AS the strange madness we call the Renaissance prevailed increasingly over Europe, blotting out the last faint flickerings of that artistic fire that had been a lamp to the feet of innumerable generations, and substituting therefor the pale ignis-fatuus of conscious and scholastic artifice, synchronously grew an original and hitherto unheard-of theory of the nature and function of the fine arts, carrying with it the novel and alien idea of concrete, specific, pre-meditated “art education.” A new thing, in-deed, as though one should establish schools of gastronomy, lectureships on the art of sleep, academies of inhalation and exhalation. Novel, yes; but imperative both then and now, owing necessity, however, not to a more liberal and enlightened conception’ of art in itself, but rather to the ominous and most unwholesome revolution that, in the tempest of change, had hurled from their enduring pedestals the proven laws of life, substituting in their place the brazen images of a dumb idolatry; robbing man of his divine birthright in beauty, the heritage of ages unnumbered, the indelible mark and token of God in His world.
When the great epoch of paganism crumbled and sunk into dust and ashes, tried and found wanting by the touchstone of divine revelation, St. Benedict was raised up for the founding of a new institution, based on the stern rejection of the dearest privileges of man, but, because of this very rejection and denial, competent to meet in the highest degree the desperate needs of a racked and shattered era. But for the monks in their hidden monasteries, the very seed of civilization would have perished from the earth; and so we may say with equal truth that, however false the new view of art, how-ever unwholesome the new idea of premeditated art education, but for these same schools of art, from the days of the Medici until now, the world would have lost that which was even of greater value than the Greek and Roman manu-scripts and the dim traditions of perished glory, that lay for centuries in monkish cloisters and in monkish hearts.
But the pious conserving of shards and shreds is not all, and with the mediæval monks in their first estate, we have sometimes been content with such conservation, forgetting that some-thing lies behind, and that, the inner meaning of the stores in our treasure-house; their function, their message, their significance.
Nothing else, indeed, would have been possible, for with the Renaissance came into the world a new theory of art: and this was that, instead of being what it is, the touchstone of civilization, it was simply an amenity of life, a conscious product, and a marketable commodity. This novel idea has persisted until today, and the result is that the real nature of art has remained forgotten, and in spite of the protests of the artist and of the teacher, we have persisted in regarding our art schools much as we do our “commercial colleges” and our schools of applied science; that is, as agencies of specialization maintained for the benefit of those who, by their mental temper, are biased in favour of architecture or painting or the industrial arts, on the one hand, or of bookkeeping, stenography, mechanical engineering, on the other. This is to miss the entire significance of art and to relegate it to a position where it is meaningless, impotent, dead. We study Greek and Latin, history, literature, philosophy, mathematics, not, primarily, that we may become specialists in the use of one or the other, at a given rate of pecuniary compensation, but that we may become cultivated men, and this should be our attitude toward the fine arts ; for the day is not far distant when the school of art will be, not an accessory or an adjunct to a university, as is the school of mines or the dental school, but as absolutely and intimately a part of its prescribed curriculum as the ancient languages or philosophy or letters.
Art is, I repeat, neither an industry nor a product; it is a mystery, a manifestation, and a result. Through it alone we come face to face with the spiritual output of the racial soul, through it is revealed all that endures in civilization. I claim for it, therefore, a coordinate position with all other branches of learning, as indispensable in a complete curriculum, since it is at the same time inerrant as a record of achievement, inspiring toward effective action to a degree unmatched in other categories, and finally, a great language for the voicing of the greatest things, a language for which there is no substitute, and he who is not learned therein, either in its active or its passive aspect, is to that extent ignorant, unlearned, uncultured.
Art is the revelation of the human soul, not a by-product of industrialism.
During the great period of Christian civilization, this truth was held universally; not consciously, of course, nor as the outcome of a scientific demonstration; the Christian centuries worked after another method. To the sane men of mediævalism there were two categories of phenomena: axioms and mysteries; and the frontiers of the two domains were fixed and final. Very fortunately for the future, the mysteries were themselves held to be axiomatic, and so long as this was true a just balance existed in life. It was not until the daimon of a haunting paganism rose from the tomb of a dead past, bringing the bright fruit of the tree of knowledge in its hands, and on its lips the words the serpent had said before, “Eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil,” it was not until then, the fruit eaten, that man swelled in pride and said, “Behold, there is no mystery,” and the victory of the Renaissance was accomplished.
As the nineteenth century takes its place in history, we obtain a certain effect of perspective and we see how wholly it was meshed in that web of futility and error, “There is no mystery.” Truly, to us of the new century it begins to seem that nothing else rightly exists. At all events, we realize that the things of worth and moment are the mysteries ; the things of indifference the demonstrable facts. So medievalism held art; a thing universal and inevitable; inseparable from life and bound up in the being of every man ; but a thing so potent, so sovereign, and in its effects so disproportioned to its palpable means, that it became one with all the other inexplicable potencies a mystery.
Now, it is a curious fact that when we come to understand a thing finally and explicitly, we are unable to use it to our spiritual advantage, or to the ultimate welfare of the race. Here lies the most serious stigma upon the last century, which was so given over to the inordinate manufacturing of the most exquisite and technically faultless theories, devices, and machines for the production of quite useless institutions and commodities. The phenomenon we accept but cannot comprehend; the looming wonder that compels us but eludes hand and brain forever; this is the momentous thing, the driving impulse of all that splendid spiritual and intellectual activity that, through its immortal products, endures eternally as the ever-growing heritage of man. Where knowledge ceases, mystery begins, and the better part of man never emerges from those cloud confines where amid the lightning and the tempest God is seen face to face; that magical castle of cloud and mist across whose dim portals the rainbow writes, “Knowledge abandon, ye who enter here.”
This revelation of the eternal, impassable limitation of human knowledge, combined with that other which is its perfect compensation, the doctrine that all things are sacramental, possessing an “inward and spiritual grace” that is apprehended through the “outward and visible sign,” was and is the essential element in Christianity which made it victor over the paganism that believed all things were possible to the human mind. So mediævalism held, and holding brought into being St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Francis, Dante and Giotto and Fra Angelico; the cathedral builders of France and the abbey builders of England. For the two essential truths in the world are religion and art, and these two are mysteries ; rationalize them and they cease, for their motive power is gone. Of this rationalizing, of this Pandora’s quest for the facts in the case, there was nothing, and, therefore, misled in no degree as to the sup-posed existence of a science either of religion or of art, mediævalism raised both to the highest point yet attained by man.
With the outbreak of the Renaissance came the catastrophe, for behind the recrudescent pagan forms, behind the cry of humanism and emancipation, lay the old pagan theory that to human reason all things are possible. Mystery was abolished by edict, and the “light of pure reason” took its place, though three centuries and more were necessary wholly to effect the substitution. Little by little the Renaissance modulated into the Reformation, and this in its turn merged in the Revolution. Each of these several aspects of one primary impulse played its own necessary part in the great breaking-up of the just and well-balanced order Christianity had brought into being. The Renaissance of Borgia and Medici destroyed the whole system of natural morality and made for the moment the Church herself a stench to the nostrils and a scandal. The Protestantism of Luther and Calvin, frantic against the flagrant immorality raging like a pestilence around the very throne of St. Peter, turned, the ethical regeneration inaugurated, into a propaganda for the substitution, in place of the wonder and the mysticism of the Catholic Faith, of hard, mechanical, logical, and literal dogmas; easily framed in words, clearly demonstrable to the most cloudy mental faculties. Finally, the Revolution came to deny everything: Catholic, Renaissance, Protestant alike; law and order, obedience, honour, even the palpable decencies of life; one thing only it did not deny, the basic principle of the Renaissance, “There is no mystery.” Then the Revolution passed like a paralyzing nightmare, leaving the field swept clear of all that Christianity had brought into existence, and since then we have been permitted year by year to watch the unshackled, untrammelled mind struggling to build a new heaven and a new earth over the ruins of the old.
Now the reaction comes, and the gray dawn that glimmered fitfully through the storm wrack of the nineteenth century brightens to another day. The light falls on every domain of life, shining through the still buffeting storm; on industry, economics, philosophy, ethics, politics, education, letters, religion ; but nowhere does it lie with a kindlier radiance than on the great domain of art. It is not alone that once more man clamours for beauty and its ministry, and men rise up to answer the demand in kind : beyond this lies the fact that the old dogmas no longer hold; and the question goes forth, “What is art, what does it signify, what are the laws of its causation ?” Everywhere men are searching the answer, poring over the art records of the past that the great cataclysm has left us, comparing them with the times that brought them forth, testing these times again by the spirit that led them, building up by slow degrees a new biology that is in very fact the science of civilization.
In the process strange things are revealed; no longer bound by inherited prejudice, and not wholly in bondage now to the intellectual superstitions of the period of modern enlightenment, while acquiring a measure of Christian humility in the matter of the omnipotence of mentality, we go back to the original records, draw our own independent inferences, and, comparing these with long accepted authorities, discover that the deductions and conclusions that served for past generations satisfy us no longer. Are we right in thinking it all a system of specious special pleading, this mass of august testimony to the essential barbarism of Christian civilization and to the essential glory of the threefold epoch that took its place? To such a new conclusion we tend beyond a doubt; and while we still admit the great necessity of many post-medieval principles and motives, we are coming to believe that these developed through the Renaissance, the Reformation, and the Revolution, not by reason of them; while each has left us, on the other hand, a heritage of evil to the extinction of which the present century is consecrated.
It would be a facile task and fascinating to examine, one by one, the several categories of contemporary spiritual, mental, and physical activity, pointing out in each how the evil aspects, that force themselves on us with such insistency today, hark back inevitably to one or the other of the three allied dominations that controlled the destinies of the world from the exile of the Popes at Avignon to the battle of Waterloo. It is sufficient for the moment for us to deal only with the question of the fine arts, since my object in speaking to you is to draw your attention to certain aspects of the question of the place the study of the philosophy and history of art should have in the scheme of liberal education.
Before all else, however, we must disabuse our minds of that idea of the nature of art which has maintained itself so firmly during the last four centuries. Art is not a possibly desirable amenity of life, to be acquired as a gloss to a commercial and industrial supremacy; neither is it a series of highly specialized professions. Art is a result, not a product; and it is also a language. Given a certain degree of individual or racial or national civilization and the inevitable reaction is art in the abstract. The demand for expression is instant and, under the same civilized conditions, the manifestation is immediate and instinctive, and this is art in the concrete. Art is, therefore, a language, but it deals with emotions, concepts, and impulses that cannot be expressed through any other medium known to man, because these emotions, concepts, and impulses are the highest, and therefore the most mysterious and tenuous, of which the soul has cognition. “There is a physical body and a spiritual body”; and so also there is a physical mind and a spiritual mind. The former deals with all that lies between the cradle and the grave, the latter with the treasured consciousness of the innumerable aeons of life that preceded this little hour of earthly habitation, and with the innumerable aeons that shall succeed. Natural science is the concrete manifestation of the first, religion of the second, and art in all its forms is the perfect manifestation of this spiritual mind, as the written and spoken language is the voicing of the physical mind until, indeed, it takes upon itself symbolical quality, when it becomes one with the fine arts and consecrated to other service.
Art, then, is language and its mode is symbol-ism, and the thing that lies behind is the essential man in his highest estate.
As we became more and more ignorant of the very meaning of the word, we, as children of the Renaissance, slowly and arduously evolved the nineteenth-century theory of art which, even more than the Renaissance and the Reformation, was instrumental in stamping out the last smouldering embers of the thing itself. Where once art had been as natural and inevitable an attribute of man as religion or love or war or children, it now found itself an exotic, an appanage of the elect few, a thing too tenuous and aloof for common humanity. Such a theory as this means simply the extinction of art, which cannot live in the thin air of Brahminical exclusiveness; it is the exact, the instant, and the complete language of man in his spiritual experiences ; and while to only one in a thou-sand is it given now, or ever was given, to become a creative artist, behind such a one lies the clamouring world of men, and it is this that manifests itself through his art, not his own solitary soul. If, like Phidias, Sophocles, Dante, Giotto, Shakespeare, Wagner, Browning, he is a true and faithful interpreter of the best, the race answers instantly, unless it has lost or stultified this sixth and highest sense, as has happened in history only in modern times. To bring back this marvellous gift of God to a hungry generation, to win again the old lamps foolishly bartered for new, the old lamps that, at a touch, brought genii and afrits and all the magical spirits of fire and air to the service of the summoner, this is the task before us. And the labour is not, as the amateurs and savants and literati of the Renaissance, or the æsthetes of the nineteenth-century decadence would have held, because it is a polite accomplishment and a facile means of class distinction, but because it is the immutable mark of civilization, the infallible touchstone of human achievement. Art means civilization, the lack of it barbarism, and year by year, in spite of splendid sporadic manifestations, this lack has become ever more and more marked since the middle of the fourteenth century, when the old lamps were sold for the new.
Now, it is quite clear that to endeavour to foster the passion for beauty and the instinct for art, by the deliberate and scientific methods that have held for some five centuries, is to continue our self-indulgence in the vain repetition of history. By taking thought we cannot add one cubit to our stature, devise a new religion (though of late some have thought otherwise), or recreate art. We can do many things, but none of these. Art is the result of certain conditions : bring these into being, and you cannot escape great art; eliminate them, and no power on earth can make art live. For five centuries we have been bending all our energies toward the extinction of these conditions, and the success that has followed has been very considerable. If we desire a vital art we must reverse our policy. Art cannot exist side by side with atheism, agnosticism, or infidelity; it is impossible in conjunction with our contemporary conception of what constitutes democracy: it dies before defiance of law and order and denial of the principle of subservience to authority; before the individualism of the nineteenth century and contemporary standards of caste; it is trampled to death in the economic and industrial Armageddon that surges over the stricken field of contemporary life. In a word, the evils of the Renaissance-Reformation-Revolution, which for the moment are somewhat more conspicuous in their activity than the virtues, are the negation of art-producing conditions.
We may put to one side the thought of a conscious propaganda for the restoration of art, devoting ourselves to the achievement of art-producing conditions, the solving of the religious, governmental, economic, industrial, and social problems that confront us, like the solid ranks of a conquering army. If we solve them aright, art follows as the guerdon of victory.
And here emerges from the mist of theory the new doctrine of the importance of the fine arts in every scheme of liberal education. I am not speaking now of the creative artist or of the manner of his education ; indeed, I am not sure that to him education is a necessity, or that by such methods can he be created. He will occur, however unfavourable the conditions or inclement and forbidding the time. The question before us is the place of the fine arts in general education, in their function as contributors to the making of a well-founded man. Now, in the process of development, we have reached a point where we no longer sound the tocsin, plant the standard of battle, build barricades in city streets, and go forth killing and, if it may be, to conquer. We have another way, we teach; substituting education for coercion, and until the event dethrones our theory, we shall believe the way a better one, and that by our schools and colleges and universities we shall build such character as will restore those just and wholesome conditions that will express themselves through that great pæan of joy and exultation and worship we call art.
There are certain schemes of education that tend inevitably to this end ; there are others that work as inevitably against it. Art-producing civilization is engendered by educational systems that are conceived on the lines of eternal truth, not on those of time-serving expediency. During the nineteenth century a new theory came into vogue, the theory, novel and without recognizable ancestry, that the object of education is the breeding of specialists, whether they be dental surgeons or bacteriologists, bankers, or veterinarians ; and that, to this end, everything not conspicuously contributory to intensified specialization should be eliminated; that the years given to education should be shortened, and again shortened, in order that a man might the sooner hurl himself into the struggle for life. From this point of view everything not obviously practical was discredited : Latin and Greek became matters of indifference when an electrician or a financier was in the making; the history of civilization, the development of organized religion, comparative literature, philosophy, were eliminated from the education of the architect and the engineer. That the result was a great body of men of unbalanced intellect and very flimsy culture is, I think, a statement that may be defended, and the present century, even in its extreme youth, gives evidence of a radical revolt from the once popular standards of its predecessor. A new principle has come, or rather an old principle has been restored; and we confront the definite dogma that specialization is almost wholly a matter for post-graduate education, while the object of the school and the college and the university is above all else the development of gentlemen of well-rounded personalities, who, grounded and fixed in all that pertains to general culture, rendered conversant with all the civilization of the past and its monuments, trained and disciplined in all that pertains to intellectual and spiritual experience, may be prepared for entering at a later time into that course of specialization which is imperative and inevitable.
Professor William James has of late shown very clearly the questionable results, in the domain of pure science, of a system of education too highly specialized and too contemptuous of other fields of mental and spiritual activity; and already a movement has begun amongst architects and engineers two of the most highly specialized of professions in favour of a scheme of training which shall extend over a far longer term of years and be devoted, for the major part of this period, to the assimilation of those elements of pure culture which apparently, and in the nineteenth-century view, have no direct bearing on the case, but tend only toward the goal of general cultivation.
The old system of electives, specialization, and short-term training has brought us to a debatable pass ; our civilization is menaced by strange and ominous tendencies and impulses; if we are to stem the tide of crescent barbarism, which in spite of our vast and penetrating educational organism has risen up against us, we must follow, not the nineteenth but the twentieth century in its educational tendencies. And so following, we shall find that it is not a question of conservation that confronts us, but of extension, of the acceptance of new or long-forgotten agencies toward the development of pure culture, and of these none quite stands on the level of the history and theory and philosophy of the fine arts. Abandoning forever the idea of the arts as a product, and accepting them as a manifestation, we shall soon realize that without a full familiarity with their history and of the philosophy of their being, liberal education is an impossibility. These things can no more be omitted from the education of the prospective merchant and financier and scientist than from that of the professional educator; for they are the basis of culture, and without culture we are barbarians, however much the balance of trade may be in our favour at the end of any given fiscal year.
And of all these great educational agencies I place at the head, art, in its history, its philosophy, its practice; for it is the summing-up of all that goes before : the true history of the true man; and its records are infinitely more reliable and significant than are those chronicles that concern themselves with the unimportant de-tails of the rise and fall of dynasties, the fabrication and annulment of laws, the doings and death of kings. The Middle Ages are inexplicable unless you read their revelation in Chartres and Amiens and Paris and Westminster and Wells, and in the shattered vestiges of monastic glory that cast their wistful glamour over the English counties while they blot a nation’s history with the enduring annals of a stupendous crime. The Renaissance is an impossible interlude of horror, dissociated from the splendid vesture the painters and sculptors and poets wrought out of the inheritance of medievalism to clothe its pagan nakedness. And why? Simply because through art alone has been expressed those qualities which reach above the earth-circle, those things which are the essential elements of the race and time.
For art is the voicing of the oversoul, the manifestation of the superman, and through art alone can we read of essential things. Monasticism, the crusades, feudalism, chivalry are to us matters aloof and incredible, but they brought into being an art that rises even higher than the art of Greece; and through study of this art we are able to see into the soul of the time-spirit that created it, and, so seeing, we are no longer able to call the great institutions of mediævalism barbarous and darkened, for their real nature is revealed, and we know them for what they were, foundation stones of civilization.
For many generations we have been taught to look on the Dark Ages, mediævalism, the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Revolution, from certain definite standpoints. We have been led to believe that with the climax of the Middle Ages, the great epoch associated with the names of Greece and Rome, which had slowly crumbled after Rome herself had received her deathblow at the hands of Northern barbarians, had, in its long-continued degeneration, reached at last its pit of final fall, whence it has been steadily emerging by virtue of the impulse imparted by the Renaissance, established by the Reformation, and guaranteed by the Revolution, until at last it has mounted to the dizzy height where now it stands poised for further flight. Now this theory, so simple, so cheerful and gratifying, is challenged; men are not wanting to declare the Middle Ages to be one of the starlike points of man’s achievement, the Renaissance but the first aspect of a great catastrophe that was to overwhelm Christian civilization in ruin. Now, even if this theory is extreme and but the natural revulsion of feeling sequent on the sudden discovery of a false path followed too long, it is still true that the present estimate of the Renaissance is quite as different from the old as is the new view of mediævalism. For this radical and most salutary change we are indebted in a great degree to the rediscovery of the fine arts that occurred in the last century, and to the resulting conviction that through them we might scrutinize the history of the times that employed them, to our own advantage and to the extreme benefit of our historical perspective. Already through our study of mediæval art we have come to learn something of what mediævalism really was, and now we are applying the same test to the Renaissance; though with a difference, for here we have forgiven Alexander VI and Leo X, Torquemada and Machiavelli, for the sake of Leonardo, Botticelli, Donatello, and Mino da Fiesole, whereas, when we come to study the philosophy of the art of the Renaissance, we find that the major part of it was, not the fruit of the “Revival of Learning,” but in simple fact the very flowering of mediævalism; acquiring little from the Renaissance beyond certain accidents of form, the soul remaining mediæval still. Shorn of the great names of the cinquecento, and with little left of artistic glory save the transitionals (Michelangelo, Raphael, Cellini), the Renaissance seems gaunt enough, for its true artistic expression appears in such doleful form as Guido, the Caracci, Salvator Rosa, and the so-called “architects” of Roman grandiosity. Here are two examples of the radical change in our view of comparative civilization that has been effected through the study and appreciation of art; and if a third is needed, witness Japan, where, through art appreciation, our eyes became opened to the existence of a great and wonderful civilization unparallelled, almost, in its intensity and its enduring nature.
But it is not only as the test of history, the measure of comparative civilization, that the study and appreciation of art in all its forms is of inestimable value. Above all this, it is the touchstone of life, the prover of standards, the director of choice. Accepted, assimilated, it becomes one of the great builders of character, linked indissolubly with religion and philosophy toward the final goal of right feeling, right thinking, and right conduct. The false principles of the sixteeeth century, the savage hatred of the seventeenth, the chaos and violence on the one hand and the empty formalism on the other, of the eighteenth, the materialism and the mental self-satisfaction of the nineteenth century, all worked together to crush out of humanity this greatest gift of God ; but the revulsion has come, the fruit of the tree of knowledge has been eaten and it is very bitter, and once more men rise up to proclaim the existence and the glory of the unsolvable mysteries, and to demand again their heritage in beauty and art.
For from the beginning of things beauty has been the last resort of man when he has risen above his earthly limitations and has laid hold on immortality. In Eastern philosophy we read of karma, that essential thing that persists through death and beyond dissolution, linking life to life in an endless sequence of change and evolution; and whether, with the East, we believe this golden chain to be woven of myriads of sequent lives that are yet one, or whether, with the West, we hold it to be but the persisting inheritance from equal myriads of ancestors, the thing itself we accept, and art, itself a sacra-ment, shows through the outward and visible sign, which is beauty, the inward and spiritual grace that is built up of sequent lives and combined experiences.
Beauty is a mystery, for it is a great symbol. Why, we do not know, but the fact is there. Out of the accumulated approximations to infinity that have marked ten thousand thousand forgotten lives, we have reared a Great Approximation, which may be called the Intimation of the Absolute, and beauty is the mode of its manifestation, art the concrete expression thereof. Regarded in this light and not as a group of specialized activities, we see at once how absolutely it becomes a part of a liberal education, perhaps even the highest part. In them-selves the facts of date and method and authorship are secondary and unimportant when we study the cathedrals of France, the abbeys of England, the sculpture of Greece and that of thirteenth-century Europe and of Fujiwara Japan, the Gregorian music of Italy and the nineteenth-century music of Germany, the painting of the Italian cinquecento, and of the Hangchou epoch in China and the Ashikaga period in Japan. These-are but the documents in the case, the data furnished us by generations unnumbered; and through them, by the processes of pure philosophy, we may lay hold of that which we cannot acquire through any other means whatever the spiritual experiences and the spiritual achievements of dead civilizations.
And this is history, its acquisition and assimilation, culture. Dynastic facts, material products, the historical kaleidoscope of changing laws and customs, ecclesiastical councils, fluctuant heresies and defiant counter-reformations, what are these but the dry bones religion and art make beautiful and alive? The art of a time is the touchstone of its efficiency and by that art shall it be judged. And more : through study of the philosophy of beauty and through a recognition of what art signifies of any race or time, we shall come to that revision of standards which is the inevitable precursor of a new epoch of civilization. Neither socialism nor public-school education, secularism nor ethical culture, free silver nor the strenuous life, can serve as antidote to the ills that confront us; but only that fundamental revision of standards that will show us the true inwardness of the trust and the labour union, the professional politician and the grafter, the money test of social distinctions, and contemporary news-paper journalism. By acceptance of the artistic tests, and by proficiency in that philosophy of art which makes the application of these tests possible, we are put in possession of a kind of universal solvent, a final common denominator, and before our eyes the baffling chaos of chronicles, records, and historic facts opens out into order and simplicity; for the facts in the case prove only what was done, the art testimony reveals what was thought and felt and imagined in other words, why the things were done.
And so we return to our original proposition : the statement that the Renaissance brought into being a theory of art categorically false and inevitably destructive of that which it strove to patronize. To do this, to foist this profound and far-reaching heresy on the world, it had first to destroy the sound and lucid view of art that had been inherited from paganism by Christianity and maintained intact until the fifteenth century. The time has come at last for a return to the ancient ideals, for the falsity of the substitute has proved itself; and to effect this end the first thing we have to do is to admit that beauty is one of the sacraments in a universe wholly and absolutely sacramental in its nature; the second is to realize that this same sacrament of beauty is the symbolical expression of the experiences and the achievements of the human soul; and the third is to reject the Renaissance idea that art is an affair of caste as already we have rejected the Protestant idea that it is a snare of the devil, recognizing it, as in truth it is, the evidence of true civilization and its only unerring record.
Then follows the new building-up ; the study and formulating of the philosophy of art as a result, a manifestation, and a language. And in the process greater things will follow than a revision of our historical estimates, than a new vision of the essential things in human life. We shall, I believe, change our attitude toward the great thousand years of Christian domination, toward the Renaissance and the several modifications thereof which we know beneath a different nomenclature. It is conceivable, also, that our estimate of the nineteenth century itself may be modified in certain particulars ; but, however desirable these changes may be, and to me it seems that their importance can hardly be estimated in words, there is yet another thing that will follow, of importance paramount and inestimable, and that is the great revision of standards, the reestablishing of that proper sense of proportion that alone can guarantee the continuation and the onward development of civilization itself.
It has been sometimes said, though without a deep sense of conviction, and certainly without enthusiastic response on the part of the general public, that whatever we have gained through our great eras of the dominion of industrialism and of natural science has been at the expense of a sense of proportion. To me this seems axiomatic, despite its unpopularity.
Scrutinize closely the standards that reveal themselves through contemporary journalism, Pennsylvania politics, San Francisco graft, the Coeur d’Alene affair, the life insurance and rail-road and trust investigations, the present protective tariff, the congressional attitude toward pensions, river and harbour improvements, and colonial import duties, the divorce epidemic, Dowieism, Eddyism, Sanfordism; and, contrasting these, as they reveal themselves, with the standards of the monasticism of the Dark Ages, the crusades and the chivalry of mediævalism, answer whether or no “lack of sense of proportion” is not the gentlest term that may be applied to the contemporary spirit of the world.
I began by saying that to me the inalienable rights of man were religion, art, and joyful labour. We have rejected the first, destroyed the latter, and I am willing to defend the thesis that our action in these directions is primarily responsible for the disappearance of the third from life as we know it. How are we to regain our birthright; how reestablish once more the consciousness of the impassable barrier between the knowable and the unknowable; restore again acceptance of the eternal truth that the seen is but the pale type of the unseen; over-throw the great heresy, “There is no mystery” ? how rebuild that essential sense of proportion and of relative values, how effect that revision of standards that must precede a new epoch of civilization? History gives record of but two methods that have been effective in the past; the vast religious revolution and the purging fire of national disaster and barbarian invasion. As for the first, no St. Benedict, St. Bernard, or St. Francis is for the moment visible, but only false prophets of a false dawn; and as for the latter, God forbid that we should await this last resort of divine justice. There is, theoretically speaking, a third way, but one which has, I believe, never yet been essayed with success; still, the chance is there, and, if we are wise, we shall take the chance. From the standpoint of pure reason it would seem possible for us to learn a lesson from the past and so avert that vain repetition of history to which we claim to be averse. And what the real past was, not what it seems through its mere materialization, art most potently helps us to know.
To art men turned when the joy of living and the wonder of spiritual experience and the passion of religious ardour became intolerable in their poignancy and clamorous for perfect expression ; to art we must return, that, by its talismanic potency, it may unlock the barred gates of human experience. This also is the primary object of liberal education, and when we have achieved this knowledge, we shall find that the veil is lifted, that our sense of proportion has returned, that our standards are again at one with the standards of all history and need no further revision. Once more we shall find religion and art and joyful labour the restored essentials of life, and then the higher mission of our schools of art will have been accomplished, and our burgeoning civilization will blossom gloriously in the painters and the sculptors and architects, the musicians and poets and crafts-men, who, no longer voices crying in the wilderness, will become the inspired mouthpieces of an emancipated race, proclaiming the wonder and the glory of a noble and a beautiful and a joyful life.