John O'Meara

Shakespearean, neo-Romantic critic

John O'Meara Shakespeare Shakespearean Romanticism Literary Critic Novalis

from a letter by the Author to Grevel Lindop:

"... as you can appreciate, I chose my title for my trilogy deliberately; it is not “Nature and the Goddess etc” but “On Nature and the Goddess etc”. I saw my three pieces as constituting three tributary streams pouring themselves into the very great River of this topic, which encompasses practically almost everything written over the period. I think that in the end we can only follow each of our authors through the course of his thought and bodied imagery as these involve him in an intuitive experience of these subjects. Each author approaches these subjects so differently, and yet each conceives and writes out of his unitary view of the Goddess, deep down. It is one Mother or one Goddess for each of them, or a least those authors I wrote about that write out of an intuition of Her. It would take someone with supersensible vision to establish what Goddess, or what aspect(s) of Her, each author has in mind, if it is one Goddess that underlies his thoughts. Her general association with Nature among my authors is one stable point at least, though again it is each author’s conception of what Nature is. However, I am not so sure that all this is merely the ‘invention’ of writers, as you speculate.

Nevertheless Graves has his Goddess, Keats his own, perhaps several, Goddesses, Shakespeare his own etc... A certain sphere of experience dictates in each case the form the representation takes. My new collection on Shakespeare (Shakespeare, the Goddess, and Modernity) offers a little more by way of a theory of the Goddess with central reference to Eric Neumann’s account. I wish I had known at the time of distinctions introduced by Stephen Hoeller, whom you may have heard of (he is a modern-day gnostic) between ‘pneumatic’ or spiritual, ‘psychic’, and ‘hylic’ or materially-minded, concepts of the Goddess (I present these three types to myself as the spiritually-inclined, the psychically-oriented, and the materially-minded). Hoeller offers these distinctions in his Foreword to a recent reprint (2001) of MacDermot’s translation of the Gnostic text, The Fall of Sophia. There is, also, another (little known) work, because in the arcane or esoteric sphere, which offers, to my mind, another very useful sorting out of at least three different aspects of the Goddess, but as Sophia. Robert Powell in The Most Holy Trinosophia (a very difficult book to get) speaks of the Divine Mother, the Divine Sophia, and the Holy Soul: thus Mother/Daughter/Holy Soul; Demeter/Persephone/Athena; Nature/Self/Community etc. I’m not sure if your interests extend into such spheres though I recall your saying once that you do read spiritual or occult books. My authors, or the ones I present, are clearly more into the Nature aspect and the aspect of self in relation to Nature; the aspect of community is not so strong a point among them at least in the material I cover. By Hoeller’s standard, they are also to a great extent still very much materially-minded, suggesting a relationship to the Goddess in the more material stages of Her manifestation as Neumann describes this; himself (Neumann, in The Great Mother) sees a long-term progression from this Goddess towards Herself as a more spiritually effective power as Sophia.

So the matter could be theorized further, and I do get into some theorizing about it, as I say, in my Shakespeare collection (on pp.138-139 including the endnotes to this section.) In the end, what I propose is that behind the general desire to connect to the Goddess among all these authors is actually the call of the Sophia, which is more or less directly heard, depending on the stage of development each author has reached—Shakespeare, as well as Novalis, being in a more advanced stage in relation to Her, as I have seen it, than any other authors I have read. The Sophia's claim on Shakespeare is brought out especially in my Prospero's Powers, which is reprinted in Shakespeare, the Goddess, and Modernity. The Sophia's claim on Novalis is general knowledge, but it is not generally well-construed. Very many authors reflect the Goddess' presence in one way or another. There is the major case of Swinburne, e.g., in the later 19th century, but I see Her invoked even in (‘realistic’) modern works like Strindberg’s Miss Julie, or Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, James’s Wings of the Dove etc ..." As I put it in Shakespeare, the Goddess, and Modernity (p.335): "One would need to show how literary authors themselves reflect, in the detail of their work, the many changes and issues raised by the historical evolution of the Goddess. Some seminal attempts have been made along these lines by Robert Graves and Ted Hughes, in the latter case in his full-length study of Shakespeare and in his essay on Coleridge, on both of which I draw significantly in my work. I have myself offered a study along these lines in The Modern Debacle. However close treatment of the extensive presence and influence of the Goddess in the work of literary authors remains to this day an undeveloped area of critical study, and would appear to await some future revolution in our conception of the possible scope of cultural studies."