“The perennial fibre of truth” – Thomas Carlyle. What is it?

All Writings, Observations / Sunday, September 2nd, 2018

There is something inherently easy, comforting, and natural in reading what Thomas Carlyle has written.  Insofar as I reached the point of his writing about “Worship” and the “devotion” that mankind has been familiar with, these words have been outstanding:

Worship is transcendent wonder; wonder for which there is now no limit or measure; that is worship. To these primeval men, all things and everything they saw exist beside them were an emblem of the Godlike, of some God. And look what perennial fibre of truth was in that. To us also, through every star, through every blade of grass, is not a God made visible, if we will open our minds and eyes?

Carlyle, Thomas.

He is not speaking of some religious code, although he makes several references to Norse mythology, the Christian faith, the Jews and the Arabs as a people and the Abrahamic faiths those people have become representatives of.  What at once is easy to see, is that the existence of God, or “some God” isn’t a struggle.  It is the most obvious and natural conclusion to his own mind, and also as he sees the minds of the great men and their cultures that preceded him.

With the development of science, the position of religion has weakened.  There is no doubt about it.  Also, philosophy, in its dissatisfied state as expressed through Neitzche came out as it better not to believe in the existence of God.  However, it is not a statement of faithlessness or disbelief.  It is a statement of frustration when the words are uttered: “God is dead”.  The frustration is with one’s own experience and what is expected to be the nature of God.  Having become so narrow and trapped in the suffering of one’s own mind, what one is likely to see is the absence of an active and interested God.  Hence, God is dead makes sense, since there isn’t the loving God who takes away suffering.  His power is so meaningless to the one who is suffering, that God is as good as dead; His existence is irrelevant.

To a man like Thomas Carlyle, though, who shows a keen awareness of God through the creative works in nature, God is absolutely alive, active, and artistic.  By the present-day occupations, and excessive involvement with human manipulations of the physical world it may seem that a natural reverence – the worship Carlyle speaks of – may have been lost.  The way Will Durant puts it shows the respect we owe to science, while not forgetting the human element.  He wrote:

Science is the captured territory; and behind it are those secure regions in which knowledge and art build our imperfect and marvelous world. Philosophy seems to stand still, perplexed; but only because she leaves the fruits of victory to her daughters the sciences, and herself passes on, divinely discontent, to the uncertain and unexplored.

Durant, Will. Story of Philosophy

The way the mind works is the answer, not only the information we have

The interaction between the brain, the mind, and the information that is active is the thing of greatest interest.  There are kinds of information that have a soothing, dulling, soporific effect on the mind by virtue of how it interacts with the brain.  Would we count a mother’s lullaby as an example of such?  Yes, we can.  Not only the words but the way those are uttered with love and care by the mother, it relaxes the mind.  Even the language is not important.  What is important is the human connection, and that connection carried over through the feelings in the voice, the words, and the touch of the mother toward the child.

Consider that child today, growing up in a world where his mind is crowded by so much detail and attention is required for such minute aspects that great and grand thinking simply disappears from conscious thought.  What is left rather, is a tiredness; perhaps also a feeling of wanting to escape the mundane misuse of the mind.  Even as I write these things, I am struck by how in all the typed alphabets whenever the letter ‘i’ appears, it requires a small dot on the top of the vertical bar.  How easy to wish, not to pay any attention and overlook this “minor” detail, this unnecessary requirement of precision.  What would happen as a result?  The result would be sloppiness.  Does this not illustrate the demands put upon the human mind today, especially by the nature of the occupation.  If one puts together a painter, an engineer, a philosopher, a pilot, and a writer we would come up with a most interesting discussion, provided each individual can maintain a certain respectfulness and patience toward the other.

The time has come today, not to have minds that are absolutely trapped in or committed to a single way of thinking.  It would surely affect how human life is lived because of the demands of work, and of a profession.  However, if there is a chance to interact with a great variety of people – as is very much possible through the Internet and social networks – I believe, the human mind can find its needed transformation.  The transformation isn’t in information: it is in the engagement of diverse people that it makes possible.  The transformation has already started to occur as globalization has made such a transformation possible.  Should we consider it a good thing?  And when we return to the kind of natural interpretation of the world Carlyle spoke of, when he draws attention to the “natural fibre of truth” leading inexorably to the belief in God, then we are required to understand God in some other terms than what we have been used to!  It has to be admitted that our understanding till now has continued to too narrow, or divided through polytheism.

It’s not seeming to make sense, and hence it cannot be the truth

When one sits down to make sense of the world around them, the simplest understanding is most effective.  Why?  It is for the simple reason that such understandings are not to be revised.  These are constant, basic, and permanent.  Being such, a person feels free to engage in everything else, with absolute confidence.  No matter how many details are put upon the underlying reality, or understanding of it as has come to be accepted as the truth, the foundation does not change.

The urge to excavate everything, revise it, and subject it to the human freedom to think and do as one pleases takes an individual outside of the realm of religious and moral codes.  Still, a person remains tied to a thread – “the perennial fiber of truth” – that we are created and so is everything else.  If this belief is lost, human beings will lose a fundamental belief in the reason for existing.  We may not doubt the origin of life through an intelligent Creator, but we do find the rising doubt about a personal purpose.  Even a collective purpose eludes mankind, for we are surrounded by as much the miracle of machines as the superstition of the imaginative human.  If we can set aside the reverence for the machine and the disparaging of superstition, we could find the unifying in the mind and see the thread of truth, its fiber going through the entirety of human existence.

Our purpose and origin are tied to the belief in purpose.  The day will come when our reason, our pursuits, and our beliefs will find a satisfaction.  Not surprisingly, it would like the child that find peace in the mother’s lullaby though he may not understand a single word the mother says.  The child simply knows it is loved, it is safe, and it is alive.  We are waiting for the lullaby.

The perennial fiber of truth may just finally be a mother's lullaby for all of humanity.
The “perennial fibre of truth” may just finally be a mother’s lullaby for all of humanity.