Throughout his long career in many fields of thought and action, the philosopher Charles Taylor has remained true to deeper human values and meaning including the spiritual and religious. Most great thinkers are lucky to have one magnum opus. He has two : ‘The Sources of the Self’ and ‘A secular Age’. In this talk in our Beholding Divine Beauty series he gives a characteristically large view and brings in a special interest of his: the role of poetry in pointing to how we can remember what culture has forgotten – and even help us see further than before.
Originally, philosophy saw metanoia – growth in consciousness – through the key ideas of cosmic, moral and spiritual order. The three “transcendentals” – the true, good and the beautiful – gave us a glimpse of God wherever they appeared. But with a modern scientific, mechanistic understanding of the world (and of humanity itself), these orders lost a lot of their credibility. What do we today really understand by truth, goodness and beauty? A gap opened up and art stepped in. For some time, I have been interested in how poetry explores personal metanoia in relation to the cosmic order. Especially through beauty, the Romantic poets (like Wordsworth, Hölderlin, Hopkins and Rilke), invoked the sense of an embodied cosmic order. Poets may not share the earlier sense of this cosmic order but I think they point to it: especially through the experience of time. Discovering the immensity of time – the billions of years through which the cosmic order has been evolving – has awakened what I like to call ‘higher time’. Are we moving into a quite new sense of cosmic order? Maybe in the vastness of time we glimpse eternity – the eternal present that meditation helps us to experience whenever we live daily life more consciously.
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