Lawrence was not yet thirty when he wrote the following to an editor
who'd rejected his third novel, Sons
the blasted, jelly-boned swines, the slimy, the belly-wriggling
invertebrates, the miserable sodding rotters, the flaming sods, the
sniveling, dribbling, dithering palsied pulse-less lot that make up
England today. . . . God, how I hate them! God curse them, funkers.
God blast them, wishwash. Exterminate them, slime.
not the precise vocabulary, certainly the same apocalyptic sentiment
exhorted by the Book of Revelation, which, in fact, he calls
“Apocalypse” in the testament he wrote sixteen years later during
the final months of his life. Clearly not a writer to mince words,
Lawrence tackles Christianity with a passion equally furious to what he
displayed for the editor who'd informed him his publisher feared the
public would find unacceptable the novel's “want of reticence.”
states his bias flat out in the first several paragraphs of
noting that he'd been douched
with the Bible growing up so
need only begin to read a chapter to realize I “know” it with an
almost nauseating fixity. And I must confess, my first reaction is
one of dislike, repulsion, and even resentment. My very instincts
been argued this extended essay was Lawrence's last-ditch response to
the condemnation of his novels for their celebration of sexuality
and licentiousness [Lady
Chatterley's Lover was
banned in the United Kingdom until 1960—thirty-two years after it
was first published]. It does look that way.
an Amazon “customer review” of Apocalypse,
Canadian “karl b.” portrays it with Lawrencian language as “a
full throttle blitz against the puritanical deacons of the Church of
England and his establishment tormentors. Launched from the most
contentious and abstruse of the Bible's books, Revelation, Lawrence
levels his antipathy at a rigid, superficially moral, life denying
exposition of Christian thought.”
doing so Lawrence deploys with literary artistry a depth of
historical and theological knowledge to both condemn Revelation's
reputed author, John of Patmos, for fashioning his writing to satisfy
a personal political agenda, and to celebrate the unintended result
which points to a purer religious vision, one that connects humanity
directly to the cosmos rather than an abstract, idealized deity. At
the same time Lawrence accuses organized Christianity of using
Revelation for its own impure purposes:
Religion is not a question of belief, it is a
question of feeling. It is a certain deep feeling which seems to
soothe and reassure the whole soul. But Christianity is very curious.
It seems to have two distinct sets of feeling, one focusing in Jesus
and in the command: Love one another!--the other focusing, not in
Paul or Peter or John the Beloved, but in the Apocalypse. And this
second sort of Christianity is weird. It is the doctrine of the
chosen people, of the elect: it is based on everlasting hatred of
worldly power, and of people in power: it looks for the end of the
world, and the destruction of everybody except the Saved.
And nearly all Christians and teachers of the Bible today teach this
sort of Christianity, the Apocalypse sort.
called for a return to the Bible's roots to revive it.
twenty years and more, after some little study of old literature, of
ancient history touching Babylon and Persia and Egypt, Crete,
Mycenae, and the Ionian sea-board, at last one can come back and
discover the Bible afresh, entirely afresh, and rescue it from
parsons and Sunday School teachers and Elizabethan theatrical
obscurity...recover the real background, put the book into natural
relationship with its time and place and spirit, and it lives again
with a fine new life. We have it cut and dried. Set the strange
flower on its stem again.