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In Homocentrisme Gleizes argues that the artist is in theory well placed to understand and address the problem (and though 'the artist' in our own time has fallen very low indeed, we may remember that at the time Gleizes was writing the 'Arts and Crafts Movement', inspired by the teaching of William Morris et al was still a force to be reckoned with in British culture):

'Even though he has fallen very low, the artist bears within himself, indelibly, the traces of that Man who has now been lost.  In whom, in a harmony that is at once deeply moving and logical, "the people labouring at their work" come to be united to "the intellectual speculating with his incorporeal reason".  The artist works with his hands.  He loves his work.  He has chosen it through his love.  He is ready to work for nothing.  Do not believe the story that has been put about.  The artist does not make his work uniquely by "gut feeling".  However rudimentary the intellectual factor may be for him at the present time, it is, nonetheless, there and, constantly, it demands reflection and an act of reasoning.

'So, as soon as we look at it, the social position of the artist appears as something remarkable.  He is too intellectual for the drudgery of the sterile work of the factory or the office.  He is too much of a worker for the pure intellectual anxious to preserve the virginity of his hands.

'Another remnant of the truth of the value of Man - the man who [as things stand at present - PB] strives to escape from and to marginalise the source of his own worth - the artist’s megalomania, which serves him as an irritant in his life, a stimulus to action.  Does it not derive its origins from an obscure but, in itself, quite correct feeling for the quality of the individual?  But, since he no longer has any idea of what discipline is in the traditional order, he exaggerates the nuances thrown up by his own particular case, and denies the eternal principles.  And so he moves ever further away from that which he is seeking.  He wants the human and he digs himself ever further into the inhuman.  So, his only justification seems to be that he adds a certain element of luxury - he provides the backdrop to a certain part of that leisure time which we have been obliged to organise as a consequence of the progress of sterile work, which has now become more than just a danger.

'But if the artist would only feel the need for self-regeneration, then he would be in a position to take advantage of what, in the eyes of the drudges of sterile work and in those of the pure intellectuals, appear to be his disadvantages.  It is easier for him than it is for either the one or the other, to rediscover his own significance.  He can recognise the meaning of his own act and, in this way, he can set the example of a new birth, a birth to life, the example that the world has been waiting for.  And so he would be able, in the hierarchically structured order of his own realities, to reveal the Type of the traditional man, the Type on which each and every one of us can be modelled - the Man who is able to bear the true foundations on which culture has to be established.  Culture, which can only be said to exist to the extent that it guides Man in the direction of his own self-awareness' (pp.10-11).


While Gleizes talks about Man (but will often talk about Being) and Heidegger talks about Being (but will often talk about Man) they have it in common that what is being revealed is an objective reality, not a subjective point of view. Insofar as what he is doing is of interest in this discussion, the artist-craftsman-poet is not 'expressing himself' in the way the term is usually understood. If we say that nature (colours, sounds, smells) is created in human consciousness it is obviously not you or I who have done the creating. Gleizes's 'man' has an objective existence that is independent of - and is often revealed despite the conscious intentions of - individual men. It is the same with Heidegger's Being. At the beginning of the 'Letter on Humanism' he says: 

'the essence of action is accomplishment. To accomplish means to unfold something into the fullness of its essence, to lead it forth into this fullness - producere. Therefore only what already is can really be accomplished. But what "is" above all is Being. Thinking accomplishes the relation of Being to the essence of man. It does not make or cause the relation. Thinking brings this relation to Being solely as something handed over to it from Being. Such offering consists in the fact that in thinking Being comes to language. Language is the house of Being. In its home man dwells. Those who think and those who create with words are the guardians of this home' (p.217).

The same may be said - Gleizes would claim more pertinently - of the craft. Or, perhaps most obviously, with least scope for the vagaries of subjective opinion, of the farmer. But what is most important in all this is not, in my view, a romantic attachment to past ways of doing things so much as a sense of what it is to be human. The title of Gleizes's book Homocentrisme is an argument in itself - that human consciousness and the human act really are the centre of the Universe. It is only in consciousness that the Universe is revealed. As we have already seen, without consciousness there is no sound, no colour, no mass, no shape. Heidegger again (dasein being a complicated term but which refers nonetheless to our own human reality):

'There is truth only insofar as Dasein is and as long as it is. Beings are discovered only when Dasein is and only as long as Dasein is are they disclosed. Newton's laws, the law of contradiction, and any truth whatsoever, are true only so long as Dasein is. Before there was any Dasein, there was no truth; nor will there be any after Dasein is no more ... Before Newton's laws were discovered, they were not "true". From this it does not follow that they were false ... The laws became true through Newton, through them beings in themselves became accessible for Dasein ... That there are "eternal truths" will not be adequately proven until it is successfully demonstrated that Dasein has been and will be for all eternity. As long as this proof is lacking, the statement remains a fanciful assertion which does not gain legitimacy by being generally "believed" by philosophers ...' [12]

[12]  Being and Time, trans Joan Stambaugh, Albany, State University of New York Press, 2010, p.226-7 (using the German pagination).

But human consciousness is still more than a mechanism for revealing, or 'liberating', certain characteristics of the Universe, or even for exploiting the Universe for the satisfaction of our (in themselves rather simple) material needs. I would like to finish here with a comment by J.Glenn Friesen on the eighteenth century German Catholic philosopher Franz von Baader (1765-1841), a powerful 'Christian theosophist' critic of Immanuel Kant. Baader too argued for the centrality of the human sensibility for the existence of all the characteristics of the temporal world and he too saw the dangers of subordinating our human sensibility to the external appearances (rather than the inner meaning, knowable only through the experience, the love, of the - in Baader's view supra-temporal - heart) of this temporal world:

'Baader specifically refers to theory as a temptation. Our freedom to be mediators for the temporal world can be used in two ways - either for or against God. Whatever we set free in the temporal world will continue to have a liberating or a binding action. Thus, our theory can be used improperly. We can use our powers in an unlawful way, in order to hold inside ourselves what should remain outside. We can give ourselves over entirely to the temporal. But the temporal world will then empty us like a bloodsucker or a 'Heart-sucker'. Such a person ends up believing himself or herself to be as empty as the world. I [Friesen - PB] believe this is what Baader means by "loss of Self"'. [13]

[13]  J.Glenn Friesen: Neo-Calvinism and Christian Theosophy, Aevum Books, Calgary, 2016, p.524.