From the film in which David Marr is interviewed about Patrick White’s briefly summarise briefly what you think Patrick White’s religious position is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E69qNtyVB7o&feature=related.
David Marr delivered an insightful video into Patrick White’s religious position. He acknowledges the presence of religion within White’s work, and the significant role it plays in understanding White’s texts.
To put simply, I would not say that Patrick White is religious. I would, however, say that Patrick White is spiritual. White strays from conventional means of religion. Marr recounts White’s first church, St Paul’s in Castle Hill, and how White was bemused by the ‘regimented demeanour of the Anglican Church.’ In my opinion, White considers the routinized behaviour of Church, Anglican, Catholic or otherwise, as a deterrent from spirituality and God. I believe it is for this reason that he drifted from orthodox Christianity.
I believe White religious position lies within a spiritual connection to something greater than reality, that, paradoxically, lies within reality. Marr states that White received an ‘epiphany delivering meals to his dogs in the paddock of his house in Castle Hill’. He doesn’t delve into what the epiphany was, however, the everyday practice that is feeding your dogs, may have spurred such an event. The love that is shared between a human and their pet, can conjure immense emotion. It is the simple loves in love that highlight the world and humanity’s greatness.
Marr says that for Patrick, the heart of true religion is a search for meaning in the world, ‘a search for some kind of underlying meaning that would make sense of the chaos of the world in which he saw himself living in.’ Perhaps it was the simple task of feeding his dog that he saw the meaning of life, seeing something extraordinary in the ordinary.
Whilst not involved in conventional religion, Patrick White believed in something beyond the everyday. He saw external forces in patterns, and that coincidences were an explanation of a manipulating spiritual presence. You cannot deny his spirituality. Within each of his texts, White’s concern was with grace, the existence of a deity, the creation of the world and the nature of spirituality are all vital themes that run across his oeuvre.
This is particularly potent within the inspirational character of Alf Dubbo within the 1961 text, Riders in the Chariot. Alf Dubbo serves as a messianic figure, mirroring the figure of Jesus Christ. This representation serves to critique current conventional methods involved within the Church that detract from the true meaning of life, the meaning of spirituality and the meaning of the self.
White’s works encourage his audience to question religion in the same way he does. Moreover, he urges his audience to question “what is the meaning of life?”