30 July 2005

Sophia and the German Romantic tradition

By the end of the eighteenth century, spiritual seekers in the German Romantic tradition, including the young George Friedrich Philipp von Hardenburg (1772-1801) who wrote under the pen-name ‘Novalis’, and his contemporary, Friedrich Holderlin (1770-1843), were able to draw on Jakob Boehme’s theological writings, and also on Gottfried Arnold’s more personal experiences, to incorporate Sophia and the feminine Divine into their literary writings alongside the emerging naturphilosophie. Thus, Novalis in his novel, Heinrich von Ofterdingen (1800), wrote:

Sophie said: “The great mystery has been revealed to all, and yet remains eternally unfathomable. The new world is born from suffering and the ashes are dissolved in tears to become the drink of eternal life. The heavenly Mother dwells in everyone, in order that each child beborn eternally. Do you feel the sweet birth in the beating of your hearts?” …

Finally Sophie said: “The Mother is among us. Her presence will bless us forever. Follow us into our dwelling; in the temple there we shall dwell eternally and guard the mystery of the world.”

A few years earlier, Holderlin had incorporated into his novel, Hyperion (1797), a prophetic vision of the feminine Divine:

The state is the coarse husk around the seed of life, and nothing more. It is the wall around the garden of human fruits and flowers. But is the wall around the garden of any help when the soil lies parched? Only the rain from heaven helps then.
O rain from heaven! O inspiration! You will bring us the springtime of peoples again. The state cannot command your presence. But let it not obstruct you, and you will come, come with your all-conquering ectasies, will wrap us in golden clouds and carry us up above this mortal world; and we shall marvel and wonder if this is still we, we who in our poverty asked the stars if a spring bloomed for us among them. – Do you ask me when this will be? It will be when the darling of Time, the youngest, loveliest daughter of Time, the new Church, will arise out of these polluted, antiquated forms, when the awakened feeling of the divine will bring man his divinity, man’s heart its beautiful youth again, when – I cannot prophesy it, for my eyes are too dim to surmise it, but it will come, that I know for certain. Death is a messenger of life, and that we now lie asleep in our infirmaries testifies that we shall soon awaken to new health. Then, and not till then, shall we exist, then, then, will our spirit’s element have been found.

1 comment:

pure image said...

Hi John

this is a nice entry, bringing these German writers to the awareness English speaking readers. As a matter of fact, many years ago I wrote my master thesis on Jakob Boehme und the German Romantics, and on one opportunity, in Shudy Camps, I think it was 1989, I got to discuss this with Shri Mataji. I said I was working on a thesis about the German Romantics, (in particular Novalis) and this caused everybody in the room to laugh, I guess, because Shri Mataji earlier had dismissed the English Romantics, Lord Byron in particular. But she was very positive about the idea. I don’t recall her exact words, but She said something like that their writing was all about love, they wanted to seek or express the love for the Divine though their writing.