G. K. Chesterton & John Fowles on Mysteries and Staying Sane

Albrecht Dürer – Saint Anthony Before a City, 1519.

Near the end of chapter 1 of The Magus, John Fowles writes the following:

It poured with rain the day I left. But I was filled with excitement, a strange exuberant sense of taking wing. I didn’t know where I was going, but I knew what I needed. I needed a new land, a new race, a new language; and, although I couldn’t have put it into words then, I needed a new mystery.

John Fowles – The Magus

The ideas still hunts me: “I needed a new mystery.” Don’t we all need just that? Although it is quite hard the clarify the idea – how could you want anything if you don’t know what it is? How could you be aware that you need a mystery?

Anyhow, I just stumbled upon these nice thoughts by G. K. Chesterton in his book Orthodoxy.

…Chief mark and element of insanity; we may say in summary that it is reason used without root, reason in the void. The man who begins to think without the proper first principles goes mad, the man who begins to think at the wrong end…

…what in actual human history keeps man sane. Mysticism keeps man sane. As long as you have mystery you have health; when you destroy mystery you create morbidity. The ordinary man has always been sane because the ordinary man has always been a mystic. He has always had one foot in earth and one foot in fairyland. He has always left himself free to doubt his gods; but (unlike of gnostic of today) free also to believe in them. He has always cared more for truth than for consistency… It is exactly this balance of apparent contradictions that has been the whole buoyancy of the healthy man. The whole secret of mysticism is this: that man can understand everything by the help of what he doesn’t understand. The morbid logician seeks to make everything lucid, and succeeds in making everything mysterious. The mystic allows one thing to be mysterious and everything else becomes lucid.

G. K. Chesterton – Orthodoxy

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