Professor of English, Seattle Pacific University
Doug Thorpe grew up in Oak Park Illinois in the shadow of Ernest Hemingway’s boyhood home. After an undergraduate career at Beloit College in Wisconsin he headed west for graduate school at the University of Washington, where his love of William Blake and the Christian contemplative tradition somehow managed to coexist with a newly awakened love of the mountains – a combination that bore fruit some years later in his book Rapture of the Deep: Reflections on the Wild in Art, Wilderness and the Sacred, which won the David Family Environmental Book Award.
Since the days of his dissertation (published in 1990 as A New Earth: Metaphor as Building in The Pearl, Herbert’s Temple and Blake’s Jerusalem) Doug has been exploring the relationship between language, art, and the life of the spirit. This has led him into various forms of meditation and energy work, the summation of which is found in his most recent book Wisdom Sings the World: Poetry, Creation and the Way of Dwelling, a genre-bending exploration of the Wisdom tradition through the lens of scripture, literature, the labyrinth, the mandala, painting, psychology and contemporary science. At the heart of this journey lies Wisdom, also known as Sophia or Hochmah, that underlying creative force that runs through all things, who was there, as Proverbs 8 tells us, at the beginning of all things .
One way of describing Wisdom is to see her as the poetry in things: she takes the form of both beauty and of justice, as is expressed in the dual meanings of words like fair, good, even the word just itself. This is a just-ness we can feel: there’s a sense of rightness, and thus of righteousness. That sense is there in our common experience of the natural world – the patterns in a leaf, a shell, the movement of the tides along the shore — as it is in the greatest art.
Doug has come to believe that what he is calling the poetry in things is no different than the underlying laws that govern the cosmos, laws that include such concepts as chaos, complexity, symmetry, synchronicity. Here too –whether it’s the theory of gravity or of strings — we find a kind of poetry.
This is an aspect of the one we call Wisdom: not simply as a concept but something or someone known, a living quality that informs all things, meaning that she gives form, and that by giving form she gives meaning. This is the deeper truth about information: form is not just facts. Rather, through form we come to understand and know.
Wisdom is who we know through rhythm, pattern, measure –in short, through poetry, broadly defined as poesis, making. She is who we know through the forms that she creates and inhabits, including, centrally, the physical world. She is what makes coherence possible.
She is the one we dwell within.
This is the one to whom Doug has discipled himself, who has come to him in poetry and music, in art and film, in walking the labyrinth at Chartres (and at St. Mark’s in Seattle), in the grace of athletics, or in a simple walk in the city or the mountains. Most deeply she is there in the one that the evangelist John calls the Logos. For a follower of Christ, this person fully embodies the creative energy of Wisdom. And it is this One whom Doug studies and teaches, that he writes about and that he attempts to manifest and embody in all of his own work.
If this is of interest to you, you are welcomed to join in the journey through his books and essays, his blog, on Facebook, and in his teaching, whether formally at Seattle Pacific University or in talks and workshops elsewhere in the Northwest and throughout the country.
- A New Earth: Building in Metaphor in The Pearl, Herbert’s Temple and Blake’s Jerusalem
- Work and the Life of the Spirit (an anthology)
- Rapture of the Deep: Reflections on the Wild in Art, Wilderness and the Sacred
- Wisdom Sings the World: Poetry, Creation and the Way of Dwelling
Please view Doug Thorpe’s C.V. for additional publications.