Sunday 25 December 2011

The year's work in Inkling's/ Notion Club studies


2011 was certainly a 'breakthrough' year for me in relation to the project of this blog - meditating on the Notion Club Papers as a focus for engaging with the Inklings and their distinctive teaching for my time and place.

And it is fitting that I should finish this year by re-reading Verlyn Flieger's valedictory book Interrupted Music of 2005.

Anyone who finds this blog interesting really must read Flieger's book - it is an outstanding piece of work, and in many respects this blog is merely an extrapolation of her insights.


(Although mine are, mostly, extrapolations that VF would regard as inappropriate; or at the least excessively speculative. Indeed she has implied as much in some e-mails! Furthermore, Flieger often distances herself from Tolkien's reactionary perspective; whereas I regard this as one of the most important things which Tolkien has to teach us. I have come to regard JRRT as not 'merely' my favourite writer of fiction, which he already was for more than thirty years; but as something akin to a Holy Elder - a 'spiritual adviser'.)


Saturday 24 December 2011

Living in myth


In their early years, the Numenoreans lived in myth - they were fallen men, and they did not live in paradise exactly - although it was close; but they lived in myth in that they had a personal relationship with the world and (most of the time) they lived in meaning.

They had a broad angle, inclusive, deep perspective on life - later they focused-in so as to achieve power over the world, developed blinkers, ignored much of their perceptual field.

Life then felt unreal, their world was dead and subject to their will, they felt alienated, sought satisfaction in mastery, conquest, and pleasure...


I sense something similar for Byzantium at its best - that people lived inside the Christian myth.

Their lives were experienced within the Christian myth (and not merely interpreted in terms of the Christian myth).

Again, this is not perfection nor paradise; because men are fallen, and life is suffering (substantially) - but this wretchedness was experienced (I believe) as within the Christian mythic frame.


This can be seen most clearly in the lives of the Orthodox Saints. It is not that they lived lives of perfect worldly happiness, but that everything which happens to them is felt as being within providence; the worldly is perceived within the Heavenly frame.


For this to happen, the myth must be true.

And what must be true is that the world is alive, intelligent, relevant to and concerned with 'me' and has a direction.

When the Numenoreans ceased to believe in the true myth of their origins and condition, they became 'modern', they fell again and were destroyed.

When moderns lost their belief in the wholeness of undivided Christianity then in all forms of Christianity and paganism too (a gradual and still incomplete process) - they lost their ability to live within myth: at most they could pretend to live in myth or according to myth (intellectually-appreciated) - they did not experience life as myth.

Pretending doesn't work.


And in terms of living within myth (not with reference to salvation) partial, legalistic, dry, procedural, anti-animistic and anti-pagan forms of Christianity do not work.

Yet it is possible to live within the Christian myth, if that is aimed for, and at least for some of the time, and to aspire and work towards the ideal of continuous dwelling in myth - but the myth must be known as true; and it must be the old Christianity of Saints and Angels, Miracles and Spiritual Warfare - if not precisely Eastern Orthodox in terms of denomination, then certainly in that spirit.

Such a life will not be paradise while on earth; but it may be real.


Sunday 11 December 2011

Charles Williams' Companions of the Co-inherence - can anybody understand?


In 1939 Charles Williams founded an Order called The Companions of the Co-inherence - I believe it is still going in some form.

The Order was based on a set of seven 'sentences' with (supposedly) illustrative or explanatory Biblical quotations.

I have read these sentences innumerable times, and still find them completely baffling.

I would be grateful to anyone who could convincingly explain them to me:


1. The Order has no constitution except its members.

As it was said: Others he saved, himself he cannot save.

2. It recommends nevertheless that its members shall make a formal act of union with it and of recognition of their own nature.

As it was said: Am I my brothers keeper?

3. Its concern is the practice of the apprehension of the Co-inherence both as a natural and a supernatural principle.

As it was said: Let us make man in our image.

4. It is therefore, per necessitatem, Christian.

As it was said: And who ever says that there was when this was not, let him be anathema.

5.. It recommends therefor the study, on the contemplative side, of the Co-inherence of the Holy and Blessed Trinity, of the Two natures in the single person, of the Mother and Son, of the communicated Eucharist, and of the whole catholic Church.

As it was said: figlia et tuo figlio.

And on the the active side, of methods of exchange, in the Sate, in all forms of love, and in all natural things, such as child-birth.

As it was sais: Bear ye one another's burdens.

6. It concludes in the Divine Substitution of Messias* all forms of exchange and substitution, and it invokes this Act as the root of all.

As it was said: He must become, as it were, a double man.

7. The Order will associate itself primarily with four feasts: the Feast of the Annunciation, the Feast of the Blessed Trinity, the Feast of the Transfiguration, and the Commemoration of All Souls.

As it was said: Another will be in me and I in him.


Friday 2 December 2011

Pauline Baynes - my most-loved illustrator?


Perhaps Pauling Baynes is the only illustrator whose work I love - and even then only some of the Tolkien and Lewis work.

Why should this be? Partly, no doubt, the connection with favourite authors, and partly the fact that I came across the work in my early teens when I was more open and unformed. But plenty of other things from that era have fallen away, and while I like many other Tolkien (or Lewis) illustrators, none move me in the same way.


Baynes illustrated Tolkien's Farmer Giles of Ham, then Lewis's Narnia chronicles (somewhat hit and miss, but with some definite hits), then - my favorite - Tolkien's Adventures of Tom Bombadil (poems), Smith of Wooton Major; and various maps and posters including those of Middle Earth and the Hobbit journeys, and the cover of the single volume 1970s paperback Lord of the Rings - all of which I used to examine with a magnifying glass to appreciate every last detail!


All these are done in a developed pastiche of the Luttrell Psalter - a medieval book of the Psalms with copious marginal illustrations (and perhaps the most enjoyable of all ancient English manuscripts).


My favourite illustrations are those which contain figures and landscape, especially figures in 'movement' - which (like the Luttrell Psalter) is a frozen and stylised kind of movement - beautifully balanced as a formal composition.

I am quite simply transported by some of these illustrations.


From what I have read of Baynes, she did not really understand either Tolkien or Lewis, nor did she sympathise with their outlooks (although clearly a nice and likable person, she was a very mainstream arts and crafts type Leftist in lifestyle and beliefs) - and yet by the magic of true inspiration she was able to create these masterworks, which not only illustrate but amplify and frame some of Tolkien and Lewis's major features.

This is, of course, quite normal for true creativity, it is inspired, it comes from without not from within.

Baynes supplied the drawing technique, the design - but the genius was supplied her, probably via the spirit of Tolkien and Lewis - and more reliably and frequently in the case of Tolkien than Lewis.