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Magic Casements (2)
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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Among the really great poems in our language is FRANCIS THOMPSON's 'The Hound of Heaven'. The theme is central to all our striving – the ultimate surrender of the soul to God, and His unwavering pursuit of each one of us. In the end we cannot escape this 'tremendous lover'.

Here is the opening verse – space does not allow for more.

I fled Him down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him down the arches of the years;
I fled Him down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter.
Up vistaed hopes I sped;
And shot, precipitated,
Adown Titanic glooms of chasmèd fears,
From those strong feet that followed, followed after.
But with unhurrying chase, And unperturbed pace
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
They beat, and a Voice beat
More instant than the Feet –
'All things betray thee, who betrayest Me.'


In all our restlessness we begin to glimpse the greater reality:

Yet ever and anon a trumpet sounds
From the hid battlements of Eternity;
Those shaken mists a space unsettle, then
Round the half-glimpsed turrets slowly wash again.
But not ere him who summoneth
I first have seen, enwound
With glooming robes purpureal, cypress-crowned;
His name I know, and what his trumpet saith'...


The concept of pre-existence, already expressed in the quotations from Wordsworth and Traherne, is in fact more significant than that of mere survival after death, for it raises at once the question of where the spiritual being in us received its education and development.

Here we have to consider the Earth as the great training ground, for the implications are that the soul needs to descend many times into the limitations of the gravity field to learn all the lessons that evolving earth consciousness can teach. This is expressed remarkably by the American poet ROBERT FROST in his poem 'Trial by Existence'.

And from a cliff-top is proclaimed
The gathering of the souls for birth,
The trial by existence named,
The obscuration upon earth...

And the more loitering are turned
To view once more the sacrifice
Of those who for some good discerned
Will gladly give up paradise.

And none are taken but who will,
Having first heard the life read out
That opens earthward, good and ill,
Beyond the shadow of a doubt;

Nor is there wanting in the press
Some spirit to stand simply forth,
Heroic in its nakedness,
Against the uttermost of earth.

But always God speaks at the end:
'One thought in agony of strife
The bravest would have by for friend,
The memory that he chose the life;
But the pure fate to which you go
Admits no memory of choice,
Or the woe were not earthly woe
To which you gave the assenting voice.'

And so the choice must be again,
But the last choice is still the same;
And the awe passes wonder then,
And a hush falls for all acclaim.
And God has taken a flower of gold
And broken it, and used therefrom
The mystic link to bind and hold
Spirit to matter till death come.

'Tis of the essence of life here,
Though we choose greatly, still to lack
The lasting memory at all clear,
That life has for us on the rack
Nothing but what we somehow chose;
Thus are we wholly stripped of pride
In the pain that has but one close,
Bearing it crushed and mystified.


The possibility that we were shown our destiny before we descended into incarnation, and actually chose our environment, is well borne out by spiritual research and communication. Rebirth is not put forward as a doctrine to be believed. It is a mystery about which very much needs still to be found out. But note the value of living as if it were true and you believed it! If you are prepared to do that, you will have strength and courage to take full responsibility for all you are and for all your circumstances, favourable or difficult. You will never again grumble or try to transfer blame for what you are on to someone or something else! You will become a more positive, tolerant and tolerable member of society.

A great secret lies in this ability to take these great spiritual ideas and live as if you believed them. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by adopting this plan and you will find it opens the way to exploring into higher truths; and since you are not claiming dogmatic 'belief' there is no need to argue or doubt!

To accept responsibility for our circumstances and to realize the Divine wisdom behind our personal destiny is of first importance. We may take comfort from this poem by SWAMI VIVEKANANDER:

THE CUP
This is the cup, the cup assigned to you from the beginning.
I know, My child, how much of this dark drink is your own brew
Of fault or passion ages long ago
In the deep years of yesterday, I know.

This is your road, a painful road and drear.
I made the stones that never give you rest;
I set your friend in pleasant ways and clear
And he, like you, shall come unto my breast,
But you, My child, must travel here.

This is your task, it has no joy or grace,
But it cannot be wrought by any other hand;
Take it. I do not bid you understand.
I bid you close your eyes and see My face.


We constantly find ourselves returning to the wonder that, within each man, is the centre through which contact and blending with the higher planes of consciousness may be achieved. This is the true communion of man, the coming-of-age of romanticism, the growing up and mature recognition of our real responsibility. For as imperishable spiritual entities, we are truly total cause of our nature and even our circumstances. This is the 'glassy essence' of which Isabella speaks in SHAKESPEARE's 'Measure for Measure':

Proud man
Dressed in a little brief authority,
Most ignorant of what he's most assured,
His glassy essence, like an angry ape
Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven
As makes the angels weep.


The same point is reiterated by BROWNING in 'Paracelsus':

Truth is within ourselves, it takes no rise
From outward things, whate'er you may believe.
There is an inner centre in us all
Where truth abides in fullness; and around
Wall upon wall the gross flesh hems it in
That perfect clear perception which is Truth.
A baffling and perverting carnal mesh
Binds all and makes all error, but to know
Rather consists in finding out a way
For the imprisoned splendour to escape
Than in achieving entry for a light
Supposed to be without.


Many poets speak in the same vein. Here, for example, is a sonnet by JOHN MASEFIELD:

Here in the self is all that man can know
Of Beauty, all the wonder, all the power
All the unearthly colour, all the glow
Here in the self that withers like a flower:
Here in the self that fades as hours pass
And droops and dies and rots and is forgotten
Sooner by ages than the mirroring glass
In which it sees its glory still unrotten.
Here in the flesh, within the flesh, behind,
Swift in the blood and throbbing on the bone,
Beauty herself, the universal mind,
Eternal April wandering alone;
The God, the Holy Ghost, the atoning Lord
Here in the flesh, the never-yet explored.


The goal is the flowering of the spirit. It is expressed by a strangely magical modern poem, 'The Tree' by KARLE WILSON BAKER:

My life is a tree
Yoke fellow of the earth;
pledged
By roots too deep for remembrance
To stand hard against the storm
To fill my place.
(But high in the branches of my green tree there is a wild bird singing:
Wind-free are the wings of my bird:
She hath built no mortal nest.)


The same theme is echoed in the following lines by JUAN RAMON JIMINEZ:

I have the feeling that my boat has struck,
down there in the depths
against some great thing
And nothing happens.
Nothing... silence... waves... nothing.
Or, has everything happened, and are we standing quietly now in the new life?


We might also quote another brief poem, 'Indwelling' by T. E. BROWN. In their delicate simplicity, these lines express the whole problem of the transformation of the soul in the New Age – the responsibility imposed on each of us to open himself to a higher Self:

If thou couldst empty all thyself of self
Like to a shell dishabited
Then might He find thee on an ocean shelf
And say: This is not dead,
And fill thee with Himself instead.

But thou art so replete with very thou
And hast such shrewd activity
That when He comes He'll say: 'It is enow
Unto itself. 'Twere better let it be,
It is so small and full, and has no need of Me.'


The re-emerging of the ageless wisdom and the quickening of the spirit in our time entails an expansion and acceleration of consciousness, which aspires to apprehend and blend with the whole. At the opening of our epoch, a number of great figures appeared who had achieved a species of cosmic consciousness. These figures included Walt Whitman, AE, W.B. Yeats and Edward Carpenter. All of them were cognisant of the eternal nature of the soul, and also of the fact that it requires many lives to glean the harvest of experience on earth. In the following free verse by EDWARD CARPENTER, one can hear the voice of cosmic consciousness, which of course we may identify with the Christ.

There is no peace except where I am, saith the Lord,
I alone remain, I do not change.
As space spreads everywhere and all things move and change within it,
But it moves not nor changes,
So I am the space within the soul, of which the space without
Is but the similitude or mental image;
Comest thou to inhabit Me thou hast the entrance to all life –
Death shall no longer divide thee from those thou lovest -
I am the sun that shines upon all creatures from within –
Gazest thou upon Me thou shalt be filled with joy eternal.
Be not deceived. Soon this outer world shall drop off –
Thou shalt slough it away as a man sloughs
his mortal body.
Learn even now to spread thy wings in that other world,
To swim in the ocean, my child, of Me and my love.
Ah, have I not taught thee by the semblances of this outer
World, by its alienations and deaths and mortal sufferings – all for this,
For Joy, ah joy unutterable.


With such development of the cosmic sense, there will inevitably be a surge of love. We will recognize that the same divinity which burns in ourselves burns in the core of all other living things, and we will salute it in them. The New Age is characterized by the emergence of groups bound by love and a readiness for sacrificial service to the whole. This will entail a deepening and enrichment of personal relationships and of true individuality. For the impulse which fires the New Age is the working of the Avatar of Synthesis. And the promise it holds is echoed by DAVID GASCOYNE:

Not in my life-time, the love I envisage:
Not in this century it may be. Nevertheless inevitable,
Having experienced a foretaste of its burning
And of its consolation, although locked in my aloneness
Still, although I know it cannot come to be
Except in reciprocity; I know
That true love is gratuitous and will race through
The veins of the reborn world's generations, free
And sweet, like a new kind of electricity.

The love of heroes and of men like gods
Has been for long a strange thing on the earth;
And monstrous to the mediocre. They
In whom such love is luminous can but transcend
The squalid inhibitions of those only half alive.
In blind content they breed who never loved a friend.


In 'A Cosmic Outlook', FREDERICK MYERS offers a tremendous vision of the goal and the way:

On! I have guessed the end; the end is fair,
Not with these weak limbs is thy last race run;
Not all thy vision sets with this low sun;
Not all thy spirit swoons with this despair.
Look how thine own soul, throned where all is well
Smiles to regard thy days disconsolate;
Yea, since herself she wove the wordly spell
Doomed thee for lofty gain to low estate:
Sown with thy fall a seed of glory fell;
Thy heaven is in thee and thy will thy fate.

Inward! aye deeper far than love or scorn
Deeper than bloom of virtue, stain of sin,
Rend thou the veil and pass alone within,
Stand naked there and feel thyself forlorn.
Nay, in what world then, Spirit, wast thou born?
Or to what World-Soul art thou entered in;
Feel the self fade, feel the great life begin
With Love re-rising in the cosmic mom.
The inward ardour yearns to the inmost goal;
The endless goal is one with the endless way;
From every gulf the tides of Being roll,
From every Zenith burns the indwelling day;
And life in Life hath drowned thee, soul in Soul
And these are God, and thou thyself art they.


This leads us to the greatest, perhaps, of all themes – the concept of the Christ as a Cosmic Being of Light, Love and Truth, the Essence of all life. We may approach it first through the challenge flung down by SIDNEY CARTER, author of 'Lord of the Dance':

Your holy hearsay
Is no evidence.
Give me the good news In the present tense.

What happened
Nineteen hundred years ago
May not have happened,
Who am I to know?

The living truth
Is what I long to see
I cannot lean upon
What used to be.

So shut the Bible up
And show me how
The Christ you talk about
Is living now.


A reply is offered by the Irish poet, JOSEPH PLUNKETT, which strives to express the thought that the Cosmic Christ is present throughout the entire etheric structure of the Earth and, therefore, active in the vital forces which animate all form. Thus to raise our vision to the etheric may be a way to experience an aspect of the Second Coming, which is assuredly the great meaning and mystery of our age.

I see His blood upon the rose
And m the stars the glory of His eyes
His body gleans amid eternal snows
His tears fall from the skies.

I see His face in every flower
The thunder and the singing of the birds
Are but His voice, and carven by
His power Rocks are His written words.

All pathways by His feet are worn
His strong heart stirs the ever-beating sea
His crown of thorns is twined with every thorn
His cross is every tree.


In virtually all his work, GERARD MANLEY HOPKINS, the 'father of modern poetry' was profoundly aware of the Christ principle in living nature.
Let us consider an example.

'Hurrahing in Harvest'
Summer ends now; now, barbarous in beauty, the stooks arise
Around; up above, what wind-walks! What lovely behaviour
Of silk sack clouds! has wilder, wilful-wavier
Meal-drift moulded ever and melted across skies?

I walk, I lift up, I lift up heart, eyes, Down all that glory in the heavens to glean
Our Saviour:
And eyes, heart, what looks, what lips yet gave you a
Rapturous love's greeting of realer, of rounder replies?

And the azurous hung hills are his world wielding shoulder
Majestic – as a stallion stalwart, very-violet sweet! –
These things, these things were here and but the beholder
Wanting; which two when they once meet,
The heart rears wings bold and bolder
And hurls for him, O half hurls earth for him off under his feet.


It is worth noting Hopkins' insistence that human initiative is essential if the bridge is to be built. We must lift the heart into the living oneness to find the divine within all matter. Wholeness – the Primal Source – has poured itself into form and therefore self-hood. As divinity and wisdom play into form, an infinite diversity of life emerges, each thing 'selfing', 'going itself. Hopkins stresses this point in another poem, which for its splendid sounding should rightly be read aloud, with relish:

As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame
As tumbled over rim of roundy wells
Stones ring: like each tucked string tells, each hung bell's
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad his name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that spirit indoors each one dwells
Selves – goes itself; MYSELF it speaks and spells
Crying WHAT I DO IS ME: FOR THAT I CAME.

I say more: the just man justices;
Keeps grace: that keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God's eye what in God's eye he is –
Christ – for Christ plays in ten thousand places
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men's faces.


In short, we must not think of the lower, limited self defined by the personality and the ego. We must think instead of a higher Self which transcends all ephemeral phenomena and issues from – indeed, is one with – the timeless. As Krishna says in the BHAGAVAD GITA:

Wherever there is a withering of the law and an uprising of lawlessness on all sides, then I manifest Myself.

For the salvation of the righteous and the destruction of such as do evil, for the firm establishing of the Law, I come to birth age after age.


We thus come to the doctrine of the Avatars which runs like a golden thread through all scriptures and history down the ages. When human need is greatest and when the cry of despair goes up, the Saviour manifests. In our age, he is the Avatar of Love, anticipated by the faithful in both hemispheres as the Christ, the Maitreya, the Boddhisatva, the Imam Mahdi, the Messiah. At this point, it is most appropriate to quote 'The Great Invocation', given to the world in 1945, for all who are drawn to the New Age thinking will wish to know and use it.

From the point of Light within the Mind of God
Let Light stream forth into the minds of men
Let Light descend on earth.

From the point of Love within the Heart of God
Let Love stream forth into the hearts of men
May Christ return to earth.

From the centre where the Will of God is known
Let purpose guide the little wills of men
The purpose which the Masters know and serve.

From the centre that we call the race of men
Let the Plan of Light and Love work out
And may it seal the door where evil dwells.

LET LIGHT AND LOVE AND POWER RESTORE THE PLAN ON EARTH.


In 'Transfiguration', EDWIN MUIR expresses a similar anticipation:

But He will come again, it's said, though not
Unwanted add unsummoned; for all things,
Beasts of the field and woods and rocks and seas
And all mankind from end to end of the earth
Will call Him in one voice. In our own time
Some say, or at a time when time is ripe.
Then He will come, Christ the uncrucified,
Christ the discrucified, his death undone,
His agony unmade, his cross dismantled,
Glad to be so – and the tormented wood
Will cure its hurt and grow into a tree
In a green springing corner of young Eden
And Judas damned take his long journey backward
From darkness into light and be a child
Beside his mother's knee, and the betrayal
Be quite undone and never more be done.


The coming of the New Age involves a passage through a time of tribulation and this is what we are now experiencing. But 'look up, for your salvation draweth nigh'. It is inevitably an apocalyptic time. We approach the transformation of the age of materialism and egoism. The collapse of outworn forms, the confusion in society – all may be the direct consequence of the pressure of the energies of the living spirit working for the birth of the new society based on harmony and love. And a vision of wholeness nurtures the conviction that the powers of light are indeed pouring themselves into the earth for its redemption, and that, before this century is out, we will indeed have attained a time of transformation. Such transformation will entail not only a physical reclaiming of this polluted planet, but a spiritual one as well – a factor largely ignored in discussions about conservation and ecology. Again, it is HOPKINS who suggests what we may hope to witness:

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward
springs – Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.


The great change and transformation must begin in each one of us. Since we have been given free-will, we must take responsibility for that point in the Universe which we can really control – our own 'I', which can direct and use body and soul in service of the Whole.

The aspiration to become a clear channel for the 'wind of the spirit' has never been more powerfully expressed than by D.H. LAWRENCE in 'The Song of a Man who has Come Through'.

Not I, not I, but the wind that blows through me!
A fine wind is blowing the new direction of Time.
If only I let it bear me, carry me, if only it carry me!
If only I am sensitive, subtle, Oh delicate, a winged gift!
If only, most lovely of all, I yield myself and am borrowed
By the fine, fine wind that takes its course through the chaos of the world
Like a fine, an exquisite chisel, a wedge-blade inserted;
If only I am keen and hard like the sheer tip of a wedge
Driven by invisible blows,
The rock will split, we shall come at the wonder, we shall find the Hesperides.
Oh, for the wonder that bubbles into my soul;
I would be a good fountain, a good well-head,
Would blur no whisper, spoil no expression.

What is the knocking?
What is the knocking at the door in the night?
It is somebody wants to- do us harm.
No, no, it is the three strange angels.
Admit them, admit them.


Note how he changes his metaphor from the wind to the wedge and how we have to temper ourselves to be the tip of the wedge, so that the invisible worlds may split the cold hard rock of materialistic thinking. Our initiative is vital for the redemptive operation, that we may become effective channels for the creative source and indeed open the door to the 'three strange angels'.

A contemporary poet, THALIA GAGE, in her 'Prelude to Pentecost' touches the same note.

It is not I, Lord, who sing
But you who sing through me,
I, but your voice, veiled and broken
By words,
But sometimes swinging down the long clear paths
With your authentic signature of joy.


We enter the Age of Aquarius, an airy sign under which the soul aspires to the living contact with the realm of the Spiritual Sun, which can fire the heart with Love and the mind with Light. STEPHEN SPENDER offers us a beautiful vision of the flowering of the spirit:

I think continually of those who were truly great
Who from the womb remembered the soul's mysteries
Down corridors of light where the hours are suns
Endless and singing. Whose lovely ambition was
That their lips, still touched with fire
Should tell of the spirit, clothed head to foot with song.
...What is precious
Is never to forget... never to allow
Gradually the traffic to smother
With noise and fog the flowering of the spirit.
Near the snows, near the sun, in the high fields
See where their names are feted by the waving grass...
The names of those who in their lives fought for life,
Who wore in their hearts the fire's centre:
Born of the sun they travelled a short way towards the sun
And left the vivid air signed with their honour.


The vision of wholeness implies that the earth is in fact a living sentient creature of which we men are an integral part. To realize our relationship to the wholeness of life we must develop, in Teilhard's phrase, the 'Sense of Earth'. Only in this way may we come to know the Spirit of Earth. We find this principle expressed by EVELYN NOLT in 'The Glory Which is Earth':

Man, tread softly on the Earth
What looks like dust
Is also stuff of which galaxies are made.

The green of Earth's great trees and simple grasses
Is the same music played in red
Throughout our trunks and limbs

The first eye broadcast thought.
Function is the eye of dust.
Fragrance is the flower's eye.
The furred and feathered eye is freedom.
If we cannot see that dust looks back at us
If we will not see thought in the animal
It is because we bind our eyes
To stay Evolution's seeing.

O Blessed Earth. O patient Earth
We struggle upward to the Sun
Forgetting what we as dust knew
Forgetting what we as flower saw
Forgetting what we as animal are
Forgetting humanness is synthesis
Of dust, flower, animal and something more.

O Earth, living, breathing, thinking Earth
On the day we treasure you
As you have treasured us
Humanness is born.

And throughout all Light
A Radiance leaps from star to star
Singing: A Son is born HUMANITY.


Read now an example of the work of that fine New Age poet, the late GEORGE GRIFFITHS:

Darkness would seem to be
our chosen cloak
whose very warp and weft's composed
of suffering
and death...
Yet he who knows the ebb and flow of tides
within a tree,
knows too the breath of planets
in their pilgrimage.
Also, in his compass, he would hold in view
the rise and fall
of circumstance
where man, as nexus of two worlds
stands poised at this midbetween
on razor's edge,
gifted beyond angels,
benisoned in light
and cast in the major role...
could he but know it.


We are now entering a time of transfiguration for man. Although the advent of the Aquarian Age is an extended process, this last quarter of our 20th Century will be a time of vital change, with immense hope for man's future. But such change entails a profound responsibility for each of us – a responsibility to think positively, in order that the powers of light may be effectively channelled. In 'A Sleep of Prisoners', CHRISTOPHER FRY expresses the urgency incumbent upon us:

The human heart can go the lengths of God.
Dark and cold we may be, but this
Is no winter now. The frozen misery
Of centuries breaks, cracks, begins to move;
The thunder is the thunder of the floes,
The thaw, the flood, the upstart Spring.
Thank God our Time is now when wrong
Comes up to face us everywhere,
Never to leave us till we take
The longest stride of soul men ever took.
Affairs are now soul size.
The enterprise
Is exploration into God.
Where are you making for? It takes
So many thousand years to wake
But will you wake for pity's sake?


Let us close with a similar admonition from JAMES ELROY FLECKER: -

Awake, awake, the world is young
For all its weary years of thought.
The starkest fights must still be fought,
The most surprising songs be sung!


And for a final Envoi, this by F. C. HAPPOLD, which gives a clarion call for the New Age.

A wind has blown across the world
And tremors shake its frame
New things are struggling to their birth
And naught shall be the same.
The earth is weary of its past
Of folly, hate and fear,
Behind a dark and stormy sky
The dawn of God is near.

A wind is blowing through the Earth
A tempest loud and strong.
The trumpets of the Christ the King
Thunder the skies along.
The summons to a high crusade
Calling the brave and true
To find a New Jerusalem
And build the world anew.




Epilogue
The Living Word

The secret of good reciting of poems is simple if we will but note it and follow it. Speak only the living thought and refuse absolutely to read dead words. Learn to live solely in the present thought.

If you listen to someone reading or reciting, you will all too often hear that they are being swept on in a desire to read the poem well! The result can be lament able. Live in the thought. This means that having relished that thought you will pause. The pause between thoughts is the mystery. It is all-important. It may be quite long or it may be very short, but it is absolute. You do this naturally in conversation. Obviously you deliver yourself of a thought and stop – until another thought bubbles up demanding expression. To recite or act is only different in kind. You are speaking not your own thoughts, but someone else's which you must make your own. The moment you are carried away in that terrible drive to 'recite a poem well', nothing will halt you till the last full stop. Listen to a reader. Often a line is followed by an in-sucking of breath. This is absolute proof that the subconscious is not living in the present thought, but is obsessed with getting on to the next. To break the habit, the secret is so simple. Having spoken your thought, shut your mouth and allow the lungs gently to refill. Refuse to rush on. Intend only to live in the one thought – then perhaps decide to take yet another thought, and pause again. Try it. This business of shutting your mouth is a way of catching out the unconscious intent. Anxiety will make you breathless at first. Once you have experienced the magic of the 'pregnant pause' you have yourself and your audience in control. Like a good actor, you can do with them what you will. I have never heard anyone who pauses too long between thoughts. Broadly speaking, you can afford a surprisingly lengthy pause, for many poems are an essentially meditative experience, and the meaning vibrates and matures and flowers in the silence following the mantric thought. There is at first a natural fear of pausing lest the audience thinks you have broken down. This must be overcome. The tendency for most readers is to take the poem too fast. It is indeed one of the sad illusions that people can grasp and understand a poem at first hearing. This spoils so many recitals, even on B.B.C. A poem is a complex of images stirring the imagination. You must allow time for this process. It is miraculous. I make certain sounds with my voice and in you rises a picture of a spring meadow, a ship, a mountain stream. You cannot stop it, unless you deliberately beat down the rising images with a counter-thought. Sit back and listen, perhaps with closed eyes. A series of linked images forms within you. The inner eye and inner ear are called into action. If, before the picture has fully formed, I throw in another half-baked thought, it will overwhelm the subtle image as it comes to birth and a painful confusion will result. Learn to relish the lovely process to the full and allow long enough for the image to ripen. Then build upon it the next kindred image until a series of pictures are linked.

Here's another secret of good reading aloud. It takes the listener rather longer to grasp the meaning of a thought than it takes you to read the next thought. You have the advantage of the written word, and can at a glance get the coming image. Therefore, having spoken the thought, allow your audience time to enjoy and relish it while you shut your mouth and get the next living thought, refusing to speak another line till you have grasped its content and meaning. Of course this means that the first reading must be in somewhat slow motion. It needs to be, since it is an affectation that one hearing alone can unravel the meaning of a complex sonnet. Do not object that the pause is destroying the rhythm. Rhyme and rhythm are magic. They are the inner life and power of the poem. Often their power is more richly experienced when they span the resonant silence. They continue to vibrate. Do you know that the iambic pentameter, the classical Homeric line, really is founded on the rhythmic relationship of heartbeat and breath – four heartbeats to one breath? This is so powerful that it cannot be killed.

Now let us take this delicate and outwardly simple poem by WALTER de Ia MARE.

'The Song of the Shadows'
Sweep thy faint strings, musician
With thy long, lean hand;
Downward the starry tapers burn,
Sinks soft the waning sand.
The old hound whimpers, couched in sleep,
The embers smoulder low;
Across the walls the shadows come and go.
Sweep softly thy strings, musician;
The minutes mount to hours.
Frost on the windless casement weaves
A labyrinth of flowers.
Ghosts linger in the darkening air,
Hearken at the open door,
Music has called them, dreaming, home once more.


Here is a series of twelve distinct images. Let each one come alight in your imagination and allow the inner picture to form. Then link it with the next one and let the one flow into the other, as on a cinema screen. Obviously, the setting is the hall of a medieval castle with a minstrel harpist. Flaying voyaged once through the series, go back to the beginning and build them again more strongly, above all linking one picture with the next. Pictures formed in our imagination are alive. Having integrated them, all you need to do is to start at No. 1 and the whole series will flow. If you really form living images you could know this poem by heart after three readings. And as you live with the images they become enriched. This poem obviously plays on all the feelings of stilling, quietening, dropping towards sleep. Every image and every sound heighten this meditative experience. At first reading, you'll have formed a general picture of candles and the hour-glass. But how rich in feeling is the linked image:

'Downward the starry tapers burn
Sinks soft the waning sand'!


Every word gives a new facet to the whole picture and scene you are imagining.

This is indeed a process of exploring a poem, or rather of exploring your own inner senses and becoming aware of their precious gifts. In de la Mare's poem we are concerned with the inner sight and hearing (the harp music, the whimpering of the dog, the sound of the fire).

When this almost meditative ritual of working into the living ideas in a poem is rightly fulfilled, it is a beautiful soul experience. We all know how painful a bad film may be. By compulsion, images enter through the eye and we cannot protect ourselves from them. In our case of listening to the poem, we alone are monitoring the images and creatively forming the inner pictures. The experience is like a kind of melting of the heart centre, particularly if you are reciting and have got control and stillness in the breathing. (How interesting that we call it 'learning by heart'). What I have said holds good, even if the poem is a galloping ballad. The pauses must be absolute, even if only paper-thin. Then every thought is alive.

The poems quoted in this book all lend themselves to the approach here outlined. Explore them in this way. Remember to forbid yourself ever to read dead words. Live in the Living Word, the Living Idea. Know that Ideas are indeed alive, for an idea is a thought-being from the eternal ocean of Thought, which chooses to enter the realm of human thinking through your imagination. Do not hurt these living creatures by your crude reception of their gifts. Welcome them home. They are magic casements...

Such poems as these may indeed be used for awakening imagination and intuition. As we said at the beginning of this book, poetry is an aspect of initiation into the higher knowledge, involving those faculties which have so often gone dormant in our over-masculinated intellectual age. But often the magic of poetry is lost through careless and thoughtless recital, which has failed to appreciate what is meant by the Living Idea. In our age of spiritual awakening, the Ageless Wisdom appears to be breaking through into our consciousness. It is as if there were an ocean of living wisdom on the ethereal plane beyond time and form. Our lifted thinking and expanded consciousness can begin to tap this reservoir, and channel the archetypal ideas. And they are the stuff of great poetry.

One approach I have touched on clearly differs from the usual academic study. We are avowedly founding our approach on the holistic world-view, which accepts the spiritual nature of man and the universe. When, with this world-picture in mind, we approach the great works of art and literature, they often begin to speak in a new way. We may sense the need for re-interpretation in the light of the spiritual world-view. This is something more than the 'onlooker' approach of academic criticism. It implies a blending with the being and beings within the forms. The symbols in myth and legend, poetry and drama, begin to speak to us, enhancing the meaning of life. Surely in our benighted world this gift is of unparalleled importance. Are we not being invited to a re-exploring of the arts seen as a vehicle for the living spirit, for this surely is what lies behind the creation of the master works? If we can but learn how to read these works aright, shall we not be resonating with the thinking of the initiate-souls who created them? The arts are truly the gateway to spiritual knowledge and should be approached as such. The present volume is an extremely modest attempt at such an approach. It could be followed by others. The rich heritage of English poetry holds so many treasures which we can use for the awakening of consciousness.


End of book

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Magic Casements (2)
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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