The Elder of Omaha:  Tanner and Poet It is comic for an over-80 to be ...

The Elder of Omaha:  Tanner and Poet It is comic for an over-80 to be ...:   Tanner and Poet   It is comic for an over-80 to be reading systematic theology, as it not likely to be on the final exam.   It has m...


Tanner and Poet


It is comic for an over-80 to be reading systematic theology, as it not likely to be on the final exam.  It has more to say to those who are responsible for the Christian witness to the world, pastors, preachers. Teachers and even poets.  Still, since the middle of the summer I have reading Tanner, and find myself in kind of rear-guard movement, wanting to witness to the importance of her systematic theology.  Thus, we have this Face Book page, “Tanner Talk of Omaha,” a sister page to “On Giving My Word Tancreti.”   The two pages might seem unrelated, but they do bare on one another.  Retrospectively, I recognize that the theology that underlies the poetic of On Giving My Word is similar to Tanner’s and gains clarity from it.  It is similar because my reading in the Seventies and Eighties, Rahner, Schleiermacher and Bart, was similar to Tanner’s.  Had I been aware of it at the timeing I was writing that poetry, it would have served as useful guide to the coherent God talk I was attempting, now can gain by being judged by it. 

I would illustrate this with a quick reference to a short poem you will find in On Giving My Word, page 248, “As God Will’s.”  One of Tanner’s principles of coherent God talk, is that God’s agency does not compete with human (creaturely) efficacy.   I wrote:

                               It is God’s will that I chose.

                                             I would like God to tell me

                                             If I should go to the right or the left.

                                             If God did, then I would not have to choose,

                                             Which is not God’s will for me.

                                . . . . 

                              So, I shall choose, which is God’s will for me,

                                             and if I prosper and live, I shall be a communion for God.

                                             And if I dimmish and die, God will be a communion for me.

                              As God wills.

 God’s will does not trump human will, because God’s will works in a different plane than human will. We might try to imagine that by drawing a line on a paper, make a diagonal from one side to another.  This line represents God will, agency.   Everywhere an act of human will is possible, God is will it.  So, at any point on the paper draw a short line.  That represents an act of human will.  Save for a parallel, line they will intersect, share a point, which the possibility of communion.

 For me “Tanner Talk” will not be so much a guide to the future, as a reflection of the past.


 On Giving My Word

Upon returning to this Blog, I am aware that the description in its head describing what I intend to do with the blog has been fulfilled with the publication of On Giving My Word which will soon be available on Amazon etc.   Much of what was published at time directly paved the way for the book.  It is therefore time to change course and make use of this blog to find and assists potential readers.  This is the first of a series of blogs which hope not only to explain and expand aspects of the book, but also to create a forum for discussion of its principal ideas.

I will begin with a tribute to the icon of the Angel of Silence which appears on the cover of the new book. 

The Angel of God’s Silence: Hesichia

On the cover of the book is an icon, The Angel of God’s Silence: Hesichia, written by my wife Jane, based to the prototype created by Vladislav Andrejev, founder to the Prosopn School of Iconology.  First poem in the book is “The Angel of God’s Silence” and the last poem is about the return to silence, “I am ready for the silence.”  On the cover you will also find a sentence which intends to give the reader a sense of how the book is to be read.  “Every journey begins with silence and ends with a silence.  Just as every word begins with silence and ends with a silence.” 

It might seem counter intuitive for a book about “giving a word” to set its content within the brackets of silence.   There is a tendency to think about silence as nothing more than the absence of words.   But consider what the word is without silence.  If a speaker, be he a preacher or a poet, does not fall silent, he is simply a drone.  The punctuation of silence gives the word to the listener and allows for the listener to reflect and speak back. 

This mystery is equally appropriate at the level of divinity.  The silence of God produces a kind of angst, “Why Lord are you silent?”  But the silence of God is not merely an absence of talk, for it becomes quite palpable.  If it weren’t so, why would it have occurred to us to ask God to speak? The simple insight is that silence indicates presence, a presence that is felt in the interior life.  It is the beginning and ending of our prayer.

The appreciation of the role of silence in spirituality has been particularly evident the spirituality of the Eastern Church, appearing as early as the Philokalia, the classic of the Egyptian desert fathers, and in later in the works such as St. Symeon the New Theologian and Gregory of Palamas both of whose works were so important to the development of icons.  The resulting spirituality goes by the name of Hesichasm, from the Greek word of silence. More recently, it has taken on a role in the Spirituality of the Western Church as in Thomas Keating’s centering pray.

Vladislav Andrejev was developing this icon in 2006, when Jan, because of our residency in Oxford, New York, was attending his studio in Whitney Point.  Since then, his version of the icon has continued to develop.  The version on which Jane's icon is based was broadly circulated in the Prosopon School in 2010.  In it, the Logos (Word) Immanuel is held in the angel's breast.  Silence is pregnant with the Logos.  The Logos is begotten in the silence of the Father.

When I think about "On Giving My Word," I am deeply grateful to the role that icon played in making it possible.

Michael Tan Creti   Nov. 20, 2022

 A Challenge to Fellow Humanists
March 25, 2019
 I found myself recently daring to declare that one of the most startling sentences in human hearing was the sentence: “I am who I am.”  It was recorded in Hebrew as  ayeh asher ayeh, in the book of Exodus.  See Chapter 3:14.  While it is possible that the date and circumstance of its origins, it nevertheless stand in this ancient text as a fact.  I am prepared to argue that this text has a claim to be as close to the source of the concept of the modern sense of the self as a free individual as anything else in the realm of classic texts!   My challenge to fellow humanists is for them counter my claim with candidates of their own.

 This claim occurred to me in the course of preparing a sermon for the Third Sunday of Lent and was preached at St. James Fremont, Fremont, Nebraska.  I append it to this challenge if you are interest to see how the thought was developed.

 The Name of Your God
 + But Moses said to God, “If I come to the Israelites and say to them, “The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’  and they ask me, ‘what is his name?’ What shall I say to them?” Ex 3:15

      What would you say if someone asked you, “What is the name of your God?”
 Not so easy.  I suppose that we might  say “Lord” or “God,” but these are not names so much as job descriptions.  They translate the Biblical Hebrew words: adonai, el, and elohim which were the generic terms for god in the time of Moses, and they beg the question.  In an attempt at a personal  name, we might try Jesus, but it is no small problem to claim “Jesus” names god.  This Jesus we are told prayed to god and called god his father.  Like Jesus, we may well speak of god as our father, but that identifies a relationship and does not name him.  If we don’t have a name, can we say that really know him.
        Fortunate for us, we have in our text a means to get at the answer.  The beginning verse of the third chapter of the Book of Exodus is recognized as one of the great theophanies of the Scriptures.  Theophany is a moment in which God shows himself to humankind, and while there are many, few are as powerful or as significant as this particular one that occurred on a hillside in the wilderness of Sinai roughly 35 hundred years ago.  Recall that Moses has escaped Egypt, and has put himself in the service of a powerful nomad of the Sinai wilderness by the name of  Jethro.  He was shepherding Jethro’s sheep when he was attracted to a bush that burned without being consumed.  Upon approaching the bush, he directly encounters the presence of God and he removes his sandals, knowing that he is standing on holy ground.  In the theophony, he is charged to go back to Egypt and deliver the Israelites from their bondage under Pharaoh.  Moses talks back to God, “Who am I that should go . . . and bring the Israelites out of Egypt.
       In his wariness at his ability to fulfill this charge, he points out to the god that is calling him, that he wouldn’t be able answer the Israelite if they asked him, the obvious question: “What is the name of this god for which you claim to speak?
        It is then that the god pronounces his name.  He say that his name is “I am who I am.”  In Hebrew of Moses’s hearing:  ayeh asher ayeh. 
        This is certainly one of the most startling sentences in human hearing.  And it was not heard in the grandeur of a Temple or in halls of the learned, but on a hill side in the wilderness of Sinai.  It breaks with the naming of gods who are identified with a certain place, with a past miracle or with some kind of  psychic power.  All of which are bound by a particular condition, but the “I am” is now and is every where.  The “I am” answers Moses’s doubt by saying I will be with you.”
 The “I am” is essentially the personal god, who works by means of his personal presence.  Moses is not to go back to Egypt with a talisman, but is to go back and to introduce the Israelites to a personal relationship with the “I am” which is their liberation.  So God tells Moses:  “Go tell them Yahweh,” the God of your past, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob has sent me to you.” 
        Yahweh is a form of the Hebrew world for “being:”   ayeh is the first person singular and yahweh is the third person singular.  So that when God speaks his name: “Being,” he will say “I am” and when we speak about the God-being, we will say: “He who is,”  Yahweh in Hebrew;   Ho on, in Greek, which, as an aside, you will find written in the hallow of the icons of Holy Face, and all the other images of the Savior.
        From the Sinai event on, the name Yahweh becomes the holy name, the shem  qodesh.   It is central to Israel’s  prayer life as can be seem from its ubiquitous presences in the Book of Psalm as it is, in fact, dispersed throughout the whole Hebrew scriptures.  The generic names of God, to which I have referred, are also present, but it is clear that Yahweh is the personal name of God.  It is, then, no way miss leading, when this section of Exodus ends with the declaration of God:  “This is my name forever and this is “my title,” zcry, better translated, “my memorial for all generations.”   Memorial meaning a word by which one may evoke the person; one may evoke the personal God of Israel.
 A funny thing happened, however,  some time after the tragic destruction of the City of Jerusalem and of the Temple itself, by which time the substantial portion of the Old Testament has been written, the exiled Jews begin to feel that the name, “Yahweh,” was too holy to be spoken out loud, and/or conversely that they had become so sinful by their failure as a nation, that they were unworthy to say the word out loud.  It became the universal custom down to our own time, that  when a Jew reads the four letter word, the tetragrammaton, yod he va he, Yahweh, as it is pronounced, they substitute the word adonai.  Adonai is roughly equivalent to the English word “lord,” as in a master of the manor or a lord of the realm.  Once a year this rule was set aside, when High Priest, inside of the Temple Building, by himself, would say the word out loud in his prayer.
        One cannot help but be impressed by this piety.  But the result of this intense piety has the unintended consequence that a religion whose God is a personal savior, becomes a religion of an absent God, to whom one relates through practices and observances; by keeping the law,  and the “I am” is left in the past.   This would not be the first or the last time that piety resulted in such an outcome.  Piety as it turns out is easily subverted into mere feels, sentiments, that are detached from the presence from which they originate.  And so easily seized upon by the powers of this world, the high priests, kings, emperors, caliphs and presidents, who with the promise do it, convert it to a means of control their flock or herd. 
         So it is by no means down playing the importance of Jesus to suggest that  the essence of Jesus’s life and work is to restore the sense of a personal God and to restore the convict that it is through that personal presence that an individual can find their liberation. 
 Isn’t that what St Paul means when he teaches, not by the law, but by faith you will be saved?   The faith that Paul is referring to is not belief about but belief in as “I believe in one God.”
 Now we have been given back the right to say it, the being- God-name.  Perhaps last Sunday you sang the Hymn “The God of Abraham’s praise as we did in the congregation that I attended.  If you did, you sang those very words, “the Lord, the great I am, by earth and heaven confessed, we bow and bless the sacred name forever blest.”
         Listen for the moment at the end of this present Lent, when the Passion Narrative will be read and it comes to that  point were the High Priest ask Jesus “Are you the Messiah, the son of the Living God?  The you will hear Jesus answer: “I am.”  It is said that the High Priest upon hearing this  tore his clothes and said: “You have heard his blaspheme!”  He had spoken in the public forum of the assembly, the “I am,” the Sacred Name, the shem qodesh.
        The veil is torn in two and the presence of the personal God is immediately  ours, all of ours.
 So if you are asked, “what is the name of your God?”  You can answer with confidence, “I am” and it is “he who is” who has  sent me.
The Procedure for Writing a Poem According to Hölderlin, Made Simple

On or about the end of 1799, Friedrich Hölderlin worked on an essay in which he was attempting to philosophize on the procedure or method of writing poetry.1  This was no small undertaking for he, like many Romantics of the time, thought of poetry as the foundation of human thought, so in reality he is undertaking a essay on the very foundation of being!  He never finished the essay.  The existing text is a difficult read even for scholars of German literature, partly because it never reaches the stage of final draft and partly because Hölderlin was stressed at the time from the on set of mental issues that ultimately end his serious work.  As one is laboring at grasping its meaning, the question occurs as to whether anything so complicated could have ever led to a poem.  So well you might ask, what sort of fool would dare to promise his readers a simplified form of Hölderlin’s method? Bear with my foolishness for a moment. 

Step One:  the poet is to locate himself or herself in the ‘unity-of-opposites’ which constitutes reality.

Hölderlin would have disliked this translation of his term which is Harmonischentgegengesetztem.  Jeremy Adler, translates this compound German word as “the harmoniously opposed”in his English translation of Hölderlin’s essays and letters.2  In Stephen Pricket’s discussion of a similar concept used by the English Romantics, Coleridge, Wordsworth and Maurice, speaks of “unity-intension.”  The reason for this difficulty is that Hölderlin, Coleridge, Wordsworth and Maurice as well, thought that one of the major errors made by philosophers of their times was an appeal to unity which meant that the oppositions would some how be dissolved.  If we use black and white as examples of opposites, then unity seems to imply that (a.) The black covers the white, (b.)  The white overcomes the black, or (c.) the black and white become gray.  These are all false unities, for a true unity would hold the opposites together, black remains black and white remains white.  Reality is the an endless interplay of the one with the other.  A perfect world is not imagined as black or not white, but a kaleidoscopic interplay of black and white.  

Step two: poets must practice the ‘unity of opposites’ in their daily life.  

Much of Hölderlin’s essay is a demonstration on how one makes this a way of life.  In this demonstration he makes the point that the “I” (the Poetic I) is not an absolute “I,” but that the “I” that arises from relating to its opposite.  This relating includes a naive encounter with its opposite, childhood, in which one identifies with the object, a heroic encounter with its opposite, youth, in which one struggles with the object, and an idealic encounter, maturity, in which one contemplates the unity of what is not “I” and what is “I.”  Life is according to Hölderlin triadic, and therefore the types of poetry are triadic as well, being naive, heroic or idealic.  Most important, Hölderlin insists that there is no end to this as long as we exist.  The idealic must return to the naive and so on. Step three: The poet lays hold of the matter.  The matter of a poem might be a thought, an emotion, or an object.  The choice of the subject will produce a poem which will be respectively, idealic, heroic or naive.   The subject matter needs to be grasped in a way that is open and/or ready for transition.  By transition, Hölderlin means the movement which will connect it with the other modes of reality.
Let us take a Robert Frost poem for an example to see how this would work.   His poem “Tree at my Window” is an example of a poem in which an object, a particular tree, is chosen as the subject of the poem.  Thus we could say that in Höderlin’s view it is a naive poem.  But if it is poetic, it must be ready to move to its opposition which in this case is the author of the poem observing it though his window.    In the Frost poem, we are suddenly dealing with the emotion of the poet, his anxiety, his fear, and his courage.  Thus, the poem becomes heroic as well as naive.   Yet to be truly poetic, it must move yet one more step which is the movement to the idealic, to the uniting idea.   The full sense of Frost’s poem is to be found in the thought that there is some kind of relationship which exists between the poet and tree.  There is a communion that is evoked which is beyond the naive sense, I am the tree, or the heroic sense, the tree is a metaphor for my struggles.  With this thought, the poem becomes idealic.  Now Hölderlin will insist that it ought to return to its beginning and re-engage with the naive joy in the physical tree.  The motion should not stop, because it is in the motion that we find the meaning of the poem for us and it is ability to actually represent reality.
This exercise, it seems to me, to illustrate that Hölderlin philosophical description of the poetic process actually works.  It is an open question about who would be more surprised by this result, Hölderlin or Frost.

Step four: The poet can still any doubt whether he or she has grasped the reality of unityin-opposites, by reference to interior intuitive feeling.  This that transcendental that allows for the recognition of the unity-of-opposites.   Hölderlin reminds the would-be poet that his grasp of the unity-in-opposites is based on this intuition saying: “For this is only possible in a beautiful holy, divine feeling.”3

In the essay this sentence identifies what seems to come as a side track.  It is as if Hölderlin looked back on his argument for the possibility of the poetic life and decided that it needed to be reinforced.  Indeed this section interrupted his work on the essay to the extent that he left essay unfinished, not taking up previously announced topic “(b) . . . poetic representation.”  Moreover the tone of this section seems to be not so much philosophical discourse as it does a theological one.

Outside of the back and forth of everything, stands an intuitive feeling which gives one the ability to grasp that the back and the forth are nested in a unity.   This is similar to the assertion of a mystic or of his contemporary German theologian, Friedrich Schleiermacher, whose theological method rest on a transcendental which he identifies as “the feeling of absolute dependence.” Hölderlin was not by any means an orthodox Christian and he thought that the institutional church of his day had become irrelevant.   He was, however, trained as a theologian in the Lutheran Seminary at Tübingen, and he believed that he had not lost his faith.  He thought that there would be a rebirth of the church largely thorough being poeticized.  He was in a sense religious and he rather implies that making of a poem is an essentially religious act.

It remains to be seen if Hölderlin’s philosophy of poetic method, can shed light on our own ability to experience one of his own mature poems?  Suppose we take, for our example,  a quintessential poem like “Ister.”  Like the poet who wrote, it we should prepare ourselves by locating ourselves in that sense of reality that Hölderlin called the “unity of opposites.”  Once we are confident that we are aware of reality in this way, we can ask ourselves what is the subject matter of this poem?

Our first thought might be that “Ister” is a poem about a river, but that would be a mistake.  It is not clear that Hölderlin ever visited the Danube, but even more to the point there is in the poem no location or moment, real or imagined, when the poet is observing the river.  Even the fact that the river goes by its ancient name in the poem is a clue that the physical river is not the first moment of the poem.  That moment is a thought, making this, in Hölderlin’s terms, an idealic poem.  Accordingly, this thought was taken as subject matter in a manner in which it could make a transition to a river.  The idealic moves to the naive.  Thought moves to the sensuous opposite.

The river, that is, the particular river known in modernity as the Danube, becomes the poem’s lead metaphor.  This is, however, more than a literary devise, for the poet encounters the river in a vivid sensuous manner.  “It dwells in beauty, garland pillar burn and stir, lining wildly its banks.”  This is the naive aspect of the poem.  Having fulfilled this part of the transition, Hölderlin’s poetic method requires the poet to discover the energetic opposite.

The poet finds the energetic opposite in human action, first represented in the poem by the human resolve, “Here we will build.”  This brief statement is fraught with emotions, desire, courage, and fear.  Building stands for the whole human enterprise. This, then, is the heroic aspect of the poem.  The story of Hercules’s mythic visit to the upper Danube on a hunting expedition, follows this reference for the parent purpose of underlining that this will to build is to be taken as heroic action.
According to Hölderlin’s poetic method the dynamic now requires a return to the third,  originating aspect, the idealic.  The idealic in this case is an idea which we can now better identify.  Hölderlin’s initial thought must have been centered on the migrative/journeying-nature of humanity, humanity on the move, which can also be understood as human progress, with the caveat that for Hölderlin this progress is a continuing activity to the end of time.    In this thought which grasps the progressive nature of human life, is united with the sensuous identity with nature, the river, and is united with the elan of the human spirit to building.

The discovery of the triad gives the poem its dynamic character which explains why we keep reading and rereading it.   We feel that in it lies a clue to our own destiny.  The poem is not an artifact, to be observed, but it is a process in to which the reader is to be drawn.

        While this exploration is hardly an adequate discussion of this splendid poem, it suffices as a demonstration the Hölderlin actually employed his poetic method which described in this essay and that we, as readers, might usefully employ to better understand Hölderlin’s poetry and, indeed, poetry in general.

1.  While the text of the essay is without a title, the Groddeck and Sattler German edition of Hölderlin’s works supplied the title “Über die Verfahrungsweise des poetisichen Geister,” which they lifted from a sentence of Hölderlin that occurs in the essay.  Verfahrungsweise is translated “procedure” or “method,” hence my title for this essay.
2.  Friedrich Hölderlin Essays and Letters, Penguin Books, Jeremy Adler, “When the poet is once in command of the spirit. . .” page 277-294.  Adler identifies Hölderin’s essay by means of the opening words, instead of the titles created by Groddeck and Sattler.
3.  Ibid., page 293

 Epistle of the Elder of Omaha
 “To the elect lady and her children
  “whom I love in Truth”  2 John 2:1

       In my last epistle I reported to you that Summer Lent is about to end with the celebration of Feast of St.  Michael and All Angels, and that I was with my wife on the road west to Portland, Oregon by way of Fort Collins, San Francisco and Redding California and back again.  I am, indeed, back and I now must report that the Fall has prematurely ended.  We now have counted a second snow, this latest accompanied with some serious cold.  I still have Fall projects  which may yet be doable if the ground is not frozen, but, not with the relish one usually anticipates.
       The trip was full of wonderful adventures and very special reunions.  I have found it quite difficult to return to the grove.  I have been side tracked by the vision of a poetic exploration of "ultimate smallness" and the "immensity which is our habitation."  Its themes resonates with thought in this morning NYT magazine:  "One of the odd luxuries of being alive is this feeling of currency: that each of us, however humble, represents breaking news 13 billion years in the making."  From “All the Answers” (Gallery 13, 2018, Page 210), a graphic memoir by the artist Michael Kupperman.  We belong to the immensity. My own thoughts were roiled by our visit with Shelli Joye in California who has published in the field of holonomic brain theory and implicate order.
      That side track, which is  probably a misnomer, since at my point in life every thing is a side track, has not so surprisingly been itself side tracked, this time by my routine study of the Hebrew Book of Psalms, which resumed on my return home.  I was suddenly caught up in a close study of Psalm 22 which I could not shake.  You will recognize this psalm because its opening line provide the passion narrative of the synoptic gospels with the line:  "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me."  The accommodation of this Psalm by Christians to their passion narrative has given rise to much dispute which unfortunately has deflected from viewing the psalm in its original context and its artistic unity which makes it one of the truly poetic masterpieces of the Psalter.  I have at last reached some closure and if you are interested you can see the results posted under the label Hebrew Psalms: Praying the Narrative.  The study, entitled "Beyond Death,  Who will speak of God’s deeds?" attempts to identify the psalm's original context and message and it includes a new translation of verses 23-31.  Under the label Jesus and the Meta Narrative that study is continued with a discussion of accommodation, Christian and otherwise.  It raises the question of whether the Christian accommodation of the psalm actually began with Jesus, himself.   This was the topic of an original poem of mine that appears in a collection, "On Winter in the Orchards of Ephraim."  This poem, "How will Death Speak?" explores the possibility of Jesus's own meditations was the source of accommodation.
        In the coming week I hope to get back to work on the poetry of Friedrich Holderlin, the German Romantic poet.  I am particularly interested in a couple of selections from his letters and essays which clarify the foundation of his poetic vision.  Holderlin's work and its fate provides a poignant lesson on the use of poetics as a means of reconstituting a narrative.  This is pertinent to our own problems for our narratives have been buried under an avalanche of conflict politics.   Responding to countering conflict with its own terms only ensure that a conflict life will continue.  We need poets who can give a story that allows to walk our way out of it.    

 Epistle of the Elder of Omaha
 “To the elect lady and her children
  “whom I love in Truth”  2 John 2:1
       Summer Lent is about to end with the celebration of Feast of St.  Michael and All Angels.  It will find my wife and I  on the road west to Portland, Oregon by way of Fort Collins, San Francisco and Redding and back again.  This is a signal that posts are suspended for a couple of weeks.  This past week, I must confess, ended on a side track.  The review of the Rectenwald’s paper a couple of weeks ago, suggested that Tennyson’s poem was or, perhaps better, demarcated the pivot in 19th century thinking before which a theory of evolution was unthinkable and after which it was, making way for Darwin’s theory of evolution.  This led me to a close reading of the poem which is very long and with little to verify Rectenwald’s observation, until close to its end where there is an explicit dialogue with evolutionary science, in or before the years of 1849.  It is done in away that makes quite clear that Tennyson’s ideas are due to Romanticism and more particularly to the theology of Frederick Dennison Maurice.  The side track it turned out was quite relevant to the discussion in this blog on “Romanticism and the Recovery of the Narrative,” and to the fact as well that scientific language in our times encounters disbelieve and hostility.  The resulting essay seems to me to provide us with something to visit about in the larger questions of our own search for a narrative.
 Evolution, Tennyson, and Maurice

       Neither the theory of evolution nor Alfred Lord Tennyson needs an introduction, but Maurice might.  F. D. Maurice was a 19th century theologian of the Church of England.  He is  noted for his classic The Kingdom of Christ, published in 1838 and for his theory of and activism with Christian Socialism at mid-century.  Maurice is often dismissed as “broad church,” implying that he was neither sufficiently catholic nor passionately Christian, but that is far from the case.   I suppose that assessment that he was too much a part of the establishment, could be applied to Tennyson as well, which I confess, I have been convinced.  I am learning something different!
       Be that it may, let us continue to work backward at the relationship of these three principals.  Tennyson, the son of a priest of The Church of England, looked upon Maurice as his Godfather.  In 1854, he composed a poem inviting Maurice, at the time under attack by college-councils and churchmen for heresy,  to come to the Ilse of Wright for a visit where he would find a welcome. p. 895  CW Tennyson, Delphi Classic
        Tennyson’s poem, “Memoriam” was published 1849 and been widely accepted by the public including Queen Victoria.  The poem was a dirge and/or eulogy for his very close college friend, Arthur Hellam, who died suddenly in 1833.  The poem is a profoundly personal expression of grief and hope devoid of religious platitudes.  Close to end of the poem of 133 canto, he, without out warning, takes his grief and hope into the arena of science.  In the 118th canto p, 835 he asks his reader to “Contemplate all this work of time,” the sweep of nature and yet to “trust that those we call the dead are breathers of an ampler day.”  He then, a decade prior to Darwin’s Origin of the Species, he presents the idea of an evolutionary process which accounts of the origin of man.

              The solid earth whereon we tread
               in tracts of fluent heat began
               And grew to seeming random forms,
              The seeming prey of cyclic storms,
              Till at last arose the man
              who throve and branch’d from clime to clime

       To this naturalistic version of human origins, he adds his theory of what we might call humanization in order to account for the spiritual nature of humankind.
             then life is not idle ore
             but iron dug from central gloom
             And heated hot with burning fears,
             And dipt in baths of hissing tears,
             And batter’d with shocks of doom
             To shape and use.  Arise and fly
             The reeling Faun, the sensual feast;
             Moved upward, working out the beast,
             And let the ape and tiger die.

        Two things deserve to be underlined. (1)  Well before Darwin there are forms of evolutionary theory that seem beyond dispute even in such an establishment figure as Tennyson.  (2) The poet sees himself in dialogue with science, so that a humanized science seems to be  possible.
 Yet two cantos later, he offers science a warning.  If it does not engage in this dialogue, it will make itself irrelevant.  So he begins an attack on a strictly empirical, materialistic, science. p. 837

              I trust I have not wasted breath:
              I think we are not wholly brain,
              Magnetic mockeries; not in vain
              Like Paul with beasts, I fought with Death;
              Not only cunning casts in clay;
              Let Science prove we are and then,
              What matters Science unto men,
              At least to me?  I would not stay.
               Let him, the wiser man who springs
               Hereafter, up from childhood shape
               His action like the greater ape,
               But I was born to other things.

       Then he expands this thought in canto 128 p.845 speaking to science, or better to its self-appointed spoke’s men,
               If all your office had to do
               With old results that look like new;
                If this were all your mission here,
               To draw, to sheathe a useless sword,
               To fool the crowd with glorious lies,
               To cleave a creed in sects and cries, 
               To change the bearing of a word,
               To shift an arbitrary power,
               To cramp the student at his desk,
               To make old bareness picturesque
               And tuft with grass a feudal tower;
               Why then my scorn might well descend
               On you and yours.  I see in part
               That all, as in some piece of art,
                Is toil cöoperant to an end.

         I have put two section in red, because it completes the circle.  Maurice’s primary claim in his theological work The Kingdom of Christ is that Christianity is creedal, not doctrinal which inevitable states the negative, what is not true, who is not in.  This makes the church sectarian, something as old as Arius whose program was halted by the Nicene Creed.  Maurice’s primary claim in his Christian Socialism was that core human value was “cooperation.”  In Maurice’s understand these two elements govern a process which ends in God.
         In an Epilogue, Tennyson ends his lengthy project with words that convey not only how much his friend’s life has marked him, but also how well he has understood Maurice’s process thinking.

                Whereof that man, that with me trod
                 This planet was a noble type
                 Appearing ere the times were ripe,
                 That friend of mine lives in God,
                 That God, which ever lives and loves,
                 One God, one law, one element,
                  and one far off divine event
                  to which the whole creation moves.

          Tennyson anticipates scientific evolution and encompasses it  within a spirituality, which is very much indebted to the theology of Maurice and to romanticism in general.  The romantic theme of progressive development is argued over against the Enlightenment’s theme of static equilibrium.   The significance of this study of the interplay between mid 19th century art, theology and science is that it gives rise to the question of whether there was a different outcome for their relationship with each other could have turned out different that in did in the post Darwinian era.   This not a matter or wish, but of hope that something can be done in the present between the divorces languages of art, science and theology which find that they still live with the indifference and hostility, which was their fate in the late Victorian period.  It seems to still be in play, both in arcane in way the evolution debate hangs on, but also in the scepticism of scientific claims about global warming. 
           Science has not found language that is morally convincing.  Theology is morally convincing, but lacks science.  Art is unwilling to involve itself its role as mediator, avoiding any tie to serious science or morality.

  Isaiah Project: An Annotated Bibliography   For those following the Isaiah project this is a current list of my reading.     Josep...