Blue Flower

This symbol announces the arrival in the summer of 2018 of a periodical of material relating to the relationship between Romanticism and Christianity, not only in given historical periods but also into our own times. The blue flower (Blaue Blume in German) is a central symbol of the Romantic movement. It represents Sehnsucht, a desire, yearning and love of the eternal and unattainable. It was first coined by Friedrich von Hardenberg (Novalis) in his unfinished novel Heinrich von Ofterdingen and has since figured is some of the thought and writings of C.S. Lewis. Penelope Fitzgerald in recent times wrote a novel featuring Novalis. The symbol has occasionally appeared in books and films, but has not been “taken” for anything like a study group or a periodical.

I invite my readers to look up my pages on Romanticism to understand the development of my own thought over the last few years.

Essentially, I believe that Christianity has arrived at a watershed, perhaps even at the end of its history as an institution. What will replace it? There are various writings on the wall to suggest that we arrive at a post-Christian and post-humanist era, and that life in the west could become very unpleasant. We may live long enough to see destruction of cultural monuments and treasures on a greater scale than during the two world wars of the twentieth century.

Occasionally, over the past two centuries, there have been inspired souls who thought and worked in a radically different way from most of humanity. They were aware of the need to experience and long for something beyond the confines of this world. Some identified their longing with God and a world beyond ours that lay beyond death and the dissolution of the earthly body. I believe that this movement was the instigator of the group of Anglican clergy at Oxford University in the early nineteenth century whose dream of the medieval period led to the Catholic revival in the Church of England. It also inspired men and women in France, Germany and some other countries. Romanticism in the form of Transcendantalism is known in America and the poet Walt Whitman is one of my favourites.

I see parallels between the dreary rationalism of the Georgian era and our own time of bureaucracy and materialist science together with the destruction of form in art and harmony in music. In such an arid culture of nihilism and ideology, Christianity can no longer prosper and inspire otherwise than as a political ideology.

My desire, as for a small group of correspondents, is to write articles around this theme of Sehnsucht and Christian spirituality, englobing many other subjects in the fields of theology, history, culture, even science. Ultimately, I would hope that we would become a “school” of thinkers meeting from time to time for prayer and discussion, whether or not we belong to the same institutional Church. I think of the example of the Oxford Movement and the German Idealists in the universities of Jena, Leipzig and Berlin in the closing years of the eighteenth century.

I anticipate this initiative developing with some difficulty. The idea may prove risible and cranky in the eyes of most people. Potential would be seen if it can be “institutionalised” and appropriated by the über-rational Establishment. I believe that our “school” can only serve its purpose if it is not institutionalised or de-natured as everything becomes after its initial freshness. Flowers don’t last long, and this one will wilt and wane too. It is almost a race against the clock! A flower can also be screwed up in someone’s hand and thrown aside. It is also a symbol of fragility as is the entire Gospel message of Christ.

* * *

The first issue was published in June 2018 and is available here – The Blue Flower – Summer Solstice 2018. I have since then decided to re-name this blog, formerly called New Goliards, and make it possible to publish articles with greater frequency and consistency.

4 Responses to Blue Flower

  1. Timothy Graham says:

    Just bought this & can’t wait for its arrival –
    I may post another comment if I find it to be as good as the reviews say.

    • I have just ordered this myself, as the few pages on the site you gave whetted my appetite. The notion of tradition is controversial in the Church and began to be a subject of speculation with Newman up to Benedict XVI. The revolution is obviously in relation to ultra-rationalism, materialism and the kind of religion that gives man licence to exploit everything and anything with impunity. There are also degrees between the radical revolt and atheism of people like Byron and Shelley, Keats also, and the pietism and faith of Novalis. I look forward to reading this book, especially if such ideas are addressed.

  2. Wayne Pelling says:

    I have just read your article Dr Graham and what struck me was that against all the work Morris did,his setting up of Kelmscott Press,his activism for a new society,his writing ,was the betrayal by his wife Jane and her affair with Dante Gabriel Rosetti. His personal pain may have been part of the impetus for his work. His influence in British society had impact over here in Australia. We had a Labour Prime Minister ,who was originally a union organiser,his name William Morris Hughes.

  3. Steve says:

    What kind of blue flower have you shown at the top of your article?

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