JACKSON, Tenn. – March 26, 2012 – A new book by Union University professor Hal Poe examines one of the lesser-known works of his ancestor Edgar Allan Poe and shows that the infamous fiction writer dealt with deep spiritual questions.
“Evermore: Edgar Allan Poe and the Mystery of the Universe” comes from years of Hal Poe’s study on the writer’s work. Hal Poe’s new book comes from his exploration of Edgar Allan Poe’s “Eureka,” a book where the writer tackled matters of science instead of dark stories.
Hal Poe, the Charles Colson Professor of Faith and Culture at Union, said in the rarely studied work Edgar Allan Poe wrote about the beginning of the universe, which sounded much like the big bang theory — a scientific development to surface more than 50 years later.
“The conclusion of his book was that therefore the universe must have a creator (because of its creation),” Hal Poe said. “This amazed me because I had never heard of this book before.”
Edgar Allan Poe’s discussion of science and religion in “Eureka” intrigued Hal Poe, and upon exploring the text he found that the notorious author struggled with five basic spiritual questions.
Hal Poe said the first of these questions was why suffering exists, which led Edgar Allan Poe to recognize greater problems.
“In order to ask the question ‘Why is there suffering in the world?’ you must have a sense of justice or fairness or what C.S. Lewis called ‘an idea of right and wrong,’” Hal Poe said. “It seems to us there’s something wrong about suffering.”
Therefore, Hal Poe surmised that Edgar Allan Poe’s second question was why justice exists. A sense of justice implies that people care for each other and led to the third question, why love exists.
The fourth question was a struggle for Edgar Allan Poe in all of his work, Hal Poe said, because he was “aesthetically oriented.” This question was why beauty exists.
“The last question is what allowed him to pull all of these things together in 1848 in ‘Eureka,’ and it’s ‘Why is there something rather than nothing? Why is there a universe?’” Hal Poe said.
He added that these five questions shaped all of Edgar Allan Poe’s work. Hal Poe’s concern for “Eureka” came from his desire to connect the spheres of science and religion, specifically Christianity.
“My concern is to help modern day people understand that the existence of physical laws of nature is not contrary to a God who created those laws,” he said.
Published by Baylor University Press, “Evermore: Edgar Allan Poe and the Mystery of the Universe” is available for purchase at online retailers such as Amazon.
By Whitney Jones (’12)