An Electric Areopagitica

…is it this video in which Will Self dutifully gives us the rundown on the 20th Century novel, literature and the internet? Yep. The talk heats up at around the 37: 30 mark, with the laudable question: “Well what’s going to happen?” Fair do’s. But what is it about this talk that sticks in my memory? It does not seem to cleave to my title in any explicit and clear way (and I mean to address Self’s question of solitude for creativity elsewhere). What seems to re-surface throughout is this notion of the end of the book. And this is seems to be a point of entry for a larger discussion on freedom of expression and internet ‘publishing’, the building of a metaphor, perhaps.

Will_Self_Author_Writer_Portrait_Photographer_Philip_GreyFirst, a little bit of context. I grew up with Will Self. I was a child of the nineties. And, as novelist and sometime-cultural-arbitrator, Self has carried us into a new millenium with something of a reputation still intact… and there is a certain skewed appreciation in this. But there is also much more. And I feel an impatience with that sense of more, whatever it might be. I don’t know what the average millenial – with a thousand youtube videos on all manner of strangeness and conspiracy at his fingertips — would make of this stripe of writer. His turn toward psychogeography (albeit with a slight doff of the the hat to the faux ‘climate change’ problem) is perhaps one of his more interesting new fascinations… while he himself also admits that there have been more committed psychogeographers than himself. That said, I also see a type like Self as at least partially one of our post-enlightenment Establishment figures — one of a gaggle of public school boys, in the wider historical context, as consistently polishing the turd of modern sophistication down through the centuries, and attempting to make it edgy again, but only exemplifying seemingly ad-hoc, distilled obeisements to convention. As with someone like Stephen Fry, these folks are often talented, witty, and learned… but always learned within very distinct boundaries, and cursed with diminished imaginations. In them, there is the illusion of ever-thrusting struggle and virality of opinion…! Yet when the faux-druidical and scientific supervisors enter the room one feels fairly sure that most of these types will bow their heads in unison.

All this, to speak of what I reject. But also of what I still obviously keep an eye on? And so… why? Well, because — now and again, and — as with the BBC — he must, being in the public eye — and being possessed of thought to a degree — stray into areas of not-altogether-sanctioned intrigue. And the video is a good example of this. The cynicism on the problem of the creative writing course, the insights into the history of print culture… the acuity of attention given to how the writerly is codified throughout British education, the positivity regarding what millenial and post-millennial students can achieve in our current technological environments, the changing nature of literary and linguistic consciousness. In these mental forays there are immensely salient points made, and the areas of debate fascinate. Yet there always seems to be an inhibition, a reining-one’s-self-in that is curiously old fashioned.

It comes back to subject. To areas of talk. The considered and the unconsidered. There are topics from arenas before the internet that still seem epistemologically absent in the here and now. We are always in a process of resurrecting lineages. And thus traditionalism? The new is always curiously what always was. “Why did I not think of it before?” we ask ourselves. Yet we did. We just did not know we did. And now we do. Gnosis. In the same way — and within the video’s debate — there are always a number of problems… in this case, when Self hints at when he speaks of the novos deos, the novos scriptores of the pre-war years… heroes of a post-Nietzschean hive mind in which the proto-atheist novelist dreams the dream of God and the cultural Marxist now has a firm stake in the academy. This is Self at his worst (although the viewer might still value his envisioning’s Plotinean aspects; of the author-as-closest-to-The One, The Good that he seems unconsciously to evoke?) His better side displays his being nursemaid to the fringey and the conspiratorial.  Perhaps the best example of this (if one’s simply to pluck  topics from the mind-aether) would be — as with Hitchen’s accommodations to questioning the numbers re; the holocaust etc — Self’s patient-but-condescending attentions to Ros Barber’s theory of a multiple-identity Shakespeare, or Christopher Marlowe as Shakespeare. You always have to feed a little originality into the vacuum of the whole in order to legitimize it outright. Such is the public mind?

But — to return to the topic at hand — the talk exemplifies an arch technicity that disturbs and bores in equal measure (and I again adapt Heidegger’s term technicity as against the more benign-for-me term: technology. Technology, being the enabler, the tool of human possibility, technicity being a purely psychological and bureaucratic hindrance to said potential, but sharing certain conceptions of the internet platform etc).

Printer_in_1568-ce.pngWhat he pictures is, in essence, The Death of the Book. But to this viewer nothing really dies. It simply gets more interesting, and more complicated. More perilous, perhaps? First, there is the infinitude of the book; it’s meaning… just as it steps over that supernal cusp of the immaterial psyche, and into human conception, which has its own materiality, an ideological materiality. Next; The Gutenberg Bible. The book, itself. And let’s be clear at this point; the example is simply the nearest to hand, and it is culturally close to us; modern, in some ways. (Which is also to acknowlegde that there was Chinese printing up to  couple of millennia ago, or that the Koreans may have invented earlier printing mechanisms etc). The idea of the book and the book itself exist, each are co-existent with each other. Their definition is permeable to other technological variants, just as painting was slowly infiltrated and partially nullified by photography etc. It is then forced to re-imagine itself. Self’s talk seems to limit itself to a very literal, material aspect of this argument; the paper book itself, in opposition to the internet, ebooks, and strains thereof. (Which is to say that I don’t see the printed page disappearing per se, just perceived within a wider context of technological development. If anything, the market for printed books may well become more niche, more specialist… but not a negative or diminished development within the act of bookbuying as a whole).

Physical materials merge and mingle. New ideological precepts affirm their futural driving seat, and these are barely known. On the tip of the mind’s tongue. The future-in-the-present, so to speak. The idea of the book, now materially existent, extends to take in new forms. This is traditionalism, given ‘the new’ always implies the originary principle, thus not technical, but ideological process. There is no paper ‘death’ of the book. There is simply transference, an amorphous new vocab. And to relate this back to literary and art history… in Vorticism, and in Wyndham Lewis’s amendations to Marinetti’s Futurism (which one could argue may well have been an attempted cultural extension of Mazzini’s Italian risorgimento, and of early globalism*) we may see — more generally — a progression in art that would, for the IMG_1908first time, allow for a sense of the ethnically organic that embraced the overtly technological for our own era. While technicity attempts to paint this transference as without ethnic value, technology retains national and ethnic value while in communion with those of a variety of other national and cultural identities.

This blog I write now is the book of a psyche or soul; idealistically and imaginally tactile as Mallarmé’s Le Livre. It is also a blog. Or a journal. It begins to welcome political ramifications, mental challenge and strife. It is alive! As Frankenstein would have attested to? But more alive, and under a different dispensation. Which would be the happy accident, in this analogy… as — to ape Shelley — it is Frankenstein’s book that I think Self reductively refers to. The book of nature, or whatever it would be if you threw the internet into its pot. Internet. Natural. Scientism…? the occulted tip-off to Self’s shortsightedness — to repeat — is this conception of the end of the codex because of technological improvement. A natural extension, but of man’ changing nature. As Blake makes clear; Where man is not, nature is barren. Nature’s anthropocentrism implies at least a touch of Berkeley, yet it is a nature not entirely under man’s political dominion, but companion on a journey which cleaves to what is Heraclitean in the spirit of man. So far, so Wordsworthian. The book of nature and the book of man, then, intertwined (and impossible without the breath and being of man… it is this final point which I think Yeats felt so keenly, and kept him from a true appreciation of Wordsworth). The naturally occurring principles of technological advance are forever inclusive of human potentia. Indeed, they are one of the facts of human existence, creative if even in spite of human cognitive intentions. This dualistic sense that the paper book is finished since the internet makes it impotent. It seems an insincerity. The resolution to that problematic oppositorum though, is not in either book or internet, but in both and neither.

0703_marshall-mcluhan-cogAnd here it is in the figure of Marshall McLuhan that these concepts seem to coalesce. The book as an extension of man, and its furtherance in the technological, in the era of the internet. Just as a search engine is prefigured by its own technical horizon so the mind orders and re-orders its own boundaries. Yet, this implies a certain amount of optimism difficult to achieve, given the dual implication of the democratism of any vox populi — for good and ill — which has without doubt followed us into the internet era, and our most popular search engines still re-order a Reality so as to sideline originary information, and be ensconced in pure dualistic comparison. the template has not changed in this regard since the rise of popular journalism in 18th century England. However, in this new era, while very real, very physical wars are waged, the question of morality becomes more a question of the information war just as when a technology enters into a seemingly penultimate maturation… so it looks back — in the Hegelian sense — to its own epistemic inception. Horizons always return in their own minds to a seed of some sort. That horizon contains its own subject-subjective truth. This is how epochs rise and fall, their seed being the singer, the bard. For much of western society that seed is a certain blind man reported to have lived in Ionia, Greece. Is there not something innately world-forming in the fact that The Iliad, while inventing an epoch for us, is also arch reportage; Evola’s sense of reaction? It is the inhabiting of an essential conundrum of the mind which encompasses both gods and men… a world which did not die out until the gods gained so much material power that they convinced man gods did not exist, as Baudelaire — in a more daimonic context — so distinctively points out:

…la plus belle des ruses du diable est de vous persuader qu’il n’existe pas!…

The devil’s best trick is to pursuade that he doesn’t exist. Yet, the fallen gods could not escape the pull of mythic realities, given they are the essential seed from which the language of antiquity comes down to us. Perhaps – in the strictest sense – they are not gods at all, simply the fallen ghosts of gods. (One of the great subjects of Shakespeare’s tragedies, from the beginning to the end of ‘his’ career, is the agonism of empire-building, the flawed rule of modern kings. Kings are emphasized because they are the representations of fallen gods in perpetual displacement to a popular opposition to their erring will. Our fascination regarding Shakespeare is not simply an enthrallment before the machinations of despotism, but — by this very subject — we crave the lost purity of our genetic origin, and via the struggling and erring king we glean the chance to recognize an ideal manifestation of beyond that same ruler, thus making Shakespeare deeply antagonistic to the rulers he characterised from within his own time, and proving that what becomes tradition and literary canon begins — at least partially — as a kind of mask for modern kingship from which to reflect back on, and to critique, and thus energetically re-direct, through critique, the truer vision of an ideal kingship. Thus, that energetic re-direction — through masked critique — would then become a prime facet in the being of western man. Thematically-speaking, the same goes for a youtube video in conspiracy theory, for example. there is a cultural propensity that binds a figure like Shakespeare to the wildest speculative discussions of any received authority via the machinations of a youtube presentation etc).

Diagram-Armored-OrganismIn the same way that Gutenberg advanced utterance into textual form so the internet craves the mythic seed from which to form its conceptual horizon, as the pebble falling into its puddle — by an action of sonic utterance — creates the boundaries of the puddle, the definition of the puddle. Violation of all sensible principles of existence… a form unseen, gives way to new forms. What the fallen gods achieved in modern history – and via an opposing subversion – was to manifest this violation in a purely sexual and material manner so as to rule the collective manner of thought, and thus the sensible world (and Freud’s emphasis on this — perhaps despite himself — became cause for a certain brand of anti-spiritualism in matters of sex). All sexual abuse is based on this approach, this violation of psychic will… all mimicry of that first intention often cross-generationally participated in (albeit often unconsciously or corruptedly) by the human is genetically a product of that earlier violation. This provides a physical entrance for fear as behavioural mode, just as the distribution of textual artworks, as potential expression and cultural release valve — across millenia — performs an opposite function, by releasing distinctive psychic and imaginative powers into the public arena.

Bardic violation differs in that it is not confined to a simply material manipulation… it exists — as I’ve touched on before — on a multiplicity of planes only one of which is temporal. It proceeds from the soul (and thus the spiritual world) into the material realm, changing human assumptions about materiality and human potential itself (why humanism is inadequate in terms of encompassing that process is because it denies the perpetual act of redefinition great artworks achieve, not to be confused with Breton’s communistic notion of perpetual revolution; a thing which lots of the drop-outs from the surrelist school rejected). When sex is integral to the achievement of music — and of the satisfaction of all interaction with organic art forms in general — it does semi-literally puncture linearity and access planes of spirit simultaneously. This is to suggest the reason why pornography cannot replace sex; because it is purely physical and imagistic. Meaning; that even right image — le image juste? — is dependent on right spirit; l’esprit juste…. and if the spirit is eternal and reincarnated then the demeanour with which it creates art materially as an incarnate personality is dependent on born-ness — being bor-ness? — rather than made-ness… which is also the reason why the best art is often the least personal or is the ultra-personal spied from an emotional distance? (A spiritual distance). We get the concepts of “poets are born, not made” from dynamics like this. Greatness cannot be measured in material terms. Yet, scientifically, this is not meant to undermine the social necessity of things like IQ tests etc… in fact one of the great errors of contemporary liberalism is to embue all of humanity with artistic “unmeasurable skills” in order to excuse ethnic and tribal realities and differences. Which is to say that none of these factors are cause for ignoring the problem in physical terms. The inter-dependence of the two planes — spiritual and physical — allows for protestation, in social terms, yet the command know thyself admits of the fact that all dualisms and agons are those self-imposed, either individually, or communally. The physical plane – the body, with its Reichian armoring – remains the testing ground for all defining actualities, and of the spiritual world, also (an aetherous purely-spiritual unread representation of Dante’s Commedia would obviously be of no use to us, in the same way! We see texts, then, as perpetual proofs of what exists in the unseen world, the quarantined home of the gods, accessable via the seer, and/or the artist).

In the context of healthy sex the same dynamic exists, accept it is the other which acts as that person’s person etc, a situation of abject cross-dimensional, cross-spiritual exchange. Which is also not to say the creative intention of an artist and the carnal intentions of a lover are the same… but this reflects more on how forms of art and forms of physical reproduction, or this potentiality, manifest themselves. As the world of the gods informs and inspires the artist so, in sexual exchange, the other is interacted with as spirit via the physical plane. Both activities imply a communication between one world and another. It seems to me that psycho-analysis, and specifically Freud (in his better work?) sought to retrieve that dynamic from the distant past so as to effectuate right carnal and creative relationships in humans. (In the face of Jung and Reich’s later corrections it could be argued that he largely failed… yet I refuse to conclude on this topic as my knowledge of Freud is confined to only around four texts). Sexual abuse — via the most lunatic of the fallen gods/bloodlines of conspiracy lore etc — is the horrific counterweight to the right use of the human reproductive and artistic urges. Yet because it has such a painfully equalizing energy the perceived world is stalled — or sidelined — by what I have named the rape-sphere (or the sphere of anxiety) which acts as nemesis of the creative impulse toward all natural life… in face of it the human can only produce so much great art in order to counteract it (with much of post-modernism and deconstructionism this nemesis inverts the principle and masquerades as the creative impulse). And it is counteracted. Daily. Yet the rape-sphere also has its sway, and it demands only one thing; mental obeisance, investigational timidity, material frozenness. It perceives no meritocracy, no learning, no gnosis. This is assisted by man’s will to perpetual conclusion over process.

Now why relate this while speaking about the text, per se? Well, because texts are born and interact under similar conditions. We have P.B Shelley’s era wholesale because his bardic impulse, in the form of spiritually shaped utterance, has successfully travelled down to us. In the same way we do not have anything of the impulse of a Castlereigh because his impulses were purely physical and rapine (I should not have to say that physical means necessarily rapine… but this is dependant on the emotional and intentional stability of the individual concerned, of course! The best angels being magnetically attracted to the best humans etc). In the same way, the bard inhabits both the potential for reproduction as incarnated man, and potential for furtherance — spiritually — via the vehicle of text; the physical amplication of cultural memory. But neither is the text gendered as the body is gendered… which is why the urge to creative fiction — mirroring the fiction of the seen world — consistently follows the urge to an artist’s quite happy disembodiments. Such experiences are ripe for the eruptions of both masculine and feminine energies without disturbance to the gendered body. Yet this creative currency is also inclusive of economy, and psycho-spiritual transformation: fictive metempsychosis (what the hospitalers deem schizophrenia?)… or as McLuhan has it, in a more alchemical and economic vein:

The classic curse of Midas, his power of translating all he touched into gold, is in some degree the character of any medium, including language. This myth draws attention to a magic aspect of all extensions of human sense and body; that is, to all technology whatsoever. All technology has the Midas touch. When a community develops some extension of itself, it tends to allow all other functions to be altered to accomodate that form.

Language, like currency, acts as a store of perception and as a transmitter of the perceptions and experience of one person or of one generation to another. As both a translator and store-house of experience, language is, in addition, a reducer and a distorter of experience. The very great advantage of accelerating the learning process, and of making possible the transmission of knowledge and insight across time and space, easily overrides the disadvantages of linguistic codifications of experience. […]

In recent times, the dramatic arrival of paper currency, or “representative money,” as a substitute for commodity money caused confusions. Much in the same way, the Gutenberg technology created a vast new republic of letters, and stirred great confusion about the boundaries between literature and life. Representative money, based on print technology, created new speedy dimensions of credit that were quite inconsistent with the inert mass of bullion and of commodity money. Yet all efforts were bent to make the speedy new money behave like the slow bullion coach. J.M Keynes stated this policy in A Treatise on Money’:

i18250rb‘Thus the long age of Commodity Money has at last passed finally away before the age of Representative Money. Gold has ceased to be coin, a hoard, a tangible claim to wealth, of which the value cannot slip away so long as the hand of the individual clutches the material stuff. It has become a much more abstract thing — just a standard of value; and it only keeps this nominal status by being handed round from time to time in quite small quantities among a group of Central Banks, on the occasions when one of them has been inflating or deflating its managed representative money in a different degree from what is appropriate to the behaviour of its neighbours.’

Language, like life, like text? Yet only the text has the function of being negligent of time. The spell of monetary circulation is echoed in the endless re-capitulation of artworks in pen-temporal distribution, of which the codex obviously plays a major role. It is, then, a currency (to follow Keynes’s and McLuhan’s analogy) that is entirely anti-temporal in and of itself, and spiritual to the effect that it produces more text… as in a pan-generational conversation. It has exactitude where human memory fails or is interpreted, as with Chinese whispers. It is an exact utterance that follows human ideological form across time but of no time, or of only infinitude. As of spirit. The rape-sphere enacts the same problem in economic terms, also, since – in-and-of-itself – the notion of the Central Bank is benign enough. Yet the mind that controls it is not. In fact, the spell of modern art — in general — pretty much apes the function of money McLuhan describes… in that its function is to emasculate, deaden, and enslave the people in any given territory. To forge and perpetuate the inevitable nihilistic density the post-war world has created and maintained. Yet, via form alone, this currency signifies unbounded potentiality, given the right leader or political movement.


Sexual Sketch Dramatizing ‘The Cathedral of the Body’ from Blake’s Notebook

The sexual impulse follows the same pattern in that it — at least at orgasm — allows for utter mystical spontaniety and the conscious will to reproduction… both text and child are accident and plan, they result in maternal and paternal care, vital to human development. The appearance of child and text imply a combination of psychological potentiality and, in negation; mystic tragedy (spontaneous hiraeth being never materially achieved, only reconfigured in the more structured human care of human filiality). The agony and joy of this arrangement — I believe — is inherent in Greek culture, in its later stages, and is vital to how Greek drama developed. Sex and children, then. As with writing and reading? Exhalation, inhalation. The sexual instinct has primordially this quality of hiraeth… a craving for what it is materially not. It is the return toward pre-instigated matter — in the form of the beloved — in order to uncover the future-present. Not of sequence, then, but with the necessary implication of sequence. It is as if the time of the spirit, its infinitude craves more infinitude by way of time, and by way of reproduction; Eternity is in love with the productions of time. So too, the text. In degrees of acuity the breath, the song, the aria etc, are passed on. The text is a modern historical manifestation for that transference in spiritual acuity of consciousness, and as it proceeds incrementally through perceived sequentiality so the anima mundi develops via truth’s reproductions of an akashic imperative, and thus evil — also by increment — is flushed out. There is nothing about the text – for me – which negates the capacity of human memory, and we still see – in cultures like Russia and Ireland – text as primarily ideological and spoken fact (further; it is only text from the perspective of the post-Gutenberg forms of distributive expression) and yet an important modifier of the creative human urge.

Under the aegis of the political the text is continually put under pressure of interpretation. Generations reproduced under the governance of the sexual impulse are similarly engendered by wider social relationship in the reading of text (the same appears in something like Bloom’s assertion that Shakespeare invented the human. The fact of a readership implies a psycho-physical transformation that no amount of sex will achieve, although I imagine some have tried!) The net of the text reaches a wider psychical terrain than physical life-span, and deeper than socialized and journalistic terminologies and vocabularies. Witness the psychic innovations of a James Joyce for evidence of this.

As the grandchild sits with the grandfather so the internet relates itself to — and observes — the movement of printed matter; paper texts. What a man is he discovers by way of breath; simple Being. Matter breathing implies a discovery; by λόγος is the logic of life made manifest. Though the subject of abortion seems reasonable (in creative productivity the corollary would simply be erasure) much of that rape-sphere interjects a life in organic ressentiment so that the collective agon makes way for certain permissions that in health a civilization would look on much more sternly. The corruption of modernity, engendered by sexual violation writ large, and socially suppressed, maintains an atmosphere in which truth is perpetually muffled. (Yet the rape-sphere cannot disavow sex or human creativity, only perturb it).

300px-Urizen_Plate_9_William_BlakeSooner murder an infant in its cradle than nurse unacted desires. In realms of art the human is emancipated of what Jung named its shadow aspect. It follows – if we are to speak about human reproduction that the parallels between art and life differ. Rape is achieved by one person’s will being forced on another, and would be akin to an artistic erasure made only by the other, not by the artist themselves. The memory of the horror of rape lives on – in both parties involved – is creative only insofar as it is more likely to ideologically destroy the dominant party in that act, ‘creative’ in this sense being a will toward physical absence… but it ultimately depends on spiritual morality; what I think Nietzsche intended with this notion of Beyond Good and Evil, i.e – for me – the ultimate punishment is in the hands of the gods, or God. Yet, in a godless world (modernity) abortion is acceptable because it is seen as a corrective. Erasure as fate, then. A corrective, but also in cases of rape etc? No matter, since whether human faith in spiritual wrath exists or not is beside the fact. God does not require human belief in order to perform his wrath – via human conscience (in the case of the one raping) or human vengeance (in the case of the one raped) – within time, or to be performed karmically across incarnations. In an essentially anti-creative society (such as the modern west) the perpetual norm of social victimhood allows for no stringency on either side, thus abortion (literally; denial of the human incarnadine and reproductive function) is permissable. In the same way – by way of production of debased art forms, perhaps – the shadow is rarely dealt with, and so is “thrown off”, expelled (without the required level of self-reflection) into the social and political whirlwind of the material world. In a godless society, however, fallen art is confused as a prime indicator of degenerate social behaviour (and, to an extent, it could be… and possibly is by the sickest archontic minds) but it still holds that fallen art is a way of syphoning off the urge to that social disfunction, quelling it… to a degree. As far as texts go — and utterance goes — the corollary to rape, macrocosmically, would be censorship and political suppression. In a genuinely healthy society explicit reform is not necessary since degenerate urges are limited to the production of art (highly expressive, confessional art? badly organised art etc) and would not occur in a society classically trained to appreciate the beautiful. Such expertise in aesthetic apprehension would be implicit throughout the entire institutional infrastructure of such a nation or region so that artworks of a butally conceptual nature would never gain a foothold. In the healthy society much is permitted but the gaze is strictly monitored (and in a healthy society this occurs in the child’s instruction by parents and elders, less so by wider national laws). In the case of high literature psychic self-interrogation – as with social and physical struggle – is also implicit, and could come from great pain, the extremities of psychological and emotional struggle; spiritual blackness, confusion. But as the artist becomes more spiritually attuned to himself and to others, the idea that this pain would spill over into social antagonisms lessens. Life, becomes less of the Grecian psycho-drama and more reflexive and meditative. Neither does this mean that it be consciously, didactically willed… aesthetic development implies the soul’s development… and thus artistic and literary criticism are absorbed into the intuitive creation of artworks themselves, and enthusiastic absorption in already-existent artistic forms. A society, thus organised, would be spiritually fit for a communal purpose that could exist entirely without need of explicit art criticism or overly didactic philosophy, and could concentrate on spiritual and intuitive disciplines and their concomitant technologies to assist in the presentation of these forms (and, in a dormant state, they already exist as part of Gutenberg’s inheritors, and now; with the internet, only needing to proliferate and circulate further afield). All is channelled into the mythic, the imaginative and the intuitive. Personal pain is not 100% necessary to the reality of what is great in literary texts. Yet neither need it be absent. These are birth pangs, individual and communal. They hurt. They can be joyful, also. Consider Shakespeare or Greek Tragedy. Yet this is the argument I have with the gnostic scholar John Lash; his seeming total abnegation of the necessity of pain or conquering of vice to spiritual progress. There is too much of the sixties in it. Prescriptions of ‘love and light’ or psycho-drama, are equally absurd in such circumstances. Milton himself, in his Areopagitica, relates this multi-faceted struggle (against error, and toward plenitude etc) to the use of the codex itself:

Since therefore the knowledge and survey of vice is in this world so necessary to the constituting of human virtue, and the scanning of error to the confirmation of truth, how can we more safely, and with less danger, scout into the regions of sin and falsity than by reading all manner of tractates and hearing all manner of reason? And this is the benefit which may be had of books promiscuously read […]

I see lostness and psychic oscillation as at least partially a pre-requisite to greatness, both in the artist himself and in the witness to artworks. Yet, in the artist the life-force is amplified and channelled, in the individual unpoeticized it is duly (and rightfully?) dissipated. There is a bardic, or shamanic, function that, in a healthy society, appears from strict communal training and encouragement. Thus it becomes the example of great art to those materially incarnated; a state of being, of presence, and a reminder of what they physically and psychologically are not, and an invitation to better oneself in relation to The Beautiful:

The cistern [the mortal individual] contains, the fountain [the artist] overflows. [William Blake]

By contrast, technicity, in the form of your dashboard GPS implies an utter certainty about one’s physical situation. This unnerves me. Art locates ideologically where technicity indicates an already-posited world, and thus is susceptible to spiritual misalignment. And the same is problematic in the conceit of the post-internet generations’ regard for life in general. They are certain, but only physically certain. Spiritually, emotionally they are just as fragile as any other person their age, even as the average person was in centuries previous? But the overload of informational knowledge encourages a much more scornful attitude to those around them socially… knowledge — in their usage of it — has the characteristics of commodity, and thus is shorn of its more spiritual aspects.

akashicWhat differs in The Electric Distribution of art is that — again, paradoxically — it locates spiritually by dislocating physically, to one degree or another. (Which, again, is not to be confused with the hyper-located, and less imaginative, role of the politician; whose function it is to maintain and utilize a people’s potential by the use of specific territory). The myriad features of the internet realm are suggestive of the artist’s will to psychic and imaginal dislocation. And so such novelty cuts both ways, in that it can only amplify the anti-aesthetic psyche if that is generally the character of consciousness to be worked from. The separation of the masses from gnosis is always relative to what the anima mundi — from the akashic record known to Joyce and Rudolf Steiner — has ingested and meditated on within the material realm. Yet! forms of art do not suggest this relativity in totem. They always imply a more holistic pre-material symmetry. This is the implication maintained in Blake’s proclamation; I will not reason and compare: my business is to create. Such an assertion does not rely on relative criticism in a material sense, but in that power of interpretation that begins with spiritual being; the primacy — or angel, even — of mood, or nodal point of spiritual and psychological development… a ‘development’, Blake would argue, that goes nowhere, incidentally… since Blake — great pre-Confucian that he was — saw no marked progression in the artist’s development between youth and old age, given this path of creative artistry is entirely spiritual in its productivity. I’d concur on the basis that the soul — at least partially eternal — has pre-incarnate instincts that will assist it in incarnated life, thus negating time as a factor of spiritual or psychological development. Regardless, it is the psychological fact of interpretation (under the auspices of intellectual magnetism) that is the reason for our returning to artworks or works of particular authors etc. It is also why we reject only to reassertain an appreciation later in life. Or vice versa; to shed influences that we no longer have need of.

Political certainties, then, always stand in relationship with spiritual uncertainties, exploited by the artist. The familiar mode of British experience since the founding of The Bank of England in 1694 is a basically inartistic one. Two movements since that era have thankfully put that inability to create into doubt; 1/Romanticism, and 2/Modernism. Romanticism, in an essentially leftist political designation, and Modernism as its conservative corrective. These are vast generalisations, I realise… certain artists – within those movements – reinterpret and remake themselves depending on the essentially swithering nature of any artist… but that dualistic sense of these progressions exists beside the non-dualistic (and more individually defined) capacity for self-interpretation from within those culture-making epochs. As Keats pronounced in a letter to his brothers, George and Thomas, on 21 December 1817;

John-Keats-by-Severn…at once it struck me what quality went to form a Man of Achievement, especially in Literature, and which Shakespeare possessed so enormously—I mean Negative Capability, that is, when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason—Coleridge, for instance, would let go by a fine isolated verisimilitude caught from the Penetralium of mystery, from being incapable of remaining content with half-knowledge. This pursued through volumes would perhaps take us no further than this, that with a great poet the sense of Beauty overcomes every other consideration, or rather obliterates all consideration.

The sexual impulse, driven to its limit in orgasm, holds the same paradoxical burden (compression of all enquiry and all conclusion) as that force of artistic creation which produces texts, which themselves exemplify an acute manifesting of soul or psyche in the physical; these immortal forms of proto-actualization that are usually dormant in temporality. But it is the non-dualistic (possibly post-philosophical and Empedoclean) freedom that Keats — in mystic mode — is most probably attempting to define by negative capability. The aim of both processes stands in mystical relationship to what is objectless… the closer the artist comes to what is objectless the more magnetism there is toward what is sequential; in essence a defiance of time for what is momental. Colin Wilson names this the peak experience, and it is worth mentioning him so as not to be caught in the trap of imagining only the sex act, only the creation of texts (either in mind or on paper/screen) or only through acts of meditation or yoga etc that fulfill the charge of physical and emotional desire given life in works of art (and it is important to also note that the latter disciplines have been overwhelmed by new-age guru-isms os that expertise in these areas is rare). Peak experience allows for a multiplicity of related disciplines. Again, though, the text is matchless because it can be reconstituted, entire, from the symmetries of literary presentation. It is a blueprint for God, intense and ever physically unreachable. What Keats gleaned in 1821 is a problem that repeats itself on its way down to our era; and the crisis of Heidegger’s later work I’ve spoken about elsewhere (in Keats’s quote you could easily replace the character of Coleridge for Heidegger to see the epochs overlap, and the problem be echoed)… that liminal fulcrum or nexus where the purely aesthetic and spiritual experience meets the calmer fields of philosophy and the conventionally theoretical. Always in gradations of imagination, then, does the artist stand in relation to the politician.

phone-491x275In a culture given over to pure technicity the inter-relationship between the forms I’ve described is dimmed, and one mode takes over, a mode antagonised by the spiritual need for solitude. The human becomes impervious to aloneness, becomes socially equalized and anti-meritocratic. This is the lethargy (and liberalism) of persons brought up under that imperative to fallen tekne. Take away enough forms of technicity under the simple surge of modern entertainment and most become agonisingly crippled, and unable to function in any sociable manner. The true joy of the codex — and of any art form — is precisely its potentiality for proliferation into otherness. A woman’s child-bearing hips imply the same fascination. The codex in all of its echoes… blog, webzine, youtube video, audio file, streamed song… … there is an arc of interaction from one form to another, implying the re-making of reality to very specific political and spiritual specifications. In free interplay, and even when without specific aim or direction, it manifests the genial, the companionable in life as it was before these technological forms existed; in essence; a transference of breath’s need of imaginal space, with only the aperture of a printer or a PC necessary for it to succeed in flooding through once more.

These forms; monogamous, polygamous?… as against — or in tandem with? — the problem of abortion and rape in microcosm, ultimately take on the semblance of the wider problem of suppression of forms of expression. In abortion is an intentional erasure, just as the draft is wiped clean, the microphone gone strangely mute. Then static. White noise. Some fragile reception, whistling… faint. It is horrific and terribly fate-weighted. Ultra-personal, and therefore negating the individual’s political and spiritual power. But not so with these other wider social problems of information dissemination via the new technologies? Well, expression, under this rubric, has the character of dislocation and travel. Social norms are violated by electric subversion. The human debate is persistently altered, and sacred cows rejected by psychological distance in any one physical location, and artistic re-alignment with other netizens implies a fellowship in relation to thematic and artistic enthusiasms. Yet, if this were all, it would not have the quality of social revolution. The attitudinal landscape is only shifted by these men and women returning to physical space and imbuing the inertial social prejudices of the past with entirely other ways of combatting and perceiving them. And herein arrives the final aspect of this experiential reappraisal I’m indicating, and what I deem to be meant by the title of this essay:

areopagiticaAnd if the men be erroneous who appear to be the leading schismatics, what withholds us but our sloth, our self-will, and distrust in the right cause, that we do not give them gentle meetings and gentle dismissions, that we debate not and examine the matter thoroughly with liberal and frequent audience; if not for their sakes, yet for our own? — seeing no man who hath tasted learning but will confess the many ways of profiting by those who, not contented with stale receipts, are able to manage, and set forth new positions to the world. And were they but as the dust and cinders of our feet, so long as in that notion they may yet serve to polish and brighten the armoury of Truth, even for that respect they were not utterly to be cast away. But if they be of those whom God hath fitted for the special use of these times with eminent and ample gifts, and those perhaps neither among the priests nor among the pharisees, and we in the haste of a precipitant zeal shall make no distinction, but resolve to stop their mouths, because we fear they come with new and dangerous opinions, as we commonly forejudge them ere we understand them; no less than woe to us, while thinking thus to defend the Gospel, we are found the persecutors.

Perhaps its something about Milton’s tone here that makes me picture that preturnatural religious soldier William Tyndale, sitting in some hostelry of old Antwerp, reorganising a pile of scattered papers hastily inked on the knotted wood of a bar-room table. Tyndale has always fascinated me. We see curious packages bound in straps of leather, copies of the Tyndale Bible safely stowed in the bottom of some windy skiff, its tenuous weight being rowed down the Thames by cover of night. And in the same way, post-Charlottesville, a youtube channel shut down here, a media outlet hacked there. A horrific death. Video and audio; quickly imperilled, people jailed. The suspicion of conspiracy wafting through the techno-aether. And yet this amorphous codex will transcend that will to censorship indicative of google and facebook, these arms of Rothschildean social engineering. Why? Because they that seek to enslave the western mind simply do not understand what they’re up against, and what they have unleashed by the invention of the internet. On the contrary, the centuries speak rather loudly about historical forms of expression. We are safe, in comprehending this satanic destroyer, and its continually one-sided attitude to dealing with its nemesis; the people (and that now – is it safe to say? – these malefic incompetents may even be managing the weather to wreak more destruction? We shall soon see, I believe).

As established discourse requires ideological disruption, violation, so too does the text emblematize that particular rough-housing the public mind periodically requires, even despite its own protestations. How often is any man who continually reminds us of his openmindedness truly shocked, shocked so badly so as to shatter his conceived world into smithereens? For most, over the period of a life time, this might happen once or twice in times of great emotional upheavel… but not so as to destroy him or her to their core. For the artistic genius it is perhaps an annual or decadely requirement? (Perhaps a daily requirement, who knows?) But put simply the future (McLuhan’s now, the world the misguided majority may not know they’re living in)… does it always tend to have the quality of the fugitive? Has always been this way, energetically? And it’s the reason why I delve deep into modernity’s distant past and conjure Mr. Tyndale. One need not be religious to appreciate the parallels. The world and aether, and animism, and polytheism of three or four thousand years of the western soul, reduced to a prelate reading the scriptures in Latin… and fearful down to his boots that the populous may one day have their own printed text of the (apparent) word of God, read the text for themselves, and — god help us! — come to a different interpretation. I provide a religious example but the analagy could stand for all suppression of freedom of speech down the ages. Sequestration of knowledge, weaponised, and pointed at your financial, political, ecological forehead. 24/7. If Charlottesville was emblem of anything then the confiscation and disappearance of websites is surely an intriguing proto-Soviet precedent. Milton’s prelates are now the shadowy algorhythm, terabytes of surveilled search engines, humming. Yet neither does it require any specific partisanship to spy the censorship entire. The gloves are off, and this is — as ever — a sign of weakness in those most prone to journalistic disinformation. No one has told the supposed controllers their media can be re-modelled, new platforms can — and will — emerge… the archontic structures mimicked, upturned and re-directed… where – within the technological forms of the modern world – the information war rages on, given – by the inertia of censorship – the fresh and nascient permission to strife and contest.  New voices will arise from the killing stone of google and facebook. It is simply an energetic reality of spiritual power against the base stupidity of the lugenpresse and the Rothschild-Monarch-Heresiarchs and their American counterparts. Syntropy against entropy.

And from out of the mediac rubble… feeling weary about how I would end my strange ode to the psycho-electric codex, yesterday, I bibliomantically pulled out certain fragments from The Psalms – and from the Nag Hammadi‘s Gospel of Truth – that seemed to second-guess what seemed, at first, to be a perhaps-desultory occasion, but is, in actual fact, an indicator of ethnic and political rightmindedness in the face of the old story of mass-brainwashing:

Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech where their voice is never heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun.

[…] They are brought down and fallen: but we are risen, and stand upright. Save, LORD: let the king hear us when we call. […]

Nag HammadiIn their hearts the living book of the living was revealed, the book that was written in the Father’s thought and mind and was, since the foundation of the All, in his incomprehensible nature. No one had been able to take up this book, since it was ordained that the one who would take it up would be slain. And nothing could appear among those who believed in salvation unless that book had come out.

For this reason the merciful, faithful Jesus was patient and accepted his sufferings to the point of taking up that book, since he knew that his death would be life for many.

As in the case of a will that has been opened, the fortune of the deceased owner of the house is hidden, so also in the case of all that had been hidden while the Father of the All was invisible but that issues from him from whom every realm comes.

Jesus appeared,
put on the book,
was nailed to a tree,
and published the Father’s edict on the cross.
Oh what a great teaching!
He humbled himself even unto death,
though clothed in eternal life.
He stripped  off the perishable rags
and clothed himself in incorruptability,
which no one can take from him.


Aindriú Ó Domhnaill, Sept 2017 [re-edited mid-Sept]

*A fairly speculative statement re; the Italian risorgimento. I went with it having learnt something of Mazzini’s era through a biography of Verdi, and of Verdi’s enthusiasm for the cause of the risorgimento, and of his use of Rothschild’s banks. I will look further into this for more detail, though, given time. Provisionally, all that can be said is that there is a question for me regarding the nationalism of a later figure like Gabriele D’Annunzio. I wonder, for example, whether D’Annunzio’s feeling for nationalism was a very different artistic strain of nationalism working against — or in very different ways — than any globalism that existed between the wars (and most virulently after WWII. Meaning; if the risorgimento of Mazzini was globalism in an early incarnation then D’Annunzio re-directed it against the forces of international finance that neither Mussolini or — in Germany — Hitler could emancipate their countries from…?


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Reading Rosemary Tonks

The main duty of the poet is to excite — to send the senses reeling
— Rosemary Tonks

Clearly I missed something. Bloodaxe’s collection of Rosemary Tonks’s Collected Poems and Selected Prose; Bedouin of the London Evening has been out a few years now and it took my stumbling over it in a Lancaster second-hand bookstore earlier this summer for any acquaintance to be made. But that is not altogether true. I did hear of her name many years ago — through the poet Michael Schmidt — at Strokestown. This was when I was immensely naive about contemporary poetry in general, and when Tonks was the only poet Schmidt seemed interested in talking about. Indeed, those years I’d attribute to my ‘second phase’ in poetry; a period of surveying the contemporary poetic landscape, first Ireland, the U.K, and whatever I could gather in translation from contemporary Europe… then later, the more ostensibly American poets… with my writing being at least partially influenced by these investigations in a very direct way… (the first couple of years of The Fiend‘s output might run parallel to the end of that phase) before I finally put to bed pretty much all of these poets’ works — some of which contained much talent… but particularly those — or that — which most pertinently and unconsciously conformed to the post-war liberal paradigm these writers were born into, or at least — in the work of those I still admired — understanding that the cultural climate of the post-war years would be the greatest hindrance on their output. (I will write on this elsewhere, as neither were my choices purely ideological, given that, when considering poets and the poetical, I see these matters as vastly more complex than simply deliberating on concerns of cultural commentary or politics… which is to say I am not an ideologue or an idealist in matters of poetry).

Rosemary Tonks in The Observer (60s)However, I cannot altogether blame myself too much regarding Tonks’s writing. Between the Bodley Head’s original editions of her poetry back in the sixties and the publishing of this new edition nothing has been re-issued, and those early editions are now long out of print and rare to get one’s hands on, so that for those like me, born in the late seventies and beginning to read poetry in the early 90s, you’d be wholly dependent on word of mouth to become familiar with her background and poetry. In fact, a good portion of this new collection of Tonks’s work is justifiably spent in bringing the newbie up to speed on all things Tonksian:

Over an eleven-year period, from 1963 to 1974, Rosemary Tonks published two epoch-defining poetry collections, ‘Notes on Cafes and Bedrooms’ (1963) and ‘Iliad of Broken Sentences’ (1967), six acerbic, satirical novels, and a number of short stories. She wrote trenchant reviews for leading journals and newspapers, and also collaborated with the BBC Radiophonic Workshop and Hampstead Festival on an experimental sound-poem, ‘Sono-Montage’ (1966).

Interviewed in 1967, she declared her direct literary forebears to be Baudelaire and Rimbaud: ‘They were both poets of the modern metropolis as we know it and no one has bothered to learn what there is to be learned from them… The main duty of the poet is to excite — to send the senses reeling.’ […]

Anthony Rudolf praised the ‘visionary quality’ of her poems: ‘They seem to me to have by-passed the Movement poetry of the 1950s and to have emerged from the 1940s poetic matrix of Nicholas Moore, George Barker and J.F Hendry, poets she would have read in her twenties. It is a hyper-urban angst-ridden poetry, with ancestry stretching back to Baudelaire’s ‘Spleen de Paris’ and Francophile English symbolists.’

In another interview, Tonks asserted:

I don’t understand why poets are quite ready to pick up trivialities, but are terrified of writing of passions. […] People are born, they procreate, they suffer, they are nasty to one another, they are greedy, they are terribly happy, they have changes in their fortune, and they meet other people who have effects on them, and then they die; and these thousands of dramatic things happen to them, and they happen to everybody. Everybody has to make terrible decisions or pass examinations, or fall in love, or else avoid falling in love. All these things happen and contemporary poets don’t write about them. Why not?

The Francophile nature of Tonks’s intent is an interesting feature in experiencing Tonks for the first time. Poets before her had been linked to that lineage, either self-professedly or otherwise. We see it most explicitly in the reception of Dylan Thomas’s verse, and of course he shunned it, as he did with surrealism in general. Thomas was determined to remain mercurial to the end, and yet the verse, on much reflection has a very classic ‘British verse’ quality about it, and this runs all the way through his work. In contrast, Auden always admitted some form of obscure relationship with a figure like Rimbaud, and yet nowhere do we find a Rimbaudian spirit about what he determines to write as poetry. The appeal to other European movements in poetry is always a kind of candid background to Auden, and yet his writing is deceptive of that inclination, being one of the most provincial semblances of any poet of the 20th century, bar perhaps Larkin. Tonks, in all this, both asserts the Rosemary Tonks-by-Michael-Peters.jpg.galleryFrancophile nature of her poetry and explicitly follows up on it. It’s there in the persistence of her quatrains and in her thematic concerns, with her form, for the most part, shunning rhyme for declarative openness, and yet never as wild as Pound or the earlier vers libre crowd (which largely went unheeded apart from by Pound himself!) It has the architecture of a classic Baudelaire poem without the Poundian or Whitmanic impulse of mechanico-spontaneous typing-flow, or focus on breath-lengths (as Ginsberg later modified it). Instead we do have hints of rhyme and metre but these are not forced or played upon in any way. She is also uncommonly — for her time — direct of statement, and in no way seems shrouded in pretence and sophistication… and, in this way, she retrieves something of the best of Lawrence’s poetry (as perhaps Creeley, at his best, imagined he achieved… though his stuff is  vastly divergent in theme and content. Tonks is more acerbic, more combative, and more blatant in her concerns). In fact, of any British predecessor, Lawrence seems the one modern presence in her work. Yet, in her use of humour and compound words she also has a smattering of Joyce about her (and we learn from reading into her background that she did seriously read Joyce). Whatever I have sought in seeing a way between the styles of those two figures of modernism is often achieved in Tonks… often it can be bald statement, black humour, the sense of two or more voices doing battle on a single theme often comes through (without need of italics or any other indicatory technique)… and the use of exclamation also, as she is up front about, adds to the Francophilia. She is more exuberant than Lawrence and less punning than Joyce, and — to that end — a British original, and not carrying much explicitly modernistic baggage (Mina Loy…?) There’s also a jauntiness about her rush of words that gives the sense of something in its earliest conception arriving in haste, and then possibly worked over much later… she seems to allow for a certain elasticity of grammar which gives me that feeling of jagged weirdness. Even her directness keeps a gnomic flavour, being both clear and surreally befuddling at the same time (My boot — that’s plump with mildew and uncorseted –… all his rainfield hours / Belong to the Lord of oxygen and watershowers…) Meaning; that the whole thing comes down to a vitality of imagination 21st century poets could learn much from.

I don’t intend to comment in detail here, but a few poems and examples of her fascinating linkage of images might be in order, so that the reader might wander into these particular fields of imagination sufficiently enlivened. Let’s look at the poem Oath complete, from her first collected outing of 1963;

I swear that I would not go back
To pole the glass fishpools where the rough breath lies
That built the Earth — there, under the heavy trees
With their bark that’s full of grocer’s spice,

Not for an hour — although my heart
Moves, thirstily, to drink the thought — would I
Go back to run my boat
On the brown rain that made it slippery,

I would not for a youth
Return to ignorance, and be the wildfowl
Thrown about by the dark water seasons
With an ink-storm of dark moods against my soul,

And no firm ground inside my breast,
Only the breath of God that stirs
Scent-kitchens of refreshing trees,
And the shabby green cartilege of play upon my knees.

With no hard earth inside my breast
To hold a Universe made out of breath,
Slippery as fish with their wet mortar made of mirrors
I laid a grip of glass upon my youth.

And not for the waterpools would I go back
To a Universe unreal as breath — although I use
The great muscle of my heart
To thirst like a drunkard for the scent-storm of the trees.

Notes on Cafes and Bedrooms - Rosemary TonksThe constringence of acted-on and acted-out, the decorative value of things seen as reflections of things of the body — the tension between inner and outer — seem all characteristic of her attitude to expression. The poet, here, errs toward the very Rimbaudian notion of the poet being other to the world (a more extreme attitude than I have previously formulated here… the poet being not of a world, necessarily absent to it, in some formulation, a figure even resistant, or semi-resistant to thought itself (which affirms Lawrence’s attitude to psyche, a notion I’ve spoken of before). Youth here is possibly the other but also a temporal zone of memory, which works out as an effective created dualism which the whole poem turns around. What she retrieves from her explicitly French predecessors is this bold use of the I, which — over the next decade — becomes so subsumed in conceptual dalliances by deconstructionism and L.A.N.G.U.A.G.E poetics.

Much has also been made of the similarities between Plath and Tonks but I see only a very partial connection between them. In all of Plath’s prose and early poetry we see a focus on actual worldly description, and of descriptive exercise as poetic training. It is only in the final Ariel poems that a comparison between the two might be more plausible. The inward presence of Plath’s final phase is present in Tonks from the very beginning, as with: In the green rags of the Bible I tore up / The straight silk of childhood on my head / I left the house, I fled (…from Running Away). This also points toward a central difference between them; the devotional aspect (both the fragile and dangerous devotion to other people, and to a God who is irrevocably existent but elsewhere). It seems that, in Tonks, from the outset, experience has either an advisory spiritual aspect or a dreadful meta-life. By contrast, Plath exhibits the poetic voice as in negative thrall to a pitiless Yahweh, a more personal drama whereby the poetry is the enactment of a primal rejection that uses the actual filial father figure as framework. In this context — the Ariel poems — Plath re-shapes a shamanistic crisis for the lost, and spectral father figure. Yahweh becomes a code  that the poems attempt to decipher (the shame of it, of course, is that the now prevalent feminist criticism attempts to paint that crisis so as to be reduced to, and object of, male cruelty). In Tonks’s Addiction to an Old Mattress we have a more widely channelled — but still infernal — world of romantic entanglement peopled by those who most inhibit forms of transcendant release and instructional pain.

No, this is not my life, thank God…
…worn out like this, and crippled by brain-fag;
Obsessed first by one person, and then
(Almost at once) most horribly besotted by another;
These Februaries, full of draughts and cracks,
They belong to the people in the streets, the others
Out there — haberdashers, writers of menus.

I wonder what kind of poems Tonks would have written if Existentialism had not figured so prominently in the European mind after the war. By all means it could not have been avoided in any sense… this sense of philosophy, of milieu and cultural flux. The constancy of desire and exuberant devotion (“Exuberance is beauty” quoth Blake) affixed to the eminence — and possible transcendence? –of failure… these are all part of an acute painterly sensibility in Tonks. She is — here — of course, both sensuous and characteristically brutal regarding any case of social prescription (the presumption, in this stanza, would be that the poet is profoundly disinterested in those “menus”!)

I have a quarrel with the world
At music in my breast
To walk the shabby thrilling twilight of the street

[…] To stoop and grow
Hard callouses where the black weather
Rests its knuckles on me like a sulky Pasha
Upon the brow
Of his pet slave, grating magnificent rings…

Makes my tenant thunder my complaint
Upon her velvet ropes!
And yet… as powerful but indolent composers
Will only work when bailiffs pound their doors,
Where my musician lodges
I need Adversity to break its claws!

…these lines, picked from On the advantage of being ill-treated by the World, suggest strains of The Pixies’ Gouge Away or the Catholicity of some of George Barker’s more carefully crafted lines (in fact both Barker and Baudelaire’s Catholicism enter here?)… these, for instance; Not less light shall God treat my maze of nerve / Than that great dread of tomorrow drove over / My maze of days.

And do we also detect something of Thomas’s the force that through the green fuse in those velvet ropes?… The hand that whirls the water in the pool / Stirs the quicksand; that ropes the blowing wind / Hauls my shroud sail. Possibly. Perhaps more so in the earlier volume. Yet it is the urban and the at-least partially social where Tonks is most unique and individual, and in this way (as she admits herself) she cannot be easily folded into any 20th century line of poetic endeavour. Her unabashed use of all the great old poetry words; soul, heart, night, breast, Eternity, heavens… would, I imagine, to the post-war sophisticates, seem only antiquated (and yet, I’m assuming she achieved some level of a readership in her day… which might signal to us that these words cannot instinctually — and in the right hands — be overused… and yet which modern creative writing tutors would prefer to inhibit their use in students, I wonder). Yet it is often the poetry that seems most fresh and new that also seems the most antiquated, as Pound’s earliest Rossetti-inspired poems also prove (and what a healthy aesthetic traditionalism implies).

There is more fire to the second volume, Iliad of Broken Sentences, than the first. And a kind of densely nettling anxiety, a loud and quiet grotesquery. It is an urban tirade not un-like Lawrence’s Nettles… but each piece is not as thematically directed, and it swirls and seethes with dollops of a twisted, glutinous c’est-la-vie humour. Its style amps up the fascinations of the earlier book, love and hate are electric, and animate sentences which jump and weave, and sometimes do not know how to end themselves… they shift in mood and intent, always semi-discursively, semi-scatalogically:

These free days, these side-streets,
Mouldy or shiny, with their octoroon light;
Also, I have grudges, enemies, a religion,
Politics, a new morality — everything!

[…] or

Sometimes… almost stock-still in a sand-drift… hurrying.

While dusty mobs pass, driven by the moon.
…If it blasts you, modernists fobbed off
With dingy souls, inside a century that growls
For its carafe of shady air, oblivion, and psychiatric mash,

[…did she need to put a full stop after ‘hurrying’? No. But — strangely — it works] or

Ah, to desire a way of life,
And then to gain it !
What a mockery. what absolute misery,
Dressing-gown hours the tint of alcohol and coffee.

I welded (mangled?!) two poems together there. Perhaps only to test to what degree each poem has become more mood and less theme. Someone may even stitch them all together to see how they fit. Suffice to say, Tonks’s London has steadily become a place of treasure only in its infernal muckiness. And it gets muckier and muckier. The later poems would not be out of place in Pound’s Mauberley, as I think someone else has already mentioned. The botched civilization, indeed. What the boomer and post-boomer commentators fail to recognize — while still seeing Wyndham Lewis in much of this performance (and if there is not a strong whiff of Rotting Hill to this neophyte-to-Lewis’s-writings then I beg forgiveness) — is how eminently and coruscatingly conservative some of these final blasts are. By all means we could be mistaking her earlier Francophile exoticisms for social critique… but it certainly seems as if the Arab and Muslim references are not merely hippie playfulness. In fact, they seem to have a very real critical value in and of themselves, their final conflicted but ecstatic salvo being centred on London, specifically, in Farewell to Kurdistan:

I’m leaving! Nothing can hold me!
The trains, watered and greased, scream to be off.
Hullo — I’m already sticking out my elbows for a piece of territory,
I occupy my place as though I can’t get enough of it
— And with what casual, haughty, and specific gestures, incidentally.

Tradesmen, Pigs, regenerative trains — I shall be saved!
I shall go to the centre of Europe; gliding,
As children skate on the diamond lid of a lake
Never touching ground — Xenophile, on the blue-plated meadows.

Oh I shall live off myself, rainclothes, documents,
The great train simmers… Life is large, large!
…I shall live off your loaf of shadows, London;
I admit it at the last.

17211944_10154157022327691_4205836489070253231_oAs the London of Tonks’s imagination is retrieved and concealed in Xenophilia, by contrast the social critique of the previous few handfuls of poems is concomitantly steadfast and maintained. It is a skewed and dividing finale, a kind of hysterically prophetic lament (and prescient, under our new uber-liberal paradigm and a Muslim mayor, no less!?) I will leave it for others to illucidate Tonks’s eventual Rimbaudian retreat from poetry and her later suppression of her own works (it is all sufficiently delineated in Neil Astley’s Introduction to this book, and also elsewhere online) except to say that Tonks’s ‘Burning of Some Idols’ incident (also referenced in Symmons Roberts and Farley’s new book, The Deaths of the Poets) also symbolizes a final rejection of the hippie dream, and possibly even a rejection of England’s multicultural experiment, of sorts. But let us not dogmatically frame her too wilfully. (Her poetry, if only on the strength of this one volume, is obviously going to be around long enough for people to come to their own conclusions on this). As mentioned previously, Tonks’s rejections always contain a sense of the bittersweet, of the promise of a lucid and emancipatory love that is somehow recognizably buoyed by English grottiness, albeit surrounded and weighed down by potential defilements:

photo_of-Charles-BaudelaireTo be good enough… for this latrine whore, Eros.
Always, Arabia Desetta; the solitary table
In the restaurant is where we end up,
At the mercy of a salt and pepper pot.

…which only encouraged me to bibliomantically search out some suitable poetic tribute to the life and works of Rosemary Tonks. I came up with this little gem from Baudelaire, translated in the English of James McGowan:

‘What will you say tonight…’

What will you say tonight, poor lonely soul,
What will you say old withered heart of mine,
To the most beautiful, the best, most dear,
Whose heavenly regard brings back your bloom?

–We will assign our pride to sing her praise:
Nothing excels the sweetness of her will;
Her holy body has an angel’s scent,
Her eye invests us with a cloak of light.

Whether it be in night and solitude,
Or in the streets among the multitude,
Her ghost before us dances like a torch.

It speaks out: ‘I am lovely and command
That you will love only the Beautiful;
I am your Guardian, Madonna, Muse!’

Aindriú Ó Domhnaill, Aug ’17

[Many Rosemary Tonks encomiums are available online (in fact, her legacy shines bright if the internet is anything to go by. Tonks has generated a lot of commentary given her collected poems has only been commonly available to the public for the last three years)… herehere and here might do as a start]

used books

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Only the Gods Can Save Us; Jason Reza Jorjani’s ‘Prometheus and Atlas’, A Footnote

A somewhat belated link to my Counter-Currents review of Jorjani’s Prometheus and Atlas, available here. I also thought to provide a speculative footnote to that text, and will return to these topics of myth — particularly in relation to Tsarion’s detailed breakdown of the Genesis mythos — anon.


The Shadow of Empedocles

This investigation fascinates specifically regarding how, in antiquity, we’re to frame positive and negative influences in the characteristics of the earliest gods. It is also the birthpoint for much of the original goddess worship in Celtic and world cultures (via woman the earliest gods are perceived, and ultimately reproduced) and the material of much of the fixations of poetry for millenia (although, it could be argued, these gods — positive or negative — are largely absent from modern (for ‘modern’ you could also say ‘unconsciously post-modern’) 21st century poetry. And yet the negative elements of the earliest offspring of Dann (via the goddess Danu) still pervade and control much of human discourse?)

Perhaps, despite himself, Pound — while creating an urbane and media-savvy lineage for our poetry, and while in contradiction to his own use of myth and the gods — created in his readers a proclivity toward only earthly sophistications; the spirit of irony and satire (a purely liberalist and democratic reception of his achievements). As with many of the great artists, it will take another century for his work to be read in a more holistic and essential light (a more lucid and interesting reception of him can sometimes be seen within the area of an internet signal).

Kant Spirit SeerThe text that Jorjani isolates in his book — for me — plugs the gap between poetry (as exemplified by Pound) and philosophy (as exemplified by Heidegger) is Heidegger’s Der Spiegel Interview of 1966, of which Jorjani has insightfully extemporised on in his speech to the London Forum; Spectres of the Titanic (February 2017). The earlier presentiment of a similar schism between what philosophy can achieve analytically and what the gods (or “spirits”, for lack of a better term) present to us more disruptionally, and possibly more poetically, is Kant’s text Träume eines Geistersehers — Dreams of a Spirit-Seer (1766) — and the related text Träume der Metaphysik (both texts The Fiend I hope will comment on in isolation at some point in the future). There was an implicit suggestion of a further essay in my review… given that I see Kant as the prime Enlightenment marker, not only for philosophy, but also cosmology. I part company with Jorjani in that my interest in Kant is spread across both philosophical and cosmological concerns, i.e in Kant’s Copernican Revolution, and specifically in what the consequences might be for radically different views of the cosmos such as flat earth theory, which I have been friendly to in The Fiend‘s webpages, and while hopefully also having time for many more cosmological viewpoints. (Is it not true that the reason western philosophy  is so facile and fragile in our own era is because cosmology and metaphysics have been, for the most part, sheared from its list of attentions?)

MeruIn fact, I see this outlying region of cosmological speculation as an essential territory for the pontifications of poets, suggesting the boundary between Plato’s Republic‘s philosopher-king notion, and a wilder more Rimbaudian and Empedoclean terrain; a republic of the imagination, if you will (and, again, did Empedocles fall or was he pushed? The Pythagoreans are an ancient example of how philosophy, by murder or sequestration, markets itself, and thus creates the vacuum within which it works, and which history then emblematizes). This is the essential intuitional crisis in language which enables us to define the time and space of any future polis, or what I’d more accurately term, in Irish, the place of meaning between Baile and Talamh (with Talamh possibly correlating with Heidegger’s use of grund? An anti-Roman or pre-Roman conception of how societies architecturally conduct themselves within the geographical space of any given nation).

Nietzsche, in some ways, suggests it more potently in his madman figure from Die fröhliche Wissenschaft (The Gay Science, 1882) perhaps — after Thus Spake Zarathustra — Nietzsche’s most poetic book. Further, it suggests to me the original mythic conception of the worldtree, Ygdrassil, the mythic Indo-Aryan charge behind Yeats’s Meru, and other prediluvian suggestions (in fact — being a great reader of George Yeats’s automatic and “spirit-writings” — it is interesting to note that one of George and W.B’s informants advises Yeats to explicitly stop reading philosophy, and particularly Kant’s works). In Yeats’s Meru can be perceived a possible worldview even more radical to Blake’s (or at least our modern view of Blake) which would ultimately put pressure on what specific intention was behind that appeal to Indo-Aryan cosmology. Was it simply a post-romantic appeal to esoteric Buddhism, an affirmation of the connection between his then-contemporary Celtic concerns and ancient Indo-Aryan heritage, or something more…?


‘Empedocles’ (1499-1502) – Luca Signorelli

Also, we – or should I say I? – do not know whether William Blake read Kant (would it have behoven him to read Kant’s Träume eines Geistersehers as a nine year old? Perhaps yes! But that is obviously a stretch. The internet tells me – hopefully correctly – that the text was first translated into English 72 years after Blake’s death in 1899… being a Swedenborgian in his early life I’m sure it would have made fascinating reading to him, yet we have no evidence he studied it, although he did read partially into a number of foreign languages. It’s also worth noting that Blake was perhaps simply experiencing otherworldly beings up close without recourse to the continental philosophy of the day). And why, reader, do I ask…? Well, it seems to me the culmination of all these points relating to Jorjani’s book must apply — at least for me — to whether we can apply anything of flat earth cosmology to William Blake’s cosmos, and if not in any bolstering sense, at least in the negative, regarding many stalwart cosmological fixities many liberal Blakeans consider scientifically reliable. An essay, in itself, then. Would Blake trust Einstein? I do not. Many Blakeans do. Would Blake trust Copernicus? I do not. Many Blakeans do. Would Blake trust Kepler and Galileo? I – for myself – do not know (the question for contemporary flat earthers surrounds Galileo’s sequestration of the work of Tycho Brahe). Many Blakeans do. And is it possible – to go hyper-sceptical – that the church’s supposed demonising of Giordano Bruno, Johannes Kepler and Galileo Galilei had an obverse purpose; to repress heliocentrism in the short term in order to ultimately martyrise and promote heliocentrism in the long term. That would be the arch-conspiratorial angle. The other approach would be that the discoveries of these thinkers were genuine, laudable discoveries, flawed and mistaken though history may ultimately judge them to be… but that the church sought to suppress their work, regardless. That would be the more mundane angle. That the theories weren’t all that great from a possible 21st century perspective, and yet they obviously were still horrifically Other to the church’s concerns of that specific period in history. Discounting, through rigorous cosmological interrogation, this period of theoretical ferment — if need be — would provide an entirely new worldview; a new Weltanschauung from which to go forward (and from which to view a figure like William Blake)… and it seems to me it’s no surprise that the century that housed the English civil war, the beheading of a king, the installation of parliament, and the founding of The Bank of England would preside over such partially emasculated — and partially emancipated — cosmological enquiry. For that final dissolution of The Divine Right of Kings, in many ways, perhaps unconscious to those thinkers, profoundly demanded it. Why do I say this? Well, put simply; because the rulers of that epoch imagined and imagine themselves to be living gods (they are not. They go back to a long line of false gods extended back into antiquity… the fact of historical blackout during the ‘dark ages’ and early medieval times is proof, in fact, of their being severely weakened during these epochs). While there is obviously much more to the story, that they be unmasked as tyrants during the civil war provides some kind of Miltonic consolation. And that there would be some ideological fallout, politically; in the wake of The Flight of the Earls, and in terms of Weltanschauung and Kosmologie seems inevitable. Which is to say Bruno and Galileo can still be built upon by opposal and/or scepticism. And that it be this framework, this living-with-the-acknowledgement-of-doubt, that encompasses, also, the world Blake was born into (Blake, being most current to us — given the 18th century could very much resemble our 20th — and that Blake’s freeing himself from its cultural strictures may well mirror the same transcendence for the current insights of the post-internet generations). Because to understand a poet one must understand the world they enter, free of historical obfuscation. This would – on a metaphysical and scientific footing – turn Blake into a profoundly anti-liberal and anti-modern thinker. Etc etc.

The World TreeYou get my meaning, however. The question comes down to how severe – how skeptical of every vestige of Enlightenment and modern science – Blake’s cosmology turns out to be. It also may affect our thinking on that great avatar of 20th century Blake scholarship who I’ve expressed doubts on in previous essays here; Kathleen Raine, and specifically her proximity to Prince Charles and the royal family (how to frame that is complex. The monarchy both drawing into itself insightful thinkers while, at the same time, killing and opposing it’s blood’s interests etc)

Hold that thought…


Aindriú Ó Domhnaill, August 2017

[Jorjani’s most recent book is World State of Emergency, published by Arktos Media, as of July ’17]

Meru - Yeats

‘Meru’ (1935) – W.B Yeats


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Manchester and Wyndham Lewis

I have been back in England a month now, and thought to write up my visit to the IWP North‘s exhibition of Wyndham Lewis, titled Life, Art, War. It would be best to preface this summary of my feelings here by saying that, apart from the well known ‘Blast’ manifesto, and the two issues of that magazine, perused online through the now almost-ubiquitous internet archive, I am not sufficiently familiar with Lewis’s writing and the entire trajectory of his career in writing. Although I do have in front of me electronic copies of Tarr (1918), Paleface: The Philosophy of the Melting Pot (1929) and Hitler (1931) which I may refer to. A survey of the writings will have to remain for another time, and with some difficulty, given significant portions of Lewis’s writings are out of print and/or rare.

Yet there is a great deal more to be said about Lewis than this exhibition’s seemingly meagre entry into the history of Modernism implies, and it belies the fact that Modernism – despite my perpetual need to get down on paper and screen every facet of what it left in its wake – is still a thing that somewhat plagues the now-facile liberal mainstream, particularly in its polical and ideological implications. I would guess the organisers of this exhibition are only partially cogniscant of what bringing back Lewis – from within the safe space of England’s perpetual ‘Great War’ elegizing that is the mainstay of the Imperial War Museum’s funding – might mean. (Was it ever a ‘Great War’? No. It was simply the newest murderous notch in England’s Hanoverian bedpost, the most pristine modern manifestation of what Pound’s explication of the international moneypower could generate. Corpses for taxes, as it were… and no amount of Wilfrid Owens and Siegfried Sassoons – those authors most purely of the microcosm – could smoothe over that background in its efforts toward a genteel grief).

Yet the location does intrigue in that The North has been privy to a greater freedom in its ideological observations and investigations over the period since this not-so-great war (both on the right and the left… lest we forget the place of Engels’s habitation for a good long while). In the last 30-40 years – as with much of England and western Europe – we have suffered the usual liberal streamlining. Perhaps only because the north has been poorer than the south has its ability to encompass a variety of political viewpoints increased. Money, in that sense, then defines the circumference of the ideologically conceivable. And it is a muddy murky business, as ever… this parleying in the purely political (yet to hold the mystical and the-quotidian-political in balance is something worth at least a little thought from artists in this part of the world?)…

If this exhibition might have a mildly diaphonous influence-from-the-right in it then so much the better… yet a short viewing of any recent Morrissey or Marr video – those great and perilously recent sons of Manchester! – would impede one’s hopes for those previous generations’ ability to take on board any positivity that can be gleaned from newer movements in conservatism or nationalism in Europe or the U.S? Still, this would be to conflate Lewis’s conservatism with the conservatism of a Marine Le Pen, or a Donald Trump. A partial slip, at least! But what is it I’m trying to say here? Something geographical… something of an understanding regarding qualities of listening. If you are in England and you an artist you must concede that to a great extent that you are talking to a wall 99% of the time. O.K. And yet that child-of-the-north side of me (I was born in Blackpool, grew up in Bolton) does genuinely feel that the northerner is ‘a listener’, as the Celt, generally, is a listener. The saxons are a great bunch, but they – at least in England’s current psychotopos – have undergone a general levelling-out, particularly since the industrial revolution. They are The Queen’s children, to a great degree. And this could explain why Lewis has not yet been exhibited in a fully ambitious way in London (namely, The Tate Modern, I’d guess… although we have had Tate Britain‘s Vorticist exhibition of late)… but, like Blake, Lewis’s time will undoubtedly come.

There is also something inherently Mancunian, something northern, about the raconteur quality in Lewis. The twisty chancer, mercurial in his brutality, epic in his stubbornness… a man (as Noel Gallagher would have it?) that can turn the base metal of a pack of Bensons and a pair of Adidas into sonic gold. The metaphor is at least slightly opaque. Still, the drift is got. It is a hard world. Study the blotched face of any Deansgate waistrel, and you will see the despair – and the need to opinionate one’s way out if it – made obvious (yet in no way as timidly as our inherited Celtic troubadours; O’Connor, Morrissey and the brothers Gallagher might otherwise picture our world).

Manchester’s spiritualism, if it has any, is of the satirical fever of an Oscar Wilde made down and out. (This, over the more esoteric Yeats). Its angels wear training pants and denim jackets. Their hair can most often be a sarcastic purple. They preside over an eternal Jobcentre of the anima mundi. Very sensual, very physical nutcases, these… and with heaven in their Stella Artois-addled brains, of course. Or are they The Unaging Ones (anaging because they were born old?)… a people who cannot die. They can only get fatter, and more belligerent. And who was it I was reading that reminded me of ye olde psychotopos, aforesaid? Ah, Richard Burton, of all people… in his diaries, and in the middle of an anti-Irish thoughtstream, of all things;

richard_burton_diaries_cover_-_h_2012I don’t expect much from the Irish — a lot that I know so well that I despise them, everything about them, their posturing, the silly soft accents, their literature, especially Joyce, Synge but not Yeats, who writes like a great anglo — original spare strange — yes Hopkins — and I hate their genius for self-advertisement, their mock-belligerence, their obvious charm. For the opposite of all these reasons I love the Scots and the South Welsh and even prefer the English b’god, especially the taciturn midlands and north country.

…on a tangent one has to remember that, earlier in the diaries, when recounting his being asked what ‘the greatest work of literature of the 20th century is’ Burton confesses to replying; Finnegans Wake. (And this be not the first time I’ve seen a Welshman appeal to his fellow Celts through the gauze of the most tamed modern authority of the Anglo-Saxon). But what might he have been getting at with this slippery tip-of-the-hat to “the north country”? On a good day, I can see where he might be coming from. It is something in the language, something in the demeanour of a person. The will to life, passing… its brutalism, its grandeur, its infinite strangeness. The fact that much of it must be met with contempt, with a snear? With silent abandonment to the lunacy of local and central governmance, the will to ignorance most are trapped in. My love is both intense and sparse. I dawdle in St. Peter’s square, along Oxford Road, or among the grotto-like brickwork latticework of the Northern Quarter and Shude Hill. It has changed completely and not changed at all. The shopping bags, like unused halos, knocking against the sides of the already-wrinkled middle-aged… a beauty that is sham, contingent, a rustling of the atheist’s god under the first liminal guitar drone of John Squire’s intro to Waterfall… yet, on the street, never quite breaking into song? Or the song’s disappearance. A curious muffling…?

ManchesterYet a city of song, over poetry, it is… assuredly (a city needs a mass of water… either a great conduit like the Thames, the Ribble, the Humber, even? or it needs the mass aquatic informancy of Norfolk’s marshes, John Clare’s fens, or Cumbria’s lacustrine affrontments to really slow poetry’s heartbeat down to Rilke-time. Because visions need absence of all freneticism… which water dissipates, and by water; Nimue, goddess of memory, assists in bringing the increate soul’s darkness under the attentions of the street-lights’ eyes. In such a way the city dweller is the reader, in commune with a landscape… but it is the landscape, touched by water, which writes what the reader, the city’s inscape, craves).

It would be fair to say that this city’s music has always been plagued in its subconscious by the right. From the band-name Joy Division (in fact most of Ian Curtis’s lyrics!) through Noel Gallagher’s intrigue with all things WWII (when he deigns to pick up a book at all)… on down to Morrissey’s National Front Disco which we are intended to take as being playful and un-ideological. And, in interviews, Morrissey would balk at a rightwing reading of it… “it would mean that… if you were totally stupid”. But the writers of these ditties do subconsciously imbibe of both far right and left, in that they understand (in a non-avant garde way?) how all truth of artistic expression relies on a concentrism, with the centre always beings displaced by the fringe-ripple (which is to take Pound and Lewis’s symbol of the vortex to its most potent form of emblematizing). Yet they are all children of physical, sexual and psychological abuse. It is in the aether up here. You can only get so ideologically far if you’re from a background like this, and Gallagher and Sinead O’Connor have explicitly acknowledged it. And gone as far as they could with what they have. All that gender confusion of the eighties and nineties so obviously – and, for the most – a product of abuse (and now… in extremis, with all these ridiculous LGBT movements etc).

Burnage. Cheetham Hill. Didsbury. Out to Chorley… Bolton… Altrincham’s politesse attempting to shrug the whole psychological mindfuck off… as we enter Cheshire. I’d imagine at least a third of this country’s population have suffered some form of this kind of abuse on a month-by-month basis… then, like some canker, it spreads out to the rest… the more fortunate ones (and then the whole thing mirrored, top-down – and from the other direction – in our ridiculous class-consciousness; the Oxbridgites and aristos; similarly stricken. Or as Mr. Coleridge once pointed out (…and I paraphrase): “the devil is a gentleman”. A spectrum, then, between the deaths of an Ian Curtis and a Noel Trevelyan Huxley).


Burnage, Manchester

God’s dualisms are half sadist, half transcendant. He sends the best of his child-genii out from source, and into the bedroom of some modern Gilles de Rais. A Queen Elizabeth II. A Geoffery Epstein. This is the epicentre of northern life’s – and England’s – most eminently grotesque aspect. It is the anchoring for human anger toward god, and of fallen Albion’s very reasonable hatred of him. We imagine our humanity to be transposed onto him. He is not text, he is not any emissary of our very physical expectations (the implication of λόγος – Logos – is not primarily textual although what genius could ignore the primacy of a Gutenberg, or the supernal and speculative power of that oracular cell, or seed, which became the internet… text – as spell – as witchery – is that which is most immediately manifest of God, but always-evidently not God). You must go as far as you can with what you are given. No one held to a standard, a monad. This world is pull and pressure. The most glorious emancipators constantly clash with those most evil. The Aeons, unto their Archons. Otherwise, no lesson. The fruit of experience, lost. Dimmed. All this, so that if I put on How Soon is Now at full blast… a space is held. The crowds and streets, blaring. The noisy silence

…and the Beetham Tower bowing low. Like Pisa. Unto a seething emptiness. A vacant fullness, bustling. But sometimes I see no quality in any of it. A mass blankness. To be filled by something. But not this. Not this? A mithering, a sadism, a glory.. intermingled. The office workers grind their way through years of coronation chicken sandwiches and Starbucks’ lattes… and still no statue raised to Thomas de Quincey? Shelley’s Masque of Anarchy, still not chiselled into the walls of the Central Library…

And yet demeanour implies flux and change, also. The Mancunian is incredulous and open. Humorous in self-abasement, humorous while encumbered by — as Sartre so petulantly offered — the hell of others? An emancipatory abasement? Yet, a song like Live Forever simply will not concur with that, or — more topically? — compute it. But that may well just be the Celt in the Manc? It is what keeps one eye in that chancer’s head on Liverpool, on what could wash up on the banks of the Ribble… for the next importation to be folded into dialect, the charnel-house of wit. (It is not surprising then, that Mark E. Smith was here – at the IWP North – just last week…

and “could you spare a roll-up, mate?”)

Lewis is at least at home then in this Manchester, and under the sensibility described… a man of reaction, of certain extremes, of certain subversions. And yet he also transcends it in many interesting ways. As I will try to articulate.

ilewisp001p1The most disappointing aspect of the IWM North‘s exhibition (if I’m already in danger of repeating myself) is that there is simply not enough of it. I didn’t abase myself enough to enter the rest of their permanent exhibition, but it does seem that the Lewis we have here is packed into an explosive corner of this gigantic steel effigy that is the building, entire (like so much of Manchester now, it is a place of steel… and glass… rather than red brick). What we have is a sparse rendering of each phase of Lewis’s career. By all means, it tracks the entire arc of Lewis’s life… but only a smattering of paintings represent each phase, unfortunately.

The early section of drawings, sketches and paintings are not exactly what one conventionally expects of Lewis. These are of a young man wrestling with London, and with a number of post-impressionist mentors. It is important to remember that Lewis, like Pound, is a child of the nineties, and it seems nothing really disruptional occurs (at least in this selection) until around 1909 with a drawing like The Theatre Manager. And even this, and subsequent drawings and sketches, really do nothing much for me, it has to be said. Then comes Abstract Image of 1912, purportedly the first example of a completely abstract picture in all of western art. This intrigues. Immensely. Yet I’m also at a loss. I’m not much of a cubist, and not even much of a Picassoist (and we are often caught in the bind of being unable to see these first steps into abstraction and partial abstraction through the lens of that latter artist) but it is brutal. Unfinished? And, if unfinished… not very inspiring. An unclean direction, of something possibly affirmational… “una nuova oscurità…”. But it is the paintings that follow, somewhere in the years 1912-15, that fascinate and draw one in. And here it is worth saying that the exhibition is only partially representative of this period. I have hunted around in the bowels of the internet to attempt a clearer picture of it, and am at least mildlly forgetful of which pieces were seen, and which were online (a ‘friendly’ museum guard stopped me taking pictures somewhere in this phase). Without doubt, though the Composition of 1913 and the Vorticist Composition of 1915 (also in Blast, and shown in The Tate‘s Vorticist exhibition) are symptomic of that initial path.

One other possible problem of the exhibition is that it houses quite a few images that are not Lewis’s but attempt to provide context for the advent of Vorticism and the two issues of Blast and its attendant manifesto and other didacticisms. While it is a joy to see the original edition of Blast (with a Black Sparrow Press facsimile, no less) and William Roberts’ post-Vorticist – and now well known – painting; The Vorticists at the Restaurant de la Tour Eiffel there is a niggling feeling of padding, that I’d much rather have been treated to more unseen or unfamiliar works by Lewis himself, from this period. Alas, none are forthcoming… until we reach the far corner of the room, wherein we’re treated to the two landmark paintings of Lewis’s early life; The Crowd (1915) and A Battery Shelled (1919). The latter impresses the most. It is a supreme indictment of the war, and its inclusion at this location shows a more thorough-going openness to all aspects of debate on that particular war as my earlier comments might suggest. It is also a wonderful example of his innovation in abstract form also serving a social purpose. While I suspect it’s probable that The Crowd may My Sister and I - Nietzschebeen the more influential painting for the European avant-gardists of the time the whole endeavour smacks of an intellectual cynicism I find dull and without import. I often wonder what effect Neitzsche’s delineation of ressentiment (discussed in another piece here) had on both modernist art and writing. In combination with other moods and influences, intellectualism, and a mode of high despair, can be useful in art (I think of Pound’s Hugh Selwyn Mauberley or certain of The Cantos where he mixes social critique with a kind of proto-Blakean, proto-Biblical wrath and anxiety) yet, by comparison, The Crowd is simply dry and sarcastic. Unemotional. And perhaps that is key here. Nietzsche, for the most part – and while being important to us in many other ways – had a negative effect on art that came into its mature voice between the beginning of the first war and the end of the second. Lawrence, Eliot and Yeats are all too much prey to Nietzsche, in various ways. (Notice both Pound – in his Redondillas – and Crane – in his prose, published posthumously – registering suspicions regarding Nietzsche…). It is only Joyce who seems to completely escape Nietzsche’s shadow in this regard. The nearest Joyce will come to ressentiment is in the long mid-section of A Portrait… the fire and brimstone lecture by one of the priests. And he gets away with it by a heavy reliance of show, over tell, and wisely makes his point that way. Lewis, regardless of Nietzsche’s influence, does at least register the problem in his preface to Tarr (dated – significantly for us – to 1918, three years after The Crowd was painted). Anyway, without heading into too many literary meanderings, it’s worth saying that I have read and re-read most of Nietzsche, and I take seriously the posthumous production My Sister and I, in which it seems to me that Nietzsche could well have been a kind of proto-Illuminati child or something of this ilk (Richard Burton, even, could well be in a same or similar category) and was sexually abused by his sister. If the book is not by Nietzsche it is still fascinating as a production of the same suspicious line of enquiry, and should not be discounted for that reason (if not in Nietzsche’s conception then in the mind of someone close to him, who was aware of the problem. If his mental life was sufficiently disturbed by such events (and how could it not be?) then this casts a long shadow over much of modernism.

But to get back to my exhibition narrative, though, it might be prescient here to say that, by this point, I can confess to not really having seen anything that has really taken my head off. Things change, however.


‘L’Ingenue’ (1919)

The mystery and electric charge of Lewis’s life in painting is the stopgap that occurs between the much ignored publications of his magazines The Tyro (1921-22) and The Enemy (1927-29). The former magazine endeavour is represented concomitantly with the disappointing Tyros, A Reading of Ovid (1920-21) which the IWP North has managed to get its hands on… and it is very much in the satirical, witty vein of Lewis’s Blast ethos. He is still struggling here. (Mr. Wyndham Lewis as a Tyro (1921)… another painting from this period is a much greater picture, but I do not remember the exhibition showing this). Also, to this viewer, the satire is getting old. Fast. So there is something essential to the subsequent period of quiet in his production of paintings, especially given the power and expertise of many of those that will follow. And these come with force and verve. Of course, for a writer like me, I am always after some kind of representative seed of a style or phase. And in this department I do think that the exhibition offers an answer to that kind of a question. I believe it to be a portrait that came slightly earlier to the magazine-related images just described. It is L’Ingenue of 1919. An incredible, and deceptively simple, sketch of the film critic Iris Barry. It may well be that I am unfairly isolating it out from Lewis’s other portrait sketches of the time (ah, for a worshipper of the Celtic goddess tradition, to let these subjects be…!) but it seems to have much of the delicacy and precision of much of the great paintings that are to come. In the more intellectual and writerly sensibility the precision of this portrait combines, in a very un-P.C way with his investigation, and critique, of European rightist movements that arguably help him find a new transcendence in painting. Meaning; the figure becomes dominant in him again. But it will not be until the thirties that this aspect blooms in its entirety. (And the most conspicuously absent figure in this exhibition of Lewis’s great portrait phase of the late thirties, unsurprisingly, is his portrait Ezra Pound (1939); although we do have some earlier sketched drawings of Pound. In addition, and in resolute concordance with early 21st century taste in poetry, we do have the portrait of T.S Eliot from the same year. This – along with the portrait of Edith Sitwell – makes for fascinating viewing).

The Reader (1936) - Wyndham Lewis

‘The Reader’ (1936)

Many of the great portraits come at a time when Lewis is particularly broke… and one wonders if – in a period of his most inspiring work – he completed these almost begrudgingly of any will to innovation, which he seems to have laid aside with his former critiques of the avant-garde movements of the twenties. In essence, it is complex, stylistically, to pin down how the earlier sketches and portraits differ from the later ones. It seems a matter, Modigliani-like, of a leap in psychic and technical acuity… so that the inner life fills out the form. The earlier portraits have a gestural, articulated quality whereas the later phase tends more to warmth (as much as is possible in Lewis!) and a more spiritual and rounded sympathy for its subjects; a heretofore-uncharacteristic insouciance. And this advancement in portraiture is easily best exemplified by the Froanna portraits, which, luckily, the exhibition has a fair few of. And they represent his best work, for me. To my feeling, they seem to culminate in The Reader (1936), Froanna, Portrait of the Artists’s Wife (1937… yet, do I recall seeing this at the exhibition? I forget) and Red Portrait (1937), with the last being his finest portrait, in my humble opinion. But I will reproduce here only the first, as I imagine it to be the least seen of these three.

1937 also sees him at work on the painting Inferno, which a Telegraph reviewer confesses disappointment in. I am not that way inclined. Perhaps there would be disappointment if we were to imagine it as part of a series (which the Dantean title would point toward) and yet, even on its own merits it is a mighty painting of sorts. It is also the one painting which really reveals the dynamic of a Francis Bacon to us. The use of imagined space in it has a definite quality of Bacon’s work (not a painter I like, but for the art historians amongst us it intrigues). Yes, it is a shame that a sequence did not come of this. Yet it is also a direction, away from straight-ahead portraiture that was perhaps consciously lost to Lewis himself, or something which he simply failed to capitalise on.

Wyndham Lewis - Lebensraum II - The Empty Tunic

‘Lebensraum II: The Empty Tunic’ (c.1941)

Parallel to – and beyond – this astonishing period in his portrait painting – (into the early years of the second world war) – Lewis is also attempting to understand and summarize his feelings about the main political movements of his day. As with Pound, his feelings about Fascism and National Socialism are complicated. But by the end of the thirties (Auden’s “low dishonest decade”) it seems that, like Pound, his interest in the more positive elements of Hitler’s rise to power have waned significantly. Pound would continue to have faith in Mussolini’s rule but a reading of Lewis’s Hitler (1931) proves that Lewis never shared Pound’s interest in Mussolini… and it leaves one wondering if this was simply a matter of the need for cultural adherence in Pound, with his being firmly and enthusiastically placed in Italy over that period. Without being able to access Lewis’s second book on Hitler, 1939’s The Hitler Cult and How It Will End (not having £325 to spare right now) it is difficult to come to any detailed and objective conclusion… but certainly the sarcasm of that title, and from the commentary I find online, it’s heavily suggested that any journalistic vestage of optimism in this area is now mired in a quietude in him that simply amounts to sarcasm and dejection on the theme of European politics. All this is simply a literary way of approaching the two ink and watercolour prints from 1941-42 entitled Lebensraum, the second of which seems to be his coda to that last mentioned book using Hitler’s well known phrase for the topos the people of his governance required under the Third Reich. Subtitled The Empty Tunic one is left in no doubt that Lewis’s faith in the new Germany has morphed into satire, just as A Battery Shelled was his previous – and much more ambitious – indictment of the not-so-great war… with a ‘leader-figure’ cowering inside a cloud-like/flower-like coat several sizes too large for him. A very Urizenic scene, in some ways.

In terms of political affiliation Lewis, via his novel The Revenge for Love, seems also to have managed to sidestep any faith in that opposite movement of the thirties (so beloved of Auden and Gascoyne) the Spanish civil war, in which he apparently performs a similar lampooning. And, with the final stage of the exhibition, we see him taken up with an entirely unknown phase (to me)… the time in Canada and the U.S where he is producing fewer paintings (and when he does, they are usually to order via the Canadian government arts board) while his production in writings once more accelerate, this time, though, with the complication of the onset of his late blindness caused by a tumour.

So how on earth to summarize?? Which is to say; do I believe Lewis to be a great painter of the twentieth century? And this summation would have to be purely based on what Lewis amounted to pictorially, with these particular works as evidence. Well – in regard to what was seen here – he has produced 5-6 images that are sure to last hundreds of years. And these obviously would be the portraits already described… some of which I’d class as better than certain of Picasso’s best work. But I do not overly like Picasso anyway, so that is perhaps a backhanded compliment… yet I might even say I like Lewis more, in that I like his stubborn hanging on to the figure, and for his finally abandoning himself to the spiritual empathy and visionary restlessness that seems more than partially present in the Froanna pieces. There are also some other portraits on the loose that I’d put up there with his best also (the La Suerte of 1938 would be up there). As for the great painter tag, it remains to be seen. And it remains to be seen, specifically in that we need a much more comprehensive collection, perhaps one that would perhaps only slightly focus more on the period of the late thirties to his death. This seems still to be the real blank spot with Lewis… unless it is simply that there are less paintings in this period to choose from (particularly the post-world war-II years up to his death). A second question would be: what were his failings? And I think these failings would be indicative of the larger question: what are modernism’s failings? It’s also worth saying that some of Lewis’s successes are inexorably bound up in his failings.

Emancipated from post-impressionism he chose to be cold and intellectual, and began, within himself, cycles of rejections of coteries. He seems too willing to hold theoretical stances while not submitting himself to a life of the spirit and emotion. Perhaps the position of being un-epochal was simply too hard for him to bring out in himself (and I would suggest if there are any demands upon the producer of great art then this would be one requirement). In Wordsworth’s phrasing, was he too much of the time? the world too much with him?… and not blithely psychic or empathic enough? Because what I believe myself to distrust in modernism, and partially in politics, is this insistence on reform, on reaction (and – quite contrarily – it is something that Shelley or Milton had, in other very different eras… all these in contradiction to modernism’s morays… yet! against Joyce’s profound rejection of historicity, eerily alike, in some sense. Could it be that Joyce is not modern in any sense, or the only modernist, in this rejection?… as with Keats, and as with Blake). Political will-to-social-adaptability seems admirable in statesmen, and in political movements, and yet less admirable in an artist (who, by being unepochal, becomes the creator of epochs. The social navigations of your average politico have to be so densely internalised in the artist’s imagination that it requires utter immersion in modern forms of knowledge, and the utmost distance from them, simultaneously). We might imagine that comparing the merits of an image from Blake’s Jerusalem with, say, the merits of Lewis’s The Crowd (to choose a weaker example from Lewis). It would probably seem ridiculous. And yet… what would be the conclusion? The answer would be simple… a basic lack of imagination in the latter. A commitment to reportage or intellectual pursuit in the latter. These questions could easily be levelled at Lewis. Many of these questions would have to wait for a time when we have a fuller picture. But – having said this – we come back to Berkeley and to Blake; the problem of any sensual responsibility, in the wider social sense. Lewis emancipates himself from these issues in the greater portraits, and is cousin to Modigliani, in this. His errors are perhaps unreconcilable, in that the trajectory of his life is that much more lingering than the Italian. As with Pound, what he does achieve is a line of highly independent thought in abject opposition to the propagandizing of a war machine that is still with us today. At the very least, he allows us – through his stance on war – to create our own subversive narrative for a higher traditionalism.

As already mentioned, he is very much an artist of cityscape, of crowd psychology… of crowd lunacy etc. In this way Manchester receives him, I guess. But, being from my own Tara; a barbarian of the wider Lancashire – and not being metropolitan, or Hellenic, or Athenian – I feel all this to be more distant in me, somehow. Perhaps I prefer the view of Manchester from Cox Green Road (Egerton, Bolton)… or prefer being lost in these snoring, bourgeois hinterlands (with their own still intact – but different – lunacies). Manchester is a stoney blur on my horizon there… as perhaps London was from Keats’s Enfield?

North of here there is nothing. A mystic privacy, courtesy of the appropriately named A666. Until Darwen. Until Blackburn! But we shan’t go there either. The gods are somewhere in between.

Aindriú Ó Domhnaill, Aug ’17

The Inferno - Wyndham Lewis

‘Inferno’ (1937)

[Other reviews of this exhibition by the usual journalistic suspects can be found here and here.

An archive of more interesting writings on Lewis, via Counter-Currents, is here. has a fairly good selection of electronic pdfs of books by – or about – Wyndham Lewis here.

A firey talk on Lewis by Jonathan Bowden at youtube is available here]

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Towards an Interdimensional Poetics (part 4)

Two Serpents

There were two serpents… and the sixties was busy discovering the antithesis to the reigning dragon, not understanding the Mosaic consequences that still held them in its grip: the name… Rothschild. deleted, originally, in The Cantos. This was known by Pound as early as the twenties, in purely economic terms, but later he understood it in symbolic, quasi-Biblical terms. It wasn’t until much later that the fragment addenda were made known.

The Evil is Usury neschek
the serpent
whose name is known the defiler,
Beyond race and against race
the defiler
τόκος hic mali medium est
Here is the core of evil, the burning hell without let-up,
The canker corrupting all things, Fafnir the worm,
Syphilis of the State, of all kingdoms
Wart of the common-weal,
Wenn-maker, corrupter of all things
Darkness the defiler,
Twin evil of envy,
Snake of the seven heads, Hydra, entering all things,
Passing the doors of temples defiling the grove of Paphos,
neschek, the crawling evil,
slime, the corrupter of all things
Poisoner of the fount,
of all fountains, neschek,
The serpent, evil against nature’s increase,
Against beauty…

Written in 1941 this fragment pre-dates David Icke by a half century or more, yet much of it is pure Bible, in a seemingly Gnostic aspect (where Pound and Blake, not always comfortable bedfellows in literature, overlap?)

D.H Lawrence is both problematic and interesting here. He believed that the fallen Lucifer was a pagan entity made evil by mainstream Christianity. Once you build an image it becomes a real presence (as the Torah understood in its will to censorship). So, yes… possibly a reigning entity now… but not necessarily in origin. Satanism is a parasite on the church… so, of course, they really do use this spiritual presence for black masses etc. Yaldaboeth, also. Ba’al is the fallen aspect of Bel, the god known in ancient Ireland (and also known to the Gnostics). What tends to happen is that they take a god and they bring it into fallenness by their own impure intentions, having no creative intention of their own (that they are soulless, in this?) Gods, or spiritual presences, to me, are never entirely earthly… they tend to straddle dimensions. They become ‘lower forces’ via man’s baser instincts. But can become aspects of higher dimensions if the will of an individual, or community, is strongly focussed toward the good. (We must also understand that these senses of lower and higher are only used for explanation of certain physical and ideological emanations… they are Dantean social terms, ascending and descending into the holarchy, source of life. Hierarchy is what we as social beings must immediately relate to…?)

Bards and seers literally hold the unity of dimensions in place via works of art. And here comes Shelley’s dictum; “Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world”. There is a lineage so deep and wide in that word; ‘unacknowledged’ that it would take a book or two to unravel. For me, the whole thing has everything to do with the ‘Flight of the Earls’, the loss of the Bardic and Druidic influence in modern life. Poets are also combatting mendacious influences. Since the Druidic line has fallen into the control of a few depraved bloodlines and their American, African and Asian cousins.


He learns this other writing. He is the scribe
Who drove a team of quills on his white field.
Round his cell door the blackbirds dart and dab.
Then self-denial, fasting, the pure cold.

By rules that hardened the farther they reached north
He bends to his desk and begins again.
Christ’s sickle has been in the undergowth.
The script grows bare and Merovingian.

…from Alphabets (1987). Heaney at his most pre-Renaissance-best. A perturbation in the language itself. The whiff of language-conspiracy. But Heaney, himself, one of the first modern Irish college poets… and a fear, a lack of daring, comes with it. Perhaps his best work is in the translations. He picks, and takes comfort in, similar epochs to myself. I don’t buy the idea that the Irish are really a renaissance-oriented people. We seem to leave that to Southern Europe and its newer corresponding American traditions. Although there is always the Latin that comes heavily into the Irish and the English, from Chaucer’s language onward, at least. (But McDevitt is right in this; that a wildness has been missed. Whether it be manifest in the modern is a much bigger question. My Surrealism, I believe, is an indicator).

Similarly, Conor MacDari, telling me the word Rome comes from the Irish Language. What I was most uncomfortable with, reading Mein Kampf, was not what our modern age’s mores may have expected me to dislike from the shrieking liberalist perspective… but that Hitler – as with Holderlin, and to a certain degree with Goethe – was holding up the classical age as the be-all and end-all of civilization. Yet, Blake – and the good Celt? – knows Rome was a barbarian culture built etymologically and mythologically, by the regions it conquered, their triumph of worship and belief becomes its pantheon in descent (the reason, also, that Blake is forced to invent divine and scientific powers outside of the Greek pantheon. This would deserve an essay in itself). One should read and study classicism on the grounding of that fact (and, of course, it doesn’t negate my enthusiasm for the classics, and classically-inspired poetry and literature; the name of H.D comes most forthrightly to mind here). But the Romans were the first to make their thievery dignified by virtue of their civic pragmatism. Blake knew this. Kathleen Raine turns Blake’s deeper search into an older Britain, but into a romance of only classical and Greek proportions, via the works of Thomas Taylor. In her metaphysics she is reaching in the right direction, yet she’ll only ever find a small portion of the story from that standpoint. Does this connect with the same interest and antagonism Yeats had to Plotinus? Not directly, perhaps, but it sits on the fringes of that debate. Between Raine and the Royals we see the occult connection between the benign yet powerful poetic instinct for creation and the parasitic magical powers of their very real sins, a connection the wider populous is – to one degree or another – at least ignorant of. In modern times we have seen this explicit connection of the Royals – their dabbling in spiritual and occult practices – since the time of John Dee onward (and Tsarion is right to suggest that the need for sacramental blood ritual has been the cause of most modern wars, being an inheritance of the notion that the basest forms that underpin this dimension they believe must be held in place in order to sequester knowledge that would otherwise assist in man’s transcendence – or spiritual reconfiguring – of this dimension, as it stands. The will toward a perpetual circus of fear etc).

Regardless – moving on, and to return to our mythological serpents: – in dimension-theory, as it were, the reptilian is supposed to hold sway in the fourth dimension… yet much of man’s psychic and spiritual abilities are in the fifth and sixth dimensions. Celtic lineage and metaphysics cannot be divorced from a mythological reptilian theory, and from the very real existence of black magic on the side of our current European monarchs (which is not to say monarchs are bad, or that monarchies in the past have not been benevolent… the Celtic Revival, and the Victorian – and Pre-Raphaelite – modes of interest at least understood the value of the concept of a benevolent lineage of the High Kings of British and European antiquity… yet Joyce’s procedures partially negate this, which is another failure embedded in high modernism, tempered by the very anti-Manichean notion of the senses as a means for wit, and for wordplay… which is very much the domain for instinctual searching of the lighter and higher precepts for laughter. Through Breton the use of ‘black humour’ has similar ends in mind. Black humour being a purely European sensibility?)

It is just that, behind pure classicism, there is a stolen knowledge, a sequestered – and halted – path the sages of antiquity engendered. This is the history of the last two to three thousand years… its absence just more visible in the last three hundred or so. Parasitism is the formalised endeavour of Elohim in their fallen aspect. But an aspect, only, of influence… in its most negative hue. These entities loathe the fact that all dimensions are open to the human, and that their powers only allow them to monkey around with very limited facets of our total pan-dimensional reality.

Equally there is the good serpent, Kundalini – and used with differing nomenclature, through different metaphysical traditions – used with moral discipline, and as a servant of life, and nourishment. Eros is its social and political aspect (but only Greek through its most recent form) darkened by most current leaders. Lawrence understood this serpent-dialectic – its clear in his book Apocalypse, and in The Plumed Serpent– but most people, lost in surface conspiracy research, paint the serpent with an entirely negative hue. That could’ve even been Pound’s limitation, also?

Incidentally, Pound uses neschek for the modern Hebrew nashah. Though I need to look into this more.

From Lawrence’s Apocalypse:

A hero was a hero, in the great past, when he had conquered the hostile dragon, when he had the power of the dragon with him in his limbs and breast.When Moses set up the brazen serpent in the wilderness, an act which dominated the imagination of the Jews for many centuries, he was substituting the potency of the good drago for the sting of the bad dragon, or serpents. That is, man can have the serpent with him or against him. When his serpent is against him, he is stung and envenomed and defeated from within. The great problem, in the past, was the conquest of the inimical serpent and the liberation within the self of the gleaming bright serpent of gold, golden fluid life within the body, the rousing of the splendid divine dragon within a man, or within a woman.

What ails men today is that thousands of little serpents sting and envenom them all the time, and the great divine dragon is inert. We cannot wake him to life, in modern days. He wakes on the lower planes of life: for a while in an airman like Lindbergh or in a boxer like Dempsey. It is the little serpent of gold that lifts these two men for a brief time into a certain level of heroism. But on the highest planes, there is no glimpse or gleam of the great dragon


the Logos, the great dragon of the beginning of the cycle, is now the evil dragon of today. It will give its potency to no new thing, only to old and deadly things. It is the red dragon, and it must once more be slain by the heroes, since we can expect no more from the angels

Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell forms the background to Lawrence… and yet Lawrence never really debated in depth the consequences of Blake. The two serpents are implicit here. The man must equal or transcend that dragon, in its evil, energetic aspect… via the original force of the dragon. The duty of the Filidh is to inhere, to understand the ramifications of a dualism… to guide the man or woman out of it. A magician, employing and overcoming, by use of triskelia and gyre. To perceive the descent inherent in the dragon’s actions is to perceive, see, beyond him… which immediately brings about its opposite; ascent. To depart, truly, into further exploration. All of Hegel’s dialectic implies this problem (and Icke, and other netizen researchers misuse Hegel in thinking this dialectic is simply a dialectic of descent only. It is what a man does with a dualism. That is the imperative. And it is the most visceral imperative for the Filidh. To be gleaned by him. Abjectly unregarding of social convention. The Flight of the Earls occurred for a reason; a misuse of natural, telluric force).

And that Bardic strain; conceptual and Celtic predominance of the magic of the psyche… even before the term had gained currency through the “Celtic” revival a century and a half later. New minds open up their ecstacies and prejudices. No man, aloof from them (and yet, as Nietzsche understood, the ubermensch would be deemed as necessarily aloof, a descendant of Shelley’s expulsion from Oxford… always the distance, the aloofness, of that balancing of reality and justice). Lawrence follows Nietzsche too closely though. He disregards the esoteric to a certain degree although, apparently, being well read in it… I wonder what would have happened had he met A.E, George William Russell… a poet schooled in avatardom, in a wholly different conception… and yet, in portions of Lawrence’s Apocalypse, we see similarities between these two men:

The new dragon is green or golden, green with the vivid ancient meaning of green which Mohammed took up again, green with that greenish dawn-light which is the quintessence of all new and life-giving light. The dawn of all creation took place in greenish pellucid gleam that was the shine of the very presence of the Creator. John of Patmos harks back to this when he makes the iris or rainbow which screens the face of the Almighty green like smaragd or emerald. And this lovely jewel-green gleam is the very dragon itself, as it moves out wreathing and writhing into the cosmos. It is the power of the Kosmodynamos coiling throughout space, coiling along the spine of man, leaning forth between his brows like the Uraeus between the brows of a Pharoah. It makes a man splendid, a king, a hero, a brave man gleaming with the gleam of a dragon, which is golden when it wreathes round a man.

Where Yeats has the gyres, Lawrence sees dragons as epochal powers. Aeons over Archons? The dragon. Red and green. What do I remember of David Jones’s discussion of the dragon in his two books of essays? Not much. But his sense of the dragon obviously applied, symbolically, to a discussion of the Welsh flag. We have more of a positive sense of the dragon there. How is it that shades of nationalism, aspects of the discussion of power, appear in symbolical terms? Which is danger, in the modern western mind, at the point where triskelion turns into swastika (the danger only being where on epoch truly overlaps the nearness and distance of another, modern with post-modern, in this case… that it is only a breath away). Yet my first real sense of that latter symbol appeared, not through the usual eighties’ British school brainwashing, but by a scattering of such symbols in the lining of tatami mats… in a room in Kobe, Japan, somewhere around the summer/autumn of 1999? And, since then, a mark of – not Nazism – but generic East Asian Buddhism. India. Japan. South Korea. But ultimately Aryan and European, given MacDari’s reinstatement of the west-to-east movement; de-exoticizing Asia for the European, to a certain degree of usefulness. There are waves of this stuff, the cross-fertilizings between Occident and Orient; but the take-off was 19th Century, and there will be no landing. Blake, Schopenhauer, Max Muller, Whitman etc each trading on the Atman and the Brahmin, to different degrees.

This is reclamation of an own culture… as Mandelstam pointed out, when asked what Acmeism was: a yearning for world culture. The power structures of the western world, for the most part, attempt to harness and dissipate that yearning’s energy, so as to manifest their power. Whatever powers do machinate under the banner of Illuminism then they do not intend nationalism; their greatest enemy? Through nationalism, through localism, world culture is realised (or maybe worldfeeling, weltfühlen, might be a better expression? Lessing speaks of this in her novel Shikasta). Globalism apes it in order to dissipate it. Through an independence of spirit a nation joins the world. And not before. Thus my support for all the independence movements in the U.K (but not necessarily their most prominent mouthpieces. Farage is quite obviously an interesting man. Just leave the room, or turn off the video, when he starts talking about Churchill, is my first thought in the negative).

Is it also prescient that, prior to Orwell, Lawrence died in the company of that great creator of modern western dystopia, Aldous Huxley? Or that the theme of Aaron’s Rod is a Masonic take on Mozart’s The Magic Flute? A Magic Flute with Australian terrorist explosions in its finale. How much mantic intuition, how much conscious Luciferian conspiracy…? Lawrence’s writings are so shot-through with prophecy that some have attempted to lump Lawrence in with the progenitors of the future evil he was fighting.

The implosions, then, of modernism. Yet it is not so clear cut. There’s more… more colours, at least:

The dragon of Nebuchadnazzar is blue, and is a blue-scaled unicorn stepping proudly. He is very highly developed. The dragon of the Apocalypse is a much more ancient beast: but then, he is kakodaimon.

But the royal colour was still red: the vermilion and the purple, which is not violet but crimson, the true colour of the living blood, these were kept for kings and emperors. They became the very colours of the evil dragon. They are the colours in which the apocalyptist clothes the great harlot woman whom he calls Babylon. The colour of life itself becomes the colour of abomination.

For me, at least, Lawrence rescues a dignity there, somehow. In my poetry (something often – I hope! – gleaned hypnogogically, or half-hypnogogically? a process that allows for the admittance of all procedure, all method) I have always felt an adherence to the active form of the verb living and a worry, a disgust – perhaps – to the words life and live. (There is also the notion of the word ‘live’ being the word ‘evil’ backwards? So we have this arch-Gnostic inherence… in the negative conception, in the perhaps supra-Hebraic conception certain Gnostics misused to establish a doctrine of the retreat from matter?)  So. The retreat from matter. And yet matter is ours, with Berkeley intact. For good or ill. A world is ours, while we can still admit – with the best mystic – There are more things in heaven and Earth, Horatio, / Than are dreamt of in your philosophy. And the faux gnostic (Manichean?) brag of the evil of the world, and of the human, is always set against Blake’s The most sublime act is to set another before you.

Blood and Sin, Blood and Immortality

Blood follow’d, but immortal; ichor pure,
Such as the blest inhabitants of heav’n
May bleed, nectareous; for the Gods eat not
Man’s food, nor slake as he with sable wine
Their thirst, thence bloodless and from death exempt

…tells Cowper’s translation of The Iliad. Which returns us to the blood aspect (also reiterated in the work of Rudolf Steiner). There is also the theory that man, in his immortality, did not have red blood… an excess of copper, or other elements, suggests it was green, originally. All commercially produced foods leave the taint of sugar in the blood stream, and thus disease, all modern illness… prevalence of cancer and diabetes. Lack of minerals. I see Morrissey and Ted Hughes in a boxing ring… Hughes, the monarchist, upholding the tradition of the hunter, Morrissey; appealing to something earlier. Something of modesty and purity (despite my present inability to rid myself of those habits completely. I watch a piece by Norman Finkelstein, where he suggests that meat-eating, in a hundred years, will be deemed utterly barbaric; close to cannibalism or pedophilia). The consequence of all this, completely allowing for the notion that to be ‘of the gods’ one must at least act with their same stringency. Thus the most radical thinkers are in a condition of such detox that the most heretical ideas can flood in. In the blood, in the DNA, and also a product of ruthless investigative thought and daring. There being, also, a generational aspect – in tandem with the synchro-mystic idea of a completely genuine sense of ‘God’s plan’ – that one idea must come to fruition in sequence, via its human host. In this conception it would be entirely correct that Tsarion, or another researcher of his generation, would reject flat earth. (As I have said before, it is entirely useful that Heraclitean change must assert itself to the degree that each generation asserts a markedly different viewpoint, disregarding the sometimes-Marxist notion that the family unit need not be retained. This is why parenting is good for the soul, as it allows for the parent to witness change and human variety in those one is most close to).The man of knowledge, while rejecting time would not necessarily reject chronology. The agon regarding Kronos is multi-faceted, not specifically biological, not specifically philosophical, not specifically political… but combining all of these. The sage, then, is one the acolyte must exhaust and transcend. And this would be to convert parasitism into The Good of someone like Plotinus. I hope one day that I will not need William Blake. And it behoves me to know, very precisely and clearly, when that moment will come. The same process is intended with child-rearing. It is the way of all growth. The same is known to us through our different forms of relationships. Creation and destruction, both divine and physical, come to us through human interaction (and in so doing mirror other realms of spiritual and supernatural interaction). Crisis is their emblem, and comedy and tragedy their outcome. If this were not true the whole gamut of writing, of voicing – from Aeschylus to Chaucer, from Hesiod to Swinburne – would have slipped from our attention long ago.

The Serpent, Modernity, Nature, Shakespeare’s Existentialism

The entropic serpent, as evil – which Blake identified simply as energy – has had his moments, even in artists of creation… I think of Baudelaire, most precisely. But this was essentially a spiritual phenomenon, manifested… which is to say I shrink from legitimising the myriad of truely nefarious activities, in the physical, that have occurred on this plane since the post-flood period (but most distinctly obvious in the various problems that have arisen since WWI. The sixties, however, represented a swing away from energy into the uber-liberal notion of forgiveness and equality. Baudelaire, although happily integrated into that epoch, is not at home in this type of thought). Yet, in some intellectual strains, at least, Yahwism is rightly dissipated, and yet replaced with… the new age?

In this, could John Lash be correct in transcending some of Baudelaire’s more Catholic standpoints, by seeing that The Fall was not a human fall… but the fall of the goddess that maintained us, in a holistic sense (it’s just that I don’t see that her name was necessarily Gaia…) And Yeats would follow this (with spiritus mundi) but would have little to do with Wordsworth, in seeing a commune with nature as satisfactory. Are there gradations?

In Dickinson we see a great worth in ferreting out the beauty in the minutiae of nature, and yet she is not a Wordsworth, not, in any mode, a philosopher (where Wordsworth most definitely is… the tension had previously appeared in Wordsworth’s antagonism to Colderige’s Kubla Khan). She is an artist primarily of the soul, using nature as tool for gleaning what was previously of the soul. Hamlet’s discomfort, via Dickinson’s interest in nature – is over what is finally unfulfilled in man: hiraeth.

…I have of late—but wherefore I know not—lost all my mirth, forgone all custom of exercises, and indeed it goes so heavily with my disposition that this goodly frame, the earth, seems to me a sterile promontory; this most excellent canopy, the air—look you, this brave o’erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted with golden fire—why, it appears no other thing to me than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapors. What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty! In form and moving how express and admirable! In action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god! The beauty of the world. The paragon of animals. And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me. No, nor woman neither, though by your smiling you seem to say so.

Shakespeare transfers the medieval argument – or relationship- between Yahweh and man, and inserts the focus of man-toward-man. Nietzsche lived in Hamlet’s world. This is ressentiment three centuries prior to him, however. The beauty of the world, the paragon of animals… Yes! Senor De Vere… you may not need to finish that speech (and Mr. Lawrence, similarly — after Blake’s proverb? — would prefer you didn’t). Here, the stirrings of humanism, existentialism, modernism. Yet somehow Lawrence’s work feels to be something of an update on it? The men who were Shakespeare seem more driven by the classical world, and obviously – by extension – the specific mode of the Greek tragedians. Lawrence is wild and tribal and less navel-gazing. Much of his prose is a correction to too much of Greece in literature. Yet Shakespeare, via Hamlet, seems to reject all of nature but maintain only the quality of human proclamation, the Gnostic rejection, inherent in ancient forms of tragedy.

Lash is only partially correct… he still stays within the bounds of an epoch (he has not, then, entirely escaped the sixties). The blame gets shifted into the realm of a supreme goddess who is a part of God. Baudelaire’s influence imagines for us a perpetual demiurge – Biblical or not – that uses sin as an energetic function. Devised by an artist the notion becomes less Yahwist and more a question of the extremities of self-interrogation man must bring upon himself. A para-moral guardianship, via intuition, if you will. And this is echoed in Hamlet… a kind of proto-artist at the end of his rope. Why is it that I see Yeats’s Celtic Twilight as a way out of this tragic bind? There is something of the entropic serpent in Hamlet’s angst, a loss of human magic, as it were. Yeats and Lady Gregory, perhaps inadvertantly, replaced the modern agon of man’s Greek wrath at the world – and man’s wrath regarding man – with a spiritual and metaphysical dynamic hitherto unseen across the usual structures of power we’ve been familiar with since the time of Shakespeare.

Serpents & Spirits

This last claim, then, intends more serpentine meanderings, perhaps in a different hue. The intro to The Gonne-Yeats Letters

After he left, Maud wrote to tell him a most wonderful thing had happened – ‘the most wonderful I have met in life. If we are only strong enough to hold the doors open I think we shall obtain knowledge and life we have never dreamed of.’ Yeats noted, in the white calf-bound manuscript book Maud had given him for recording their astral unions and visions, that he had ‘made evocation’ on the ‘night of 25th’ and sought union with her. Her letter of 26 July told him of her having seen an Egyptian-like form floating over her, dressed in moth-like garments and with gold-edged wings, which she thought was herself, a body in which she could go out into the astral. She put on his body and desired to go to him. They went somewhere in space, he in the form of a serpent, and they kissed and melted into each other till they formed ‘one being, a being greater than ourselves who felt & knew all with double intensity’. She had this experience three times, each time being brought back by a noise in the house. Afterwards she went to bed and dreamed they discussed this spiritual vision. In the dream he said it would increase physical desire, which she said ‘troubles me a little – for there was nothing physical in that union – material union is but a pale shadow compared to it

The bind, here, is that – in the new century – we’re somewhat in the hands of Icke (and his analysis of the earthly powers is cogent and incredibly useful)… and yet Celtic mythology (and Ovid, at least in the classical tradition) is fairly au fait with the reptilian, and with shapeshifting (the Hindu tradition, also… ditto The Djinn in The Koran). And yet we’ve not really overcome Nietzsche – never mind Man! – in his throwing away of the gods with the big monotheos; God, himself. What the reptilian implies is incredibly complex, and yet – while many conspiracy researchers are busy seeing the reptilian in any number of evil political figures – we see that reptilian aspect in the eyes of Manly P. Hall, Emily Dickinson, Edgar Allan Poe…  do we deem all these similarly driven by psychosis and pathological societal manipulation? I suggest not. It’s what you do with those eyes that count. But just don’t give me The Prince of Wales or Kathleen Raine; a purely Greek emanation of Blakeanism, for your avatars. We are older and stronger than these. And it behoves us to imagine a positive  emanation of the serpent, particularly in a survey of literature, in so far as it may have the potential to unveil that force through spiritualism and the supernatural. Not that Freud and the other various writers of psycho-analysis are not worth engaging with, but that spiritualism suffers under the weight of psychology, to some degree.

An Anti-Literary Serpent, The Tribes of Blake

Icke took the reptilian and ensconced it, finally, in a kind of metaphysical cartel for the planet Saturn, despite his incredibly acute understanding of the lower natures inherent in the third dimension. It was the earthly evil gone interplanetary (not that I deny the planetary… but that it seems essentially to be dokos; a playground for materialist scientists to pontificate over). This same solar system, poured into the modern mind since the mid-1900s, is child or both academic research and alternate research… yet it comes out of a mind that could not quite imagine the Infinity Blake intended, with such announcements as:

If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern

All manner of internet researchers have applied the Biblical satan to a new ‘otherworldly’ evil. But somehow it doesn’t jive. I attribute much of the failure of human spirituality to ascend its material circumstances to the something of the force that ColinWilson lays out in his The Mind Parasites. If we take this universe as a playground for their domain then we are able to take most of the modern scientific models for universe with a pinch of salt. Which is to say; I do not trust either the solar system, the universe model or the pluriverse model as any indication of what the human being spiritually finds himself in. By necessity, I see the primal influence of sun and moon as holding sway over the mind of man, and his physical circumstances… and yet these are limits upon him that he is either wholly or partially unaware of. In the mystic experience of Wilson’s peak experience, or a revelling in The Now, we see these earlier facts of science loosening their grip. I also believe the precept for all artistic production implies such forms of mystic retrieval, no matter how socially or politically embedded. Meaning; I distrust the Russians’ wholesale dismissal – Akhmatova’s particularly- of mystic experience, and summise that it came out of the political pressures Bolshevism engendered in the populous, the reign of fear and constant social maneuvreing etc. (I would see the use of surrealist modes as equally a threat to this also. In the Russian context its most easily considered in certain films of Sergei Parajanov… who, perhaps despite himself, became an exemplar of dissident surrealism shorn of all the ill-advised political opinions of Breton himself). This reign of fear and fake art gets transposed into a more technological and capitalistic form in the west, and becomes the psychological burden for would-be artists in western Europe and North America; the essentially liberalist paradigm.

The sub-par black magic conspiracy that the political world has introduced and augmented up until recently is really without much theoretical backbone (and Ginsberg and Lamantia, here were at least partially correct). We know, at least by Blake’s standard, by his proclamation, the sane rejoinder of… Thus men forgot that / All deities reside in the human breast… (yet the objective dream world in which the gods inhabit has its own parallel forms of emphases, both separate and attached to the physical world?) This does not negate God, it enacts his supreme permission; that man create his own morality. That he have permission to fail, or succeed, in the attempt. that he create his own parameters for what is deemed success and failure.

We are not conjoined with the Mosaic god because of an abstract worship. He is ours only by the test of a faith, and the important point there is that it is a faith in the singular. (The test of European man’s spiritual strength). Thus secularism, in the west, allows for both faith and doubt… one up on many world cultures. I hear the cry of civilization in that. A spiritual civilization that begins in the body, but is product of the angels. The triumph of the body is that it is tested by eminently swimming in plurality. It monitors both ideological coherence and incoherence. But here, Kierkegaard chimes in with, often-times, the retort of a pure monotheism (and even Dylan Thomas – on the level of Bardism – would concur, in his preface to The Collected Poems; These poems, with all their crudities, doubts and confusions, are written for the love of man and in Praise of God, and I’d be a damn fool if they weren’t). Pagan animism is absolutely allowed for in the western dynamic, and yet it exists inclusive of the established church (now, unfortunately diminished by an in-crowd satanism, a fallen Luciferianism, and the usual accoutrements and exemplars of a very real black magic). Yet! That same monotheos, the fallen Yahweh, blinds the modern Celt to a power rife within its own line of Kings. Which is to say, I do not buy the Welsh Barddas of Iolo Morganwg wholesale. There are pieces here and there. There are reclaimings… a remnant of a system. And it is the Welsh line of Bards, of Druids, that stayed longer than the other Celtic traditions… perhaps with the assistance of people like Williams (pseudonym of Iolo etc) but it is Thomas’s urgency systematised (and now the Druidic tradition most directly absorbed into the black arts of the British Royals?) I wonder what it would look like wiped clean of Yahwism? Probably rather jolly… like Spinoza. But a variation on him, in some manner.

In all this, however, Williams’ system is not to be too closely related to Thomas, given that Thomas also partially echoes Blake’s reference to man’s connections to God as a form of benign, and possibly-transcendant anthropocentrism; the joy and function of poetry is, and was, the celebration of man, which is also the celebration of God (Thomas writes in Answers to an Enquiry, New Verse, 1934). The difference would be that Blake – being Irish? – would be inclined to the pantheon of Gods (or, more distinctly, in his case; the pantheonizing of his gods, either by actual visitation, or simply via the faculties of a prime Imagination) rather than Thomas’s strict sense of simply God and man. (And I’d suggest the Irish, proto-Atlantean lineage, as perhaps being the more sophisticated… but the outcome is arguably very similar).

Regardless, in both cases we remain witnesses, like it or not, to a takeover within the Bardic network… and The Flight of the Earls is its most potent symbol of the subsequent degradation. We do not, for example, place the work of Blake or Yeats in relation to this historical occurance. But if we take Blake’s Irish lineage seriously; a fact which Yeats had discovered early on in his Blake studies… then we can see the effect of it on the wider literature, both inside Ireland, and outside:

I have been busy with Blake. (I told you). You complain about the mysticism. It has enabled me to make out Blake’s prophetic books at any rate. My book on him will I beleive (sic) clear up that riddle for ever. No one will call him mad again. I have evidence by the way to show that he was of Irish extraction — his grandfather was O’Neal who changed his name for political reasons. Ireland takes the most important place in is mystical system.

…that was the letter to John O’Leary, May 7th 1889. It comes up again in his letter to Douglas Hyde a few months later:

Did I ever tell you my good fortune in finding out that William Blake — on whose Mystic System myself & a friend are making a big book  — the devil take all this prose — was an O’Neal. His grandfather was a Cornelius O’Neal who changed his name to Blake. Ireland makes much noise in his Mystic System & always holds a high ideal place.

Blake’s unknown – until Yeats – transposition into an Irish milieu, again, throws light on the political tenure, and problematic, at the heart of early 17th century British politics. When one witnesses the waste land of the 18th century for the arts we can see it replaced by a continental philosophy shorn of Celtic, and more generally, north and western European influences. The O’Neill lineage would also include my own lineage, to some degree, and that Blake becomes a form of supreme vengeance upon the established literary canon up to the end of the 17th century. It is such for many whose lineage, in any concrete way, reaches back into the early-to-mid 17th century. After Blake the reading-through-of-established-literary-figures becomes more proletarian, in some sense. I think primarily of what artists like Keats and Yeats made of Spenser, for example. Spenser was a firestorm on the revelation of the supernatural in literature, and Keats updated him very differently to Blake. But, despite Yeats’s extending of that sensibility it has been cut-short, mainly because of spiritualism’s lack of traction into the era of late Joyce. The morass of Joyce’s Wake has to be legitimized through the prism of that earlier movement (which I intend to discuss in another essay). After the war this fight is lost almost entirely, and is liberalized by the likes of Ginsberg and Lamantia.

Although one could argue for a much longer and sustained descent in relation to the Irish arts, Kant – philosophically, for good or ill – is the most distinct marker for our own worldview, today. It is a battle that finds coherence in literature over a period of 250 years. Modernism did NOT recall that very particular philosophical fall (Pound’s, and later, Olson’s, primary exclusion of the fact of Blake – as opposition – attests to it, though certain strands in British literature at least shadow it; David Jones and David Gascoyne come to mind) and the consequences of the rejection of Blake’s Urizen, in its utter totality, have yet to be seen.

If there is a contemporary Celtic-Aryan understanding of poetry, of the world, it is very much delineated closer to Romanticism, the Neo-Romantic, and to the Pre-Raphaelites. Joyce understood this in his hailing of Mangan, yet he rejects it in the Celtic Twilight only partially justified, in that yes, it had transposed a certain convenience for Protestant spiritualism and its less talented aesthetic hangers-on. But that modernism would become hyper-grounded and philosophical, perhaps Joyce could not predict. Perhaps the reason for this is that the Wake, by inference, grounds any spiritualism it has via the figure of Vico?) Similarly, Thomas understood this through figures like Beddoes.

There are other traces elsewhere that lead us further back. Give me Mr. Dylan Thomas any day, but these are fallen Celts (at least in the social sense… Thomas himself admitted that Yeats was the man, but that he enjoyed Hardy more… Pound too, concluded that he couldn’t move beyond Yeats)… we are people overtly of a supernatural tradition… spiritualism and psycho-analysis cannot contain us. But are indication. Always. And, to become little men of a tawdry communism? (another monotheos!?) So many ungrounded Celts of the twentieth century seem gone to seed under the faux grace of a Marx or an Engels, these most anti-poetic of men.

(I would even go further and suggest that the reason Yeats is so much loved is precisely – unlike Pound and Browning – he fostered a very real investigation into the occult and the supernatural. While men, in quotidian mentation, refuse the supernatural and the spiritual, their heart daily yearns for it. Yeats received the historical opportunity because he was lucky enough to establish himself before the rise of Bolshevism, both in its Soviet aspect and its western aspect. (As I traverse the airports and people of Europe, this last year… – England – Ireland – Hungary… my only word to describe it? Bolshevism. Pure Bolshevism).

But can we even speak of ourselves, the Celts, further back in history… can we say that, for instance, we are not men of the Renaissance, in any fundamental sense. And Yeats understood this when he wished he preferred Chaucer over Shakespeare (and what was Pound reading when journalists came to visit him on one of his visits to a poetry festival in Venice in ‘66? Chaucer, of course).


our wealth, dirty – & beaten into bankers’ rows – doors
stripped clean, ye hands! for stems of poverty’s flowers?

& O cracked mirrors, quiet graves, of white men. (Tend,
childless – we Britishers – a St. George of the perpetual mind…

or see how the more we go south & east, they say, is
where most money, contacts… contracts, be. (But another hit-piece

in The Guardian,

Isolation Chamber

As John C.Lilly stepped into the sensory deprivation chamber so I got on a plane to Mumbai. That was January 15th 1999. A necessary break from all things western. But exactly what sort of ‘little’ did ye know, pilgrim? Which is to say: I learned two things… 1/ who I was, and 2/ what was not me. I learned, in real terms, very little about India, Nepal, or – later – Japan. I was not there long enough to know very much at all. But, once sealed off from my own culture, I immediately began to build it from scratch, as Joyce did in Ulysses. And who were you, prey tell? The answer is almost nothing. I was a complex of what the College Road library in Shelton, Stoke, and the Bolton Library, could furnish me with. And then a mishmash of all the parental cultural laziness that floundered in on me, also. Yet! What I was not cannot completely be separated from what I was. A racial grounding developed in me, unconsciously, through all the wanderings. I knew that I was both inert, introspective… and yet outgoing in the truly adventurous sense, when being satisfied that I already knew what my own people were in their present moment; which is an essentially atomised, hyper-individualized broken populous lost in insignificant gossip and empty hedonism, who – in all its forms of cultural production – is bankrupt and entirely without force, strength or faith. Which is to say; I’m outgoing when not around my own, ostensibly… perhaps in egalitarianism there, but an egalitarianism staunchly rooted in the newer realisation that reincarnation manifests itself at a slant to the world, at random… and, as the healthy immune system attacks the first inklings of a disease so the mature soul reincarnates exactly in locations where worldfeeling is most degraded.

As I’ve already mentioned; I had a sense that travel might be  useful to inform the mind of man (convenient, given that the young intelligent middle-class man from Europe, in the nineties… would become an essentially nomadic being over the course of the next twenty years… not necessarily by choice, but by the machinations of the E.U. But there was a turning point around the first few years after 9-11… no longer would foreign experience of work be of much interest to English employers… but we did have humanities degrees after all!) but I’ve concluded that travel for the most spiritual of us brings us certain gleanings, but for the 99% very little. I have no truck with the backpacker ethic, per se. I put very little emphasis, even, on how long a person may have lived abroad. Most surround themselves with their own, and appeal for their livelihood and political views on the most base elements of the majority that surrounds them. And the same goes for the foreign elements in English culture. They are stale yes-men whose authority comes from no strength of analysis or mind. Ignore them. Ignore them, or die of their insignificant priorities for human life. And, at the same time, listen out for everything. This is the way of societies, in general. The ethnic imperative, augmented by very real celestial powers, and with powers of mentation, and with potential discursive powers of social cohesion.

Strange, then, that in what one disregards is what goes with one. I take the strength of the family, and one’s eminent disagreements among them to be of service, in the much longer term. Experience is code for later use. Very little of what one most immediately experiences, with the mind of that present, is of much interest. And yet it is as if centrifugal and centripetal forces press in on one… so that the opposite is also true. Strength of paradox and contradiction, then? Because the mind of the present moment (though eternal) – through coagulation of decades-old experience – is itself a being unto generation and the unregenerate. A cycle of construction and deconstruction presents itself. Intent and utter lack of intent converge. The consequences for this, perhaps most pertinently in the fact of the institutions of man – his educative limbs, as it were – are immense. How to have the regular scholastic disciplines run through this poetical inherence I just mention? As I say; not to abolish the seriality and specialization of the institutions, but to perpetually bring fresh perspective to the already established? How to capture the old soul for new disciplines of societal rumination? There is perhaps only a very minor sense in which man’s powers of social and political organisation can ape the twists and turns that artistic inspiration follows. There is perhaps no modification, education-wise, the years since WWII could fundamentally impose useful social change upon, unless it studied quite dispassionately the tradition it had lost in the century previous. This was not done… which leave us now with homeschooling and limited interaction with the larger institutions of learning as possible ways for amendment.

Again, though, it ultimately seems that this randomness of spiritual genius incarnating without any law of physics or reincarnation, can be trusted only in forms that the universities do not yet deem valid, and must be adjusted in other more home-grown ways. Travel and study are modes of discovery, and yet strangely – to a certain point – they give in to more abstruse psychic and spiritual states, most specifically. Travel as lifestyle choice (very much a mode of the nineties and early noughties) is not the answer either. A combination of both oikos and cultural adventure need to be achieved (and very much adjusted to the needs of a group or individual).

Travel, Geist, Insouciance

I like to read accounts of westerners abroad. I was even under the impression that travellers abroad – and blessed with a modicum of English – somehow enter a zone of de-conditioning, and that they may be just a tad more worth talking to. And yet everywhere you go, there you are. And mysterious languages sprawl in front of you. Still, a tiny tiny minority break out of their set cultural mode. It is spiritual. My appeal to pre-destination sets me wondering on this. So to say, that a visit to The Louvre or to The Pyramids would rarely cut it? But in saying that, experience still stands as spiritual material, if that is not a contradiction in terms.

I remember looking at the picture of John Clare’s grave stone on the net. The inscription on the headstone intrigued me. Reading these few words makes for a sombre, rather brutal –but enervating – brand of frankness: John Clare. 1793-1864. A Poet Is Born Not Made. (Ah, all those Social Studies lessons, as a sixth former, in front of a teacher mumbling on about ‘nature versus nurture’! Give me Homer’s golden chain of being, anyday…) If there is reincarnation then there is the whole gradation of intelligence one enters the world with. If you are born then you are born experienced already. But how experienced… in this life thing? A poet is born and made. But mostly born. And, when ‘perfected’ then absent (as the Hindu knows?) Before he bows out he commits a crime… a great work of art… the greater it is the longer linear time will take to assimilate it. Death is the greatest work of art. All the best art has this feeling of the penultimate about it. (Is that Lev Shestov? It might be).

Or this, appended to a Jimmy Page interview on youtube; “Jimmy Page, an old soul…”

And the same goes for the traveller; a man prey to conditioning. The walls of scepticism have long been raised in my mind. I was a journalist for a time, I guess. If you’re in with the wrong crowd chances are your preconceptions will get the better of you. News stories, flashing for centuries, across the retina. And no knowledge therein. No truth. You are the scavenging bird on the rock of your faculties of perception and judgement, partially misaligned by psyche but maintained by intuition; a melange of both the political world and The Unconscious. The presence of the world, its acutely moving silences and moods.

Between 2002-2003 and 2006-2008 I was back in England… apart from these brief forays it has been the long Asian merry-go-round for me. And the steadfast feeling I remember from even those later days (and particularly those later days) was that England is a strange circus. (In this I am a foreigner to western man… I often take pains to avoid him altogether. My arrogance is to think that, stripped of his societal conceits, I will advance beyond with just wit, instinct and intuition, certain disability of conceit, perhaps).

In this, do I take on Lawrence’s post-‘Great’-war weariness?

Witness Lawrence, in the later essay, Insouciance, musing on the difference between what is naturally present and what is politically prescient in the Italy of 1928.

They care! They simply are eaten up with caring. They are so busy caring about Fascism or Leagues of Nations or whether France is right or whether Marriage is threatened, that they never know where they are. They certainly never live on the spot. They inhabit abstract space, the desert void of politics, principles, right and wrong, and so forth. They are doomed to be abstract. Talking to them is like trying to have a human relationship with the letter x in algebra.

There simply is a deadly breach between actual living and this abstract caring. What is actual living? It is a question mostly of direct contact. There was a direct sensuous contact between me, the lake, mountains, cherry trees, mowers, and a certain invisible but noisy chaffinch in a clipped lime tree. All this was cut off by the fatal shears of that abstract word FASCISM, and the little old lady next door was the Atropos who cut the thread of my actual life this afternoon. She beheaded me, and flung my head into abstract space Then we are supposed to love our neighbours!

To hold in a single thought reality and justice. For those that pontificate on what Lawrence’s reactions would have been to the various European political movements leading up to World War II – had he lived after 1930 – we’re left in little doubt here. And yet even to ask that question would be to fall prey to the problem Lawrence describes here. I have sympathy for it. We grow old… abstract caring matters less. A time for engagement, a time for leaisure. Pound’s Tempus loquendi, / Tempus tacendi,

And yet it matters. It matters? Our children would die if it did not? Brute insouciance would make us simply fall into anarchism, a set of notions I feel less and less interested in. Government, regardless of utopias and dystopias, has magnificent potential. The thought for me, here, is a kindly whisper in the ear of an old soldier; “you care about the lakes and mountains, she cares for something that doesn’t interest you. So be it. Let her care!”

The balance inherent in Yeats’s coinage implies being present to both the lakes and mountain, and the woman gossiping about international politics. I have been that woman. We all have. And one day a friend said to me; “You’re tired”. ‘Nuff said. Get some kip. The dream of this world you steer with your spirit, and when you do so you see how the world is also spirit, but only insofar as you steer it, being – yourself – an incarnated spirit. (The classical conception of soul not to be confused with spirit here, but more related, as I see it, with the theosophical; Steiner and Yeats).

Surrealism Reconfigured

The thing I didn’t retain properly in my analysis of surrealism was hierarchy (Breton was not only a political smoke screen but a metaphysical smoke screen… I’d caught him on the family, the nation, community etc… all the other lunacies of his ilk… but I had disregarded Pound’s more sensible sense of aristocracy). As Morris was for Yeats so Breton is for me. An influence… but politically and socially beyond the pale? What is retained? There are ripples, ruptures, folds, pleats… in that feeling that crosses Lawrence’s insouciance. It works through artists (Keats, Browning). I see it everywhere but am more interested in what it is doing through Yeats and into the 20th century. Perhaps it will have something to do with race soul. Olson and Pound both make a move against the Wake. (The modern Celtic and British veer toward it but there are strands of the Celtic further back that don’t adhere to this). Bunting leaves surrealism behind. Joyce moves in his own orbit. The revolution of the unconscious voice leaves almost no room for intention toward social organisation… Joyce – as I have implied earlier – sees the artistic imperative as outside of any form of explicit social organisation. And I picture Yeats re-reading Hopkins and not knowing what to make of it (and ditto Mallarme?) It is easy to buy the no-hierarchy thing if you’re raised vaguely Celtic and, at least, non-committal regarding monarchy. They get confused. But our monarchy is not aristocratic… not Brehonic.  It is a clutch of black magicians. An aristocracy of artists? How could that cohere? Every man an artist, or at least artistic. Property is theft??! Property is I! The glory of the hearth, the wonder of lineage. Woman, for the most part, the home maker.

Aindriú Ó Domhnaill
[draft unifinished c.2015-16]

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The Halls of Intuition

Nothing was ever discovered by logic. All things are discovered by intuition, as the lives of the great mathematicians and scientists prove again and again. Logic plods after intuition, and verifies discoveries in its own pedestrian way. Logic is a mere servant of the imagination. To exalt it – as modern thinkers tend to – is to invite spiritual anarchy.

—Colin Wilson, Religion and the Rebel

I see that the current polis (and do I want to emancipate that word from its Greek connotations?)… the current body’s avatardom… I see that it has a back door, or a front door? I take Blake’s isolating of the ‘senses five’ as the sensorial equivalent of a certain brand of attention. Attention, and its sister: history. Yet history too will morph with that deepening in acuity of the world. A natural high. And so it will not be an End of History… instead, simply a re-conceptualizing of history, under the aegis of imagination. It is the deepening of attention, via intuition, that needs midwifery. Something of the ‘gut instinct’ – or usage of the body in all its manifestations of soul – which would be the full extent of an attention built on intuition, this itself, being the beginning of a whole panorama of other senses, soon to be manifested by way of a kind of communal and individual excitation. It is in a transitional mode, at present. I seek its full fruition, if full be the right word. It is essentially endless. It does not care for transhumanism… it is the switching of astral and bodily modes at will. It is organic. Certain forms of technology can be used to encourage it… but any one form will not be its modus absolute. A perpetual transcending of forms. Heidegger only really scratched the surface in his The Question Concerning Technology. We know it is on the way. Those who refuse it also know it is on the way. The synchro-mystic enactment. Sometimes it seems a little dreary, but it is we who are dreary, being here to make ourselves less dreary. If Bishop Berkeley intended anything then that is his jag. What you pay attention to becomes your fate. Choose well, for it is militant… and Jehovah hasn’t seen anything yet.

Could wit also play a part? The very fiery wit, in communion with itself or others. Here is the usefulness of social presences. Pre-sense and presence, again. What is this back wall the sensoria attempt to mingle with? You have a part in it. It seeks you to fulfill itself. Throw your body upon the body of the world, as I once stuck into a painting. Embrace everything. Yes, even fire. Even death. Embrace death by rejecting it utterly. A foreign concept. You are not welcome here, Death, amongst us immortals. We have given you up… we know the power – the spell – of an idea, and your influence has worn off. I cannot spell you. You are not a word in my language. For death, also, is a covert pursuasion toward immortality, as is evil. Once you put your finger on evil… it shrinks from you. You are protected by intuition. She is a power you have only partly uncovered. Logic and philosophy are her children.

The internet has rendered null and void a certain number of forms that it now deems obsolete. Newspaper media… conventional forms of journalism. Mr. McCluhan, I sit – tonight – with your ghost, laughing my arse off. They hang around as feint chimeras of a few million untrained psyches… but their time is over. Yet it is not really the internet that has done this. People have. People who are trained – perhaps even unbeknownst to themselves – in a deeper form of intuitive capacity. This is what generation is for. Generation and regeneration seek no end. Entropy -death-in-life – is the perception of an end. Syntropy denies it. Dualisms simply flex their muscles, and void is simply the unachieved; the opposing force of The Dagda’s cauldron.

silver_cauldronAll well and good… but this – at no point – seeks abstraction. We want concrete, and hyper-political – if need be – node points. Wars… civil unrest… will occur… but I don’t see these things in the same prism as the old, real wars (before the bankers wars, I mean). Extremes of violence, through intermittent periods of the old violence, will fade? No there will always be violence… but perhaps reconceived. But a violence of self-interrogation, a kind of leaping of the mind in reflection and vatic strangeness. There is nothing wrong with a good, clean fight, for those that like fighting. We will not have the old dirty fighting. Give me pistols at dawn, or the Irish pantheon of gods, to adore. As with humans, I will choose my own alignments.

And as the powers of intuition are loosened and re-vitalized people will understand what Blake meant when he said They Became What They Beheld. You like your pain? Well, let it go, then. Let go of a world. Yet you must let go of it first by intuition, and second through investigation. It will not follow… you have investigated it into non-existence. It doesn’t matter. No solipsistic brag, this. The question is: do you dare? Do I dare? By the doorways of madness comes in a freshness like a holy breeze as the ancients of The Rig Veda knew. Her mother, intuition, under the spell of language, feeds on us, and expands very literal horizons.

I finally wrote a decent poem. It took me three hundred thousand discarded ones. Twenty three lifetimes. I don’t give a fuck. I’m here for good. A hundred Shakespeares sit around the gambling table of another ten centuries. And I see the demons – as usual – descend on them (they have done it before; Homer, Ovid, Dante, Shakespeare, Shelley, Keats, Byron). It does nothing. It’s just the three lonely dimensions of this cognized space doing their boring little dance again. In drips and drabs, before, it came. I wonder if it will speed up. But you get to choose your perspective on it. Are you going to do that whole dying thing again? That whole unconscious life thing again? A fool sees not the same tree that a wise man sees. If you want to be wise do not follow fools. How simple genius is. And how complex. Follow your nose, seek the grail etc. These are agons of distillation you are after. There is free will, and yet shit occurs. You made it… deal with it… but don’t sit on it. The Self would not approve. Your mother died to teach you a lesson. The bus came two minutes early to teach you a lesson. A child is murdered (and I’ll speak more of British pedophilia and black magic in another article). A crow picks through the winter rubbish. You see no end of evil… you see no end of good? Over this next word… I am poised. What will happen? It is kind of interesting… it is everything. Here is the devil… there goes the devil… he is different from the previous one… you are not that man anymore. You need another devil (the higher you build the bonfire the bigger the perceived darkness, to paraphrase McKenna). You need another devil in order to know (and possibly punish) – then disregard – then forget – who he is. Intuition has sent you somewhere else, its little cruise-ship masts rippling in the ocean breeze.

Moral law – first perceived by intuition – mirrors dimensional precepts inherent in the individual. Intuition acts as assistant to the true perception of any given space, made by the mind, and cleansed by the mind, in the act of intuitive searching. In that activity the soul in emotional paralysis of the lower dimensions is stripped of fear – by means of entering fear -and thus is wiped clean of the claim of seriality, and of time. The body begins to generate Time instead of leaking it, and dying as a loss of energy. I think of the instinct of Ezra Pound, in the writing of The Cantos… an artist, in the holistic sense, following his nose, and – in doing so – sensing the contiguous simultanaity of all history. Shrinkage of time.

Which is also to imply there is no journey? The journeyer is in a position of consistently negating the journey by means of the conversion of a new kind of space (since hitherto we have only understood space as a physical phenomenon, and not a spiritual one). In flux how there is also the unregenerate, by way of paradox. Change occurs to one who spies change. I am trying to be very still, and yet I still know the phrase expect poison from the standing water. Which is to say utter change and utter stillness converge, are converging, will converge. The bird hops along the lawn. But who is this odd man looking at it? All comedy comes from the seeing of oneself seeing something. It makes you giggle just thinking about it. Aren’t I funny? Aren’t I a weird ol’ thing? Yet here I am. Looking at you, bird.

Physical life is not the be-all and end-all. It is useful for writing poems amd organizing societies. Bodies are good for artists, as the spirit is good for God. I am the terminus… a bus station, in Hanley, Staffordshire… a harbour in Kobe, Japan. God imagined it, and now I’m doing It. All memory, even in the most docile and belligerent of fools, coalesces around a number of peak experiences, from the avatar’s perspective. These spiral up to God. The memories of those truly thick are incredibly dull to the soul’s apprentice. That is hell. And The Kingdom of Heaven is Within You. Such is the inevitable maw of experientia. Those who know no joy should be pitied. And then quickly forgotten about. Or killed, if they get in your way? (So, thus we die. Ah well. here comes another body. Hold on tight. Tony Blair’s offspring may be down there somewhere!)

Is it that the most immortally minded of us do not mind death if our words intend true meaning? We see life in the use of meaningful words. Logos is our life. Physical violence seems to occur when the meaning and intention have left the use of words, via either listener or speaker, or both. Yet, tomorrow’s dictator is softened by the dream of a poet who lived eight hundred years ago, without him even knowing. Is this why poets are passive souls… since linguistic clarity requires physical distance when combat requires action. The action of language and the action of physical confrontation – both requiring intuition – have two very separate functions. Perhaps we have come too close to life? Those who worship the body and its empty promises see violence as a means of immediate change. It is. They are right. It is. But I sit down tonight and read the words of a poet who died 3000 years ago. He is surrounded by misfits and dodgy politicos… yet he has already decided on the dream. And it doesn’t include them. He knows them, and – knowing them – does not allow them into his spelling. They will die an almost-eternity of meaningless deaths. When a broader, more nuanced distance is achieved will human violence lessen? Man, by intuition, will also physically kill, if need be. He is in history, but not of it. But intuition, soon, will we be unable to imagine the death of another at the hands of our own frustrated mentation? The more spiritual we become the more we understand that ignoring what is not vital is a form of death for that form also. Yet the dualism implies social upheaval. In the past we killed for the pleasure of seeing what we deemed aberrant die. Out of physical violence the baser outcomes of imagination are achieved, yet this is the denser outcome of imagination’s ultimate purpose; to pluralize forms of experience so as to allow for greater spiritual levels of consternation, doubt and faith. Out of self-interrogation comes a way for passivity.  I do not fore-give you. It is not the turning of the other cheek. It is the power of looking entirely away, and, simultaneously, killing a man. That is Jesus, Regained? A loss of interest (but this could only occur when man has seriously spiritually regained himself, returned into the purview of The Self, into reflection, and been obeisant enough with  spiritus mundi). Man – with his higher instincts – could very well achieve what we would call – from a physical perspective – passivism. Yet this would be replaced, through intuition, by a more inward and spiritual self-interrogation. Telepathic and discursive. Creation will out. Bad people will die, or be killed. The newborns will incarnate as a corrective. It is unhealthy to be impatient. There is some form of extra-dimensional nexus (not here, necessarily) where evil is less urgent. It is not allowed bodies. And its urgency – or insurgency? – decreases as the mind’s true power gains a handle on itself. Demons enter physis because we have such a mind, collectively. Intuition smells them coming, and inserts meaningful words into a given poet. Thus, creating the world of 2846 (and still no asteroids have hit!)

I have never been of the pursuasion that one must adjust one’s self to the seasons. It is good for the skin and the diet (buying local and all that malarkey… all well and good) but I distrust the sun, having worshipped it for several yugas. A device, it is good for mystic poets and gardeners. Electric light is fine also. Use the sun’s light to render the truth of intuition as a complex of sensation, of sorts. But don’t devote yourself to it. There are too many angels around for this world to truly lay a full grip on you. The seasons are good for physical life… it is a convenient service. I see both sides of astrology, also… a kind of mirror wrapped round the universe of Sophia’s fall. But a window, also?

Anyhoo, that was yesterday. And today this poem just dropped out of my heart, and it seems to have nothing to do with my body. Yet it is a body. I can only find the word heart in order to explain what is fundamentally inexplicable, at least in process. I have discovered my intention, through intuition, unto the inexplicable. God imagined it, and – in writing it – I imagined a strand of his imaginings. Creation is the best form of demonic protection. The last a demon wants is more of the soul. Yet I like a demon. A demon demands great art… he seeks to be known, inside and out, and known thus… is destroyed. Such is psycho-spiritual function.

Aindriú Ó Domhnaill, February ’17

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The Enigma; A Higginson-Dickinson Complex

If, as opposed to the Archon, the artist is the arch-maker of epochs, the poet, the singer, the composer… if this is true then science – instead of working in a materialist mode against the poet’s fashioning of his mystic faculties – must work in unison with the kind of apprehension the poet and artist utilizes to bring into reality the truth of poetry. There is a hint of this in what Francis Crick did with McClure’s poetry, particularly McClure’s experiences of LSD. We see it again in the technical innovations Steve Jobs took from LSD usage. Regardless of the exploitation of hallucinogens in these cases the concrete example is that of following intuition, or a collection of other hidden senses and faculties hitherto not very well delineated or discussed between the arts and the sciences. After talent and teknos – for any long-practicing artist – comes instinct, intuition and bravery of the sayable. For performing such a hard-won road the artist is essentially, and – seemingly – always as enigma. The poet – working from within his own modes and trajectory – is entirely ungovernable. This is not necessarily to say he has governance over himself in any moral or political way (although these will come, as Blake has it when he says Let the fool persist in his folly and he will become wise)… but, ultimately, the poet puts his life into the service of art. After teknos has steadied him into a textual and vocable discipline he functions on pure combinations of instinct and intuition… and – out of instinct – he discovers other senses by apprehension of the Akashic, or by other bodies of thought that literally choose to embody him, the body of the poem being the trace of what was momentarily and physically embodied. This is an often perilous trail that a poet like Jack Spicer (or, indeed, Yeats) could at least partially understand… with understanding, though, after Wordsworth, being a last matter, of a sort. Reflection being decisive, but not reflection only.

The best example, however, is what I’m calling the Higginson-Dickinson Complex. An aspiring poet reaches out to an expert in contemporary literature for advice on poetry. (Dickinson’s side of the correspondence is represented more fully at the website of The Atlantic). Here; some excerpts and observations:

Mr Higginson,

Are you too deeply occupied to say if my Verse is alive?

The mind is so near itself – it cannot see, distinctly – and I have none to ask –

Should you think it breathed – and had you the leisure to tell, I should feel quick gratitude –

If you make the mistake – that you dared to tell me – would give me sincerer honor – toward you –

I enclose my name – asking you, if you please – Sir – to tell me what is true?

That you will not betray me – it is needless to ask – since Honor is it’s own pawn –

at first I tried a little, – a very little – to lead her in the direction of rules and traditions; but I fear it was only perfunctory, and that she interested me more in her – so to speak – unregenerate condition. Still, she recognizes the endeavor. In this case, as will be seen, I called her attention to the fact that while she took pains to correct the spelling of a word, she was utterly careless of greater irregularities

I want to exploit this as emblem because I think it is important. When science can consider the being of artistic genius; its godly inhabitance in the body of that avatar, indeed to understand genius as avatardom (as nexus between the stuff of world and the soul’s body) the science will understand how world begins. Poetic being is the beginning of form, by virtue of aping God and nature, and -ultimately – of an oeuvre. Was world our body? Is world what we have already, creatively, sloughed off? Here the moment reigns, and yet memory (contrary to the latest theories of poetry) also, gets re-momentized. Essentially, what we are talking about is an abject over-abundance of meta-invention. World pluralizes itself… and every moment of existence allows for a multiplicity of perspectives.


Recovered adult photo of Emily Dickinson (left) and Kate Scott Turner, 1859

The meeting between Higginson and Dickinson begs one of the biggest questions we can touch upon – as humans – surrounding the problem of the meeting between metaphysics, politics and art. But it is an embodied fight. An embodied strangeness that starts with the entrance of genius into physical life. The greatest of poets live closest to physical death… and why? Because social life lives closest to spiritual death… just as the child would retreat from the lunacy of adult social construction, so Dickinson’s genius lives only by its own unregeneracy. And let us be clear; this is not about physical ability to reproduce… but always about the incredible productiveness inherent in that retreat. The academy suggests that Dickinson’s supposed agoraphobia, late on, is simply the cliche they believe is overcome… and yet cliches come from somewhere, and Dickinson was outside of the reigning epoch of her day precisely because she was so close to the soul, which would allow for world having very little cognitive appeal. What genius can do with even a second of existence mass man cannot achieve… not even in hundreds of years of experience. This is what the poet, born and not made, suggests. (Meaning that any theory of art that leaves out the reincarnational aspect of invention is doomed to the temporal and journalistic demands it places upon itself). But let’s cut to Higginson’s commentary of his meeting with Dickinson:

After a little delay, I heard an extremely faint and pattering footstep like that of a child, in the hall, and in glided, almost noiselessly, a plain, shy little person, the face without a single good feature, but with eyes, as she herself said, “like the sherry the guest leaves in the glass,” and with smooth bands of reddish chestnut hair. She had a quaint and nun-like look, as if she might be a German canoness of some religious order, whose prescribed garb was white piqué, with a blue net worsted shawl. She came toward me with two day-lilies, which she put in a childlike way into my hand, saying softly, under her breath, “These are my introduction,” and adding, also, under her breath, in childlike fashion, “Forgive me if I am frightened; I never see strangers, and hardly know what I say.”

What is purity of soul? It is purity of language. And language, in its most vatic, song-like urgencies, knows no arbitration. What we witness in these circumstances is the dissonance – and seeming incoherence – between social arbitration and the workings of the soul, via language. Here comes a being -perhaps out of another dimension? – that the convention of the day is at pains to bring into its communal self. That genius defies, continually, the deafness of timely speech. Why does the joy of reading poetical innovation struggle, always, in comparison with the machinations of social cognition? It it even tiring putting it into prose. And yet – particularly early in life – that outstanding quality of poetic inherence Dickinson exemplifies comes into conflict with any social acceptance. My mention of science is intentional here. If science is to have any kind of future it must follow the paradoxes and contradictions of poetic inspiration. In Higginson this attempt at comprehension is still in its birth-pangs:

She went on talking constantly and saying, in the midst of narrative, things quaint and aphoristic. “Is it oblivion or absorption when things pass from our minds?” “Truth is such a rare thing, it is delightful to tell it” . . . “How do most people live without any thoughts?” . . . Or this crowning extravaganza: “If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can ever warm me, I know that is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry. These are the only ways I know it. Is there any other way?”

The corollary attempt, made here, between book and world… textualis and physis. We already have, via Pound, this sense of poetry as a medium by which cognition is subverted… and yet we still, ludicrously, cling to the notion that we have the explicatory apparatus to apply social convention to the workings of the soul, or spirit. In the words of another writer; “Man seems, spirit is”. When we read a work of great poetry, of great artistic intelligence, we are put back in touch with What Is… this cannot be gained by explanation (and yet the world of prose and social explanation will be its result, I do not deny that). We are not in the world of Alexander Pope. But… bodily… bodily… what lies hidden here?

I never was with any one who drained my nerve power so much. Without touching me, she drew from me. I am glad not to live near her.

Genius, at least in its most potent and world-shattering aspect, is bodily eros. The madness of convention should, and will, by virtue of the limitations of this dimension, feel absolutely deligitimised simply by virtue of the presence of genius. Lawrence was sincere when he talked of Noli me tangere. Just as the good die young, so the poet lives more briefly, as fire, in order to illuminate the whole of life. In twin-madnesses does the poet enter a world… the madness of the social world, and the seeming-madness of the true artist’s sanity in the face of this. So what might good sense, or sanity, really mean, as far as we apply it to someone like Dickinson’s genius? It reaches further back into the black regions of the soul, via the act of poetic retrieval… to access a pre-sense, a presence, which is ultimately finalised in the poem. Higginson’s response to his meeting with Dickinson reminds us of the danger, the dread, this creates socially, which is essentially the worry over how much of one’s self one really is. In the presence of genius, bodily, we are reminded, simply by pure exposure, that we are not wholly present enough. It is embarrassing. It feels invasive because are reminded that our thoughts are tawdry, distracted, not fully formed. But it is a necessary metaphysical invasion.

Both pre-sense (presence) and non-sense can be applied to this. If Lewis Carroll were nonsense, for example… we can easily turn the dualism around, and suggest that nonsense or pre-sense have a sense – a ring of truth? – to them… as in the phrase make sense. Making sense does not necessarily mean to only appeal to the acuity of one’s bodily organs to provide knowledge and awareness. In fact, have we ever really yearned for the sensible? Not very much. World is overcome, evolved, by what one is in one’s soul, sight unseen. And this has incredible and interesting consequences for the scientist who would pry more into the nature of poetic genius and inspiration, and its physical consequences – perhaps via the innovations of Wilhelm Reich? – so as to see that world exists because poets, artists, musicians breathe.

Aindriú Ó Domhnaill, January 2017




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Towards an Interdimensional Poetics (part 3)

What has been juggled for the two years since this site was last active? Many things… psychological location, physical location. A surfeit of locations. A gaggle of contributors to The Fiend… many gone to the wind. But there is a narrative somewhere in this tangle of memories. It involves politics.


How can I, that girl standing there,
My attention fix
On Roman or on Russian
Or on Spanish politics,
Yet here’s a travelled man that knows
What he talks about,
And there’s a politician
That has both read and thought,
And maybe what they say is true
Of war and war’s alarms,
But O that I were young again
And held her in my arms.

Yeats’s last poem has been analysed perhaps many times. The last time I heard this done was by the now-deceased poet Geoffrey Hill somewhere in the depths of youtube, telling me that it was not a very good poem. For a number of reasons. At that time I agreed with him, at least partially. It does not have that swansong quality Ray Carver’s Late Fragment has, or the inadvertant adieu of Shelley’s The Triumph of Life (inadvertant because Shelley was most probably murdered? Yes, I will join that ‘conspiracy jag’). The swansong is in the personified ramifications of the thing. It is a quieted swansong… and, in that sense, has majesty. It is also a paen to politics as youthful fundament… of a life essence of sorts. I see it this way; a girl stands looking at herself in a mirror. The word mirror is not in the poem directly… but the implication is everywhere in Yeats’s metaphysics, much of it springing – in a much more imagistic fashion – out of Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. As Yeats himself said: “some articulation of the Image which is the opposite of all that I am in my daily life, and all that my country is.”

The mirror’s there simply inasmuch as Yeats’s process of artistic production is the implication of the poem, along symbolic lines. This definition of the politic, in memory, in the human form, mingles with the tradition of personification in Irish literary tradition; the embodying of an Agon. As time exists so the politic and its own vision of itself shifts and mutates. We are able to see, in Yeats’s concision, the ‘life of the politic’ drawn out from the ‘event of the politic’, its various cultural manifestations.

This obviously implies a politics that is pluralistic in its definitions, and this implies (at least, for me) a permission to give a small summary of how western poets themselves have defined politics and their relationship to it. A re-assessment of a sort.

I’ve reversed my opinion on the poem a little. I like it. Would Joyce have? Most probably not. It is elegy… that most poetic of lyric forms. Joyce, being the most anti-historical of writers (if only in the most Freudian, most subconscious/unconscious sense… postmodernism has died in order to describe it properly, without becoming it). Another writer in the same mould might be another Celt… Dylan Thomas. I read recently Thomas’s response, by letter, to a criticism that he was not a very political writer:

You meant, I know, that my poetry is not concerned with politics […] but with poetry […] the idea you gave me was that you actually consider me unaware of my surroundings, out-of-contact with the society from which I necessarily outlaw. You are right when you suggest that I think a squirrel stumbling at least of equal importance as Hitler’s invasions, murder in Spain, the Garbo-Stokowski romance, royalty, Horlicks, lynchlaw, pit disasters, Joe Lewis, wicked capitalists, saintly communists, democracy. the Ashes, the Church of England, birth control, Yeats’ voice, the machines of the world […] but I ‘am’ aware of these things as well.

Thomas defines, by the workings of poetry, a mythos of inclusion and exclusion (while showing the slightly Celtic-communistic colours that were prevalent in his era). What the poem, in insouciance, excludes, makes its majesty just as valuable. What my response would be is that Thomas felt he had no overt, journalistic interest in putting the social world in order. His perhaps-ill-advised social worldview does not ostensibly enter the poem. Earlier in the same letter he says: I am broadly, (as opposed to regimented thinkers and poets in uniform) antisocial, but am extremely sociable. An artist, particularly in the Celtic stripe, instinctively retreats into the soul – thinks from the soul – in order to order a social awareness that is true to it. And that this – again, in dualism – is correct and incorrect… part of Thomas’s jealousy of Pound’s onslaught on usury via deep politics was perhaps so counter to his own inclination? Thomas, being too culturally and sociably amiable than Pound? These jealousies of poets as diverse as Ezra Pound and George Barker (in Barker ‘the political’ is more diffuse, straddling his early work and his very late poems), I think, is manifest in the ease with which social and political movements of their times enter the work. In Thomas we only have – as explicitly political – a handful of almost-journalistic pieces that seem to relate directly to his work in the BBC (that most propagandistic and pernicious of cultural outreach programs. The hand that signed the paper is the most cogent example… a mediocre poem, at best. Mainly because it doesn’t have the concrete detail of Yeats’s more political work). Pound – for the most part – stands outside of this. The insouciance of Thomas and the cultural urgency of Pound, though, provides an interesting dialectic.

Yet, after the war, we hear a poet like Robert Creeley saying simply ‘everything is political’… a wonderful way of obscuring the fact that his poetry has very little of the social, the public in it… meaning; the social and the public imply polis, imply commentary on binding forms of social interaction. We all know what political is. Yet our definition of it – as with history – is a political process, in so far as – like any human phenomena – it is an angel of constant flux and mutation. The other trains of thought – philosophy, science etc – bolster it when it is an object of focus, regardless of ethical considerations.

Creeley is not overtly a political poet, thus he is forced to say that ‘everything is political’ because there is something in a man that does not want to ignore entirely the political, no matter how mystical, philosophical or metaphysical certain of his artistic instincts are. What happens is that the claim ‘everything is political’ allows for an absorption of the social self, the public self, into minutiae and fragmentation. And this is not to say that Creeley’s investigations of male-female relationships, ostensibly, are not useful… but it, perhaps despite itself, allows for the disintegration of the public voice in poetry. I’m thinking particularly of the descent into L.A.N.G.U.A.G.E poetry, so that – by the 70s -American poetry is now ensconced in a poetry that is, by method, anti-public, in general. Is Joyce, within the American paradigm, then, also a fragmentation of the public aspect of artistic production? That is absolutely an interesting problem, and implies a whole critique of the ‘stream of consciousness’ mode (and if Freud is the cause of this – he was not explicitly a cause, in the cases of Lawrence and Joyce – there is still a problem there in terms of a cultural permission toward the inner voice. Joyce being much more an example here). But one would have to counter that with the claim that Joyce’s voice of an unconscious, as it were, gave literary life to a concept hitherto only theorised. This is one function of art; to give life to a concept… linguistic life, given the body is not only physical, but a function of language. Logos, making matter… assumes, from that divine standpoint, ethical import. The descent in contemporary art, in the 21st Century, is that it confuses the conceptual with that embodying, and enlivening, of language. The critic, essentially, has become the artist. And theory or concept, in its purest forms, then gets lost in mercantile considerations. This occurs to the point where it cannot create outside of a set of rigid theoretical and political stances.

In the British poets of the thirties (sometimes grouped under the short-lived Apocalypse banner) the tone, particularly in Gascoyne and Barker very much seems to be one of social engagement. Contra Joyce. And it strikes me, the more I think about these poets, that – when we discuss the political – we are actually talking about forms of thought, of psyche. Stream of consciousness, though, is a radical alternative to the social, the socially sayable. Perhaps valid, perhaps not (for Roger Scruton – whose youtube videos I’ve perused in extremis of late – Joyce’s mode is no comfort, and no extension, to his anti-modernism… what we forget about Joyce, though, is that – out of the unconscious voice- he extended the socially sayable… but at the expense of the public voice… what I think we witness here is advent of forms of thought that do not consider social voice… a problem we still have not grasped the consequences of. Suffice to say, both Buckie Fuller and McLuhan attest to the idea that all social infrastructures of western nations would have to take account of the reconfiguration this dissolution into dream-life and dream-utterance… utter pre-educational invention, would herald).

With the poets of the thirties we get the impression that the poetic voice is an extension of what is socially sayable. Psyche, by contrast is of great use, but she is not always entirely to be trusted, also. This is something, in modernism, that has become confused… an approach that only the Victorian would have understood. Which is to say that the Apocalypse school – even though its individual poets imagined themselves to be modern (and despite Thomas’s hatred of Tennyson!) – were more ensconced in a thread of poetics that didn’t see that contraction of the public voice into the inner voice as real. There is more throat in Thomas’s mode than dream, or mind, in the Eastern sense.

But, to get back to Psyche. Just this morning, this quote in a copy of Seven Pillars of Wisdom:

Arabs could be on an idea as on a cord; for the unpledged allegiance of their minds made them obediant servants. None of them would escape the bond till success had come, and with it responsibility and duty and engagements. Then the idea was gone and the work ended – in ruins. Without a creed they could be taken to the four corners of the world (but not to heaven) by being shown the riches of earth and the pleasures of it; but if on the road, led in this fashion, they met the prophet of an idea, who had nowehere to lay his head and who depended for his food on charity and birds, then they would all leave their wealth for his inspiration. They were incorrigibly children of the idea, feckless and colour-blind, to whom body and mind were for ever and inevitably opposed. Their mind was strange and dark, full of depressions and exaltations, lacking in rule, but with more of ardour and more fertile in belief than any other in the world.

Psyche is what occurs when Principle is partially or fully absent. Psyche, the pull of the social. And a woman, a goddess. Inferno, Purgatory and Paradiso. Pure politics is something absolutely in tune with the hierarchies of nature, and thus by extension the spiritual hierarchies present in the unseen. Seer is not at all a flippant term in this context, not only in a spiritual context… but also in politics; in separating wheat and chaff. Our attraction to Dante after over 800 years remains because of our attraction to the hierarchical, both in politics, in nature and in spirit. And Psyche, in this world – I’d say – is incontrivertably public and social.


Conceptions of Mind, Nomenclature

But also politics; child of the ideological. Adjective for the word idea, ιδέα, ratio, idée, Vorstellung. The translations leave and arrive in a Clapham Junction of the soul (that last word itself, with numerous translations… anima, âme, esprit, alma… anyone? The Spanish for soul is the Hungarian for apple, by the way. Interestingly toroidal, then. Geist…anyone? The making of I’s… Is… Eyes… I… θεός… I Theos… I… Deus). Thus, also, the ideal. ‘Of myself and God, god/gods’? The ideal.

The fall into conflations, permutations, alchemy… compounds. Wordgains-and-losses. You can see that strain, that argument, in Yeats – The Victorian? – ‘s All Soul’s Night:

I need some mind that, if the cannon sound
From every quarter of the world, can stay
Wound in mind’s pondering,
As mummies in the mummy cloth are wound;
Because I have a certain marvellous thing to say,
A certain marvellous thing
None but the living mock

Yeats applying the Joycean procedure? Except that Yeats seizes the midway and Joyce goes for – ultimately – the inexplicable (in some sense The Mystic… but more precisely what Duncan named Language Mysticism. This would not be to Akhmatova’s liking. No Russian fails – or succeeds? – in terms of that procedure). As with Nietzsche, there is an implicit sense that mind is a protectress here… something whose function is to not stray too vehemently into materiality. But Yeats trades on the Hindu usage of ‘mind’ here, and yet ‘mind’ in the western usage also has a ‘fallen’, earthly aspect. In this argument Lawrence’s preference against ego, against ‘mind’ won out. So that ‘mind’ in English has something of a dirty connotation in poetry after WWII. In Hindu thought it doesn’t have that quality.


In the 20th Century only Corso and Stevens seem to dissent from it, with Ginsberg acquainting it with moloch. Moloch exists though… but it is only one kind of mind. (Philip Lamantia saw it in The Owl, possibly splayed across the psycho-geography of Washington D.C? & that this is absolutely an element of the spiritual degradation of our current political elites).

But that is the Indo-Aryan tradition. Descent and ascent of etymology. We had to split the mindbody up in order to conceive of its parts. When scientism is over in the west then what will be the resolve? What is politick is the social. But it is the social redefined… with Joyce very much part and parcel. I turn from the goddess at my shoulder… and perceive that I am living in a world of others. Sartre, a true Hebraic avatar, found that rush-in of The Other debilitating. Hell is other people. Blake counters it with; the most sublime act is to set another before you. When you cannot take something from the pure presence of another then you are morally lost. We have lauded Sartre’s arrogance and drawn it too far into ourselves. Unknown to each other along the happy street, each dials up 100 other streets in the world… by the hour. The All (one of Yeats’s most used words), or The Internet-All… more succinctly appears on the radar of The Each. Expansions and contractions. Yet, a nation to contain it? Definitely, yet the terms slip and slide… but, again, the nomenclature sticks while the definition changes. Destruction and conquest of space. NASA not included. We needed a globalism to be a foil for the true yearning for world culture. To see that the deeper spiritual obeisance to cultural interaction had to have characteristics, that definition and nomenclature are interactive. That western civilization be, in general terms, a place for people who are white and of European descent. The dying arts of multicultural values and international diplomacy depend entirely upon the idea that values are allowed to become ill-defined over decades, and – in many contexts – centuries. What Hell is other people also did, was to allow for the idea that if such a thing were true, it needn’t be that bothersome to define who the social other was. If the other was from a totally different culture that did not share your language or values, you could simply appeal to that all-too-general totem of despair. Meaning; defy definition of any system of values or tradition.

On a more philosophical footing, though, perhaps the modernists, as children of Nietzsche, had to suffer The Other for a while. That The Other is teacher. Modernism… hmm, how anti-social is it? It really hinges on the now-almost-entirely-disappeared notion of The Great Man, and that this had ties to genius in literary artistry. Despite the lunacy of ‘The Great War’, the entire period from the end of the 19th Century through to the early 20s is permeated with the idea that a single individual can be a prime agent of social change… and, whether one believes in the politicos of that era, we can at least believe that the artists were similarly driven, and implied hierarchy

You are held in the world by your own devising… the noli me tangere of Lawrence… still a choice. Mass man is to be held at bay so as to eventuate the artist, as proto-politician (in slow motion) to go about making epochs. The contemporary workplace, though – at least for the acutely sensitive – reduces him to quantified object (hold on while I put on Nick Drake’s Place To Be). And yet there is still a pull -the magnetism – that exists in the man, out of time. The danger in this is the post-Creative-Writing-course idea that mass man has creative tendencies. Education seeks to level and equalize the creative tendencies of man in totality. I remember the words written on John Clare’s gravestone: A Poet is Born, Not Made. An absolutism now foreign to us. The implication being something that the arts – their scholar minions – can reconfigure the artistic impulse and make it sociable, nurturable; the long-held stance of the social sciences… this ridiculous dualism of nature vs. nurture. Thomas and Yeats would laugh at that, I would imagine… and thus could not function as popular artists in the 20th Century… so festooned is it with government grants and inorganic opportunities for poem-lending; as the muse of usury were conjured in some arm of The Bank of England.

And thus Polis… could it only be corrupting? Blame Baudelaire. That great saint and sinner of modernism. I feel acutely, bodily, this Yahwist sense of man in the mass… of him as an amorphous enemy that came out of the tradition of the Old Testament, and which Nietzsche, perhaps despite himself, lauded… held up, but held up to his own contempt (or Bob Dylan, in Don’t Look Back, when asked what, exactly, his feeling is, when confronted by another… his reply, in no uncertain terms, being; “I don’t like them!”) But this is only part of the story. That staying wound in mind’s pondering… how much of that wound-ness encompasses the social? It even has a sense in which, in its attempt to maintain reality, there is an evasion from the more spurious and unprincipled senses of the politic, what the polis encompasses, or would encompass. We have retreated from each other, and drawn closer to each other. We know that mass man could be sick, dangerous… could be simply ‘herd’. And yet also he is his own emancipator.

Myth attempts to solve this; let us not be ourselves, let us be Story… and, in story, be ourselves. Two travellers meet in a forest grove. What is your story? Why are you here? Odysseus affirms Scruton’s οἶκοςoikos – the rapture and yearning toward – home – but only in as much as he has been Away, and knows what Away really signifies. Is this only respiration, breathing?

To be a tourist in one’s hometown, to be at home abroad. Liberalism is simply surfeit of the latter. The traveller, so long Away from Home that he simply inserts Away into his conception of Home, inviting all foreigners to fill up that conception. It would seem natural, that way? But is not.


A Descent

This, from an online review of Yeats by Adam Kirsch:

there is also a cost to this way of writing poetry, which you can see in some of Yeats’s other poems from this period. For if the world as it should be is all that matters to a poet, the world as it is can’t help looking a little contemptible—and that goes for all the people in it.

Kirsch, like the good puppy dog of post-modernism, takes only from the former part of Yeats’s acclaimed pronouncement of ‘to hold in a single thought reality and justice’. It is the great error of almost all poetry since the end of the war. The loss of the ideal in favour of the real, but not even the real…! morelike a kind of co-opted uber-materialist real which denies tradition, denies modernism… at least in the aspect the better ‘modernists’ had, of imbibing the romantic poets’ legacy while still allowing themselves a more urban, more quotidian vocabulary at times. The heart, however, is on the wane. It would take a re-reading of Lawrence’s Look! We Have Come Through! to reinstate the romantic into modernism. I take it on trust that contemporary literature courses, lost to their feminist and Marxist paradigms, could not go back to a book like that without severely tainting it it with critical theory.

What is… that is the great and false chiming at the heart of every production of poetry. What one loves, what one prefers, what one admires… all matters of the heart… these are absent in the contemporary world of poetry. What is published now by poetry publishers is simply the entropy of a single technique. And to bring them back is traditionalism. Is Dangerous. Is simply ‘out of our era’. (And when I hear an uber-liberal poet like Niall McDevitt respond to the poetry of Arseny Tarkovsky as ‘old-fashioned’ or ’19th Century’ (the excerpts published here at The Fiend) it tells me something about the way the public voice in poetry has been co-opted into a different fragmentation, that of the post-Ginsbergian minor compainant. It also tells me of the great cultural descent against the spiritual, and against religiosity, in western culture. (It seems to always be one of those two strands… either Creeley’s implied permission toward L.A.N.G.U.A.G.E or the Ginsbergian social wailing. McDevitt’s work is more than that, I’ll accede to… Pound is there, but the grandeur of the spiritual poets of the Victorian era is entirely gone. Perhaps that is his intention; something he is comfortable with… but what interests me about it is that there is something so traditional about British and western culture implicitly lost in this. That the liberal, in his vision of literary progression, is simply blind to).

Because in Kirsch, as in a myriad of other contemporary commentators it is vital that we understand the extreme loss of any imagination in literature and literary criticism. They simply cannot acknowledge the primacy of the imagination, and the legacy of the romantic in Yeats’s conception. In Soviet Russia they had leaders, and policies, they thought not to offend. In twenty first century Europe and North America we have an era we cannot offend, a sensibility. Liberalism. Neo-liberalism. I call it Post-Liberalism, in that it is a paradigm unaware of its own impending death. And to know that sensibility – as the foreigner does – is to have the tools to avoid it. One would need a retreat from the cultural to such a degree that my 10-15 years abroad would seem to be only scratching the surface. (How would Dante have appeared to his contemporaries in the fifty years after the Divine Comedy appearing in the world? It is incredibly difficult to begin to see it as his contemporaries did. But I suspect that they saw it very much in the same light that a few hundred American universities – and god knows how many academic scholars – see Pound’s Cantos. They do not get it. They hack away at its corners like so many cheese-hungry mice. While the public gleans something entirely emancipating, and holistic, in it).

In England, the government, and a large gaggle of government-funded poetry magazines, keep that same little politically correct paradigm firmly in place. It is in that tiny playground where all the awards are doled out, where all the reputations are made. That is the U.K. It shrunk down modernism to fit its own tiny size.

It took me a while to figure out it is the same in America (and something of my bad editorial choices at The Fiend have been a part of that learning process) but I did come to such a conclusion. I just read the other day that students of the University of Pennsylvania pulled down a prominent portrait of Shakespeare, protesting that he didn’t reflect ‘a diverse range of writers’… ironic, given his work is most probably the result of a range of writers, as a Facebook commentator wrily pointed out… and doubly ironic, given this university is home to Pennsound… one of the main sites my earlier writing on Robert Duncan, in particular, had been based on.

One understanding I gleaned from Pennsound, though, is how one can see the magnitude of the drop-off in poetic quality between, say the mid-60s and the turn of the century. Why the mid-60s? Well, because, ostensibly, this time is when the writers that were mature between the wars die out, and they are replaced by a baby-boomer generation who have seemingly taken none of their teachings on board. They are simply bad interpreters. And good interpretation allows for the resurrection of the memory of the poet, the vitality of their elusive teachings. The prime example of this would be the lives – and deaths – of Charles Olson, Ezra Pound and Yukio Mishima. In England Gascoyne, Barker and Elizabath Smart continue into the 80s and 90s but they are very much the weaker link and are not as openly politically engaged as the American strain I mention. Thus the desert…


Inaugurations, Maskmaking

I am in a friend’s room in Gwangju, South Korea. We are watching the entrance of Barack Obama into The White House.

I am in a small restaurant in a suburb of the same city… watching the inaugeration. I am a complicated human adult, a poet, of tiny, almost anonymous reputation; to others and myself. Back in my friend’s house we are most probably having a couple of beers, and he is perhaps holding forth on the change that is afoot in American politics. I am polite… he is happy that the Bush era is over. So am I. He thinks that Obama can change things. I am polite. Do I think Obama will change very much? Life is mysterious. Politesse; also politic? Social regard. That is all these meanderings come down to? And everything it comes down to. Quality of attention. A foreboding… a definite insouciance.

Now we know Barack Obama is a waste of space. Who will be next, in the psychological polis? Emergence of Mr. Trump. Mr Farage. Better… but not best?

But back to Mr. Kirsch:

What the spirits taught Yeats, underneath all the odd machinery of A Vision, was that the world is not as it appears; that there is another order in the universe, a hidden and majestic and powerful order, which a few choice spirits can learn to see. For Yeats, this revelation confirmed the definition of poetry he had long held: that it was a matter of disciplining and transforming the ordinary world. “As I look backward upon my own writing,” he once said, “I take pleasure alone in those verses where it seems to me I have found something hard and cold, some articulation of the Image which is the opposite of all that I am in my daily life, and all that my country is.

Tradition, then, in opposition? But that he had also made sacrifices too sacerdotal (and Maud Gonne did not forgive him for his senatorial role, for his naivety, that ol’ brag of ‘changing them from the inside’… De Valera; England’s Greatest Spy etc). Kirsch continues:

This was the opposition that Yeats meant to capture when he wrote that his mystical metaphors “…helped me to hold in a single thought reality and justice.” The famous phrase could be the motto of the whole generation of poets that we now know as the high Modernists. For poets such as Yeats, T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, and Wallace Stevens, reality —the world as it is, as we see it in the newspapers and on the street— is incomplete on its own. It needs to be balanced, corrected, and maybe even replaced by a contrary vision of justice—the world as it should be, and as it can be in great works of art and literature. For Yeats and Pound, in particular, the effort to “hold in a single thought reality and justice” was responsible for what was best in their poetry. But it was also responsible for much that was morally questionable—which helps to explain why one of their greatest successors, W. H. Auden, came to repudiate that high ambition.

There is some meat here (but how Kirsch could only relish that; some articulation of the Image which is the opposite of all that I am in my daily life, and all that my country is? Again, the overdose of outsiderdom is what is entirely fringe also… what is abominably popular? The actress and the bishop).

Yeats’s maskmaking is both a departure and a confrontation. Departure, as in Nietzsche’s Zarathustra, advising: My brothers, do you then want to suffocate in the fumes of their animal mouths and appetites? Better to break the window and leap into the open air. / Avoid this bad odour! Leave the odolatry of the superfluous! / Avoid this bad odour! Leave the smoke of these human sacrifices! (advice for people regarding black magicians like The Clintons!?) Surfeit of outsiderdom, anyone? It is too much departure without confrontation. Or no?

In that intermingling of departure and confrontation art leaps out. The gyres ascertain a vehicle, a group-soul – both predestinational – and spontaneous in the pan-reincarnational will. Nietzsche’s Will to Power is only half the battle. That curious addendum ‘…and nothing besides’ is where the worrisome element of his tack is found. As, through a glass darkly, the gods reproduce themselves, mingle with the heart. Power, in such a conception, is purely social… humility, even in one’s utmost strength, one’s utmost power, must inevitably fall to a humility… and, in that mystic humility, the gods will do their work. In the group-soul, mirroring that individual template, only the bard, Fili, shaman has the necessary acumen to glean its utterances (and all conversation everywhere is an indicator but not a pronouncement… one also pronounces in response to it as much as being ‘of it’ or representative of it. Which is also why I distrust all ideas of poetry as an  ‘everyday’ or quitidian dictation. The spiritual other will not conform as the social other does. Zukovsky, O’Hara limit themselves in wallowing in it).


Gaia & Beyond

The Earth, for instance – at least for Nietzsche’s Zarathustra – does not enter into that process. It does not inform that process. Would Blake’s nervousness regarding Wordsworth’s nature worship find a corollary here? Yet there is a feeling that earth, under some new conception, could encompass psyche and polis, and would not – like Zarathustra – have to throw out too many of the gods. I move more towards Wordsworth in my dotage. Blake says There Is No Natural Religion… the condition of religiosity, if it be a perpetual form of the Welsh hireath – yearning for what is not – perpetually gives permission to forms of spirit. Psyche – if fallen! – perceives matter as spirit. Yet nature is here to recapitulate a reversal in this. It says; “I am here to give you leisure but to remind you of what you are not… an example of More Than This, is what you are.” But how could you know this, without reference… without comparison? This is the only way to rest easy in a consideration of both Blake and Wordsworth. When I’m tired I read Wordsworth. When I am energetic I read Blake.

But the bucket spills in different directions. Humanism is overload of the human upon itself, as Heidegger understood it. An appeal to nature, as modus, is ‘un-earthly’ by being a possibility of the anti-human (Shelley fell into this habit, at least early on… I am still plagued by what Shelley, the vegetarian – the proto-disciple of Kundalini, of Eros – could’ve achieved… even given another decade).

Suchly, when you look at the girl’s holiday snaps you realise she is lonely. There are only landscapes. No people. Or nothing of human vitality in the capturing of those landscapes? Nature is barren, inert, without the potential majesty of the human soul inherent in poetic apprehension. This is photography.

It would be tempting to go back to the Yeats poem and have Our Lady Politic be also some form of Gaia, or some other earth-force representative. Something of the immanence of James Lovelock and John Lash? And I am very nervous about that possible connection between the goddess and Sophia, and Lovelock’s Gaia. Which is to say… I don’t see it. I see goddesses and gods prancing around. I see Nietzsche ignoring them in order to launch a post-enlightenment anti-materialist argument. And becoming, at least partially, a materialist. I see Jesus Christ replaced by Zoroaster, instead of Christ as successor. Yes, the Persian lineage in European culture is the triumph of a Caucasian genius, and that Zoroaster is an instance of that. O.K. But – as with Tristan Tzara – the gods are diminished. Pound counters it with:

…The hells move in cycles, 
No man can see his own end 
The Gods have not returned. “They have never left us.” 
They have not returned. 
Cloud’s processional and the air moves with their living….


And Nietzsche replaces the appeal to Greece in his first book, The Birth of Tragedy, with (and despite himself?) Persia and Zoroaster, later on, in Thus Spake Zarathustra. We see it in all that comes down to us from Ahura Mazda. Rumi. All solid stuff (as with Rudolf Steiner’s delineation of it) but still an obfuscation that, after MacDari, ensures the west-to-east movement is only ghosted. We Celts appeal to ourselves when we look into Ahura Mazda. A rejection of Ahura Mazda is not the issue here. Ahura Mazda and Zarathustra are simply children of an earlier Celtic pantheon.

The Sufis (and not the milkwarm version of them come down to a Ted Hughes and a Doris Lessing… these were the Mohammedans persecuted by Islam… not Islam’s preogenitors) as they have come down to us in modern Britain, are, of necessity, only the facile hint of a much wider tradition of which we were once a part. It could even be that Nietzsche – by his extensive use of Zoroaster – is a reincarnation of that historic personage; troubled, wise, dictatorial etc. What he does have in his favour, though, is this ability to broaden his psyche further than the classical… most of the German romantics simply fell into a worhip of the south, and of Greece (Heidegger – later – could be included here). Only Goethe and Nietzsche fully break out of this (Goethe, in his interest regarding the Biblical East, and via Hafiz… Nietzsche via Zoroaster).


Die Götterdämmerung 

Scanning through a copy of Maud Gonne’s letters to Yeats a few days ago, I come across this:

I have been thinking over the Celtic rite you read to me & away from the glamour of the musical words I see some defects which I think I should [?signal] to you.

As I said at the time it is far too much influenced by Neiche [Nietzsche], not only as to expression but as to fundamental thought, for Neiche is not Celtic, though his intense individualism & his rushing fiery paradox & his impatience & his contempt for the banalite & smallness of the many useless ones, appeal to us – Nieche’s central thought seems to do away with the Gods, & to reverence & to recognise nothing greater than himself, this is most contrary to Celtic thought.

The Celts have always worshipped & striven after an ideal purer, more spiritual, higher than themselves & it is no abasement to them to kneel before such an ideal […] to me it seems the spear of the soldier piercing the side of Christ & letting the essence of God flow into the Graal cup is the same symbolism as the spear of Lug piercing the night & letting the essence of God the spark of fire of the soul flow down into the Cauldron of regeneration & rebirth, & the font of baptism & the holy water seem to me the same as the purifying Cauldron of Dana which begins initiation, or the deep well by the tree of knowledge!

The altar of sacrifice & of glory is it not the stone of sacrifice & empire? & the sword which was to the warriors of old an inspiration as well as a defence is it not symbolised in the pure sword of Bridget the holy. What do I care if the Great Mother is called Mary or Dana or Bridget or the Captain of the Armies of Heaven is called Lug or Michael.

‘Nuff said? That the Celt is so mythologically and romantically driven that Nietzsche’s dialectic between Christian and Anti-Christian can be bypassed – or balanced? – without losing any of its argumentative drive. Yeats leaves that question wide open, yet Thomas – in his celebrated prologue to the last Collected Poems – appeals to pure monotheism.  I want to know why the Irish and the Welsh are so different in this. It is as if I am re-playing an ancient drama between god and gods; the schism of old… praps Julian Jaynes could’ve told me. Spinoza and Thomas… curiously interesting compadres?


Fake Dualisms, Culture & Counterculture


But to return to that holding in a single thought reality and justice, departure and confrontation. By the time we get to Ginsberg something else has occurred, and it calls itself ‘counterculture’ (with all the usual parallels with the Frankfurt school included, of course). The first question we might ask is; did we buy into culture enough, so as to buy into counterculture? In the forest of false dualisms I shall fear no theory-spouting wolf… a little Ezra Pound meme I saw recently; ‘the technique of infamy is to invent two lies and to get people to argue heatedly over which one of them is true’. Yet, Pound DID have culture, or Kulchur… and the spelling is somehow necessarily different. Not Cult-ure. And many will be familiar with Mr McKenna’s Culture is Not Your Friend speech? The surrealists and the dadaists would warm to that, I’d imagine.

And yet I find myself requiring balance. I can take Tarkovsky’s stance on this, his traditionalist fever… retain culture via an aristocracy of artists? In order to get over the word culture a countering was necessary in western thought… and yet the Russian knew better to enter that dualism. We have not yet understood how antithetical Tarkovsky is to western liberalism. His take on women alone would make the hordes of British and American feminists shriek like banshees. Let them have their epoch, their dwindled anti-vital psyche, let them watch it shrink into the gleaning of an utmost cowardice, an evisceration of self and Self.

I can also enjoy Lamantia’s A Civil World (the lambasting of a totally crazed modern America) and yet there is something juvenile in it, amusing though it may be. What was juvenile in my earlier pieces on Dimensional Poetics was just that. They (the Beats, many of the surrealists, in their brute liberalism and communism) had decided the west was doomed. And so it has been? No… not exactly… the confontation has to find its root, its truest cause. And yet counterculture was psychologically founded upon a shying away from cause… and a retreat into symptoms.

Shame is Pride’s cloak. The utterable is sophistication, refined by the Fili. How much satire can one take? How much lungspace for laughter? Nobility of all language… that also doesn’t cut it (Zukovsky, O’Hara, as I mention… these artists worship, perhaps despite themselves, a materialism, instead of seeing that the workings of language itself are partly spiritual and even supernatural). Newspeak, you will have to go. De-constructionspeak, be warned! In the desert there are many things to laugh at, yet under the usual liberal and neo-liberal auspices it is the one thing on repeat… capitalism, capitalism, and now the Illuminati, as monogram (though the truth be much more complex than this). The conspiracy and alternate research fields had to be reborn to re-enter where political and religious engagement had been cut off prior to World War II. And that is where the Ickes and the Alex Joneses of this world enter. In the former an end-times interplanetary meme, in the latter a more timid Reaganite agenda. And, while I see the Alt-Right as antidote to this I wonder what figures on the right can be taken as heroic from our most immediate past. I would take Nixon over Reagan and Thatcher anyday… my Irish lineage will not allow for Thatcher’s approach re: Bobby Sands etc. What is most symbolic, in terms of poetry, is the fall from conservatism into the Marxist approach. Yet! It would have to be a conservatism almost completely shorn of the twentieth century. The last great figures of conservatism, in the past century, would have to be Yeats, later Eliot… and Pound (with many artists of a later Celtic strain – Thomas among them – falling for communism… and why? Because the Celt seeks the unitary in social life, and in certain functions of artistic purpose, and thus is fooled into notions of equality).

Is it not tragic, for example, that the academies take The Waste Land, The Hollow Men… as their totem, instead of Four Quartets? Yes, those earlier things were necessary – and if WWI was the beginning of the end for the west, understandable – but this liberalist body, in its worship of entropy, simply pitches them into the future as an infinite condition, rather than a historical weeping. It is not Adorno, but it is not far from it.

Both McKenna and Alan Watts, in their own separate ways, indicate something other than modern western culture in their philosophies… the problem therein is the building of a notion of creativity that truly opposes. Dada, likewise, chooses to introduce creative method as anti-art… meaning that Beat literature and contemporary poetry, for the most part, follow that approach, inheriting the ‘anti-art’ stance, in the popular sense; through Dada, surrealism, and beyond WWII. Post-modernism, then, becomes an imperative in descent… pushing an anti-artistic imperative, a fake rebellion in freefall. Satire, insofar as it was used by progenitors of those two movements of the WWI era, had its place. But in post-modernism it is the only imperative… an experiment in sardonic deconstructionalism gone insane. A supreme ironist’s stance. Insane enough to allow for – and absorb into itself – any of the faux-political media stories that come its way.

In Irish poetry of the nineteenth and early twentieth century we always have examples of satirical verse. What post-modernism does, though, is create a monogram of cultural rebellion in line with cultural Marxism. Nietzsche called this ressentiment; an endless spiral of intellectual one-up-man-ship. But if the subject, in dialectic, becomes trivial, those involved in it circle – in perpetuity – the magnetic argument their own powers of insouciance must transcend. Would Joyce embody that power of insouciance via dream language, or nay? Black humour, wordplay and punning would all fall into the category – for me – of a form of transcendence. Breton however, also could not sanction Joyce… proving that surrealism, and its barrage of motifs, could not accept the Joycean in early twentieth century art. That which doesn’t seem to have explicit worldly reference, or is at least formally framed to appear as such, is damned… since it does not claim to paint an apparent world, apparent under the aegis of the mass; a democratic envisioning. Celtic art, at least under Joyce’s terms, is the most undemocratic form of art, possibly in the world. Although it trades in the mythic and the classical, in the minutiae of its expressive power it denies any social world. Which is creation, but a problematic hyper-individualism? Only problematic for the politician or statesman… not problematic for the artist. Breton, despite his aiming for a Reality, elsewhere – the glow of the divine – would always fall back into forms of political adventure, of theory. Again, there is the glimmer of the statesman, the critic, in such an attitude.


Facts of Historical Perception, A Second Descent

And, regarding the subject of Pound, here’s a piece that exemplifies tranference. Transference of poetry as culture, descended under the aegis of poetry as counterculture:

War Profit Litany
To Ezra Pound

These are the names of the companies that have made money from this war
nineteenhundredsixtyeight Annodomini fourthousand eighty Hebraic
These are the Corporations who have profited by merchan-
dising skinburning phosphorous or shells fragmented
to thousands of fleshpiercing needles
and here listed money millions gained by each combine for manufacture
and here are gains numbered, index’d swelling a decade, set
in order…

The opening lines of a Ginsberg poem from ’68, the year of the Paris riots. What fascinates me about this poem is that, unlike The Cantos, it doesn’t do exactly what it claims it is doing… and does so in the name of Ezra Pound. It does not name… (all that importance of Kabbalistic naming?) and the best it can do is demonstrate an empty intention.

The passing, in this case, from one generation to another comes down to an empty gesture. We are treated to the problem of ‘corporations’ without knowing which ones are the most problematic to us, and who we should investigate, both personally and legally. Pound’s fight is reduced to a few crocodile tears. And so it goes with a whole host of writers in the same generation. It is the ghost of departure, the empty departure… the empty confrontation. Ginsberg is necessary to liberalism because he maintained that empty gesture of political confrontation so that others could get on with other things.

The performance aspect of the thing is so abnegating of the truest political struggle at that point that it almost makes me laugh. Nietzsche is taken to the most performative conclusion that that sense of the wrongdoing of mass man is magnified without, somehow, being truly witnessed. The excuse, in a more supportive reading of the poem, I guess… would be that Ginsberg is simply aping Pound, he is seeing his own performative and protesty element in The Cantos and projecting that out onto the reader. And providing… generalities? (If you are going to kill someone, name them! Do not name their type. You would have a bloodbath on your hands and still there would be the rumour that you may not have brought your enemy to justice).

Interesting… all this… but still somehow a dissolution of Pound’s original intent. If it were me, as reader, I would expect a true meeting. A meeting of twin-Justices.

There also seems to me to be an absence of the jovial, not only in this, but in the heave of the social after the war (a book would be needed to do justice to this, and the names McClure, Ginsberg, Dylan, Olson would have to be up there for crit)… so that where the artist can carry Ginsberg with them, the researcher can take their Chomsky. Both men can feel truly accommodated in a false intelligence while the true naming can be permanently stalled…. the jovial – in life – by the saintliness of the newspaper, the information… in flux constantly, and without any depth of instinct and intuition. My way out is John Pilger, gentlemen.

But compare late Ginsberg with Goethe. You really get to see the true descent of western literature. Hollow, juvenile, Buddhistic platitudes with the most careless of journalistic investigations. It is an example of fake Gnosticism that was appalled by all that is physical. Ginsberg’s ethos of the body is almost pornographic (to expect anything else, by a confirmed supporter of NAMBLA?) and the individual, reduced to an end in itself. The heart lost somewhere behind the mires of ego avoidance and, contradictorily, a faux exemplar of the informed intellect. A paradox in descent. (And Hughes’s latent Manichean elements thrown in…? That is possibly for another essay).

But, to return to Kirsch on Yeats, in the light of War Profit Litany;

…there is also a cost to this way of writing poetry, which you can see in some of Yeats’s other poems from this period. For if the world as it should be is all that matters to a poet, the world as it is can’t help looking a little contemptible—and that goes for all the people in it.

To hold in a single thought reality and justice. The world as it should be… the ideal, justice. The world as it is… reality. And yet there is no penetration, no dreaming toward justice… it is too much with the world, as Wordsworth would say. What Kirsch is really saying is that Yeats’s methodology sits in the purely ideal realm… and that reality – somewhere downwind from it – is garbage because of it. The essence being; because you live in such a high pitch of the ideal, my ‘real’ is disturbed and looks to be awful because of it. This is loss of respect. Reality -twinned to the ideal – impaired because only a shallow form of justice sought. A saint of only the real. Blunt badness of the world. Bedfellow of The Information.

The Celts solve this by being able to glean beauty in another’s efforts toward the ideal; a sometime-correction of the real. In Kirsch, thought – the real – is contemptible because the critic gathers it into himself, in the face of the invasion of that poetic ideal. What is that mode, then? To be blunt, it is a nihilistic, envious criticism, a mode that envies, and sees the real, as hellish, and other… in the face of beauty, and of the ideal. And that has been the reigning mode since 1945… its seeds planted much earlier, as early as the switch from the Victorian age to the modern age (and I say ‘modern’ only in the literary sense). Criticism against the highest tone, then… instead of the complement. Which does not necessarily imply ‘With’, or ‘In Agreement-with…’ Criticism must complement, and can quite easily complement in simultaneity with opposition.

While surrealism was subjectivity gone to the nth degree counterculture was subjectivity simultaneously destroyed and energised by The Information, the journalistic approach. Loss of elegance. The transcendental without a body… or if the body exists it is masturbating in a corner over a copy of The New York Times. And when Ginsberg said he was obsessed by Time magazine he meant it. It reminds me of this little sliver from Thomas’s ‘…Long-Legged Bait’. Time, and her other way, or to metaphorise the literal:

Time is bearing another son.
Kill Time! She turns in her pain!
The oak is felled in the acorn
And the hawk in the egg kills the wren.

(This meets any rule of the prophetic mode any Poundian could throw at it. Human nature as form of nature turned in on itself. Penultimate entropy).

Interesting, then, conspiracy fans… that the great critics of Ginsberg, in Beat literature, all seem to end in absence, in early deaths. Spicer. Kerouac (who, not unintentionally, named Ginsberg ‘Marx’ in his fiction) and Cassady.


His American Asia

Between Obama’s inaugeration and somewhere around 2011 or 2012 I would have been happy to have left that instinct against what I had perceived occurring between the hand-over from Pound to Ginsberg for someone else to look into and criticise. I was also busy reading into a lot more of American poetry than I’d hitherto taken account of. Robert Duncan. Charles Olson. Robin Blaser. Jack Spicer. Robert Kelly. Clayton Eshleman.

For a long while Eshleman lay closest to me somehow, perhaps only because he had, like me, spent time in Asia… I was fascinated by the connection between him and Cid Corman (who was still around, living in Kyoto, just a 40 minute train ride from my place in Kobe, Japan). I attempted to get Eshleman published in a small English language magazine in South Korea.

The thing didn’t last long because I actually perceived that my role as editor would be taken seriously, not realizing that all foreigners are editor-puppets of Korean bosses, these in turn, beholden to government funds that came through the largest university of that town, and did very little for any conception of true journalism in that scene.

(I’d even go further and say any foreigner – in the face of a political and cultural majority – tends to turn into a pet fairly swiftly. I am sceptical of minorities – and I am most sceptical of them when I am racially living amongst them… they will do anything to raise the eyebrow of a fresh majority figure… so weak is the human soul in our times. Always, and always, the foreigner is simply parsley on the wider cultural agenda of any given country… his language – in my case, English – absorbed into whatever fashion is then current in that other country. In this way, I generally distrust the members of any minority in a country… as they are always quick to appeal to the current social mores of the majority. Innovation and ‘the unknown idea’ always come from out of a majority, though – though in a different way – often exiled. This implies the idea that one is only of use to the people of one’s own racial heritage. The Celt does seem different, however… at least in the western world, his lineage is prized as possibly superior and separate. In so far as other races are aware of the Celt, they are pulled into knowledge of them by a fundamental sense of respect and curiosity, regardless of the various stupidities and political backbiting that quite happily goes on in Celtic countries… the fundamental oikos in western man toward the antediluvean, and yet his total shunning of it at the conscious conversational level).

But, regardless, the magazine was simply a way for rich Korean business owners to promote their wares, and to be a voice for foreign and Korean visiting political dignitaries’ vapid pronouncements on domestic and international affairs. Satan gets around…?!

I was fighting wars on all fronts… the cowardly foreign sub-editors who would do anything to bolster the opinions of the Korean bosses, and trying to soothe the always-fragile egos of real writers, who I perceived Eshleman, at the time, to be one. The Korean editors, poorly instructed in English/Konglish/Korean eventually managed to fuck up the type and spacing in the magazine, an immense problem which Eshleman, from his distance, could not get his head round. I lasted a few more weeks at the magazine, trying to work with an idiot co-editor (some local American communist ex-pat who was related to George Schultz somehow) then called it quits. Shitty, happy, not-so-happy days.


Copernicus, The Keening, or To Take a Metaphor Literally, To Mis-take

Monsieur Zarathustra:

Where I beheld my devil, I found him serious, thorough, profound, solemn: it was the Spirit of Gravity – through him all things are ruined.
One does not kill by anger but by laughter. Come, let us kill the Spirit of Gravity!
I have learned to walk: since then I have run. I have learned to fly: since then I do not have to be pushed in order to move

Nietzsche against gravity (as with the flat earthers). The danger of taking metaphors literally. The enjoyment of taking metaphors literally… absorption into the spiritual and social other. Do-able, with balance. Gravitas. The child, smirking at the adult’s seriousness. The child’s total dependence on the adult. (Thomas’s absorption into childhood – by any schema of theory on art – again, as with Joyce, shuns the socially explicable forms of contemporary art).

Kant performed a Copernican Revolution. The spirits said the same to Yeats. Don’t keep retreating into philosophy, mate. Between Agatha Christie murder mysteries he kept getting wrapped up in it. Hegel. Kant. I have just started reading McTaggart. Now there’s a man that interests me. Hegel, possibly.

I’ve written of Kant’s noumenon elsewhere. It appeals to the mystic, the Parmenidean, in one. As with the eye of the needle… But what if Kant was simply saying: I’m tying the philosophical up – at least for the western mind – right… here! Fuck youse all! Now go and swim in the categories for eternity… never mind faeries and Tir Nan Og.

We know -being more sensible – that the attack on pure reason was not exactly natural science or enlightenment… and yet why a Copernican revolution, folks? Do we distrust a man who never left his home territory? (as with Dickinson?) I’ve no evidence, but Kant was writing in a Europe festooned with Jacobins and Weishaupt disciples.  Why but why did he apply his new philosophy to a cosmological concern? Modern European philosophy has always been intensely gunshy of cosmology, particularly given its research – and great reading – in the ancients. The Chaldeans would shake their heads in dismay. Particularly given that Kant’s appeal is so misplaced. The Alt-Right, bar a small number of modernists, may also make a similar error. It is shy of art… but this may be that its social conceptions are simply so young that only a few artists can forge a new power of the inexplicable within this new political attitude. Which begs the question; which comes first, a remaking of the divine under the purview of the artist, or an artist traversing the socially and politically new?

We have also been shy to accept the racial element in philosophy. I like certain things because it is in my blood to like them. But is that to confuse things? The racial absolutely is involved with philosophy. One can read outside of one’s race, but one’s tastes are simultaneously forged by it. Why do Spinoza, Whitehead, Heidegger, Schopenhauer, McTaggert appeal to me over so many others? These – despite their appeal to classical mores – are really the barbarians of European philosophy… and if they had been living in ancient Europe I assume that Plato and Aristotle would’ve put them in their place. We are critical of these, from instinct, because the philosopher king is inadequate. For the same reason Heidegger appeals to Heraclitus and Parmenides. Heretics to a republic, surely? More poetic than Plato could ultimately acknowledge. Heidegger’s End of Philosophy at least implies a return to artistic fervor, and the societal rule -in some format – of the artist. Except that he has no historical blueprint to lay out the theory properly. Why? Because he is stuck with purely classical forms of thought, and does not see the Greek as an essentially fallen being. There is not really fault in that. Except to say that forms of law would need to take into account earlier systems of social arrangement. The Irish, in ancient epochs, can solve the vagaries of Heidegger’s attempt by example of the Brehonic – and earlier – systems. I have not yet read into Schelling extensively… but from the little I know of him he suggests something very different in post-Kantian thought. I only know of Evola – and now Tsarion – who take Schelling incredibly seriously.


More Kant

2004? I am climbing up the side of a hill that is the ancient tomb of some Chinese king in Xian. It is a big deal. You can look it up on the net. I have become friends with a German couple, and the guy seems to have talked to me about Kant for nigh on a whole day. I like the Germans… the only problem is they’re the only bunch of people to be more brainwashed than the English. Nietzsche would be proud of me, I guess. (And yet, O’Donnell… I’ve seen you sneaking a peek at that Modern Library edition of Kant from time to time… how dare you?)

(But… again, why a Copernican Revolution? Kant was a philosopher… not a cosmologist! Let the numinous be your projection, the theoretical crystal ball… and wrap yourself in the categories for 200 and some odd years… all the way up to that cold 2004-Chinese night, pilgrim.


Gravitas & Revelation

2015? Well… Eric Dubay is all over the internet telling us the world is flat. I can handle it. Can you? There is no gravity. All those attendant theories I hold in my mind with a certain neutralised passion. Counterculture, there goes yer Einstein. Monotheism: the search for anti-relativity. And here, also, the wrath of Blake’s identification of Urizen as supreme scientistic malevolence. The names are known in this anti-pantheon; Locke, Bacon and Newton. It is all pretty straightforward. They are named, at least. Still, why not add the names of Kepler, Galileo, Bruno and Einstein to that mix? Again, this is harder to unpick, and I would be a little shy of putting Bruno in there without much more research… and yet what we do know is De Vere’s utter contempt of Philip Sidney and his circle, the same circle that most wooed Bruno. We know less of what the general public may have thought of Bruno around the time he was in England, and after. Could Rome have intentionally created a martyr in order to forward the heliocentric model? Yet, simply, that it wouldn’t entirely close until a good way into the 19th century? And that between those two eras, begun with Bruno’s death, sits Immanuel Kant.

Still, I am not building an argument, for example, against astrology necessarily. I am — though — interested in its use by people like H.P Morgan and Ted Hughes, for instance. Further, I am aware that both Gaia, or what we are now familiar with as the known universe, is an unreal fallen aspect of God mirrored – in Christian tradition – with the fall of Lucifer. The consequence of this is that we should study, in tandem, both the working facets of that dokos; the stars, and thus move – by intuition – to an understanding of what God, outside of dokos, is. To exercise the unknown senses that lie beneath the known five, we must proceed by the road of laughter, nonsense, wordplay and glossolalia. In a not-dissimilar way to Rimbaud’s proclamation: Je dis qu’il faut être voyant, se faire voyant. Le poète se fait voyant par un long, immense et raisonné dérèglement de tous les sens. And the purest racial soul’s nonsense will seem more sensible than that of the artist pouring out a world from pure concepts and maneuvers of theory? (And yet one would want the mind – that prickly word – to be part of that process, too).

But does Nietzsche also contribute to the drama of gravitas and geocentrism, with The Madman? Seamus Heaney, strangely, also provides a parallel, unconscious of that fight, in his poem, Antaeus. Heaney remains a convert of the earthly… in many ways it is advisable (!) All of the art of the early twentieth century has been a tension between the earthly and the divine. After WWII, however, we are stuck with the earthly; Heaney, in essence, follows Hardy in this. Hardy – that great cataloguer of folk event and folk wisdom and attitude – takes on something of Heaney’s poetic imperatives (remember also, that Yeats got nothing from Hardy… Hardy – at least for me – is something to be gotten out from under… why? Because, again, in his era, he produced art against the strictest forms of religious doctrine… he fell into a dualism. You could also argue against Browning for the same reason. The angels visited only through the receptacle of earthly pastime. It was this or nothing… ? an absence of the other, yet commendably within the right mode and tradition. In modern times we see, in a highly hermetic manner, the angels of the Gnostic – and other writings – re-entering the minds of those conventionally religious, or writers enthusiastically of a folk tradition of a sort).

Antaeus  deserves the second glance, though. (Levertov, also rejects it; the purely spatial, the un-anchored mind… in her later poetry).

When I lie on the ground
I rise flushed as a rose in the morning.
In fights I arrange a fall on the ring
To rub myself with sand.
That is operative
As an elixir. I cannot be weaned
Off the earth’s long contour, her river-veins.
Down here in my cave
Girded with root and rock
I am cradled in the dark that wombed me
And nurtured in every artery
Like a small hillock.
Let each new hero come
Seeking the golden apples and Atlas:
He must wrestle with me before he pass
Into that realm of fame
Among sky-born and royal.
He may well throw me and renew my birth
But let him not plan, lifting me off the earth,

My elevation, my fall.

I recall the little lightning conduction rods that used to hang behind the rear wheels of cars in the 80s. How suspicious we all were… the vengeance of Zeus wrought upon some delicate Fiesta or Mini. But the vehicle, always reassuredly earthed. The lifting of man, in the crush and rush of the planets. A necessary fiction? Still, there an epoch ends, an aperture closes in the pyschic accretions of The Aeons, in order to allow the myth to be seen afresh. It can even be seen in the pure-planetariness of Icke’s new ‘Saturnian’ evil.

And, in opposition, why the Russians could not, via Solovyev, approve of wholehearted mysticism… they could see what havoc the long slide between Aleksandr Blok’s Poems to The Lady (John Lash’s Gaia; Sophia, in another aspect?) and his pre-eminent error of The Twelve could do. The poem that Christianized Bolshevism, and also had Hitler reeling over Christianity as its manifestation? Blok’s poem, more a threat to literary unrest than twelve Mayakovskys lined up against a wall denying mythology, denying folklore… or the rose of futurism placed in the barrel of a gun that will ultimately blow them away? Mayakovsky, destroyed by a same lack of insouciance. I do not see him as the great humorist… he is something of a kiljoy, his laughter had network, social conscience and the whiff of theory about it. The same has been levelled at Lawrence, particularly the complaint of his Nettles. But elsewhere we see much satiric humour, biting wit. In his poetry he divides himself too much as time, through the twenties, proceeds. In prose his insouciance continues unabated, and yet in poetry he becomes more earthly and pitiable… at least in patches. Perhaps why he and Joyce seem the most opposite.


On Elegance

As Richard Aldington, contemporary of both Lawrence and Joyce, writes, in his 1932 introduction to Lawrence’s Last Poems and More Pansies:

At two opposite poles of modern literarature stand D.H Lawrence and James Joyce. Lawrence, no doubt, is more widely read since nearly all his books circulate freely and are kept in print. Joyce has been much more the prey of the swarms of imitative writers who want to appear original, and this is because he has made numerous technical and verbal experiments which can easily be copied. The contrasts between the work of these two men can be elaborated almost indefinitely. The great difference I want to touch on now is that Joyce’s writing is founded on the conception of Being, and Lawrence’s on the conception of Becoming. It is not merely the difference of Catholic and Protestant (though, of course, Joyce is as essentially Catholic as Lawrence is Protestant) because this fundamental dilemma was stated long before Christianity by pre-Socratic Greeks.

How best to perceive differences in two of the great modernists…? In line with Heidegger – and with Joyce – we see the acting out of Being, and in literary expenditure… with the latter. In Heidegger it is the explaining of Being, in Joyce it is the embodying – via myth’s seizures – of Being. And that this is simply an elegance refuted by Lawrence. Is there any reflection in Joyce. The memories stand in their glass jars. Unhurried. Breathing. Lawrence allows for an admittance to failure… a thoroughly anti-philosophical stance.

And again, why did the instructors refute Yeats’s immersion in philosophy? It is because it would impede his own creative impulses. In the same way, then, Lawrence enters the fray. Philosophy – possibly shorn of the more humanistic assertions of Nietzsche? – always centres itself in System (and Nietzsche’s response to Schopenhauer’s system-building would confirm that, to an extent). System – child of Plato – demands at least a semi-pliable will toward rightness of assertion. Its intention is civilization. The philosopher destroys himself through that same assertion. Lawrence’s inelegance of Becoming treats system to forms of constant openness, and to self-paradox. Contrary to scholarly wisdom on Lawrence, this is an extremely humorous position to put oneself in.

Ulysses is static and solid, logically planned, smelling of the lamp, a sort of unchristmas present to the Lord in Whose sight a thousand years are as a day, a day is as a thousand years. It is a little static cosmos, like a huge rigid glass bubble blown out of the top of a head. It is, and there is nothing to be done about it. A strange, perfect, rather awful product of man’s will and mind, a sort of literary Frankenstein which has devoured its creator.

Now turn to Lawrence’s work – how fluid, how personal, how imperfect, a series of inconclusive adventures only related because they all happened to the same man. There is nothing static about this – everything flows. There is perpetual intercourse with the Muse, but the progeny is as surprising to the parent as to anybody else. Lawrence’s writing was not something outside himself, it was part of himself, it came out of his life and in turn fed his life. He adventured into himself in order to write, and by writing discovered himself.

Aldington then; correct… in that same invocation of panta rhei  πάντα ῥεῖ… everything flows (Heraclitus). The emphasis on Lawrence’s work as a poetic of Becoming. And right… in his understanding that this is an old pre-Socratic jag replayed. Yet we know that – dated to 1932 – he is somewhat out of the loop regarding what Joyce is currently up to. A couple of decades in the making, Joyce’s prima materia is yet to be unveiled… writing this statement he is not entirely aware that we at least partially live under – and are ensconced in – that Joycean shadow. What Joyce made, to become mingled with the ethos of pure concept, pure intellectuality; the post-modern ressentiment, of Nietzsche’s phrasing… Adorno and Derrida, its most potent exemplars? If Joyce could be maintained in holarchy perhaps only Kerouac, in later popular literary culture (and another Celt, removed slightly… in French Canada) would be a child of his moods of playfulness (yet the political landscape has changed irrevocably, and no longer could a writer maintain – in the same manner – the level of insouciance the earlier modernists studiously managed to achieve). By 1961, regarding The Joyce Industry we have this quipping response to what the world has done with Joyce, by Flann O’Brien:

The Irish Government would be in order in refusing a visa to any American student unless he had undertaken, by affidavit on oath, not to do a ‘thesis’ on James Joyce and subsequently have it published as a book. All literature has been defaced by so many abortions 

…and of Joyce himself, he says

He often committed that least excusable of follies, being ‘literary’. His attempted demolition of language was his other major attainment. What would you think of a man who entered a restaurant, sat down, suddenly whipped up the tablecloth and blew his nose on it? You would not like it — not of you owned the restaurant. That is what Joyce did with our beloved tongue that Shakespeare and Milton spoke…

History as we know it, and history as Joyce configured his work to be an emancipation from, though, is intended to fall away in an attempt at retrieving information from the unconscious that reveals the pre-diluvian miasma we were racially born from. It begs the question how linguistically explicable is moral and para-historical consciousness. What is explicit in all this is that the human paradiso did occur, and that history, through a series of floods, became base and sundered by greed. (Paradiso and Tir nan Og being synonymous with each other?) It is the old Biblical magnetism (or in Lash; The Fall of Sophia). Yet Joyce did not simply wish to be a Blavatsky or a Rudolf Steiner. He chose to remake the pre-conscious world as dream utterance, by sheer fact of the magic of wordplay. If God is utter permission, then to immerse oneself in the Wake, is to understand no public or social law, other than biological drift and joy’s invitations. If life is made up of a series of utterances, a stack of languages for social transcendence then the implication – via Joyce’s Wake – is that no explicable public or social voice will ever allow for civilization, that only language mysticism will out. His antidote to history is curiously historical, in that, with any attempt at summary, comes the embarrassing idea of a thing rendered somehow ludicrous; irreal. In detail it is important… from a distance it seems somewhat opaque and meaningless. But still, this resurrection of a mind Homer’s gods could recognise and interact with? Utterance of the Bicameral Mind, the bringing of a counter-dream into life, to instill something of the sting of the unreality, the dream, of waking life?

I think again of McKenna’s machine elves… the idea of all materiality being made out of language, out of Logos, somehow. That man singing is somehow parallel with God’s bringing the world into being. Of the standing stones and dolmens, lifted with a technology literally in tune with that urge toward singing. But how possible? Between Aeons and Archons the singer brings pieces of the world into being. For world to utter a magnetism of disbelief. The mightier the artwork the longer it takes to be accepted (400 years for us to fully interpret Shakespeare’s plays and poems properly, and identify the men behind them. 200 years to get our heads round Shelley etc). In the meantime this dimension is busy with its timely sub-speech contained by bodily and psychological fear. Prose. Journalism. And – in line with this sense of the materiality of words – the dimensions, also, are sung into being. By God. The singer or Fili becomes extra-dimensional in perceiving and acting out the truth of each dimensional space. If Joyce’s Wake has any validity, it is an indicator of the dimensions as functioning on the basis of high forms of play and pun. Seeing one thing in another. Meta-phor. If it has any weakness it would be that social order, communally established forms of  language, needn’t have any place in art. Though I’m sure Joyce would defend his choices by saying that social order comes about as a consequence of art despite art’s incoming formal investigations, and despite the social order’s changes and reformations… that the connection between them need not be explicable.

The other consequence of The Wake is that it renders the soul’s developing nature as inexplicable, in its inception. The inceptive! And in Christian tradition; the glossolalic. A rendering of the source into World. The child, sitting close to the babble of source… Robert Kelly’s thesis; that The Wake is most real to children, and most enjoyed by them. The childhood of the world, being Atlantean, antediluvean? The philosophical in Blake becomes a creature of purer linguistic invention in Joyce. Paradox is the essential framework of Lawrence’s sense of Becoming. Paradox, in Joyce, shunned… because dualisms flicker and switch; mental efforts and choices are more constringed, more thickly present. In the title itself; the elegance of kenning, of punning. Delineation of a man deemed to be dead, actually immortal… and simply, in humour, resisting death’s touch (as Yeats says; Man has created death). Lawrence appeals to the ideological in man, Joyce – closer to source – despite all intention, attempts to abolish all paradox by virtue of a mystic joy. The ancient Kabbalistic preservative holds that all is revealed in a name. Joy for Joyce. Pound for pound, for financial and social economy. Law for Lawrence? Yet these are only partial disclosures, methinks.

Between Freud and the present, then, enters Joyce’s stalwart experiment. And out of Nietzsche’s madness. Pound’s Silence, Mishima’s ritual seppuku. Fractures in what became the neo-liberalist armour. Charles Olson, ‘drunk, and drinking…’ at the 1965 Berkeley Reading. Talking, out of turn, out of time, about Ernst Zundel, of all people (go back to the recording, people)… many found him infuriating… some found him inspiring.

Lew Welch walks out into the mountains of California with a pistol… his body, never found.

Say something very true. And we will take the piss out of it. All as it should be… syntropy, entropy.


“No, I ‘m David Irving!”

Fringes. Lovely cornices. We are the adultchildren – toroidal! – and we have come to save you… for you know not what you do. Oh, for a group-soul that could roll back the mind-control of the 60s. There was never any 6,000,000 folks. It is very complicated. The numbers keep shifting. Every time Amschel Rothschild’s ghost has a bowel movement strange noughts shrink and expand. (Death, thank goodness, is not racial, though soul is?).

And then there was Eisenhower, leaving god knows how many soldiers and civilians (Jew and gentile alike) to starve in death camps after the war. The museum pieces of Auschwitz and Buchenwald, to maintain the legend… and keep Theodor Adorno in work for close to another quarter century. (The works of Herodotus and David Irving burned in a pyre on Trafalgar Square).

Meanwhile, in Waterstones, a naive student purchases a copy of a Will Self novel with the first of his new semester’s Student Loan which he will pay back – when his hair turns to its first of many shades of grey – with his pension? The novel will not last as long… neither in his possession, nor in his memory.

Or ‘Meanwhile, Jack Kerouac, naive alcoholic, tells a journalist he thought Eisenhower, a good man… – a kind man…Or… Angela Merkel – mid-meeting – gazing serenely out of her office window, toward… a dim grey corner of The Bundestag… The Reichstag? While the spectre of Stalin – as in Being John Malkovich – ingests her business luncheon on her behalf.

Aindriú Ó Domhnaill, Dec ’16 – Feb ’17

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Response to Jerome Rothenberg’s ‘A Poem for the Cruel Minority’

[The following is an unedited response, initially posted on facebook. I intend to work my rejection into a larger piece of prose on politics, particularly in relation to contemporary western poetry and its more established figures. It was not only that Rothenberg had written a dull, predictably liberal response to the political zeitgeist that raised my ire… it was that he was also spreading his ridiculous propaganda regarding the American ‘Alt Right’ into the same facebook post that he appended to the online publishing of his poem. My response urges him to get brave and actually look behind the journalistic smoke screen]

The poem does not ‘work’ because it has come out of a post-liberal consciousness entirely on the wane since the first poem was drafted. You’ve got it entirely the wrong way round: the ‘minority’ you refer to is now the majority. And, of course, you’ll let others deal with it… because, as I say, you are a coward (and have written a cowardly out-of-touch poem).

To clarify my ‘baby-boomer’ point. Anyone coming into ‘adult political consciousness after WWII’ (and I knew when you were born when I made my ‘pre/baby-boomer’ statement. So the ‘I am not a baby-boomer’ statement is a cheap avoidance of the issue).

The following posters obviously don’t have access to any sound information on the Alt-Right, and resort to the usual liberal/post-liberal slurs. Maybe they’ve been dosed with multiple episodes of NPR or somethin.

In a way, though, I’m thankful for the poem… as it clarifies what I’ve suspected for about five or six years. That not a single English speaking adult poet who has gained any kind of artistic reputation in the English speaking world after WWII (and I include those consistently published on very small presses and giving semi-regular talks or readings of any kind) have the tools in front of them to glean what Brexit, Trump and the Alt-Right really mean. (And, in saying that, I wouldn’t put all my cards behind Trump but would see his rise as an indication of a philosophical turning point immense and, in the main, positive). And that there is a whole other pool of younger artists, researchers and writers that do. They are a ‘minority’ that the ‘majority’ are proud of. In their home-lives, in their social circles, and in their Image result for richard spencer alt rightwider communities. If you want to know what the Alt-Right really means search on Red Ice NPI 2016 at youtube and you will have all ten hours of their most recent conference, without the usual journalistic misinterpretations, in front of you (there are two long videos… or the speeches themselves have been separated out and can be ferreted out). And note that, for ‘murderous fascists’ it is more than a little ironic that. They are the ones being attacked violently during the course of this conference!! I have spent a long time reading the arena of writers I mention. But no more. All of modernism was not sifted through entirely (including all of Pound’s output, for example… incl. Jefferson/Muss and the speeches) or thoroughly and effectively enough… and now we have reaped the consequences of that. Perhaps Lamantia will survive it, I’m not sure (for other reasons, perhaps… his politics I loathe though… and that would go for Eshleman and Alexander, also… they are unable to escape the post-liberal meme, although metaphysically interesting, and sometimes reassuringly Ickean). That strain of poetics is now dying, in Britain and the U.S, because it has managed to exist with all the wrong cultural reference points for decades. It is also dying because it is largely a child of the modern academy, and because it is a child, and prisoner, of a certain form of liberal governance (and that could include times when there have been ‘conservative/republican’ governments in those countries also). But, regardless, here’s to its quick death!

If you brought Yeats or Pound back from the dead and sat them down at an NPI conference I would imagine they would quite happily be engaged in what was being said. The problem is; between their era and our own (particularly the seventies up to the present) we’ve had an epoch of utter political stupidity, and the poets have wallowed in that stupidity more than most. And this poem exemplifies that.

I also find it funny that Blake was mentioned. A figure I believe is at least a proto-nationalist in his philosophical system… and the mythological elements at least imply it. That, ultimately, might be to reduce him (I’ll have a shot at writing about this soon) BUT I would prefer ‘the Blakean’ outside of the hysterics and whining that this poem employs, to say the least.

I will post this rebuttal on my fb page, and at my online mag; The Fiend, and have ‘unfriended’ you on here, Jerome… but if you ever want to find out more about the depth of discussion and philosophy your poem reponds to in a vapid and knee-jerk manner then by all means, seek me out. Otherwise, I’ll leave you to your blind, sycophant disciples.

Aindriú Ó Domhnaill, Nov 26th 2016………

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On Music, c.t.d – Colin Wilson

from ‘Modern Music – The Problem’ (Part Two)

Stravinsky is more difficult to discuss than Schoenberg and Hindemith because his character seems to be more intricate. Moreover, there has been so much learned discussion of his stature and place in modern music that it is difficult to keep the source of one’s intuitions about him untainted. The dissenting opinion on him was expressed typically by Brockway and Weinstock in Men of Music; they feel that he ceased to exist as a serious composer about 1930, and has since shown only spasmodic signs of life.

In all essentials, it might be said that Stravinsky followed the familiar course that we traced in Schoenberg and Joyce: early romanticism, the sudden alarm in mid-career and the feeling of the need for brakes, followed by a deliberately cultivated intellectualism. The intellectualism at least served its purpose of impressing the intellectual critics, so that Stravinsky, like Schoenberg, now tends to be discussed on a theoretical level that is miles above the reality of his music, and that has little relation to its content.

leemillerigorstravinskyIt is easy to understand why Stravinsky should have felt the need for some new direction in his music. The great musicians of the latter part of the nineteenth century are grim warnings. Brahms, Wagner, Mahler, Bruckner, Saint-Saens, Tchaikovsky, all display the same failure to develop beyond a certain point; mid-period Wagner sounds like later Wagner; Bruckner’s first symphony sounds much like his ninth. This does not diminish  their greatness; most of us would not be without a single symphony of Bruckner or Mahler. But this kind of thing could not go on for ever; people had begun to lose interest in Richard Strauss forty years before his death because it looked as if he would go on indefinitely composing sequels to Rosenkavalier and Ariadne. Stravinsky’s master, Rimsky-Korsakov, was a case in point. Except for certain additional ripeness in the orchestration, no one could guess that more than forty years separate The Golden Cockerel (1908) from Sadko (1967).

Stravinsky’s artistic intellect, and his will, were a great deal stronger than Rimsky-Korsakov’s. But even these qualities cannot make musical inspiration spin out indefinitely. What seems to be lacking in Stravinsky is a heavyweight artistic personality. No one doubts that he possesses a genuine musical personality; even T. S Eliot, who is not given to passing judgements on music, has written: ‘Mr Stravinsky is a real musician.’ The question is whether this personality has shown a development commensurate with his musical ‘development’ from The Firebird to Threni, or whether Stravinsky has forced himself to experiment in order not to repeat himself. In the music of certain composers – Mozart, Beethoven and Bartók in our own century – one feels that changes in the musical idiom are a by-product of a development of the composers’ whole spiritual being. Does Stravinsky’s music show this kind of development?

If Schoenberg’s development is paralleled by that of Joyce, Stravinsky’s artistic personality has affinities with that of Eliot. Both began as heirs of a ‘decadent’ tradition, both made an early reputation as artistic rebels, both announced their conversion to classicism and traditionalism and developed ‘detached’ personalities, both later made religion their artistic centre of gravity. But the parallel fails to hold in one important respect. Eliot accepted the consequences of his subjective attitude, declared, in effect, that his inner life was no one’s business, except in so far as he chose to reveal it in his poetry, and consequently ceased to write poetry. Stravinsky also had a try at the haughtily detached attitude (at one point he told his critics: ‘There is nothing to discuss or criticize’); but it was clear  that this was an assumed personality; he is naturally self-explanatory, even garrulous, as becomes clear from his volumes of Conversations with Robert Craft. His musical output has likewise remained enormous, like that of Hindemith; but much of it produces the same sense of lack of inner compulsion.

There can be no doubt that, if judged on the level of a musical innovator, Stravinsky must be regarded as a great composer. Like Schoenberg, he has been determined always to be an interesting composer; there is plenty of material for discussion in his work. But the question still remains: is it valid development, or simply a kind of game, like Joyce’s development after Ulysses? An examination of his career throws some light on the problem.

If Stravinsky had died in 1912, he would have been regarded as a minor follower of Rimsky-Korsakov, who took Rimsky’s style further in certain respects, much as Strauss ‘developed’ Wagner’s style. The Firebird or Petrouchka are pleasant works, slightly more interesting than Rimsky’s Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh or Coq d’Or suites simply because Stravinsky has also learned something from Debussy, and his palette contains some transparent water colours as well as the garish pigments of Scheharazade.

When an artistic personality feels  that it has reached a limit in a certain direction, its tendency is to explode, to produce something that has nothing in common with what has been before. This kind of thing never occurred in Mozart or Beethoven simply because they developed organically, never feeling that they had reached a limit. (Beethoven’s Hammerklavier Sonata is perhaps the only analogous example.) We feel that with The Rite of Spring Stravinsky is momentarily disowning his Russian nationalism and all that it implies – particularly the music of Scriabin, who was then regarded as the last word in musical sophistication and mysticism. The Rite has no musical ‘argument’, even though it proceeds  in a series of episodes; it stands at no opposite extreme from a work like Sibelius’s Fourth Symphony, that develops slowly, statement by statement. The Rite is a musical explosion, a shout of defiance. It is also, of course, an orchestral showpiece, like Strauss’s Don Juan or Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche. But my own experience is that it will not bear repeated listening; once once one knows it, one knows it, and there is no point in listening to new performances, even by someone as dynamic as Leonard Bernstein. Generally speaking, showpieces are of limited musical interest; no one is likely to maintain a lifelong affection for Beethoven’s ‘Battle’ Symphony or Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, any more than for such eminent descendants of the Rite as Prokofiev’s Scythian Suite or Bartók’s Miraculous Mandarin. At the most, one buys the latest stereophonic recording to astonish and deafen one’s friends. Historically speaking, the Rite may be the most important piece of music of this century; but from the perspective of half a century later, we can see that the critic who said that it was the twentieth-century equivalent of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony was talking nonsense.

Stravinsky FirebirdThere followed what must have been for Stravinsky a period of artistic anxiety. The warm nationalistic manner of The Firebird was not susceptible of development; but if anything, The Rite of Spring was even more of a dead end. Fortunately for Stravinsky, it was also, for the time being, the end of his association with the Diaghileff ballet, so that for a few years he could afford to stop worrying  about the public who looked to him for new thrills. The next few years, 1913 to 1918, produced only a few minor works – a few songs, short piano works, pieces for string quartet, and the completion of an opera begin in the Firebird period, The Nightingale.

There was only one major work, Les Noces, written in 1917, and it shows Stravinsky attempting to develop the rhythmic implications of The Rite of Spring. Many regard it as a masterpiece; its first five minutes certainly arrest the attention with their rhythmic vitality and the oriental sound of the vocal line (which, in this respect, bears some resemblance to Ravel’s Two Hebrew Melodies written three years earlier). But continued acquaintance reveals the same defect as in the Rite; the lack of a melody is tiresome; the ear grows tired of barbaric  rhythms, which have the same effect of blunting the sensibility that one finds in some of Wagner’s noisier passages. The same thing applies to the ‘burlesque tale’ Reynard, although here a certain lightness of touch gives the work the quality of an agreeable romp.

The Soldier’s Tale (1918) again shows Stravinsky preoccupied with helping out the music by buttressing it with words. The attempt would have been more successful if it had not been for the puerile nature of the text by C. F Ramuz. The quality of the music shows that Stravinsky is not entirely at home when he cannot rely on his rhythmic effects (the music having been written for seven instruments). Nevertheless, The Soldier’s Tale succeeds in holding the attention for forty minutes, and in this respect may be regarded as his most successful work since The Firebird.

The twenties were Stravinsky’s phase of ‘time travelling’ (to use Constance Lambert’s description). The 1923 Piano Concerto became associated with the catch phrase ‘Back to Bach’, and is the first of a number of ‘harmonically sour and emotionally dry works’. It would appear that Stravinsky had come fully to realize that the actions and reactions of his early years were essentially rootless, and had decided that ‘tradition’ should give him the dimension that he 55_vaslav_nijinsky-theredlistotherwise lacked – the ability to develop logically. Tradition, to begin with, meant various eighteenth-century procedures. And what is equally clear is that Stravinsky himself was not enough of a personality, that is, a living and suffering human being, to develop in the existential manner of a Mozart or Beethoven. His colleague  Nijinsky sensed this instinctively, and wrote of him: ‘He seeks riches and glory… Stravinsky is a good composer, but he does not know about life. His compositions have no purpose…’ He goes on to tell how Stravinsky and his wife declined to look after Nijinsky’s child while the dancer toured America and implies, what Madame Nijinsky states flatly, that Stravinsky was a cold fish. Certainly one feels about all the music written after Petrouchka that it is ‘cold fish’ music, that it was never written as a spontaneous outpouring of something that had to be expressed. This unsatisfactoriness is easiest to pin down in the works based upon other composers: Pulcinella (based on Pergolesi), The Fairy’s Kiss (Tchaikovsky), and Norwegian Moods (Grieg). Somehow the ‘Stravinsky-izing’ of the music has the effect of devitalizing it, removing its flavour, like putting salmon into tins; it is like putting it through some processing machine.

The thirties and forties were, on the whole, a bad time for Stravinsky. He produced a number of remarkable works that compare favourably with Les Noces in rhythmic force: the Symphony of Psalms, the Concerto for two pianos, the Danses Concertantes and the Symphony in Three Movements (1945), as well as some works that have all the characteristics of of the processing machine, and that seem as colourless and unsatisfactory as the ‘classical’ works that Hindemith was producing at the same period. In 1948 he began work on what Roman Vlad has described as the culminating work of Stravinsky’s neo-classical period, the opera The Rake’s Progress. As with The Soldier’s Tale, this work holds the interest – the libretto is a great deal better than the one by Ramuz, in spite of a few absurdities, such as the bread-making machine, and the marriage to the bearded lady – but the music is frequently even less inspired than in The Soldier’s Tale; there are long ‘Mozartian’ recitatives that are accompanied by a tuneless plinking on the harpsichord. This would be excusable if they were separated by arias of Mozartian melodic invention; but there is no other work of Stravinsky in which it is so clear that he has no melodic gift of any kind.

Once again Stravinsky found himself at the end of musical tether. By this time both Schoenberg and Webern were safely dead. Up till this point Stravinsky’s name had been mentioned with sneers by the ‘serialists’, and to have shown any interest in Schoenberg would have seemed a capitulation. But twelve-tone music now provided another avenue of development – the only possible one, in fact. Stravinsky therefore began to experiment with twelve-tone procedures. One of the first of these works was a setting of Dylan Thomas’s ‘Do not go gentle into that good night’. It is intended as a dirge for Thomas, and  the instrumentation – string quartet and  four trombones – is deliberately lugubrious; but the music itself is completely undirge-like; it rises and falls arbitrarily, and again manages to give the impression of being machine-made. It was something of a mistake on Stravinsky’s part to set the text of such a well known poem, since anyone can grasp the emotion of the poem, and decide whether the music expresses its feeling. He here show none of the delicate feeling for words that Britten often displays in his setting of poems.

Possibly warned by his experience, Stravinsky returned to the setting of a Latin text in his next major work, the Canticum Sacrum, a procedure  that had produced one of his most successful operas, Oedipus Rex. In its way, Canticum Sacrum is as effective as Oedipus; the frantic trumpets at the beginning contrast strangely with the ‘churchy’ associations of the organ and choir (a hint that Britten borrowed for the War Requiem). Roman Vlad describes it as ‘the most comprehensive… synthesis of elements it is possible to imagine at this particular stage in the evolution of European music’, and speaks of its various influences: Gregorian chant, Webern, Byzantine modes, polytonality and atonality. One can imagine the late Constant Lambert wrinkling his nose and muttering, ‘Pastiche again.’ The same basic objection applies to the Canticum Sacrum as to the Dylan Thomas poem. In Schoenberg’s twelve-note music, one is aware of the underlying emotion; in Stravinsky’s, it is difficult to perceive any underlying emotion. There are moments when it becomes moving or exciting – usually moments of sudden contrast, when the old rhythmic Stravinsky breaks through – but for the most part it sounds like ruler-and-compass music.

Since the Canticum, Stravinsky has produced two more twelve-note works: Threni and The Flood. Threni is a great deal longer than the Canticum, but on the whole the same remarks apply to it. (Once again, it is apparent that Britten has noted certain effects for his War Requiem.) According to some critics, it can be regarded as the culmination of Stravinsky’s life work, a lofty and inaccessible masterpiece that will not be generally understood for many years. At this stage, it is too early to decide; one can only say that if it is true, then it is the first time in his life that Stravinsky has been lofty and inaccessible; most of his works set out very obviously to make an immediate impact.

Judgement must be reserved on The Flood, a short opera commissioned by television. It is perhaps the worst text that Stravinsky has set since The Soldier’s Tale. One wonders what to make of passages like this:

Mother, we beg you all together,
Come into the ship for fear of the weather.
The flood is flowing in full fast,
For fear of drowning we are aghast.

Admittedly, the text is supposed to be a medieval morality play; even so, was Stravinsky unaware of its comic naïvety? Or was this perhaps a part of the intention? If so, the twelve-note music, which sounds mostly as abrupt and disconnected as Webern, is completely inappropriate and likely to ruin any joke. It is almost as if Stravinsky wanted to test the faith of his admirers by deliberately making himself a sitting target for unbelievers.

When writing about a composer’s shortcomings, it is difficult not to sound completely destructive. It seems to me that Stravinsky’s development has not been entirely authentic, and that Constant Lambert was right when he said that Stravinsky chief desire was to remain fashionable and controversial. There is, it seems to me, distinctly an element of insincerity, of the desire to be thought a great composer rather than to become, as far as possible, a complete human being. This insincerity may not be entirely conscious; it is clear, from the irregular line of his development that Stravinsky is an exceptionally suggestible person. (And from reading the Conversations with Robert Craft, one suspects that Mr Craft may be the Svengali behind some of his most recent metamorphoses.) But it undoubtedly makes it impossible to consider seriously the claims that he is, in the final sense, a ‘great composer’.

And yet all this is only to say that Stravinsky will probably be placed one day in the gallery of minor composers, which includes his master Rimsky-Korsakov, and that probably includes Schoenberg himself. This is not to say that his music has not its own authentic value; only that, for the present, this value is enormously overrated.

The problem stated at the beginning of this chapter now presents itself in a new light. The followers of Schoenberg, Hindemith,and Stravinsky can see only that these artists were wholly sincere; they can also point out that these artists were wholly sincere; they can also point out that they were accomplished musicians, not mere rebels. (Schoenberg and Hindemith both composed classic textbooks on musical composition, and Stravinsky has also written on the ‘Poetics of Music’.) Their opponents, on the other hand, are aware mainly of the preposterous mystique that has come to surround these figures, and which is due mainly to intellectual snobbery. Schoenberg’s principles of composition are justified because, in many cases, they have produced impressive music; the same goes for Webern and Berg. But it is preposterous to pretend that therefore serial music has a general and universal validity, and that non-serial composers are betraying their frivolity. Joyce wrote the manuscript of Finnegans Wake in different-coloured inks on different-coloured sheets of paper; this does not mean that this method should become de rigueur for all serious writers. The most that can be said is that serial music demands a fairly serious approach to composing, and therefore may help to sort the sheep from the goats. But it does not guarantee anything.

The worst aspect of all this is the influence it has had on young composers, who have swallowed their serialism as eagerly as writers of thirty years ago gulped down their Joyce, Eliot and Proust, and who, in some cases, feel that real originality demands that they go ‘beyond Schoenberg’ (since, they argue, Schoenberg displayed conservatism in retaining any kind of ‘scale’). There was recently published a volume of interviews with British composers, ranging from John  Ireland to Peter Racine Fricker and Alexander Goehr, which reveals the kind of total split that exists in the musical world. Thus the interviewer (Murray Schafer) can open his interview with Goehr (born 1932) with the staggering remark: ‘In comparison with your European contemporaries you might be called a “reactionary”. Your music owes more to Schoenberg than to Webern…’ (Goehr sensibly replies that the merit of a composition does not depend on whether it is experimental or not, and that experimentalism has been greatly overstressed.) The result is that the symposium  has the curious effect of a volume on philosophy written by a mixture of mythical atheists and bigoted Roman Catholics.

pierre boulezThe younger composers are hardly to be blamed for this. The need for discipline of some sort is generally felt by all healthy minds, and if their elders assure them dogmatically that Schoenberg may be the greatest composer of all, it is not surprising if they come to accept that serialism is the only serious way of composing. the result is that experimental music becomes an offshoot of the mainstream of music, rather like jazz, and its adherents announce that their method is the only true way of salvation. All this is not the result of the musical theorizing of Schoenberg, Stravinsky, and Hindemith, but of the systematic overrating of these interesting minor composers. (The constant use of the word ‘greatness’ in connection with Britten is another example.) The result of this overrating is that the argument tends to proceed to extremes, and Henry Pleasants can speak indignantly of ‘the twelve-tone aberrations of Boulez and Nono (neither of whom are serialists), and then go on to suggest that the twentieth-century American music, including jazz and the musical, is fundamentally more valuable than European ‘serious’ music of the same period; while on the other hand a composer like Sibelius is ignored in several reputable volumes on twentieth-century music, and is no longer played on the BBC Third Programme.

There is of course, a fundamental fallacy in Mr Pleasants’s way of arguing. It is not in the least difficult to show that Beethoven inevitably gave way to Wagner who in turn gave way to Bruckner and Mahler, who set the scene for twentieth-century music, and that therefore twentieth-century music finds itself in a cul-de-sac from which there is no escape, no possible route for creative development. One is reminded of how literary critics of the forties argued in the same way about the novel and poetry, and ended by pointing to the dearth of important writers since Joyce and Eliot to prove that their diagnosis was correct. The literary revival of the fifties, in America as well as Europe, proved that the real problem was lack off writers with something to say. The same is true of music. Tradition is important; it can enable a minor composer to produce a major work. Conversely, a lack of tradition (or the inheritance of a moribund tradition) produces the ‘race for originality’ that may prevent a serious composer from finding his feet. (This seems to me to be true of Tippett.) But ultimately the great composer creates what tradition he needs, or manufactures it from odds and ends of other ages. If the music of an age is disappointing, it is for lack of musicians with something important to say rather than because the musical tradition has become enfeebled. History may be to blame, but only individuals with the courage to be subjective can remedy it.

–Colin Wilson (originally published 1964)



Colin-Wilson-1956The first part of Wilson’s essay on modern music is at The Fiend, and is a part of the new edition of the book ‘Brandy of the Damned; Colin Wilson on Music’ by Foruli Classics released earlier this year.

Born in 1931, Colin Wilson was a highly prolific British writer of creative and critical prose, writing 150 books over 50 years, and covering subjects of philosophy, literature, mysticism, the occult, religion, science fiction, spirituality, crime, and studies in consciousness. He is arguably best known for his first book ‘The Outsider’, for his philosophic amendments to popular European existentialism, and for his compendiums on the occult. He died in December of last year.

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