In “Apocalypse, These & Variations,” M.H. Abrams works to build a structure of reference to illustrate how apocalypse was used as productive renewal. He uses the return to Eden as the basis for societal renewal that takes place in the form of a cyclical process ushering man back into a space of nirvana. This cycle of returning to man’s “origins” is applied in Ruskin’s Traffic, where Ruskin indicates that the process can be fulfilled by people building a better “temple of hearts.”

Catastrophe will come; or worse than catastrophe, slow mouldering and withering into Hades. But if you can fix some conception of a true human state of life to be striven for — life for all men as for yourselves — if you can determine some honest and simple order of existence; following those trodden ways of wisdom, which are pleasantness, and seeking her quiet and withdrawn paths, which are peace; — then, and so sanctifying wealth into 'commonwealth,' all your art, your literature, your daily labours, your domestic affection, and citizen's duty, will join and increase into one magnificent harmony. You will know then how to build, well enough; you will build with stone well, but with flesh better; temples not made with hands, but riveted of hearts; and that kind of marble, crimson-veined, is indeed eternal — Ruskin, “Traffic”

In a Number of Church Fathers the biblical pattern of a Paradise-to-be regained was assimilated to the neo-Plationic paradigm of an emanation from division, and return to the Absolute One, and gave rise to the persistent concept that the temporal process — both in the history of mankind and in the life of each individual — is a circular movement from a unitary felicity, through self-division, sin, exile, and suffering, back to the initial felicity. This circular course was often figured according to the biblical (and Plotinian) metaphor of the peregrinatio vitae, and to it was adapted Christ’s parable of the Prodigal Son who leaves home, journeys ‘into a far country’ where he wastes ‘his substance with riotous living,’ and, penitent, returns home to a rejoicing father.” — Abrams, Apocalypse

Ruskin seeks to initiate movement in the cycle of returning to paradise. The new temple he christens must be “crimson-veined” to have the power of transcendence and become everlasting. The “harmony” Ruskin describes must produce a commonwealth that restores man from original sin.

Questions

1. Ruskin discusses a “true state of human life.” How does he envision this as transformative in the present?

2. Abrams seems particularly concerned with the mixing of the temporal and the eternal. How is this to be accomplished?

3. Ruskin’s use of “riveted” suggests industrialization may be involved in the process of transcending. How can we assess this claim?

4. Abrams mentions suffering. Does this tie into the Ruskin at all?


Victorian Overview Religion Victorian Apocalyptics

Last modified 15 February 2011