There is no evidence whatsoever for a transcendent aspect to music; these are noises, more or less pleasant and more or less interesting, and found in all combinations of those continua. Admirers of music must either content themselves with these humble and entirely parochial values, abandoning any attempt to take credit beyond their own delight, or they must reject music altogether in their disappointment.

Some will feel that Stevenson's claims to the honor of poetic status are slight, that he is a minor poet at best and, in general, only an extremely competent versifier. It is certainly true that his writings, metrical and unmetred, have a low frequency of those passages causing the mind to perceive infinite meaning, the endless reverberations, the "visions" to which Ivor Gurney referred to as characteristic of a poem's "inexplicable significance" (see his letter to Marion Scott, 29th of September 1916). But Gurney, in the same breath, spoke also of the "vistas" of poetry. – "Visions and vistas" was in fact the sequence of his phrase, introducing a distinction that he presumably thought important. We all know about the Visions, the winged touchstones of poetry, but the vistas also serve, standing and waiting. I have myself been hitherto careless of that difference, but now think that it should be taken more seriously. Yes, one must concede, that the readerly experience of a poetic "vista" is closer to coherent and provisionally terminated prosaic reasoning than the experiences that we might term "visions", for vistas are still born of the sublunary landscape, and do not hover above the earth as supernatural annunciations of transcendence. Nevertheless, the focal point is left vague, and the vista peters out into mist and distance, and beyond that more distance still. Enchantment, of a kind, is lent on a very long lease, to the view. Vistas are not visions, but they are nonetheless varieties of mysterious meaning.

Of such effects, Stevenson has a respectable supply, "The Woodman" in Songs of Travel, a meditation on the implications of Darwinism, and consequently a favourite of W. D. Hamilton, being a good example.

The fact, as it seems to me, that they all ring hollow, in the last comparison, should not blind us to the difference.


Recalled inscription to the 1915 Oxford edition of Wordsworth's Tract on Convention of Cintra:

Go, Wordy's prose in Dicey's Ed.,
   Be boring to the last degree;
And when she reads and yawns in bed,
   Exasperated, she will long for me.

Love in the theological, abstract philosophical or moral sense is a synonym for virtue as understood by the rigorists. It is a denial of the self, though encumbered by the inevitable paradox that by supressing its own wishes in order to serve those of another, it reserves one selfish wish for satisfaction, that of being seen to be virtuous or loving, for it is never free of self-advertisement, however gently it protests its mystery.

My doctoral dissertation on Wyndham Lewis has recently been made freely available on the University of Cambridge website:

This thesis follows the public reception of the painting and writings of Wyndham Lewis from his first exhibitions in 1911 through to the publication of Hitler in 1931, and is based on a new checklist of criticism and reviews. The study shows that Lewis monitored his reputation with great care, and that many of his decisions with regard to the deployment and revision of his texts can be seen as conditioned by the short term needs of maintaining a satisfactory public standing. I also suggest that this hampered him in his highly original attempt to find a means to express hatred in a form which could be legitimated and hence guiltless. Chapter One discusses Lewis's early exhibitions and the reception of Blast and argues that the need to appear as a radical force in British painting pushed him towards a manner, abstraction, uncongenial to his aims, and induced him to bury his remarkable writings in a polemical journal. Chapter Two examines the reviews of Tarr and explains the book's commercial failure as one reason for Lewis's attempt to re-establish himself as a painter in 1919-21. The public reception of the Tyro drawings is used to illustrate his failure, and Lewis's sudden decision to turn wholeheartedly to writing is explained as a consequence of this. Chapter Three describes Lewis's twin projects of 1922-24, and their fragmentation in 1925-27. The rehandling of the material is shown to have been unfortunate in that it created a public impression that Lewis was solely a critic. This chapter also proposes that during 1926 Lewis abandoned several of the central planks of "The Man of the World" and began to take on a conservative cast. The publication of The Childermass is described as an abortive attempt to regain public standing as a creative writer. Chapter Four discusses the reception of Paleface in 1929, and reference is made to Lewis's growing interest in questions of race. The Apes of God is described as a final demand for the submissive homage of the reading public. Chapter Five analyses Hitler and shows that the book was widely and correctly understood as a cynical attempt to defend Nazism, and that its content provided alert contemporaries with a key to the Aryanism which had been a substantial component of Lewis's thought since 1926.

The sense of an absolute moral orientation is weakest at the extremes of wealth and income in any society, amongst the richest because they can deploy resources to evade the consequences of any transgression, and amongst the poor because they have little or nothing to lose and much to gain. The strongest sense of moral rectitude, the strongest belief in moral absolutes, is felt by those in the middle of the distribution, since those towards the centre are threatened not only by those at the amoral extremes but also by competition from those immediately above and below them. The middle of the distribution benefits most from moral regulation, and loses least.

But away with crude binning, and the class analysis that it implies. Take any three individuals and arrange them in order of wealth, and the chances are that the central individual will have the strongest sense of objective morality. Put a society's individuals in order of wealth, or arrange them in order of income, or some combination of both, and, in spite of numerous exceptions, it will be found that proximity to the centre of the range is an excellent predictor of the strength of absolute moral adhesions.

Hostility to astrology is disproportional to its historical merits. Yes, contemporary crass, micro-divination is to be despised, but ancient astrologers were simply proto-astronomers, proto-physicalists, aware that the universe at large and components of it must have a causal role in the behaviour of organisms on earth. Who, today, would dispute the role, historical and instantaneous, of the sun in the development of life; who would deny that the gravitational field of the planets is real, though faint. That it is conscious or intentionally directed, we for very good reasons doubt, and here we part from the predominantly animistic astrologers of antiquity whose determination to find personalities in the planets now seems comic (perhaps our tendency to see human behaviour in terms of intentions will look as quaint a thousand years hence).

The sneering modern scientist should actually honour ancient astrology as a worthy ancestor, rather than taking his tune from the Christian church, which was the natural enemy of this quasi-pagan proto-science, with its multiplicity of causal factors, its strange reluctance to find a single will behind all phenomena, more than a hint that it was all an elaborate symbolisation of arbitrary process beyond human understanding, and above all, because it seems to lack any sense of a transcendent morality.

Part of the confusion round "energy as just another input" is that the conception of energy is mistakenly materialised. It is not a substance in itself. Talk of "pure energy" confuses people. Energy is an abstract concept describing the state of the universe and its components, with the relevant state characteristic being the potential for spontaneous change. Low energy states have less potential for further spontaneous change than high energy states, which have considerable potential for such change; and so called "pure energy" is a theoretical concept describing an unlimited potential, never actually observed by us in the current universe, and in fact unobservable since knowledge is only possible where there are energy gradients; in a state of radiation equilibrium nothing can be known.

Thus, energy is not an input at all, since it is not a substance, but a state of all inputs, and the state of such inputs, and their potential for change, is the heart of economic system theory, or should be.

The term wit has slipped into triviality; it now means smart word play, a quick rejoinder, an ingenious pun or comparison, in brief some verbal act that tells us more about the intellectual agility of the speaker or writer than about the wider world. But it was not always so. Wit in the 16th and 17th Centuries seems to have had the much stronger implication that some degree of epistemic quality was to be expected. Is it quite wrong to think that this has declined because we no longer, as good rationalists did, expect verbal ingenuity to be able on its own to deliver much understanding, however useful it may be in communicating the results of experiment and the collection and analysis of data? To term something witty is currently to imply that however impressive as mental athelticism it is low epistemic value. Such wit is only self-advertisement, or the aggressive degradation of the perceived quality of another.

That shift in meaning is not so much a change in sense as the erosion of one component, the epistemic, leaving behind only structural word play. The reason for this is subtle, but clearly important. We have gradually, and surely correctly, come to mistrust what one might call the geometric potential for patterning in the language. But at one time, almost everyone would have thought that the potentials for these patterns were in fact supernatural or divine clues to epistemic insight, and their realisation therefore successful expressions of deeper meaning. If words rhyme, perhaps they have some supernaturally sanctioned affinity and reveal something about the universe. (Even today, mathematicians often and physicists sometimes show signs of the same superstition.)

But there have always been those who mistrusted ingenious wit, and he devices of the poets have long been mistrusted, some thinking poetry vinum daemonum, as Bacon reported, and in English at least, there were several writers, Campion and Spenser amongst them, who thought that rhyme was a low and untrustworthy form, though they held this view more on the grounds that it was not authorised by the classics than because of any distorting effect that it might have had. Today, the situation is apparently reversed; the elaborate structures of the past, regular rhythms and rhymes are seen by the higher literates as unsuitable, not so much because they are known to be technically restrictive but because those restrictions are irrationally associated with limiting moral regulations and obsolete politics.

In the general culture the archaic, supernaturally loaded sense of wit lives on; popular singers rhyme and pattern with abandon, and are rewarded by their audience with devotion and the reputation of insight, sympathy and even wisdom.

Was Larkin frightened of death? He certainly wrote about it a great deal, and it is tempting to see his poems as, to use some of his own words from one of those pieces, "Weak Propitiatory Flowers". But the final impression that remains is not so much a fear of extinction, but a sense that he was intimidated by impending pointlessness. And this is entirely self-inflicted, since everywhere in his writings we find the suspiciously aggressive rejection of the uneducated but entirely correct belief that children – Dockery's dilution – are the only guard against inconsequentiality, though a hazardous one.