The Centaur Essay - Critical Essays

Algernon Blackwood


Although The Centaur was Blackwood’s own favorite novel, it is not his most personal. That epithet belongs to The Wave: An Egyptian Aftermath (1916). It is, however, his most religious novel because it comes closest to reflecting his own world belief. It was inspired by Blackwood’s journey through the Caucasus in 1910, a trip that left his spirit so numbed by beauty and vision that for a while he was unable to write. One short story, “Imagination” (Ten Minute Stories, 1914), describes this writer’s block and serves as a preamble to The Centaur in its evocation of the Earth spirit. It was only when Blackwood heard a street musician outside his own London flat—a scene that inspired the conclusion of the novel— that Blackwood’s own spirit was freed and the book began to form.

In The Centaur, Blackwood expresses his view of humanity’s relationship with the world. By using the theories of Gustav Fechner and William James, quotations from whose works head each chapter, Blackwood explores the possibility that Earth is sentient and it is the projection of the Earth-soul that creates visions of creatures of legend (such as centaurs and nymphs) among the psychically sensitive. Civilization has dulled people’s basic senses, which is why so few are aware of the planet’s soul. It is through this exploration of the metaphysical that Blackwood’s book can be regarded as a precursor to modern Magical...

(The entire section is 470 words.)