I was struck by a passage in The Recognitions about art and religion (p. 34 in the Penguin edition).  Can you imagine if you were a child and took your first drawing to your aunt with whom you live and who is doing most of the work to raise you, only to get this response?

Don’t you love your Lord Jesus, after all? … Then why do you try to take His place?  Our Lord is the only true creator, and only sinful people try to emulate Him … Do you remember Lucifer? … Lucifer was the archangel who refused to serve Our Lord.  To sin is to falsify something in the Divine Order, and that is what Lucifer did.  His name means Bringer of Light but he was not satisfied to bring the light of Our Lord to man. He tried to become original … original, to steal Our Lord’s authority, to command his own destiny, to bear his own light!  That is why Satan is the Fallen Angel, for he rebelled when he tried to emulate Our Lord Jesus. And he won his own domain, didn’t he.  Didn’t he!  And his own light is the light of the fires of Hell!  Is that what you want?  Is that what you want?  Is that what you want?

It’s astounding that poor Wyatt went on to draw anything at all ever again, but he did, burying his drawings in the back yard and feeling terrible guilt over it, doing it in spite of terror at his own damnation.

The religious argument is astounding as well (not to mention the level of the aunt’s fury) — that it’s sinful to try to be original and creative because that is the same thing as trying to take God’s place. It puts one on the same level as Lucifer and condemns one to hell.  I have had many quarrels with the religion of my youth, but this, fortunately, wasn’t one of them; I was taught not that creativity is an attempt to take God’s place but that creativity is one of the ways that we are made in the image of God and by exercising our creativity, we are expressing our true natures and following in God’s footsteps, in a respectful, loving way, not a proud, ambitious way.  How much nicer this idea is!

I’m very curious to see just how poor Wyatt, who will grow up to become an artist, is going to deal with this legacy of guilt about the very thing he will spend his life doing.  Surely the words “Is that what you want?” must have been lurking in the back of his mind for years afterwards.

Cross-posted here.


Filed under Books, Fiction

7 responses to “Creativity

  1. Wow–I imagine most children would have put their crayons away after a lecture like that. Whatever was in Wyatt was obviously strong enough to want to come out despite those fears. I’ve always thought religion should be nurturing not something to fear. It’s weird how people can look at the same thing and see something vastly different.


  2. What a horrible story, but what a testament to Wyatt’s will and strength. Amazing what people will do in the name of religion, isn’t it? Basically, it’s all about their own fears, as there is rarely anything in any of the religious texts to support such ideas. The psychology of it is fascinating to me, but the damage it does isn’t.


  3. I need to catch up! That’s powerful dialogue from Gaddis there. For all that the book is a slow read and a complex one, it still manages to pack a punch, doesn’t it?


  4. Edd

    In a left-handed individual with a severally broken collarbone, pecking away with one finger, thanks you for a very good and meaning filled post for me. I at one time had to endure the same criticism of my young writing a long time ago.


  5. Danielle — I know, I would never have done a creative thing after that experience. And yes, religious should be nurturing, and sometimes it is, but definitely not in this book …

    Emily — yes, it is fascinating, especially when you read about it in a book rather than facing it in real life, where it’s much scarier. It IS all about people’s fears and messed-upness, and that’s just too bad.

    Litlove — it does pack a punch! It’s slow in the sense that I can’t read the pages fast, but not slow in terms of pacing or ideas.

    Edd — oh, I’m sorry! No one should have to face that kind of criticism. I’m glad the post was meaningful, and thanks, as always, for commenting.


  6. I agree with you and Em. If God is our creator, and we are made in his image, then I think he is pleased when we create like he does. How sad that some people are permanently scarred by the narrow views of others — I hope that your character overcomes that horrible experience to create great art/writing.


  7. Debby — yes, I much prefer that vision of God to the other one! It is sad when religion, which is supposed to help make us better people, goes so badly wrong.


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