A monograph would be needed to convey all the subtleties of Stanley's use of words like joy, love, intimacy, peace, happy, auspicious, perfection or special meanings when in up-in-heaven or metaphysical mode.

Briefly, joy, happy, peace and auspicious are linked to the extent that they reflect the sense of exult
ation which stimulated and accompanied Stanley's moments of greatest artistic creativity. They invariably postulated a mysterious isolation from the pressures of everyday existence and usually implied a sense of mental assurance, as when hand-holding in childhood or feeling a bird-in-the-nest security. Their effect could transform him into a walking altar of praise.

The source of such exultations, the concomitant of Stanley's happiness, has been described by philosophers from the time of Democritus, half a millennium before the coming of Christianity, who saw it as mankind's 'ethical goal' (a condition he derived from the 'soul's freedom from disturbance'), to the biblical concept of the 'peace which passeth all understanding', to the exhortations of modern psychology. Just as a plant can be said to be in a state of 'happiness' when its growing conditions permit it to find its true natural identity by achieving its maximum perfection, so in Stanley's more metaphysical interpretation, we as humans enjoy happiness when we achieve a perfection of our own, and so enter our true or universal (spiritual?) identity.

Phrases in The Lovers in which Stanley describes the painting as restoring for him items such as the teapot and the cabbage-leaves should not be taken to mean that he necessarily wished to see them in their pristine form. In fact he was already 'seeing' them in their original form in his mind's eye because they were memories of times or events in which he recalled them having been used. By restore, it is more likely that Stanley means he was giving them back their original nature and function, for he had an Emersonian conviction that everything reached
its most perfect form when functioning to its truest purpose. His entire art, observed and visionary, was largely dedicated to registering things, persons or events in the most perfect form his contemplation - a function of love - could devise. In effect he was resurrecting them into the perfection they would have had in the symbolism of the Garden of Eden. Thus for Stanley each successful painting recreated through love its subject as a perfection set in a location (often recalled from his early Cookham years) which he once knew as a 'paradise' and so could now render as a metaphorical Garden of Eden.

In exploring these 'paradise images' Stanley was discovering the sources of the special meanings so significant to him. If his successful visionary paintings were personal resurrections, those he named specifically as Resurrections - the Cookham Resurrection, or the Port Glasgow Resurrections, for example - reveal the comprehensions which had special meanings for him because they provided answers - redemptions - to the more troubling of his disturbers of the peace. Through these redemptions he could reach the peace and happiness so essential to his continued creativity.

His word intimacy too comprised more than a social or sexual relationship. It encompassed his and his wife Hilda's ongoing exploration of the quality of duality in existence - the male-female, the bi-polarity of animal life. Only when the two individual elements are successfully conjoined to provide a state of unity reflecting their intimacy can creativity - artistic or physical - take place. The definition is significant in that it formed the basis of the counterpoint system which so much of Stanley's visionary art was constructed.


Perhaps the most difficult to grasp was Stanley's meaning of the word love. It had little to do with modern romantic or sentimental usage. At first it seems to have been used to describe his feelings of heightened self-identification with whatever around him gradually came into his consciousness and filled a missing gap or, as he put it, every time we appreciate something it is a recognition of something in ourselves. The effect for him was that the loved object (it was not necessarily a person, it could be a thing or even a sensation) had responded to his love and had thereby restored to him a part of himself which he had not previously recognised existed. It had expanded his comprehension and carried him a little deeper into the universal consciousness. It was to him a mysterious manifestation of the creative operation of something beyond him which he came to define
as the Love of God (i.e. the Love from God), as it knitted each personal moment or experience of Love towards the totality he called perfection, the ancient spiritual or metaphysical longing of mankind to be at one with the universe.    

By 1934 the association between
Stanley's interpretations of Love and God had become God is Love, a text from the gospel of St John which he used as the title for his entry in Sermons by Artists, a 1934 publication by The Golden Cockerel Press. One can only conjecture the depths of Stanley's meaning - perhaps that we should recognise and honour a creative element in the march of evolution - Bergson's élan vital? - as an entity which mankind has always viewed with awe, the basis of religious thought, and perhaps the ultimate neurological mystery of the human mind which may for ever defy analysis by logical consciousness. The association was repeated again by Stanley in his subsequent 'mantra' as Love (or religion, I don't mind) = happiness = gratitude = aspiration = passion = creative power.

As Professor Nigel Rapport suggests, his [Stanley's] meaning of love - ambitious, arrogant, certain, strange - might sit uneasily alongside English politeness and reserve, but one day it would be acclaimed the truth.