NEW SCARRIET ESSAY: THE CONSERVATIVE IMAGINATION

Image result for tomb of christ renaissance painting

The imaginative does not produce a series of images.

Imagination builds coherently upon—what?

The only thing it can build on—the fact.

And the fact exists as fact in only one place—the past.

“The sun will appear tomorrow” is a fact. And its truth may point to the future—but it exists, as facts do, in what has happened.

So it is with revealed religion.  For believers: Christ is sacred because He is gone.  The divinity of Christ, His future glory, depends on the fact that what He did is done.

But let’s not get led down the path of religion too far.

The important scientific point here is that fact, too, exists in what has happened.

The imaginative is conservative.

If the imaginative partakes of the new, it does so by virtue of its connection to the past.

The imagination does not produce a heap of disconnected images.

Chaos is antithetical to the imagination.

Imagination transforms the factual past into the ideal future.

The present is the framed moment of the imaginative work.

The present is over-valued: it is what the unlearned see.

This populist, hyped, over-valuation of the present is why the sacred, sublime truth must stoop to be seen.

The fact, and the rule which the fact expresses, can never be a quirky exception, or a radical new thing, for the past to be the past must be the rule, the fact (what has happened), the cause.

The cause must be substantial and obey rules—and results are just that, effects, and wholly dependent on the cause, the past, the fact—and nothing can be imaginative as a mere effect—the imaginative is that which creates images, effects, feelings—and all that we associate with the imaginative work.

Imagination, therefore, the imaginative faculty itself, is always conservative. Not by choice, or morals, or whim, but existentially so; by all the laws of the universe, the artist who is imaginative is inspired by the factual past.

Every present fact which we casually see (without our imaginations) has a fact hidden in the past which explains it—the present fact we casually see.

The imagination is this fact in reverse. The imaginative work of art explains the past with the present.

Imagination is that which explains the past with some arrangement in the present—the arrangement is the bridge—which makes past and present one, informing the temporal mind.

Ordinary facts, experienced in the present—unlike works of the imagination—hide the past from the the eye which is not expert, or highly discerning. We are fooled by the present fact—react to it only as fact. The imagination is the corrective to this.

What the imaginative loses in present factual-ness it gains in its conservative attachment to cause—to an a priori existence of a past understood precisely because it is the past. Imagination literally creates from fact even as the imagination is not the fact, because imagination takes its identity by the fact that it is not the fact.

We can see by this reasoning that the imagination is what we use to grasp factual reality.

For if one keeps adding present facts to the receiving mind, or the senses, in the present, one will never reach an explanation of the facts—one just keeps adding facts. Adding facts does not get to the fact behind the fact—only the imagination, the faculty which takes the past and leaps with it into the future—with a resting, stop-over discreetness in the present (the art work)—knows and grasps and understands the reason for the facts. Only the imagination is able to glimpse, through hypothesis, what the factual past planned.

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3 Comments

  1. Desdi said,

    April 24, 2017 at 10:34 pm

    Yikes. That is one messed-up painting of Christ.
    He looks like a disgruntled beatnik bank-teller.

  2. April 25, 2017 at 3:51 am

    Do you mean that he looks like a poor, sorry human like the rest of us?

    Wasn’t that the point?

  3. thomasbrady said,

    April 25, 2017 at 11:57 am

    It’s a lovely painting. The perspective is key.


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