After reading Creed or Chaos a few months ago I knew I wanted to read more by Dorothy Sayers. In The Mind of the Maker Sayers uses the analogy of the mind of an artist and the creative process to examine the Christian creeds. It’s a complicated analogy but remarkably insightful and helpful in looking at things like the Trinity or even the problem of why evil exists.
I found this book much more difficult than Creed or Chaos but not any less enjoyable and very much worth the effort.Sayers was amazingly intelligent and also educated in a way that very few (if any) people are anymore. I felt like I understood one out of every five of her references and that I probably need to read it a few more times. I appreciated both the new way of thinking about Christian theology but also the insight into a creative mind.
Like Creed or Chaos the best way to share this book is to let Sayers speak for herself.
On the different forms of evil in the world:
Misquotation, misinterpretation and deliberate distortion produce the same kind of evil in different ways. We may feel that they are quite dissimilar offenses. Misquotation arises from carelessness or bad memory; misinterpretation from lack of understanding; deliberate distortion from a perverted intention: we may call them mechanical (or material) defect, intellectual error, and moral wickedness. In fact, however, they have this much in common, that they all arise from the circumstance that the other person is not God and is trying to be “as God”.
On the difference between fantasy and imagination:
Evidence of a habit of fantasy in a child is no proof of creative impulse: on the contrary. The child who relates his fantasied adventures as though they were fact is about as far removed from creativeness as he can possibly be; these dreamy little liars grow up (if nothing worse) into the feeble little half-baked poets who are the irritation and despair of the true makers….the first literary efforts of the genuinely creative commonly deal, in a highly imitative manner, with subjects of which the infant author knows absolutely nothing, such as piracy, submarines, snake-infested swamps of the love-affairs of romantic noblemen. The well-meant exhortations of parents and teachers to “write about something you really know about” should be (and will be) firmly ignored by the young creator as yet another instance of the hopeless stupidity of the adult mind.
I am not arguing with the authorities about this; I am telling them….The child who dresses up as Napoleon, and goes about demanding the respect due to Napoleon, is not necessarily a little paranoiac with a Napoleon-fixation; he is just as likely to be an actor.
And especially fun for those who are fans of the Lord Peter Wimsey detective novels, this passage from a chapter on the concept of free will:
What is intolerable is that the created being should be thus violently stripped of its own precious personality…
“I am sure Lord Peter will end up as a convinced Christian.”
“From what I know of him, nothing is more unlikely.”
“But as a Christian yourself, you must want him to be one.”
“He would be horribly embarrassed by any such suggestion.”
“But he’s far too intelligent and far too nice, not to be a Christian.”
“My dear lady, Peter is not the Ideal Man…”
“I am disappointed.”
“I’m afraid I can’t help that.”
(No; you shall not impose your will or mine upon my creature. He is what he is. I will work no irrelevant miracles upon him, either for propaganda, or to curry favor, or to establish the consistency of my own principles. He exists in his own right and not to please you. Hands off.)
Sayers is quick to point out the limitations of her analogy. God as the creator is obviously not the same as a human creator. But just as using the analogy of a human father to help understand God the father is limited but useful, Sayers analogy works and offers an unique way of thinking about God.