Friday, February 10, 2006

The Morning Star

I've been noticing lately that Venus is once again the morning star. When I step out the front door in the dark of early dawn, there I see her, bright in the southeastern sky.

From everything in the natural world we drink in beauty; and not only beauty but also truth; and not only truth and beauty, but also goodness. The astronomer shows us the truth about the world, but so also does the poet. This take on things, which was once a commonplace in Western culture, has been systemically and needlessly filtered out in recent centuries, in the name of Man the Controller; and I sometimes think I must be the last man in the West to whom this older perspective comes naturally; naturally, as a birthright, and neither as a late acquisition nor as an oriental import.

I'm not talking daily horoscope or Coast to Coast AM here; no, far from it! I'm talking more like Coleridge. Coleridge the poet, and also Coleridge the philosopher of imagination as the tertium aliquid which alone is able to bind perception and conception together. Think of all the world around us as a seamless web of signification; and think of the process of signification as being structurally driven always by the object signified rather than by the interpretant, always by the morning star rather than by the seeing eye; and you'll be close to where I'm coming from.
This visible nature, and this common world,
Is all too narrow: yea, a deeper import
Lurks in the legend told my infant years...
The intelligible forms of ancient poets,
The fair humanities of old religion,
The Power, the Beauty, and the Majesty,
That had their haunts in dale, or piny mountain,
Or forest by slow stream, or pebbly spring,
Or chasms and wat'ry depths; all these have vanished;
They live no longer in the faith of reason!
But still the heart doth need a language, still
Doth the old instinct bring back the old names,
And to yon starry world they now are gone,
Spirits or gods, that used to share this earth
With man as with their friend; and to the lover
Yonder they move, from yonder visible sky
Shoot influence down: and even at this day
'Tis Jupiter who brings whate'er is great,
And Venus who brings every thing that's fair!
  —Samuel Taylor Coleridge, from The Piccolomini

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