“It is darkness that is visible”

Much has been said, and said truly, of the monkish morbidity, of the hysteria which has often gone with the visions of hermits or nuns. But let us never forget that this visionary religion is, in one sense, necessarily more wholesome than our modern and reasonable morality. It is more wholesome for this reason, that it can contemplate the idea of success or triumph in the hopeless fight towards the ethical ideal, in what Stevenson called, with his usual startling felicity, ‘the lost fight of virtue’. A modern morality, on the other hand, can only point with absolute conviction to the horrors that follow breaches of law; its only certainty is a certainty of ill. It can only point to imperfection. It has no perfection to point to . . .

This omission, good or bad, does leave us face to face with the problem of a human consciousness filled with very definite images of evil, and with no definite image of good. To us light must be henceforward the dark thing -– the thing of which we cannot speak. To us, as to Milton’s devils in Pandemonium, it is darkness that is visible. The human race, according to religion, fell once, and in falling gained the knowledge of good and evil. Now we have fallen a second time, and only the knowledge of evil remains to us.

Heretics (1905).

Published in: on September 3, 2008 at 7:32 am  Leave a Comment  

The URI to TrackBack this entry is: https://chesterton.wordpress.com/2008/09/03/it-is-darkness-that-is-visible/trackback/

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: