Phil Legard

The Land of Many-Colours: The Initiated Landscape and the Hermeneutic Imagination

The Irish poet, Theosophist and painter George William Russell (1867-1935), alias AE, enjoyed a profoundly creative relationship with both the material, exterior landscape and encounters with interior landscapes, often referred to as ‘the land of many-colours’. Visionary experiences became the core theme of his paintings, poems and writings, and are most lucidly expressed in his Candle of Vision (1918), which describes his visions, intuitions and mystical speculations in prose that shines with an otherworldly light.

This paper seeks to explore the visions of AE in order to frame contemporary creative practices that actively seek numinous experience as part of a creative continuum. Of import are the diversity of AE’s visions: they span the introvertive-extrovertive spectrum (Marshall 2005), and occur both in the natural scene (for example, his ‘awakening’ as one of the ‘heavenly household’ in the Irish countryside) and in more prosaic surroundings (often through meditation, but at times unheralded such as his vision of ‘earth breath’ while working as a city clerk: ‘an exile from living nature but she yet visited me’.)

Coupled with Voss’ hermeneutic approach to creativity and imagination (2009), such visions may be related to a series of creative approaches that strive toward the ‘participatory turn’ in which empirical modes of interpretation necessarily yield to the alternative, intuitive and visionary approaches, before being re-integrated as part of a working process within an ‘awakened’ or ‘initiated’ landscape. Grounded in the archetypal/imaginal concepts of Corbin, Voss’ approach to the methodology of imagination is a natural complement to the poetic essentialism implied by AE’s vision and the wider mystical backdrop of his work. Furthermore. the author’s own work since 2001 with music and text are analysed to elucidate the process of working within an ‘initiated’ landscape in a contemporary context. Works such as Abital (2007) and Almias (with Simon Bradley and Layla Legard, 2010) encounter participatory turns within the physical environment, while Angelystor (2013) and Hawthonn (with Layla Legard, 2014) explore reflexive interior landscapes through visionary practice.

Phil Legard is a senior lecturer in music technology, performance and production at Leeds Beckett University. His present his academic work explores the relationship between composition, place and liminality. As a musician he has been involved for the last decade in creating music that blends folk and esoteric influences with avant-garde and experimental techniques, improvisation, and computer-assisted-composition. He recently finished a project with Layla Legard entitled Hawthonn, exploring the ‘deathscape’ of Bassenthwaite, the final resting place of musician Jhonn Balance.