Once more, our literary analogy may be used to illustrate this distinction
between Evil known by pure intelligence and Evil known by experience.
Our perfect writer is in the act of composing a work let us call
it the perfect poem. At a particular point in this creative act he selects
the right word for a particular place in the poem. There is
only the one word that is dead right in that place for the
perfect expression of the Idea. The very act of choosing that one right
word, automatically and necessarily makes every other word in the dictionary
a wrong word.
The wrongness is not inherent in the words themselves
each of them may be a right word in another place their
wrongness is contingent upon the rightness of
the chosen word. It is the poet who has created the wrongness
in the act of creating the rightness. In making a good which
did not exist before he has simultaneously made an evil which did not
exist before. Nor was there any way by which he could possibly make the
Good without making the Evil as well.
Now, the mere fact that the choice of the right word is
a choice implies that the writer is potentially aware of all the wrong
words as well as the right one. In the creative act, his Energy (consciously
or unconsciously) passed all the wrong possibilities in review
as an accompaniment of selecting the right one. He may have seized immediately
upon the right word as though by inspiration or he may actually have toyed
with a number of the wrong ones before making the choice. It is immaterial
which he did the Energy has to give out more sweat and passion
at some moments than at others.
But potentially and contingently, his intelligence knows
all the wrong words. He is free, if he chooses, to call all or any of
those wrong words into active being within his poem just as God
is free, if He likes, to call Evil into active being. But the perfect
poet does not do so, because his will is subdued to his Idea, and to associate
it with the wrong word would be to run counter to the law of his being.
He proceeds with his creation in a perfect unity of will and Idea, and
behold! it is very good.
Unfortunately his creation is safe from the interference of other wills
only as long as it remains in his head. By materializing his poem
that is, by writing it down and publishing it he subjects it to
the impact of alien wills. These alien wills can, if they like, become
actively aware of all the possible wrong words and call them into positive
being. They can, for example, misquote, misinterpret, or deliberately
alter the poem. This evil is contingent upon the poets original
good: you cannot misquote a poem that is not there, and the poet is (in
that sense) responsible for all subsequent misquotations of his work.
But one can scarcely hold him guilty of them.
Dorothy Sayers (1893-1957)
The Mind of the Maker (1941)
Chapter VII Maker of All Things Maker of Ill Things