A glimpse of God, but a full-dress study of Man
Review: The Mind of the Maker by Dorothy L. Sayers
Contrary to popular belief, this is not primarily a book about God. Sayers wisely does not try to tell us about God directly, but about what is godlike in ourselves. ‘The characteristic common to God and man,’ she says, is ‘the desire and ability to make things.’ She draws a vivid and detailed analogy between the Christian Trinity and our own creative imagination. In working out the details of this analogy, she tells us a great deal about them both; but, inevitably, more about our own minds than God’s.
The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit correspond to what Sayers calls the Idea, Energy, and Power. For a writer, the Idea is the book as he first imagines it; the Energy is the book as actually written; the Power is the impression it makes in the mind of each reader. The analogy applies equally well to all art forms. Sayers makes the Trinity seem as plain and familiar as a conversation. If you ever knew what you wanted to say but couldn’t find the words, you felt the difference between the Father and the Son. If someone took your words to mean something you never intended, you felt the distance between the Son and the Spirit. Critics may say the Trinity is not real, but they can never again call it incomprehensible.
The rest of the book concentrates on the purely human maker. The longest chapter, ‘Scalene Trinities’, discusses the ways that the creative imagination can go wrong, and classifies them as failures of the Idea, the Energy, or the Power. I find this the most useful part of the book. Whatever kind of work we do, we find it all too easy to become obsessed with technical details (the Energy). We almost forget that we are trying to express an Idea, and so our work loses the Power to benefit other people. We need to be fully aware of all three parts of the process.
The Mind of the Maker is a brilliant book. But if you read it just for its theology, you will miss two-thirds of the brilliance. It has still more value as a guide to human creativity. If you are a Christian, or if you do any kind of creative work, this book will do your mind good.
5 December 2005