If you believe in the negation of the negation then surely the way forward is simultaneously, in a sense, the way back, and vice-versa. To move forward is to discover something entirely new, and also to recover old things that you had thought were lost.
I recently heard a youngish fellow-pewsitter at my parish church complaining that all the language we use about God was too “bombastic” – she meant words like glory and splendor and triumph and might. I was rather startled. Well, I thought, if God isn’t “bombastic” in that sense, who needs Him?
Our ancestors, though they believed in God or Gods and worshiped Him or Them, had, precisely for that reason, a more exalted conception of mankind and the stage on which its destiny is played out than we have, and a vision of its powers and possibilities more expansive than our own. Men and women may not be gods or goddesses, but we meet them — perhaps, do battle with them — on the ringing plains of windy Troy, or wrestle with an angel — perhaps more than an angel — at Penuel; and like the chap at Penuel, we will not let him go until he bless us.
Modernity, notoriously, has consummated the Entzauberung der Welt, and replaced it with a mean, mingy, narrow, utilitarian, drudging drabness.
I don’t know what concepts my young fellow-parishioner would have wanted to associate with God – not middle-class modern niceness, I hope, but something in some way sublime. What she has lost, because she is a hostage of liberal modernity, is the imagination of the sublime, and she’s embarrassed by all the words she might use to express such a thing.
I always encourage my Lefty friends to go back and read Johnnie Milton, an actual regicide for all practical purposes, which is about as Left as you can get, even though he seems to have believed in God, after his own idiosyncratic and perhaps Arian fashion. There aren’t many thinkers more bold and original than Milton, and yet withal more subtle and deliberate. But I’m afraid my young church friend would just find him a ponderous windbag. She has been defrauded of her patrimony; I would love to see her reclaim it and rejoice in it. So let’s hear it, once again, for the negation of the negation.
Being myself that somewhat unusual, though not unprecedented thing, a mediaevalist Anglo-Catholic Commie, my idea is to use the visionary future, which we don’t have yet, and the lost past, which has been stolen from us, with all its shining treasure, as the jaws of a vise to squeeze the unspeakable present.