On February 24, 1913, a month before he began composing what would become his two greatest novels—The Rainbow (1915) and Women in Love (1920)—D. H. Lawrence wrote to the artist Ernest Collings about the numinous nature of his own creative process:

I always feel as if I stood for the fire of Almighty God to go through me—and it’s a rather awful feeling. One has to be so terribly religious, to be an artist.1

Throughout the rest of his literary career, Lawrence, like the English romantic poets, continued to identify artistic creativity and religious sensibility. In “Introduction to These Paintings” (1929), written a year before his death, he insists that the imagination is an essentially sacred faculty and is energized by bodily feeling:

In the flow of our imagination we know in full, mentally and physically at once, in a greater, enkindled awareness. At the maximum of our imagination we are religious… An artist can only create what he really religiously feels is truth, religious truth really felt, in the blood and the bones. (Late Essays 193, 196)2

Critics have examined the nature of Lawrence’s religious ideas and symbols but have skirted the question of how his novels function as religious art.3


Authentic Reve Reader Response Initiation Rite Religious Truth Literary Device 
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  1. 3.
    George A. Panichas examines Lawrence’s relation to Christianity in Adventure in Consciousness: The Meaning of D. H. Lawrence’s Religious Quest (London: Mouton, 1964).Google Scholar
  2. Daniel J. Schneider discusses Lawrence’s “religious sense of life” in The Consciousness of D. H. Lawrence: An Intellectual Biography (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1986) 1–16.Google Scholar
  3. 9.
    See Evelyn Underhill, Mysticism (New York: Image Books, 1990 [1910]) 35–43.Google Scholar
  4. P. T. Whelan, D. H. Lawrence: Myth and Metaphysic in “The Rainbow” and “Women in Love” (Ann Arbor and London: UMI Research Press, 1988) 198 (note 16).Google Scholar
  5. 10.
    For a discussion of Nietzsche’s influence on Lawrence, see Colin Milton, Lawrence and Nietzsche: A Study in Influence (Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press, 1987)Google Scholar
  6. Kingsley Widmer, Defiant Desire: Some Dialectical Legacies of D. H. Lawrence (Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1992) 40–69Google Scholar
  7. Robert E. Montgomery, The Visionary D. H. Lawrence: Beyond Philosophy and Art (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994) 73–131CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. T. R. Wright, D. H. Lawrence and the Bible (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000) 43ff. Lawrence probably read Nietzsche as early as 1908 (Milton 2).Google Scholar
  9. 16.
    See Carol Siegel, Lawrence Among the Women: Wavering Boundaries in Women’s Literary Traditions (Charlottesville and London: University Press of Virginia, 1991).Google Scholar
  10. 17.
    See Mary Daly, Beyond God the Father: Toward a Philosophy of Women’s Literation (Boston: Beacon, 1973)Google Scholar
  11. Rosemary R. Ruether, Sexism and God-Talk: Toward a Feminist Theory (Boston: Beacon, 1983)Google Scholar
  12. Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex, trans. H. M. Parshley (New York: Random House, 1989) xxi—xxiv.Google Scholar
  13. 19.
    Wolfgang Iser, The Act of Reading: A Theory of Aesthetic Response (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1978) 34. My reader-centered approach to Lawrence is not Iserian, but is influenced by Iser’s work: Iser’s theoretical reflections on the interaction of text and reader are illuminating, and some of his terms, like “implied reader,” are useful.Google Scholar
  14. 21.
    See Helen P. Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled: A Master-Key to the Mysteries of Ancient and Modern Science and Theology, 2 vols. (Pasadena: Theosophical University Press, 1988 [18771)Google Scholar
  15. Helen P. Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine: The Synthesis of Science, Religion and Philosophy, 2 vols. (Pasadena: Theosophical University Press, 1988 [1888])Google Scholar
  16. Annie Besant, The Ancient Wisdom (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1977 [1897]) 334–42Google Scholar
  17. Annie Besant, Esoteric Christianity (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1977 [1901]) 35–46, 126–31Google Scholar
  18. James Frazer, The Golden Bough (New York: Avenel, 1981 [1890]), vol. 2, 342–54Google Scholar
  19. Jane Ellen Harrison, Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991 [1903])Google Scholar
  20. James Frazer, Ancient Art and Ritual (London: William and Norgate, 1913).Google Scholar
  21. Mircea Eliade, The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion, trans.Willard R. Trask (New York and London: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1959).Google Scholar

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© Charles Michael Burack 2005

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  • Charles Michael Burack

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