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Skip to main content. Log In Sign Up. Phillips Modernism was the major Spanish American literary movement of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Leader of that influ- ential movement was Ruben Dario, the Nic- araguan n o w recognized as one of the most important Hispanic poets of all time. Like the Romantics in England and the Symbolists on the Continent, Dario and other Modernists were strongly influenced by oc- cultist thought.

But, as the poet Octavio Paz has written, “academic criticism has. This silence damages our comprehension of his poetry. Her work clearly demonstrates that esoteric tradition is central to Modernism and that an understanding of this centrality clarifies both the nature of the movement and its relationship to earlier Euro- pean literature. After placing Modernism in a broad histor- ical and literary perspective, Jrade examines the impact of esoteric beliefs upon Dario’s view of the world and the role of poetry in it.

Through detailed and insightful analyses of key poems, she explores the poet’s quest for solutions to the nineteenth-century crisis of belief. Publication of this book was also assisted by a grant from the Andrew W. The Texas Pan American series Bibliography: Dario, Ruben, —Criticism and interpretation.

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Esoteric Pythagoreanism in Dario’s Vision of the Universe 25 3. Reincarnation and Poetic Responsibility 54 4. The Poet as Magus: Deciphering the Universe 73 5.

Sexual Love in Esoteric Tradition 92 6. Toward a Syncretic World View 7. I first began to explore the impact of esoteric symbols and beliefs upon Dario’s poetry during m y graduate studies at Brown University.

These early probes were encouraged by provoc- ative references in Octavio Paz’s “El caracol y la sirena” and in Enri- que Anderson Imbert’s La ohginalidad de Ruben Dario as well as by stimulating discussions with m y professors Frank Durand, Juan Lopez-Morillas, and, above all, Alan S.

Trueblood, w h o directed m y dissertation with extraordinary care and attention. While this early research brought into sharp focus Dario’s perva- sive recourse to occultist elements, it simultaneously raised broader questions about Spanish American Modernism.

It underscored the need to investigate the profound philosophic concerns that moti- vated the Modernist departure from traditional poetic patterns and belief systems. For providing the vantage point from which these concerns began to become clear, I a m indebted to three remarkable books: After examining the widespread resurgence of interest in esoteric beliefs on the part of European writers of the nineteenth century, I sought to shed light on h o w and w h y this tendency to envision the world in terms of oc- cultist doctrine was adopted and developed by Dario and other Mod- ernist authors.

The resulting analysis alters many of the predomi- nant perceptions regarding Modernist verse. During the time that this book was taking shape, I had the good fortune to make m a n y dear friends whose advice and support have been crucial to the completion of this project. From the beginning Professor Roberto Gonzalez Echevarria of Yale University unself- ishly took time from his unrelenting schedule to make insightful comments and invaluable suggestions. More recently, advice and suggestions have come from the University of Texas Press.

SinceSuzanne Comer, humanities editor, has been a friendly voice on the other end of the phone and has helped m e through the publication process.

Rubén Darío and the Romantic Search for Unity | Cathy Jrade –

But the one w h o has been there rpsas, steadfastly encouraging m e to do m y best, has been m y husband, Ramon. H e has been a stimulating colleague, an esspinas friend, a loving companion, and an unflagging source of strength.

Finally, I wish to express m y appreciation to Indiana University for the various travel, research, and publication grants it has awarded m e during the past six years.

It is a question of a central current that constitutes a system of thought and also a system of poetic associ- ations. Not only does esoteric tradition lie at the heart of Modernist poetics, but it is also the key to rossas Modern- ism’s place in the “modern tradition,” that is, with regard to the Eu- ropean literature that preceded it and the contemporary Hispanic lit- erature for which it prepared the w a y For m a n y years critics have been dissatisfied with attempts to define the azahates of Modernism.

The shortcomings have stemmed from a nearsightedness that limited the examination of Modernism to its Spanish American context—in spite espnas their awareness of Modernism’s “cosmopolitanism. While the impact azahres Catholicism upon Mod- ernist authors is as pervasive as rodas is undeniable, a growing sense of doubt about established beliefs defines the movement m u c h more than its Catholic background. The Modernist author deals with feelings of fragmentation and alienation by attempting to rediscover a sense of belonging and “wholeness.


It no longer seems necessary to enter into the debate between the position taken by Pedro Salinas, w h o believed that Modernism was characterized by its limited scope and its focus on the renova- tion of poetic language, and that of Juan R a m o n Jimenez, w h o held that Modernism was not a school but an epoch.

Shaw suggests, a resolution of this disagreement is to be found in Roman- ticism. The former’s postulation of a ‘crisis universal de las letras y del es- piritu que inicia hacia ‘ is unsupported either by facts or argu- ments.

Even the technical renova- tion of the m e d i u m of expression in poetry which is so often insisted on as the primary characteristic of modernismo is a continuation of romantic experiments with metre and diction.

Central to Modernist in- novation was the desire to respond to the collapse of the belief sys- tems dominant at the end of the nineteenth century. They de- nounced fossilized language because it interfered with their attempts to rediscover the pristine world that had been lost to them and to their contemporaries.

Poetry was not the escapist’s path but rather the discoverer’s tool. Shaw’s “Romanti- cism” resembles m u c h more closely English, German, and—to a lesser degree—French Romanticism than it does the Spanish ver- sion.

If, as pointed out by An- gel del Rio, it was impossible for the unorthodox philosophy of Ro- manticism to take root in the orthodox and Catholic soil of Spain, it was impossible because such new ideas were inappropriate.

Peersfindsthat an emphasis on Christianity is a dominant characteristic of the Ro- mantic movement in Spain and that the major writers of the period were at peace with the world. In Spanish America, on the other hand, the crisis that arose out of the positivistic criticism of the established religion and meta- physics had become acute toward the end of the nineteenth century.

The imperial expansion of the European industrial powers that re- structured the countries of Spanish America along the lines of the economic and social order of their o w n capitalist organization com- pounded this upheaval. According to the evangelists of the day, the society of the future would be orga- nized upon a more rational basis than ever before, and humanity would find itself living in a world without problems.

Messianism was intrinsically present in the attitude of scientists w h o thought of themselves as the bearers of a demonstrable truth, that is, of the “Truth,” and trustees of the future. Yet in time it was recognized that, far from becoming more understandable, the world appeared more enigmatic, and the great inventions did not reduce the mys- tery.

Mas, no habiendose todavia dado un solo paso en lo que se refiere al origen de la vida y a nuestra desapari- cion en la inevitable muerte, el ensueno y el misterio permanecen con su eterna atraccion.

Octavio Paz has shown that the concept of analogy is the unifying thread that runs throughout modern poetry and that il- luminates the relationship between the two literary movements. It was with this and ancillary esoteric concepts that Romantic writers filled the spiritual void they sensed in the n e w science of the En- lightenment and Modernist writers responded to the materialism of Spanish American positivism.

Paz points out that modern poetry has always represented a reaction against the modern era and its various manifestations, whether they be the Enlightenment, critical reason, liberalism, positivism, or Marxism. This tradition crosses the eighteenth century, penetrates the nineteenth, and reaches our own. I a m refer- ring to analogy, the vision of the universe as a system of correspon- dences and of language as the universe’s double.

La Emanación Astral

The hope for amelioration resided in integration on all three levels. The design that the Romantics elaborated for possible recovery and that was later adapted by the Symbolists and the Modernists had its roots in esoteric and biblical conceptions of the world and centers on the analogical vision of the universe underscored by Paz.

In its Western form this myth has its roots in Plato’s Sym- posium, in Gnosticism, and in the Orphic and other mysteries. It appears today as a central component of esoteric tradition, two branches of which have remained deeply influential throughout the centuries, namely the Hebrew Kabbala and the Christian version of Hermetic lore.

Recent scholarship has demonstrated the prevalence of Hermeticism and Christianized versions of Kabbalist doctrine in the major writings of the European Renaissance. Boehme, for ex- ample, elaborated the ancient myth of primal man, w h o fell into sexual, material, and psychological division, and whose redemption is made possible by Christ, w h o united the attributes of both sexes in himself.

Hegel, Blake, and Coleridge are among the Romantics di- rectly influenced by Boehme and other occult writers. As a result, the post-Adamic individual is often seen as a wayfarer in an alien land and the course of life as a pilgrimage in search of the homeland to which he or she belongs.


In short, Romantic writers adapted various versions of the Neo- platonic paradigm in order to explain what they felt to be personal fragmentation, estrangement, or alienation. They sought to help re- deem humanity by fostering a reconciliation with nature, from which it had severed itself.

In other words, central to Romantic po- etry is a nostalgia for a primordial time in which the individual is reconciled with nature. M a n y of the myths and imagery that sup- plied the hope for reconciliation are recognizably esoteric in origin.

In particular, the attribution of a life and soul to nature allowed for the transformation of a dead and alien milieu into a h u m a n and companionable environment in which one could feel at h o m e and with which one could share one’s life. This “deciphering” was possible because they believed the soul, by virtue of its divine origin, maintains a means of communication with the spiritual beyond. The mission of poetry is to rediscover this means of communication and to achieve a renewed unity of spirit.

As in Baudelaire’s famous “Correspondances,” the poet perceives in the “forest of symbols” the “dark and profound unity” and senses that all things correspond with one another. Baudelaire, in effect, encouraged the free use of words and im- ages, which are to be employed not according to their logical usage but rather in accord with universal analogy.

The poet’s art was be- coming an “evocative magic,” a sacred function. Mallarme, in turn, hoped to increase the magical powers of poetry by separating the crude and immediate from the “essential” condition of words.

The “essential” word does not function as an intermediary between two minds, but as an instrument of power capable of awakening the soul to its original innocence. Implicit in this conception is the belief that, w h e n restored to its full efficacy, language will evoke, like m u – sic, a pure, untarnished vision of the universe, a vision that recalls thefirstday of creation.

Music, because it is indefinite and innocent of reference to the external world, thus became the ideal of poetic creation. For the Symbolists, the purposeful use of the musical re- sources of language, the internal adjustment of ideas, words, and sounds to the impressions that evoke them, became a means of tran- scending the here and n o w and of achieving unity with the universe. Poetry thus becomes a magic double of the cosmos. Finally, Rimbaud took the Romantic and Symbolist concept of the visionary poet one step further.

H e openly assigned to the poet the task of “making himself a seer. It was necessary to break with “culture” and to “cultivate his soul” by “disordering his senses. Even the most radical stance adopted by the Symbolist writers reveals the traditional basis of their position. Like the Romantics before them, they were concerned with the paradise that had been lost. The fundamental thrust of nineteenth-century poetry is an un- quenched hope for innocence, a key principle of which is the rec- onciliation or synthesis of whatever is divided, opposed, and con- flicting.

Their search led them to discover the analogical vision of esoteric doctrine. Modernism is heir to these movements, and it is in terms of Modernism’s unique adaptation of the trends that they embody that the Spanish American movement can be defined and its place in modern poetry can be determined.

Not only is Ruben Dario the movement’s most widely read and admired poet; he was also, shortly afterits undisputed head, spokesman, and intellectual center of gravity. H e found in the Romantic and Symbolist writers models that took him and the movement beyond the confines of traditional religions into the area of alternative belief systems.

Aspects of these unor- thodox world views have routinely been identified as Pythagorean. Although a fully historical figure, Pythagoras underwent a kind of canonization, and his life was quickly obscured by legend. Therefore, in discussing the theo- ries of the Pythagoreans, it cannot be determined h o w m u c h was due to Pythagoras himself and h o w m u c h was due to later members of the school.

For the literary critic, however, the problem is less complicated in that the concern is not so m u c h with the equivocal body of doctrine called Pythagoreanism as with the prevailing idea of the philosophy at the time. In Dario’s case it is well-accepted that his idea of Pythagoreanism was molded by Edouard Schure’s esoteric classic, The Great Initiates: