Without this life is a pathless groping and erring, and to such we are
exposing all leading thought in literature and art when subjecting it to the
indiscriminate rule of contemporaneity. Such a procedure is no less than a
denial of life’s inherent design and purpose; it is a decapitation of evolution.
In truth, no such ruthless application of the Zeitgeist’s way was really im-
plied in the statements of group-psychology. Its professional version was
merely a start that gave the popular impetus, the indiscriminate use and
abuse of the fundamental idea. Hence, it is not science that breathes life
into the clamor for contemporaneity, but its degenerated exhalation.
Besides the psychological cause of the Zeitgeist fashion, there is another
one—the economical. Not that political economy has fully apprehended
it as one of its regulative principles. But the mere fact of present pre-
ponderance of economy tends to reduce all questions to a practical denomi-
nator. It puts the claim of social service to everything, hence also to art.
While this is absolutely right in a deeper way, it ends by being wrong, when
it hitches all humane endeavor to the economic-cart, i.e., when it takes the
means for an end, when its vision becomes myopic. Then it feeds the body
and starves the soul. And then it approaches all things, and also art, as
it does Niagara: it squanders eternities in its search for a day. Such is the way
of stock-blindness. Of course, this attitude is not intentionally parsimonious,
with most of us. It is but a vogue, intellectual or other, often sprouting out
of roots alien to it, and clamoring, with the unthinking insistence of fashion,
that nothing but concrete and direct fruition can justify a social existence.
It seizes upon the Zeitgeist as a destinal confirmation of narrow volition.
It mistakes effect for cause, since the spirit of our time is, really, only a
magnified expression of history’s narrower ends; it is a product of history
and not its cause.
There are other reasons for the prevalent fashion of contemporaneity,
for instance the philosophical one. Materialism, which is surviving, latently,
even in its opponents, has become a habit with us, to a great extent, favored,
as it is, by its congeniality to science. It creates an atmosphere favorable
to the sway of the Zeitgeist, whose implication is a measurable, i.e., material
social effect. All these and other reasons dispose our time in favor of con-
temporaneity in all activities, hence also in art. They create a universal,
almost elemental current, that sweeps all before it, an unthinking force that
spares only contemporaneity.
Thissurgeof sentiment—Ihave said it at theoutset—is the most formidable
obstacle in the way of art progress, which latter calls for race-revelation and
not mere custom-reflection. This being so, I may now be told, that as long as
it is an unreasoned sentiment, it does not form a hindrance for progress with
people whose attitude is not impetuous like that of the masses, but one of
conscious, scientific knowing. Hence, I may be told, artists and art-con-
noisseurs feel no compulsion from the Zeitgeist, at least not such a com-