Read this Read!
I can’t get enough of this guy, aside from all the “man” this and “man” that as substitute for humanity. By all accounts he was a feminist as well, and supported women’s right to vote and all that, but he’s a product of his time I guess.
Let me, in Read’s own style, quote two more lengthy extracts in illustration:
When we follow reason .. in the medieval sense, we listen to the voice of God; we discover God’s order, which is the Kingdom of Heaven. Otherwise there are only the subjective prejudices of individuals, and these prejudices inflated to the dimensions of nationalism, mysticism, megalomania, and fascism. A realistic rationalism rises above all these diseases of the spirit and establishes a universal order of thought, which is a necessary order of thought because it is the order of the real world; and because it is necessary and real, it is not man imposed, but natural; and each man finding this order finds his freedom. Modern anarchism is a reaffirmation of this natural freedom, of this direct communion with universal truth. Anarchism rejects the man-made systems of government, which are instruments of individual and class tyranny; it seeks to recover the system of nature, of man living in accordance with the universal truth of reality. It denies the rule of kings and castes, of churches and parliaments, to affirm the rule of reason, which is the rule of God. The rule of reason – to live according to natural laws – this is also the release of the imagination. We have two possibilities: to discover truth, and to create beauty. We make a profound mistake if we confuse these two activities, attempting to discover beauty and create truth. If we attempt to create truth, we can only do so by imposing on our fellow men an arbitrary and idealistic system which has no relation to reality; and if we attempt to discover beauty we look for it where it cannot be found – in reason, in logic, in experience. Truth is in reality, in the visible and tangible world of sensation; but beauty is in unreality, in the subtle and unconscious world of the imagination…. We must surrender our minds to universal truth, but our imagination is free to dream; is as free as the dream; is the dream. I balance anarchism with surrealism, reason with romanticism, the understanding with the imagination, function with freedom.1
A quarter of a century later he wrote:
This Heraclitean principle of flux, of chance, of fortuity issues out of the tragedy of war, and is basic to my anarchism and romanticism…. That I can combine anarchism with order … a philosophy of strife with pacifism, an orderly life … with romanticism and revolt in art and literature – all this is inevitably scandalous to the conventional philosopher. This principle of flux, the Keatsian notion of ‘negative capability’, justifies everything I have done (or not done) in my life, everything I have written, every attack and defence. I hate all monolithic systems, all logical categories, all pretences to truth and inevitability. The sun is new every day. A fatalistic philosophy should imply more resignation than I have shown. But fatalism does not imply inactivity: on the contrary, since we are counters in a child’s game, we are condemned to action. It is in changing, as Heraclitus said, that things find repose. I have called my politics ‘the politics of the unpolitical’, but I have striven for change, even for revolution. My understanding of the history of culture has convinced me that the ideal society is a point on a receding horizon. We move steadily towards it but can never reach it. Nevertheless we must engage with passion in the immediate strife – such is the nature of things and if defeat is inevitable (as it is) we are not excused. The only excusable indifference is that of Zeus, the divine indifference.2
Herbert Read: GET OUT OF MY DREAMS, GET INTO MY CAR