Kathleen Raine 1908 – 2003

Kathleen Raine was a poet, a critic, a scholar and more than that. In the re-emergence of Albion as a mythic idea she is important because of her love for William Blake and her understanding of where Britain stood during its troubled twentieth century; two world wars followed by the emergence of hope later in the century. She often referred to Blake as her master and famously quoted, ‘In time of trouble, I kept the divine vision.’ In her 1973 autobiography ‘Farewell Happy Fields’ she portrayed her beloved Northumberland as Eden and told of how she was able to see many of Shakespeare’s plays when she was growing up. It is said that she knew much of the Bible by heart. ‘Poetry is the very essence of life’ was another of her famous quotes and she believed that poets belonged to another plane of existence; a higher world. Later formal education took place at Girton College, Cambridge where she met Dr Jacob Bronowski and Humphrey Jennings, and she began to turn away from the natural sciences towards poetry, and endowed her thought with a Platonic vision of Goodness, Beauty and Truth. Subsequently she met Ted Hughes, Rosamond Lehmann, Wendell Berry, T.S. Eliot and John Taverner, expanding her circle of friends continuously.

In 1981, at the age of 73, she co-founded the Temenos Academy Review with Keith Critchlow, Brian Keeble and Philip Sherrard to feature and promote the truth of the Perrenial Wisdom ‘as it has always been in the several spiritual civilisations.’ This review publication contained lectures and poetry, narrative and book reviews and was published to a remarkably high standard. At the time it said, ‘The Temenos Academy Review is making history. It will be a record for the future of the leading and seminal thought of this time in England and the English-speaking world, and of something of the rich contribution from other traditions especially those of the Orient – which are now bringing about a new renaissance in the West. We are for this time the successor of The Yellow Book of the Pre-Raphaelites and the Criterion edited by T.S. Eliot between the First and Second World Wars.’

Later, in 1990, they initiated the Temenos Academy of Integral Studies promoting a universalist philosophy. At the time Kathleen spoke of Temenos standing for the treasure of ‘things new and old’ which are always timely because they belong to the unchanging nature of things. She grasped the importance of declaring ‘the learning of the Imagination’ anchored in the Perennial Philosophy. This stream led her to spend time in New York with the Lindisfarne Association, founded by William Irwin Thompson, where according to Kathleen the two currents of the ‘New Age and Perennial Philosophy’ did not find a successful accord.

She agreed with Yeats that poetry and religion is the same thing and was inspired in later life to reach out to H.R.H. Prince of Wales saying, ‘Anything I can do for him, I will do.’ He returned the help by patronage of the Temenos Academy writing in ‘Lighting A Candle’ (reflections, memories and tributes to Kathleen Raine): ‘She did her utmost to re-awaken Albion “sunk in deadly sleep” and to remind us that what Blake wished to bring about was nothing less than a reversal of the premises of materialism; not that people should be a little more spiritual and a little more imaginative but that we should understand that the cosmos is not a mechanism but a living, sacred universe and that “Everything that lives is holy.”’

Further Reading:

Lighting A Candle / Kathleen Raine and Temenos (Temenos Academy 2008)

The Collected Poems of Kathleen Raine  Ed. Brian Keeble (Golgonooza Press 2000)

Blake and Tradition (RKP 1969)

Blake and the New Age (George Allen and Unwin 1979)

Yeats, The Initiate (George Allen and Unwin 1987)

Seeing God Everywhere; Essays on Nature and the Sacred (World Wisdom 2004)

Farewell Happy Fields (Hamilton/G.Braziller 1974) (Pt 1 autobiography)

The Land Unknown (Hamilton/G.Braziller 1975) (Pt 2 autobiography)

The Lion’s Mouth (Hamilton/G.Braziller 1977) (Pt 3 autobiography)


Obituary in The Guardian