ANAM CARA: A BOOK OF CELTIC WISDOM
To the loving eye, everything is real. This art of love is neither sentimental nor naive. Such love is the greatest criterion of truth, celebration, and reality. Kathleen Raine, a Scottish poet, says that unless you see a thing in the light of love, you do not see it at all. Love is the light in which we see light. Love is the light in which we see each thing in its true origin, nature, and destiny. If we could look at the world in a loving way, then the world would rise up before us full of invitation, possibility, and depth.
31 “Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah—32 not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34 No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”
20 Now there were certain Greeks among those who came up to worship at the feast. 21 Then they came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and asked him, saying, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”
22 Philip came and told Andrew, and in turn Andrew and Philip told Jesus.
23 But Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified. 24 Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. 25 He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor.
27 “Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify Your name.”
Then a voice came from heaven, saying, “I have both glorified it and will glorify it again.”
29 Therefore the people who stood by and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to Him.”
30 Jesus answered and said, “This voice did not come because of Me, but for your sake. 31 Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. 32 And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.” 33 This He said, signifying by what death He would die.
Perspective is intrinsically subjective. We “see” the world through many lenses which are informed by our age, culture, and numerous other factors. Our quest for Truth must always transcend the trappings of our rational mind. Fortunately (and thankfully) we serve a speaking God who desires to reveal Himself. Emerson said in The American Scholar “In how many churches, by how many prophets, tell me, is man made sensible that he is an infinite Soul; that the earth and heavens are passing into his mind; that he is drinking forever the soul of God?”
As Ken Kovacs wrote in his book Out of the Depths:
What if there are things about God that we discover only in and through worship rooted and grounded in love and not apart from it?
I believe that it’s the context of love – drawn by the love of God, called by the love of God, claimed and affirmed to the core of our being by the power of God’s love – that allows us to see Jesus, to see the God who shines through the face of Jesus. And within love we can hear in this text something profound. A deep and mysterious wisdom is found here, friends, a wisdom that takes us a very long time to fathom: in order for a life to truly glorify God, to fulfill its purpose, something within us has to die. Something has to die. We don’t want to hear this. But the part of us that doesn’t want to hear this is not the true self, but the ego or the false self.
How does the ego lead us away from God?
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In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
Kenneth E. Kovacs is pastor of the Catonsville Presbyterian Church, Catonsville, Maryland, and has served congregations in St. Andrews, Scotland, and Mendham, New Jersey. Ken studied at Rutgers College, Yale Divinity School, Princeton Theological Seminary, and received his Ph.D. in practical theology from the University of St. Andrews, St. Andrews, Scotland. He is also an analyst-in-training at the C. G. Jung Institute-Zürich. Author of The Relational Theology of James E. Loder: Encounter & Conviction (New York: Peter Lang, 2011) and Out of the Depths: Sermons and Essays (Parson’s Porch, 2016), his current research areas include C. G. Jung and contemporary Christian experience. Ken has served on the board of the Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary in Atlanta, is a current board member of the Presbyterian Writers Guild, and a book reviewer for The Presbyterian Outlook.
Ken’s weekly sermons at CPC can be found at http://kekovacs.blogspot.com/
D I G D E E P E R
C.S. Lewis and Kathleen Raine
TO KATHLEEN RAINE (BOD):
As from Magdalene College
Dear Mrs. Madge
I’ve been reading your poems. They are like a combined bathe and drink (you know—all pores and mouth open at once) that I once had on a walk in the Highlands: cold, bright, and yet with a dash of the dark earth-taste in them. I congratulate you. Philosophically (as you will guess) I am in much disagreement, which I’ve twisted into the enclosed—an exercise in asprezza—you know, Della Scala in Thingummy’s book on Milton’s sonnets, and all that.
C. S. Lewis
(LEWIS—my signature isn’t usually so illegible. Perhaps I am drunk with the poems!)
Who knows if the isolation, the compact, firm-shaped
Dividual selving and peculiam of blood and breath
(Oh skull-roofed thought, oh rib-caged love!) can be escaped
By such an old, simple expedient as death?
How if this were the arena, not the prison? If here,
Focus’d at last, hence conquerable, hand to hand
That Retiarius137 meets us with his net and spear,
And now’s our chance to kill him, on this hot, dry sand?
Here he takes form: elsewhere he’s a pervasive poison,
Masses compete: each flower is militant: the trees,
Lacking eyes, cannot cool their souls on the horizon:
Sap is dark will that works and neither loves nor sees,
And the grave, though not a fine, is a most private, place;
Two bodies can’t (all souls could) occupy all space.
(This poem is published in King, C. S. Lewis, Poet, pp. 295–6.)
C. S. Lewis, The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, ed. Walter Hooper, vol. I–III (New York: HarperCollins e-books; HarperSanFrancisco, 2004–2007).
Frank Templeton Prince. The Italian Element in Milton’s Verse. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1954.
Kathleen Jessie Raine (1908–2003), poet and Blake scholar, was born in Ilford on 14 June 1908, the only child of George Raine, a schoolmaster and Methodist lay preacher, and his wife Jessie (Wilkie) Raine. Although she grew up in Ilford, which was being taken over by suburbia, she spent the happiest part of her childhood with an aunt in Bavington, Northumberland. ‘Bavington, as I remember it,’ she said, ‘seems to have stood outside the mill-race of history, abiding still within the covenant of God.
She was educated at Highland Elementary School and in 1926 won a scholarship to read Natural Sciences at Girton College, Cambridge. She was genuinely interested in science, but had already decided that her vocation was that of a poet. Kathleen was accounted a great beauty, but at Cambridge it was revealed that she had very little capacity for sustaining relationships. By the time she took a Third in Psychology in 1929 Cambridge had become a disappointment and she was happy to leave. She was depressed by the emphasis on rational thought because, as she said, cerebralism denied ‘the sacred springs of life, which are the imagination and the heart’.
And so it was that while many of her friends began exploring the philosophy of the Left, Kathleen turned to the mystical, to Celtic culture, astronomy and magic: ‘I wanted to get away from the Sherlock Holmes misconception that everything has a rational explanation.’
She could not bear to return to Ilford, and having been turned down by Virginia Woolf for a job at Hogarth Press, on 26 August 1930 she hastily married Hugh Sykes Davies (1909–84), a cousin of Herbert Read. Just as quickly she eloped with the poet Charles Madge (1912–96). They eventually married on 27 December 1937 and had a son, James, and a daughter, Anna. But Kathleen found it impossible to reconcile herself to motherhood, and the marriage was dissolved in 1940.
Shortly afterwards she went to live at Martindale, near Penrith, where she began to write. In 1941 she became a Catholic. Two years later she published her first volume of poetry, Stone and Flower: Poems, 1935–1943, with drawings by Barbara Hepworth (London: Nicholson & Watson, 1943). This was followed by Living in Time (London: Editions Poetry, 1946) and The Pythoness, and Other Poems (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1949). There followed a prolific output of work which continued throughout her life. Besides poetry, she wrote numerous scholarly and critical works particularly on William Blake and W. B. Yeats.
By now Raine had established herself in Paultons Square, off the King’s Road in Chelsea. There, in 1949, she met the man who was to be the love of her life. This was Gavin Maxwell (1914–69), the Scottish naturalist and author, later celebrated as the author of Ring of Bright Water (1960). Although Maxwell was essentially a homosexual, Raine formed an instant and intense affinity with someone for whom, like her, Nature had a mystical importance. She gave herself utterly to him. There were to be tempestuous rows between them, but their relationship (though never physically consummated) lasted for seven years. The landscape around Maxwell’s house at Sandaig, on the coast of Wester Ross, inspired many of Raine’s poems.
The relationship with Gavin Maxwell burnt itself out. Raine was banished from the house during a raging storm in 1956. She cursed him under a rowan tree: ‘Let Gavin suffer in this place as I am suffering now.’79 Within the next few years his pet otter was killed, his house destroyed by fire, and he was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
Raine retreated into scholarship. In 1954 she was awarded a five-year research fellowship at Girton College. There she concentrated her studies on Yeats, Coleridge and particularly William Blake. As her fellowship was coming to an end, Muriel Bradbrook, Mistress of Girton, made it possible for her to stay longer. When she told Lewis of her dilemma, whether to go or stay, he urged her to postpone. But she longed to return to Paultons Square, and writing about it years later, she said: ‘In Girton I could not … take root. Some homing instinct had taken me back to Paultons Square as the only place left where I might still pick up the threads of the broken pattern of my life.’80
While she never got over Gavin Maxwell, back in Paultons Square her poetic inspiration returned, and she wrote her finest books on Blake. She told Lewis about a major project on Blake, and he replied in his letter of 5 December 1958: ‘When the Big Book finally appears I think all pre-Raine views of Blake will be obsolete forever.’
The ‘Big Book’ was her two-volume Blake and Tradition, A.W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts, 2 vols. (Volume I, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1968; Volume II, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1969). This was followed by William Blake (London: Longman, 1969); From Blake to ‘A Vision’ (Dublin: Dolmen Press, 1979) and Blake and the New Age (London: Allen & Unwin, 1979).
‘Temenos’ means ‘sacred place’ and in 1981 Raine co-founded Temenos, ‘A Review of the Arts of the Imagination’, with the ambition to affirm ‘at the highest level of scholarship and talent, and in terms of the contemporary situation, of the Sacred’. She soon became sole editor with a devoted international following. Still, she experienced terrible depression and felt her life was useless until, in her ninth decade, the Prince of Wales invited her to set up the Temenos Academy, devoted to ‘the Arts of the Imagination’. The Prince recognized Raine as a soul mate after reading copies of her journal, Temenos, and he urged her to take rooms in his Institute of Architecture in Regent’s Park to establish a school based, in Raine’s words ‘on truth, beauty and goodness’. For her part, she felt protective of the Prince: ‘When I saw him, I thought that poor young man, anything I can do for him I will, because he is very lonely.’81 The Temenos Academy was founded in 1990 and Temenos was re-named Temenos Academy Review.
In the last poem of her collection The Lost Country (London: Dolmen Press, 1971), Raine described how some years ago an unknown voice had told her in a dream: ‘You have only 100 months to live.’ It is said she took this tip seriously and seemed almost irritated when she survived her designated appointment with death. In her last years she was heaped with honours and in 2000 was made a Commander of the British Empire. Despite her reservations about the Catholic Church she found her way back in the end. She received the last rites from a priest before she died on 6 July 2003. Her funeral mass was celebrated in the Lady Chapel of Westminster Cathedral.
Kathleen Raine. Collected Poems. London: Hamish Hamilton, 1956.