I have discovered this text of Novalis that I would consider to be of capital importance in understanding our own times. We had the Reformation, the French Revolution and the Terror, and finally, Communism and Nazism, and now the spectre of Globalism and Islam.

Die Christenheit oder Europa translated into English. It was written in 1799, exactly two centuries before the Berlin Wall came down. In the language of the time (we are not reading it in German), it seems dreamy and emotional, the way I often feel in my final moments before sleep at night. Europe was definitely “post-Enlightenment” as we are now “post-Modern”. What a coincidence! Robespierre’s Revolution was a child of the Enlightenment and destroyed its progenitor.

In our own times, we have had the second World War, and since then peace has been enforced by the emergence of the modern European Union, which too will go the way of Louis XVI and the Kingdom of France. Peace has only been superficial with the Cold War and the Allied control over Germany until Nazism could no longer have a serious prospect of being revived. We look to a Catholic Europe, not one dominated by ideology and a Papal absolutism that no longer exists, but a higher vision of universality. Novalis’ nostalgia was not simply a yearning for childhood and the past.

The difference in Romanticism à la Novalis is that we mourn our dead and move on to a new future. If certain things from the past can be reinstated, there would be a basis to build a future which is impossible with current paradigms. Again, our world is being stripped of reason and feeling, imagination and love, and replaced by brute forces of power and money. How would Novalis react if he came back to this world of 2018? Probably as I would if I saw the twenty-third century, a charred ruin or a universe of inimaginable technology. Even the latter at what price? Mortality and a brief life are necessary, because there is only so much we can take. My father at nearly ninety is overtaken by everything even though his mind is as sound as a bell.

Modernity is passing away and we don’t know what is in store. Globalism is said to be on its way out. With Islam, humanity can take only so much fanaticism and cruelty like under the Nazis and the Japanese during World War II. I can understand Pius XI’s attempt at creating a new Christian order with the notion of Christ ruling us from within rather than our being bullied from without by Hitler, Mussolini and Hirohito. Were we to be spiritual and moral, we would have no need of external constraint and tyranny.

It all seems as impossible as the Orffyreus perpetual motion machine. We cannot turn the clock back, nor would such be desirable. We have the experience we have, technology, a different way of life and thought. Novalis saw evil in both Enlightenment and religion, but became a Roman Catholic shortly before the end of his life. He found fault with the RC Church for having become a corpse and that Rome’s rule had come to an end long before the violent insurrection. The Reformation destroyed what was already dead, and so did the French Revolution and Communism, and Islam is doing the same today, bringing the world round full circle. Even with his realism about the fall of the institution, the eternal and mystical Church remained. Restoring the old power of the Papacy would be impossible because we have experienced Protestantism and Enlightenment, and now the world we know but that Novalis never saw.

I have read many things on this theme by Josef Ratzinger, doubtlessly influenced by Fichte, Schelling, Hegel, Goethe and the other Idealists. We are held in a constant dialectic of thesis, antithesis and synthesis. It is for us to discern the new synthesis and wisdom in the midst of the chaos. So many times, he spoke and wrote about faith and reason: one without the other brings evil.

I invite you to print out and read this piece by Novalis. It isn’t easy. If we make this effort, I am sure we will be rewarded by a refreshed vision and the capacity to dream and make our future.

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21 Responses to Post-Enlightenment

  1. Stephen K says:

    Sorry, Father. I get no inspiration from this romantic reverie. In fact I think it is almost puerile,
    like the kind of jejune exhortations I used to write at the age of 17 in favour of the monarchy and traditional Catholicism. Take the following, which, in respect of his idea of “Christendom”, is completely fanciful:

    Every member of this organization was universally honored, and if the common people sought comfort or help, protection or counsel from this member, and in return were happy to provide generously for his manifold needs, he also found protection, respect, and a hearing among the more powerful, and everyone cared for these chosen men, equipped with miraculous powers, as for children of Heaven whose presence and favor spread manifold blessing abroad.

    A lot of ideas and emotions and associations, and maturer experience and analysis are evoked by this and what follows, but since everyone has to tread their own way, and since religion is a subjective dimension, I’m not going to do other than record that I think it’s unpalatable pap for me.

    • Stephen K says:

      I think my use of the term “unpalatable” above gives the wrong idea, as if it were merely distasteful. In fact what I meant to say would be better, or more fully, expressed by the words “incredible”, “unrealistic”, or perhaps plain old “silly” (to me, of course).

    • Stephen K says:

      Sorry, a further correction: in my haste to concede that someone else may feel good (in the sense of being inspired to do good things) as a result of reading Novalis’ romantic eulogy for a romanticised Christendom, I may have betrayed my premise that anyone looking at history and contemplating human nature would agree with me that such a Christendom never existed and that the search for a perfect Catholicism is based on a presumption that “catholicism” is the perfect Christianity and that the search for a true Christianity must focus on the inner heart of the person, and not in anything that looks like an empire.

      No doubt I could clarify my point further but it might be endless, so I’ll leave it there, my dear co-readers.

      • One of the points of Romanticism is that the object of desire and yearning only exists beyond this world, and that goodness in human nature in this world will only be exceptional. Indeed, such a Christianity never existed in spite of what Novalis, Châteaubriand and others desired. What is the alternative? Nihilism and Chinese Communism? Money is other people’s pockets and war? I agree that the “Christian empire” is utopic and when tried in history led to horrors beyond belief. It is surely not what Novalis thought possible or desirable.

    • I think you are being very hard on a man who lived and produced his more mature work in the tradition of German idealism in the 1790’s and died at 29. He is still revered in the philosophical and literary world 217 years after his death. Will you or I be remembered 20 years after ours? There will always be classicists and romantics in this world (cf. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance). Technocracy, money, social engineering, perhaps these are the future in a world without love and humanity – then I want no part in it. What about surrealistic art, Impressionism? Is that also not nonsense?

      I also find this quote in Reardon from the man you trash: “The way to all mysteries leads inwards. Eternity, with all its worlds, all past and future, is either within us or nowhere“.

      Here is another quote, from a book that has been a tremendous inspiration to me: Bernard M.G. Reardon, Religion in the Age of Romanticism, chapter 1 Romanticism, idealism and religious belief, Cambridge 1985, pp 19-20.

      * * *

      The name Romantic idealism is in common use, but were it taken to mean that the idealist systems were simply romanticist sentiment in its most philosophic mood it would certainly be misleading. Idealism does not stand to romanticism as effect to cause. It could as plausibly be argued that the Romantic movement in Germany was in part the creation of Fichte and Schelling themselves, although whereas the latter may well be cited as the intellectual typification of the Romantic spirit Fichte was by no means uncritical of attitudes prevalent in his day, and Hegel likewise had scant sympathy with the romanticist outlook if it meant, as it too often did, an excess of emotionalism. In any case those writers who could most readily be grouped together as die Romantik – the brothers Schlegel, the poet Holderlin, a fellow-student of both Schelling and Hegel at Tubingen, Novalis and Schleier-macher (the last-named joined the ‘Romantic’ circle in Berlin in 1796) — were not without a philosophy of their own, an aesthetic idealism, although none of them, with the exception perhaps of Schleiermacher, could be said to have fashioned it into a fully articulated scheme of thought.

      Yet there can be no doubt that a genuine affinity existed between the Romantics and the great speculative systems of their time. For what lay behind these systems was a certain disposition of mind, a desire to compass life as a whole. To the idealist philosophers as to the Romantics all experience entered into their purview; nothing was irrelevant, and the life of thought and imagination was no less real than that of the body itself. Critical analysis was to be accepted, but in order to render synthesis possible. The difference between them – again, notably so in the instance of Hegel – lay in their respective views of the roles of speculative reason and of intuition. ‘The universe’, said Friedrich Schlegel, ‘we can neither explain nor conceive, but only contemplate and reveal.’ Philosophy itself he saw as ‘logical beauty’, and the way to knowledge therefore as through art. The artist is himself a mediator of truth, aesthetic truth, with the power at his command of reconcilation and unity:

      Through the artist mankind becomes a single individual, since he unites the men of the past and of posterity in the present. He is the higher organ of the soul, where the living spirits of all outer humanity meet and in whom the inner man acts immediately.

      In all this Schlegel had an eager disciple in Schelling, whose Philosophy of Art appeared in 1804. For him the creative genius of the artist was nothing short of a revelation of the Absolute. For Novalis, too, art or poetry is philosophy. ‘Poetry’, he tells us, ‘is the truly absolute reality. It is the kernel of my philosophy.’ So understood philosophy is for him ‘the science of sciences’ – a phrase reminiscent of Wordsworth’s acclamation of poetry as ‘the image of man and nature … the impassioned expression which is in the countenance of all Science’. And it is so because of its power to strike through to the heart of all reality. ‘The outer world becomes transparent, and the inner world manifold and meaningful.’

      The correlation in Germany between romanticism and idealist metaphysics, between speculative thought and the arts, is scarcely intelligible until it is placed in its social context. The late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries were an era, in the German-speaking lands, of an astonishing cultural efflorescence, one of the richest moments, aesthetically, in the history of Europe; and this in its turn cannot be explained without reference to the intellectually and socially emancipating forces to which Germany had now become open: libertarian individualism — in itself the product of the Aufklärung and of French revolutionary faith and fervour — the declining authority of conservative-minded religious institutions, the breakdown of a narrow and puritanical provincialism in morals and social habits with the spread of cosmopolitanism in ideas and manners. And with social change and cultural innovation came a new disposition to query, to doubt, to challenge, especially on the part of the young. When the old certainties were no longer to be relied on, a reassessment of values, as always in such circumstances, was inevitable. Wherein does the vocation of man really lie? Has life, individually or socially, an overall meaning? Does history conform to any rationally apprehensible pattern? Such were the questions to which the intellectually alert of an entire generation were moved to address themselves. The predominant interest was humanistic. Scientific problems would continue to be wrestled with, but not with the same arrogant confidence in the all-sufficiency of scientific method as formerly. The priorities had shifted. Man now was much more obviously problematic to himself, whether in his essential nature, his social and political self-determination, or his ultimate destiny. It was with these large issues that the idealists were preoccupied.

      * * *

      I am in the midst of studying these notions and the writings themselves in view to my work of the “Blue Flower” journal. It is hard going because I need to find the points of comparison between the revolutionary era of the 1790’s and our own struggle for emancipation, freedom and human expression. I am also trying to understand some recent theories of consciousness (in its primacy over the notion of matter) and see how these collude with idealist metaphysics. It will be very hard work at my age. I am no longer a young student. But, I am called to this work because I don’t much of what else could justify faith, a notion of consciousness independently of matter, and finally what makes life worth living.

      • Stephen K says:

        such a Christianity never existed in spite of what Novalis, Châteaubriand and others desired.

        Aspiration is natural and good. My issue, Father, was not with what he might have desired or imagined, but with what he stated as if fact. It is not poetry I have a problem with but delusion, which casts doubt on the rest of his diagnosis. A part can spoil a whole.

      • I am now reading the article I sent you by e-mail: Pauline Kleingeld, Romantic Cosmopolitanism: Novalis’s “Christianity or Europe”, in: Journal of the History of Philosophy, vol. 46, no. 2 (2008) 269–84. Here is the pdf available on the Internet.

        Stephen K’s criticism (I hope informed) is reflected in these quotes I have already come across in the article. In philosophical circles, the style is debated, and the question is asked whether this piece indeed represents a piece of reactionary rant or even a “leftist” critique of Enlightenment, materialism and moralising values. I do believe that prose can be poetry, and I think this is the case in this instance, far from falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus. Perhaps, re-reading Novalis’ essay after this article might help us to accept it as a challenge rather than something to be rejected out of hand.

        This text was written 219 years ago in a culture where there were not the ideological undercurrents of today, the experience of two world wars, Prussian aggression against France, nationalism – and so forth. Had the text been written by someone of our own time, I would agree with Stephen Kellet, because the cultural mores of that other era are gone. The problem with most of us in our times is our literalism and inability to understand notions of allegory and analogy. I wonder if the world is more austistic than I am!

        * * *

        The early German romantics criticize the Enlightenment for failing to appreciate the most essential components of truly human life: love, emotional bonds, beauty, shared faith, and mutual trust. They claim that the Enlightenment emphasis on reason, abstract principles, and rights overlooks these crucial aspects of human existence.

        Their approach makes for a very radical Zeitkritik, but this does not mean that the early German romantics are reactionaries. In their own way, they endorse many of the ideals of the Enlightenment, especially the ideals of individuality, freedom, anti-authoritarianism, and equality. But they accuse the Enlightenment of having degraded these very ideals to atomistic individualism, rootlessness, selfinterestedness, and abstract legalism, and they aim to correct this by showing the way to an alternative.


        “Christianity or Europe” has been the subject of much dispute ever since, and few texts have been interpreted in such entirely incompatible ways as this one. The text seems to exalt medieval European Christianity, and it has been read therefore as a defense of reactionary feudalism or a conservative (or even National Socialist) political manifesto. Others have read it as an aesthetic allegory for inner change, as a theocratic dream, and as a desperate or angry prayer for a miracle. In the 1960s it was appropriated as a “leftist” critique of modern technocratic society, but it has also been regarded as a proto-Hegelian history of the absolute, and simply as “strange.”

      • Dear Stephen,

        My e-mails to you are bouncing. I tried it twice, so here is my response to your e-mail:

        Dear Father,

        Ave, and thank you very much for sending me this, which I will read with interest. I realise I was excessively scathing in my comments but it was indeed one falsus that got me going and I certainly am not closed to seeing other things that he and other idealists have to say.

        I promise to give him serious consideration, holistically, and give you, by email my reflections and comments.

        Best wishes


        * * *

        Dear Stephen,

        Thank you for your kind note. I have not yet read Novalis’ piece with the attention it deserves, but decided to read the “spoiler” first, as it would help my own interpretation of the concepts and the language. I will be grateful to know of your observations. Perhaps Novalis would have expressed himself differently if he could see into the future, especially the Prussian aggression against France and the two World Wars, and that abomination that was Hitler and Nazism. He was one of the first of the German Idealists of the Jena school, and I sympathise with the “analogy” between the Napoleonic era and that of Trump and Putin. I react to our times as they did in theirs.

        I can imagine few things that are more different than Saxony in the 1790’s and the experience you and I have had with Catholic integralism and our world.

        I got half way through the article last night before sleep took me over, and I hope to finish reading it – and then the Novalis piece armed with the different hermeneutic keys I will have. The Hymns to the Night are difficult, probably due to the German to English translation – and the cultural difference.

        I think we can have a more positive dialogue. I for one do not believe in Roman Catholic theocracy or that the middle ages were free from human sin and cruelty. I see the idea as compared with some kind of vast parable. I’ll be clearer when I read it a few times. I just don’t feel inclined to junk such a beautiful soul of a man who studied law and mining engineering as well as philosophy, and who was deeply pious as a Protestant Christian who became a Catholic in the 1790’s because of the “universality” notion we will find in the Russian philosophers of the early 20th century. He also had long natural hair! I also rejoice at the opportunity of reading someone who shared the Lutheran mysticism of J.S. Bach and Jakob Böhm. My exploration has only just begun, but I already find the German Idealist / Romantic “Zeitgeist” refreshing after the dryness of neo-scholastic rationalism and moralism.

        I find it difficult to imagine where you are going in a world that has nothing to offer the rationalist, the materialist and the “company man”. What sort of thought do you identify with and how have your adapted it to your own life?

        I must get on with some work!


        Fr Anthony

  2. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    Skipping the comments till I’ve read the translation, but I will say many thanks for it, as my starts at reading the original German bogged down!

    I’ve just read the astonishing L’Ame de Napoléon (1912) of Léon Bloy in Dutch translation and am up to Book VI, chapter 5 of Tolstoy’s War and Peace in English translation while busy with C.S. Lewis’s That Hideous Strength in connection with our series on the Inklings and King Arthur at A Pilgrim in Narnia, and they all seem to be tying together strikingly and this sounds like it will enter that process of reflection very aptly!

    • I have just started reading C.S. Lewis’ Surprised by Joy, and I am up to where he goes to a school he called Chartres and when he lost the faith due to Theosophical and New Age influences. He understood the meaning of the Blue Flower and the notion of Sehnsucht. It all seems to tie in with the work of Anders Nygren on Agape and Eros. Falling in love with love is an experience that hopefully leads to the most disinterested love of Agapé. C.S. Lewis gave me a bit of a break from Novalis, because I started to have the unhealthy impression of identifying with him as I found so much of my own thought in those profound words. I was becoming too emotionally involved. Even his betrothal to the little Sophie who died at 15 reminded of my own recurring dream of a little girl dancing in a garden – innocence and beauty, a dream that came to me long before I had heard of Novalis.

      I ought to read the book about Napoleon you mentioned. My wife is one of his fans and is so confident in the purity of French ideas, and I perhaps need to free myself of some prejudices. Waging war against other countries and invading normally denotes a man whom I would disapprove on grounds of human life and the sovereignty of the countries he pillaged with his armies. He was so convinced that everywhere had to be conquered for the sake of the French Enlightenment and the post-Robespierre revolutionary ideals. It is true that his codes of law were masterpieces and simplified the jungle of jurisprudence and custom law as we have in England. The British had the goodness not to put him to death in 1815, and I have sailed to the Isle of Aix near La Rochelle where he lived in a lovely house, now a museum. He must have had some merit!

      I really look forward to getting the Blue Flower together this summer. I arrive at a stage of life where I feel the need to work hard, organise my time and give of my best. May God give me the strength!

      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        There are a couple fascinating letters from Lewis to his friend, Arthur Greeves, about reading Novalis in German, written between his con-/reversion to theism in 1929 and his con-/reversion to Christianity in 1931. The first tells how he came to read Novalis on account of a reference in Matthew Arnold’s Studies in Celtic Literature (3 August 1930) and the second (13 August) about the experience of reading Heinrich von Ofterdingen in German at the rate of “half an hour every morning” and how “to be compelled to spell out such stuff word by word […] really forces me to get the most out of it.” What “stuff”?: “a very Macdonaldy book – indeed Novalis is perhaps the greatest single influence on Macdonald – full of ‘holiness’, gloriously German-romantic (i.e., a delicious mingling of earthy homeliness and magic, also a sort of spiritual voluptuousness with innocence)”.

        From about the time of Surprised by Joy, there is another letter from Lewis to Josef Pieper, who was translating Lewis’s The Problem of Pain into German and wondering about a quotation from The Wind in the Willows: Lewis reports he is going through Heinrich von Ofterdingen to see if he can find anything that might be suitable to substitute!

        It sounds like a good idea to alternate Lewis looking back and reflecting with the direct reading of Novalis.

        My experience of Léon Bloy’s Napoleon book mixes fascination and consternation, but I am glad to have read it and want to go on thinking about it. I have a different perspective on Napoleon after having read an abridged translation of Louis Napoleon’s reflections of his time as ‘King of Holland’, Documens Historiques et Réflexions sur le Gouvernement de la Hollande, and other Dutch sources about the contrast between Louis really trying to be a good King for his Dutch subjects, and his big brother taking over and drafting thousands for his march on Moscow. Bloy has certainly sharpened my sense of how Napoleon transformed Europe in many ways.

      • My intention is to return to Heinrich von Ofterdingen (in English) after reading Lewis’ Surprised by Joy. I think I will understand Novalis much better through Lewis. I too regret not reading German well enough. I picked up a bit through having German friends in Fribourg, but I should have learned the language properly. I should have gone on an exchange with Paderborn University or something – but it didn’t happen.

  3. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    “It isn’t easy.” Indeed! It is (inadequate gerundive) fascinating! The part through “And yet Tolerance was the watchword of the cultured, and particularly in France was reckoned synonymous with ‘philosophy'” seems in many ways a tour de force. After that (on swift first reading) it seems less easy still…

    • The problem is the “tolerance paradox” I have discussed that leads to the intolerance of the intolerant. The problem is human sin and the inability to love and feel empathy – then you need laws, authorities and empires. Indeed, we yearn for a better world when we have done what God calls us to do in this one.

      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        Yes. I was just thinking in another context of Charles Williams’s Arthurian poem, ‘Bors to Elayne: on the King’s Coins’, where the future Grail Knight, Sir Bors, returned to his wife and estate, reflects on the fact that peace and stability have been well enough achieved to allow for a Royal mint: “What without coinage or with coinage can be saved?” He ends, “Pray, mother of children, pray for the coins, / pray for Camelot, pray for the king, pray.” A call falling right at the centre of the book as first published.

        Wikipedia tells me “Die Christenheit oder Europa was written in 1799, but was first published in 1826.” Written when General Napoleon Bonaparte had been campaigning vigorously in Egypt, but (unless it was written late in the year) not yet First Consul, let alone Emperor, but only published when Charles X sat on the Throne of France – though both written and published during the reign of Frederick William III of Prussia! By the time it was widely available, the visit of de Tocqueville and Beaumont to America was only a few years in the future. Not that the last section is bound by the various hopes of either period… but I need to reread it (and hope to catch up with the earlier comments discussion)!

      • I tried reading the Kleingeld article in bed last night, but I lost concentration and the printed sheets finished up on the floor. It’s something I need to read whilst fresh in the morning, and then read the Novalis Die Christenheit with the right hermeneutic “lenses”. I have Tocqueville’s De la Démocratie en Amérique in French, and I need to understand more about the Romantic themes going around in those days and the growing French Empire.

        You know, I’m going to have to bring my boat to Holland, spend some days with you and do some real sailing. Above all, I get the impression I would spend sleepless nights as when I went to Ray Winch’s house. There again, I remember his romantic fragments on the Canonry somewhere in the English countryside that survived the Reformation, the Puritan revolution and the Roman Catholic Church – and had kept going. It is when I remember these long conversations that I would understand Novalis – things don’t have to be literally true. They can be allegories and parables, ballads and legends that speak to the inmost being. I still have to read the essay several times. I need time – and I have some big translating jobs on at the moment – one’s job has to come first!

      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        I am indeed a dangerous one for talking on in the night… or reading and writing on…

        Thank you for the Pauline Kleingeld link, which I had not seen (so far was I still from catching up on the discussion…). Now, I’ll read it first, too… (I am far enough to see he did deliver it quite late in 1799: the “18. Brumaire” would already have happened, and I suppose news would have reached Jena, but whether Novalis would have tinkered with his text in light of this…? I’ll read on!)

        All the best with your work: yes, do give it its proper priority!

      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        I stayed awake for the rest of Pauline Kleingeld’s article, and very good it is! It’s excellent to read something by someone with such a broad acquaintance with the works of Novalis, his friends, and Kant – translating quotations from the German personally – who is also so thoughtful about what Novalis is doing and how he’s doing it!

        I only now see that she was at Leiden, when it appeared – and a little searching reveals, is now at Groningen (more the further reaches of this little land than Leiden, if one wanted to meet up… I always think of it as entailing a day’s journey, and have only ever been there with the leisure of a long summer’s day…).

        When I have more time, I will probably try to saw something about the thoughts it’s provoking about Novalis and the Inklings and Eric Voegelin (without being just a mad coachman whipping up his hobbyhorses…!).

      • I’m reading it now in this lovely sunny afternoon, wide awake and with only the cat on the bed! Two things stand out so far, the need to understand different historical meanings of cosmopolitanism (as opposed to nationalism, parochialism, etc.), the reaction against Kant, Descartes and others, and a comparison between Die Christenheit and Novalis’ other writings. We are getting keys to interpretation in such wise as Novalis’ credibility isn’t trashed immediately through historical errors. It’s a parable, not a piece of history!

        I read on…

        * * *

        Update: I haven’t quite finished, but I am seeing a link between this kind of interpretation and Origen’s biblical exegesis taken up by a number of more recent biblical scholars. It strikes me that much of the Old and New Testaments are replete with Romanticism:

        Psalm 42. Quemadmodum
        Like as the hart desireth the water-brooks : so longeth my soul after thee, O God.
        2. My soul is athirst for God, yea, even for the living God : when shall I come to appear before the presence of God?
        3. My tears have been my meat day and night : while they daily say unto me, Where is now thy God?
        4. Now when I think thereupon, I pour out my heart by myself : for I went with the multitude, and brought them forth into the house of God;

        Psalm 137. Super flumina
        By the waters of Babylon we sat down and wept : when we remembered thee, O Sion.
        2. As for our harps, we hanged them up : upon the trees that are therein.
        3. For they that led us away captive required of us then a song, and melody in our heaviness : Sing us one of the songs of Sion.
        4. How shall we sing the Lord’s song : in a strange land?
        5. If I forget thee, O Jerusalem : let my right hand forget her cunning.
        6. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth : yea, if I prefer not Jerusalem in my mirth.

        If those two psalms do not express Sehnsucht, I don’t know what does. Perhaps Novalis looked to the romanticised medieval period as the exiled Jews yearned for their return to Israel.

        There is also the copious use of allegory and “prose poetry” in the Scriptures. God speaks to us through the Scriptures, not literally and giving us texts like the wording of laws – but appealing to our sense of wholeness. Like the Modernists, I believe in a continuing Revelation and that Romantic poets and philosophers also have a prophetic role in the History of Salvation.

        Theme to be further studied and continued…

      • I have just finished reading the article and feel a sense of disappointment about the utopian ideas of society and politics. I read about an essential unity of mankind, and we humans are just plain stupid, ungrateful and never happy, always self-interested and – I really wonder if we deserve a Chinese style dystopia or 1984. It seems to be one of those nihilistic moments, the moment to bust up Romanticism and knuckle down to law, bureaucracy, banking and the police state! Obviously the answers are found in some of Nietzsche’s ideas of the Ubermensch and the herd, nobility / aristocracy of the spirit, philosophers as opposed to most people.

        Perhaps the point is that society would be perfect in the Romantic utopia, but it isn’t of this world. Perhaps heaven is a social reality with the sin and stupidity taken out, as with disease, greed and cruelty. In every age, man has the opportunity to live according to the higher principles, but not to expect everyone else to go along with it. We have to do it on our own through music, art and writing. We can get the ideas out, even if we will not impress even our friends and families. The prophet is not received in his own country. Nietzsche went on his high mountain hikes on his own.

        Perhaps the point of being Romantic is to contribute truth and beauty rather than add to the killing and the pillaging, to refuse to do the same evil as others. Might seems to be right, but we have no choice but to continue in some way to survive until God takes us to himself.

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