Philosophy of Mysticism in D. H. Lawrence Writing

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      Lawrence was an artist eminently gifted with a prophetic vision and his novels have been used as a means for communicating his vision of life. Hence, there is the presence of two Lawrence's in his novels, firstly Lawrence, the artist and secondly, Lawrence the philosopher. Critics have strongly condemned Lawrence’s insistence on his doctrinal beliefs and found it difficult to come to terms with the philosopher in him. David Daiches, a most perceptive critic, did not at first include Lawrence in his illuminating study, The Novel and the Modern World, for he was unable to come to terms with the obsessed prophet in him and did not know how to approach him or how to relate the two aspects of his genius. Graham Hough also expresses that certain leading ideas can be abstracted from the fiction of Lawrence and that fiction and doctrine co-exist in all his major novels. In his own uniquely persuasive way he assures us that what Lawrence offers us is not a consistent philosophy. Like Blake, D. H. Lawrence is essentially a mystic. Mysticism is simply a mood, a temper, a way of looking at things. Mysticism belongs to the heart than the head, it is a matter of faith, of intuition, of experience and inspiration. It is irrational. The extensive reservoir in him to give a reasoned and convincing exposition of his philosophy, made him divert his attention towards symbols to help express his thought successfully. The following are the various aspects of his mysticism.

Religion of Blood.

      Lawrence believed that the tragedy of the modern age is because of the rising intellectualization of human being. Reason is becoming more and more important with impulse being pushed to the background. This has in turn destroyed man’s spontaneous, instinctive response to life. He believes that abstract intellectualism can be the cause for the destruction of the thrill, gaiety and vitality of life. Impulses should not be over-powered by reason. His affirmation in the superiority of impulses over reason is brought out clearly from the excerpts of this letter written to his friend Ernest Collings:

My own religion is a belief in the blood, the flesh as being wiser than the intellect. We can go wrong in our minds. But what our blood feels and says is always true. The intellect is only a bit and bridle. What do I care about knowledge? All I want is to answer to my blood, direct without fribbling intervention of mind, or moral or whatnot.

      From these lines Lawrence seems to be attaching a certain sanctity to the sexual demands of a person.


      Lawrence was filled with horror at the growing materialism and selfishness, the increasing ugliness, sordidness and meanness, consequent upon the rapid industrialization of the country. Lawrence is nostalgic for the bright sensory life that town civilization is steadily destroying and like a neo-romantic craves for contact with the earth. Bonamy Dobree is of the opinion that: “Throughout his career he had been anti-materialistic, since materialism for him blunts sensibility, he is for shearing away the relics of dead faiths, of philosophies that clog the free play of the impulses and he rejects Christianity and Platonism with equal scorn.” Lawrence believed that the disengagement of one’s intellect from one’s emotions is what has led humanity to a materialistic approach towards life. Lawrence sought an escape from the deadness of this material civilization by escaping to Mexico, Australia and Italy, lands beautifully for the preservation and adoration of instincts and nature. To quote Baker, “his philosophy represents the revolt of the man of nature, from the artificial self-consciousness and mere automatism of societal man.’’


      Lawrence himself once wrote, “Life and action take rise actually at the great centers of dynamic Consciousness”. He believed that modern psychologists had layers within layers of consciousness - the conscious, the sub-conscious, and even the unconscious and he was of the opinion that one should lapse back into the unconscious self “only then will you act straight from - the dark sources of life, outwards, which is creative life.” Lawrence passionately believed in the presence of the “dark mystery” of life and he saw all living forms instilled with it. According to him the “dark mystery” could not be known through intellect, because intellect would kill it in the very process of grasping it. Furthermore, wide areas of life are inaccessible to intellect but may be known through the instincts and intuitions. He once wrote to Katherine Mansfield, “We must grow from our deepest underground roots, out of the unconscious, not from the conscious concepts which we falsely call ourselves.”

Exaltation of Sex.

      In the words of F.R. Leavis, “Life is fulfilled in the individual or nowhere; but without a true marital relation, which is creative in more than the sense of producing children, there can be no fulfillment; (hat is the burden of Lawrence’s art.”

      Nothing was more modern in Lawrence than his free and frank treatment of sex. Lawrence does not imbibe in himself any of the inhibitions of the Victorians. Lawrence’s attitude towards life is deeply rooted in sexual mysticism. Lawrence believed that deepest mysteries of life can be known through sex, and so sex is fundamental to an organic and complete life. Lawrence felt that for the attainment of happiness in life, sexual harmony was essential. Sex is not merely a functional act but creative and revelatory of life and of the beauty of being alive. Lawrence also seemed to believe that the nature of sex experience is same as that of a divine experience in that both experiences are revelatory of the hitherto unknown mystery. To Lawrence not only was sex the way woman fulfills her being and man one of his chief creative functions, but the sexual experience was a door to new realms of consciousness, “and initiation into divine mysteries, the mystery of the other world that is close behind us.” Aldous Huxley states, “For Lawrence, the significance of the sexual experience was this that, in it, the immediate non-mental knowledge of the divine otherness is brought, so to speak, to a focus-of darkness.”


      According to Lawrence, it is through polarisation of two characters who come in contact with each other that happiness can be achieved. In order to create a harmonious relationship both the partners should shed off his or her domination and possessiveness. In his own words, “If there is universal, infinite darkness, then there is universal, infinite light, for there cannot exist a specific infinite save by virtue of the opposite equivalent specific infinite.” Similar to the way in which intellect is opposed to blood, male is to female, consciousness to feelings, spirit to soul, mind to senses. Lawrence believes that these opposites are always in a state of opposition. None should be exalted at the cost of the other, each must be given its due place in the scheme and this is the only way to escape neurosis and tragedy. But as Lawrence advocates this principle of the existence of the conflicting forms, he also emphasizes that the opposition between them must never be ended and he expresses it in the words:

But think, if the lion really destroyed, killed the unicorn, not merely drove him out of the town, but annihilated him, would not the lion at once expire as if he had created a vacuum? Around himself? They would both cease to be if either of them really won the fight which is their sole reason for existing.

      Thus, for Lawrence, there can be no fruitful relationship between the sexes unless it is based on the principles of polarity. He believed that in a proper relationship the maleness of man co-existed with the femaleness of the woman and the identity of one was recognized and honored by the other.

Rejection of Christianity.

      D. Neill describes Lawrence’s rejection of Christianity in the words: “He rejected Christianity, because it was dualistic and perpetuated the conflict between flesh and spirit, mind and matter.” Lawrence believed that those people would be declared victorious in the human conflict, who would seize and identify themselves, “with the master of human destiny,” i.e. “the dark mysterious god.” It would be possible to sense this dark mysterious God only through blood consciousness and not through intellect. He felt that the division of the flesh and the spirit was evil. He could not quite accept the Christian glorification of the ascetic life.

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