Monday 19 August 2019

Ingwaz is the essence of Romantic Christianity

The word Ingwaz seems a useful term, that I invented a few years ago, but haven't much used for emphasising that Romanticism is not a static-state of things; but a be-ing, a develop-ing, a perpetual becom-ing.

Ingwaz could be translated as 'process', or that word used instead - but I find that word to be too abstract and to have too many misleading connotations derived from physics. (Also there have been and are 'process theologies of Christianity that are Not what I mean.)

To be a Romantic is to engage in Ingway with respect to reality; that is, one rejects the objective and systematic account of external reality as primary; and begins the business of 're-imagining' it in personal experience.

But Ingwaz is not a means to an end but the end in itself; it does not aim at any final point because it is the participation in divine creation; and creation has no end. So, when applied to Christianity, Ingwaz is the grappling with given aspects - such as scripture, doctrine, creeds, institutions, morals; in order to appropriate them to the distinctive, here-and-now, living individual experience of the Christian.

To be Good, Ingwaz must - of course- be well-motivated; in brief it must be motivated by the desire for truth, beauty and virtue. It must Not, therefore, be motivated by (for example) the desire to adapt Christianity to one's own sexual or political desires, or to the desire for power or pleasure.

But this means that it is an error to look for any fixed and final statement from Ingwaz. It is to be judged on whether the practitioner is succeeding in vitalizing Christianity - firstly in himself, secondly in the reader or onlooker. 

This can be illustrated with poetry. For example William Blake in his Marriage of Heaven and Hell is engaged in Ingwaz. e.g.

In seed-time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy.
Drive your cart and your plough over the bones of the dead.
The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.
Prudence is a rich ugly old maid courted by Incapacity.
He who desires, but acts not, breeds pestilence.

The cut worm forgives the plough.
Dip him in the river who loves water.
A fool sees not the same tree that a wise man sees.
He whose face gives no light shall never become a star.

Eternity is in love with the productions of time.
The busy bee has no time for sorrow.
The hours of folly are measured by the clock, but of wisdom no clock can measure.
All wholesome food is caught without a net or a trap.
Bring out number, weight, and measure in a year of dearth.

No bird soars too high if he soars with his own wings.
A dead body revenges not injuries.
The most sublime act is to set another before you.
If the fool would persist in his folly he would become wise.
Folly is the cloak of knavery.
Shame is Pride’s cloak.

Blake is engaged in an argument with himself, is hammering out partial statements from inner insights. He is making Christianity live for himself as he composes, for us as we read (assuming we are able to appreciate his work).

So long as we are satisfied with Blake's intent; to then extract dogmatic statements from Blake, and to evaluate him in terms of Christian orthodoxy is both crazy and ultimately self-destructive of real Christianity.

By my understanding, such attitudes from Christians have been a partial but significant cause of the demise of Christianity in the West; since they drive-out net-well-motivated creative Christians, often and tempt them into apostasy. 

If we take Ingwaz as a correct description of Romanticism, we can find Romantic Christianity in some unlikely places; such as the early poetry of the Scottish poet Hugh MacDiarmid - who is better known as a highly political and materialist writer, a Communist and Scottish Nationalist who advocated permanent revolution; and who said many hostile things against Christianity generally, and specifically the Scottish Free Kirk brand of his upbringing.

But in his first three volumes of Scots language lyrics of 1925-7 - Sangshaw, Penny Wheep and the epic A Drunk Man looks at the Thistle; which contain by-far his best work - MacD engages in Ingwaz applied to Christianity in most of the most powerful poems and sections.

In a little-known longer-poem from Sangshaw; MacDiarmid engages in an extraordinary, beautiful and inspiring 'cosmic' exploration of God, death and creation. I lack the patience to type in the whole poem, but here are a few stanzas (I've translated a few key words in [square brackets]:

I was as blithe to be alive [happy]
As ony man could be, 
And felt as gin the haill braid warl' [whole broad world]
Were made yince-yirn for me. [especially]

I wot I kept my senses keen, 
I wot I used them weel. 
As God felt when he made the warl'
I aye socht to feel. ...

O I wist it was a bonny warl'
That lies forenenst a' men, [over against all]
But it's naething but a shaddaw-show
To the warl' that I saw then. ...

Wae's me that thocht I kent the warl' [knew]
Wae's me that made a God, 
My senses five and their millions mair
Were like bones beneauth a sod. 

For the world is like a flourishing tree, 
And God is like the sun; 
But they or I to either lie, 
Like deid folk in the grun'. [dead, ground]

There are all kinds of ways that this poem could be criticised from an orthodox Christian position, not least for collapsing the distinction between God's creation and that of a man; the world especially made for the poet; the general pantheistic feel etc. It might be assumed that the 'shadow show' reference was a positive statement of Platonism. The idea that Heaven and Hell are (merely) perspectives on mortal life is also put forward...

Well, this is the crux of what confronts us, here and now and for the past two centuries plus.

Are we to take our deepest convictions from outside, from that dead materialist external world which is what modern Man experiences outside of his own subjectivity? Or are we to make a new synthesis of inner and outer, each for himself, from our own thinking and based on intuition (that is, God within each of us - present because we are his literal children)?

If we are to live by experience in the real world that is God's creation; I believe that we need to engage in Ingwaz, as applied to all aspects of Christianity that we personally find essential; in sequence, perpetually.

Sadly, MacDiarmid was corrupted away from this, by his radicalism and the usual modern combination of sexual and political revolution. The reason was probably that his motives had always been too mixed, and various temptations were too much to resist and were not repented.

McD discarded Christianity as conflicting with sex (and alcoholic intoxication and continual cultural conflict, advocated as sources of vitality) and Communism (advocated on the basis of Lenin and Stalin being more realistic saviours than Christ); and embraced earthly and mortal utopianism as a goal... while simultaneously (paradoxically) asserting that ultimately things would never become any better... while continuing to assert a kind of anti-rational mysticism, but one that was metaphysically without foundation. 

Well, such is life. But there are several artists, writers, philosophers and other culturally creative persons who went through a phase of Romantic Christianity en route to becoming (usually) mainstream materialist Leftists of one or another flavour. JK Rowling is perhaps the best current example.

Yet, their work is available for us to benefit from, if we wish.

1 comment:

Jared said...

I enjoyed learning about ingwaz in this post. I feel like consciously seeking for truth is important. "Prove all things, hold fast that which is good" is a quote I really like from the Bible. I have recently read a self-help book from a Mexican tradition and learned a lot from it. I think if things are well-intentioned often you can learn from them.
I liked reading the poetry from this post too. I think it's so easy to get distracted and want to focus on rewards when we should be focused on the ingwaz.