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Observations placeholder

Chesterton, G K - Orthodoxy - Imagination does not breed insanity



Type of Spiritual Experience


Reasoning, because of the inadequacies of our mental models, because of the difficulties it can entail, can be extremely wearing.  Chesterton thought it was reasoning that sent people mad!!

I have put the two links in to mental illness so that his views can be seen in this context.

A description of the experience

Orthodoxy – G. K. Chesterton

Imagination does not breed insanity.  Exactly what does breed insanity is reason.  Poets do not go mad; but chess players do.  Mathematicians go mad, and cashiers; but creative artists very seldom.

I am not, as will be seen, in any sense attacking logic; I only say that this danger does lie in logic, not in imagination.  Artistic paternity is as wholesome as physical paternity.  Moreover it is worthy of remark that when a poet really was morbid it was commonly because he had some weak spot of rationality on his brain.  Poe, for instance, really was morbid; not because he was poetical, but because he was analytical.......

Perhaps the strongest case of all is this; that only one great English poet went mad, Cowper.  And he was definitely driven mad by logic, by the ugly and alien logic of predestination.  Poetry was not the disease, but the medicine; poetry partly kept him in health........

Everywhere we see that men do not go mad by dreaming.....

To accept everything is an exercise, to understand everything a strain.  The poet only desires exaltation and expansion,  a world to stretch himself in.  The poet only asks to get his head into the heavens.  It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head.

And it is the head that splits.

The source of the experience

Chesterton, G K

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