4/26/14

"One great fallacy of the mystics"

"BUT HE IS ENSLAVED by the one great fallacy of the mystics, that mysticism, religion and poetry have to do with the abstract. Thinkers of Mr. Waite’s school have a tendency to believe that the concrete is the symbol of the abstract. The truth, the truth at the root of all true mysticism, is quite the other way. The abstract is the symbol of the concrete. This may possibly seem at first sight a paradox; but it is a purely transcendental truth. We see a green tree; it is the green tree which we cannot understand; it is the green tree which we fear; it is the green tree which we worship. Then because there are so many green trees, so many men, so many elephants, so many butterflies, so many daisies, so many animalculae, we coin a general term 'Life.' And then the mystic comes and says that a green tree symbolises Life. It is not so. Life symbolises a green tree. Just in so far as we get into the abstract, we get away from the reality, we get away from the mystery, we get away from the tree. And this is the reason that so many transcendental discourses are merely blank and tedious to us, because they have to do with Truth and Beauty, and the Destiny of the Soul, and all the great, faint, faded symbols of the reality. And this is why all poetry is so interesting to us, because it has to do with skies, with woods, with battles, with temples, with women and with wine, with the ultimate miracles which no philosopher could create. The difference between the concrete and the abstract is the difference between the country and the town. God made the concrete, but man made the abstract. A truthful man is a miracle, but the truth is a commonplace."

~G.K. Chesterton: The Speaker, May 31, 1902.

h/t: Mike Miles



GKC Speaks: Articles from the Speaker
a collection of 24 early essays by GKC
made available by Mike Miles at Amazon

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