THE main contention of this book is that we shall not save our civilization from disaster unless we boldly set ourselves a far higher and more comprehensive social ideal than has hitherto seemed practicable. We must use our new-found mechanical power consciously and strictly in service of the world-aim; and the world-aim must be conceived not merely as the maintenance of the world-population in health and affluence (though this is, of course, essential) but as the creation of a truly civilized world-community, in which every human being shall have full opportunity to develop whatever capacity he has for the distinctively human, the mentally and spiritually awakened, life. Less exalted social aims are no longer practicable. The present state of the world is tragic evidence of the way in which they defeat themselves. Through obsession with the aims of economic individualism and of nationalism and imperialism we are losing even the opportunity of world-wide prosperity. Further, nothing less than the fully conscious world-aim can any longer call forth the lasting devotion and courage which alone can save us.

What is needed, then, is loyalty to the distinctively human in our nature; and in order to rise to this loyalty we must form a clear idea of those activities which involve the distinctively human intelligence and imagination. So far I have tried to describe the human activities of personal relationship and social life. I must now give some account of the activity of art, which has, I believe, not only very great intrinsic worth, but also an extreme social and even racial importance.

Lest it should be misunderstood, this statement must be amplified at once. By saying that pure art (in whatever medium) is an activity of high intrinsic worth, I mean that in the discriminate appreciation of works of art, and more strikingly in their production, man does, in my view, actually attain a degree of mental vitality, a kind of percipience and of creativeness, which not only is impossible to the sub-human animal but also is in general absent from the affairs of ordinary human life. In artistic experience we learn, in a very real sense, to look at the world from a new angle, or with new eyes, and to enjoy it in an entirely new manner. We begin to delight in certain aspects of the objective world itself for their own sake, and not merely for their ordinary human usefulness. To experience these objective characters is itself enough to create in the awakening mind a delighted interest in them and a need for further experience of them. Sometimes, when confronted with a work of art which happens to 'strike home' upon our particular sensibility, we may have an experience comparable to that which occurs when, after climbing a mountain-side, we suddenly reach the crest and open up an entirely new view. But in the case of art what is revealed is not a new landscape but a new aspect of familiar things. These statements are shockingly vague, and may perhaps be unjustified. But the experience is compelling, and should not be ignored simply because contemporary science cannot give a satisfactory account of it. It is undeniable that in genuine aesthetic experience the mind does have this exhilarating sense of coming into the presence of new and excellent reality. The fact that the experience is indescribable suggests only that words, which have evolved in response to practical and theoretical needs, are not fitted to describe it.

By saying that art is of extreme social and racial importance I mean that, though for the artist art is, or should be, an end in itself, it has also an incalculable social utility, not on the practical plane, but as one of the chief instruments by which the world-aim, the awakening of human mentality may be advanced. Though artists are so prone to stand aloof from social organization and the social enter- prise in general, their work is a truly civilizing influence in the community. Directly or indirectly it helps all men to be more human than they otherwise could be. Not only so, but the aesthetic interest may very well be actually one of those growing points of the human spirit which are searching like tendrils (perhaps vainly, perhaps triumphantly) for kinds of experience and aspects of objective reality which at present lie wholly beyond our reach.

One qualification should be made to the claim that artists perform a very important function in society. Like every other highly developed activity, art has its special danger. In this case the danger is that persons with no strong aesthetic powers will be tempted to devote them- selves to the production of so-called works of art which are in fact worthless. Such persons are prone to cover their own emptiness under a cloak of mystery, and to insist that their art is so subtle as to be almost wholly incommunicable. They take their world of trivial fantasies to be the real world; the great vulgar world of common life they despise and shun. In fact, failing to become artists, they become 'arty' persons. It is well to remember that in art the possibility of self-deception and downright quackery is greater than in any other sphere.

Before trying to form a clear view of art, we may note that one of the primitive sources of artistic activity is the impulse to construct or experiment. This primitive impulse, which man shares with some other animals, especially with the apes, rises to distinctively human expression not only in art but in all practical intelligent making, such as handicraft, agriculture, engineering. It plays a part also in social organization and management, and again in the theoretical constructions of science and philosophy. The activity of 'making', whether for practical, aesthetic, or theoretical ends, is among the most humanly satisfying of all activities. Inevitably the practical is the commonest field for its exercise. Even in the ideal society practical construction, manipulation and organization for practical ends, must inevitably be the main outlet for the constructive impulse. On the other hand, even to-day it is in art, and in theoretical activity (though in very different manners) that constructivity finds its most satisfying and stimulating expression.

We may best approach the subject of art by trying to form a clear idea of the attitude of mind of the man who is earnestly employed in making something. In this way we shall trace art to its primitive, biological sources, and at the same time emphasize the simplest of its distinctively human attributes. Thus, when we pass from handicraft to pure art, we shall be prepared to regard all aesthetic activity as essentially a kind of 'making', the aim of which is to produce objects significant to the most awakened mentality. The aim of handicraft is primarily to make articles useful to man's practical needs, but it develops an interest in the article itself and the material itself and the making itself. In pure art the practical need may have fallen away, and interest may centre wholly upon the object itself and its significance for the awakened mind.

Things (and thoughts too) may be well made or badly made. We do not always trouble to make a thing as well as possible, since very often a roughly made thing will serve. We do not need packing-cases to be as neat and strong as dining-room tables. But the good worker tries to make things as well as is needful, and indeed, a little better. For the making is itself a joy to him, and a badly made thing offends him. If he makes furniture, the joints must be as accurate as possible. If he makes clothes, the stitches must be as fine and regular as possible. Not only so, but the design of the furniture and the pattern of the clothes must be well thought out, and the best possible for the purpose. Those who are interested in making things desire them not only to be well made but to appear well made. They wish them also to appear the things they are, and not something else. If they are designing a house, they will not try to make it look like a church, or a castle, or a ship, or a bit of rock. To do so, they feel, would be as inept as to make a man look like a tree. Because they are interested in the make of things, they want the look of the thing to express as well as possible both the purpose that the thing serves and the workmanship that has gone to the making of it. If they are making or designing a chair, they want it both to be and to look comfortable, to be and look strong, to be and look handy. Also, they will not try to hide the way in which it is made. They will let the good cabinet-making show itself frankly. If they are making something of wood they will not make it look like stone or metal; though indeed they may find some tricks of stone-work or metal-work suitable for wood-work also.

Those who delight in making things (whether material things or thought patterns) become so interested is the making, and in the things, that they itch to go on putting more and more work into each thing that they make. .Even when they have made the thing fulfil its practical purpose as well as they can, they must spend more time and energy on it, if they have any time and energy to spare. The only way to put more work into it is to decorate it. This may be done either by making it throughout with even better workmanship than is needed, and letting the appearance of the excellent work delight the eye; or by decorating it in the ordinary sense, adding forms and colours to it simply to make it more attractive. A chair or a chest, for instance, may be carved or inlaid. A building may be embellished with sculpture. Cloth may be patterned.

There is a danger that decoration may merely spoil the underlying form of the thing, so that it no longer seems beautifully fitted to its purpose. The true aim of decoration is to make the appearance of the thing delightful with an added beauty; but all too easily it may add not beauty but ugliness. Decoration may sometimes be intricate and rich; but always it should make the article appear to fulfil its purpose and its nature even better than it could seem to do without the decoration. There must be no unnecessary fuss about the decorative additions. Everything should be in its particular way relevant.

Here a critic may protest that decoration is, as a matter of fact, unnecessary, irrelevant to the use of the thing; and that therefore it is bound to seem so. This view is mistaken. Though decoration cannot make the thing be more practically useful than it is, it can make it more fully express for the observer its purpose and its nature. Decoration that is well controlled can call out the spirit of the thing, so to speak. It can make woodwork look more delightfully 'wood-work', and a chest more delightfully 'a chest' than would be possible without decoration. It can emphasize the essential form and structure of things.

But, in addition, decoration can do something else, so interesting and delightful that it may become an end in itself, and not merely a beauty added to useful things. In the first place, it can call up in our minds all sorts of activities and experiences, all sorts of joys and longings, that bear upon the main purpose of the thing decorated. Thus it may secretly, without our knowing how, put us into the right mood for using the thing. For instance, the decoration of a church should affect people in such a way that they will feel quiet and thoughtful, and inclined to worship; but the decoration of a picture-house should be more exciting. A book's binding and general form should put one in the right mood for reading that particular book.

Certain prehistoric peoples seem to have been very prone to decorate their weapons, their tools, their crockery, the walls of their caves. Perhaps this was done with the idea of casting spells, and blessing the article and the use of it, so as to bring success. It may well have achieved its end; for it would tend to put the user into the right mood for performing the action confidently and skilfully. But perhaps the magical or religious purpose of these early artists was an afterthought. It may well be that when they had made a tool or a weapon, the sheer joy of making was not yet appeased, and so they were impelled to go on adding decoration in any way which seemed interesting and appropriate.



Decoration sometimes plays a small and sometimes a great part in the form of well-made practical things. But artists also make things which have no practical purpose at all, and are thus in a sense pure decoration. Most pictures and statues are of this kind. Yet to call them pure decoration is not correct, for in a sense they are very much more.

Musicians, painters, sculptors, poets, writers of imaginative prose are all concerned with very highly skilled activities which undoubtedly afford a deep sense of vitality, of enhanced and triumphant aliveness. They are also concerned to produce in their various manners perceptual objects such as sonatas, pictures, poems, which, when conceived and contemplated rightly, will appear to have a special kind of excellence, generally called beauty.

Now the word 'beauty' is used in many different senses. Often it has no intelligible meaning at all, and serves merely to arouse a glow of emotion. But to avoid using it in speaking about art is difficult and pedantic. It is a valuable word, although it is grossly misused.

In this chapter I shall use the word 'beauty' to mean those attributes (of whatever kind) which a perceived object must have in order to arouse in the perceiving mind a genuine 'aesthetic experience'. This experience I shall try to describe and explain so far as possible in scientific terms in the course of the chapter; but I suspect that there is something in the aesthetic experience which cannot as a matter of fact be fully accounted for by contemporary psychology. This is a field in which we must try, indeed, to be as scientifically severe as possible; but we must also beware lest we ignore facts which science cannot yet properly assimilate.

To say that a thing is beautiful (in the sense which I intend) is to say, not merely that it has a certain intrinsic character, but that its character is such as to affect the mind in a certain way. Many kinds of physical objects may happen to be beautiful in this sense. They may be classified as follows: (1) works of art, such as pictures, sonatas, poems; (2) natural objects which are not alive, such as landscapes; (3) living organisms, especially human beings. In works of art, beauty is the result of the activity of an artist. In lifeless objects it is an accident. In living creatures it is an expression of the vitality of the creature, and consists in the appearance of the perfect and harmonious functioning of the creature's powers, physical, mental, and perhaps spiritual.

Both in the living creature and in the work of art beauty consists very largely in the appearance of fine workmanship and of the harmonious fulfilment of powers. But it involves also much else, as I shall try to show.

In passing we may distinguish between three orders of beauty. There is a beauty which is very familiar and easily appreciated. There is also a beauty which involves somewhat more developed powers of appreciation, and affords an exhilarating, but not seriously disturbing, sense of discovery or adventure. Finally there is a beauty which demands the exercise of capacities upon the extreme limit of our development, and outrages our normal dispositions with a sense of discord or perversion or sheer ugliness. We may call the first 'prettiness', the second 'normal beauty', the third 'difficult beauty'. All three have their places. But since the chief function of art is to 'stretch the mind', to waken it to keener percipience and appreciation, the last is the most important. Incidentally let us remind ourselves that in this sphere of 'difficult beauty' quackery finds its most convenient opportunity. The truly creative artist, who is exploring and manifesting strange fields of difficult beauty, is brought to contempt by the host of imitators who gain notoriety by striving to affect the manner of the originator, so as to produce mere grotesques, shocking to the public.

I have described the three kinds of beauty in terms of their effect on the observer. They may also be described in terms of the nature of the beautiful object itself, or of the apparent nature of the beautiful object. The appearance of a living organism, say a human body is in part an expression of its nature. The more spiritual human nature tends to appear physically with features which can be appreciated only by the more spiritual observer. In a work of art the more developed capacities of the artist express themselves in forms which can be appreciated only by the more developed observer.

There are doubtless other activities no less vital than the creation and appreciation of pure art. But the depth and the mysteriousness of artistic experience has sometimes persuaded artists that in their work they rise to a superhuman, a godlike kind of aliveness. There is at least one sense in which this is obviously true, since the great artist does something which is far beyond the powers of the rest of us. And even we ourselves, in merely appreciating his works, may feel that we have awakened to a new order of being. For, if we are in a fit state to regard it rightly, a great work of art can actually produce in us new needs, can actually teach us highly developed mental activities which, without its help, never would have been possible to us.

What is a painter doing when he paints a picture? He is making a material thing, a painted canvas, which by its coloured pattern shall satisfy certain obscure needs of his and of any spectator who can look at it properly. It is the itch of these needs which makes him paint; and the actual working, by disclosing to him new qualities of beauty, produces in him new needs.

The artist is a maker, and like all true makers, he seeks to make something which shall fulfil its purpose as exactly as possible, and shall also display its own structure as satisfactorily as possible. But the purpose which his painted canvas is to fulfil is not a simple practical one like that of a chair or a house. It is an extremely complicated one, so complicated that the painter himself cannot say at all clearly what it is. What he can do is not to talk lucidly about his purpose, but to fulfil it, either very well or not so well.

One difference between making things for practical purposes and making works of pure art is that, in the first case, the need which is to be fulfilled, the purpose or plan which controls the whole activity, is generally clear at the outset, whereas in the second it is far from clear. I do not mean merely that it has to be discovered in detail during the activity. The artist may, indeed, make sketches before he begins the picture; and also, in the actual painting of the picture, he may keep on discovering new possibilities of beauty. This is often, but not always, the case. But what is more striking about art is this. When the artist has produced his picture, he still cannot say why he has done it, what needs precisely it is meant to fulfil. Even if, as may sometimes happen, he sees in a flash the whole form of his work before he begins to embody it, he does not know what in him produced the vision and what delights in it. His aesthetic needs are to be discovered only by analysing the finished work. And this analysis neither artist nor critic can, in our day, at all satisfactorily accomplish.

The artist's activity, whether he is a painter or a musician or a writer, seems to include several different kinds of activities which must all be made to fit together. We may begin to realize the complexity of his aim by thinking of the complicated nature of his personality. A man has capacities for activities of many kinds. Not only has he an outfit of inborn capacities, but also the world acts upon him so as to develop these inborn powers into capacities for more subtle and diverse activities. At any time there are in him many simple and many more subtle capacities which his ordinary life does not properly exercise. These seek expression in his art.

Some of these unfulfilled capacities are capacities for fine perception. In the case of the painter they are chiefly capacities for extremely subtle seeing and touching. Besides powers of perception, he has probably certain unsatisfied, or incompletely satisfied, animal instincts, assertive, sexual, protective, gregarious, and so on. He has also capacities for understanding and appreciating human life and the universe. Further, owing to the particular ways in which his environment has affected him from infancy onwards, he has acquired many special sentiments for certain objects, persons, perceptual forms, ideas. Though the origins of these sentiments are mostly forgotten, and in some cases too painful to remember, they largely determine his taste. All these diverse powers seek fulfilment in his art.

The painter's most obvious aim is to make a well-balanced pattern of coloured shapes. But what does this really mean? He seeks to make something which the eye will grasp as a single variegated thing, a whole of parts which fit well together in spite of, or because of, their differences. If he allows conflicts or discords in his pattern, they are there because the particular pattern needs them there.

But why must the work of art have unity? The answer can be put in two ways. First, when we have to grasp a complicated mass of characters, we do so more effectively, and with more zest, if we can apprehend them, not merely as a chaos, but as an ordered unity, in which each part has its function. Second, if as I believe, the function of a work of art is to express and clarify an obscure mental or spiritual activity of the artist, every part of it should co-operate with every other for this end. Nothing should hinder the expression.

The coloured shape that the painter makes has the power of suggesting to the mind other things than colour and seen shape. In the first place it obscurely suggests touched shapes, and also the movements which we should make if we were to trace out the shapes with hand and arm. The seen pattern calls up in us echoes of touch and movement; and these have to contribute to the picture in such a way that we shall experience it as a single whole, and not a mere collection of discordant things which have no purpose in the whole.

But the picture gives us much more than a pattern made up of material for sight and touch and movement. Each of its parts, and the whole pattern also, suggests to us, in an obscure but potent way, many subtle and far-reaching matters which have been connected with such sights and touches and movements in our past lives, matters which were originally experienced and dealt with by us in our many kinds of activities, both simple and complex. For instance, it may suggest characteristics of the physical world, such as those which belong to trees, clouds, human bodies, houses, machinery, or mental characteristics of human beings, such as their fearful- ness and courage, their passions and their peace, their meanness and their aspiration. This vast shadowy web of suggested matters need not be so obvious as to force itself on our attention. Indeed, most of it is much too shadowy and remote to do so. In the shadowiness and elusiveness lies its power to influence us deeply with- out our knowing how we are influenced. It plays mysteriously upon our emotions as the wind on a harp.

The painter, then, seeks to make a pattern which shall have depth beyond .depth of meaning for us. But the meaning is for the most part 'unconscious', in the sense that, though it may have a strong effect on us, we cannot clearly apprehend it and analyse it. The picture's seen shape must in a sense hold within it not only touched shape and movement but, so to speak, vistas of the world. Almost as water might hold in solution salt, sugar, and all kinds of biting and fragrant substances, the visible shape of the picture holds for us the tang, the taste and fragrance, of many experiences; little pleasing experiences, grave experiences, terrible experiences, and so on, according to the needs of the whole pattern of experience which the artist has embodied.

Sometimes the painter frankly pictures actual objects like people and houses, and lets them work upon us without disguise. But even so, be does not simply reproduce them photographically. He suggests them, simplifies them, distorts them. According to his need of them, he emphasizes certain features of them, and neglects others.

Sometimes he may be very sparing in his representation of physical objects, using instead mere coloured shapes, which, though they are not pieced together as actual things, are none the less characters abstracted from actual things, and able therefore to give us the elusive significance, the fragrance, the tang of forgotten experiences of many kinds.

A painter's main interest is always in the visible form of things rather than in their other characters. In extremely 'abstract' art, which avoids the use of natural objects entirely, it may seem that he cares for nothing but form. He becomes a kind of geometrician, though doubtless he would claim to be concerned with a different quality or aspect of form from that which interests the geometrician. He seeks to apprehend and delight in the 'pure' forms which are suggested by the confused forms of actual objects. He seeks pictorial symbols to enable him to grasp compendiously and enjoy intelligently the spatial relations of objects. Similarly, in music, a composer may be chiefly interested in the abstract relations of tones and rhythms.

This aesthetic delight in pure form seems to be a development of intellectual interest and constructivity. But it is an aesthetic development. It is a detached appreciation of form for its own sake. This is undoubtedly a very important factor in all art. But those who seek to limit the aesthetic activity to abstract form would deprive art of very much of its empire. Moreover, the power or significance which the abstract artist finds in certain forms and not in others is in part the product of his own past experience, of his particular expertness in apprehending forms. Further, it is in part almost certainly a significance which the particular forms have for his 'unconscious mind', a significance derived from associations in his long-forgotten or repressed cravings and interests. We should admit, however, that in perceptual form and its deep associations in our experience we may also find a genuinely spiritual significance which cannot yet be scientifically described.

Some artists, recognizing this, are solely concerned to express in strange 'irrational' shapes the dreamlike imagery that rises into consciousness from the depths of their minds. Such matter, they feel, is rich in spiritual, though unintelligible, meaning. Unfortunately that which rises from man's 'hidden depths' is at least as likely to be mere gas, generated by repressed animal or infantile cravings, as to be the effervescence of true spiritual activity. While recognizing that these artists may, indeed, be the most important pioneers, one cannot but suspect that they, like so many other schools, have been misled into exaggerating one of the many functions of art at the expense of others no less important. Though the genuinely spiritual aesthetic activities may well entail, and emerge from, and transform, all manner of lower-order activities, they must also entail much else.

But let us not consider the differences between the many schools; let us try to discover what is common and essential in all schools.

A painter, then, makes a physical object which, though it is just painted canvas, may work deeply upon our nature, partly by inducing us to appreciate pure form, partly by opening up vistas of meanings, one behind the other, fading into remote obscurity. The work of art fulfils for us not actually, but in imagination, as dreams may do, all sorts of needs, of which the spectator and even the artist himself may have been hitherto unconscious. Indeed, he probably still remains unconscious of the sources of his satisfaction.

These unconscious needs of the mind must be responsible for much of the deep emotional effect of many works of art. We all have our unwitting cravings, connected, for instance with, sex and self-regard, cravings which, owing to social condemnation, or the peculiar conditions of our early life, we dare not admit even to ourselves. Such repressed cravings, which may date back to infancy, deeply affect our appreciation... The work of art, by its veiled symbolism, may tap these deep sources of mystery and passion.

But if this echoing of past experience were the only effect of a picture, painting would not be a very important activity. It would be merely assuaging, merely cathartic, purgative, releasing, instead of being, as it is, stimulating, awakening, spiritualizing. The vital, the life-giving fact about art is that it uses these echoes of the past to make something new and surprising, something enticing, challenging, and difficult to grasp. It shows us a quality of beauty which was formerly beyond our reach. Thus the artist in painting his picture, and the spectator in appreciating it. are all the while enriching their own nature, making themselves capable of ever finer, more delicate kinds of activity, making themselves more alive mentally, capable of more spiritual activity, more sensitive to the universe in which they live.

Art can, no doubt, give some satisfaction even to our animal nature; it gives very keen satisfaction to our every-day human nature; but its true function, I submit, is to awaken in us the tentative first stirrings of a nature which is, in a special sense, 'super-human '.

This is the really important office of all art. To create a work of art, or to appreciate it, is not merely to satisfy certain obscure needs that we possessed all along, but actually to learn new and more developed ways of experiencing, by which we may discover and appreciate ever more subtle characteristics of the universe. Simply by practice in observing works of art, and still more by practice in creating them, we learn to perceive delicacies of form and meaning which otherwise we should have missed. And so we produce in ourselves needs for this more subtle perceiving. Not only so, but by the same practice we may acquire new powers of appreciating all sorts of things besides perceptible shape. By becoming sensitive to the significance of art, we learn to detect and savour many subtle characteristics of human nature and of the world, to which we should otherwise have remained insensitive. Little by little, perhaps, we change our ideas as to what a human being should do with himself, and what kind of a world is desirable.

Here I may mention fittingly an extremely important characteristic of all art, and one which is sometimes thought to be the essence of the whole matter. One of the ways in which the artist (in any medium) discovers and imparts finer modes of perceiving and feeling is through his 'style', or manner of execution. I have already said that he does not seek merely to reproduce natural objects; he selects what is relevant to his artistic aim. We must note also that he adds, by means of his style, features which do not belong to the forms of objects in nature.

Working in some particular medium, such as paint, ink, stone, wood, or musical sound, he adds to his representations characters which belong to the medium itself and to his way of dealing with it, such as the marks of a brush, the fluent strokes of a pen, the firm strokes of a chisel. Not only so, but in his particular use of these instruments the spirit or style of his unique personality manages to express itself. We may say that he translates nature into the language of art, and into the unique idiom of that language which is determined by his unique personality, Whatever he conveys is expressed in his own hand-writing, so to speak. Thus not only does the picture, (or the statue, or music, or poem) display a technique which is intensely satisfying to the sheer constructive interest of the experienced observer, but also it refines and deepens his perception, and indeed his whole experience of life, though in a manner which would be extremely difficult, or perhaps impossible, to define in terms of contemporary psychology. For the artist's technical style is the outcome of, and the significant symbol of, his most developed mental activities, or of his best 'mental style', so to speak. Thus the work of art, by means of the style or idiom in which it is executed, may to some extent impose upon a discerning observer the mentality and spirituality of the artist.



All this that is true of the plastic arts is true also of music and poetry and all imaginative writing. A piece of music is a pattern of sounds, which, besides being exquisitely fitted together to make something which the ear can grasp as a single variegated thing, gives us also a pattern of the fragrances of many past experiences, so that when we hear it we may be deeply stirred, though knowing not why. Indeed, it goes deeper than our past experience. Even new-born infants, that have had almost no experience at all, are emotionally affected by sounds. They are I frightened by sudden loud noises, soothed by cooings, amused by chucklings. Music makes use of all this, and of much more in our nature. It uses our inborn ways of feeling about sounds, as well as all the significance that' particular sounds have gained through past experience. It uses primeval sound-patterns of terror, anger, gentleness, merriment, love, sorrow, joy; many of which must have had much the same power over our apelike ancestors.

But it also does more than play upon the strings of the inborn emotional instrument in us. It echoes our own past experience of the world. It does not, of course, simply imitate noises that we have heard. It does not, if it is real music, give us sheer copies of the braying of donkeys and the twittering of birds. But it gives us hints, echoes, almost unrecognizable suggestions, and completely unrecognizable transformations, of past sound patterns, such as the voices of winds, thunder, rain, sea-breakers, rivulets. It translates the crude sounds of the world into the language, the technique, the convention, of music; just as painting translates the coloured shapes of the world into the language of pictorial art.

One of the main sources of its power over us lies in its transformed echoing of the human voice. Here, no doubt, it uses our inborn, primeval responses to voice tones. It uses primitive intonations of fear, anger, sexual hunger, and so on. But also it deals in the innumerable acquired intonations and inflexions of actual speech, though all transformed into music. Sometimes, namely in song, it makes use of actual words and their significance; but more often it is wordless, though rich in the transformed echoes of voices.

But all this subtle echoing which it achieves is done not merely so as to recapture past experience. It seeks to make something new for our surprised delight; something which, for its full appreciation, demands our keenest attention, something which will waken us into new and vivid mental activities, and present to us some quality of beauty which was formerly hidden from us.

Poetry, like music, is a pattern of sounds, and has to some extent the same kind of inarticulate power as pure music. But words are sounds which also direct our attention to things other than themselves. In fact they make us think of things; and the meanings of the words are used as well as their sheer musical power. Each word has meaning, and also each phrase and each sentence has meaning; and the whole poem has meaning. And all these meanings have their own emotional powers over us.

Poetry and all imaginative writing have therefore a scope and a kind of power which other arts have only to a much less extent. They have also perhaps a weakness. They cannot appeal quite so compellingly to the senses as do music, painting, sculpture. But on the other hand they can describe imaginatively every kind of experience, every experienced feature of the world. And so they can stir us very deeply and delicately, painting for the mind's eye pictures more ample than actual pictures, and sounding the mind's ear music more articulate than actual music.

Some hold that the making of works of pure art is the most fulfilling of all human activities, and that it is the expression of our nature in its most awakened, most alive, most spiritual mode. Some hold, further, that in the finest art we come into closest touch with the most fundamental characteristics of the universe, that in some way art gives us the most important kind of truth about the nature of the universe. This seems preposterous only if we are determined to reject all ideas which cannot be substantiated by contemporary science. But since contemporary science, in spite of its triumphs, is far from omniscient, and has sometimes a deadening effect on the mind, we should be careful not to be too much impressed by it in the sphere of art. Whatever the truth of the matter, all those who have any genuine artistic experience will agree that art is at any rate one of the most vitalizing activities, and that it has a 'spiritual' aspect, in the sense defined in an earlier chapter.

There are two reasons for believing this. In the first place, artistic activity is actually experienced as giving a very deep fulfilment. In the second place, regarded objectively or scientifically, artistic activity can be shown to involve extremely complicated and subtle powers. Further, not only is it on both counts a highly developed activity, but also, even if it has no mystical bearing on the fundamental nature of the universe, art does bring us face to face with certain very subtle and significant features of it, for instance in the spheres of sense-perception and of human personality. Moreover, since it constantly brings together things that most of us would not be able to connect, and constantly fuses even opposed and jarring things into a unity, art may at least be thought of as symbolizing a hidden unity which, it may be, lies behind the apparent disorder of the experienced world.

This leads to yet another aspect of art, and one the importance of which goes far beyond the field of art itself. It is characteristic of all art, but is most clearly seen in literature, especially in the novel and the drama. For true aesthetic appreciation the mind must not only enter with full sympathy into the human strivings which are expressed in the work of art, but also must at the same time remain a completely detached observer. Some art critics put it that there is a correct 'distance' from which to regard the work of art, neither too 'near' nor too 'far '. This metaphor is misleading. Rather we have to be in two places at once. We have to enter deeply into every passion and every experience which is expressed, and yet we must also remain outside and aloof. We must vividly 'live through' the strivings of the individuals in the drama, and yet look down on them from a celestial height. We must desire the issue of the play or the novel to be determined not by human sympathy but by the exigences of art itself, even if these involve a tragic end.

The pure aesthetic delight in the form of the drama is much the same attitude as the abstract artist's delight in perceived form. And, like this, it may, I should say with more plausibility than truth, be theoretically accounted for entirely in terms of primitive unconscious cravings. Perhaps, for instance, the scientific analysis of the delight in aesthetic tragedy would trace this ecstasy to repressed sadism and masochism. There may, indeed, be truth in this; but it cannot be accepted as the whole truth, since detachment is required no less in art which is not tragic than in the tragic itself. Indeed, this unity of sympath1 and exalted detachment appears to be the essence of the aesthetic experience. It is at bottom the distinctively human and spiritual delight in the form of things for its own sake, not merely for utility in relation to ordinary human purposes. Springing, no doubt, in part from animal curiosity, this objectivity of interest develops into the world of aesthetic experience on the one hand, and into the world of scientific and philosophical experience on the other.

At a later stage I shall have much more to say on this subject of detachment. I shall submit that it is essential to the truly spiritual attitude toward life as a whole and toward every factor in it. Art, then, performs a very great office in schooling us to this attitude.



Few of us have art as their main occupation in life. Very few have great artistic ability. But all have some power of making things beautifully and appreciating beautiful things. And all of us might have opportunity of using these powers. It is a mistake to suppose that art is only what is to be found in picture galleries and concert halls. Almost everything that we do may be done either in a beautiful way or in an ugly way. In our daily life, in our clothes and furniture and all our household goods, in our buildings and cars and ships, in our speech and gestures and the way we carry ourselves, there is an immense possibility of right making and wrong making, of 'telling' or significant appearance.

Moreover, it should be possible for every normal person to learn some genuine appreciation of works of pure art. And if all of us were really sensitive in this way, such experience would playa great part in controlling our lives, and making us conduct ourselves in a more seemly, a better, a more vital and awakened, style. And then the world would be a very different thing from this actual world.

Some hold that this kind of added excellence in life, the experience of beauty, is of little account in a world that is in serious disorder. Artists, they say, are merely fiddling while Rome burns. It may well be that there are crises in the career of mankind, when the most serious attention should be spent entirely on the task of remaking society. But if it is true that the supreme aim of mankind is to perceive and understand and appreciate its world and itself more truly, and to make human society more vital, then we cannot ever afford to neglect the aesthetic activity, since this is as a matter of fact one of the most vitalizing and mentally awakening of our activities, and one of the most powerful means of turning the world of to-day into a more human world.

I would summarize my whole account of art as follows. Art fulfils many functions. The diverse schools within the various arts are prone, each of them, to single out some one particular function to the exclusion of all the others. The aesthetic experience has very complex sources. In its richest form it embraces in a single spiritual experience all the many functions of art. These functions may be enumerated thus.

The artist apprehends perceptual form by means of simple but compendious symbols, visual, tactual, auditory, and so on. By the same means, and by the transmuted representations of natural objects, he affords expression to a vast tissue of obscure, and in some cases repressed, capacities of the mind. These capacities are roughly of three orders, the primitive, the normal human, and the spiritual, or those upon the upper limit of human development. The most important office of art is to elicit and express these highly developed or spiritual modes of apprehending the universe. Unfortunately it is not yet possible to describe these adequately in scientific terms. Consequently they tend to be either sentimentalized or denied. In fulfilling these various functions the artist finds intense satisfaction for his constructive impulse. His individual style or idiom is perhaps his chief means of conveying the spiritual significance of his work. Largely by means of his style, or by stylizing, he is able to impose a unity on many diverse and even conflicting elements. It is essential to the work of art that it should be a unified whole. Even if, regarded upon the normal human plane, it appears as confused and contradictory, yet this confusion must be purposeful. The artist must be seeking by means of this confusion to convey a single spiritual significance. Finally, the importance of art from the point of view of social advancement lies in the fact that it is one of the chief instruments for achieving that development of human sensibility and will which should be the goal of world-planning.

Let us close this chapter by considering the actual achievement of the great company of artists throughout the ages.

In every period there have been some individuals peculiarly gifted with the capacity for subtle perception and imaginative construction. Such persons have, of course, gained much from the culture into which they have been born, but they have also ventured, arduously and delightedly, into novel experiences of their own, into apprehensions of new aspects of the tangible, the visible, the audible, new aspects of the mind's own life, with its whimsies and passions, new aspects also of the clash and harmony of minds, and of the whole experienced world. At all times these individuals have been, as it were, the herd's creative eyes and ears and hands, and often also the herd's most clearly self-conscious and other-conscious members. They have felt themselves to be different, alien, lonely. They have been treated now as seers, now as fools, now as mere craftsmen, now as demigods. They have never in any age known at all clearly what it was that they were doing. They explained themselves unconvincingly in terms of contemporary thought. But in their actual works they clarified and crowned, or surpassed, the culture of their time.

Always these men were torn between two opposed impulses. The first was the passion to single out from all irrelevances, and to praise fittingly, the essential form of things, and of man's life, and of the world. The second was the craving to escape the harsh compulsion of facts by solacing themselves with dreams, with comforting, voluptuous, elegant fantasies; or by propitiating the gods with images and symbols, finely wrought and deeply significant. In all ages they have expressed both these impulses, often inextricably in the same work.

In art, in the essential aesthetic percipience, there has been no evolution; for in human capacity itself, within the little time since art began, there has been no evolution. The painters of the Stone Age were as true artists as Giotto or Cézanne. But their cultural background was simpler, and their technique less potent. The history of art reveals no progress, but a fugue of variations on one theme, namely the aesthetic aspect of existence. At the height of each culture, new and exquisite forms are created, works which the true artist of any age, if he is not blinded by the preconceptions of his own culture, should be able to salute as true art, and fittingly prize.

Though within the little span of history there is no evolution in the essential capacity of art, but only fluctuations and reorientations, there is, or might be, a progressive enrichment of the culture within which artists live, and from which they draw their inspiration. Thus there might be, there should be, a progressive enrichment of art itself.

Our own age is perhaps one of aesthetic reawakening. In all arts sincere experiments are being made. Some, it may be, are explorations of blind allies; some seem to be opening up new and far-reaching vistas. This aesthetic reawakening is possibly connected with the increasing tension of our life, and its increasing challenge to the awakening spirit. In this respect ours is not different from any other age of aesthetic recovery. But in one respect we do seem to have an advantage over all other ages, namely that we have access to the art of all other ages, and are, at our best, so far schooled in detachment as to be ready to appreciate and learn from the achievements of other ages. Thus we have the opportunity of enriching our own art with suggestions from all the past modes of art. Also, it may be hoped that we are becoming more conscious and discriminate in our conception of the nature of art, and of its office for the awakening spirit.

Chapter 7

Chapter 5

Waking World Contents