14 Jan




Aldous Huxley used to say that the central problem for humanity is the quest for grace. This word he used in what he thought was the sense in which it is used in the New Testament. He explained the word, however, in his own terms. He argued–like Walt Whitman–that the communication and behavior of animals has a naivete, a simplicity, which man has lost.

Man’s behavior is corrupted by deceit–even self-deceit–by purpose, and by self-consciousness. As Aldous saw the matter, man has lost the “grace” which animals still have.
In terms of this contrast, Aldous argued that God resembles the animals rather than man: He is ideally unable to deceive and incapable of internal confusions.

In the total scale of beings, therefore, man is as if displaced sideways and lacks that grace which the animals have and which God has.

I argue that art is a part of man’s quest for grace; sometimes his ecstasy in partial success, sometimes his rage and agony at failure.

I argue also that there are many species of grace within the major genus; and also that there are many kinds of failure and frustration and departure from grace. No doubt each culture has its characteristic species of grace toward which its artists strive, and its own species of failure.

Some cultures may foster a negative approach to this difficult integration, an avoidance of complexity by crass preference either for total consciousness or total unconsciousness. Their art is unlikely to be “great”.

I shall argue that the problem of grace is fundamentally a problem of integration and that what is to be integrated is the diverse parts of the mind–especially those multiple levels of which one extreme is called “consciousness” and the other the “unconsciousness.” For the attainment of grace, the reasons of the heart must be integrated with the reasons of the reason.

–Gregorey Bateson
Steps to an ecology of mind