• Awakening Soul

Spiritual Aesthetics: The Rebirth of Poetry (Part II)




"The Sun, right up above the mast, Had fixed her to the ocean: But in a minute she 'gan stir, With a short uneasy motion— Backwards and forwards half her length With a short uneasy motion. Then like a pawing horse let go, She made a sudden bound: It flung the blood into my head, And I fell down in a swound. How long in that same fit I lay, I have not to declare; But ere my living life returned, I heard and in my soul discerned Two voices in the air. 'Is it he?' quoth one, 'Is this the man? By him who died on cross, With his cruel bow he laid full low The harmless Albatross." - Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner



Coleridge speaks above of what Saint Paul also spoke, "I have been crucified with Christ". How can such a miracle occur in my life? By first re-cognizing that I am the crucifier of Christ. I forsook the innocent light of Wisdom for the sinful veil of darkness and betrayed His trust for thirty pieces of silver. I cried out for his torture and crucifixion with the angry multitudes in Jerusalem. The culmination of man's spiritual involution on Earth was rejected by me almost as soon as His love was freed, and my evolution over the last two millennia has been a gradual inner reckoning for this deed. I am Raskolnikov living with the wages of my Crime - the deed always lurking right beneath the surface of my mentation; living with agonizing anticipation of my perpetual Punishment by way of spiritual alienation.


That is a dreary fact of my Earthly existence, when it is rightly understood. It lays a heavy burden on my soul, as it rightly should. Yet once I come to truly know the nature of my Crime - it's essence and import - I am set free to voluntarily, even eagerly, begin serving out my sentence and setting myself aright. Truly, then, will my Victim's yoke become easy and His burden become light. The storm clouds will begin to break, the Sun will start to burst through, and the darkest grays give way to a sky filled with color and motion, as a rising tide wells up within me and lifts all boats in my ocean. To finally embrace the inner light of Christ, who still offers me His grace free, is to be crucified with Him and reborn so that, "it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me".



THIS dark night is an inflowing of God into the soul, which purges it from its ignorances and imperfections, habitual natural and spiritual, and which is called by contemplatives infused contemplation, or mystical theology. Herein God secretly teaches the soul and instructs it in perfection of love without its doing anything, or understanding of what manner is this infused contemplation. Inasmuch as it is the loving wisdom of God, God produces striking effects in the soul for, by purging and illumining it, He prepares it for the union of love with God. Wherefore the same loving wisdom that purges the blessed spirits and enlightens them is that which here purges the soul and illumines it. - Saint John of the Cross, Dark Night of the Soul (1587)



The rest of this essay installment will concern itself with the true essence of that inner spiritual light and how, through the discipline of aesthetic practice such as we find reflected in great poetry, it illumines the soul by purging it of habitual ignorance and instructing it in the perfection of love. It is an ambitious task - one that stands before us very tall - but towering poets like Friedrich von Schiller have spoken, "to save all we must risk all". It is that process by which the rivers of my heart remain flowing, so that Meister Eckhart can also proclaim, "God and I are one in the act of knowing." It is not an abstract knowledge of theological doctrines or the quantitative interactions of various 'things', but rather a deep penetration of our inner experience and the constellations of qualitative meaning from which it springs.



"The giant-world of the unresting constellations inhales it as the innermost soul of life, and floats dancing in its blue flood —

the sparkling, ever-tranquil stone, the thoughtful, imbibing plant, and the wild, burning multiform beast inhales it —

but more than all, the lordly stranger with the sense-filled eyes, the swaying walk, and the sweetly closed, melodious lips.

Like a king over earthly nature, it rouses every force to countless transformations, binds and unbinds innumerable alliances,

hangs its heavenly form around every earthly substance. — Its presence alone reveals the marvelous splendor of the kingdoms of the world." - Novalis, Hymns to the Night (1800)



In the course of centuries, the primal hymn above has been hollowed out by the rigid dogma of the modern Church. Spiritual salvation, we are now told, is a "private" event in our lives - one that is only fully realized after our death in another realm or at the "end of time". What the true artist sees, however, is the Spirit working with him, through his art, for his salvation in the here and now, in addition to the there and then. The Spirit works hard and smart for the artist's redemption in every recitation of a refrain and every stroke of his pen. That is the Spirit of self-knowledge ensouling speech as an elegant pearl is manifested from within the shell of a clam. It is the primary Imagination which Coleridge held as, "the living Power of all human Perception... a repetition in the finite mind of the eternal act of creation in the infinite I Am."


Nietzsche observed, "you must have chaos within you to give birth to a dancing star." Chaos is the spiritual purity of our inner Being. It is the "darkness upon the face of the deep" when the "Earth was without form and void." As invisible water vapor cools into visible water vapor, cools further into water, and even further into concretized ice, so too did the purely spiritual 'cool' into the physical forms to which man is now bound and which extract from him an enormous price. From the ancient perspective, this relationship was not what we now label "metaphorical". Every time a soul breathed out into cold air so it could be seen, she was partaking in the speech of God which is rhetorical. Each breath exhaled miniature worlds by the power of the Spirit within her who convinced the entire world to be born. Goethe saw this power in Nature when he remarked, "everything transient is but a parable."


The materialist man has little to no sense of such spiritual truths anymore, and the modern man steeped in dogmatic religion has an inverted sense of his inner core. Physical descriptions in scripture, which are intended as metaphorical pointers to inner spiritual processes, are taken to be literal descriptions of outer nature and exoteric history. Spiritual descriptions referring to literal facts of our inner essence - such as "the Kingdom of God is within you" or "this [bread] is my body... do this in remembrance of me" - are taken to be merely "metaphorical" symbols of our personal psychic pubescence. The poetic parables, likewise, remain in dagger and cloak as the reader lacks any proper perspective on the essence from which they spoke. Yet Christ told his disciples clearly, "the mysteries of the kingdom of God [are] given in parables."




"When out of world-wide spaces The sun speaks to the human mind, And gladness from the depths of soul Becomes, in seeing, one with light, Then rising from the sheath of self, Thoughts soar to distances of space And dimly bind The human being to the spirit's life." - Rudolf Steiner, Calendar of the Soul (Easter Week meditation)




Dogmas of both the secular and religious modern intellectuals have darkened what the parables of intransient Nature signify. Yet the era of modernity has ended and the human soul is ready to travel back up to the stars from which she was born, if only she finds the humility, courage, and discipline to leave her troubled past forlorn. It is precisely because the human being has hit "rock bottom" that he is also in a position to overcome his addictions to rigid dogmas and penetrate much deeper into this Noble Lie. He can then discern the spiritual forces which allow the aesthetic forms to appear within his mind's eye. With much patience, more effort, and a dash of luck, we are initiated into a positive feedback loop of spiritual discernment which spirals its way into the core of the Cosmic essence and gets us unstuck.




Faust: “Dost thou see yon black dog ranging through shoot and stubble?” ... Mark how, a mighty spiral round us wreathing, Hearer and ever nearer yet he steals, And see! unless mine eyes deceive me queerly, He trails a fiery eddy in his train. ... Meseemth he softly coileth magic meshes To be a future fetter round our feet.” - Goethe's Faust





Behold the spiral aesthetic of Nature which expresses the 'golden ratio', Phi, of the Fibonacci sequence. These spirals are found in minerals, plants, inorganic and organic formations, the anatomy of living organisms, planetary movements in solar systems, galaxies and many other forms, both small and big; humble and royal. Goethe's Faust even perceived it in a black poodle softly encircling he and his assistant, Wagner, with magic coil. What Goethe is conveying in that scene is the spiritual sight through which Faust experiences the world in which he partook. In the modern age, we absorbed the mere metaphorical imagery and, the essential and infinite remainder, we forsook. Yet, if we considered Goethe's philosophical and scientific writings, we will find this "spiral tendency" of natural forms discussed by Goethe in detail, which should prompt us back towards his poetry for a second look.


Microscopic observations have placed it beyond doubt that the generative organs of the plants as well as other organs are produced by spiral vessels. We take this as a basis for the argument that the different parts of the plant, which have so far manifested themselves to us in such varied forms, are none the less intrinsically the same. ... Now as the spiral vessels are situated in the middle of the bundles (vascular bundles) and are enclosed by them, we can to some extent come to a better understanding of the above-mentioned strong contracting force if we imagine the spiral vessels, which really look like elastic springs, exerting their utmost power so that they overcome the expansive tendency of the sap-vessels. ... In many cases the style looks almost like a filament without an anther, and the two are more nearly allied in exterior form than any of the remaining parts. As they are both produced by spiral cells, we see all the more clearly that the feminine part is no more a distinct organ than the masculine part, and when through this observation the close relationship of these feminine parts with the masculine becomes evident to us, we find it all the more appropriate and illuminating to think of their union as a kind of anastomosis. - Goethe, The Metamorphosis of Plants (1787)


Steiner, who was instrumental in the creation of Goethe's archive, summed up Goethe's approach to philosophy, science and poetry - "One observes also that an organism thus comes to life within one, even down to its most minute parts: that one conceives it, not as a lifeless, self-enclosed object, but as something evolving, becoming, as the continuously unresting within itself." That is how we must understand Goethe's "spiral tendency" in plants - for him, its application to so many natural formations in the Cosmos is nothing too perplexing - in contrast to modern man who finds such things endlessly vexing. The "spiral tendency" is the active image of Nature's archetypal instincts which our poetic thoughts must tame. Goethe perceived the opposing forces of expansion and contraction influencing the plant's development and concluded they are both united in essence and harmonized in aim.


To the imaginative artist, contrasting forces of nature and culture are inescapable. So now we return to the nexus between the formation of the entire phenomenal world, with all the natural facts we teach, and the individual human's participation in the formation of new worlds through his speech. That nexus is revealed most clearly when we Imagine grasping for things well beyond our abstract reach. The seminal German poet Schiller was able to give it profound expression in both his poetry and philosophy. Schiller started out in the embrace of Kantianism, as almost all Germans were in the second half of the 18th century (and perhaps still today). This start put him at odds with his close friend and fellow philosopher-poet Goethe, yet Schiller quickly abandoned Kant and reconciled with Goethe as his thought progressed. He witnessed in Nature the noumenal Spirit's activity by which "those who hunger and thirst for righteousness" are blessed.




There was no other way of developing the manifold capacities of Man than by placing them in opposition to each other. This antagonism of powers is the great instrument of culture, but it is only the instrument; for as long as it persists, we are only on the way towards culture. ... As surely as all human individuals, taken together, with the power of vision which Nature has granted them, would never succeed in observing a satellite of Jupiter which the telescope reveals to the astronomer, so beyond question is it that human reflection would never have achieved an analysis of the infinite or a critique of pure reason, unless Reason had become dismembered among the several relevant subjects, as it were wrenched itself loose from all matter and strengthened its gaze into the Absolute by the most intense abstraction... But can Man really be destined to neglect himself for any end whatever? Should Nature be able, by her designs, to rob us of a completeness which Reason prescribes to us by hers? It must be false that the cultivation of individual powers necessitates the sacrifice of their totality; or however much the law of Nature did have that tendency, we must be at liberty to restore by means of a higher Art this wholeness in our nature which Art has destroyed. - Friedrich von Schiller, On the Aesthetic Education of Man (1795)


Much of Schiller's famous treatise on aesthetics concerned itself with a particular antagonism - that between the Universal and the Particular. Of major relevance to his revolutionary era, as it still is to ours now, was the antagonism between the human collective as represented by the State and the human individual. How can the State be reformed so as to bring about this wholeness of our individual nature? It is not possible, says Schiller, because "the State, as now constituted, has brought about the evil, and the State as Reason conceives it in idea, instead of being able to establish this better humanity, must first be itself established by it." His conclusion appears to defy all logic of man in his modern season - how can the puny personality of an individual soul possibly "guarantee reality to the political creation of Reason"?


Schiller's answer is that man limits himself to that puny personality and to those feeble powers. That is the man who cries for the crucifixion of the Light, and when it begins to illuminate his experience, he cowers. The Light shines so bright on his soul that nothing is left to the imagination - everything about him is laid bare in the Light's revelation. We have all had the experience of avoiding the Light, even destroying the Light, so that we can remain cloaked in the dark. It is only that unreasonable reaction which freezes us in the Light where we are, instead of putting us on a path to discover our Divine spark. Nothing made this reality more clear to Schiller than the aesthetic splendor of Nature and its convergence with the aesthetics of man. Reason dictates that the spiritual essence which powers the former's natural unfolding must also be That which powers the latter's plan.





"And now this spell was snapt: once more I viewed the ocean green, And looked far forth, yet little saw Of what had else been seen— Like one, that on a lonesome road Doth walk in fear and dread, And having once turned round walks on, And turns no more his head; Because he knows, a frightful fiend Doth close behind him tread. But soon there breathed a wind on me, Nor sound nor motion made: Its path was not upon the sea, In ripple or in shade. It raised my hair, it fanned my cheek Like a meadow-gale of spring— It mingled strangely with my fears, Yet it felt like a welcoming."


- Coleridge, Rime of the Ancient Mariner



Saint John shared his good news, "The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes - so is everyone who is born of the Spirit." This simple yet profound verse is a snapshot of how the poetic essence of speech reached a peak in the world right at the time Christ descended into it. The same Greek word, pneuma, is translated as both "wind" and "Spirit" here. That is only possible because the inner work of the Spirit was still felt sensuously as the outer work of the wind every day, month, and year. It is the fundamental task of all art to help us remember and bridge this spiritual connection, imbuing all of our life activities with its ever-evolving reflection. Schiller took to this task more seriously and, at the same time, more playfully than most. So to his thought, which excelled in brewing that strange mixture of sobriety and drunkenness, we raise a glass in toast.



"How gracefully, O man, with thy palm-bough, Upon the waning century standest thou, In proud and noble manhood’s prime, With unlocked senses, with a spirit freed, Of firmness mild, — though silent, rich in deed, The ripest son of Time, Through meekness great, through precepts strong, Through treasures rich, that time had long Hid in thy bosom, and through reason free, — Master of Nature, who thy fetters loves, And who thy strength in thousand conflicts proves, And from the desert soared in pride with thee! And who to thee in easy riddles taught The secret how each virtue might be gained; Who, to receive him back more perfect still, E’en into strangers’ arms her favorite gave — Oh, may’st thou never with degenerate will, Humble thyself to be her abject slave! In industry, the bee the palm may bear; In skill, the worm a lesson may impart; With spirits blest thy knowledge thou dost share, But thou, O man, alone hast art! Only through beauty’s morning gate Didst thou the land of knowledge find. To merit a more glorious fate, In graces trains itself the mind. What thrilled thee through with trembling blessed, When erst the Muses swept the chord, That power created in thy breast, Which to the mighty spirit soared." - Friedrich von Schiller, The Artists



Playfully we consider the Spirit's activity in the properties of an animal's excrement. What was once formed from chaos into a majestic plant is consumed by the animal, so that its waste products can be excreted back into the chaos of the soil - where the soul continues to storm - and it once again fertilizes the Earth to bring forth more spiraling coil and magical form. That is the essence of the Spirit - an increasingly productive process of fertilization via animal defecation. Every human's aesthetic duty is to bring forth enough excrement to build the creative forms which will free him of his smelly station. We take what is repulsive within ourselves and weave together from it what is Good, True, and Beautiful for all to look upon with joy and admiration.


Then, "through the dawn of the beautiful you may pass into the land of knowledge." Modern man had a bad habit of taking these simple truths and placing them in the dust bins of a "later time" and "another place". Our redemption through the Spirit's activity is always on the "other side" of the rainbow we face. This bad habit must be deprogrammed from within our soul. We must come to realize our daily acts of thoughtful contemplation are not other than the Spirit's redemptive role. They plant us deep within the soil of the ever-present Cosmic soul. What meaning you are discerning from the text, colors, and images right this moment is of infinite value to the meaning of the Whole - past, present, and future; here, there, and everywhere. All of our thoughtful activity is weaving and being woven through the nodes of Indra's ever-expanding ensnare.






"This seraph-band, each waved his hand, No voice did they impart— No voice; but oh! the silence sank Like music on my heart. But soon I heard the dash of oars, I heard the Pilot's cheer; My head was turned perforce away And I saw a boat appear. The Pilot and the Pilot's boy, I heard them coming fast: Dear Lord in Heaven! it was a joy The dead men could not blast. I saw a third—I heard his voice: It is the Hermit good! He singeth loud his godly hymns That he makes in the wood. He'll shrieve my soul, he'll wash away The Albatross's blood."


In disciplining the mind one of the first rules should be, to lose no opportunity of tracing words to their origin; one good consequence of which will be, that he will be able to use the language of sight without being enslaved by its affections. He will at least save himself from the delusive notion, that what is not imageable is not conceivable. - Samuel Taylor Coleridge


What we gain in meaning from tracing ordinary words to their origins, we gain by orders of magnitude more by tracing the Origin of every word, in every language, to the meaning of the divine Word spoken in Genesis - "then God said, let there be light" - and in the Gospel of Saint John - "in the beginning was the Word". This primal Word is the One who was with God and who God was with in the beginning; the Word through whom all things were made, including the living light of men; the Word who shines in the darkness and who the darkness does not comprehend. In the medieval era, the Scholastics still wondered how the ordinary word of human utterance is related to this divine Word of scripture. So much so, that Saint Thomas Aquinas wrote a short treatise about "The Difference between the Divine Word and the Human (De Differentia Divini Verbi et Humani)".



"Verbum supernum prodiens, nec Patris linquens dexteram..." - Saint Thomas Aquinas, O Salutaris



Translation: "The supernal Word proceeding, and yet not leaving the right hand of the Father...". That is the 'paradoxical' aesthetic quality of the Word discerned by Aquinas in his thoughtful contemplation, and he did not abstract it away from the particular words uttered by any given person in their co-creative participation. This Word goes out into the world while also remaining in the place from which it is spoken. Only speech has this unique quality of going out and remaining where it is in the same token. All manner of inner activities play out inside the soul of man, but only speech shares the soul-qualities of those activities with whomever it can. This inseparable quality of the Word, every word, and all meaning of the world's forms we perceive, speaks from the power of the truly imaginative and intuitive thoughts we conceive.



If we ask ourselves what are the most distinctive features about the little thing we call a “word” – and it’s not a question that we very often do ask ourselves – I think we shall find that the two most outstanding are these. First, a word, whether spoken or written, has a remarkable, even paradoxical, quality, – namely that it both goes out and remains where it was to start with. “Word” means, of course, not simply the ink marks on the paper or the sound in the air. There is also the meaning of the word... this exodus does not leave the speaker or writer any poorer... The second feature is already implicit in the first. In addition to the element in it that is perceptible to the senses – ink or sound – it expresses or symbolizes... something that is not perceptible to the senses, the something that is called its meaning. - Owen Barfield, Meaning, Revelation and Tradition (1982)


Barfield presents a mystery which plagues the experience of modern man so stressed - what is the essence of divine "Revelation" as words expressed? Humanity has developed an obsession with mere "likeness" or "resemblance" when it comes to the symbolic qualities of words, which stems from his obsession with outer forms at the expense of interiority. He treats all symbolic speech as exhausted in similes and metaphors of various sort, which then reduces all the symbols to signs of little import. The signs merely compare A to C by way of B, or imply a connection between A and C by saying A is B - "my love is like a rose" (simile) or "my love is a rose" (metaphor). Because of that unhealthy obsession, man cleaves the "symbolic" poesy of a word from its "literal" prose. He is certain that the meaning must be one or the other but cannot, in any case, be both.


Yet what is "C", in this example? It is the meaningful quality of "rose" which illuminates the nature of "my love" - the beauty of it, the natural unfolding of it, the joyous pleasure of perceiving it from above. Or, if "my love is a thorny rose", then also the pain and suffering it inflicts on me when I handle it without care. The word that goes out yet also remains with its speaker is symbolic and literal, when we understand what is "literal" to be the meaningful activity and content that all beings share. The symbolic word is indeed based in "likeness", but a likeness which eternally bears fruit in its ripeness. It points to the meaning behind the likeness which flows forth from a noumenal emanation. When that symbolic meaning concerns the Divine, as it did in ancient mythic scripture, we can then rightly call it "Revelation".





"But you, divine one, intoning to the very end, when swarmed by the horde of spurned maenads you drowned their cries with order, sublime one, up from the mayhem rose your transforming song. None there could harm your head or lyre, however they wrestled and raged; all the rough stones they threw at your heart became soft when they touched you, and blessed with hearing. At last, mad for vengeance, they ripped you apart, but your sound lingered on in lions and rocks and in the trees and birds. You sing there still. O you lost god! You neverending trace! Only because hatred tore and scattered you are we hearers now and a mouth for nature." - Rainer Marie Rilke, Sonnets to Orpheus (1922)



The simple points made above go a long way towards the reconciliation of all philosophy, science, art, and spirituality. These are teachings which may not even go beyond the purview of some clever children in grade school, and may make them explicitly aware of why thinking carefully through experience is an indispensable tool. What is logically sound is also what is empirically verifiable, what is empirically verifiable is also what is aesthetically pleasing, and what is aesthetically pleasing is also what reunites us with the Spirit who ensouled our life's meaning. All of it must be thought of as "natural". The transcendentalist American poet, Ralph Waldo Emerson, also discussed this 'mystery' of language and words with high resolution and clarity. He explained, "Nature is the vehicle of thought, and in a simple, double, and threefold degree."




1. Words are signs of natural facts. 2. Particular natural facts are symbols of particular spiritual facts. 3. Nature is the symbol of spirit. 1. Words are signs of natural facts. The use of natural history is to give us aid in supernatural history. The use of the outer creation is to give us language for the beings and changes of the inward creation. Every word which is used to express a moral or intellectual fact, if traced to its root, is found to be borrowed from some material appearance. Right originally means straight; wrong means twisted. Spirit primarily means wind; transgression, the crossing of a line; supercilious, the raising of the eye-brow. We say the heart to express emotion, the head to denote thought; and thought and emotion are, in their turn, words borrowed from sensible things, and now appropriated to spiritual nature. Most of the process by which this transformation is made, is hidden from us in the remote time when language was framed; but the same tendency may be daily observed in children. Children and [archaic men] use only nouns or names of things, which they continually convert into verbs, and apply to analogous mental acts. 2. But this origin of all words that convey a spiritual import—so conspicuous a fact in the history of language—is our least debt to nature. It is not words only that are emblematic; it is things which are emblematic. Every natural fact is a symbol of some spiritual fact. Every appearance in nature corresponds to some state of the mind, and that state of the mind can only be described by presenting that natural appearance as its picture. An enraged man is a lion, a cunning man is a fox, a firm man is a rock, a learned man is a torch. A lamb is innocence; a snake is subtle spite; flowers express to us the delicate affections. Light and darkness are our familiar expression for knowledge and ignorance; and heat for love. Visible distance behind and before us, is respectively our image of memory and hope. ... Throw a stone into the stream, and the circles that propagate themselves are the beautiful type of all influence... And the blue sky in which the private earth is buried, the sky with its eternal calm, and full of everlasting orbs, is the type of Reason. That which, intellectually considered, we call Reason, considered in relation to nature, we call Spirit. Spirit is the Creator. Spirit hath life in itself. And man in all ages and countries, embodies it in his language, as the FATHER. It is easily seen that there is nothing lucky or capricious in these analogies, but that they are constant, and pervade nature. 3. What is true of proverbs, is true of all fables, parables, and allegories. This relation between the mind and matter is not fancied by some poet, but stands in the will of God, and so is free to be known by all men. It appears to men, or it does not appear. When in fortunate hours we ponder this miracle, the wise man doubts, if, at all other times, he is not blind and deaf; “Can these things be, And overcome us like a summer’s cloud, Without our special wonder?” for the universe becomes transparent, and the light of higher laws than its own, shines through it. It is the standing problem which has exercised the wonder and the study of every fine genius since the world began; from the era of the Egyptians and the Brahmins, to that of Pythagoras, of Plato, of Bacon, of Leibnitz, of Swedenborg. There sits the Sphinx at the road-side, and from age to age, as each prophet comes by, he tries his fortune at reading her riddle. There seems to be a necessity in spirit to manifest itself in material forms; and day and night, river and storm, beast and bird, acid and alkali, preexist in necessary Ideas in the mind of God, and are what they are by virtue of preceding affections, in the world of spirit. A Fact is the end or last issue of spirit. The visible creation is the terminus or the circumference of the invisible world. A new interest surprises us, whilst, under the view now suggested, we contemplate the fearful extent and multitude of objects; since “every object rightly seen, unlocks a new faculty of the soul.” That which was unconscious truth, becomes, when interpreted and defined in an object, a part of the domain of knowledge—a new weapon in the magazine of power. - Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature (1836 - emphasis in original)

The word which goes out fades into prose over time, retaining but a husk of its original meaning sublime. Yet the same Word which remains where it is can be imbued once again with its meaning anew. Here is the difference between the human word and the divine Word which Aquinas inquired into - the human word always appeals to memories of sense-experience for its meaning, becoming less meaningful as memories fade, while the divine Word is inherently meaningful by virtue of his eternal activity through which all things were made. It is the divine Word who rebirths the form and renews the life of the natural human word so that it may persist in the richness of its meaning. That is, the divine Word incarnates in the human word so that the latter may Truly reflect the Beautiful forms of his Good creation back to his Spirit.


These aesthetic truths may not be self-evident to the modern mind, but they are of an elegantly simple and practical kind. No education in Seminary or remarkable artistic ability is needed, and no unnecessarily complex rules must be heeded. As Emerson noticed, "Our young people are diseased with the theological problems of original sin, origin of evil, predestination and the like. These never presented a practical difficulty to any man — never darkened across any man's road who did not go out of his way to seek them." Modern man is an expert at going out of his way to seek problems which never existed before. Yet the aesthetics of Nature continually bring him closer to home without fail. From there, he must continue to go not simply "where the path may lead", but instead "where there is no path, and leave a trail."


In our next installment, the spiritual aesthetic of music will be unconcealed and explored. Clearly the rhythms and lyrics of poetic speech intersect deeply with those of musical chord. While the poet forms and molds the lyre from her speech, the musician strums upon it with her breath. We will perceive how the ancient wisdom of Orpheus connects humanity's primal world-forming birth with its primal world-transforming death. Everything transient must die and die so that it may rise again and again - a spiral of spiritual progress on which all beings depend. In this truth we recall that there remains a meaningful beginning in every sacrificial end, and that "greater love hath no man than this, than to lay down his life for his friend."



"Farewell, farewell! but this I tell To thee, thou Wedding-Guest! He prayeth well, who loveth well Both man and bird and beast. He prayeth best, who loveth best All things both great and small; For the dear God who loveth us, He made and loveth all. The Mariner, whose eye is bright, Whose beard with age is hoar, Is gone: and now the Wedding-Guest Turned from the bridegroom's door. He went like one that hath been stunned, And is of sense forlorn: A sadder and a wiser man, He rose the morrow morn."