The Vision of Spirit
From The Poetry of the Invisible - Pages 213 to 217
By Syed Mehdi Imam
The Perception of Poetry
The poet combines the function of the seer and musician. As a seer he discloses the never-ending vistas of life, which are heavily veiled from the human gaze. As a musician he uses the rhythmic word in the place of sound. Through metaphor, through phase, through luminous perception he suggests the inexpressible implications of Spirit.
The Seership of the Poets.
The seership of the poet has its peculiar quality. He receives the physical object with the physical eye the impression of the landscape, the flight of the bird across the sky. The scene is transformed into loveliness by the poet and then presented. It is not the physical scenery of the scientist or the mental scenery of the philosopher. It is the spiritual essence of the whole caught by the spiritual faculty which the poet gives.
Poetic perception interconnected with other perception.
Prophecy, music, poetry and the arts are interconnected forms of sight. All involve from their particular angle the psychic perception. They look at Spirit from the height of Spirit.
No dividing line between perceptions
In the last analysis the dividing line between the physical, the mental, and the psychic perceptions ceases to be distinguishable. The scientist at the moment of discovery acts upon his intuitions. In this sense and at this point of time, he is an artist. In the formulation of his theory, he is a philosopher. In so far as he is a thinker dealing with inferences, with principles and with acts of mind which are necessary for the understanding of the physical world, a philosopher works in the spirit of science.
All perception one
All forms of perception are modes of one perception the vision of the invisible. All enquiry is one the enquiry into Spirit. Every Reality is fleeing from the seen into the unseen. Ever the perception of the sciences is restoring it to the view. The physicist brings the lost sound and sight into physical range through the radiogram and the television. The musician through voice and instrument, the painter through colour, the sculptor through stone, the poet through rhythm, disclose the elusive stretches of Spirit.
Poetry a link in perception
The physical, the mental, and the psychic perceptions are a part of the chain of perceptions. Poetry is a link through the psychic mechanism of the poetic mind, the intuitions and the soul. Poetry is the music of consciousness, proclaiming the vastitude of life which encircles man and his environment.
The poetic perception from Keats to Bridges
Let us now unfold the poetic vision fro Keats to Bridges as a single line of seership describing through the intuitions the scenery beyond the senses.
The spiritual kingdom of poetry.
From poetry, at its highest inspiration, the spiritual kingdom is not a haze. It is a world of matter with breathing presences in it. It is in Shelley's phrase "the sensitive extention" of the physical plane a condition of substance governed by the laws of substance. Likewise the soul of poetry is not a vaporous essence. It is a series of bodies formed of subtle grades of matter through which the Spirit of man evolves into the larger reality. The Invisible is not, as science would have it in her sceptical mood, a void. Space is full of surprises. The earth-body and the earth-plane are but a fraction of experience.
The Astral body
Shelly's eye finely pursuing the Self to its deeper life, senses the astral body.
The Astral cord
Tennyson disengages from the mist the astral cord the link of some tight-chain in the inmost frame, which binds the physical to the astral body.
The subtle bodies
Browning, Swinburne, Abercrombie and Charles Williams visualize three bodies, the physical, the astral, the mental as the residence of the Ego.
The real self
In the poets, man's final deliverance is out of form. His real Self is the fiery force of the Divine Mind in him his Monad. This is the Out-Soul beyond the chequered robes in the works of Browning. It is the bodies existence in the higher mental sphere.
There are also planes within planes of matter for the Spirit's progress. In Tennyson's poetry man is moving in aeonian evolution through all the spheres. For Browning his passage is through the "successive zones" of air, life expanding in "unlimited series". Mr Williams describes the planes as the "high towns within eternity". The people in the astral world, Planetary Spirits in the "depth of unguesses space", the Lords of Karma, materialize in the writings of Hardy and Byron. The whole heavenly hierarchy, from the past seraph downwards, move by in Mr. Williams's verse as the twelve signs of the Zodiac.
All the bodies and the spheres, the "choir of heaven and the furniture of earth", are the emanation of Cosmic Thought. Mind has the power to make the illusion of substance. The whole of reality is the expression of the Cosmic Will.
Finally out of the immensity of phenomenal existence, emerges the World-Soul. Hardy exhibits It as a Material Being, body and mind, exercising the function of Will. Abercrombie shows It evolving life and form through acts of imagination. Williams unfolds It as Love; Bridges as the Spirit of Beauty.
The mystic Vision of Poetry
The poet has the eye of the mystic. For him the unseen is seen. The subtle intuition, lit by the psychic illumination within him, reveals in the apparent emptiness of space, the complex bodies, the planes of interpenetrating matter, and the Spirit or Out-Soul in all things to be the manifestation of one Primordial Self. The mystery of the invisible is reduced to its primal simplicity the mystery of the Cosmic Mind.
What rhythm may fathom It? What sound may utter It? What though may encompass It? Expression by the act of expressing brings in the sense of limit. The Infinite by its nature is beyond the grasp of the finite. Yet there are stirring centres in the psyche of man which give by the intuitive glimpse hints of the creator and His creation.
The divine Imagination
The poetic act may be a symbol of the Divine act. As the poet prefigures in his mind, character, plot and scenery of his drama, so the All-Self in the silent recesses of Being fashions by imagination Individuality and the stage where Individuality plays its part. The worlds visible and invisible, and the countless Spirits therein, are the representation of the Divine idea. The nature of Cosmic Thought is unknowable. It is more melodious than the sound of lute or lyre; deeper than the unplumbed depths of mind; stronger than the sea in storm; purer than the hills at morning; rarer than the exhalations of the dewfall and the dawn.
The divine imaginaries
As poetic imaginaries burn in the singer's brain, so the fires of the Divine imagination kindle, ceaselessly, fresh forms of life. As the characters of the poet are portions of the mind that gave them birth are yet independent of It, so every creature is in the All-Self and yet independent of It.
Pages 223 to 225
Life learning of its value
Life is learning from tears the value of tearlessness living in shadows to judge the worth of light, dying in order to know itself free of death. Poetry is the cry of its spirit, reverberating the universal rhythm: "I am I no longer, Self is Self no more". It is the intuition of mind speaking aloud that the body is the bondage of matter necessary for the present evolution of man.
End of the Vision
So the vision has run its race from light to light and returns whence it began. From Keats to Bridges, from beauty unto beauty, it has passes in full circle. Such must be its racing for ever and for ever. The wonder of the searcher is not in the goal reached, but in the aim unattained and the unfulfilled aspiration ever, achievement meagre, and The sought lurking far off on the horizon within and always out of grasp.
Poetry and the echo of reality
A great poem is the echo of a higher reality. The poet's mind is sensitivity in tune through inspiration with the finest vibrations of Being. If the resonance seems distorted in transit, the disturbance is due to the distance of the sphere whence the music filters to earth. Just as light travelling from foreign stars unburdens here the mysteries of its beams, so the poet, to sight and unbelievable to mind.
The vagueness of poetry
The cloud that overhangs poetry is not of his making: it is rather the demand of our normal existence that all messages be given in the restricted code of limited perspectives. The cryptogram of life which poetry construes does not admit of easy deciphering in our daily terms. Poetry is striving to say what in the main is the message of the present-day science. It is our impossible that is possible, it is our certainty that is unsure.
Reality beyond conjecture
Reality overleaps our most daring conjectures. Indeed there is no conjecture, sufficiently bold or overwhelming, that may express its wonders. This is not merely the faith of poetry; it is its direct perception of the actual. The vision of song is no more vague than the vision of every other department of knowledge. The indistinctness, where-ever that is present, is due to the magnitude of reality and not to the method of poetic advance.
Page 226 to 229
The poetic confidence
Life without the hope and sight of the poetic understanding is a labyrinth from which there is no exit. But if you have the quiet confidence of the poetic state, if you believe as the great men of the past have always believed in the assurance of the inspirational mood, there is no need for fear or trembling. All that is destroyed, when dissolution is at hand, is the form of illusion which is confused with reality. The outward semblances of things to pass. But the Immaterial Essence that forms the aspirations, the affections, the person yea the whole dynamics and dimensions of man is locked safe from harm. It is the scaffolding that fails: the building is revealed. Such is the insight of poetry into the perils that enmesh the human doom. Alas! Man was born for the palace, but lives in the dead hut of habit; and he will not understand the fineness of this perception.
The stability of the soul
Is it not worth while kindling the desire for the stability of the soul, even if it be not there? If illusion does the work, the illusion must be must be grasped. How does the rainbow form in the arch of the sky? How does the lucent lamp of the glow-worm burn in the dark? How are Mercury and Venus and Mars born of the gaseous cloud? The process wonder-worth is illusion. Why reject imagination, if imagination make the dream-goal of our desire? The poet's faith, even if erring, works.
Now change the alternative. Suppose that inspiration, unaware, has brushed by with airy wings, the boundaries of truth. Suppose that the plummet of rhythm has drawn from the depths, dimly and darkly, the measure of Reality. Suppose song has soared not to the heaven of fancy but fact. See the vastness of the implications. The horizon of man alters. The landscape of his life, chequered by impending storms, brief as the wick of the candle, wayward as the breath of the wind, becomes from a solitary and tragic transit the progressive unfoldment of experience; heralding at the end the ecstatic moment of Eternity.
The truth of the Poetic vision
Shall I show you, as in a glass, the truth that the stammering tongue of Poetry is voicing through her visions? By the upward urge of inspiration, she passes over the narrow demesne of eye and ear. From her watch-post in the invisible she has strange sights, hints and intuitions. What do you think she sees? The roar of the water of life, swollen and in full flood, stayed by earth's obstruction. Never dismayed by the blockage, its vehemence and passion gather fresh pulsations of power. The barriers are adjusted by Nature to Yield, at the proper time and place, to the requisite pressure. The life-force is also endowed with the quality of exciting and accelerating its currents. The detention of the artificial boards and planks do not detain the march. Poetry overhead sees a remarkable sight. All the barriers are creaking and cracking and crashing. The sluices are open at the critical moment, when the volume of life has reached the height of its resounding reverberations. The lock-gates of the Niagara are lifted.
Poetry has not the speech to lisp to you, even in her delicatest cadences, what she beholds beyond in the dim distance. She anticipates that the mass and majesty of foam and flood, withheld by long suspense, overleap power, the consciousness and the beauty and the marvel of the soul in its awareness. Thus out of a furious fashioning is wrought the first compact unit of radiant energy the substance of the soul's self. Imagine the power operating upon the universal dimension stars and suns and systems all passing through life's probation. Such is the poet's glimpse and trembling intuition of things as they are.
The Quest finished
The quest is ended. The light shines, if you will see it. The gloom before the pathway is realistic: realism is necessary to illusions that they may work. The darkness of doubt is there, to set in motion the wheels of faith. The maladjustment. The rhythmic beats are disjointed that the ear of the musician may join. The strings of the cello snap that the cellist may change the instrument. The bands of the body break that the soul may issue thence.
Life a Passage
Life is an abrupt and hastened passage just that Eternity may be prized. Our faith lies in the instability, the insecurity, the certain dissolution of the present order. Would you have it otherwise? Perpetuate to time without end the present pain and pang? The most helpless, abject, and pathetic pessimism is the desire to prolong for ever a preparatory state of life. But to break that dream, so vast, so various, so beautiful to bring that to dust and ashes herein is the regret of man mellowed to a sadness beyond the range of rhyme.
But that regret restores the transcendental value of things, of the air that the body breathes without purchase, of the summer springs that slake the thirst without the buying. That though sets our estimate of life, not by the roubles and the lire of international currency, but by the gold-clause of the soul that stands fast against the breach of international faith.