Poetic Measure and the Sacred: Raine, Heidegger, Sherrard

An exploration of the poetic and sacred, with poetry as a ‘measure’ of dwelling in that realm.  Kathleen Raine’s poetry and prose, along with Heidegger, serve as the backdrop to an introduction to the work of Philip Sherrard.

This episode continues discussion of many relevant themes from previous episodes.  See especially: Macrocosm & Microcosm, and the ‘Inner’ (Episode 027) and Language of the Poet, Language of the Heart (Episode 026).

I Kathleen Raine: ‘Rose’ and ‘The Inner Journey of the Poet’

We begin with Kathleen Raine’s poem ‘Rose’ from 1961.  This poem provides an image of the created in relation to the uncreated.  Her meditation upon the Rose transcends the rose as an object in time and space.  It also evokes a sense of sacred by reference to the weaver of the rose.  This is an open-ended inquiry, meant to stir contemplation of the sacred realm.

Then we look at Raine’s essay from 1976, The Inner Journey of the Poet.  This essay helps us to better understand the ‘inner.’   She writes of the importance of image and symbol for that inner journey, and for the inner order of the poet.  Referring to Yeats she contrasts the inner order of the poet with the technological world.  Her understanding is quite similar to what we have described as the ‘flattened’ world of the technological.  Raine writes in her conclusion: “Our modern technological environment is profane because it reflects no inner order in which the soul can recognize and discover itself.”

II Martin Heidegger: Poetry as Measure

We then continue our discussion of Heidegger’s “Poetically Man Dwells.”  We first mention Raine’s discussion of Yeats. The terms ‘measure and norm’ apply to figures of the imagination.  This idea also dovetails nicely with Heidegger’s interpretation of Hölderlin in “Poetically Man Dwells.”  As Heidegger explains, this sense of dimension, of a span, is not an external relationship between the human being glancing at the sky.  It is not meant in the literal sense of thinking. It is a horizon within which we always dwell (in the participative sense).  In this sense, Heidegger quotes the poet: “Man measures himself against the godhead.”

III Philip Sherrard: ‘The Sacred in Life and Art’

Finally, we address the work of Philip Sherrard.  Today’s discussion serves only as a brief introduction to one of his works, The Sacred in Life and Art.  This is a deeply rich work by Sherrard, with many observations worthy of note.  Sherrard’s comments that might help us to better understand the themes we have been discussing not merely today, but also of late in general.  Also, Sherrard’s work can even bring us full circle with our discussion of the nature of holistic thinking.

First, Sherrard makes a point of mentioning that holistic thinking often does not go far enough.  Missing often from the discussion is the grounding of everything in the sacred.  Heidegger puts fundamental ontology and asking the question of Being at the forefront of everything that he does.  Sherrard also grounds his understanding of holistic thinking by asking from the perspective of God.

Sherrard then argues against the separation made between the supernatural order and the natural order made in Scholastic times.  It has had the consequence of reducing thinking to the modern scientific approach with its mechanistic and fragmented nature.  His description of this consequence of reason removed from a connection the to sacred reflects very well the sense of ‘flattening’ that we have discussed previously.

In conclusion, Sherrard regards nature as theological.  Its underlying reality is divine, and it participates in it.  The existence of the human being is theological in the same way.  Whereas Heidegger speaks of ‘dwelling’ in the Fourfold, Sherrard speaks of the ‘mutual in-dwellingness’ of God and nature.

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