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).
The 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?)
In 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…?
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.
You 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]