Yet Nicholas Mosley’s own achievements were immense. Hopeful Monsters is his masterpiece. The later novels, although often not well reviewed, are among his most interesting work. Catastrophe Practice is his manifesto mixing allusive statements with short stories. His autobiography Efforts at Truth is a must read as it is the best explanation of the way he merges his philosophy and his writing style. It also covers his involvement with Fr. Raymond Raynes and his editing of the theological magazine Prism (a number of articles from which ended up in Experience and Religion).
Nicholas Mosley suggested that society needs to develop a language or style “by which apparent contradictions might be held … [being] elusive, allusive, not didactic”. Everything in Mosley’s realm is double-edged and multidimensional and that his novels are both abstract and realistic.
In Experience and Religion, Mosley argued that modern works of art commonly reflect both the chaos of our world and our sense of helplessness about this chaos. The problem, he suggested, is our lack of a language in which to express our common experience of life. “This common experience,” he suggests, “is partly simply that there is an enormous amount of joy, energy, order, significance in the world that does not get expressed by artists and thinkers of any subtlety now, and which gets hopelessly vulgarised by those with none.”
“What is required is a way of thinking which will take account of both the hope and hopelessness, responsibility and helplessness, the good not in spite of but together with the evil.”: “Because of its very complexity it will not be something argued, reasoned in a straight line as it were; but something of attempts, flashes, allusions – a to-and-fro between a person and whatever he has to do and to discover. What it will be saying will not be part of a comprehensive system but things-on-their-own, parables, paradoxes; the connections between which will have to be held and understood with difficulty, not justified.”
Mosley noted that both art and religion were once to do with such significance, meaning and connections and that lively religious languages have in fact been artistic languages; with religion being written in poems, parables and stories. He called for a revival of religious and artistic languages that are “elusive, allusive; not didactic,” dealing with the patterns, connections, that facts and units of data, together with the minds that observe them, make. By this, he thinks, seeming opposites might be held from a higher point of view and “errors accepted as the purveyors of learning rather than traps.”
Mosley wrote about the need to "hear for ourselves what might be going on just behind our words, off-stage" and to: "evolve a language which will try to deal not just with facts, with units of data, together with the patterns, connections, that such data, together with the minds that observe them, make - in particular a language that can deal at the same time both with the data and with the language that is traditionally used to describe them. By this, apparent contradictions might be held. This language would be elusive, allusive; not didactic. Some such language has been that of poetry, of art; also of love ..."
In his Catastrophe Practice sequence of novels he explored, both through his characters and his prose style, the possibilities of reflecting not just on the facts of our existences but on the connections between these facts and then, going further, on the processes of our minds and language that can observe such connections. His explorations were a reflection on reflections.
When people genuinely listen their experience is of perceiving connections between themself and the person with whom they are speaking. Mosley saw this perception as an early stage in real learning. The next stage is to observe ourselves observing. We often correct ourselves as we speak. We hear what we are saying and think that we have not expressed ourselves as well as we wished so we restate or add to our point in order to become clearer. Most of the time, we do this semi-consciously. Mosley suggested that we practice this ability and that we constantly observe our thought and speech processes.
To do so would slow our conversations considerably. Conversations would involve more and greater pauses, would not flow but would stop and start, would circle round a point as we search for the clearest method of making our point, would involve more questioning, summarising and clarifying. Each of us would need to learn what are, in effect, interviewing and/or counselling techniques. Mosley's novels were written in just such a style.
Mosley argued that there is a need to "evolve a language which will try to deal not just with facts, with units of data, together with the patterns, connections, that such data, together with the minds that observe them, make - in particular a language that can deal at the same time both with the data and with the language that is traditionally used to describe them. By this, apparent contradictions might be held. This language would be elusive, allusive; not didactic. Some such language has been that of poetry, of art; also of love ..."
He noted, though, that many will find the prospect of such a language disconcerting: "But such complexities, arrogances, are indeed alarming: men are more easily at home, more protected, within the simple and infantile antagonisms of putting one fact against another; of knocking down cases like skittles; of making a fantasy of identity by putting the boot in." He identified this alternative approach to language, with its concern with connections and links, with tenderness.
Nicholas Mosley’s novel The Hesperides Tree is a fictional exploration of these possibilities. His central character, while delving in a library, comes across the writings of the ninth-century monk John Scotus Eriugena who “said that it was in this life that one could if one chose have an experience of God; of God and humans going hand in hand, creating what happened hand in hand”. His understanding of Scotus is that: “In this world God was dependent on humans for what He and they did, to them He had handed over freedom: He remained that by which their freedom could operate, so of course they were dependent on Him too. But what could be learned, practised, of freedom except through exposure, risk – through trying things out by casting oneself on the waters as it were and discovering what the outcome would be after many days. But John Scotus’s way of seeing things had for a thousand years been largely ignored, and freedom had been taken into custody by Church and State.”
Arcade Fire featuring Mavis Staples - I Give You Power.