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Identity, environment, and deity

Controversial poet Ronald Stuart Thomas was considered to be one of the leading writers of the twentieth century. This book, in three parts, interprets the development of a major theme over Thomas's twenty-seven volumes, probing particular themes and poems with a meticulous insight. The themes of identity, environment, and deity treated reflect the major preoccupations of his life and work. The book presents a comprehensive examination of these major themes as they occur across Thomas's substantial oeuvre, while providing an expanded frame within which the considerable complexity of Thomas's work can be explored. It suggests that such poetic explorations and revelations of identity provide the prima materia of the poetry and form an underlying foundation to Thomas's poetry viewed as a single body of work. Thomas's treatment of the natural world, in particular the theology of nature mysticism vital to much of his work, is then discussed. The book also looks closely at Thomas's increasing preoccupation with science. It explores his philosophical concern with a scientific register for poetry, his own experimentation with that register, his subtle ambivalence towards applied technology, his ongoing critique of 'the machine', and his view of modern physics. Finally, examining Thomas's 'religious poetry', the book re-focuses on the exact nature of his poetic approach to a 'theology of experience' as reflected in his 'mythic' and 'via negativa' modes. It highlights Thomas's 'reconfiguring' of theology, that is, his insistence on the central validity and importance of individual spiritual experience, both as absence and as presence.

Open Access (free)
Enthusiasm and audit
David Herd

understood how deeply enthusiasm can corrupt. Hence Ahab, in whom Quaker peculiarities, though ‘unoutgrown’, were plainly distorted, and through whom an original impulse to permit general participation in spiritual experience became an urge to dominate, to exercise tyranny over others’ minds. Yet to shy from enthusiasm because in every spiritual experimentalist there is an incipient antinomian would be, as it were, to throw Ishmael out with the saltwater. It would be to ignore in Moby-Dick, and the cultural possibilities it sets up, Ishmael’s urge to see what whaling is

in Enthusiast!
Open Access (free)
Christopher Morgan

pervasive. This examination of individual collections allows one a view into the most concentrated treatment and development of such themes by Thomas, as well as a deeper grasp of the character of the individual volumes, each of them significant milestones in the oeuvre as a whole. My chief purpose in these final chapters is to highlight and explore what might be called Thomas’s ‘reconfiguring’ of theology, that is, his insistence on the central validity and importance of individual spiritual experience, both as absence and as presence. That insistence radically expands

in R. S. Thomas
Open Access (free)
Christopher Morgan

: chapter5 28/1/05 1:31 pm Page 117 Science and nature 117 I, though I am not blind, feel my way about God, exploring him in darkness. Sometimes he is a wind, carrying me off; sometimes a fire devouring me. Rarely, too rarely he is as the scent at the heart of a great flower I lean over and fall into. (48) The imagery here suddenly shifts from the tangible and finite elephant of the opening lines to the more abstruse imagery of spiritual experience. Corresponding to that shift, the whole tone of the poem modulates from the comic to the mystical. Deity becomes, in

in R. S. Thomas
Open Access (free)
Christopher Morgan

, equally and in conjunction with this drive, the relentless demand by Thomas for the real, the actual, for poetic renderings which reflect the truths of physical and spiritual experience. Together these compulsions discover a shared human ground which ultimately transcends the personal. These requirements often confront and even explode Thomas’s own romantic penchant for ideal states of being. But my point here is that such demands, for meaning and for truth, according to their urgency for Thomas, effectively broaden his most private explorations into wider

in R. S. Thomas
The discourse of spirits in Enlightenment Bristol
Jonathan Barry

, were far from sceptical about the existence of spirits. Most of them at some stage tell Dyer of apparitions, dreams or other ‘spiritualexperiences, quite apart from their common interest in metaphysical schemes with a heavy role for an active spirit world.28 Not all of the clergy who attended, however, can be associated with Dyer’s outlook, one such exception being the Grammar School headmaster, later Rector of St Michael’s, Samuel Seyer, who ‘asked many questions in Greek and Latin’ on 10 February.29 His son and namesake, when he was collecting notes about the

in Beyond the witch trials
Open Access (free)
A short essay on enthusia
David Herd

Quakerism implies a particular relation to scripture or text. The Bible was to be read not as God’s last word, but in conjunction with his latest word, as a guide and help in appreciating spiritual insight. Scripture, in other words, was to be understood not as finished, but as a draft – ‘a draft of a draft’ as Melville had it – on which spiritual experience could always work and improve. Which position, as David Lovejoy has observed, could, on the one hand, imply radical independence from textual commentators – priestcraft – but which could also topple, at the drop of a

in Enthusiast!
Open Access (free)
The natural world
Christopher Morgan

sacramental substance, as Christ in the Eucharist, but of the breaking of that substance into gift, of the atmosphere itself as crucified and redeemed. In the fullest sense of the words the poet receives, in nature and through nature, communion and inspiration. Of course language here begins to falter as the spiritual experience on the moor begins to transcend physical sensations in time and take on more purely mystical proportions and force. One can sense in these final lines experience outpacing vocabulary, a sudden dropping into spiritual depth which metaphor and symbol

in R. S. Thomas
Richard Suggett and Eryn White

marked tendency to categorize members according to their spiritual experience and development. The terms used to do so were largely derived from the Bible. Some were described as being ‘under the Law’, others as ‘searching for the pearl’, and these scriptural references would be immediately intelligible to the Methodist community. The Scripture then supplied them with a form of shorthand which could be used to describe members. In one instance, Anne David of Dyffryn-saith society in south Cardiganshire was categorized with a simple reference to the Gospel of St Luke

in The spoken word
Open Access (free)
Jonathan Atkin

this time for the duration of the war. Consequently, Sassoon rejoined the Royal Welch Fusiliers at Litherland in December 1917 and spent March and April in the Middle East with the 25th Battalion. Army life was now a mixture of ‘crude circumstance’ and an inner ‘flame-like’ spiritual experience. He had now, he thought, acquired a degree of self-realisation and found himself free to study other people and events shaped by the war with an intense scrutiny; ‘equipped to interpret this strangest of all my adventures – ready to create brilliant pictures of sunlight and

in A war of individuals