New St. Paul’s Cathedral resides in Central London. The adjective ‘new’ refers to the fact that the extant structure was rebuilt from the ground up after the Great Fire of 1666. The Old Cathedral dated back to Saxon times, circa 600 A.D. Saxon, of course, refers to the ancient Northern Germanic people, who spoke the Low German dialect.
The cemetery holds the bones and ashes of those who await the Second Advent and the trumpet call to eternity, among who: the Flemish artist Sir Anthony Van Dyck, who died of the Plague in Blackfriars; John Donne, the poet-priest; and Sir Joshua Reynolds, London’s foremost painter of portraits.
Entombed here also is Horatio Nelson, the cyclopean, single-armed libertine; and the Duke of Wellington, hero of the Napoleonic era and emancipator of Catholics.
And over in the corner, near the ashes of the architect Sir Edwin Landseer Luytens, rest the ashes of Walter de la Mare, poet extraordinaire.
Walter de la Mare maintained an easy intimacy with the idea of imagination, what the Jews call the forming place. In today’s world it is called the mind. De la Mare describes two imaginations: the childlike and the boylike. And, according to de la Mare, all children are born with childlike imaginations. Soon, though, the world intrudes with its worries, its cultural biases, its celebrity, its pecking order. In other words, that time when one slowly turns from the wonder of the world and the miracle of life to the bland values of men. One of these bland values is fear. A fear which stymies and quenches the childlike imagination. And thus intuition, said Walter, “retires like a shocked snail into its shell.”
The world, then, is divided into two groups: the intuitive and the logical. “The one knows that beauty is truth, the other reveals that truth is beauty.” Dylan Thomas and William Blake leap to mind as intuitive, while Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens represent the logical.
Blake, the poet and mystic, who believed that the sun was not a body of blazing gases, but a choir of archangels singing, “Holy, Holy, Holy – Lord God Almighty,” and Thomas, the Welsh poet, retained their childlike imaginations. Dawkins, the author of The God Delusion, exchanged his childlike imagination for the fearful severity of logic and human intellect. Logic and intellect led him to the grim, dark tower of atheism, which hunkers in the middle of a barren land. A land where joy and amazement were long ago banished. Where stand stern altars upon which ideas have been sacrificed ‘in the name of reason.’ A gory ritual. For reason concluded there is no God, there is no heaven, there are no angels, and, after death, there is only nothing.
Doris Ross McCrosson explains intuitive children as “visionaries.” They breathe in harmony with their creativity. Those who are logical are connected to external reality, a disadvantage to de la Mare’s way of thinking. The latter – the logicals – know things, rate experience(s), espouse action. They worship at the altar of the present active indicative form of the verb ‘do’. Whereas the former – the intuitives – enjoy a kind of internal colloquy with the White Goddess, the female anima, their muse, who speaks to them, igniting their creativity.
In one state, the person is Unreal yet lives in a quantifiable, real world, where ‘doing’ is reality. The person in the other state is Real, but like Blake is considered at the very least dysfunctional, perhaps mad.
In another cemetery, this one located in Milford, Pennsylvania, lays the coffin of Charles Sanders Pierce. He was scientist, philosopher, mathematician, logician – an objective jack of all trades. Pierce propounded a philosophy called Pragmatism. The formal perspective of Pragmatism revolves around four focal points: logic as a formal semiotic; the theory of categories; logical graphs; and mathematics. Subordinate to these four articles are his dynamics of inquiry, composed of: the theory of signs, or semiotics; sign relations; types of signs; the theory of inquiry; and the logic of information.
It’s dismal just summarizing it. In a sentence, old Chuck was into symbols.
Sadly, Pierce suffered from trigeminal neuralgia, had a messy and unhappy personal life, lived most of his life in dire poverty, dying penniless in 1914, and suffered the ignominy of professional anonymity until after his death.
Fame after death seems somehow unsuccessful.