The Kingdom of Heaven

Studies in Alice XXV, by Marc Edmund Jones

This lesson is the first of two additional ones written on the twenty-ninth birthday of the work in order to lengthen the Studies in Alice and make it possible to include the series in the cycle of regular weekly philosophy lessons and is a consideration of one of the overall principles of wisdom in the Philosophy of Concepts or that it is only through an intensified life of imagination that any individual may hope to reach his goal on the path of illumination. The fanciful literary productions of modern times are like the folklore and sojourner's tales of earlier times or are release of self in impossible but wonderfully gratifying experience and consequent deep-seated renewal. While the major part of the world's difficult situations are a result of inadequate attention or loose concern on the part of most people, actually there are more troubles from taking things too seriously than the reverse. There is an immature sort of mind that assumes the business of living to be a continual task or definite challenge to judgment and insists on approaching everything with all the earnestness of an individual taking an examination for a degree or position. It seems to feel that the world would be a better place if man operated with precision of a machine or at least made a very real effort to do so. It is the point of view that sees life as ever looking forward to something other than it is and promises reward for an artistry in suffering what of itself is no more than transition or some preliminary stage of evolution and so quite worthless in its own terms and during its own immediate manifestation. Actually the values of being are centered of necessity in the process of being, rather than in any working out of antecedents of successful progression towards future consummation, and realization of this fact is a cardinal demand on a student in the Solar Mysteries. The present moment and immediate situation and the function of selfhood at this one and only possible real center or reality of itself is that to which everything else must contribute. Therefore everyone in some fashion or another must be able to curl himself up in relaxed and unconditioned enjoyment of himself or gratification in the act of self at regular intervals. It is through imagination alone that this is possible so that outer life can be caught up and evaluated and shaped in the matrix of the inner being. Fairy tales, folk lore and engaging nonsense are precisely the materials of very great service to man in this connection.

Here is the principle of comedy as in special contrast with tragedy or what Aristotle designated as the revelation of men as worse than they are rather than as the tragic idealization of heights of living that nobody can hope to reach except in very exalted moments. It is as men and women are able to play the comedian or let themselves go in contemplation or even enjoyment of their weaknesses that they are able to develop and maintain any strength. As early as Plato in his humorous dissertation in his Republic the notion that man is exalted only as he is protected from light-minded ideas or suggestions has been thoroughly exploded if not treated with the extreme of Plato's burlesque. Modern psychology seems fairly well assured that no child is ever fooled by a fairy tale even in earliest infancy. He knows it is make-believe and very frequently he will get ideas through its agency when any direct exposition will be quite over his head. It is as men can see themselves as ridiculous that they are best able apparently to recognize themselves also as divine and so reach out to a practical achievement of some degree of that divinity.

The achievement of imagination in Alice in Wonderland, on the side of self-enhancement through the unconditioned release of self to an exploration of its deviating self-potentials in a merry trial and error, is the discovery that the being cannot be untrue to itself to any degree of importance whatsoever. It is a situation not unlike the fact that while an individual is almost completely subject to suggestion in hypnosis he cannot be led to doing anything outrageous to his moral sense. His reactions are much the same as in a game where he will abide by the caprice of the moment and find it fun but always with the self-reservation that as a self he can never do anything that is not an integral part of himself at core. The work of Lewis Carroll was unique in presenting man in the most ridiculous guise and thereupon introducing the reader to him more effectively than ever could have been possible under more conventional circumstances. Alice herself is big and small and she can swim in her own tears and suffer in various forms of bedlam but through it all she is still her prim, starched and lovable self. Her decency is never traduced and is curiously so in modern psychoanalysis where there are adventures in the wonderland of erotic and superficially nasty lore through which the conscious being is shriven or enabled to find itself singularly free at core and in fact from ever possible taint or contamination of the disgusting or horrible. Imagination cleans up its world ultimately for all that it may conjure the greatest of terrors into being. Thus in Dracula there are strains of high decency through the worst of the destructiveness and debasement of the human soul and for the reader there is intellectual catharsis of much greater extent than any effective traduction of his own standards and expectations. As life is ridiculous at its fringes it is free at center for creative self-fulfillment in very high beauty.

The symbolism of the ridiculous is the escape of mind from the pyramiding limitations of its own creative efforts. It puts its world together to fit its version of its own outreaching needs in the business of being and having experience, and as it remains too serious in its dealing with itself it is more and more caught up in its own almost solipsistic self-reactions and its progress as a social entity gradually grinds to a complete stop. Man must be his fellows as well as himself, and in almost paradoxical fashion he must be less and less himself in this sense to be what they are at the same time and so in truth really to be what he is on his own account. He must allow the aspects of self to fray away in inconsequentiality as well as helping them regather at center in the terms of his immortal self, and he can help this only by taking himself lightly no less than seriously.

The law of applied psychology is that the individual must happily be what he is not as well as what he is in quite literal sense of being both the comedian and the tragic idealist. This means not as an alternation of mood and attitude but as a fullness of rounding out into a living and effective personality. Only children seem to show this apparent ambivalence to its fullest degree and so it has been said that only children can enter into an immortal afterworld of the spirit. The kingdom of heaven can thus be seen to be the state of consciousness in which there is room for the wildly improbable as well as the inevitable and immutable certainties to which major attention is given. A diet of nonsense may well be a prime necessity of spiritual growth.