Rowing Back

The Romantic Origins of Transpersonal Psychology

Daniel Joseph Polikoff
From Archai Issue 7, 2020

Literary Backdrop

However one names, dates, or defines it, Romanticism transformed human consciousness. It is no accident that Wordsworth’s Prelude, perhaps the signature work of English Romanticism, revolves around the poet’s first-hand engagement with the French Revolution. Wildly enthusiastic at first yet bitterly disillusioned at last, William Wordsworth returned from France not only to England but to himself. Turning inward to seek surer spiritual ground for human hope and aspiration, the poet chronicled the saga of his own imaginative life, penning Western literature’s first autobiographical epic. This Wordsworthian turn may be considered emblematic of Romanticism, a movement that—while not eschewing idealism in the political sphere—recognizes that the destiny of a people depends radically upon the spiritual state of the individual persons whom (according to the doctrines of that famous Romantic forerunner, Jean-Jacques Rousseau) any collective is supposed to serve.

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