Commonplace Book



The Sea

Cosmic Horror

The Sublime

The Sublime or the Numinous is an idea in art and philosophy; it is an experience of otherworldly awe, terror, beauty, and immensity. In other words, the Sublime is a word used by older writers to describe what we call "Stellar" energy. This section taken from the Wikipedia page, which briefly describes philosophical ideas about the Sublime. The original texts are typically challenging, but worth reading if you want to actually understand their ideas in context. I have not yet read them; and hope to narrow this list down in future to ones which are closest to our conception.

Here is a short list of words from the wikipedia page on the Sublime:

an experience distinct from mere beauty; awe in the infinity of space; boundlessness; pleasure mingled with horrors and despair; unbounded, unlimited, spacious, greatness

"Otto writes that while the concept of "the holy" is often used to convey moral perfection – and does entail this – it contains another distinct element, beyond the ethical sphere, for which he uses the term numinous. He explains the numinous as a

"non-rational, non-sensory experience or feeling whose primary and immediate object is outside the self" cannot be defined in terms of other concepts or experiences, and that the reader must therefore be "guided and led on by consideration and discussion of the matter through the ways of his own mind, until he reach the point at which 'the numinous' in him perforce begins to stir... In other words, our X cannot, strictly speaking, be taught, it can only be evoked, awakened in the mind."

Using Latin, he describes it as a mystery (Latin: mysterium) that is at once terrifying (tremendum) and fascinating (fascinans).[6] He writes:
The feeling of it may at times come sweeping like a gentle tide pervading the mind with a tranquil mood of deepest worship. It may pass over into a more set and lasting attitude of the soul, continuing, as it were, thrillingly vibrant and resonant, until at last it dies away and the soul resumes its “profane,” non-religious mood of everyday experience. [...] It has its crude, barbaric antecedents and early manifestations, and again it may be developed into something beautiful and pure and glorious. It may become the hushed, trembling, and speechless humility of the creature in the presence of—whom or what? In the presence of that which is a Mystery inexpressible and above all creatures.

Note the important observation that the word "holy" is often used as a synonym for "pure, good", because of our Christian associations. In Fencraft, we recognise the holy as numinous, rather than moral. He also grasps a key Pagan concept - that the divine cannot be taught, but must be evoked - and this quote supports the importance of Walking, Reading, Disconnection, for creating opportunities to experience the numinous.

"The feeling of the sublime, however, is when the object does not invite such contemplation but instead is an overpowering or vast malignant object of great magnitude, one that could destroy the observer.

This is from Schopenhauer - note the importance of overwhelming danger to the concept of the Sublime. You could use these stages as meditations - beginning by attempting to experience beauty, through observing a beautiful thing, and then progressing over time towards the fullest sublime

"Lyotard argued that the modernists attempted to replace the beautiful with the release of the perceiver from the constraints of the human condition. For him, the sublime's significance is in the way it points to an aporia (impassable doubt) in human reason; it expresses the edge of our conceptual powers and reveals the multiplicity and instability of the postmodern world. "

I do not understand enough about Lyotard to know if I am understanding his full argument fully. However I have spotted something interesting in this Wikipedia description. I recognise the idea of the sublime as "the edge of our conceptual powers". Most ideas of the sublime rely on imagery of nature; but like Lyotard, we also find modern imagery expressing Stellar energy. Something like a Francis Bacon or a Mark Rothko; a Current 93 album or even Joy Division; modern art is frequently unsettling in a way which evokes the beyond

Wikipedia cites some additional authors who may be worth investigating:

I am in the process of reading these authors through so I can offer a more informed recommendation. Some of these uses of the term "sublime" are different from our own. But Fencraft is a community religion; so if this topic interests you, seek them out.

The Romantic poets and painters are associated with the term "sublime" - they sought to experience and write about it.

So the English Romantics began to view the sublime as referring to a "realm of experience beyond the measurable" that is beyond rational thought...Although the moment may have been fleeting, the Romantics believed one could find enlightenment in the sublime.
However, each Romantic had a slightly different conception of the sublime. Wikipedia says Coleridge saw only the sea, sky and desert as sublime - because they were endless - and this gels with our conception of the Sea and Sky as extremely stellar. Key early Romantics are Wordsworth and Coleridge; the second generation were Shelly, Byron, Keats, and others. If you like poetry, any of these authors might lead you to useful words on the sublime.

Reading List

Nuclear Annihilation