On Separation and Death

by Carl Schmitt
August 28, 1925

Pastel of Chestnut TreeNothing is so simple, so explainable, so logical and un-mysterious as a thing dead. The moment you deal with a thing alive you deal with mystery. True unity is a trinity and defies analysis when analysis alone is brought to bear upon it. Unity (when existing in the natural symbolic order) is destroyed by the sword of analysis. True unity (the inner reality) cannot be destroyed by analysis. Analysis simply withdraws itself from the organism.

Analysis, then, can destroy the symbol by separating the symbol from reality. The evil of analysis (used as an end and not a means) lies in it peculiar ability to separate. To analyze a thing one must “isolate” it—separate it from life, reality. It then holds no surprises. One knows what to expect of dead parts. Again of wheat, whole and organic, may do any number of things (all mysteries to the man who uses analysis as part of his own various organism of observation). It may rot, it may grow. It may grow worms, it may grow men, it may grow itself. (It may ferment, but that leads elsewhere.) The more it is separated for analysis alone the more docile it becomes until it is killed—withdrawn from reality and consequently from symbolism. And it is withdrawn from the mystery of reality; it is withdrawn from the world of beauty also. Any object withdrawn from reality is insulted. It loves its original dignity. Up to a certain point this insult is necessary. How do we define this boundary, this certain point?

Our particular modern foible is the mania for separation caused by the overdevelopment of the analytical faculty. This faculty is “skeptical” when trained on reality. It is “scientific” when trained on symbol.

One should make a catalogue of the millions of separations which have taken place since the Reformation. At that time for some strange reason, reason began to hobble on the leg, the leg of analysis; creative intellect’s other poor leg. Desire or aspiration or understanding began to wither until today the analytical leg is taken to be the whole man.

For instance, everyone today (that is, all patriotic people) think of reading, writing, and arithmetic as ends of primary education. Or again, every artist, nearly, has forgotten that there should be a close connection between the “creator” or composer and the performer. Painting has survived but the evangelist, even here, goes on without his prophet. And the evangelist gets the applause. We need no prophet, nor do we miss him.

The test is simple, but there are only about ten men in the country who could apply or understand the test. Anyway here is the test: Go to any public exhibit of pictures and see how many are designed. I say only about ten would know. The rest are content with the performer who is usually a cheap kind of virtuoso. In mentioning primary education where the tools of creative life are presented as the end of the business, or the fine arts where the same is done so that the performer is separate from the composer. I merely mention two fields where this blight appears. Make your own list. Why, in some places you dare not mention your body on Sundays or your soul on Mondays so separate do they hold their body and soul. How many realize that letters are a preparation for the art of Letters, or the craft of Letters and that art or craft should be pointed out as a goal while giving the tools to the child? Raise your hands.

© Copyright 2013 Carl Schmitt Foundation