Tag Archives: Novalis

Hymns to the Night and Other Selected Writings

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Hymns to the Night and Other Selected Writings [Amazon, Local Library] by Novalis (Georg Philipp Friedrich Freiherr von Hardenberg), trans Charles E Passage.

Novalis Passage Hymns to the Night and Other Select Writings

This brief collection from the works of arch-Romantic Philosoph F.P. von Hardenberg (“Novalis”) is more than worthy of attention. Charles Passage provides translations and an introduction for four distinct pieces.

“Hymns to the Night” itself is simply awesome. It consists of six introspective, elegiac and mystical “hymns.” Though they were all originally drafted as free verse, their first publication — reflected in this translation — had them as a mixture of prose and poetry, with the former increasingly giving place to the latter in the progress of the text, so that the sixth alone is entirely in verse. Besides its plain aesthetic value, this text should speak quite strongly to those who have been initiated to the Life Within. Curiously, Passage’s translations of the verse are stronger and more lucid than his work with the prose, where the English vocabulary is sometimes a bit off: e.g. “skyey” (9).

The second piece, here entitled “Klingsohr’s Fairy Tale,” is excerpted from a novel in which Novalis had embedded it, although it was probably first written independently. Passage in his introduction offers a long and rather detailed synopsis of the plot of the fairy tale, which notes I skimmed past at first, thinking that I would rather approach the story without extra editorial baggage. As it turned out, I ended up returning to the summary as a help while reading: the glut of fantastic imagery in the tale is so overwhelming that it is hard to keep track of the course of events. Also, Passage’s allegorical reading is not at all tendentious. The story itself is wonderful, telling of a series of adventures leading to the reunion of the heavenly court of Arcturus with the terrestrial household of humanity, and the triumph of Eternity over Time. While it is reminiscent of the Hypnerotomachia and Bruno’s Expulsion of the Triumphant Beast, I can easily imagine it as a Hayao Miyazaki movie.

“Christendom or Europe” is an essay attempting dialectical history, with a chiliast resolution. Passage notes how it anticipates Hegel, but it also recalls Joachim of Fiore. Novalis mourns decrepit and dead Catholicism, and he execrates divisive and degrading Protestantism. He looks forward to a “new, enduring Church” with a vision that I found alternately cheering and chilling, but in historical retrospect unfilfilled.

This volume concludes with a “purely random selection” (65) of fifty aphorisms by Novalis. They are indeed a mixed bag, but when he “hits,” he does so solidly. “Man is a sun and his senses are his planets” (72).

A Way of Seeing

A Way of Seeing: Perception, Imagination, and Poetry by John Allison, the 2003 first edition paperback from Lindisfarne, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

John Allison A- Way of Seeing from Lindisfarne

“We usually think of imagination as a fanciful, whimsical faculty that has little to do with reality and truth. This beautifully written little book by the poet John Allison shows how ordinary imagination can be intensified to become an organ of cognition — a path of development to real knowing.

John Allison shows how poetry — poetic knowing and seeing — can reveal aspects of the world invisible to science. Three lucid chapters describe the path to true imagination, where attention is the key. First we must practice is, then we must become aware of the processes involved in it. Learning to experience ‘poise,’ we must come to terms with the shadow — all that says ‘No’ in us. The combination of attention, equanimity, and assent opens the world in a new way.

Allison then examines how poets have actually developed and practiced the kind of ‘deep seeing’ that ‘image work’ involves. For this he draws on Shakespeare, Blake, Coleridge, Keats, Goethe, Novalis, Ruskin, Hopkins, Rilke, and Octavio Paz.

The book concludes with a sequence of the author’s own poems that exemplify the philosophy and practice he has been unfolding.” — back cover

 

The Hermetic Library Reading Room is an imaginary and speculative future reification of the library in the physical world, a place to experience a cabinet of curiosities offering a confabulation of curation, context and community that engages, archives and encourages a living Western Esoteric Tradition. If you would like to contribute to the Hermetic Library Reading Room, consider supporting the library or contact the librarian.

Harmonies of Heaven and Earth

Harmonies of Heaven and Earth: Mysticism in Music from Antiquity to the Avant-Garde by Hermetic Library fellow Joscelyn Godwin, the 1995 reissue paperback from Inner Traditions, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Joscelyn Godwin Harmonies of Heaven and Earth from Inner Traditions

“What lies beneath the surface of music and what gives it its transcendent power? For many people, music is the primary catalyst for experiences of expanded consciousness. Musicians and lovers of music—all those who have ever reflected on its inner reality—feel that a true philosophy of music cannot deal with physics and psychology alone. It must include the universal and mystical aspect of which Plato, Kelper, Rameau, and Novalis wrote, and of which Wagner said: ‘I feel that I am one with this vibrating Force, that it is omniscient, and that I can draw upon it to an extent that is limited only by my own capacity.’ The spiritual power of music surfaces in folklore, myth, and mystical experience, embracing heaven and earth, heard as well as unheard harmonies.

Joscelyn Godwin explores music’s perceived effects on matter, living things, and human behavior. He then turns to metaphysical accounts of the higher worlds that are the birthplace of Harmony, following the path of musical inspiration on its descent to Earth, and illuminating the archetypal currents that lie beneath Western musical history. A final section gives the fullest account ever published of theories of celestial harmony, from Pythagoras to Rudolf Steiner and Marius Schneider.” — back cover

 

The Hermetic Library Reading Room is an imaginary and speculative future reification of the library in the physical world, a place to experience a cabinet of curiosities offering a confabulation of curation, context and community that engages, archives and encourages a living Western Esoteric Tradition. If you would like to contribute to the Hermetic Library Reading Room, consider supporting the library or contact the librarian.