“Are there not such spirits among us ready to join in the noblest of all adventures— the building up of a civilization —so that the human might reflect the divine order? In the divine order there is both freedom and solidarity. It is the virtue of the soul to be free and its nature to love; and when it is free and acts by its own will, it is most united with all other life” George Russell: The Song of the Greater Life
George Russell (1867-1935) whose birth anniversary we mark on 10 April was an Irish poet, painter, mystic, and reformer of agriculture in the years 1900 to the mid-1930s. He wrote under the initials A.E. and was so well known as A.E. that his friends called him “A.E.” and not “George”. He was a close friend and co-worker with William Butler Yeats who was a better poet and whose poems are more read today. Both A.E. and Yeats were part of the Irish or Celtic revival which worked for a cultural renewal as part of the effort to get political independence from England.
Ireland lived under a subtle form of colonialism rather than the more obvious Empire in Africa or India where domination was made more obvious by the distance from the center of power and the racial differences. The Irish were white, Christian, and partially anglicized culturally. English and Scots had moved to Ireland and by the end of the 19th century became the landed gentry. Thus Russell and Yeats felt that there had to be a renewal of Irish culture upon which a state could be built. Yet for A.E. political independence was only a first step to building a country of character and intellect “a civilization worthy of our hopes and our ages of struggle and sacrifice”. He lamented that “For all our passionate discussions over self-government we have had little speculation over our own character or the nature of the civilization we wished to create for ourselves…The nation was not conceived of as a democracy freely discussing its laws, but as a secret society with political chiefs meeting in the dark and issuing orders.”
Read the whole article in Ovi Magazine, HERE!