Sunday, October 5, 2014

"Yet sometimes in the midst of these dreams..."

Dwight Longenecker on Thomas Traherne (c.1636-1674):
.... A simple country parson and chaplain to a nobleman, Traherne was never known in his lifetime, and his work was discovered in dusty family archives, rescued from smoldering trash heaps, uncovered in archbishop’s libraries and winkled out by curious bibliophiles from second-hand books stalls just before burning. ....

His work glories in the revelation of God within his creation. Traherne sees within the natural world the glory of God burning in every mystical moment. Traherne’s vision is shared by Hopkins who cries out that “the world is charged with the glory of God”....

.... His work is overflowing with a joyful immanence. God’s joy presses in on us here and now in this world, and he wants us to be happy, child like, free and abundantly alive. So he writes, “Your enjoyment of the world is never right, till every morning you awake in Heaven: see yourself in your Father’s palace; and look upon the skies, the earth, and the air as celestial joys: having such a reverend esteem of all, as if you were among the angels.”

In his philosophical musings Traherne deals with the question of desire, turning away from negative notions that desire brings unhappiness and claiming instead that human desire good at heart and is always a longing for what is beautiful, good and true. .... Rather than being that which drags us down, desire is that which lifts us up, and it is that desire reaching and knowing the beauty of the created order that brings us to a genuine experience of God in and through, and knowable in his creation. .... [more]
Centuries can be purchased at Amazon.

In that collection, one of Traherne's meditations that, it seems to me, anticipates C.S. Lewis' experience as he approached his conversion:
Being swallowed up therefore in the miserable gulf of idle talk and worthless vanities, thenceforth I lived among dreams and shadows, like a prodigal son feeding upon husks with swine. A comfortless wilderness full of thorns and troubles the world was, or worse: a waste place covered with idleness and play, and shops, and markets, and taverns. As for Churches they were things I did not understand, and schools were a burden: so that there was nothing in the world worth the having, or enjoying, but my game and sport, which also was a dream, and being passed wholly forgotten. So that I had utterly forgotten all goodness, bounty, comfort, and glory: which things are the very brightness of the Glory of God: for lack of which therefore He was unknown.

Yet sometimes in the midst of these dreams, I should come a little to myself, so far as to feel I wanted something, secretly to expostulate with God for not giving me riches, to long after an unknown happiness, to grieve that the World was so empty....

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