I was struck by a passage in The Recognitions about art and religion (p. 34 in the Penguin edition). Can you imagine if you were a child and took your first drawing to your aunt with whom you live and who is doing most of the work to raise you, only to get this response?
Don’t you love your Lord Jesus, after all? … Then why do you try to take His place? Our Lord is the only true creator, and only sinful people try to emulate Him … Do you remember Lucifer? … Lucifer was the archangel who refused to serve Our Lord. To sin is to falsify something in the Divine Order, and that is what Lucifer did. His name means Bringer of Light but he was not satisfied to bring the light of Our Lord to man. He tried to become original … original, to steal Our Lord’s authority, to command his own destiny, to bear his own light! That is why Satan is the Fallen Angel, for he rebelled when he tried to emulate Our Lord Jesus. And he won his own domain, didn’t he. Didn’t he! And his own light is the light of the fires of Hell! Is that what you want? Is that what you want? Is that what you want?
It’s astounding that poor Wyatt went on to draw anything at all ever again, but he did, burying his drawings in the back yard and feeling terrible guilt over it, doing it in spite of terror at his own damnation.
The religious argument is astounding as well (not to mention the level of the aunt’s fury) — that it’s sinful to try to be original and creative because that is the same thing as trying to take God’s place. It puts one on the same level as Lucifer and condemns one to hell. I have had many quarrels with the religion of my youth, but this, fortunately, wasn’t one of them; I was taught not that creativity is an attempt to take God’s place but that creativity is one of the ways that we are made in the image of God and by exercising our creativity, we are expressing our true natures and following in God’s footsteps, in a respectful, loving way, not a proud, ambitious way. How much nicer this idea is!
I’m very curious to see just how poor Wyatt, who will grow up to become an artist, is going to deal with this legacy of guilt about the very thing he will spend his life doing. Surely the words “Is that what you want?” must have been lurking in the back of his mind for years afterwards.