Pre-modern humans spoke to Gods, and listened when God spoke to them. In his book The Great Shift, James Kugel writes that when God spoke to biblical characters for the first time, they may be surprised, but they’re not exactly bowled over. Kugel and others (Charles Taylor) describe pre-modern man’s sense of self as porous, or “semi-permeable.” People didn’t recognize a fixed, solid boundary between the self and nature. Rather than nature being perceived as something discrete, “out there,” everything interpenetrated. The river gods speak, there are faces in the wood. That permeable self has been lost as man has struggled his way to the sad present; somewhere around the development of agriculture, and civilization, I’d say, when humans were forced to take up arms against soil and weather and each other, building walls and enforcing boundaries. And some sought to recover something of that pre-modern permeability, the old intimacy with the world and nature in it. The Romantics, of course, and their late intellectual descendants: Walter Pater wrote an odd, difficult essay on “Diaphaneite,” seeking with that term to establish the true relationship between self and the world for aesthetic man: he described a character that “crosses rather than follows the main current of life,” like a translucent veil colors the light that penetrates it. And Yeats spent his life sensing the “trembling of the veil,” the drape that had been drawn between man and the world, expecting, at any moment for it to be drawn back and the world enchanted once again. I can no longer hear a God speaking directly to me. But by paying careful attention to the things that I love, I may be able to discern the footprints of a deity I've forgotten.