Kathleen Raine - Poetry & Platonism, A Conversation

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  Poetry & Platonism: A Conversation with Kathleen Raine  by Gary Lachman Gary Lachman is an American writer living in London. His work has appeared in The Guardian,Gnosis, The Quest, ReVision, ommon !oundary, LA eekly, A#ra$as, %ournal &or  Anthroposophy, 'an (rancisco hronicle, and Lapis. He is the author o& two volumes in the  )aupers* )ress olin ilson 'tudies series. He has also #een a composer and per&ormer with therock groups !londie, +ggy )op, and The now. Lapis Magazinehttp://wwwlapismagazineorg/archives/L! /raine#lachman#inthtml  Readers interested in &inding out more a#out the Temenos Academy can write to- Temenos Academy, / Gloucester Gate, London 0  /HG, 1ngland.  $%he whole scientiic materialist i'eology( which permeates o)r c)lt)re an' is sprea'ing everywhere( totally precl)'es the 'imensions o reality that are concerne' with meaning an' val)e * yo) are only concerne' with scientiically meas)rable an' e+perimentally provable inormation abo)t the e+ternal worl'( yo) c)t o all access to those areas o conscio)sness that are concerne' with val)es an' meanings, #Kathleen Raine-or more than .! years the poet an' scholar Kathleen Raine has been a passionate an' artic)late champion o the spirit)al lie in h)man beings er early st)'ies at Cambri'ge were in science(  b)t she soon 'iscovere' her path lay in another 'irection *n wor0s li0e 1een'ing Ancient 2prings( %he *nner 3o)rney o the Poet( 4la0e an' %ra'ition( %he )man -ace o Go'( 5eats the *nitiate( an' many others( she )ncovere' the inl)ence o 6eoplatonic philosophy on 78th an' 9!th cent)ry nglish poetry an' arg)e' or a reawa0ening o its tr)th in o)r lives to'ay er own poetry( collecte' in 2tone an' -lower; %he Lost Co)ntry; %he <val Portrait an' <ther Poems; %he Presence; Poems 78= #78=8 an' other vol)mes is characterize' by a clarity an' precision o lang)age an' a mystical love o nat)re er A)tobiographies show her as a creative an' sensitivemin' in the mi'st o the intellect)al an' artistic revol)tions o the 9!th cent)ry( an' a rien' o some o its celebrate' ig)res: erbert Rea'( 'win M)ir( lias Canetti( an' 3acob 4ronows0i( to name a ew -or many years now she has been 'e'icate' to comm)nicating the wis'om o o)r orgotten tra'ition thro)gh the wor0 o the %emenos Aca'emy( a mo'ern#'ay $school o wis'om, teaching the $learning o the imagination, an' the perennial philosophy( set in the mi'st o )rban Lon'on %he list o names associate' with %emenos rea's li0e a who>s#who o alternative tho)ght: enry Corbin( Robert 4ly( ?illiam *rwin %hompson( 3oscelyn Go'win#again( to name a ew 2itting 'own to tea with her is li0e spen'ing an aternoon with the history o i'eas<n a pleasant 3)ne aternoon this past s)mmer * ha' an opport)nity to meet an' spea0 with Kathleen Raine at her home in Chelsea ?e tal0e' o her lie( poetry( her wor0( *n'ia( eminism( the amily( an' the general state o things At eighty#nine( Kathleen Raine has seen an' 'one @)ite a bit Lively( provocative( an' challenging( she has no @)alms abo)t telling )s what she thin0s  GL: *n 1een'ing Ancient 2prings yo) write: $Li0e an )n'ergro)n' river that rom time to time sen's )p springs an' o)ntains( Platonism emerges in 'ierent cent)ries in 'ierent co)ntries( an' wherever its ertilizing waters low( then the arts are reborn an' lo)rish, ow 'i' yo) 'iscover the 6eo# platonic tra'ition in Romantic poetryKR: * rea' the boo0s that 4la0e was 0nown to have rea'( an' one thing lea' to another * ha' to revise my entire view o 4la0e as a man who 'i'n>t 0now very m)ch an' ha' gotten his i'eas all o)t o his )nconscio)s e ha' contact( as * 'iscovere'( with %homas %aylor( the Platonist e rea' an enormo)s amo)nt o $e+cl)'e' 0nowle'ge, that mo'ernism has or the most part eliminate' or )s A whole conte+t o esoteric st)'ies %he Rosicr)cian tra'ition or one thing an' this enormo)sly rich )n' o 6eoplatonic writings being translate' into nglish at that time  by %homas %aylor As * sai'( here * o)n' an absol)te gol' mine o 4la0e>s so)rces4la0e was in the conte+t o the perennial wis'om at the time when the mo'ern ?est was t)rning away rom these things An' he act)ally 0new %homas %aylor * o)n' in my wor0 that it was virt)ally certain that he wo)l' have 0nown him( an' s)re eno)gh some years later evi'ence was o)n' in Cana'a that he ha' 0nown %aylor4la0e probably wo)l' have gone to %aylor>s lect)res on Platonic theology at -la+man>s( 4la0e>s rien'>s ho)se e rea' virt)ally all %aylor>s wor0s an' clearly got a great 'eal rom them %hat was the basis o my srcinal wor0 on 4la0e * ha' to give )p the i'ea that it all came )p rom the )nconscio)s e rea' Plato( the ermetica e was in a 'ierent tra'ition rom his time( an' this tra'ition was the mainstream An' rom time to time this mainstream s)races an' then goes )n'ergro)n' again 2helley also ha' this contact e rea' the Gree0s in the srcinal Coleri'ge as a boy rea' %homas %aylor 2o the Romantic movement was really a 6eoplatonic revival An' then o co)rse it went )n'ergro)n' again an' came )p as American %ranscen'entalism All %aylor>s wor0s were ta0en to America by merson *t was a very  power)l thing in America %he new sit)ation( which isn>t an e+cl)sively Christian tra'ition b)t a)niversal tra'ition( )niting all spirit)al c)rrents( really came irst in America merson was tremen'o)sly wi'ely rea' in Persian an' 2ans0rit literat)reGL: *t was the 6ew ?orl'KR: %he 6ew ?orl' * thin0 it>s still tr)e %here are some very goo' people in the 2tates *>ve 'one what * can in this go'orsa0en co)ntry *t>s har' wor0GL: *t>s 'iic)lt here ?hy KR: nglan' is impervio)s to i'eas *t always has been 5eats sai' nglan' ha' the poorest  philosophical literat)re in the worl'GL: ?hy 'o yo) thin0 that isKR: ?hat shall * say nglan' has pro')ce' some amazingly goo' poets ven in my lietime it has pro')ce' goo' poets( altho)gh liot was an American an' 5eats an *rishman( an' 'win M)ir was a 2cot i yo) li0e 4)t nevertheless the poetic tra'ition in this co)ntry has been m)ch more inl)ence' by Platonism * s)ppose the religion o the nglish poets is basically Platonic  ?hereas philosophy has been very m)ch lin0e' to materialist science Loc0e an' )me an' later R)ssell an' all that ?ittgenstein * thin0 is rather 'ierent( not so impervio)s as the others e was Ril0e>s patron yo) 0nowGL: 5o) might call yo)rsel a 'een'er o tra'ition#,ancient springs, 4)t yo)>ve ha' some critical wor's abo)t other tra'itionalists( li0e RenB G)enon KR: * thin0 G)enon ha' no imagination whatsoever( as ar as * can see e seeme' to thin0 that there was a Gol'en Age when everything was right( an' then( somewhere aro)n' the time o the Renaissance man( too0 a wrong step( an' Go' has with'rawn rom the worl' ever since * 'on>t thin0 that>s tr)e at all e was against Renaissance Platonism( which is a very won'er)l an'  power)l thing *t pro')ce' 2ha0espeare( ater all is ollowers also say that yo) m)st choose yo)r tra'ition an' stic0 to it ither be a M)slim or a Christian or something else( b)t 'on>t mi+ one with the other * 'on>t thin0 that>s tr)e *n the present state o the worl'( whatever yo) are( yo)>re aware o the other tra'itions nless yo)>re a )n'amentalist yo) can>t avoi' eclecticism ?e>re all open to all the c)rrents ?e can>t preten' we>re not An' so * 'on>t thin0 a with'rawal into )n'amentalism o any 0in' is realistic G)enon was very timely( yo) see * thin0 at the time he was saying things nobo'y else wo)l' say veryone believe' we were going onwar' an' )pwar' with evol)tion( an' everything was getting better 6obo'y believes that now G)enon sai' that on the contrary things are going rom  ba' to worse %hat nee'e' to be sai' then 4)t not now e>s also e+tremely contempt)o)s o his rea'ers( a'opting an attit)'e o intellect)al s)periority %hat>s not what tr)e sages are li0e %hat>s not what Rama0rishna was li0e <r Ramana Marharshi or Dive0anan'a %hat>s not what holy men are li0e %hey>re open an' )ll o lovePart o my criticism o the $tra'itionalist school, is their 'eval)ing o the imagination 5o) can>t write poetry rom that position Poetry is an )pwelling rom within * it weren>t or the  presence o the )niversal teacher within each h)man being it wo)l'n>t be any )se having a tra'ition %ra'ition is the history an' the recor' o the h)man e+perience o the sacre' ?itho)t that e+perience yo)>' have no tra'ition( it wo)l' have no vali'ity 4)t it can serve to awa0en the awareness o these tr)ths * yo) rea' Plotin)s( R)mi( Plato( the Gita( something respon's to it5eats was very learne' in the perennial philosophy +tremely learne' M)ch more so than liot e rea' everything( Arabic( in')( an' inally committe' to De'anta is last wor0 was translating the panisha's liot ha' certain contact altho)gh not so m)chGL: e seeme' to have with'rawnKR: e 'i'( 'eliberately e tho)ght he>' be best )n'erstoo' within the nglish lang)age an' the Christian tra'ition %here are some reerences to the Gita in %he ?aste Lan' an' in %he E)artets( b)t it 'oesn>t go very 'eep * see a watershe' between liot an' 5eats liot staye' with the past an' committe' himsel to western Christen'om 5eats oresaw that in the )t)re liot wo)l' be less well )n'erstoo' Fbeca)se he committe' himsel to Christianity than 5eats himsel wo)l' be by having opene' himsel to all sacre' tra'itions * thin0 that>s tr)eGL: *n yo)r boo0 on *n'ia( *n'ia 2een Aar( yo) tal0 abo)t the $*n'ia o the imagination, ?hy *n'ia  KR: ?hen * reache' *n'ia * elt home at last 6o @)estion *t>s still alive in *n'ia( altho)gh westernization goes on apace( an' there are y)ppies( an' every village in RaHastan has television sets *n'ia has become totally permeable to ?estern ways %echnology has ma'e every primitive civilization( every civilization( totally permeable to this propagan'a( which comes basically( *>m sorry to say( rom America * eel that the go's o 1isneylan' are very( very evilGL: *t seems technology can promote the val)es o 1isneylan' b)t not sacre' val)esKR: *t can>t promote any val)es *t can give inormationGL: ?hat 'o yo) thin0 abo)t the inormation ageKR: Maybe the )niication o the whole worl'( to which inormation technology has certainly contrib)te'( co)l' pro')ce what %eilhar' 'e Char'in calle' the 6Iosphere( the whole worl' thin0ing as one 4)t )nort)nately it seems to be on the lowest level An' yet( * 'on>t 'espair %he tr)th is that we are not tro)sere' apes ?e are part o the 'ivine An' the go' within recognizes meanings an' val)es that occ)pie' the h)man race long beore this materialist civilizationGL: ?hich is airly recent( only the last J!! or so yearsKR: *n'ee'( that>s what 5eats says e also sai' that $three provincial cent)ries over( wis'om an' poetry ret)rn, ?ell( perhaps they will %i'es 'o t)rn * thin0 a great many people aren>t satisie' with the inormation age( the age where money is the only val)e An' what can yo) b)ywith money Platin)m#plate' motorcars ?hat 'o yo) 'o with it once yo)>ve got itGL: 1o yo) thin0 people want something elseKR: 5es 4)t they 'on>t 0now where to get it *n this co)ntry * m)st say the one level on which yo) can appeal to many yo)ng people is the $green, way o lie My gran''a)ghter an' her h)sban' an' two chil'ren have gone o to *relan' an' gotten a 'erelict arm %hey>re 'oing all the things the *rish people themselves are H)st 'iscar'ing( li0e c)tting their own t)r %hey have chic0ens an' goats an' vegetables( an' they>re getting a beehive %hey>re 'oing a roaring  b)siness in barter an' e+change o m)shrooms an' eggs an' beans an' cabbages or coee an' tea an' s)ch things A lot o yo)ng people are going into that %hey won>t thin0( b)t they>ll live the green lie * imagine that>s so in the 2tates 4)t * thin0 in America yo) are more prepare' to )se yo)r min'sGL: 5o) thin0KR: * thin0 in America yo)>re prepare' to ta0e )p any crazy i'easGL: 4)t there>s a sha'ow si'e to that( a a''ish eclecticism abo)t religion# how yo) can be 4)''hist this wee0 an' a in') the ne+t
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