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This happy brood: Tom Stacey (centre), with his wife Caroline and 14 of their 25 descendants (©Christopher Sykes/Stacey family)

Getting older, one gets clearer; the gift of offspring breeds an urgency to pass on to at least some of the expanding brood the searing clarities brought me by a long life lived to the hilt. The descendants of my wife and me currently total 25. Every new addition has me pleading with the voice of Yeats to be granted “an old man’s frenzy” to “remake” me as “William Blake / Who beat upon the wall / Till truth obeyed his call.”

The particular truth obeying my call with searing clarity the other day was that Man’s requirement to make art is identical to Man’s requirement to make religion. Identical is a word of sharp precision. So be it. What I have come to see with adamantine clarity is the parched soul of the devotee equally of Art and of God slaking its thirst at the same creative well.

That souls matter is another clarity of urgency for our 25, bombarded relentlessly as they are (or will be) by competing advertisers and competing politicians insisting that all that matters in life can be expressed in economic terms as the ease and indulgence of the body, personal status and vanity, and their “standard” of living — never the “point” of living nor, God forbid, the origin of it. That “point”, I suggest, might be expressed as love, joy, belonging and peace and also their contributors, art and religion themselves, all of which are economically worthless and functionally useless.

What man or woman, endowed with consciousness, is not confronted by the mystery of their existence? What — even if they persistently shelve any fleeting consideration of that mystery until at the deathbed of one they love, or perhaps their own deathbed?

That which I am thus calling “art” here must exclude whatever has no other purpose than to divert or decorate. I confine my definition of art to that which in its creation or experience calls forth inspiration, elevation, self-loss and a conviction of Truth expressed: that Truth reconciling Man’s time-tagged presence with the one-ness of all things visible and invisible, as the Creed has it. That is, the Holy (a word which means Whole).

True religion and true art alike are fired by faith, and faith has no dimension in time and space. It is a stance of the soul, which is equally faith in the Divine mystery of created Being and in the artist’s own conviction in his or her potential to create. Art is aptly described in that phrase in the book of Deuteronomy (often on Jesus’s tongue) as “every word that comes from the mouth of God”.

This unity points to the route for the confident restoration of religion at the heart of a world whose civilisation for some 1,700 years has been predicated upon the spiritual authority of Judaeo-Christianity. Perception of religion as the ultimate art form offers the key to the future sustaining of Man’s management of his presence on earth. So I spell it out here for our 25 descendants and any others who choose to keep reading, for their guidance and — I daresay — hope.

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March 21st, 2017
2:03 PM
Very interesting and thoughtful article. thank you. I have forwarded it to my daughter who is an Art Therapist and might have other things to say about the value of art.

philip goodman
February 23rd, 2017
12:02 PM
hello tom long time no see or hear

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