Seeing Through Many Eyes

“My own eyes are not enough for me, I will see through those of others. Reality, even seen through the eyes of many, is not enough. I will see what others have invented. Even the eyes of all humanity are not enough. I regret that the brutes cannot write books…But in reading great literature I become a thousand men and yet remain myself. Like the night sky in the Greek poem, I see with a myriad of eyes, but it is still I who see. Here, as in worship, in love, in moral action, and in knowing, I transcend myself; and am never more myself than when I do.” [C. S. Lewis, An Experiment in Criticism]

Dawson on Sociology

It may be said that it is not the business of a sociologist to concern himself with religious beliefs or philosophical theories or literary and artistic traditions, since they lie outside his province and are incapable of scientific definition or quantitative analysis; yet, on the other hand, it seems absurd for him to study the physical environment of a society and to neglect the spiritual forces that condition its psychic life. [The Dynamics of World History, 24]

The Ugliness of Modern Civilization

The rawness and ugliness of modern European life is the sign of biological inferiority, of an insufficient or false relation to environment, which produces strain, wasted effort, revolt or failure…Why is a stockbroker less beautiful than a Homeric warrior or and Egyptian priest? Because he is less incorporated with life, he is not inevitable, but accidental, almost parasitic. When a culture has proved its real needs, and organized its vital functions, every office becomes beautiful. [Dynamics of World History, 69]

Dawson on Art

Nothing is more difficult for the natural man than to understand a culture or social tradition different from his own, for it involves an almost superhuman detachment from inherited ways of thought and education and the unconscious influence of his social environment…Indeed, the more highly educated he is in his own tradition the less will he be able to appreciate all that diverges from it…We cannot bridge the gulf by a purely scientific study of social facts, by the statistical and documentary methods that have been so much used by modern sociologists, for these can never grasp the essential difference of quality that makes a culture what it is. No amount of detailed and accurate external knowledge will compensate for the lack of that immediate vision which springs from the comprehension of a social tradition as a living unity, a vision which is the natural birth-right of those who share in the common experience of the society, but which members of other cultures can only obtain by an immense effort of sympathetic imagination.

Art, in the widest sense of the word, is the great bridge which crosses the gulf of mutual incomprehension that separates cultures. To understand the art of a society is to understand the vital activity of that society in its more intimate an creative moments. We learn more about mediaeval culture from a cathedral than from the most exhaustive study of constitutional law. [ Dynamics of World History, 71]

Dawson on Philosophy and Culture

It seems to be the fact that a new way of life or a new view of Reality is felt intuitively before it is comprehended intellectually, that a philosophy is the last product of a mature culture, the crown of a long process of social development, not its foundation. It is in Religion and Art that we can best see the vital intention of the living culture.

The Greek statue must first be conceived, then lived, then made, and last of all though. There you have the whole cycle of creative Hellenic culture. First, Religion, then Society, then Art, and finally Philosophy. Not that one of these is the cause and the others effects. They are all different aspects or functions of one life. [Dynamics of World History, 51-52]

Dawson on Progress

True progress, however, does not consist in a quantitative advance in wealth and numbers, no even in a qualitative advance in technology and the control of matter, though all these play their subsidiary parts in the movement. The essential fact of Progress is a process of integration, and increasingly close union between the spirit of the whole civilization and the personality of the local society. This evolution of a richer and fuller group-consciousness we can trace through the history of all the ages that are known to us. [Dynamics of World History, 44]