The Ravello Dialogues - Part 3

LOVE

It may have been the same day, it may have been another. It was late afternoon and there was a burnished evening light on the walnut trees. In the valleys lemons were radiantly yellow under their dark leaves. I had been surprised to find a group of entertainers in the garden. They had arrived to amuse the Countess. It might seems strange that such a woman would be amused by these brightly coloured tumblers and jugglers. During our walk I was occasionally distracted by flashes of red and gold between the trees and statuary.

COUNTESS

There was a phrase that struck me in our last conversation - "The workings of Love". It may be meaningless, but it seems to have meaning. Perhaps this afternoon should spend some time considering that neglected topic, Love.

I

A very difficult topic and one that may lead to conjecture and fantasy.

COUNTESS

But we may, at least, discuss the old questions with different language and, perhaps, cast some new light.

I

Yes. Let us look at the world in terms of Love. It is such a central issue to the artist and also to the theologian and yet it is one that is rarely discussed logically.

COUNTESS

Can we discuss it logically?

I

Perhaps to a certain degree.

When I used the phrase "the workings of Love" (though was it your phrase?) I was imagining something close to my old idea of the Dance in the World. We have already talked about the hidden music in all things as a language that can exist in many translations, of which music may be a more precise means of translation than any other. We also discussed the idea of vocation a tendency for a person to be drawn to a particular end. In the case of vocation we could simply say that a person gradually discovers his own soul, or his own potential, and in following a course of discovery it appears that the world responds, or supports, or encourages, his journey.

The "Workings of Love" suggests that there is an active force in the world. We can imagine that there is a hidden music in things. Can we imagine that there is, also, a performance? An active process with audience, performer, working together?

Can we imagine that imagination itself works in all things, and that there is a desire in all things?

COUNTESS

Love being desire?

I

Love, in this case, is an attraction through imagination. I am not thinking about human love at this point. Perhaps Love is the same in all things, creative, physical but let us start with a broader picture.

COUNTESS

Is it not sadly possible that people simply imagine that the desire produced by their own physical needs is a universal principal?

I

And we project a purely imaginary idea of love onto the cosmos? Well, if we do it may be all we can ever know. I do not separate mind from body. Are agape and eros ever really separate?

COUNTESS

Plato, and his commentator our beloved Marsilio Ficino, speak in terms of the two Venuses.

I

Are they not reflections of each other?

COUNTESS

Surely the physical may engender imagination? Sometimes, of course, it may produce grotesque imaginings.

I

If there is a distinction to be made it could be between love as a creative force and negative desires. The old fashioned sins are a useful guide. Lust is misdirected love. Are not all sins misdirected loves? Misdirected usually towards the self.

Love, the love we are considering, is a regard for another object which generates a desire for that object.

COUNTESS

A desire that may or not be physical.

I

It may be either, or a mixture. The desire may be a recognition of something lacking in the soul of the lover, or it may be a recognition of a reflection of the lover a reflection in the beloved object of what the lover should be. It may part of the process of vocation.

COUNTESS

Ah and that may be a process which is beyond ourselves. Love in the cosmos may provide that object through the steps of the Dance? Vocation, as a cosmic force, may provide a Lover?

I

It may seem that way and certainly has seemed that way in my experience but I am careful to appear, at least, sceptical. Your Ficino also says that loving an object creates love in an object. If someone loves another the other will respond.

COUNTESS

Would it were so!

I

I think this is more a philosophical concept than an observation from experience.

COUNTESS

I wonder. But you speak of objects. You are trying to avoid the specifically human experience.

I

Yes. I suppose I am trying to argue that love is a cosmic principal and not just a projection of our human needs. Love is a sharing of imagination which engenders desire. We have already allowed the concept of an Imagination in the world. (I still try to avoid the word "Soul.")

COUNTESS

The sharing is not always reciprocated.

I

If we believe that there is an "imagination" in the cosmos, a capability of things to make forms and have meaning, can we say that love is a general principle which engenders desire, movement, in all things?

COUNTESS

We can say it. We know what we mean by it. Others may not. But lets call that principle, or energy, Love for the moment.

I

We might say that Love is the essential force of existence. Would our friend Maude find this language acceptable? Let us say

God regards his creation. God simultaneously draws creation into imagination and draws creation from imagination. The energy, Love, is produced from the relationship of a created thing and its idea or form in the divine imagination.

COUNTESS

I feel Maude would be generally pleased with this image of God creating through love a continuous process a circular process. Gods desire creates the Forms to which creation flows. But there are dangers in using the word "Creation."

I

It is a misused word. We are not thinking of any act of manufacture at a specific time but the more I think of it the more appropriate the word seems. The energy of love between object and Idea is an eternal process of creation. The thing is constantly becoming a reflection of the Idea. "Works" are continually being formed as well as individual things.

COUNTESS

Very good. And the thing regards its Idea. I like this concept of gazing, regarding, admiring.

I

And so the existence, or being, of anything is a working of Love.

COUNTESS

It may be so. It may be there is only one Love.

(Maude had joined us.)

MAUDE

If I may put what I understand you have been discussing in my own words

"Love draws all things towards their Idea in the Mind of God."

I might dare to suggest that your Platonic idea that our Form or Idea existed in the Mind of God is to be found even in the Psalmist:

"My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be. "

COUNTESS

Ah yes - as a very elegant poetic lady once translated the same verse:

"Nay fashionless, ere form I took,
Thy all and more beholding eye
My shapeless shape
Could not escape:
All these time framed successively
Ere one had being, in the book
Of thy foresight enrolled did lie."

MAUDE

The desire that draws us, or a work, or nature is produced by the Idea or Form of what we, or the work, should be, and eternally is in the World of Forms. The energy that draws us, or it, is Love.

Is this not the working of the Holy Trinity? God the Father is the source of Being. The Word is the Form and the Spirit is the Love that draws us toward our vocation.

I

Thank you. Somehow all the vaguenesses of our Platonic conversation are resolved when you use your Christian terminology.

MAUDE

My faith is entirely concerned with the workings of Love.

I

Our difficulty is in using these words with common understanding. It is almost impossible to talk in Christian language as everyone means completely different things by the same words they are divided by a common language. Not least the word "God" which, to some, means something in which it is easy to disbelieve and to others means a simple and necessary One or Being.

"Love draws all things towards their Idea (or Form) in the mind of God."

This is, if understood in the way you intend, exactly how I feel about my own vocation as a composer and about the music itself. The music follows its own vocation. It desires to be composed. Both the music and I follow this desire purely to reveal the Unity.

MAUDE

Which is, to me, simply God, revealed through the working of Love.

COUNTESS

Maude has the benefit of a simple faith. She feels no need to question words. And she feels very little need to use words at all. I, like you, Mr Mordant, am a sadly confused being. I enjoy my struggles to find glimpses of Truth in a walk in the garden or in a fine lemon ice. Maude is capable of love. Its not the way of negation she follows. She affirms all because she is simply herself.

MAUDE

Madame, I am nothing.

I

In our discussions of music we agreed that individual things are part of greater works. A tree is part of a landscape. A harmony is part of a sonata.

COUNTESS

Indeed. There are larger forms made of many individual objects.

I

So these larger forms are also produced by the creative tension of Love between Nature and Form.

COUNTESS

Yes if we accept that there is an imagination in the cosmos.

MAUDE

Which is not the One, or God, but the regard of God in Nature. God remains simple and unknowable.

I

Yes. Some say "Jesus the Imagination" of "The Divine Imagination."

COUNTESS

Or call this world of ideas "The Virgin Sophia" though it cannot, we feel, be a mere collection of patterns but a constantly creating imagination.

Shall we say:

"There is a Working of Love in the greater forms moulding the material world to the Idea or pattern." Oh how fanciful we Platonists can be.

MAUDE

This is the Spirit processing from the One and the Word. The dance of creation is the reflection of the Trinity. Though God is simple, love, One, Good, he works through all creation in the relationship of the Trinity, the constant interchange of love, infinitely creative.

COUNTESS

Are we thinking of two forces or one?

Firstly the desire that draws an object to the imagination or soul of the lover.

Secondly the force that draws an object towards its Idea, or draws things to create larger forms which also are drawn to their Ideas in the Divine Imagination.

I


These are, surely, the same. Love draws lovers together to create larger forms just as love draws natural things to make a beautiful landscape, or musical ideas together to form a work. It is one process and these three things often serve each other. Human love affects the world in which lives. A musical world may depend on the personal experience and vocation of its composer.

MAUDE

This is a way of understanding the Trinity, working through love. I would suggest that your ideas, Mr Mordant, are closer to the theology of the Trinity than they are to Platonic thought. Plato's Ideas could be understood as a rather naive way of understanding how a horse is born a horse, due to a pre-existing Idea of "horse", in the absence of an understanding of genetics. The process you describe is far closer to the working of the Trinity, constantly drawing individual things to form new expressions of unity while retaining their individual qualities. The "Ideas in the Mind of God" are fragments of the idea of Unity, new compositions of sounds, nature, life, rather than the simple "ideas" of Plato. Perhaps you would find a friend in St Bonaventure, the Seraphic Doctor, who absorbed your Plato into a purely Christian vision in which Christ was central.

In Christ we have the glory and the wounds, the joy and pain, the harmony and creative discord.

COUNTESS

Ah, the Dance takes shape!

And, at that moment, it was embodied by the dancers who emerged from a gazebo. As two red and gold figures tumbled another sang to a hurdy gurdy. In the same colourful spangled costume it was difficult at first to know whether it was a boy or a girl, but her voice was that of a girl. There was a certain familiarity in her appearance. Someone I had met on the road? Which road might it have been? A road through western forests or a road that led to these southern climes. the lemon tree country?

(Notes 6/06 - 12/06)

GO, IF YOU WISH, TO PART 4