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.