I mentioned Roger Scruton’s The Meaning of Conservatism recently. It’s a great book, but it’s also a beautiful book—a beautiful physical object. The construction of the hardcover from St. Augustine’s Press is superb, and the cover graphic—Sir Stanley Spencer’s “Resurrection“—is literally a work of art. Painted between 1924-27, it hangs in the Tate Museum:
Spencer believed that the divine rested in all creation. He saw his home town of Cookham as a paradise in which everything is invested with mystical significance. The local churchyard here becomes the setting for the resurrection of the dead. Christ is enthroned in the church porch, cradling three babies, with God the Father standing behind. Spencer himself appears near the centre, naked, leaning against a grave stone; his fiancée Hilda lies sleeping in a bed of ivy. At the top left, risen souls are transported to Heaven in the pleasure steamers that then ploughed the Thames.
A chief criticism of our time articulated by people like C.S. Lewis is that our obsession with scientism has wiped out our ability to invest reality with mystical significance. Even science (though certainly not scientism) cannot explain the ultimate “why” of reality (of something rather than nothing) even if it can eventually apprehend every “how.“
It’s in this light that I’m totally comfortable with “mystical significance” infusing the day-to-day. When I look at Spencer’s Resurrection, I imagine my family in Armstrong County, more than eight generations buried together that might meet one day.
Without “musical significance,” what are cemeteries anyway? Stones and sentiment.