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Thomas Traherne and the Felicities of the Mind By James Balakier

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Thomas Traherne and the Felicities of the Mind


As I was walking across campus with the noted Shakespearean Harry Berger, who had come to my university to give a special lecture, I mentioned that I was writing a book on Thomas Traherne. His face brightened as he said, “Transcendence!” Though the word is currently out of fashion in literary circles, a lively sense of “great power, great transcendence” (All’s Well that Ends Well 2.3.34) epitomizes Traherne’s writing, as Professor Berger noted. This book takes the perspective that the essential Traherne is a poet who responded with passionate intelligence to the materialist philosophy of Thomas Hobbes by advancing his conception of Felicity, a naturally full and blissful state resulting from contact with the source of thought. Based upon his firsthand experience, Traherne’s poetry and prose make a compelling case for the viability of such a simple and pure state of awareness that transcends but also enhances sensory experience.

Traherne’s claims for Felicity have gained credence in recent decades as a result of an ever-growing body of scientific research which has documented the existence of an integrated state of neurophysiological