That Painful Pleasure of the Soul

“[George MacDonald] was what is called a Celt and what is called a mystic. But nobody could conceivably have been more different from the Celtic mystics of to-day. First of all, of course, some of the modern Celts profess to have abandoned the moral battle, the old antithesis of sin and judgment, in favour of something that is positively sadder than war itself, a beauty more dismal than ugliness. They are all agreed that devils are not so black as they are painted; they never ask if devils are so blue as they are painted. Macdonald was a mystic who was half mad with joy, of a joy all the more violent because it remained mystical. For him the secret of the Cosmos was a secret because it was too good to tell. The stars and all things in his world tingled with the tension of that painful pleasure of the soul. For him the pity of God was so positive as to be a definite passion like thirst; it was a fierce tenderness; he was never tired of saying that his God was a consuming fire.”

G K Chesterton, The Daily News, September 23rd, 1905

The Primal Light

“Right save by love no thought can be or may;

Only love’s knowledge is the primal light.”

Excerpt From

A Book of Strife in the Form of The Diary of an Old Soul

George MacDonald

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An Honest Doubt

“An honest doubt is not a pebble to be taken up and thrown aside. It is a nut with a kernel in it, and a very precious kernel too, for every doubt involves a higher truth to a man who will honestly use it. It is to discover something deeper, something lovelier, something truer about God and man than you ever knew before. A doubt is a holy thing. An honest doubt is wrought in the heart of man with the spirit of the living God Himself, only let man take it to God to open it for him.”

– George MacDonald, lecture on Tennyson’s ‘In Memoriam.’

Regarding Fences With GK Chesterton

In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.”

This paradox rests on the most elementary common sense. The gate or fence did not grow there. It was not set up by somnambulists who built it in their sleep. It is highly improbable that it was put there by escaped lunatics who were for some reason loose in the street. Some person had some reason for thinking it would be a good thing for somebody. And until we know what the reason was, we really cannot judge whether the reason was reasonable. It is extremely probable that we have overlooked some whole aspect of the question, if something set up by human beings like ourselves seems to be entirely meaningless and mysterious. There are reformers who get over this difficulty by assuming that all their fathers were fools; but if that be so, we can only say that folly appears to be a hereditary disease. But the truth is that nobody has any business to destroy a social institution until he has really seen it as an historical institution. If he knows how it arose, and what purposes it was supposed to serve, he may really be able to say that they were bad purposes, or that they have since become bad purposes, or that they are purposes which are no longer served. But if he simply stares at the thing as a senseless monstrosity that has somehow sprung up in his path, it is he and not the traditionalist who is suffering from an illusion. We might even say that he is seeing things in a nightmare. This principle applies to a thousand things, to trifles as well as true institutions, to convention as well as to conviction.

GK Chesterton, The Thing

A Rational Explanation of the Universe

“Orthodox Christianity doesn’t set out to be merely a code of ethics, or merely a set of suggestions for leading a beautiful life. It purports to be a rational explanation of the universe. All the stuff about faith being opposed to reason is misleading: Christianity is rooted in reason, and the first thing it requires anybody to believe is that the universe is intended to, and does, make sense. This is, in a way, the only act of pure faith that it demands: the steadfast conviction that human experience does somehow correspond to eternal truth.”

….. Dorothy L. Sayers, in a letter to a correspondent.

A Longing

“The other longing, that for fairy land, is very different. In a sense a child does not long for fairy land as a boy longs to be the hero of the first eleven. Does anyone suppose that he really and prosaically longs for all the dangers and discomforts of a  fairy tale? – really wants dragons in contemporary England? It is not so. It would be much truer to say that fairy land arouses a longing for he knows not what. It stirs and troubles him (to his life-long enrichment) with the dim sense of something beyond his reach and, far from dulling or emptying the actual world, gives it a new dimension of depth. He does not despise real woods because he has read of enchanted woods: this reading makes al real woods a little enchanted. This is a special kind of longing. The boy reading the school story of the type I have in mind desires success and is unhappy (once the book is over) because he can’t get it: the boy reading the fairy tale desires and is happy in the very fact of desiring. For his mind has not been concentrated on himself, as it often is in the more realistic story.”


–CS Lewis, On Three Ways of Writing for Children