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Once in the British Museum…I overheard a conversation between two attendants in blue uniforms. One asked the other where so-and-so—obviously another attendant–was; and the first replied: ‘Oh, he’s in the Illuminated,’ meaning, of course, the Illuminated Manuscripts Room. Thenceforth, we adopted the term the Illuminated being the world of the imagination, as Wordsworth’s Sunless Land was the world of the will. Kingsmill saw the imagination and the will as contending impulses, and he liked to recall an inscription on a stone found in North Africa: ‘I, the Captain of a Legion of Rome, serving in the desert of Libya have learnt and pondered this truth: “There are in life but two things, Love and Power, and no one has both.”‘  The will was the dynamo of action and the fuel of lust; the imagination, the way to ecstasy and the fount of love. To live in the will was to be imprisoned in the dark dungeon of the ego; the imagination was a window, to look out of and dream of escaping. On the one hand, the men of the will–Caesar, Cromwell, Napoleon, Hitler and Stalin; on the other, the men of the imagination–Jesus, St. Francis, Blake, Bonhoeffer and Solzhenitsyn.  The will belongs to time, the imagination projects time into eternity. When Jesus rejected the Devil’s offer of the kingdoms of the earth, he turned away from the will; on the Cross he died in the will; the Resurrection was his rebirth in the imagination.

—Malcolm Muggeridge,  The Infernal Grove, the second volume of his autobiography, Chronicles of Wasted Time.  p. 67.

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2 replies to this post
  1. In which category do we put the Captains of Industry, men of will or men of love? Great will created U.S. Steel and Standard Oil, and with those creations came great power (my apologies to "Spider-Man"), but were the progenitors–Carnegie and Rockefeller–without love? Was the Roman captain speaking only of political power, and if so, should we limit our application of his insight to politics alone? I am just a lowly high school English teacher, so I ask, without irony, for elucidation.

  2. Good points Cote. All simple mottos are vulnerable to analysis. In Kabbala there are polarities. On one axis for instance is Gevorah, the Strict attribute of God. The precise; the powerful, is as necessary as the opposite Chesed, Lovingkindness. The correct balance is required to have a Love that is capable of doing the things required for love's sake.

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