Romanticism is the future, even after more than 200 years of its incompleteness, its failure; because Romanticism is the only movement of honest men's minds that is a third path: not the past of institutionally-based religious traditionalism; not the present of secular Leftist materialist individuality; but a future of individually-based religiousness.
Romanticism is based on the texture of life itself, and the discernment of the heart. It is the antithesis of the bureaucratic, office life and of the shallow, atomised, emotional manipulations of modern mass media and leisure; it also rejects the ideals of obedience, submission and group-conformity that traditionalism put at the centre of its moral systems.
Romanticism takes its measure from the texture of life and finds what it seeks in the best moments of actual life, and in a more sustained fashion in the romantic arts.
For example in what-it-is that makes the world of Lord of the Rings so deeply appealing to some modern minds, or (to go back to its beginning) the worlds of Blake, Wordsworth, Goethe, Novalis... It is that quality of enchantment, of being-enchanted - but being-enchanted not deceptively, not as a false day-dream; but the kind of enchantment that is a disenchantment, a clarification and revealing of beauty, truth and reality.
(A matter almost of dramatising life, and knowing it is dramatised, and living-in this drama.)
Romanticism is what makes us look around with such profound dissatisfaction at culture; at mass culture, official culture, high culture, at the culture of existing churches and their services; at the people who speak out in the public realms and what they say and - even more - how they say it. They are all talking heads or dancing puppets, they are all disengaged and lost, they are never serious about the realities of mortal life!
What we need, and need is the word for it; is the element represented by elves in Lord of the Rings - indeed we need that and more. But we do need a sense of life as continuing creation, meaning and purpose and of us each as engaged in this living, conscious activity. We need to be within this aliveness and consciousness - and at the same time to know that we are within it - so we may rest and work in this state without evasion or blindness: the maximum of consciousness.
Enchantment, magic - these are terms we use. Children - young children - experience life this way; but they are inside the stream of life, and hardly conscious of themselves; whereas we are all overwhelming conscious of our-selves except when we (our selves) deliberately self-obliterate with the mass media, with drugs, with numbing frenzy or despair.
Only God can produce and sustain the enchantment we seek - there is no secular magic: it cannot even be simulated.
...Think of the most wonderful of godless utopias: William Morris's News From Nowhere (1890) - a great creative genius pulls-out the stops to depict the best world he can imagine, and it is utterly dead! So much more the ideal societies of now - those vile politically-correct utopias of micro-managed abstract symbolism, made by what people 'ought' to enjoy but actually can't; and yet enjoyment is their only bottom-line. Utopias of guilt and despair made worse by faked morality and manufactured appreciation - like the depicted worlds of propaganda and public relations emanating from committees of the managerial drones and psychopaths who run modern institutions, here and now...
Enchantment comes only from a group that is made of individuals affectively-affiliated - that is from families and marriages, and from real friendships (which are precious but exceedingly rare, especially nowadays; modern friendships are nearly-all mutual emotional exploitation and tactical alliances). All this needs a totally different conception than exists of what life is about, and how life needs to be arranged: around-what life needs to be arranged.
At present we can barely even speak about this - especially not in the public arena. And of course nobody can be persuaded - the need to be persuaded and resistance to persuasion are the depth of the problem and why it has resisted solution for 200-plus years...
No that is wrong, it is not 'the problem' but we ourselves who have been and are resisting solution for 200-plus years; trapped by our fear of awareness, our desire for pleasure, our lust for power; trapped by the forces of darkness which offer short term gratifications of many kinds, and promise protection from horror and despair, and the misery of those we most resent. We are being willingly led by the nose into our doom - and that is why we are damned: I mean the willingness, expressed by the stubborn, deep-rooted resistance to embarking on the proper life we used-to know we ought-to be doing.
If we are experts in anything, it is in self-blinding; failing to see the obvious - stridently-denying the almost-overwhelming in our-selves; which is the radical, profound, incurable unsatisfactoriness of present and past living - and the different and only-yet-imagined nature of that which we are destined to strive-for.
As a concrete example - that vital subject of the relations between men and women.
How can anybody (I mean from our hearts, here and now) be happy with how this matter has been approached; how it has been enforced at any point in history up to the present, and with the public ideas proposed for the future?
The current state of sexual politics is evil; but the past state was also wrong, distorted, crudely-simplistic... And the problem was the nature of past past societies in which the individual was forced to conform to group ideals - it was the group which was dominant; and since each human is unique, every possible, every imaginable group ideal represents a harsh distortion and a mental tyranny.
The only future our hearts endorse is one in which men and women are complementary individuals; that is both known to be different and complementary (the two complements making one) and individuals (each different from every other in the past, present and the future).
(If our deepest understanding of the relationship between a man and a woman can be captured in a rule, law, bureacratic regulation; then we know for sure it is wrong. I mean we - each of us - know for sure. In our hearts we know it. And don't tell me that we 'have to' have this, that or some-other principle - I am not interested in expediency, indeed expediency is precisely what is paralysing our thought. We must first think - indeed imagine, fully - with absolute clarity, about what should-be; expediency is entirely a different matter.)
This is a situation that cannot be captured, and ought not be controlled, by any form of groupish social organisation, any law or generalisation. It requires an entirely different basic understanding, a different logic.
And that goes back to the beginnings of Romanticism. The necessary logic was defined, albeit abstractly and in a way that is very difficult to understand, by Coleridge; in the concept of polarity or polar logic. But the answer was given, and we can make it clearer and simpler now that the pioneering and heavy-lifting has been done by a genius.
Let that be a guide... Until we have each reached a position from-which we can explain how the relations of men and women can be conceptualised such as to satisfy the deepest desires of our hearts - until such a time, we shall remain lost and despairing, and doomed to self-damnation.
That's a beautiful and inspiring piece, Bruce. I think of the Romantic world (which is the true world) as one that is lit from within but also and at the same time illuminated by God who is ever present, sustaining the whole. That's what we must move into because if we don't we are lost. We really are.
"It was the group which was dominant; and since each human is unique, every possible, every imaginable group ideal represents a harsh distortion and a mental tyranny."
This just strikes me as fundamentally untrue in a very profound way. I can't look at human history, or even at people now with how far they've fallen, and believe that. That view rings of being inspired by fear instead of love. The Romantics could not have agreed with that- I know Tolkien wouldn't.
- Carter Craft
@Carter - I don't understand you. With what exactly would The Romantics or Tolkien not have agreed?
(Of course, Tolkien would not publicly argue for anything which was not standard Roman Catholic doctrine - whatever his deepest personal views may have been. For example, Tolkien certainly but implicitly seemed to believe in the possibility and importance of *some kind* of reincarnation - but would never argue nor even state this explicitly and publicly.)
But even if they didn't - my point is that Romanticism, in its explicit form, was incomplete and indeed (in this incompleteness) hijacked for evil; and we, now, need to complete it.
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