Glorious Immortality

William Wordsworth (1770-1850)

Ode:  Intimations of Immortality

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter darkness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home.   

Glory is defined as majestic beauty and splendor and is also a synonym for heaven. This single word responds in a profound way to the human yearning to know the meaning of life and how the challenges of life can be met. A single word that reveals our identity, where we “came from” and what our destiny is. And the poet/mystic Wordsworth in nine lines reveals more wisdom that nine volumes of philosophy and all of the dogma of all of the world’s religions combined.

“The Christ of the Gospels is the coming one, ‘he that should come,’ while ‘he that cometh’—bringing peace—was the Egyptian Jesus, Iu-em-hept. According to the earliest Greek historian, Herodotus, the father of secular history, this Jesus was to be found eighteen thousand years earlier in Egyptian religion. In the New Testament, it is said of the future manifestor, ‘Then shall they see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. But when these things begin to come to pass, look up, and lift up your heads; because your redemption draweth nigh.’ And of Osiris coming in the clouds of heaven, we read, ‘The Osiris passes through the clouds, turns back the opposers, gives life to the ministers of the sun.’”

“In the famous kenosis, or ‘emptying,’ passage in Paul’s letter to the Philippians, the Apostle says that the Christ ‘emptied himself.’ In the Egyptian Ritual, we learn that Horus (Iusu, Iusa, or Jesus) ‘disrobes’ to reveal himself while he presents himself to earth. In ancient esoteric thought, the entire process of the god or the soul coming down to incarnation often involved his taking off layers of glorious apparel on the one hand while assuming ever more dense garments at the same time—signifying immersion in the opacity of matter. Obviously, the taking-on of the role of a less glorious being, was being depicted; it was an emptying-out of glory. At one stage or another of the myth, all three persons of the Egyptian Trinity, Isis, Osiris, and Horus, are represented ‘descending’ to this earth in humble, human form.”

“The first Palm Sunday, Jesus’ triumphal but strangely inconclusive ride through Jerusalem in the Gospels, is really a literalized but mishandled part of the ancient myth where Horus, too rides on the back of a donkey. The real meaning in both cases—though obscured in the New Testament rendition—is that the divine element, or the god, in every person rides into glory on the back of the animal self [false self]. It’s to mark the final triumph of the soul in man over his lower world. Massey, with typical erudition, points out that palm leaves were thrown in front of Jesus because the palm tree is an arcane symbol of the lunar month. It was widely believed be the only tree to produce an additional branch every twenty-eight days!”

All of these mythic metaphors are elaborate parables for cultures where oral and visual communication preceded written communication. Unfortunately, what is obscured today is the simple underlying and profound truth that we all entered this life trailing clouds of glory. That glory is still within each human being and readily accessible as present moment awareness. It is in the NOW that we are aware of our own perfection and the perfection and glory of creation.

Ode to Oneness

Because romantic artists search for reality with their hearts they are more apt to discover aspects of Oneness than “realists” for example who are seeking answers with their intellects. The poets’ worldview also makes them more sensitive to having insights into P-A. William Wordsworth along with Coleridge, Byron, Shelley, and Keats reached the mystical heights unknown to most poets. “The first thirty years of the 19th century were a Golden Age in English poetry. The days of Elizabeth may be regarded as the first great period in English literature; the early years of the 19th as the second. During the early years of this century romanticism triumphed.”

Like Thoreau, Wordsworth projected his own inner spiritual wisdom onto nature. The American transcendentalists would flesh out the philosophy that the English poets began. “These social and political developments were accompanied by a new trend in English poetry. Wordsworth presented the experience of the common man and called our attention to the spiritual aspect of nature; Coleridge took as his province the supernatural and he popularized transcendental philosophy; Byron delighted to attack conventional society and argued well for the freedom of man and for revolt against oppression; Shelley taught brotherly love and the perfectibility of man; Keats preached beauty and found a romantic interest in classical backgrounds.”  These great poets were struggling with symptoms of a deeper illusion, P-B, the realm of time and place, the world of form, the ubiquitous world of suffering.

The romantic nostalgia and yearning for the past are childlike sentiments akin to simplistic fantasies of a future paradise. Being deluded by these groundless narratives, the romantic poets missed the natural and gloriously real symphony of the present moment—indeed, they were out of tune with both nature and humanity. Wordsworth realized this and expressed it in “The World Is Too Much With Us:”

The Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune.

The romantics were much more apt to realize the importance of silence, solitude and simplicity in entering the wholesome and sustainable world of P-A. From Wordsworth’s “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud:”

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils. 

Glimpsing the illusion of death and the innocence of childhood provided the romantic poets with much of their most profound realizations. From Wordsworth’s “We are Seven:”

A simple child,
That lightly draws its breath
And feels its life in every limb,
What should it know of death!  

In his own words: “I was often unable to think of external things as having external existence, and I communed with all that I saw as something not apart from, but inherent in, my own immaterial nature.”  Excerpts from Wordsworth’s “Intimations of Immortality:”

That there hath past away a glory from the earth …

But trailing clouds of glory do we come …

Thou, whose exterior semblance doth belie
Thy soul’s immensity;
Thou best philosopher, who yet dost keep
Thy heritage, thou eye among the blind,
That, deaf and silent, read’st the eternal deep,
Haunted for ever by the eternal Mind,
Mighty Prophet!   Seer blest!
On whom those truths do rest
Which we are toiling all our lives to find,
In darkness lost, the darkness of the grave;
Thou, over whom thy Immortality
Broods like the day, a master o’er a slave,
A Presence which is not to be put by.   

Out of Tune

“The World Is Too Much With Us”

The World is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
The Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune:
It moves us not.—Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have a glimpse that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.

We are too mesmerized by the illusion of the false-self driven need to survive and so we greedily gather things and chase status, the illusion power. We have lost the connection with nature that nurtured us for so long and with that the still small voice, the heart-felt voice has faded away. The world of Oneness where each connection, each relationship with flora and fauna, had meaning has been forgotten. Tis better to revert to the old religions that affirmed our place in the cosmos, our true worth and the beauty of all of Creation, than to wander about terror stricken filled with ennui. The land of myth and metaphor was richly endowed with the good, the true and the beautiful. Now we must hear the symphony of the present moment or we will remain lost and out of tune.

Ode to a Simple Child

“Ode on Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood”

Some children when very young still seem to be connected to a more profound mystical state which quickly fades but remains accessible to some throughout life when they are in the present moment. William Wordsworth exemplifies the artist-poet who returns to the NOW when expressing the infinite beauty of Creation. In his own words: “I was often unable to think of external things as having external existence, and I communed with all that I saw as something not apart from, but inherent in my own immaterial nature.”  And now excerpts from “Intimations of Immortality.”

Wither is fled the visionary dream?
Where is it now, the glory and the dream?

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting;
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar;
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:

And then the conditioning of the false-self story begins, the cruel brainwashing.

The homely Nurse doth all she can
To make her foster-child, her inmate, Man,
Forget the glories he hath known,
And that imperial palace whence he came.

Thou, whose exterior semblance doth belie
Thy soul’s immensity

Haunted for ever by the eternal Mind,
Mighty Prophet! Seer blest!
On whom those truths do rest
Which we are toiling all our lives to find,
In darkness lost, the darkness of the grave;
Thou, over whom they Immortality
Broods like the day, a master o’er a slave
A Presence which is not to be put by
.

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References and notes are available for this essay.
Find a much more in-depth discussion in books by Roy Charles Henry.

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