Tuesday, 24 May 2016

The destiny of the English and the failure of Romanticism

The English people have a destiny - that much seems clear; and the English diaspora in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa presumably inherit it.

England has been recognized as a favoured nation since at least the Roman era - this fact is extensively recorded. But why? Presumably because of that destiny - which became manifest with the Industrial Revolution, beginning to wind-up from around the middle of the 1700s and leading to the biggest change in the human condition since the invention of agriculture which is lost in pre-history.

So there was the industrial revolution and at the same time there was Romanticism - which is usually seen as a reaction against the associated materialism, scientism, rationalism, urbanization and the rest of it. But Romanticism was not a reaction - it was part of the same movement of thought - the same evolution of consciousness.

What was meant to happen was that Romanticism was supposed to be the future, not a reaction; was supposed to be made possible by the Industrial Revolution - not fight against it. The English were favoured not for their own good but because they had a job to do - a job not for themselves, or for their own benefit, but for Mankind.

Because Romanticism was - or should have been - the healing of the alienation of Man from nature, of mind from matter, the reunification of the inner life with the outer world, of subjective and objective - which had reached completeness with the Age of Reason and the agonies of the French revolution.

The way that this could be done was perceived, - albeit dimly and in fragments, by the genius of Samuel Taylor Coleridge in collaboration with his great friend Wordsworth - and was enacted in the life of Goethe. But the English failed in their destiny.

Romanticism broke up into fragments in opposition to Enlightenment, Reason, Industry and the like - so from the late 18th through the 19th century England hosted the pacifism of the Quakers, the abolitionism of the Clapham Sect, the sexual liberation/ license epitomized by the glamorous figure of Byron, the atheism of Shelley, the revolutionary communism of Marx and Engels, the scientistic metaphysics of Darwin, the reactionary revolution of the Anglican Tractarians, and nationally the glories of invention, technology, conquest and Empire and so forth...

In sum, a hotbed of innovation and exploration and achievement - of revolution - in multiple fields but not the one thing needful. That was steadfastly, repeatedly refused.

After a century came payback - with the decline of Christian faith. the horrors of World War One, then Two - loss of Empire, loss of vitality and confidence, loss of fertility, a mood of self-hatred and now the national suicide of reverse colonization.

What to do? The answer is - what should have been done 200 years ago - to restore Christianity as the focus and frame of life and immediately move ahead with the project of transforming consciousness that was set out by Coleridge and most recently revived and reiterated by Owen Barfield: to move beyond the split between purposeless rationality and pointless instinct into making conscious of everything, sensory and supersensible, the synthesis of all aspects of life and the world in a human thinking which uses all the resources of Man: including imagination, inspiration and intuition.

The task is for everyone, but perhaps most of all for the English - whose historical destiny it was to pioneer this metamorphosis of mind. We have been refusing repeatedly and vehemently this destiny for two centuries and doing anything-but what must be done - but anyone may choose to embrace the task today.