Coleridge as Poet and Religious Thinker: Inspiration and by David Jasper

By David Jasper

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2 5 The artist, then, whether architect or poet, is inspired, a quasi-divine creator bringing life and illumination, revealing the secrets of divinity. In his essay 'On the Principles of Genial Criticism concerning the Fine Arts' (1814), Coleridge, linking art with what is beautiful, defines beauty as 'the reduction of many to one'. 26 It is, as he points out, an ancient formulation, and it links the Romantic notion of organic form with the development of the idea of the symbol, which, in contrast to the eighteenth century, focused on the individual and the particular rather than the general.

Writing to Southey in October of the same year, he quotes Mary Evans, his first love, that 'Faith be only Reason applied to a particular Subject'. 39 These remarks are entirely consistent with the 'Confessio Fidei' (1810), Aids to Reflection and Confessions of an Inquiring Spirit, subtitled 'Letters on the Inspiration of the Scriptures' (1840). Another of Coleridge's concerns in the Lectures is the problem of sin and how it is to be dealt with, 40 raising the question of the nature of Jesus Christ.

For Christ's freedom from the characteristics of his age and its philosophical limitations breaks the law of association which would tie the individual to his period and its customs, and is therefore a 'psychological miracle'. 42 Also from Hartley, but more from Joseph Priestley and from the intellectual Unitarians of Bristol, Coleridge learnt the notion of'gradual progressiveness' 43 in the religious life. The sense of continual process, development and restlessness became a keystone of his notion of art as perpetually creative and de-creative, of irony as contradicting the temptation to settle upon finite conclusions, and offaith as a yearning in the finite being to reach out to the infinite where all coheres in the Absolute and the One, of which we now perceive but the many parts.

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