By Brian George
Here, let me change the pose that I have adopted for this essay, that of Rebel Agent, who would toss a monkey wrench into the clockwork of the spheres. No, let me put my shoulder to the great wheel of the Zodiac, that I may help the powers that turn it. For, appearances to the contrary, they and I are not in any way at odds.
Like their human counterparts, the activating powers of creation cannot go forever without praise, which serves as a kind of food. Starved for feedback, these “friends” that we have forgotten may for no good reason turn against our cause. If they are mad, so be it; they are only “imaginary,” so who cares what they do? Taking masks out of their skeleton-filled closets, and brandishing in each of 10,000 hands their hallucinatory weapons—their Tuning Forks and their Mirrors and their Geomagnetic Bows and their Species Changers and their Nets and their Bags of Wind and their Scalar Tornadoes and their Gongs and their A-Ankara Bolts—they then appropriate the blood that we have been too myopic to give. Strands of DNA unzip—both “ours” and “theirs”; a “hair’s breadth of a difference” can thus lead to a World War. Out of vast technology a bumper crop of death.
Fear spreads its hypnotic field across the architecture of the vacuum, a dark cloud mass, prompting “interspecies” hatred, and disrupting any sense of how the two halves of a symbol interlock. We must stare into the sun. We must set fire to the “conscious dreaming apparatus,” which has made the one sphere pregnant. We must share our wealth—as tiny as it may seem to us—with the birds that terrorize the back-side of the mirror. Out of one race the masters of Kundalini have spun many. We must dare to celebrate their feats of reptilian camouflage. Focused praise is best—from a knowledgeable equal.
It was no easy matter to sell shovels to the dead, by which means they could excavate the snake that ate the world. They dug slowly, and, without maps, they just tended to throw dirt on each other’s excavation sites. The fact that the birds had turned against us did not help.
As I have said, the art of memory was already in decline in what we now view as the “ancient world”—which was little more than a comma in the long sentence of devolution. Since then, the general tendency has been to “point” at the Beyond. We can ask for guidance, yes, but such guidance may be quite slow in arriving. This is no doubt just as well! In 391 AD, for example, the New World had at last descended from the stars, but in the form of a belated hate-crime. It was then that Christians set fire to the Great Library of Alexandria—or to the remnant that was left by Caesar and Aurelius—along with all of its well-meaning but just barely adequate texts. Simultaneously, the Mithreum was cleaned out, as if it were a whorehouse. Its relics were smashed, and, before jeering crowds, the phalli of Priapus were paraded through the Forum. Now, even the debris of the First Age has disappeared. No ashes are left, only see-through bones, and the chunks of a broken sky, as we wander through a land of giant radioactive tear ducts.
We believe that we are evolving towards the light. What we take to be progress is, in fact, a slow step by step process of decline. Though hairless, more or less, we have somehow become convinced that we are monkeys, and not gods. Monkey see; monkey do, as the saying goes. Unlike Rumi or Blake, we tend to see ourselves as the direct products of our environment, which we use our tongues to describe. We accept that the role of language is no longer “ex nihilo” to create.
It is only over the past 150 years or so that some significant few writers have made a Promethean effort to push beyond these limitations, which are mostly self-imposed, and to free themselves from the force-fields that were locked in place by Earth’s Rulers. You will notice that I said “writers” and not “mystics”: for I believe that writers and artists have inherited—or perhaps “appropriated”—the role that was earlier filled by shamans, prophets, saints, and yogis. There is much work to be done, and someone has to do it! A partial list of my models would include Arthur Rimbaud, Rainer Maria Rilke, Paul Eluard, Osip Mandelstam, George Seferis. Pablo Neruda, Jorge Luis Borges, Octavio Paz, Henri Michaud, Paul Celan, Czeslaw Milosz, and Zbigniew Herbert. These writers would probably not be on anybody’s list of saints, but I believe that they point the way to the reclamation of our birthright, i.e, of the breadth of our primordial vision, and, with it, of our capacity to create by word of mouth.
But why should it be necessary to coagulate the ocean? What—are there not already enough objects in the world, that, from the luminous mist, we must conjure a few more? Are there not already enough humans in the world—about 7 ½ billion—that are waiting to return from whence they came? Why add to the countless books already in existence when we cannot read even one page of the Ur-Text? If we are all just the refractions of a single primal body, to what end should we multiply the images that divide us? In the Fourth Age, with all of its technology of corruption, why do we still pretend to be as young as in the First, and that our hearts weigh no more and no less than a feather? Of what use is art in the face of an invasion by the Absolute? As the Great Year turns to three minutes before 12, what sense does it make to tamper with the two hands of the clock?
I would argue: it is not as if we and the Absolute were strangers! Also: that we must put our bodies were our consciousness would go. Mini-death precedes Mega-death. “To be enlightened is to be present at one’s own funeral.”
Beyond death, a shockwave flattens the atomic cities of the gods, leaving nothing except a seed from which will sprout the non-existent. Again: of what use is art in the face of an invasion by the Absolute? A powerful breakthrough can bring with it the sense that any language will be inadequate. How can language give form to a reality that is beyond imagination? I would argue: that the limits of imagination are in no way fixed, and that the very difficulty of the task is what will catalyze the ecstatic transport of our speech. Then too, this question implies that the role of art is to describe, whereas, in fact, a more fundamental relationship to reality might be involved. Its goal may be to liberate, to bear witness, to invoke. By rolling back the projection of the sky, behind which is revealed the technology that projects it, it may, in the end, just be possible to observe what we have made.
This dilemma, of course, cannot help but bring to mind the dilemma faced by writers in post-war Eastern Europe, when the trauma of the Holocaust was at first thought to make all literature irrelevant, as though any metaphor were an insult to the dead. Ironically, this turned out to be one of the most fertile of all poetic periods, in which writers dared to play with the Unspeakable; from out of the depths they radically redefined the relationship between silence and expression, between memory and the external world. Wrote Paul Celan, “Burnt fumes of Beyond leak thick from our pores.” In him, we see the wounds that have traumatized the Macrocosm, which no uplifting sentiment can heal. Celan does not “point”; he instead “embodies”—as an alien voice bears witness to his fate.
Out of silence—an echo; out of nonexistence—a glyph. Statistical “renormalization” had cut the zeros from large numbers.
There was space to move. The cost of antigravity was enormous, and of memory, even greater. Already, the Apocalypse had happened. It was possible to begin beyond the end.
(Illustration: Anselm Keifer, Nero)