The Inward Light

Sir Philip Sidney (1554-1586) was, like Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Francis Drake, a central figure in the English Renaissance but unlike Raleigh was able to keep his head (although he did lose his life fighting the Spanish in the Netherlands for his beloved Queen Elizabeth I). Being a poet, he understood the primacy of the heart. He respected the intellects of the philosophers, but he did not fail to understand the limitations of the intellect versus intuition.

“For suppose it be granted—that which I suppose with great reason may be denied—that the philosopher, in respect of his methodical proceeding, teach more perfectly than the poet, yet do I think that no man is so much a friend of the philosopher as to compare the philosopher in moving with the poet. And that moving [feeling] is of a higher degree than teaching, it may by this appear, that it is well-nigh both the cause and effect of teaching; for who will be taught, if he be not moved with desire to be taught?”[i]  Indeed, if we are satisfied with our experience in P-B, why should we seek Simple Reality or suppose that we have a choice to create for ourselves a satisfactory experience of life? To paraphrase Blaise Pascal, “the mind of a philosopher knows nothing about the transcendent reality known to the heart.”

Sidney understood one of the foundational principles of Simple Reality namely that, “the inward light each mind hath itself is as good as a philosopher’s book.”[ii]  Actually better, much better! “For he [the poet] doth not only show the way, but giveth so sweet a prospect into the way as will entice any man to enter into it.”[iii]  So we would all do well to follow the music of our poet’s heart and while using our intellect for the purpose it was designed for, be wary so as not to be persuaded that it can steer our course. The feeling energy of our heart knows how to man the helm and the intellect has the brawn to stoke the furnace “below decks.”

The Inward Light

[i]     Lieder, Paul Robert. British Prose and Poetry, Volume I. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. 1950, page 310.

[ii]     Ibid., page 311.

[iii]    Ibid.


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