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Magic Casements
The Use of Poetry in the Expanding of Consciousness
Sir George Trevelyan

Published in 1980 by Coventure and in 1996 by Gateway Books
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  First published in 1980 by Coventure Ltd, London. Second Edition published 1996 by Gateway Books, Bath.

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© Copyright 1980 by George Trevelyan
© 1996 by the Estate of George Trevelyan
 You may download this book without charge and print it out in single copies only, for personal use and study, in a spirit of fair play, with no financial transactions involved. for all other forms and quantities of reproduction on Internet or in print.

The Poems

Ralph Waldo Trine 'Let there be many windows'
Anna Kingsford 'The Poet'
William Blake from 'Jerusalem'
William Blake 'Fourfold Vision'
William Wordsworth Sonnet: 'The World'
William Wordsworth Opening verses of 'Ode: Intimations of Immortality'
William Wordsworth Lines from 'Tintern Abbey'
Francis Thompson From 'Mistress of Vision'
Francis Thompson 'In no strange land'
Charles Earle 'Bodily Extension'
Martin Armstrong 'The Cage'
Edmund Spenser 'The Soul'
S. T. Coleridge From 'Religious Musings'
Thomas Traherne 'You will never enjoy the world'
Thomas Traherne From 'My Spirit'
Thomas Traherne From 'The Preparative'
William Wordsworth From 'Ode: Intimations of Immortality'
Johann Wolfgang Goethe From 'Seelige Sehnsucht'
W.B. Yeats From 'Sailing to Byzantium'
T. S. Eliot Lines from 'East Coker'
Edmund Waller Last verses
Bhagavad Gita
Sidney Royse Lysaght 'We have dreamed dreams'
Anon 'It is eight weeks beloved'
Raymond Rossiter 'Christus Consolator'
John Donne 'Since I am coming to that Holy Roome'
Rabindranath Tagore 'O Friend, hope for Him' (translation of Kabir)
Edward FitzGerald 'Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam'. Five verses
Francis Thompson From 'The Hound of Heaven'
Robert Frost 'Trial by Existence'
Swami Vivekanander 'The Cup'
William Shakespeare From 'Measure for Measure'
Robert Browning From 'Paracelsus'
John Masefield 'Here in the self'
Kane Wilson Baker 'My life is a tree'
Juan Ramon Jiminez 'I have the feeling'
T.E. Brown 'Indwelling'
Edward Carpenter 'There is no peace'
David Gascoyne 'Not in my lifetime'
Frederick Myers 'A Cosmic Outlook'
Sidney Carter 'Your holy hearsay'
Joseph Plunkett 'I see His blood'
Gerard Manley Hopkins 'Hurrahing in Harvest'
Gerard Manley Hopkins 'As Kingfishers catch fire'
Bhagavad Gita Krishna's Return
Djwhal Khul 'The Great Invocation'
Edwin Muir 'Transfiguration'
Gerard Manley Hopkins 'God's Grandeur'
D.H. Lawrence 'The Song of a Man who has Come Through'
Thalia Gage From 'Prelude to Pentecost'
Stephen Spender 'I think continually'
Evelyn Nolt'The Glory which is Earth'
George Griffiths 'Nexus'
Christopher Fry From 'A Sleep of Prisoners'
James Elroy Flecker 'Awake, awake'
F. C. Happold 'A wind has blown...'
Walter de la Mare 'Song of the Shadows'

Acknowledgements

For permission to use copyright material, the author gratefully makes the following acknowledgements.
To Clarendon Press Ltd, Oxford, for Bodily Extension by J. C. Earle and for lines from A Sleep of Prisoners by Christopher Fry: to MacMillan & Co Ltd, for verses from Sailing to Byzantium by W.B. Yeats: to Faber & Faber, Ltd, for lines from East Coker by T.S. Eliot, and 'I think continually...' by Stephen Spender, and from Transfiguration by Edwin Muir: to Allen & Unwin, Ltd, for lines from Towards Democracy by Edward Carpenter: to Oxford University Press for Not in My Lifetime... by David Gascogne: to Mrs George Griffiths, for the poem Nexus by her husband: to the Masefield Trustees (The Society of Authors) for a sonnet by Masefield: to Jonathan Cape, Ltd, and the Estate of Robert Frost for Trial by Existence by Robert Frost: to Laurence Pollinger, Ltd, and the Estate of the late Mrs. Frieda Lawrence Ravagli, for D.H. Lawrence's 'The Song of a Man who has come through'.

This little anthology has a special purpose. We are concerned with the use of poetry as an instrument for widening of consciousness. For many people, poetry has somewhat dropped out of life. In our over-masculinated society, in which logical analysing intellect is used to gain our ends, the more feminine intuitive faculties are often allowed to go dormant. But these are precisely the faculties that make poetry.

True imagination can blend with the being within form, and rediscover the miraculous oneness of all life. The poet is one who can crystallize into words this profound experience of identity. Thus, if we can take those words and work our imagination livingly into them, we may ourselves experience the 'vision of wholeness' in our souls. So poetry rightly used and rethought can become an instrument for awakening the atrophied organs of perception of the invisible words, the '...magic casements opening on the foam of perilous seas and faery lands forlorn'.


This collection is made up of poems which I have often quoted in lectures on the spiritual awakening of our time, given at Attingham and on Wrekin Trust conferences. I am frequently asked by students for copies of these poems. Well, here they are. This is not an academic study, but a personal choice of poems used to illustrate in better words than mine the reality of the inner worlds of being. In our time there is an awakening to an 'holistic' vision of life. This involves a quickening of the spirit, a throwing wide of consciousness to encompass the eternal oneness of life, reaching beyond the restriction and limitation of sense-bound thinking.

To achieve this we must allow the imaginative and intuitive side of our nature to flower, and be prepared to step beyond the limitations of old thinking patterns. Thus, let us start with a quotation from RALPH WALDO TRINE's classic 'In Tune with the Infinite'.

Let there be many windows in your soul
That all the glory of the universe
May beautify it. Not the narrow pane
Of one poor creed can catch the radiant rays
That shine from countless sources. Tear away
The blinds of superstition; let the light
Pour through fair windows broad as truth itself
And high as Heaven.
Why should the spirit peer
Through some priest-curtained orifice, and grope
Along dim corridors of doubt, when all
The splendour from unfathomed seas of space
Might bathe it with their golden seas of love?
Sweep up the debris of decaying faiths,
Sweep down the cobwebs of worn-out beliefs,
And throw your soul wide open to the light
Of reason and of knowledge. Tune your ear
To all the wordless music of the stars,
And to the voice of nature, and your heart
Shall turn to truth and goodness, as the plant
Turns to the sun. A thousand unseen hands
Reach down to help you from their peace-crowned heights,
And all the forces of the firmament
Shall fortify your strength. Be not afraid
To thrust aside half-truths and grasp the whole.


And now, to grasp what the poetic faculty means, let us take ANNA KINGSFORD's words:

The poet hath no self apart from his larger Self.
His personality is Divine; and being Divine it bath no limits.
He is supreme and ubiquitous in consciousness; his heart beats in every element.
The pulses of the Infinite Deep of Heaven vibrate in his own; and responding to their strength and their plenitude, he feels more intensely than other men.
Not merely he sees and examines these Rocks and Trees; these variable waters and these glittering peaks.
Not merely he hears this plaintive wind, these rolling peals.
But he is all these, and when he sings, it is not he – the Man – whose voice is heard; it is the voice of all Manifold Nature herself.
In his voice the Sunshine laughs; the Mountains give forth their sonorous Echoes; the swift light flings flash.
The great continual Cadence of Universal Life moves and becomes articulate in human language.


So we are really concerned with the faculty of uniting with the being within form, which of course is wholly invisible to the normal looking with physical sight. This sense-bound thinking alone can never penetrate to the living essence of things. This is the task of the Imagination, which in COLERIDGE's phrase is:

The repetition in the finite mind of the eternal act of Creation in the infinite I AM.

Keats wrote: I am certain of nothing but the holiness of the heart's affection and the truth of imagination.
And Shelley: Poetry is the breath and finer spirit of all knowledge; it is the impassioned expression on the face of science.
And Einstein: Science without religion is blind and religion without science is lame.
And Rudolf Steiner: We are forced on to recognise the existence of objects over and above those we experience in sense perception. Such objects are Ideas. In taking possession of the Idea, thinking merges itself into the World Mind. What was working without now works with in. Man has become one with the World Being at its highest potency. Such a becoming realized of the Idea is the true communion of man.

WILLIAM BLAKE, that great prophet of the New Age, speaks of his purpose as teacher, artist and poet:

...I rest not from my great task!
To open the Eternal Worlds, to open the immortal Eyes
Of Man inwards into the Worlds of Thought, into Eternity
Ever expanding in the Bosom of God, the Human Imagination.
O Saviour, pour upon me thy Spirit of meekness and love!
Annihilate the Selfhood in me; be thou all my life!


And, as Blake states in prose:

This world of Imagination is the world of Eternity. It is the bosom into which we shall go after death of the vegetated body. This world of Imagination is Infinite and Eternal, whereas the world of generation and vegetation is finite and temporal. All things are comprehended in their Eternal Forms in the divine body of the Saviour, the true voice of Eternity, the Human Imagination.

Blake knew very well that the acute development of intellectual knowledge was achieved at the price of losing perception of the spiritual worlds. It meant a narrowing of vision so that we stand over against things to analyse them as mere observer. No longer can we unite with the 'being' within them. To him this 'onlooker consciousness' was a kind of sleep condition, as opposed to his own 'fourfold vision', which sees every living thing as it is in its eternal reality.

Thus he writes:

Now I with a fourfold vision see
And a fourfold vision is given to me
Fourfold in my supreme delight
And threefold in soft Beulah's night
And two-fold always. May God us keep
From single vision, and Newton's sleep.


WORDSWORTH shared this sense of the tragic loss through intellectual investigation which loses touch with the intuitive imagination.

Sweet is the lore that nature brings.
Our meddling intellect
Destroys the beauteous form of things
We murder to dissect.


The Life of the Whole cannot be explored without the developing of subtler faculties of perception and an intensifying of imaginative thinking. Wordsworth reflects the longing of the soul – its nostalgia for the realm from which it is increasingly divorced through intellectual materialism. This is expressed in a great sonnet.

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in nature that is ours,
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune,
It moves not. – Great God! I'd rather be
A pagan suckled in a creed outworn,
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea,
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.


Wordsworth had the gift of inner vision into the 'etheric' world which vitalizes and animates the whole of nature, and for many of us, in our youth, the faculties for perception of this realm are still active.

There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,
The earth, and every common sight,
To me did seem
Apparelled in celestial light,
The glory and the freshness of a dream.
It is not now as it hath been of yore; –
Turn wheresoe'er I may,
By night or day,
The things which I have seen I now can see no more.

The Rainbow comes and goes,
And lovely is the Rose,
The Moon doth with delight
Look round her when the heavens are bare, Waters on a starry night
Are beautiful and fair;
The sunshine is a glorious birth;
But yet I know, where'er I go,
That there hath past away a glory from the earth Whither is fled the visionary gleam?
Where is it now, the glory and the dream?


In the famous lines composed at Tintern Abbey, the youthful glory is replaced by a deeper experience:

...And I have felt
A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man:
A motion and a spirit, that impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
And rolls through all things.


Indeed, we belong to these eternal worlds, and to find our way back to them is the goal of the soul's awakening. After the experience of separation by the drastic limitation of incarnation in a physical body, we can enmember ourselves again with the great Oneness. This longing and this hope are expressed by FRANCIS THOMPSON in 'The Mistress of Vision', of which I quote only a few lines. The soul speaks and the answer comes from the higher self:

Where is the land of Luthany,
Where is the tract of Elenore?
I am bound therefor.
'Pierce thy heart to find the key;
With thee take
Only what none else would keep:
Learn to dream when thou dost wake,
Learn to wake when thou dost sleep
When thy seeing blindeth thee
To what thy fellow mortals see
When their sight to thee is sightless;
Their living death; their light, most lightless;
Search no more – Pass the gates of Luthany, tread the region Elenore.'
Where is the land of Luthany,
And where the region Elenore?
I do faint therefor.
'When to the new eyes of thee
All things by immortal power
Near or far,
Hiddenly
To each other linked are,
That thou canst not stir a flower
Without troubling of a star; Seek no more!
Pass the gates of Luthany, tread the region Elenore.'


It is, of course, easy to say this feelingly, but the thought must not be allowed to masquerade as the real experience which for most of us can only be a remote goal. But the goal and the way are closely united, and the first essential is to grasp the concept of a wholeness of which we are an integral part.

FRANCIS THOMPSON's great and well-known poem 'In No Strange Land' shows how close to us is this other world:

O world invisible, we view thee,
O world intangible, we touch thee,
O world unknowable, we know thee,
Inapprehensible, we clutch thee!

Does the fish soar to find the ocean,
The eagle plunge to find the air –
That we ask the stars in motion
If they have rumour of thee there?

Not where the wheeling systems darken,
And our benumbed conceiving soars!
The drift of pinions, would we hearken,
Beats at our own clay-shuttered doors.

The angels keep their ancient places;
Turn but a stone and start a wing!
'Tis ye, 'tis your estranged faces,
That miss the many-splendoured thing.

But (when so sad thou canst not sadder)
Cry; – and upon thy so sore loss
Shall shine the traffic of Jacob's ladder
Pitched betwixt Heaven and Charing Cross.

Yea, in the night, my Soul, my daughter,
Cry, – clinging Heaven by the hems;
And lo, Christ walking on the water
Not of Gennesareth, but Thames!


It is indeed a great marvel and paradox that, by entering inwards, we can move through and so discover that our consciousness can indeed expand to encompass the breadth of the universe. As Andrew Glazewski used to say:

Your consciousness is not in your body:
your body is in your consciousness.


CHARLES JAMES EARLE expresses this important principle in his sonnet 'Bodily Extension':

The body is not bounded by its skin:
Its effluence, like a gentle cloud of scent,
Is wide into the air diffused, and blent
With elements unseen, its way doth win,
To ether frontiers where take origin
Far subtler systems, nobler regions meant
To be the area and the instrument
Of operations ever to begin
Anew and never end. Thus every man
Wears as his robe the garment of the sky –
So close his union with the cosmic plan,
So perfectly he pierces low and high,
Reaching as far in space as creature can
And co-extending with immensity.


Note the 'ether frontiers' which we must cross. Our rockets are fired for the exploration of physical space, but there is another form of space exploration in the expansion of consciousness. To this, there can be no end. We are beginning to explore the frequency bands and up into subtler systems, reaching like Dante towards the Empyrean. Modern spiritual research has familiarized us with that field of unified vital energies and forces which plays with infinite diversity into every form, and holds together the particles comprising visible objects in all the kingdoms of nature. But cold intellect alone cannot attain the experience of this all-pervading unity. It can study the form, but the being within the form remains inaccessible to it.

We must awaken in ourselves the dormant faculties of higher perception. This involves the development of subtler senses. If we are to begin to experience the realm of higher realities, we must discover and employ the inner eye, the inner power of listening, a subtler sense of thought. For the five accepted senses are really filters to protect man from the power of the universe. The soul in incarnation takes upon itself the protective sheaths of the physical, etheric and astral bodies in order to function effectively in the density of earth's gravity-field. We might compare it to a diver donning a heavy diving-suit in order to explore the wonders at the bottom of the sea. Another metaphor is provided by MARTIN ARMSTRONG in 'The Cage':

Man, afraid to be alive
Shuts his soul in senses five,
From fields of uncreated light
Into the crystal tower of sight,
And from the roaring songs of space
Into the small flesh-carven place
Of the ear whose cave impounds
Only small and broken sounds,
And to his narrow sense of touch
From strength that held the stars in clutch,
And from the warm ambrosial spice
Of flowers and fruits of paradise,
Into the frail and fitful power
Of scent and tasting, sweet and sour;
And toiling for a sordid wage
There in his self-created cage
Ah, how safely barred is he
From menace of Eternity.


Birth is indeed to be seen as a descent of a free-ranging spiritual being into the severe limitations of a body; and we shall learn to see death as truly a rebirth and release into a plane of light. To appreciate this, we must overcome the natural identification with our lower self and awaken to the great truth that we possess a self that is higher – a spiritual member of our greater being. This appreciation is the gateway to an experience of ourselves as participating in the whole. It is the true 're-membering'. For the New Age vision is re-establishing man as a being of spirit, soul and body; and we may be certain that a droplet of divinity cannot be extinguished by the discarding of the worn-out body. Here is a verse from EDMUND SPENSER:

So every spirit as it is more pure,
And hath in it the more of heavenly light,
So it the fairer body doth procure
To habit in, and it more fairly dight
With cheerful grace and amiable sight,
For of the soul the body form doth take,
And soul is form and doth the body make.


In the same connection, it is worth considering this quotation from COLERIDGE's 'Religious Musings':

There is one Mind, one omnipresent Mind
Omnific. His most holy name is Love.
Truth of subliming import 'Tis the sublime in man,
Our noontide Majesty, to know ourselves
Parts and proportions of one wondrous whole.
This fraternises man....

Toy-bewitched,
Made blind by lusts, disinherited of soul,
No common centre Man, no common sire
Knoweth! A sordid solitary thing
Mid countless brethren with a lonely heart
Through courts and cities the smooth savage roams,
Feeling himself, his own low self, the whole;
When he by sacred sympathy might make
The Whole one Self! Self that no alien knows,
Self, far diffused as fancy's wing can travel!
Self, spreading still! Oblivious of its own
Yet all of all possessing! This is Faith!
This the Messiah's destined victory!


What a picture of modern man! Indeed, in our heathen culture we can be 'smooth savages'. But 'sacred sympathy', the ability to widen and intensify imaginative thinking, leads to the discovery of the divinity within all created things and our affinity with the being within all form. Thus we are led out of loneliness – a necessary phase in the development of self-awareness – to the discovery of our higher self which is the gateway to wholeness. Herein lies the triumphant challenge of the last line. It is the destined victory of the Christ, that we should each widen consciousness to find that our inner being is truly united with all life. Then we shall be able to say with TRAHERNE:

You will never enjoy the world aright till the sea itself floweth in your veins, till you are clothed with heavens and crowned with the stars; and perceive yourself to be the sole heir of the whole world, and more than so, because men are in it who are every one the sole heir as well as you...

The works of the metaphysical poet THOMAS TRAHERNE, who died in 1674, were lost and not rediscovered until the first decade of this century. In a sense that is appropriate, for only now can his vision be truly understood. Traherne possessed the capacity to remember back into the womb and beyond, and most of his writing strives to impart the living experience of oneness with the divinity in all created things. The great discovery we are now making is that the void, or centre, we enter in meditation is indeed the magic portal through which we can pass into the eternal worlds. This is expressed by the poem, 'My Spirit', in which TRAHERNE struggles with the great paradox of the inner centre which is, at the same time, infinite. I quote from the closing stanzas:

My essence was capacity
That felt all things
That made me present evermore
With whatsoe'er I saw.
An object, if it were before
My eye, was by Dame Nature's law
Within my soul.
O joy! O wonder and delight! O sacred mystery!
My soul a spirit infinite
An image of the Deity,
A pure substantial light,
A strange mysterious sphere,
A deep abyss
That sees and is
The only proper place of Heavenly Bliss. A strange extended orb of Joy
Proceeding from within.
Which did on every side, convey
Itself, and being nigh of kin
To God, did every way
Dilate itself even in an instant, and
Like an indivisible centre stand
At once surrounding all eternity.
'Twas not a sphere
Yet did appear One infinite...
'Twas not a sphere, but 'twas a might
Invisible and yet gave light.
O wondrous Self! O sphere of light,
O sphere of joy most fair
O act, O power infinite;
O subtile and unbounded air! O living orb of sight!
Thou which within me art, yet me!
Thou eye, And temple of His whole infinity!
O what a world art Thou!
A world within! All things appear,
All objects are
Alive in Thee! Supersubstantial, rare,
Above themselves, and nigh of kin
To those pure things we find
In His great mind
Who made the world! Tho' now eclipsed by sin,
There they are useful and divine,
Exalted there they ought to shine.


In 'The Preparative', Traherne describes the experience of pre-existence. This principle is of the utmost importance to us today. As we have noted, the imperishable spiritual entity survives death, for an eternal spiritual being cannot be extinguished. But that we existed as a developed soul before birth is a most vital point if we are to understand the meaning of earth life. Traherne first clearly describes the embryo:

Before I skill'd to prize
Those living stars, mine Eyes;
Before I knew these hands were mine
Or that my sinews did my Members join...
I was within
A House I knew not, newly cloath'd with skin.

Then was my Soul my only All to me,
A living endless Eye
Scarce bounded with the sky
Whose Power and Act and Essence was to see;
I was an inward sphere of Light
Or an interminable Orb of Sight
Exceeding that which makes the days,
A Vital Sun, that shed abroad its rays,
All Life, all Sense,
A naked, simple, pure intelligence.


What a challenge to parents, doctors and teachers! We should indeed never think of the new-born child as a tiny soul, but as a mature soul beginning the drastic descent into a tiny frame.

WORDSWORTH expresses a similar vision in his great 'Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood':

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar;
Not in entire forgetfullness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!
Shades of the prison-house begin to close
Upon the growing boy,
But He beholds the light, and whence it flows,
He sees it in his joy;
The Youth, who daily farther from the east
Must travel, still is Nature's Priest,
And by the vision splendid
Is on his way attended;
At length the Man perceives it die away,
And fade into the light of common day.


When this process occurs, we tend too easily to assume that the earlier light was an illusion. But surely it is for each of us, in our maturing years, to revive 'the vision splendid'. The all-important principle is that there is no renewal without a dying process, no death without a sequel of becoming and resurrection. As GOETHE puts it in 'Seelige Sehnsucht' (The Soul's Yearning'):

Und solang Du das nicht hast
Dieses: Stirb und werde!
Bist Du nur ein trüber Gast
Auf der dunklen Erde.

(And so long as this you lack,
This dying and becoming,
You will be but a dull guest
On the darkling earth.)


WILLIAM BUTLER YEATS was similarly aware of the potentiality for renewal as the ageless soul experiences the ageing of the body. In 'Sailing to Byzantium', he writes:

That is no country for old men. The young
In one another's arms; birds in the trees,
– Those dying generations – at their song;
The salmon falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born and dies.
Caught in that sensual music, all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.

An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.


This verse might be a clarion call to us as we advance in years, a credo for an adult education of the spirit which knows no end. To it we may add the following lines from T.S. ELIOT's 'East Coker':

Old men ought to be explorers.
Here and there does not matter
We must be still and still moving
Into another intensity
For a further union, a deeper communion
Through the dark cold and the empty desolation,
The wave cry, the wind cry, the vast waters
Of the petrel and the porpoise. In my end is my beginning.


And this, on the same theme, by EDMUND WALLER (1606- 1687):

The seas are quiet when the winds give o'er,
So calm are we when passions are no more,
For then we know how vain it was to boast
Of fleeting things, so certain to be lost.
Clouds of affection from our younger eyes
Conceal that emptiness which age descries.
The soul's dark cottage, battered and decayed,
Lets in new light through chinks that time has made.
Stronger by weakness, wiser, men become
As they draw nearer to their eternal home.
Leaving the old, both worlds at once they view
That stand upon the threshold of the new.


So we move to the theme of acceptance of Death, the great transition and release from the 'grave' of the body. The recovery and re-emergence of the spiritual worldview will dispel the spectre of fear of death and bring an inner certainty of the imperishable nature of the soul. In the words of the BHAGAVAD GITA:

Never the spirit was born; the spirit shall cease to be never,
Never was time it was not; end and beginning are dreams.
Birthless and deathless and changeless remaineth the spirit forever.
Death hath not touched it at all, dead though the house of it seems.


A similar truth is expressed by SIDNEY ROYSE LYSAGHT:

We have dreamed dreams beyond our comprehending,
Visions too beautiful to be untrue;
We have seen mysteries that yield no clue
And sought our goals on ways that have no ending.
We creatures of the earth,
The lowly born, the mortal, the foredoomed
To spend our fleeting moments on the spot
Wherein tomorrow we shall be entombed
And hideously rot –
We have seen loveliness that shall not pass,
We have beheld immortal destinies;
We have seen Heaven and Hell and joined their strife;
Ay, we whose flesh shall perish as the grass
Have flung the passion of the heart that dies
Into the hope of everlasting life.


It is worth noting the power of the poem's second line. We can all recognize the mind's capacity to apprehend and seize an idea knowing it to be true by virtue of its very beauty. This may not constitute proof to the cynical intellect, but it may be a stage in the development of latent faculties of perception which may enable us to find a truth in new fields of understanding that cannot be weighed or measured.

The acceptance of the eternal nature of the soul/spirit is fundamental in the change of consciousness now taking place. We are called on to re-think death and abandon the dread, gloom and fear associated with the word. We have no word in our language to express the wondrous process of release into light. Poetry may often help us.

Here is a poem whose author I cannot locate, but which will be moving to those who have experienced bereavement.

It is eight weeks, beloved, since you died.
You left the stiffening inert lump of clay
That was no longer you,
And cried aloud in ecstasy
And suddenly I knew
That all that we believed in,
Lived for, told the world,
Had at its smallest count
Some measure that was true.

It is eight months, beloved, since you died,
And out of my aloneness I have woven strength
To build anew;
For all there was of truth in our relationship
Had eddied, grown, intensified,
Till with a clarion call it sounds at the far reaches of the world
There is no death, no separation of the ways If man to love prove true.

It is eight years, beloved, since you died,
And for eternity a part of you
Is in its essence me.
I know you are, and in that certainty
Is woven all the fabric of my life.
Gone is all sense of urgency and haste;
For all time now, our spirits meet in time.
Loving, we are no longer bound by love;
Heart of my heart, we've set each other free.


And this, in a more directly Christian mode, expressing the great hope in a profound but simple way, by RAYMOND ROSSITER:

'Christus Consolator'
Beside the dead I knelt in prayer
And felt a presence as I prayed.
Lo, it was Jesus standing there;
He smiled: BE NOT AFRAID.

'Lord, Thou hast conquered death, we know.
Restore again to life', I said,
'This one who died an hour ago.'
He smiled: SHE IS NOT DEAD.

'Asleep, then as Thyself did say.
Yet Thou canst lift the lids that keep
Her prisoned eyes from ours away.'
He smiled: SHE DOTH NOT SLEEP.


'Nay, then, tho' haply she do wake
And look upon some fairer dawn,
Restore her to our hearts that ache.
He smiled: SHE IS NOT GONE.

'Alas, too well we know our loss,
Nor hope again to feel that breath
Till we ourselves the river cross.'
He smiled: THERE IS NO DEATH.

'Yet our beloved seems so far,
The while we yearn to see them near,
Albeit with Thee we trust they are.'
He smiled: AND I AM HERE.

'Dear Lord, how shall we know that they
Still walk unseen with us and Thee
Nor sleep and 'wander far away?'
He smiled: ABIDE IN ME.


The great truth that we are here to learn is that the Life Eternal is not a state we go to after death, but is an inner condition of consciousness to be attained now. Of course there is survival, since the soul is imperishable. But mere survival implies mere continuity. And since the next life, beyond the physical world, is a realm of Thought, we find ourselves in the surroundings we can imagine – and therefore strangely like those we have left.

As RADHAKRISHNAN wrote: 'The oldest wisdom in the world tells us we can consciously unite with the divine while in this body; for this man is really born. If he misses his destiny, Nature is not in a hurry; she will catch him up someday, and compel him to fulfil her secret purpose.' This implies we must now work creatively to prepare the condition we are to find in the future. This is finely expressed by JOHN DONNE:

Since I am coming to that Holy Roome
Where, with Thy Quire of Saints, for evermore
I shall be made Thy music; as I come
I tune the instrument here at the door,
And what I must do then, think here before.


It appears that in our materialistic age, when so many have not won through to belief, the Borderland which all enter after death is crowded with souls unable to make the breakthrough to the so-called Summerland, because they have not been able to free themselves from their negative sceptical thought-forms. Hence the importance for us now to grasp the spiritual world-conception.

RABINDRANATH TAGORE, translating Kabir, impresses this important truth upon us.

O Friend, hope for Him whilst you live,
Know while you live, understand while you live:
for in life deliverance abides.
If your bonds be not broken while living
What hope of deliverance in death?
It is but an empty dream, that the soul
Shall have union with
Him because it has passed from the body.
If He is found now, He is found then.
If not, we do but go to dwell in the
City of Death.
If you have union now, you shall have it hereafter.


At this point I include five verses from that great poem FITZGERALD's: 'Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam'.

This is usually treated as a wine-bibber's philosophy – 'Let us eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die.' It does, apparently, say that death is extinction – but as we have seen, every symbol is Janus.faced. You are free to read it in the way that gives meaning to your life, negatively or the reverse. Thus the poem really is about Life Eternal, the Wine of Life and consciousness. The Cup is the body, and the wine is the life given us by Him who said, 'I am the true Vine.'

Think, in this batter'd Caravanserai
Whose doorways are alternate Night and Day,
How Sultan after Sultan with his pomp
Abode his hour or two, and went his way.


The Caravanserai is our Earth life, with the moon-gate of birth and the sun-gate of death – the new dawn.
Listen to this:

Ah, my Beloved, fill the Cup that clears
Today of past Regrets and future Fears –
Tomorrow? – Why, Tomorrow I may be
Myself with Yesterday's Sev'n Thousand Years.


We must learn to live in the present, not because there is no future but that we have the creation of the future in our own hands, if we can learn to work with our Higher Self.

Ah, fill the Cup, what boots it to repeat
How Time is slipping underneath our feet:
Unborn Tomorrow and dead Yesterday,
Why fret about them if Today be sweet?

One moment in Annihilation's Waste,
One moment, of the Well of Life to taste –
The stars are setting and the Caravan
Starts for the Dawn of Nothing – Oh, make haste!


So easily can the poem look like negation – after death there is nothing. But the Life Eternal belongs to the ethereal realm beyond time, space and form. Thus it is the realm of No Thing, a condition of unborn-ness; a freedom from the limitations of form and embodiment. Life on Earth is 'Annihilation's Waste' – this is the 'Well of Life', the heaviest, densest vibration, which we enter for a brief span of existence. As Dawn comes and the stars set, the caravan starts for that Higher Realm – O make haste! Had the negative interpretation been valid, surely Omar would have urged us to miss this Caravan and have another evening of drinking and merry-making. This gives us the clue to the central verse which superficially appears complete negation and, interpreted, is the great affirmation.

And if the Wine you drink, the Lip you press,
End in the Nothing all things end in – Yes!
Then fancy while thou art, thou art but what
Thou shalt be – Nothing – Thou shalt not be less.


For 'Nothing' read 'No Thing' – a condition of 'pre thing-ness'.

Note that affirmation of YES in the middle of this strange verse, the assurance that as a soul you will not be less than a free spirit united with your Higher Self. So, while here, imagine you are what you will be – a No Thing. Thus you will prepare for the great transition, with Donne – What you will be then, think here before, for Thought is the great reality.

Every verse in this extraordinary poem – Fitzgerald's inspired re-writing of Omar's verses – is a meditation on the Life Eternal and our task of achieving it Now. If you can unravel the poem, it is deeply moving and rewarding. You see that this thinking is not a morbid concern with death and the escape from the body, but a recognition of the infinite beauty and wonder of matter and life, here and now, as the field in which we can achieve the freedom of an expanding of awareness which unites us with the One, the Eternal Life, the Trans-Personal Consciousness.


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Magic Casements
The Use of Poetry in the Expanding of Consciousness
Sir George Trevelyan

Published in 1980 by Coventure and in 1996 by Gateway Books
This book is out-of-print, available only on this website
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© Copyright Sir George Trevelyan and estate, 1980 & 1996. This book may be downloaded and printed on paper in single copies for personal use and study only, in a spirit of fair play and without financial transaction. .