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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Fantasy and reality: George MacDonald's views

Some thinkers would feel sorely hampered if at liberty to use no forms but such as existed in nature, or to invent nothing save in accordance with the laws of the world of the senses; but it must not therefore be imagined that they desire escape from the region of law. Nothing lawless can show the least reason why it should exist, or could at best have more than an appearance of life.

The natural world has its laws, and no man must interfere with them in the way of presentment any more than in the way of use; but they themselves may suggest laws of other kinds, and man may, if he pleases, invent a little world of his own, with its own laws; for there is that in him which delights in calling up new forms--which is the nearest, perhaps, he can come to creation. When such forms are new embodiments of old truths, we call them products of the Imagination; when they are mere inventions, however lovely, I should call them the work of the Fancy: in either case, Law has been diligently at work.

In the moral world it is different: there a man may clothe in new forms, and for this employ his imagination freely, but he must invent nothing. He may not, for any purpose, turn its laws upside down. He must not meddle with the relations of live souls. The laws of the spirit of man must hold, alike in this world and in any world he may invent. It were no offence to suppose a world in which everything repelled instead of attracted the things around it; it would be wicked to write a tale representing a man it called good as always doing bad things, or a man it called bad as always doing good things: the notion itself is absolutely lawless. In physical things a man may invent; in moral things he must obey--and take their laws with him into his invented world as well.

- excerpted from George MacDonald, "The Fantastic Imagination," in A Dish of Orts, 1893, Public Domain.


Bonnie said...

An honorable philosophy; would that more shared it. Reminds me of the respect/reverence/awe C. S. Lewis shows toward Creation in Abolition of Man.

George said...

It is clear to me that this moral law McDonald is describing is being violated by today's mindset and worldview. Relativism reclassifies what is moral or immoral, seeking to skirt the obligation to obey moral law.

Great, great observations and thoughts.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, Bonnie and George.

I was supposed to be on hiatus, but scheduled this in advance so as to be published the day before my mother's funeral (which I didn't anticipate). So I can say no more than "thanks."