Inspiration and revelation : S.T. Coleridge as poet and religious thinker : a study in literature and religion
S. T. Coleridge's religious thought may be compared with the 'Prison' etchings of Piranesi, where the limitations of finite being constantly aspire towards the infinite. His poetic art and literary criticism embrace the Romantic fascination with the fragmentary ruin which intimates a greater and unseen whole, the infinite glimpsed through the finite. Coleridge occupies a representative place in European and English Romantic thought on poetry, religion, and the role of the artist. His religious thinking maintains an overall unity through his life. Hartley's necessitarianism is linked with later concerns insofar as one of Coleridge's constant themes is of human sin and the need for redemption. The earliest prose writings attend to the nature of the imagination. In Coleridge's reading of Boehme and Giordano Bruno and in 'The Eolian Harp' (1795) is discovered a consideration of the law of Polarity, which was. to develop into the Trinitarian musings of the late notebooks. Polar Logic underlies his major poetry, philosophical and theological thinking. The great poems, 'Kubla Khan', 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner', and the 'Dejection' Ode are a necessary prelude to the prose writings of the, middle period of his life. Self- reflection upon the processes of creating poetry and art, particularly in the Biographia Literaria, is an important development in Coleridge's sense of the relation of the finite to the infinite through the inspiration of the poet. Attention to the nature of inspiration, imagination and irony in creative writing leads directly to his later discussions of man's need of a divine redeemer and the nature of divine revelation. The later poetry continues these themes. 'Limbo' and 'Ne Plus Ultra' are fine poems of self-reflection in which spiritual growth is part and parcel of poetic development, each balancing the other. The final section of this study considers Coleridge's later prose, linking his reflections upon poetry with an epistemology which he learnt principally from Kant and Fichte in a discussion of revelation and radical evil. In conclusion, his religious position is summed up through the late, and still unpublished, notebooks, and the fragmentary remains of the long-projected Opus Maximum. The issues discussed in Coleridge's work are linked with a more recent debate on the nature of inspiration, poetic and divine which arises out of Austin Farrer's Bampton Lectures, The Giasa of Vision (1948).