- A review of The World as Imagination (Series I), by Edward Douglas Fawcett
- The Johns Hopkins University Press and Faber & Faber Ltd
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726 ] A review of The World as Imagination (Series I), by Edward Douglas Fawcett London: Macmillan, 1916. Pp. xlii + 623.1 The International Journal of Ethics, 28 (July 1918), 572 The essential parts of the book reveal themselves as Part I, Chapter II, and Part II, Chapter I. Here the creative imagination is disclosed. Imagination is the “primeval reality, itself unresolved, into which all else can be resolved” (7); and Mr. Fawcett persuades us toward this reality by examining the rôle of imagination in scientific hypothesis. An hypothesis advanced in explanation of natural phenomena is an “imaginal makeshift for sensible experience ” (26). A physical hypothesis has meaning for us only if we can supply in imagination “all the so-called secondary qualities . . . which are present in experienced nature but absent from the conceptual or mechanical-substitute ” . Here “makeshift” appears to be used in the Bergsonian rather than the pragmatist sense. The imagining is a mental “substitute-fact”: it is “true” if it is sufficiently like the reality in nature. But if the imagining is to be like, it must be of similar nature, and we therefore conclude that ultimate reality is “imaginal.” But Mr. Fawcett adds “presupposing, of course (italics mine), acceptance of the main contention of this essay” (27). Here the author’s idealistic bias shows itself; and while he criticises the orthodox philosophy severely, and on the whole justly, I am not sure that he does not stick closer by it than he thinks. His absolutist tendency is most apparent in connection with the problem of evil. “Evils are real” (569); and some space is devoted to a protest against explaining them away. But evil belongs only to the time-process: “There can be no evil in the Cosmic Imagination considered apart from creative episodes” (584). Evil is born with a “change,” aptly described as the “Fall.” “The victimiser and the victims are the same reality . . . This is a tremendous truth” (587). Tremendous, but yet a household word. It is our old acquaintance, the Red Slayer, la plaie et le couteau!2 If, however, one can accept imagination as a term of ultimate meaning, apart from contexts, then one can accept Mr. Fawcett’s essay as a highly important work; and those who do not so accept it must yet admit that the [ 727 Review: The World as Imagination (Series I) thesis is elaborated with great ingenuity and care, and that many penetrating criticisms and observations have been scattered by the way. We must be grateful to Mr. Fawcett also for his outspoken denial of personality to the cosmic imagination. T. Stearns Eliot Notes 1. The British author Edward Douglas Fawcett (1866-1960), best known for adventure novels such as Swallowed by an Earthquake (1894), extended his defense of the imagination in Divine Imagining (1921). 2. TSE alludes to the opening stanza of “Brahma”: “If the red slayer think he slays, / Or if the slain think he is slain, / They know not well the subtle ways / I keep, and pass, and turn again” by Emerson; and to the penultimate stanza of “L’Héautontimorouménos”: “Je suis la plaie et le couteau!” (I am the wound and the knife!) by Charles Baudelaire (1821-67). In one of The Waste Landmanuscriptpoems,TSEincludedhisownversionoftheancientparadox:“Iamthehusband and the wife / And the victim and the sacrificial knife / I am the fire, and the butter also.” Valerie Eliot notes that these lines were “influenced by The Bhagavad-Gitā (with perhaps a nod to Emerson’s ‘Brahma’)” (WLF 111, 130). ...