that, for Plato, any effort of rational criticism remains inadequate if only rational, and necessarily presupposes the intuitive reception, in the unconscious of the soul, of the magnetic power conveyed by the poem. "The stone Euripides calls magnet," as he puts it in the Ion, "does not only attract iron rings, but it also gives them the power of attracting other rings as the stone itself does. . . . In the same way the Muse herself inspires the artists, and through their inspiration others are enraptured, and the line of the inspired is produced. . . . One poet is suspended from one Muse, another from another; he is said to be 'possessed.' . . From these primary rings, the poets, others are in turn suspended, some attached to Orpheus, some to Musaeus, from whom they derive inspiration."15
When I said, a moment ago, that Plato was at the extreme opposite of Surrealism, I had two things in mind. First, contrary to Surrealism, poetry, for Plato, is appendent to a supreme end which is beauty; poetry conveys here below, and gives a body to, beauty, and beauty dwells in a world infinitely superior to man, the world of separate ideas, nay more, the world of the divine, where the Beautiful and the Good and the Wise and the True are united in harmony. Beauty, a sense-perceptible participation in which or a shadow of which human art affords us, is an absolute, a divine attribute, and it is because of its very transcendence that it re-quires madness from the poet, who is not concerned with truth, as the philosopher is, or with the just and the good, as the legislator is, but only with the beautiful (as reflected upon our shadowy world). Secondly, by the same token, the madness of the poet is madness from above, not from below. For there are various sorts of madness. Madness divides into human and divine madness, Plato explains in the Phaedrus; and divine madness into inspiring, mystical, poetic, and erotic madness. In the Timaeus, he tells us that because the desiring part of the soul is filled, night and day, with phantasms and fancies, the Maker of the world has planned for this, and put divination at the disposal of men, so that it becomes possible to improve this inferior part of ours, and bring us into contact with truth. Hence it appears, he goes on to say, that God gave inspiration to human unreason. Thus the poet is brought into contact with transcendent and divine truth, as descending to us in the specific line of sense-seducing beauty. Through mania, friendship between gods and men has become possible. And the madness of the poet reveals to us, not the "real functioning of thought," but our kinship with eternal things. That is why "a poet is a light and winged thing, and holy,"16 and "a tender and untamable soul,"17 which is seized hold of by the mania that proceeds from the Muses.
So the Platonic and the Surrealist notions of poetry are divided from one another, and diametrically opposed, as a philosophy of absolute transcendence is divided from and opposed to, a philosophy (Hegelian in its roots) of absolute immanence. Yet the fact remains that, like the Surrealists, though for opposite motives, Plato totally separates poetic inspiration from reason. The myth of the Muse signifies that the source of poetry is separate from the human intellect, outside of it, in the transcendent eternal fatherland of subsisting Ideas. A conception which is akin, in the realm of art, to the Averroistic conception of the separate Intellect in the realm of knowledge, and which is responsible for that detestable idealism which has for so long spoiled the theories of philosophers on beauty. And by virtue of this total separation between poetic inspiration and reason, the poets, for Plato as for Surrealism, simply belong to unreason. They got a good proof of this when Plato – executing another operation of dialectical division, and sacrificing that beauty of which poets are capable, and which they make into a seducer, to that justice which the legislator makes into the goddess of the city– drove Homer and his fellow madmen out of the state.
Here we meet, to be sure, with Plato's humor and his ironical ambiguity.18 He spoke, moreover, to people who knew what's what, and we may question the irrevocable character of an exclusion performed with all the appearances of a lovers' row. But, after all, what has been 'ironically put forward to play a trick on the reader, must be seemingly accepted to the letter, to play a trick on the writer. Let us, then, accept in this way the notion that, although the mania of poets is divine, the only beauty they are able to provide the city with is sense-appealing beauty, moving in our earthly shadows and fond of lies, so that their mania finally makes them a nuisance for religion and morality, and for the order of the city: on this again we see Plato and the Surrealists in a sort of agreement. Either it is a duty for the good conscience and the good city to expel poetry, or it is a duty for poetry to disintegrate the good conscience and the good city.
Platonic dialectics succeeded in dividing; it was unable to unite. The sin of Platonism is separation, and a separatist conception of transcendence. Plato however did not manage totally to divide, as perhaps he would have wanted, poetry and art, poièsis and technè, from one another. But in distinguishing the one from the other, he did human thought an invaluable service, for which he is owed singular gratitude. "You know," he wrote in the Symposium, "that the word poièsis means many things: for every activity causing a passage from non-being to being is poièsis, so that the works produced by any kind of art are poièseis, and the workmen who achieve them are all poiètai or makers. You know, nevertheless, that they are not called poiètai, poets, rather they have other names; and only that portion of the whole poiesis (in the general sense of art) which is separated from the rest and is concerned with music (mousikè)and melodic measures, is called poetry, and those who share in its possession are called poets."19 Music, thus, in Plato's vocabulary, does not mean only music, but every artistic genus which depends on the inspiration of the Muse. And he perceived that all the fine arts are the realm of Mousikè, and are appendent to poetry, which quickens painting or architecture as well as poetry in the strict sense of the word.
As to the madness of poets, I would say that Plato conceptualized what he felt about it in the too absolute perspectives of his system – but what he felt about it proceeded from the experiential awareness of a true lover of poetry. There is in the poet an element of madness (which of itself is in no way pathological, though of course it may happen to accompany really morbid states);20 he obeys an all-conquering instinct which is free from and extraneous to logical And conceptual reason. Ben Jonson reminds us that according to Aristotle himself "there has been no great creative mind without a mixture of madness. Nor is the mind capable of anything grand, or of speaking above other' men, if it is not stirred by some superior motion.”21 In point of fact this is a sentence attributed to Aristotle by Seneca."22 Yet Aristotle's Poetics tells us, in more moderate but no less significant terms: "Hence it is that poetry demands a man with a happy gift of nature, or else one with a strain of madness in him."23 And the Rhetoric: "Poetry is a thing inspired";24 and the Eudemian Ethics: "As in the universe, so in the soul, God moves everything. The starting point of reasoning is not reasoning, but something greater. What, then, could be greater even than knowledge and intellect but God? . . . For this reason, those are called fortunate who, whatever they start on, succeed in it without being good at reasoning. And deliberation is of no ad-vantage to them, for they have in them a principle that is better than intellect and deliberation. They have inspiration, but they cannot deliberate. . . . Hence we have the melancholic men, the dreamers of what is true. For the moving principle seems to become stronger when the reasoning power is relaxed."25 Not Romantic authors alone thought of the poet as a "dreamer of what is true," a man moved by "some breath, as it were, of insanity"26 or frenzy."27
Lovers and madmen have such seething brains,
Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend
More than cool reason ever comprehends.
The lunatic, the lover, and the poet
Are of imagination all compact. . . .28
The Spiritual Unconscious or Preconscious
6. Is there, then, any truly philosophical solution to the debate of reason and poetry; is it possible to show that, in spite of all, poetry and the intellect are of the same race and blood, and call to one another; and that poetry not only requires artistic or technical reason with regard to the particular ways of making, but, much more profoundly, depends on intuitive reason with regard to poetry's own essence and to the very touch of madness it involves? The truth of the matter is neither in the Surrealist inferno, nor in the Platonic heaven. I think that what we have to do is to make the Platonic Muse descend into the soul of man, where she is no longer Muse but creative intuition; and Platonic inspiration descend into the intellect united with imagination, where /inspiration from above the soul becomes inspiration from above conceptual reason, that is, poetic experience.
This is the very subject of this book. Here I should like only to outline the general philosophical framework needed for our considerations–in other words, to establish a first preliminary thesis, which paves the way for our further research, and which deals with the existence in us of a spiritual–not animal–unconscious activity.
It is difficult to speak of this problem without discussing a whole philosophy of man. We risk, moreover, being misled by the words we use. I would observe especially that the word unconscious, as I use it, does not necessarily mean a purely unconscious activity. It means most often an activity which is principally unconscious, but the point of which emerges into consciousness. Poetic intuition, for instance, is born in the unconscious, but it emerges from it; the poet is not unaware of this intuition, on the contrary it is his most precious light and the primary rule of his virtue of art. But he is aware of it sur le rebord de l'inconscient, as Bergson would have said, on the edge of the unconscious.
My contention, then, is that everything depends, in the issue we are discussing, on the recognition of the existence of a spiritual unconscious, or rather, preconscious, of which Plato and the ancient wise men were well aware, and the disregard of which in favor of the Freudian unconscious alone is a sign of the dullness of our times. There are two kinds of unconscious, two great domains of psychological activity screened from the grasp of consciousness: the preconscious of the spirit in its living springs, and the unconscious of blood and flesh, instincts, tendencies, complexes, repressed images and desires, traumatic memories, as constituting a closed or autonomous dynamic whole. I would like to designate the first kind of unconscious by the name of spiritual or, for the sake of Plato, musical unconscious or preconscious; and the second by the name of automatic unconscious or deaf unconscious–deaf to the intellect, and structured into a world of its own apart from the intellect; we might also say, in quite a general sense, leaving aside any particular theory, Freudian unconscious.29
These two kinds of unconscious life are in intimate connection and ceaseless communication with one another; in concrete existence they ordinarily interfere or intermingle in a greater or less degree; and, I think, never–except in some rare instances of supreme spiritual purification–does the spiritual unconscious operate without the other being involved, be it to a very small extent. But they are essentially distinct and thoroughly different in nature.
7. It is not necessary to think of those high levels in spiritual life which are the domain of contemplation, of supernatural mystical experience, achieved beyond concepts through connaturality of love; or of that perfect freedom of which St. Paul speaks and in which the "sons of God" are moved by the Spirit of God in a manner which transcends the measures of reason.30 Nor is it necessary to think of the way in which the disciples in Emmaus recognized Christ when He broke the bread, or of that state of perfect prayer which occurs, according to the Fathers of the Desert, when a man does not even know that he is praying;31 or even of the natural mystical experience of a Plotinus or of Indian wise men, in which supreme intellectual concentration is attained by means of the void, and through the abolition of any exercise of conceptual and discursive reason.32
Nor is it necessary to think of the perception of, and delight in, beauty, which draws tears from the eyes of a man who does not know what has come about in his mind; or of all the examples of intuitive, nonconceptual knowledge that Bergson took pleasure in enumerating.
It is enough to think of the ordinary and everyday functioning of intelligence, in so far as intelligence is really in activity, and of the way in which ideas arise in our minds, and every genuine intellectual grasping, or every new discovery,33 is brought about; it is enough to think of the way in which our free decisions, when they are really free, are made, especially those decisions which commit our entire life34 – realize that there exists a deep nonconscious world of activity, for the intellect, and the will, from which the acts and fruits of human consciousness and the clear perceptions of the mind emerge, and that the universe of concepts, logical connections, rational discursus and rational deliberation, in which the activity of the intellect takes definite form and shape, is preceded by the hidden workings of an immense and primal preconscious life. Such a life develops in night, but in a night which is translucid and fertile, and resembles that primeval diffused light which was created first, before God made, as the Genesis puts it, "lights in the firmament of heaven to divide the day from the night" so as to be "for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years."
Reason does not only consist of its conscious logical tools and manifestations, nor does the will consist only of its deliberate conscious determinations. Far beneath the sunlit surface thronged with explicit concepts and judgments, words and expressed resolutions or movements of the will, are the sources of knowledge and creativity, of love and supra-sensuous desires, hidden in the primordial translucid night of the intimate vitality of the soul. Thus it is that we must recognize the existence of an unconscious or preconscious which pertains to the spiritual powers of the human soul and to the inner abyss of personal freedom, and of the personal thirst and striving for knowing and seeing, grasping and expressing: a spiritual or musical unconscious which is specifically different from the automatic or deaf unconscious.35
When man seeking for his own inner universe takes the wrong road, he enters the internal world of the deaf unconscious, while believing he enters the internal world of the spirit, and he thus finds himself wandering in a false kind of self-interiority, where wildness and automatism mimic freedom. Such was the adventure of the Surrealists. I cannot help remembering this passage written long ago by G. H. von Schubert, at the time of German Romanticism. The poet, he said, in whom does not arise the passionate desire "to rejoin the essential unity, in the contemplation of the external spectacle as well as in the grasping of the obscure data of the innermost world" yields almost necessarily "to another movement, akin to enthusiasm, which carries man along toward the abyss. Like Phaeton, man's freakish egotism wants to seize hold of the chariot of God: he has endeavored to make himself that inner enthusiasm which God alone can create."36
The Illuminating Intellect and the Preconscious Activity of the Spirit
8. Before finishing, I should like to propose some philosophical elucidation of a little more technical nature. The notion of the psychological unconscious was made into a self-contradictory enigma by Descartes, who defined the soul by the very act of self-consciousness. Thus we must be grateful to Freud and his predecessors for having obliged philosophers to acknowledge the existence of unconscious thought and unconscious psychological activity.
Before Descartes, the human soul was considered a substantial reality accessible in its nature only to metaphysical analysis, a spiritual entelechy informing the living body, and distinct from its own operations; and this, of course, made a completely different picture. The Schoolmen were not interested in working out any theory about the unconscious life of the soul, yet their doctrines implied its existence. What Thomas Aquinas teaches about the structure of the intellect seems to me especially significant in this regard. The question does not have to do with poetry, but, on the contrary, with abstract knowledge and the birth of abstract ideas. But for that very reason we find there basic views about the spiritual preconscious of the intellect, which can be utilized later on with respect to poetry.
The intellect, as perennial philosophy sees it, is spiritual and, thus, distinct in essence from the senses. Yet, according to the Aristotelian saying, nothing is to be found in the intellect which does not come from the senses. Then it is necessary to explain how a certain spiritual content, which will be seen and expressed in an abstract concept, can be drawn from the senses, that is, the phantasms and images gathered and refined in the internal sensitive powers, and originating in sensation. It is under the pressure of this necessity that Aristotle was obliged to posit the existence of a merely active and perpetually active intellectual energy, νοϋς ποιητικός, the intellect agent, let us say the Illuminating Intellect, which permeates the images with its pure and purely activating spiritual light and actuates or awakens the potential intelligibility which is contained in them. Aristotle, moreover, added few and sometimes ambiguous indications about the Illuminating Intellect, which he only described as superior in nature to everything in man, so that the Arab philosophers thought that it was separate, and consequently one and the same for all men. The Schoolmen anterior to Thomas Aquinas also held it to be separate, and identified it with God's intellect. It was the work of St. Thomas to show and insist that, because the human person is an ontologically perfect or fully equipped agent, master of his actions, the Illuminating Intellect cannot be separate, but must be an inherent part of each individual's soul and intellectual structure, an inner spiritual light which is a participation in the uncreated divine light, but which is in every man, through its pure spirituality ceaselessly in act, the primal quickening source of all his intellectual activity.
Now the process of formation of intellectual knowledge is a very complex process of progressive spiritualization. For the act of intellectual vision can only be accomplished through the identification of spiritual intelligence with an object brought itself to a state of spirituality in act. The Illuminating Intellect only activates, it does not know. The intellect, on the other hand, which the ancients called intellectus possibilis, because it is first and of itself a tabula rasa, only in potency with respect to knowing and to the intelligible forms it will receive–the knowing intellect, in order to know, must be actuated, and shaped, by what is drawn from the images, and the images are imbued with materiality. Thus, at a first step, the intelligible content present in the images, and which, in the images, was only intelligible in potency (or capable of being made capable of becoming an object of intellectual vision), is made intelligible in act in a spiritual form (species impressa, impressed pattern), let us say, in an intelligible germ, which is received from the images by the intellect, under the activation of the Illuminating Intellect. But still this is not enough to know. It is necessary that the intelligible content drawn from the images should be not only intelligible in act, or capable of becoming an object of intellectual vision, but intellected in act, or actually become an object of intellectual vision. Then it is the intellect itself, which, having been impregnated by the impressed pattern or intelligible germ, vitally produces–always under the activation of the Illuminating Intellect–an inner fruit, a final and more fully determined spiritual form (species expressa), the concept, in which the content drawn from the images is brought to the very same state of spirituality-in-act in which the intellect-in-act is, and in which this now perfectly spiritualized content is seen, is actually an object of intellectual vision.
9. The reader will excuse me for this brief and rather chill irruption of Scholastic lecturing. For, in the views of Thomas Aquinas I just summarized on the structure of our intellectual activity, some points seem to me to be of basic interest for our purpose. There are two things in this structure of our intellectual activity which play an essential role: the Illuminating Intellect and the intelligible germ or impressed pattern. And philosophical reflection is able to establish, through the logical necessities of reasoning, the fact of their existence, but they totally escape experience and consciousness.
On the one hand, our intellect is fecundated by intelligible germs on which all the formation of ideas depends. And it draws from them, and produces within itself, through the most vital process, its own living fruits, its concepts and ideas. But it knows nothing either of these germs it receives within or of the very process through which it produces its concepts. Only the concepts are known. And even as regards the concepts, they cause the object seen in them to be known, but they themselves are not directly known; they are not known through their essence, they are known only through a reflective return of the intellect upon its own operations; and this kind of reflective grasping can possibly not occur. There can exist unconscious acts of thought and unconscious ideas.
On the other hand, and this is the fundamental point for me, we possess in ourselves the Illuminating Intellect, a spiritual sun37 ceaselessly radiating, which activates everything in intelligence, and whose light causes all our ideas to arise in us, and whose energy permeates every operation of our mind. And this primal source of light cannot be seen by us; it remains concealed in the unconscious of the spirit.
Furthermore, it illuminates with its spiritual light the images from which our concepts are drawn. And this very process of illumination is unknown to us, it takes place in the unconscious; and often these very images, without which there is no thought, remain also unconscious or scarcely perceived in the process, at least for the most part.
Thus it is that we know (not always, to be sure!) what we are thinking, but we don't know how we are thinking; and that before being formed and expressed in concepts and judgments, intellectual knowledge is at first a beginning of insight, still unformulated, a kind of many-eyed cloud which is born from the impact of the light of the Illuminating Intellect on the world of images, and which is but a humbles and trembling inchoation, yet invaluable, tending toward an intelligible content to be grasped.
I have insisted upon these considerations because they deal with the intellect, with reason itself, taken in the full scope of its life within us. They enable us to see how the notion of a spiritual unconscious or preconscious is philosophically grounded. I have suggested calling it, also, musical unconscious, for, being one with the root activity of reason, it contains from the start a germ of melody. In these remarks, on the other hand, we have considered the spiritual unconscious from the general point of view of the structure of the intellect, and with regard to the abstractive function of intelligence and to the birth of ideas. It was not a question of poetry. It was even a question of the origin and formation of the instruments of that conceptual, logical, discursive knowledge with which poetry is on bad terms. Well, if there is in the spiritual unconscious a nonconceptual or preconceptual activity of the intellect even with regard to the birth of the concepts, we can with greater reason assume that such a nonconceptual activity of the intellect, such a nonrational activity of reason, in the spiritual unconscious, plays an essential part in the genesis of poetry and poetic inspiration. Thus a place is prepared in the highest parts of the soul, in the primeval translucid night where intelligence stirs the images under the light of the Illuminating Intellect, for the separate Muse of Plato to descend into man, and dwell within him, and become a part of our spiritual organism.Endnotes
1. One of these secrets, for instance, is irregularity. "If one examines the most famous plastic or architectural productions from this point of view, one quickly perceives that the great artists who created them, careful to work in the fashion of that nature whose respectful pupils they did not cease to be, took good care not to violate her fundamental law of irregularity. One realizes that even works based on geometric principles, such as St. Marco, the little house of Francis I in the Cours la Reine, as well as the so-called Gothic churches, contain no perfectly straight line, and the round, square, and oval forms that one finds, which it would have been easy to make exact, never are exact. . . ." Renoir, project of a manifesto (1884 ); in Artists on Art ( New York: Pantheon Books, 1945), p. 321.
"Ars imitatur naturam in sua operation," St. Thomas said (Sum. theol., I, 117, 1).
As regards the "fundamental law of irregularity," Renoir's observations on the workings of nature may be complemented by Baudelaire's remarks on beauty: "Ce qui n'est pas légèrement difforme a Fair insensible; d'où it suit que l'irrégularité, c'est-à-dire l'inattendu, la surprise, l'étonnement sont une partie essentielle et la caractéristique de la beauté." Fusées, XII; in Journaux intimes, ed. van Bever (Paris: Cres, 1919 ).
2. Raissa Maritain, "Sens et Non-sens en poésie," in Situation de la Poésie (Paris: Desclée De Brouwer, 1938), p. 14.
3. Paradise Lost, Book V, 486-88.
4. Biographia Literaria, Chapter X.
5. "If, then, the states of mind by which we have truth and are never deceived about things invariable or even variable are scientific knowledge, practical wisdom, philosophic wisdom, and intuitive reason, and [as concerns the perception of the first principles] it cannot be any of the three (i.e., scientific knowledge, practical wisdom, or philosophic wisdom), the remaining alternative is that it is intuitive reason that grasps the first principles." Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, Bk. VI, ch. 6, 1141 a 2 – 8 (trans. W. D. Ross). Here "intuitive reason" means a particular habitus (the primary one) of the intellectual power–the intellectus principiorum.
6. Both of them are genuine primitives, though in manner thoroughly different, for Rouault is close to the inspiration of Romanesque art, and Chagall's roots plunge into age-old Jewish inspiration.
May I be permitted to quote here a passage of an essay on Rouault which I wrote twenty-nine years ago. "A philosopher could study in him the virtue of art as in the pure state, with all its exigencies, its mysteries, its fierce self-restraint. If he wounds many people by reactions lacking in gentleness, if he protects himself against all modes of subjection with meticulous and vigilant violence, with umbrageous and proud independence, it is to maintain in himself this virtue in its integrity. He likes to repeat after Poussin: 'We are making a mute art,' and while boiling always with a confused flood of thoughts, while possessing an exquisite sense of the beauty of the old masters and while finding sometimes the most significant sayings (drawing, he said, is a jet of the spirit on the alert) he never explains himself, letting his work alone defend itself, respecting his art to such a point that he does not wish to touch it by words. Obstinate in his furrow, he cannot be classed in any school. His painting, so human and expressive, has a purely plastic eloquence, with nothing literary in it. His love of rare materials, which could have led him astray in endless research, his human preoccupation and his taste for satire which could have diverted him toward anecdote–these he has not suppressed but dominated by his art, which, by triumphing over them, has become all the more pure and the more robust. Seeing ahead of him, after his Child Jesus among the Doctors, the easiest and most profitable future, he broke his moorings and scandalized his first admirers by entering the dark night of which he did not see the end, but where he felt his energies would be purified. . . . He was obeying a necessity of growth, stronger than he. Prostitutes, clowns, judges, shrews, it was himself that he sought, I mean his own interior accord in the universe of form and color. He has found himself: but that is a trail that one must blaze alone. . . . He has a horror of an artificial order reconstituted by mechanical or imitative means; he has always felt himself claimed by a certain spiritual order linked to an exquisite measure, to fleeting nuances that have to be discovered from within. . . . Like his admirable landscapes, his religious work has many surprises in reserve, even for those who have long followed his work. . . . If a painter belongs, like the one in question here, to the family of the very great, it is by reason above all of his poetics. In every canvas of Rouault, the forms fill out the space–a unique space, arisen for itself–with a mysterious necessity akin to that with which the natures of a universe fill out their boundaries. But not by virtue of abstract recomposition is this accomplished. It is by the effect of a creative emotion provoked far down in the soul by the irritation of an infallibly sensitive eye and a profound imagination?' "Revue UniverseIle," 1924; reprinted in Frontières de la Poésie (Paris: Rouart 1935); Art and Poetry (New York: Philosophical Library, 1943), pp. 25-29.
On Chagall, Raissa Maritain writes: "[In his etchings inspired by the Bible] one see: that a genuine primitive demands little of nature (though he loves her with an eves young tenderness, and a mystical love) and much of himself; little of realism and mud of transposition, or of what we call today abstraction, which is nothing but the up. surge of new forms mysteriously akin to natural forms, and rich with the spirit of the artist of whom they are born. And doubtless this is but one with the exigencies of art, if Baudelaire was right in saying that `the first business of an artist is to substitute man for nature, and to protest against her, but it is true above all of the great primitives who, under the thrust of their interim world, abstract from the natural universe, spontaneously, universal forms endowed with inexhaustible significance. ... I asked him what had struck him in Impressionist, ‘Fauves’ Cubist painters, when he first came into contact with their works in Paris–'Their realism,' he immediately answered with sorrow. . . . He does not avoid natural forms; he does not fly from them, on the contrary he makes them his own through the love he bears them, but by the same token he transforms and transfigures them, brings out and draws from them their own surreality, finding there the symbols of joy and life in their purified essence, their spiritual soul.. .. Surrealism came close to being called surnaturalism, in the person of its first representative. But the angels of the Sacred Vocabulary did not permit it. . . . Chagall's surrealism has both a spiritual and a plastic character. With no preconceived idea, through his art's magic, through the liberation of his internal world, Chagall has created forms signifying a spiritual universe entirely his own, whose traits cannot be found to such a degree in any other painter of our time. It was said of Rouault that he is the painter of original sin. But the universe created by Chagall is in ignorance of sin) hatred, and discord; he utters grace and joy, fraternity and love. The suffering of the world is also present, under the signs of a grave and melancholy contemplation; but the symbols of consolation are always near at hand.. . . A painting by Chagall is a tranquil, poised countenance; it is a presence which imposes itself even upon those who are deaf to poetry's voice. But to those who hear are told, not voluntarily, but through the very power of this art, a thousand dreams and mysteries which are, so to speak, the secret network of the arterial tree of the work: they secure life, and they express life, the ineradicable images of childhood, the wishes of the heart, the joy of the eyes." Chagall ou l'Orage enchanté (Geneva-Paris: Editions desTrois Collins, 1948), pp. 126–127, 46-49, 94, 98, 83.
7. And that's also, perhaps, why, as he put it, "in my case a picture is a sum of destructions."
8. A few significant texts of his on surrealism and automatism:
André Breton, Manifeste du Surréalisme (Premier Manifeste; Paris: Sagittaire, 1924): "Je crois à la résolution future de ces deux états, en apparence si contradictoires, que sont le rêve et la réalité, en une sorte de réalité absolue, de surréalité, si lion peut ainsi dire. C'est à sa conquête que je vais, certain de n'y pas parvenir mais trop insoucieux de ma propre mort pour ne pas supputer un peu les joies d'une telle possession."
(Let us note at this point Heraclitus' saying, Fragment 89, Diels: "Those who are awake have a common world, but those who sleep turn aside, each into his own particular world.")
Ibid.: "Surréalisme, n. m. Automatisme psychique pur par lequel on se propose d'exprimer, soit verbalement, soit par écrit, soit de toute autre manière, le fonctionnement réel de la pensée. Dictée de la pensée, en l'absence de tout contrôle exercé par la raison, en dehors de toute préoccupation esthétique ou morale."
Les Pas perdus (Paris: N.R.F., 1924): "Je n'attends encore de révélation que de lui (de l'automatisme]. Je n'ai jamais cessé d'être persuadé que rien de ce qui se dit ou se fait ne vaut hors de l'obéissance à cette dictée magique."
Point du four (Paris: N.R.F., 1934) "L'écriture 'automatique' ou mieux 'mécanique,' comme eût voulu Flournoy, ou 'inconsciente' comme voudrait M. René Sudre, m'a paru toujours la limite à laquelle la poésie surréaliste doit tendre."
With Paul Eluard, "Notes sur la Poésie," in La Révolution surréaliste (Paris: G.L.M., 1936): "Le poème est ‘une debacle de l'intellect.' "
9. Cf. Raissa Maritain, "Sens et Non-sens en poésie," p. 27 ( new ed., 1947, p. 28).
10. That is why, in the nature of things, that absolute which is poetry (in the line of the free creativity of the intellect) tends of itself to make man more thirsty for the Absolute–the first Poet, the creator of being.
11. "Surrealism" is, in itself, a quite apt word. But the great contemporary painter who best deserves the name, Chagall (as, among the old masters, Hieronymus Bosch), belongs in no way to the Surrealist school. See supra, p. 78, last part of note 6.
12. "Absalom and Achitophel," Part I, 3.63. The interpretation of this line offered by Poe– By great wit,' in this case, the poet intends precisely the pseudo-genius to which I refer and which is "but the manifestation of the abnormal predominance of some one faculty over all the others" (Fifty Suggestions, XXIII; in Complete Works, New York: The Lamb Publishing Co., Vol. IX)–is more than questionable.
What Poe has in mind here is that requirement of unity and integrity in the poet which we shall stress in. the next chapter. He also lays claim (thinking, of himself, probably) to the possibility of 'universal or even versatile geniuses," and to the right of the poet to pursue scientific studies; and he insists "that the highest genius–that the genius which all men instantaneously acknowledge as such, which acts upon individuals as well as upon the mass, by a species of magnetism incomprehensible but irresistible and never resisted,–that this genius which demonstrates itself in the simplest gesture, or even by the absence of all; this genius which speaks without a voice and flashes from the unopened eye, is but the result of generally large mental power existing in a state of absolute proportion, so that no one faculty has undue predominance."
In all this one can but agree with him. And who would not approve of his impatience with the popular notion of the poet as an abnormal scatterbrain, and of "genius" as "the state of mental disease arising from the undue predominance of some one of the faculties"? "The works of such genius are never sound in themselves, and, in especial, always betray the general mental insanity."
But Poe misses the real point, which has to do with that element of "madness from above" which comes from the free and intuitive creativity of the intellect and imagination starting in the spiritual unconscious, above logical reason, and has nothing to do, except accidentally, with psychological unbalance or "mental disease.” Poe's and Baudelaire's desperate pretension to make logical and calculating reason the supreme creative power in poetry was but a process of defense to mask and counterbalance the inner splits they suffered, and to protect in themselves that supremacy of the intellect for which these superior minds had an invaluable feeling, but which they mistook for the supremacy of logical reason–whereas it is that of intuitive reason and creative intuition. By this fact they risked misleading or confusing us in our notion of poetry. 'There would be no in-ore detrimental situation for modern poetry than to be caught between madness from below – a simple release of the automatic unconscious–and rationalistic self-consciousness as a process of compensation. These points, which I only mention here in passing, are elucidated in the central chapters of this book, Chapters IV and VII.
13. Novalis, Schriften, ed. Kluckhohn (Leipzig: Bibliographisches Institut, n.d.), Vol. III, p. 349.
14. Apology, 22.
15. Ion, 534, 536.
16. Ibid., 534.
17. Phaedrus, 245.–1 think that in this passage άβατσν, (literally "untrodden") is better rendered by "untamable" than by virgin as is usually done.
18. Is not the purpose of the Republic to offer a picture of the ideal requirements of reason – carried to the absolute–in matters of government? I cannot help thinking that, given such a purpose, Plato delivered himself over to an intoxication of pure logic all the more readily as, at the same time, knowing that his picture was merely ideal, he indulged in laughing at assertions made purposely extreme which he most seriously proffered and actually held to be true on the level of that pure logic. Hence a kind of transcendent irony. Thus it is, I think, that in the third Book (389) he reproaches the poets for infringing upon that privilege of lying which belongs only to the rulers of the city. I would like to surmise that the same kind of irony may be found in the Laws.
19. Symposium (Discourse of Diotima), 205.
20. The illuminating pages which Bergson wrote on the "deep-rooted mental healthiness" that is characteristic of great mystics, and the nervous disturbances which may nevertheless develop sometimes in them, but which are merely accidental with regard to mysticism, apply also, mutatis mutandis, to poets and poetry. "The truth is that these abnormal states resembling morbid states, and sometimes doubtless very much akin to them, are easily comprehensible, if we only stop to think what a shock to the soul is the passing from the static to the dynamic, from the closed to the open, from everyday life to mystic life. . . ."
The obscure depths of the soul are stirred in the poet. 'We cannot upset the regular relation of the conscious to the unconscious without running a risk. So we must not be surprised if nervous disturbances and mysticism sometimes go together; we find the same disturbances in other forms of genius, notably in musicians. They have to be regarded as merely accidental. The former have no more to do with mystical inspiration than the latter with musical." Henri Bergson, The Two Sources of Religion and Morality (New York: Holt, 1935), pp. 217-18.
21. "Nullum magnum ingenium sine mixtura dementiae fuit. Nee potest grande aliquid, et supra caeteros loqui, nisi mota mens." Cf. Ben Jonson, Discoveries (1641) –"how differs a poeme from what wee call poesy?"–in The Great Critics, ed. J. H. Smith and E. W. Parks (rev. ed.; New York: Norton, 1939) p. 263.
22. De Tranquillitate animi, XV, 16.
23. Aristotle, Poetics, ch. 17, 1455 a 33-34.
24. Rhetoric, III, 7: “ένεθον γαρ ή ποίησις.”
25. Eudemian Ethics, Bk. VII, ch. 14, 1248 a
26-1248 b 2 (trans. J. Solomon). 26. Cicero, De Oratore, II, 46.
27. Plutarch, Symposiacs, I, 5.
28. A Midsummer Night's Dream, V, i.
29. This distinction between spiritual unconscious and automatic unconscious is altogether different from Jung's distinction between the personal and the collective unconscious–both of which are part of the spiritual unconscious inasmuch as they enter the sphere of the preconscious life of the intellect or the will, and are thus spiritualized, and both of which are part of the automatic unconscious inasmuch as they are shut up in a merely animal world, separate from the life of the intellect and the will.
Be it noted that, as will be pointed out infra (Chapter IV), all the sensitive powers of the soul (which are not "spiritual" in nature) and especially the imagination are involved in the spiritual unconscious, in so far as they participate in the preconscious life of the intellect or the will. The spiritual unconscious pertains primarily to the spiritual powers of the soul, but extends to the other.
30. They are given eagle wings to run and walk as men still living upon this earth, John of St. Thomas says in relation to Isaias 40:31. (Les Dons du Saint-Esprit, trans. Raïssa Maritain, Paris: Téqui, 195o, p. 6.) So they have become winged rational animals.
31. Cassian, Coll., IX, ch. 31. – Did not Degas say, "Only when he no longer knows what he is doing does the painter do good things"? Artists on Art, p. 308.
32. Recent studies in natural mysticism have opened a new and particularly fertile field of philosophical research. See in this: connection: Olivier Lacombe, "Sur le Yogi indien," Etudes Carmélitaines, October 1937; idem, "Un Exemple de mystique naturelle: l'Inde," Etudes Carmélitaines, October, 1938; Jacques Maritain, "L'Expérience mystique naturelle et le Vide," Ch III of Quatre Essais stir l'Esprit dans sa Con dition charnelle (Paris: Desclée De Brouwer 1939); Louis Gardet, "Recherches sur mystique naturelle," in Jacques Maritain, son œuvre philosophique (a symposium; Paris: Desclée De Brouwer, 1948); idem, "Mys tique naturelle et mystique surnaturelle en Islam," Recherches de Science religieuse XXXVII (1950): 2; Lacombe, "La Mystique naturelle dans l'Inde," Revue Thomiste 1951, 1; Gardet, "La Mystique avicennienne," Ch. V of La Pensée religieuse d'Avicenne (Paris: Vrin, 1951); idem, "Un problème de mystique comparée: la mention du Nom divin dans la mystique musulmane,' Revue Thomiste, 1952, 3.–Olivier Lacombe and Louis Gardet are preparing a general survey of the subject, under the title Mystique naturelle, l'Expérience du Soi.
33. The case of scientific discoveries, new ideas, or solutions that suddenly emerge from the unconscious ( as was experienced by Poincaré and Gauss for instance) is well known and particularly striking. Let us quote here the significant testimony of Marston Morse: "The first essential bond between mathematics and the arts," he writes, "is found in the fact that discovery in mathematics is not a matter of logic. It is rather the result of mysterious powers which no one understands, and in which the unconscious recognition of beauty must play an important part. Out of an infinity of designs a mathematician chooses one pattern for beauty's sake, and pulls it down to earth, no one knows how. Afterwards the logic of words and of forms sets the pattern right. Only then can one tell someone else. The first pattern remains in the shadows of the mind." Marston Morse, "Mathematics and the Arts," The Yale Review, summer, 1951, pp. 607-608.–And again: "Mathematics is the sister, as well as the servant of the arts and is touched with the same madness and genius." Ibid., 605. "The creative scientist lives in the 'wildness of logic' where reason is the handmaiden and not the master. I shun all monuments which are coldly legible. I prefer the world where the images turn their faces in every direction, like the masques of Picasso. It is the hour before the break of day when science turns in the womb, and, waiting, I am sorry that there is between us no sign and no language except by mirrors of necessity. I am grateful for the poets who suspect the twilight zone." Ibid., p. 612.
34. Cf. my book Existence and the Existent (New York: Pantheon Books, 1948), pp. 53-54.
35. It is not surprising that Freudian "explanations"–which deal only with the automatic unconscious, whose part in art and poetry, significant as it may sometimes be, is accidental, and which ignore completely what is essential, the spiritual unconscious–prove to be particularly unfortunate in this domain (as well as in the religious domain): a failure which has been disclosed by Jung in relation to art, by Malinowski in relation to the origin of morals and the theory of primitive patricide which, as Roland Dalbiez says (La Méthode psychanalytique at la Doctrine freudienne, Paris: Desclée De Brouwer, 1936; English trans.: Psychoanatical Method and the Doctrine of Freud, New York: Longman, 1943 ), belongs to the realm of romantic anthropology.
Raymond S. Stites has clearly stressed this basic inadequacy of psychoanalytical theories of art in sifting Freud's own pseudoscientific fancies about Leonardo ("A Criticism of Freud's Leonardo," in College Art Journal, summer, 1948). In the important studies he has pursued for years on Leonardo, and which will appear soon in a book to be entitled The Psychology of Leonardo da Vinci, Mr. Stites has been especially concerned with the role of the unconscious (the prescience, as Leonardo put it) in artistic activity. Such erudite researches provide philosophy with a remarkable confirmation of the fundamental distinction between the automatic unconscious and the spiritual unconscious.
36. Gotthilf Heinrich von Schubert, Geschichte der Seele; in Albert Béguin, L'Âme romantique et le Rêve (Marseille: Cahiers du Sud, 1937), Vol. I, P. 224.
37. The image of the sun, in Thomas Aquinas' vocabulary, was reserved for the Uncreate Intellect. Yet we can use it with respect to the intellectus agens without prejudice to the fact that its light derives from the supreme Sun, the Uncreate Intellect.
On the universally activating part played by the Illuminating Intellect in human intelligence, see my book Les Degrés du Savoie (Paris: Desclée De Brouwer, 1932), p. 244, note i. For Thomas Aquinas the role of the Illuminating Intellect is in no way limited to the process of abstraction and formation of ideas; the Illuminating Intellect is rather the activator of intelligence in all its operations. We have a clear sign of this in St. Thomas' teaching (q. disp. de Anima, a. 15, ad 9; Sum. contra Gent., III, 45) that the intellect agent will continue to activate and illumine the intellect in souls separated from the body ( in which there is no longer any process of abstraction).
Texts without Comment for Chapter Three
Chapter II. Art as a Virtue of the Practical Intellect
Chapter IV. Creative Intuition and Poetic Knowledge
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