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R. S. Thomas

Identity, environment, and deity

Christopher Morgan

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.

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Christopher Morgan

exploration of ‘lost’ or ‘wounded’ selves, towards a deepening philosophical acceptance and what he calls ‘turning aside’. Chapter 3 explores Thomas’s treatment of the natural world, in particular the theology of nature mysticism vital to much of his work. I will argue for the importance of the natural world not only as revelatory for Thomas but also as distinctly violent and discompassionate, a paradox central to his understanding and his poetry. Chapters 4 and 5 look closely at Thomas’s increasing preoccupation with science: his long-standing philosophical concern with a

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‘Green asylum’

The natural world

Christopher Morgan

his most candid description and philosophical elucidation of what he means by the term ‘nature mysticism’. Finally, I will examine Thomas’s ‘The Bright Field’ and ‘Sea Watching’, both from the collection Laboratories of the Spirit (1975), as important examples of nature mysticism, and, in particular, as examples of how a ‘turning aside’ to stillness and waiting comes to form a major element in Thomas’s theology of nature. The second major characteristic of Thomas’s poetic engagement with nature is a philosophical problem that arises out of that ‘theology of nature

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Christopher Morgan

’, is an idea associated largely with mystical theology. Thomas himself uses the term as a poem title in H’m. Perhaps the earliest and most comprehensive discussion of via negativa occurs in ‘The Mystic Theology’, the work of the sixth-century Syrian mystic Dionysus the Areopagite, although the idea is perhaps best known in the West through the anonymous English classic of medieval mysticism The Cloud of Unknowing. Regardless of particular sources, the idea of via negativa is common to eastern mystical traditions predating Christianity, as well as to Christian

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The most perfect state

French clerical reformers and episcopal status

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Alison Forrestal

informed his conceptions of priesthood and episcopacy. In 1611, Bérulle founded the Congregation of the Oratory hoping, as he put it in his ‘Projet de l’érection de la Congrégation de l’Oratoire de Jésus’, to re-establish ‘virtue and perfection in the sacerdotal state’.12 This aspiration was the product of his evolving theology of priesthood which was based, above all, on the innate and magnificent dignity of the sacerdotal order. It, in turn, was directly related to the Christocentric nature of his thought and to his adoption of a modified Dionysian hierarchical

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The English deist movement

A case study in the construction of a myth

S.J. Barnett

Anglican national identity was lacking, then a loud Church-in-danger cry might be justified, whether the supposed danger was identified as popery, Dissent or deism.78 So, in the broad public and popular realm, the exact theological nature and actual size of any threat to the Church could be less important than its perceived significance in terms of standards of morality, general cultural outlook and national identity. But an important point about public media, known then as now, is that taste, desire, fears, hopes and ignorance can be manipulated. Small news can quickly

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Andrew Bowie

sustaining a sphere of complete philosophical autonomy for art Schopenhauer displaces it from the role of actively enlightening us about the nature and limits of our capacity for cognitive rationality. The intensity of Schopenhauer’s antipathy to anything like a theological consolation for the nature of existence means that his Nietzsche and the fate of Romantic thought 269 alternative has to be equally radical in the other direction. However, the result of this is a debasement of the finite, feeling subject which could actually be shared by certain kinds of theological

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Susan M. Johns

Psalms and seven prayers selected by Anselm at her request. He also sent some prayers that he had composed for her. These were a decisive break with previous traditions in personal prayer, and marked a significant step in the development of the Anselmian revolution in the composition of texts for personal devotion. He also included advice on how to meditate.20 The relationship between Adela and Anselm was of both a political and a spiritual, personal nature. Eadmer reveals that it was Adela who played a pivotal role in resolving a dispute between her brother Henry and

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Simha Goldin

in the weakness of Christian theological arguments. The Jew who converted to Christianity was not convinced spiritually or in terms of faith but rather by the shock that hit him upon seeing a miraculous change in nature.19 Goldin, Apostasy and Jewish identity.indd 6 20/08/2014 12:34:42 Early beginnings 7 Jewish sources from the tenth century until after the First Crusade (i.e., beginning of twelfth century) do not conceal the fact that there were Jews who converted to Christianity—some under coercion but some willingly—who became real Christians. These Jews

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Nonlinear reading

The Orcherd of Syon, Titus and Vespasian, and Lydgate’s Siege of Thebes

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Heather Blatt

Catherine of Siena’s Dialogue concerning divine providence dialogue as both cultivated and organic in nature: in other words, blending divine creation through the filter of humanity. This metaphor, of course, evokes the conventional medieval understanding of nature as reflecting divine teachings, and humanity’s role as engaging with nature in order to learn moral and theological lessons.11 The orchard metaphor, in its reliance upon a cultivated place, encourages readers to think about nature in subordination to both the will of God and the will of humans. Yet this