20 April, 2007


God would never have created a man, let alone an angel, in the foreknowledge of his future evil state, if he had not known at the same time how he would put such creatures to good use, and thus enrich the course of the world history by the kind of antithesis which gives beauty to a poem. — City of God, 11.18.
Read that again: for it is one of the most sublime sentiments ever expressed. Beauty in all its forms comes from antithesis, from chiaroscuro—or as I might have had it (following Hogarth), from Variety. That which seems dark and noxious—'destructive', or even 'petty'—must have its place in the whole; perhaps its function will be to cast the light into greater relief. Then again, perhaps the reverse is true. In Arizona, the brightness of day is blinding; on the bare concrete it is merely hot, not warm. We have, on the other hand, the most golden and bracing sunfalls.


In 1894, Berenson concluded his essay on Venetian painting, 'We, too, are possessed of boundless curiosity. We, too, have an almost intoxicating sense of human capacity. We, too, believe in a great future for humanity, and nothing has yet happened to check our delight in discovery or our faith in life. . .' In a 1930 edition of this essay, the author added a footnote: '(N. B. Written in 1894!)'. How different Europe seemed now. . . In hindsight we can be so foolish.


paul said...

Is the ultimate theodicy simply a matter of aesthetics? God's answer to Job, then, must be: "Because without your suffering there would be no story."

I smell a heresy. I can't quite recall which sect believed that we should sin deliberately, in order to give God more opportunities to forgive us. Here's a variant: we need to sin, to bring darkness into the lives of others so that they might better appreciate the perfect goodnes and divine plan of the Almighty.

Robert said...

This angel lark? I can accept that God may have made man, but an angel? mmmmm I will accept "angelic" as an adjective or (ly) adverb because it means something slightly different.

Curiosity, human capacity, faith in life, hindsight, and oh yes Hogarth!

Our sunsets are red not golden here, more to do with science than Art. We are blinded by much more that the brightness of the day, that we could rectify.

Conrad H. Roth said...

I think theodicy, like every part of theology, must be ultimately a matter of aesthetics. Why else sublime neoplatonic microcosmism?

Young Hal, in Henry IV Part I, says something like what you suggest: he has been so truant that when he bucks up his father will be even more impressed. And why else the Prodigal Son?

Robert: orthodox Catholicism has it that God made the angels in the creation of Light. Oh yes, Hogarth!

Robert said...

Quite right Conrad but The Church made up a lot of things for a variety of reasons.

I am a bit "picky" when it comes to what the Bible says and what the Church teaches.