Keats, John - Lamia
Type of Spiritual Experience
When Newton, himself an alchemist and with a fascination for astrology, discovered that light when passed through a prism produced a rainbow, the news was greeted with a mixture of delight and sadness by his friends. It was not the scientific news that dismayed them but that yet another symbolic object had been overtaken by science and would as a consequence probably lose all its symbolic value. Spiritual knowledge would be lost in other words, at the expense of a scientific discovery.
There is a certain irony in this as Newton's discoveries all came via spiritual experience.
Keats was so dismayed that he wrote the following in his long poem Lamia. It contains a considerable amount of symbolism and it is testament to his fears that indeed few people understand this poem now or its symbolism
A description of the experience
John Keats - from Lamia 1820
Do not all charms fly
At the mere touch of cold philosophy?
There was an awful rainbow once in heaven:
We know her woof, her texture; she is given
In the dull catalogue of common things.
Philosophy will clip an Angel's wings,
Conquer all mysteries by rule and line,
Empty the haunted air, and gnomed mine -
Unweave a rainbow...