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UNDER PARNASSUS (an Under Ben Bulben variation)

[The aim of this experiment in poetry is not to rival Yeats’ impressive valedictory Under Ben Bulben.  It aims rather to offer a variation upon it, to “correct”, so to speak, the poem’s theories ranging from reincarnation to  dubious, quasi-fascist notions of eugenics and war which have grated with me as with many. Some of my beliefs re especially poetry colour the piece, but I have not exactly encapsulated my beliefs on poetry or anything;  it would not be possible given I have confined myself to following, however loosely, themes and development of Yeats’ own poem. Arguably I should have just composed my own poetic and spiritual credo but I think the exercise has its value. This poem with  others is included in a new edition of New Poems and Two Celtic Dramas,http://amzn.to/1tKdkJr  .  This  month another very different poem, can be found on my other Additions blog at http://bit.ly/1sUmAsO %5D.

 

Parnassus

UNDER PARNASSUS (An UNDER BEN BULBEN VARIATION) 

1

Swear by what the sages spoke
At Corycian Cave [1] and Sinai’s side
That Orpheus and Elijah [2] knew,
They who for darkness of the earth
Seized fire from fields of paradise.

Swear by those seers, those bards,
Names only known, their earthly form
Obscured as though by mists of dawn
Even while their Mosaic faces shine
Like light of noon upon the mount.[3]
They view the fated journeys done
The paths from Troy to Ithaca and Rome [4]
And Egypt into Jericho all won.

Here’s what that lasting radiance means:

11

Once only does man live and die
Through measureless eternity,
What earth or ashes cover now
In grave or in memorial urn
Awaits but only more decease if not
A resurrection. This is because,
Soul’s core is most like fires
Of God (or self-consuming will alone),
Its natural end and flight thus primed
For highest light or lowest dark;
And vision and poetry declare
Truth’s quest can only reach above,
For wisdom lies with choosing life.[5]

111

All you who heard a call to war
And thought it served both God and world
Go into none, unless with self
Or for the defenceless of the earth.
Time’s past when for some greater good
Peace was established by the sword,
And strength and merit lay in power.
For if it was blind Homer failed
Most sightless was his “unchristened heart” [6]
For which, though what’s most noble,
Is most calm, mere violence made for majesty.

1V

Poets like sculptors do your work
Shape into sound as they to sight
What is most fixed in form and style
And brings to mind eternal lines.

With Isaiah and with Aeschylus
Personality through verse began
Then Plato fixed the archetypes
And Pentecost spread wide the Word.
If measurement began our might
It bore as well with Aristotle
Division for the heart and mind
So that increasingly we dwelt with earth
And lost most vision of the higher,
First source of ecstasy and song.
But then, even Plato could be wrong.
His God was passionless, his poets
Banned since poetry is music too
And not just thought and words alone.

Renaissance and Baroque in verse
Through Shakespeare, Milton and beyond
Knew passion and a God of same
While taking Plato for the forms.
Then Wordsworth, later, part agreed
But Shelley cursed the Miltonic God
And saved most love for Lucifer [7]
And after that much poetry fell
From vision to a Satanic hell
Words found less meaning, feeling took
A lesser place, until it’s
Mostly objects steal the scene.

The passing ages run their course,
Now lightning of Aquarius waits
To make again and to renew and
Like great Michelangelo’s roof
To save Platonic forms and also show
Supposed unnatural’s natural too.[8]

V

But poets still perfect your art
One never learned but always given
Which speaks to where it cannot grow,
The crowd which throngs about below
The sacred mount you must ascend
Charged with the elect vocation.
Then sing the music of the spheres
Stars, planets, symbols, history, [9]
Great lyric loves and ways of God,
All shapes and forms of mysteries.
Ignore the upstart trivial kind
Whose labour is to strain at words
And mire the mind in earthiness.
Such make a show for passing days
Your work serves what it is transcends:
The task is vision’s truth and
Even the truth you are alone.

V1

Beneath Parnassus poets lie or else
Their soul is everywhere. On Nebo’s side
Where Moses died remains unknown
And since they fled into the night,
Doubt must surround the Magi’s tombs [10].
But whether in earth, or with Elijah
Into sky, small matter where the poet
Ends, nor what carved epitaphs declare.
Let only the work and vision stay,
Words echoed to eternity
Paths pointing still to ecstasy.

NOTES

[1] The Corycian cave on Parnassus was the home of the  Muses of poetry. Orpheus originally dwelt on Parnassus. Sinai is not just associated with Moses. The likes of Elijah and St Paul sought affirmation and clarification of vision by visiting Sinai.
[2]  Orpheus originally dwelt on Parnassus. Sinai is not just associated with Moses. The likes of Elijah and St Paul sought affirmation and clarification of vision by visiting.
[3]  When he had bee on Sinai and spoken with God his face shone so that it had to be covered with a veil. (Ex 34: 29-35)
[4]  Troy to Ithaca refers to the Odyssey and  “Tory to Rome”  is a  reference to Virgil and his epic of Rome’s foundation, The Aeneid.
[5]  As in “For the wise the path of life leads upwards in order to avoid Sheol below” (Pro 14:24) and “all who hate me[Wisdom] love death” (Pro 8:36).”Choose life…”(Deut 30:19)
[6]  Yeats identifies with Homer and his “unchristened heart” in Vacillation V111, without perhaps thinking out all implications of this.
[7] Shelley is radically atheistic as in Queen Mab and crypto satanistic in Prometheus where Jupiter is symbolic for the Miltonic God who must be overthrown. For Shelley the devil is heroic and light bringing.
[8]  Although Michelangelo’s art, mentioned by Yeats, followed a version of Christian Neo-Platonism, his inspiration and nature was essentially gay and the coming age of Aquarius is the sign of freedom and often of the homosexuality which the age may be expected to accept as part of nature itself. Yeats curiously suggests the artist’s work incites particularly female desire.
[9] Orpheus traditionally proclaimed star lore and astrology.
[10] A disputed tombs of the Magi site does exist in Iran to the south of the capital Tehran. Reputed remains of the Magi found their way to a shrine in Cologne via Constantinople.

 
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Posted by on September 10, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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COMING TO SYRACUSE (A Poem: Epyllion not Epic, Urblogues not Eclogues, in Six Parts)

COMING TO SYRACUSE (A Poem: Epyllion not Epic, Urblogues not Eclogues, in Six Parts)

COMING TO SYRACUSE

After three months we sailed in an Alexandrian ship whose
figurehead was the Twin Brothers…And landing at Syracuse
we stayed three days
” Acts 28:11

PART ONE: A CITY, ITS ISLAND AND ITS MUSE

Sing of arms and of the man no more
The human person can suffice, and then
A city and its island’s life. [1]  While wars
Still rage and rumours of the same escape,
Instead relate the struggle of cultures and
The soul with which as lengthy ages pass
Each day and century are filled, driven
Onwards by strong forces little grasped
And rarely seen, whose impulse shapes
The mystery and course of fate, their truths
Concealed within an implicate order.

Syracuse, great Syracuse, arisen besides
Ionian waves that anciently Tenians and
Corinthians braved, like Athens born anew
You shone, for wealth, trade, theatre, science and law
And all as if to rival a later Rome
While yet the glory of a larger Greece.
As though Athena’s second child you thrived
And from afar, some said, were joined to fields
Of blest Arcadia from which a river
Flowed beneath the ocean’s depths. Still others
Then devoutly claimed you housed the spring
Of Arethusa by a legend famed which tells
How on Ortygia’s isle that nymph poured forth.

A victim of the river god’s lust
She’d tried to flee; yet even hidden
By Artemis, first in a cloud then
 

Fountain

Caverns of the sea, she learned that haven
And safe place from Alphaeus there was none
Unless as water. And even with that
The cruel pursuer found a way
All suddenly to merge with her until
The earth itself was opened up, when
Artemis had given means so that
The nymph in freshest salt free jet
Emerged in new found freedom, all alone.

Oh light of Sicily whose sainted patron
Too was light [2], where went the freedom and
Your knowledge with its widespread beaconing,
And then the wealth of fields beyond
Whose grain fed Rome and Italy itself?
Since Alphaeus forced illicit claim
And Verres stole from land and shrine, what street
And parcel of your earth has not known loss
And fear through Carthage, Rome, Byzantium,
From Norman lord and Saracen and violent
Clan, all this bound fast by a colonial curse
So multiplied, so like the sea nymph’s mergence
Much renewed, each person’s left to wonder
“Who am I?” and “Who are you?”. Thus all
Become like characters without, yet striving
Still, to find the pattern and their author [3] ,
Step children of Pythagoras round whom
Biography dissolves in myth, though history
Receives his theories and his numbers.
Yet theirs remains the blessed ground of
Idyll and the elegy whose being rests
With inner landscapes of the mind, bucolic
Scenes lit by the eternal and ideal
In which through fancy and through reverie,
Hopes of the soul and its regrets speak quietly
As you of Syracuse, Theocritus [4] ,
First did and with such art that even as male
Some hailed in you another muse. Though
In our times main streams of inspiration
Fail, be now if not a muse, a guide
To help our tales and teachings flow through
Lands and pastures rich as Arcady’s.

PART TWO: A SICILIAN CURSE

CERES

Begin with Ceres and her loss and how
From out the earth all of a sudden evil rose
And Etna had its part in this. Enkelades was
The titan’s name or some said Typhon;
Either way, amid the struggles of
The gods Athena caught and pressed
Him down beneath the weight of
Etna’s heights. Desiring still to rise to
Heaven, the demon struggled in his bonds [5]
And raged and screamed so fire and smoke
And tremblings deep beneath the earth
In what was also Vulcan’s forge, at
Unexpected times broke forth. Within
Tartarian depths and far remote
From sunlight and the fields above,
Upon his throne of darkness now and then
Even Hades took offence and felt alarm [6]
Enough to draw him up to inspect
The pillars and balance of the earth.

It was at Enna in the spring that
Earth being shaken, opened up
And steeds of wrathful Hades galloped
Forth, nor did they stop until the god
Who drove his dusky chariot alone,
Glimpsed from afar a radiant maiden,
Proserpine, carefree, at play and
Gathering violets in a grove. She,
Although herself divine as Ceres’ child,
Was not yet strong against the will
Of Venus and her son who bore
His arrows and, as ordered, shot the girl
To leave her victim to those powers
Of love till then it seemed she might reject
Or else she was too young to know.
And so it was that Hades snatched the
Maiden’s innocence and thought it love.
His victim screamed in terror and she called
Repeatedly for Ceres’ aid and yet,
Though she resisted, due to Cupid’s dart
She somewhat loved her rapist too
And passed below where soon she would
Be honoured as the hell king’s queen.

proserpine2

But not before the Underworld’s mad steeds
As though enraptured by the violence
Still rushed across and round the trembling
Isle and by a pool where Sicily’s nymph,
Cyane, in vain protested at the crime,
And wept. So great was Hades’s wrath at that
He threw his sceptre in her pool returning
To his home from there, while she dissolved
Into her tears and her no longer sacred place
Until she was but silent water. Meanwhile and
Soon, Ceres to whom no child returned
Began to fear, to grow in anger and to mourn
And, tossed like waves at sea in her distress,
Set out to search the whole wide world, first
Sicily then that island last. And at the pool
Where now Cyane was only voiceless water
She saw, just as the sorry nymph intended,
The maiden’s girdle floating free. Here
Was the proof the island held her daughter still.
But Ceres while she quested on grew more enraged
And bitter at the Sicilian earth. With no child found
And seeking vengeance ever more, in grief
And comfortless this Mother caused all
Natural gifts of fruit and grain to be
Withheld so round about whole deserts spread
As fields were wilted, blackened and a
Blighted earth fell barren of its previous life.

At Arethusa’s fountain, there alone
It was that earth gained some reprieve.
The nymph, who now loved Sicily as her home,
Made plea to set harsh punishment aside,
Assured the troubled mother that the
Very land opposed the crime to which it was
The sad reluctant witness, and, from what
She’s glimpsed beneath the earth where Hades
Bore his bride away, there was no doubt
It was the dark Lord surely did the deed.
At first struck dumb, the anguished mother soon
Resolved to take her outrage to the courts
Of Zeus, rose there in haste and stood upon
Olympus’ heights. But Zeus was torn between
The claims on him of his own sister and
A brother too; and what his sister called vile theft,
To him seemed more like love gone half astray.
But witness to so great distress with consequences
For the world, his will allowed his niece could
Be returned to the maternal home. Except
This boon was now impossible. Within
The realms of hell its king had given his spouse
To eat; and once a soul, even one divine,
Had taken of food outside the world,
There they must stay and there belong. So
Zeus decreed a compromise that half the year
The girl might spend some time on earth
And every spring she could return.

Which is what many have believed. And
It is true that every spring the sun
Gives light and heat and violets blow
First and more early in Europa’s fields
In Sicily than anywhere. But even so
Some curse still lurked and whispered to the land
And that same sun that spreads on Enna’s walls
Would see the challenge to that city’s rule,
Conflict repeated and oppression too
Where it now stands athwart the island’s centre.
And to the north still Etna groaned and
Spat and had no mercy on a man
Except its slopes at rest gave honey [7].
It swallowed up even Empedocles who,
The last philosopher to write in verse,
Defined the fundamental elements
And thought all change results alone from
Strife and love in their perpetual motion.
Strife with gods and elements he met
When, seeking proof for his divinity,
Into a fiery crater of the mountain’s side
Himself he flung and was consumed. It is
As though in Etna’s shadow lie heaven
And hell, there sky and earth cannot agree
And from their violent colours, violent ways
Like poisoned flowers; and out of Vulcan’s
Forge and from the Titan’s jail arise
The retribution that lays waste…. But
To the south rose Syracuse whose bays
Face eastwards to the sea and Greece and
Do not look to, nor are overseen, by
Any mountain or dread Typhon’s place.
There, even if a tyrant ruled, the light
Of day could still be hailed like so much
Radiance of Reason’s rule, the blessing
Of Athena’s aid on every thinking citizen.
But darkness hides in many forms,
Sometimes even most and longest in the light.
And always there is love and strife.

PART THREE: TOURISTS AND VISITORS TO SIRACUSA

Arethusa

Alex:  From Dionysius’ Ear to Arethusa’s fount
And other places in between I have a feeling
That you’re following me. What’s on? You’ll
Make me think you want, I’ll not say what.

Cori:  Mi dispiace Sir, Signor, Mein Herr,
You make me feel confused, the route we take
Is all coincidence; but what you sense
Is that I’m looking rather hard at you
Because I’d say we’ve met before,
Somehow, somewhere…Could that be true?

Alex:  If not met seen, that is the likelier thing,
I’ve been so many places near and far
Where were you last? Half choked in Beijing’s fog?
To rest and breathe try Taormina or Tahiti’s shores.
Today all travel’s much like work.

Cori:  I’ve been in Europe, not much past Italy, I find
It’s good enough for me, from Mantua’s plains
To Etna’s height all’s fine, even Rome and all
The crowds – I’ve just come here from there
But Taormina, that I like, it’s heaven,
So even Goethe said when he could stop
Examining varieties of Sicily’s soil.

Alex:  You sound like Verdi who declared
The universe is yours if Italy’s for me.

Cori:  Well, I’m not Verdi but wherever I go
I write some songs or poems for each place .

Alex: You have them here? I’ll listen to them
If you wish. We should sit down,
It’s rather hot to keep on walking in this sun.
Let’s find the nearest tree – beech, oak
Or cypress, willow or plane. [8] Let poets
Find them different meanings, what’s certain
Is trees offer shade.

Cori:  Just there is fine, things aren’t so certain with
My words. On Syracuse they’re very new
With some of them I must admit, still rough,
They’re all a bit impromptu. More than
Description of a place I write of people
Native here or those who visited and stayed.

Alex:  I’ll listen anyway when you begin.
.
Cori:  Born in Eleusis where in Greece the cult
Of Ceres flourished most, the father of
Stage Tragedy was raised. He was familiar
With the Maiden’s fate, indeed according to
The Stagirite [9] the plays of Aesychlus – most
Now are lost – betrayed some secrets of
Initiate rites. Save but for bravery at war
At Salamis and at Marathon in which
The playwright lost a hand, he would have forfeit
Life itself. Even so he was attacked with
Such degree of violence by a crowd
It’s likely why before too long he took
To sea and Syracuse. At Demacopus’
Theatre there his tragedies could be
Performed (first The Persians which had won
A prize), but though among all ninety plays
We’re ignorant what depth his Women of Etna
Plumbed, in Reason’s cause the playwright wrote
What sounds like homage to Athena’s power
And then the benefits of rule by men.
Which would not have been clear to all – the
Play which most affirmed it was the same
At which a pregnant woman died in shock
At sounds too supernatural. Even so
It must be said that though in youth it was
The vine god told the dramatist to write,
With age and Syracuse he grew more like
Apollo’s devotee, a lover of the local light.

Dramatist

At Gela not at Enna Aeschylus died,
His end, alas, was all too tragi-comic.
Due to a forecast he had heard he feared
To stay too long indoors, but outdoors
Proved no safer. An eagle thought his head
A rock and on it dropped a tortoise.

Alex:  That must be myth. I’d guess the last act of the
Playwright’s life got written by his enemies.

Cori:  I think…. I’ll let you read the next piece
If you choose. Philosophy’s more serious.

Alex:  As though for life’s experiments Sicilia
Was the Promised Land, Pythagoras once
Settled there, in Croton where disciples
Learned new simple ways and diet too -
None caught or ate an animal. Perhaps
Recalling the example shone, great
Plato sailed to Syracuse three times.

Plato

With politics corrupt in Greece then
Hearing how across the sea within
The largest colony that gluttony
And debauch were rife, the best solution
Seemed to be to educate some leaders.
Indeed he would feel honour bound
And working for the good of all.
With sober Dion, an admirer, he began,
(He was the local tyrant’s brother in law)
But fears of too great influence at court
Had Dion placed beneath a ban and
Plato flee the hostile shores. And later
Visits ended much the same. Once come
To power the tyrant’s son, at Dion’s urge,
At first submitted to the Sage’s way, but
Wearied soon and once again intrigue
And violence arose. Dion, long cheerfully
Exiled abroad and pupil at the Academy
At last returned and being Reason’s child
And thus an enemy to mere anarchy,
Placed rule and order on his home
But by recourse to sword and force.
The island slid towards new chaos.
And thus with age and grave experience
The visitor from Athens learned that
Teaching can’t alone suffice; the maybe
Necessary second best is rule by Law,
So what he’d deemed the Good might need
Assistance from strict rules and greater
Limitation. And so, O Syracuse, alas,
Your world and history helped to shape
Ideas for later generations of
A state less democratic than policed,
All poetry suspect or simply banned
And gays – the sage now changed his mind
And allowed for laws against them.

Cori:  Now me again. Next in my line is
Someone born in Syracuse….

archimedes

Archimedes found out many things in
Physics, maths, in pumps and screws, and managed
Too to map the heavens. But even so
His fame lies chiefly with his bath,
Where inspiration in a trice revealed
How he, beyond whatever science knew,
Could judge the buoyancy of water.
Up from his seat within the tub he
Jumped, screamed but one word, “Eureka”
And then while still a-drip ran out
Stark naked through the streets
To share the thrill of his discovery.

Alex: How fortunate police weren’t there,
The type to think him criminal!

Cori:  No, it was a Roman called him criminal
And killed him with a sword for studying
Maths with Carthage at the city gates…
But clothed or nude he was so little
Loved and lost to public memory soon,
It was alone the brave and gold mouthed
Cicero, when not attacking Verres’
Crimes, discovered and restored his tomb.

At this point there’s an interval, a tuning
Of the instruments let’s say, in which
We introduce some other themes that follow.

When, because he would look back
Sad Orpheus lost a wife to Hades’ realm
His interests turned, and, so it’s said
He taught and loved young men instead.
But his own magic lyre, the legend goes,
Had floated down from Thrace to Greece
And stopped at where fair Sappho dwelled….

Alex:  With that did someone wish to imply
That love and lyric verse are gay
And maybe even music too?

Cori:  Perhaps, or possibly they thought bisexual,
For some say Sappho had a child. Consider too
King David loved to play a harp and he had
Wives and sons; but then, as scriptures tell,
He loved and entered – sort of – marriage
With a man – the word they used was berith.
In Sicily no doubt things were more free
As long before Von Gloeden had a camera
Trained on charms of local naked youth,
Greek Diocles who admired just such, once
Dead was honoured and at his own grave
With competitions in the spring for boys
To meet and greet and in the grandest style
To kiss in harmony with vernal gusto[9].
(Just what they did in Syracuse remains unsure
We only know Theocritus approved).

Gloeden Faun

Things weren’t so easy
For the other sex, but nonetheless…
Your turn. Pull the stops out for a great Poet

Alex:  To Siracuse from Lesbos Sappho came
In flight from Pittacus, a tyrant and intrigues
Back home. The citizens were so agog
That she whom Plato called tenth muse
Inventor of new music and poetic forms
Should seek to make her home with them, that
Even before they saw her face, as welcome
To their refugee, Silanion was engaged to carve
A statue in her honour. Before the town hall
It was raised but then, like Archimedes tomb,
This too was doomed to disappear
– only the pedestal was left – another of
Those victims to gross Verres’ thefts.
And yet, how like the symbol of a fate
That was. One poem from nine volumes
Is what now remains, and for the rest, like
Marble chips, we own but scattered fragments
And they’re unclear – the dialect in which
The Lesbian wrote itself died out -
And like her image fades away as when
It’s said this poetess was fair and tall while
Others think her dark and low, so in the end
It is the name and fame alone endure.

Sappho2

Such was the fate of one who wrote, alas,
As she herself would once admit, despite
Her social and erotic themes, chiefly
To be recalled when she passed on and not
Be lost to night within the Underworld.

Cori:  I’ll come back again, I represent Italia…
The centuries passed but then, as though
He had to pursue the Lesbian (as surely
Later fathers would to hell), the apostle Paul
Sailed into harbour with a companion Luke -
A doctor, (though there’s legend claims a painter).
An unlikely pair they might appear
One strict, the other generous, the
Apocalypse of one, some deem indeed,
Half gay with two men sleeping in a bed [11] ;
But anyway, even twins affined can be
At odds and disagree and of the
Heavenly twins beneath whose sign
The two embarked at Syracuse, we know
That Pollux was a boxer as was Castor too
Though he was more disposed to sleep.
As to St Paul, (I cannot speak for Luke)
He maybe liked to box, but not the air….. [12].

PAUL

Alex:  I’ll interrupt you there…I want to say…
With no church founded nor epistle
Written and just three days Paul was
Ashore, could time here be significant?
A small church only, not a cathedral
Or cathedral square exists in town
To commemorate his stay, and that stands
Close beside some ruins of Apollo’s shrine.
Which some might feel was almost right
Because if mildly, quietly in its way
This place is somewhat pagan still.
It’s transformation is its style and not
I think conversion. In centre town,
With little change, the Virgin’s cult
Now owns Athena’s temple.

Cori:  No, once again I think this is symbolic.
Three days Christ lay within the tomb and
On the third day he was raised. Recall Paul’s
Company was tossed about and nearly died
Devoured by fiercely angry waves until
They ran aground in Malta. A pattern of
Pure woe indeed, one much akin to storms
And tempests of our lives. When three months later
They could leave, safe harbour lay in Syracuse
As well as calm and brief serenity
Three days before the apostle sailed to Rome,
To judgement on his life and work,
His final days and execution. Thus say
That Syracuse is the sacred pause,
The moment of vision and of rest,
Maybe a fork within the traveller’s road,
Almost a place of heaven’s door, as
Have not others said before, this island
Stands a portal to heaven as to hell?…..

Escaped from out a prison cell above the bay
Of Malta, that artist Caravaggio,

Caravaggio

The same who claimed – he was no Paul – that
All his sins were mortal, found home awhile
In Syracuse. His goal was Rome and
Pardon there, though he met death along the way.
But in this harbour city he still gained
Some favour with its leaders. These all were keen
He turn a hand to make fine image
Of their patron saint – he showed her dead
And ready for her burial. Her story goes
She had been dragged towards a brothel where
Her throat was cut because she’d wished to
Sacrifice both life and chastity to God. The image
Shows….

Alex:  Oh, something morbid I dare say
But then that was that painter’s way
He loved the shadows more than light
But Lucy stands for all that’s bright
So white is doubtless in the picture…
Enough of history and the town
Let’s follow sunlight to the beach
I’ll put the sunscreen on your back

PART FOUR: THE COMING AGE

ROMAN

Now for a higher theme, its flight ascends [13]
Above all trees and forests that give shade
And beats strong wings to fly beyond firm
Harbour walls of ancient Syracuse,
Its aim to reach into our larger world
Beyond even noble monuments of Rome.
As to its seeing, may that be with vision
Like the eagle’s eye which looks upon both
Heaven’s sun and earth beneath as though
Those two could be the same.

Sicilian muse, soon is again the time
For which now dreamers dare to yearn
When through the circle of celestial signs
There dawns a new age for humanity.
Yet can it savour of that Golden Age
And be the crowning era of all prophecy
Once sung so hopefully but only spied
Through darkness of a glass where rose those
Images combining true and false amid
A too great trust of Caesar as a god
And reverence for Pan in every field?
For prophecy indeed is hard and harder
Than all poetry (even though those two
Are much allied), for in it farthest futures
Show as though a virtual present, and this
Because main words of prophecy derive
From outside time, their usual frame and
Speech being symbol and their working out
All bounded by the round of stars,

For no, throughout the world wars have not
Ceased, nor fear, nor is wild nature purified
So that a fertile land grows to support
Itself with no fields harrowed, no vines pruned
And even the ox  and lion reconciled [14].
But though you grasped how for redemption and
The age the sign of Jupiter was core [15]
And though from heaven the First Born came so that
Past evils could erase, most that was forecast
And desired did not occur and that
Because true alteration knows two kinds,
One gradual, the other born of crisis.
Within the time that cycles and their symbols
Shape, freewill exists to choose a higher
Above a lower way of the same thing,
And thus to learn and change as persons
And societies. When that’s refused
So evil thrives, it’s God and Nature bring
An end and introduce the new by force.
For when the Good is little taught or learned
How could your Golden Age be realized
Or Nature form new harmonies when amity,
Forgiveness, love are rarely settled in
The heart? Relentless hatred must be
Swept away, and will, with all confusion
Of the names of God lest poison through belief
That’s false and misnamed vision keep its
Hold, prolonging strife with every wrong.

Then only does the monarch of this world,
No more a mother’s child, but even now
Awaiting and prepared within the light
Bring near the justice of a longed for reign.
For this come soon, the world is impatient
To rejoice, the gate of welcome is unbarred,
None may resist the sceptre of your rule…..
And yet, before the new age can begin
And when within the heavens the Water Bearer’s
Sign lets freely flow the healing springs of
Spirit beyond the lightning flash and sudden
Fear and wakening towards new dawn [16],
Some years a weary earth must suffer still.
Whole multitudes, alas, must die as seas
Will rise and mountains fall and many
Cities be destroyed and even Rome itself
Fall once again beneath barbarians.
And all these things shall be because the world
Must be renewed and those who cannot
Live aright must learn instead how well
To lose what’s theirs, and even maybe
How to die, to perceive that life alone
On earth is not the sum of all that is.

It’s only then and following the years
Of strife and loss, of false beliefs and none
Another world, one wholly new, can rise,
All history and life such as was known
No longer there except as records read,
Or told as tales, by which fresh offspring of
The age will be amazed, sometimes amused.
Though travelling less, within their lands
And in their minds they’ll travel more
As with all cities rare, villages and groups
Combine, communication being total,
While on its mountain Zion rules above
All peoples and beyond all memory of
Terrors past, the division and confusion.
Each person shall be free, at last more free
Than all before and their own leaders,
Who’ll be few, will – much as once in Plato’s
Dream – be guardians of a single Law with
Wisdom and philosophy empowered and
Knowledge of most things divine, an absolute.

Then, what remains of Italy in which
No more a pontiff reigns to speak of deity
Or take its place, the beasts of field and forest
The  hunters slew, and slew to desolation,
These now as nature soon revives, return
Not to devour but roam in greater harmony
As centuries long all life itself
Will lose much of it that was entropy -
Even age extends, a hundred years like
Infancy as time grows closer to eternity.
And then, those fortunate of the coming age
Beneath the shade of beech and elm
Again in midday idleness they’ll sing
And speak of love that’s everywhere and everything
And under clusters of the vine, breathe in
Deep peace and view all Being as benign.

PART FIVE: OVERHEARD AT THE THEATRE

GKTHEATRE

He:   It’s really quite a mystery. This theatre
With the largest stage this island holds, the
Birthplace of so many plays, and many
Now deemed classic, has least to show by way
Of natural vista. We’re even told that sites
Like these were chosen for their setting, it’s
Integral to the drama. Segeste shows
A pure sublime; there’s nothing here to rival it
Or Taormina’s majesty. See… just a tiny
Sliver of the bay, its distant blue half lost
To clumps of cypress – the tree of death
So Virgil wrote. But then I’d say these plays
Are guilt and death-filled first to last.

She:  So deaths are all we’ve come to see?

He:  It must be said the action is quite minimal
It’s mostly chorus plus much commentary,
On serious actions little seen whose outcomes
You evaluate.

She:  If this is Greek and philosophical I’d think
We might need help with that.

He: ……Well, rather as Plato once dismissed
The Homeric gods so as to affirm
Some higher principles of good or God
Beyond those poor Olympian morals,
So Aesychlus evokes a holier Zeus.
He tries to make existence seem more
Sane and tangled fates more rational
By teaching Zeus one time decreed man learns
Through suffering alone. While things this poet
Does with myth can be ingenious and
Original, the messages may not convince.

She:  What messages are those? I’m sure to miss
Them for the spectacle and sound!

He:  To understand and two millennia on
I’d need to give the Oresteia storyline …
Be patient if you can, it’s this:

Oresteia

The Trojan war being at its end, King
Agamemnon now heads home. However
There’s some guilt on him. To appease a goddess
And to help the Greeks he’s sacrificed a daughter.
Clytemnestra who’s his wife and queen
Resents this death and, having suffered a
Ten year absence of her spouse has taken
A lover, though of course she hides the fact
Declaring strict fidelity. So guilt’s on her
(as on Helen who began the war). The king
Himself has not been faithful (what king is?)
And guilt of sorts is on his mistress too
Cassandra a prophetess and true
But whom a god, Apollo, cursed to
Never be believed for any oracle made.
– he took offence at her because she
Was unwilling to return his love.
The unfortunate girl foresees that if she
Enters in her lover’s house she will be
Murdered as he will be too. She prays the sun
In vain to be delivered. At palace entrance
King and queen might just be reconciled
Again except – it’s maybe fate -
There’s something makes them disagree.
The queen plans welcome on a tapestry
All purple where she utters praise that’s
So extreme – more suited to the very gods
Her husband feels – that he recoils, in both
Humility and fear. But then, reluctant still
He gives consent and enters in though later
Resting in his bath he’s murdered by the
Ambitious queen abetted by her lover.
This spouse, condemned by Chorus members
On the stage, rejoices in her evil deed
Whose fatal blow she offers to the god
Of Earth. She feels no guilt; it helps her lover’s
Party to the crime and he, Aegisthus,
Can declare it’s just and even proof the gods
Are good because he now sees vengeance on
The death the father of the murdered king
Had put upon his brothers. Thus retribution
Vengeance, guilt seem all combined and likely
To continue, the Chorus left with little choice
But to concede whoever acts must suffer.

She:  Yes, that’s exactly how it seems,
Should gods and men do nothing? So far, so bad
What is the next part of the Trilogy?

He:  It’s all the worst fears of the queen come true.
Fate intervenes when out of exile in disguise
Orestes, the king’s son, makes his return
He with a cousin, Pylades, goes to the tomb
And there, both for his father and a nurse
Sets down two locks of his own hair. Elektra
His mourning sister soon appears with bearers
Of libation, themselves arrived because
The queen now seeks to appease the dead
Due to her suffering from dreams by night.
To Hermes, god of dead souls in the underworld
Elektra prays for vengeance and on seeing
Both the locks of hair and certain footprints
In the ground suspects at last her brother’s
Near. This he can prove when he presents
A robe his sister helped to stitch. Rejoicing
At reunion the pair invoke high Zeus
For vengeance which Orestes now reveals
Is highest duty and a need since in an oracle
Even Apollo told him blood needs blood
And that ignored more curse and sickness
Follows. At which the Chorus calls
On Zeus for justice and is free to reveal
What dream it is haunts Clytemnestra in
The night, though not before declaring (at some
Length) the madness of all women’s passion.
The queen dreamt that a snake would suckle
At her breasts but then draw blood, and this
Orestes feels assured is forecast of
The matricide he must pursue once he
Has entered in his home and readied it
For vengeance. Requesting shelter but disguised,
Orestes meets his mother telling her
That he himself is dead abroad. Distress
Is feigned but he’s admitted and Aegisthus told,
Then with the Chorus’ aid, Orestes’ nurse
Will lead the lover of the queen to
Where he’s all alone so that Orestes
Is left free to strike. He does this and the
Dying screams bring Clytemnestra to
Aegisthus’ side. Now all is clear, mother and
Son are face to face and against the queen’s
So desperate pleas the son is deaf
Refusing mercy to fulfil quite other laws
As he sees fit. Although the deed once done
Both Chorus and the prince rejoice,
No sooner has the matricide declared his right
Than he falls victim to gross torments,
Visions and pain avenging ancient Furies
Place on him. In agony he flees the scene.
The Chorus is now left to ask, can deliverance
Exist or must there be another death?

She:  I must agree it’s getting worse and what
The Chorus asks makes sense.

Orestes

He:  Now comes the final episode, Part Three
Of this most dire Trilogy.

No longer Argos now the scene is Delphi
At Apollo’s shrine. Its prophetess appears
And terrified. She flees at sight of hag-like
Furies fast asleep sprawled in a circle round
Orestes, still a hunted, haunted man.
But soon Apollo, newly lord of earth
Appears with soul guide Hermes at his side.
Apollo’s promise is the curse must end
But not before Orestes makes appeal to
Athena in the city that she rules.
As Hermes leads the matricide away
The ghost of the dead queen appears and
Rouses the vile Furies to pursue their prey
And they, enraged to see their quarry gone,
Renew their curse and rail against all
New gods on the earth and Apollo who
Is firm to order them away. In Athens
Its own goddess will appear to declare
Orestes and the Furies, both, must be
Submitted to her rule which will include
Trial by a citizen’s jury. Still vehement
And unsubdued, the Furies rage against
All thought of any process and the law
Which might curb warning terrors and
All retribution of their kind which is
True justice, so they claim, which once denied
Expose even parents to all crime. But
Athena and Apollo too know that
The Furies rise from earth and hell and
Speak for earlier ages and for women.
Apollo who is witness and an advocate
For the victim now his protégé,
Maintains Orestes did a deed once
Forecast by his oracle itself made
With the authority of Zeus. He also
Rules true parenthood belongs not to
Mothers whose wombs can only nurture seed
But rather to Fathers from the first.
The court holds session and the count
Is equal save that Athena casts her vote
Through which the haunted prince is freed
And it’s agreed henceforth the city
Will have trials and be a seat of justice.
Again the Furies rage but seeking peace
Athena promises them a noble home
Within the city’s bounds to which
At last with hesitation they agree.

She:  And so, despite the misery and gore
The story isn’t quite a tragedy.

He:  How much of misery and gore could
Any audience hope to stand, even if, as
Aristotle held, such drama gives catharsis?
But for myself I’d say there’s tragedy of
Another kind and hidden on another plain.

She:  What’s that I’ve missed?

He:  In essence there’s no formula for good
Nor any real redemption

She: Not even with Orestes freed?

He:  Well, think of it. The Furies may be loathsome
But they have a point, or almost so, because
What flame is it the new gods bring to justice?
Apollo was cruel to Cassandra
And to Marsyas too, his rival in music
Whom he skinned alive. Compassion never was
His style. Orestes is quite right to plead
Compassion of him, and though we hear his
Father Zeus stands closer to true mercy,
Why would that Father then endorse
The crime of matricide Apollo gives
To Orestes as an oracle?
And why does that same god of prophecy
And truth maintain that blood needs blood
In what, if taken as a rule, which
In the dramas it can be, might run to
Unending tolls of sacrifice and vengeance?

She:  It doesn’t make much sense I must agree.

He:  The friendlier Athena will declare
For practice of a noble mean and peace
But only for her city. All war that’s
Made abroad to garner fame or win
More land she can approve. Her stated “mean”
Is scarcely something rational, more like
A shaman’s trick in primitive societies
Which holds the forces of the night at bay
By admitting just sufficient light. It’s

Athens

Much the same for what’s approved for life
Within society, its rule by men, a point
On which even gods can be agreed
But it’s the poor name for or an alternative
Form of Hellenistic Reason. Hence,
Practically, and faced with problems that
The Furies pose, it’s change is the redeemer
Its cure a lie akin to how – although
Apollo claims he could not lie – The Furies,
Pacified, will be renamed the Kind Ones.
In sum, there’s never exorcism nor
Is there banishment or blood of final
Sacrifice. Like Lucifer as angelic light
The new gods, greatly idealized, could hide
New rule by demons. But what is plain -
The gods themselves admit it – is how
Even cutting bonds and granting boons
It’s life they do not and they cannot give
In either this world or the next; no years
Once lost, as lost they were beneath Troy’s walls,
Can find their recompense and be restored.
Those few in fields of bright Elysium
Are wraiths who have no body and no home
And thus the only prospect for mankind is
Endless night in Hades. From Acheron’s
River none return because the family of Zeus
Though worshipped widely and still more appeased
Don’t deal in life as resurrection. And
Reason as a path to Truth and peace is
What the sages offer for this life
And then Gods utter versions of the same;
But it’s the fact that purest Reason
Never is entirely of the intellect,
Nor is it wholly male or something men
Alone may guard. Its thought is for this
Middle earth and really, truest Knowledge
Has a span encompassing the heaven above
And hell below, the visible with
The invisible. When that’s ignored
The human mind Is too divided, vision split
And, never reaching true control, our thoughts
Fall prey to forces not quite understood,
Misnamed, misused and so we walk to death
Alone  in blindfolds and in ignorance.

She: Well, something I now understand is why
The natural scenery as a setting counts.
It’s like a counsel to enjoy this life
As being your nearest to the world of
Gods before your brief hour of existence
Ends. In which case I’m inclined to say
I’d rather sit and contemplate this world
From Taormina than from here.

He:  But here the stage is sacred for its drama.
In Taormina Romans changed the theme,
No longer tragedy but combats of the
Gladiatorial kind, fights to the death
As entertainment. With such the memory
Of its stage is stained. Recall that
Syracuse rose faced away from Etna’s
Height. Maybe it has more light, less curse,
There’s just less past to exorcise.

She:  No curtain rises but the play begins
All light and sound, I’m ready for this tragedy.

PART SIX: EVENING, NIGHT AND GOING HOME

EVENING

 Alex:  You should finish our journeys with a song.

Cori:  I’m not so sure I really can. It might be
That the problem’s you.

Alex:  What’s wrong with me? What words or tunes
Do I prevent?

Cori:  I thought I knew, but now I feel less sure
Just who you are, from where or why?

Alex:  You must think I am secretive!

Cori:  More like just strange. You sometimes visit
In my dreams and always it’s so long ago
Though vivid as true memory; but often too
You disappear and manage to escape me.

Alex:  Oh such imagination! What ages past
Did we call home?

Cori:  It was whole centuries ago and then
At times we talked of poetry and Rome
Of distant futures and of love.

Alex:  So long ago and serious? Well, certain is
We never had a life before. If we made
Poetry and talk then think when
Certain stars are in the skies
That people much like us return
And say things that are similar
Which some repeat and may recall.
It’s really nothing more than that…
Well, as it seems you won’t perform
Now maybe I should be the poet.
But since I don’t profess to own your
Kind of special talent, I may be left
To work with scarcely more than what
Are merely borrowings from others…
“Now I am wearied with the day”
My longing happily receives the starry night [17]
(That fits, the sky tonight is clear enough
And I’ll admit I’m rather tired)

Cori:  I know the verse, what follows is..”And then
My unfettered soul desires to soar,
Freely into night’s magic sphere to
Live there deeply and a thousand fold”
Don’t say you’re trying to escape again! [18]
It’s very “north” and sounds too like those
Hymns to Night Novalis wrote in hope
That night’s eternal. I never understand it.

Alex: No need to try. It has a lot to do
With mood and time or simply place…..
Another poet of the sunset wrote
“Soon it will be the time to sleep…
Let’s not lose our way within this solitude
O vast and tranquil peace,
so deep within the evening’s glow!
How weary we are of wandering..”. [19]
(And don’t you think by now we are?)….

Cori:  Weary of wandering here and now
Or wandering simply everywhere?
Well you, I know, have seen the world,
And yes we’ve gone quite far today
But that’s not how the poem ends…
Don’t repeat it, you might trouble me.

Alex:  No, nor is there need to ask what’s next,
Or where. The sun’s gone down.
I feel, and so may you, a special radiance
As much from earth as from the sky
The peace, that glow; they are enough;
They join what has been and will be
With or without our journeys or our songs
Think we are here and we have paused.
Right now there’s nothing to complete
Say only that we came to Syracuse.

[This poem is now available in a second edition of New Poems and Two Celtic Dramas, http://amzn.to/1tKdkJr ]

NOTES

[1]  Arma virumque cano….”Arms and the Man I sing” opens Virgil’s Aeneid , the epic of Rome’s conquest by survivors of the Trojan war.
[2}  St Lucia, a saint associated with light and vision, is patron saint of Syracuse (Siracusa)
[3] Six Character in Search of an Author is a classic play by Sicilian dramatist, Luigi Pirandello
[4} Theocritus ( d.260 BC ) was a Greek poet born in Syracuse whose original Idylls and Elegies influenced the work of especially the Roman Virgil
[5} The Demon…….Here the Titan sent to Tartarus and effectively all titans are identified with fallen angels of biblical account. This somewhat influences the theory and theology of this account of spiritual influences.
[6} Hades. Strictly speaking, if one keeps to Roman names and myth it was Pluto, not the identical Greek Hades who raped Proserpine (Gk Persephone),
but Hades is not just a name but a place and concept. It thus  works better and more widely for meaning in the poem, but any reading could substitute the Pluto name since both names have two vowels and similarly Zeus could be substituted with Jove..
[7]  During Etna’s dormancy its slopes can be very fertile and the best honey in Sicily derives from there.
[8] The mentioned trees feature extensively in the poetry and symbolism of Virgil’s Eclogues.
[9] The Stagirite was a title for Aristotle who defined the aesthetic rules of Greek drama.
[10] Baron Von Gloeden (1856 -1931) settled in Taormina for health reasons and became famous for some early homoerotic art photography. It’s hard to tell whether in Idlyll 12 Democritus means that the spring male kissing competition took place in Sicily or not – he refers to Diocles as the Athenian “stranger” (visitor in this case?). We know he was born in Megara on the Greek mainland and went to Athens where the competition was celebrated by his tomb, but whether also he went to Democritus’s Sicily is not clear. He may just have influenced it.
[11] Two Men in a bed. See Luk 17:34. Although their sleeping together in not condemned and probably only refers to the fairly common ancient custom of shared beds (albeit Luke’s gospel does include the story of the centurion and his boy), what is implicitly condemned is the spiritual  unpreparedness of one of the men who is not taken  at the end of age Rapture.
[12] 1 Cor 9:26. “So I do not run aimlessly, nor do I box as though beating the air”
[13] “A higher theme”. Eclogue 4 concerning the Golden Age, describes its theme as more important than tamarinds and shrubs and hopes it will be worthy of forests.
[14] Virgil’s Eclogue 4 speaks of lion and ox being reconciled. It is like a echo of Isaiah’s prophecy of the Millennium from earlier centuries and is one of several features that makes one wonder how much the classical world was aware of biblical prophecies.
[15]. Jupiter is core because Jupiter is traditional ruler (Neptune is modern co-ruler) of Pisces on the cusp of whose era Virgil was writing, but also because Jupiter would be the Bethlehem Star that stands at the entry of the New Age with the messianic birth Virgil, I think, dimly foresees. Virgil’s coming child of the gods is the representative of Jupiter. Modern criticism in its easy sceptical rationalism dismisses the Eclogue as any kind of prophecy such as by tradition the churches regarded it as paganly being. I feel however that despite its misses and confusion it was intended to be prophecy and mixes current events with future developments dimly seen.
[16] The Water Bearer is Aquarius. As Aquarius is the sign of any Utopias and idealistic group work, it is closest to the idea of any Golden Age and Millennium of harmony, freedom and new Law.. The New Age is inaugurated in, or its inauguration is like, lightning which is a symbol of Aquarius (Matt 24:27).
[17] “Now I am wearied with the day….” from Hermann Hesse’s Beim Schlafengehen
[18]  In Eclogue 2 the shepherd  Corydon suffers frustrated passion feeling that Alexis is ignoring and avoiding him.
[19]  From Eichendorff  Im Abendrot   Both this poem and Hesse’s are set to music in Richard Strauss’s Vier Letzten Lieder, Four Last Songs 

 

 
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RILKE: SINGER OF HADES, (Part Two: The Death Muse and Modern Spirituality )

RILKE: SINGER OF HADES, (Part Two: The Death Muse and Modern Spirituality )

 

RILKE, SINGER OF HADES, (Part Two: The Death Muse and Modern Spirituality)

The personal spiritual and artistic development of the poet Rilke could be said to anticipate and summarize almost the whole modern spiritual predicament and its various  mystical/new age strivings, certainly its now familiar “spiritual not religious” aims. It’s therefore important for modern religion and poetry, and in some respects even morality, to understand where Rilke could be considered most right and wrong about the highly original direction his work and vision took.

What Rilke was unconsciously and consciously doing amid his “soul making” has been charted at great but readable and illuminating length (700 pages) by Daniel Joseph Polikoff in his In the Image of Orpheus: Rilke a Soul History (2011). Its interpretations draw upon insights from the work of neo-Jungian theorist James Hillman. Hillman was a psychiatrist who sought to dethrone the overdone Freudian Oedipal theory in favour of a new theory of psychoanalysis based on the myth of Psyche, she who after many adventures engages the sacred marriage with the Eros she almost loses. Polikoff regards Rilke as all about Psyche. I agree and would regard a lot of modern spirituality about the same – both for better and for worse. Hillman also sought to restore a “polytheistic” imagination over a “monotheistic” one. This doesn’t exactly mean restoring all the old gods but, in a way Polikoff regards Rilke as exemplifying, instead overcoming fundamental familiar western splits like body and mind, life and death etc to perceive energies and symbols operating everywhere.

Under the influence of especially the Danish novelist Jens Jacobsen, Rilke had briefly turned atheist in his late teens. This phase was nonetheless soon abandoned for a more psychological approach to religion which variously allowed for soul-making and a search for, or even construction of, an alternative god. Both Rilke and his lover the early Freudian theorist, Lou Andreas-Salome, whom he met in Munich in 1897, loved the Bible that they didn’t believe in and often read it to one another. Their anti-Christian convictions nevertheless preferred the Old Testament many of whose figures and ideas weave in and out of Rilke’s verse. There is however particularly one OT verse that seems relevant to the poet’s spiritual progress and the mystery of his  final illness that Lou couldn’t explain for him – Rilke believed in dying one’s own death that would express one’s personal beliefs and entire life. The verse is: “For the path of the Wise leads upwards in order to avoid Sheol [Hades] below”. (Prov 15:24). In what I dare say the kind of Hillmanesque psychology just mentioned would regard as only and even the needed reaction against historic religious over-cultivation of spirit as against soul and thus an appropriate openness to unconscious depths, it is declared in the early collection Das Stundenbuch The Book of Hours:

Doch wie ich mich auch in mich selber neige:

Mein Gott is dunkel und wie ein Gewebe

Von hundert Wurzeln, welche schweigsam trinken.

This is loosely rendered in the popular Barrows and Macy translation as:

But when I lean over the chasm of myself/it seems/my God is dark/and like a web; a hundred roots/silently drinking.

The Book of Hours and this statement anticipates the direction Rilke would go.  Even if we should find something (or even much) of God in the unconscious, the claim is immediately religiously problematic to the extent God is “the Father of lights” (Jas 1:17) and “God is light and in him there is no darkness at all” (1 Joh 1:5). Like the Rilke devotee, Stephanie Dowrick, many find the foundational early lyrics (voiced through the alter ego of an icon painting monk), poignant, honest and expressive for many seekers today. They are felt to represent those to whom God doesn’t respond but who sense he is or must be found somewhere and even everywhere.

But this is to read Rilke as almost an elegist of a lost modern belief which isn’t quite the case, Rilke’s sense of elegy being more about what can’t be readily achieved in life and spiritual quests. There is never any notable regret for lost faith. Rilke had early imbibed the American Unitarian Emerson’s “self reliance” doctrine which had no need for a helper deity reached by prayer – his Russian monk even speaks of God’s care as “being a nightmare to us”. What Rilke always wants is spiritual/mystical reality, a certain connection with the All, a feeling of reverence before the World, Earth and Existence which is like religion. But effectively the problem is stated (if indeed the trap for the rest hasn’t been set) by, in effect, not just encountering something of God in the soul/unconscious, but by treating the soul itself as God (a rather Jungian position and opening upon Hillman’s “polytheism”).

Before the above cited lines about God as darkness, Rilke’s monk has mentioned, (reflecting the poet’s own experiences with Italy and Renaissance art and religion prior to his definitive Russian experiences), that down in the South, God becomes “an ardent flame”. This is rather important for the whole picture. Biblically God, or God the Creator/Father (whom the Russian monk even wants to make his son instead) is primarily fire as per the visions of Ezekiel and Heb 12:29. Himself born of fiery Sagittarius, Rilke under-represents and even represses “fire” in his quest and this has certain consequences. It is even key to the whole life and opus. But to this I can return.

Despite the radical rejection of Christ, Christianity and organized religion, as Polikoff reminds us Rilke, however incongruously, lifelong also remained a devoted reader of St Augustine and we need to understand why. It is in Rilke’s attraction to and rejection of Augustine (asteroid Augustinus suggestively rises in his birth chart to heighten any sympathetic identification!) we have a clue to at any rate what is most positive and challenging to religion about the poet’s work and I can begin with that.

AN IMAGINATIVE ERROR: AUGUSTINE’S COSMOS AND INDIVIDUALISM

Augustine stands very much behind the development of modern individualism itself. He was highly self-conscious defining the self over against God and world, and Rilke adheres strongly to what has been this ever growing western tradition of autonomy. Augustine’s selfhood, like that of many romantics centuries later, is located in the cor (heart) which certifies his feelings which are in turn related to memoria.

According to Hillman, Augustine and the ancient world’s memoria is more like our unconscious and imagination – imagination needless to say being crucial to any poet and poetry. I was incidentally prompted by Hillman’s claim to look up where asteroid Memoria was placed in my ever relevant and working data for Christ’s birth. (Who wouldn’t want clues to Jesus’ “unconscious”?!). Sure enough it was conjunct Poesia, an indication that the mind of Christ was nothing if not poetic as indeed many scholars have long claimed pointing out that translated back into the Aramaic Jesus spoke, the Sermon on the Mount becomes poetry. Also relevant is that Christ’s Neptune, a factor that  itself is much symbol, dream and imagination- linked, conjuncts his Eros.

Hillman maintains religion is inevitably and rightly focussed on “soul”, but that paradoxically Christianity, like the western secularism influenced by a legacy of Christianity and science together (even if in strife), is anti-soul. And Augustine unwittingly leads the field in being anti-soul. Yet how can this be if Augustine was a mystic and theologian? Basically because he believes in ex-nihilo creation. God creates a cosmos which is separate from him and which once humanity “falls” is very separate indeed. It leaves all nature as rejected and evil. There is no longer as for the ancient world any animus mundi (world soul) providing a relation however reduced to God or the gods. God is not immanent and present through anything but wholly transcendent. Result: imagination and  itssymbols, the mediator between soul and spirit, psyche and eros, have no place. The world is disenchanted, empty. The only way out of it is via the dictates of doctrine and morals literally understood much like a scientific principle. (Hillman even finds something “unimaginative”, depersonalized in Augustine’s conversion to Christ which is little better than a formularized submission to morality).

Is this true? Somewhat and even essentially yes. Augustinian Christianity which is inadequately biblical and  Judaeo-Christian (though foundational for medieval Catholic philosophy), is fatally flawed and in error about the world. The “soul of the world” is effectively the Cosmic Christ of Paul’s epistles and the world is upheld by God in this way because, as Jewish mysticism realized, the world is created from God even if because God first created a womb-like space within himself  in which to create and sustain. If ‘nothing’ could exist outside God it would be a rival to God. Everything must be through God. The needed correction to ex nihilo doctrine which as much as anything is a logical point, is important for life, poetry and much else. As argued in my Solomon’s Tantric Song (http://amzn.to/14aa5Qe), one will not adequately interpret the poetry of the Song (it is always taken too spiritually or materially) unless it is understood that God is behind and through all things, including or even sometimes even especially Eros.

What about imagination and morality that Hillman wants to connect? Undeniably it’s possible to be so “imaginative” and subjective that like Rilke one accepts virtually no objective, given moral principles. Truth can be deemed so immanent and immediate as opposed to transcendent and eternal that one indulges every whim even to making poetry depend upon the latest liaison! After all, undeniably “soul life” is connective on the way to its ultimate connection with spiritual Eros!. Even so and practically, morality does need to be “imaginative” to a degree or it becomes oppressive, inflexible legalism.   An example is how Christian literalists cannot give any sympathetic or socially realistic reading to the existence of gays, failing to see those scriptural hints and directions which suggest things beyond the apparent ban of Leviticus. Without the imagination born of soul, religion becomes dry theology and formal observance and there is nothing that can be felt in or out of life as we know it.

JESUS THE IMAGINATION

Before going further I will say something already emphasized in several of my books and first set out in Cosmic Father. The at any rate Christian relation to art which Rilke supremely doesn’t represent, is or should be this. It needs to be recognized, even if for different reasons from William Blake, that Jesus is “Jesus The Imagination”. Arguably the ban on images in the Old Testament dispensation (which corresponds to the Age of Aries) is a purification and preparation for the New Testament dispensation (of the Age of Pisces “ruled” by imaginative, symbol rich Neptune) in which Jesus is recognized as Cosmic Christ who is the Animus Mundi. And this cosmic soul contains the symbols which despite everything, and in however hidden a way, is also Eros (which actually conjuncts Jesus’ Neptune natally). It is as Christ “dwells within” organizing the mass of floating symbols that the soul can hope to reach Spirit and that Spirit can reach down to soul.

With that thought in mind we can see how the Rilke who chose for this world and the material over against a God assumed to be totally transcendent, went wrong and, in my opinion, misled himself and misled others. Indeed he even finished up with a very strange last illness he begged his mistress and guru Lou Salome to “explain” but which she couldn’t do. Rilke had imagined (perhaps most clearly in the Elegies) that by correctly naming and declaring things like a magus one could connect all things symbolically from animal to angel. In the course of this operation one helps transform oneself and things from visible to invisible nature in which everything eternally exists  – at least as a kind of vibration cum symbol it seems. There is no death in the sense that all life is just the flip side of an all-embracing death vibration, something akin to, though not acknowledged by Rilke as, a Buddhist style Plenum Void.  This  is however a Void to which Rilke does not appear to allow any reincarnations – they would only savour of the fragmentation his Whole negates. The Elegies are most insistent upon the uniqueness of life. Elegy 9 declares “ Everyone once, once only. Just once and no more/And we also once. Never again”….Some of Rilke’s sense of tragedy and elegy depends upon exactly this belief/feeling, that to all appearances some persons will have lived happy lives and other merely wretched ones though as in his poems on the urban poor he seems to think a truly summarizing death helps redeem things in an inexplicable way and is almost a gift.

Lou, though a former mistress/lover came to be seen by herself and by Rilke as a kind of twin from a time before incest was known. Given the nature of Rilke’s relation to her and to many other women subsequently, I think one may come to see why (as per statements of my February blog re Matthew Vines and gay theology) there is much to be said for the notion that all Christians need to become slightly gay and “eunuchs for the kingdom”. A lot of the symbolism, complexes and input as from the Puer archetype for the kind of alternative psychic/spiritual development Hillman envisages and Rilke implies, are almost nearer to those associated with homosexuality.  We should note that  after having lost his wife to Hades the mythic Orpheus becomes founder of same sex love according to Ovid’s rendering of the myth. This is a datum that Rilke’s journey into the Orpheus archetype ignores). And the poet’s symbols and complexes would probably work more easily within homosexuality and with less dire consequences than the confusion and heartbreak Rilke’s amours entailed for many of the women appropriated to his markedly heterosexual pilgrimage of the spiritual terrain. There is a strange almost sinister poem Don Juans Auswahl (Don Juan’s Election) in New Poems, one of two devoted to the subject of Don Juan, though really about Rilke himself, in which an angel arrives to tell DJ to let him give him all the women who are going to be “ripened” by the experience of solitude (which it seems the seduction and abandonment of the women will supply!).

It is a difficult saying but in some respects Christianity, psychologically regarded, is a somewhat “gay” spirituality. Salvation and Resurrection themselves are (psychologically and archetypally speaking) Puer issues. It is in part because Rilke is insufficiently “gay” in the broadest sense that he does not and cannot absorb salvation and resurrection but is simply forced to love the earth and unite life and death and is even swallowed up by them or more precisely by death, frantically trying to declare death and/or its centre Hades to be life itself. Another biblical verse seems relevant:   “For whoever finds me [Wisdom/the divine feminine] finds life….but those who miss me injure themselves, all who hate me love death”. (Pro 8: 35/6).

THE FOUR STAGES OF RILKE’S DEVELOPMENT

Be that as it may…..Rilke begins with a not unreasonable rejection of the Augustinian universe in favour of the one that Sagittarians prefer and of which we have some example in the philosophy of Spinoza. This will be a perfect unity (of sorts) in which one is optimistically involved in “life”, a great Whole founded in this earth that we can mystically intuit as one thing. It follows that there must and need be no mediator with God to sully the immediacy of perception involved. Christ is simply in the way of perceiving ‘God’ and anyway he can’t help anyone. Rilke’s little studied and conveniently ignored (because at points almost Satanistic) early composed Visions of Christ (1898) had inclined to this position that Jesus was a thoroughly failed Messiah. In one of the poems he is a person unable to comfort an orphan girl, in another he is portrayed in a brothel himself needing help from a modern Magdalene.

Rilke was encouraged in his outlook by Lou Salome and her book Jesus the Jew which expounded the theory Jesus arrived at disappointment and failure through the hubris of imagining he was God. Lou believed God and the gods were originally created by human need, though devotion to them created a kind of “back effect” that made them real at a certain purely psychological level. Both Rilke and Lou were influenced by Nietzsche causing Rilke at one point (as in his short story The Apostle) to be against Christ or Christianity because it represented the kind of pity and compassion that undermines life. (While some of Rilke’s later poetry as about the urban poor and sick or trapped animals does suggest a level of pity and compassion it is almost despite himself. There is no record of Rilke ever engaging in any notable acts of charity or campaigning for social change; he simply observed and recorded and of course wished a good, self-expressive death on them).

Rilke’s development is as follows and it corresponds approximately to the emphases of four main collections of poetry, first The Book of Hours, then New Poems (1907) plus New Poems the Other Part (1908), then Duino Elegies (1922), and finally Sonnets to Orpheus (1922). These chart and express

  • A phase in which he will choose and create his own god by simply imagining deity. He wants “God” to reply, but becomes more or less resigned to silence and even desires it for his work of deity creation.
  • A phase in which no longer awaiting revelation and connection of whatever kind, his “Thing Poems” perceive the radiance in objects and people that issue from the Whole.
  • A phase in which he accepts the need if not for a mediator, then a transformer or witness for the energies of earth in the form of “the Angel”. This is a time when feeling ever more alienated from Christianity Rilke experiences some attraction to Islam, to its unmediated “one” God who has no son. His poetic/spiritual mission at this point is to name things, to give messages in the style of Mohammed, to evoke “initiation” itself (along Hermetic lines in Rilke’s case – the last elegy looks towards Egypt) with its multilayered concerns and sensations evoking the great Whole.
  • A phase, prompted by the death of a young woman who haunts the collection in which with life and death unified as part of the One, “the or a god” emerges in the form of the poet semi divinity Orpheus who in some respects is the poet of Hades.

These four stages show considerable correspondence to features of new age spirituality whether or not in the same order.

  • Rejecting “religion”, “doctrine” or “tradition” one goes within and chooses the deity or system that best fits individual striving, self creation and what can be felt – direct experience of “God”. Practically, one is simply building soul apart from notions of deity, especially of God as Creator or in any way omnipotent.
  • With God firmly absent one lives a more aesthetic life, cultivates Zen gardens or flower arrangements, finding para-divine experiences in the way and spirit of things. There emerges a new relation to objects, nature, food, the body, food etc (Rilke was trendily attracted to vegetarianism and nudism). Art becomes a spirituality or religion in itself – Rilke spent a great time studying and writing about art.
  • Various spiritual practices like yoga may suddenly produce shocks and visions or “initiation” as when kundalini energies unexpectedly rise. At this point God and/or spirits assume more importance at least as organizing, controlling factors akin to Rilke’s enigmatic angels. Alienation from Christian traditions may as for Rilke produce at least temporary attraction to Islam. Much of Rilke’s poetry is anyway deemed to have affinities with Sufism (a mystical heresy of Islam). The soul function tries to manage spirit, make the soul itself, save it, initiate it.
  • The or a new god or at least guru appears. Heidegger thought of poets as harbingers of the new revelation of a/the god some await. It is the artist Benjamin Creme who declares the soon advent of Maitreya/Christ. Rilke reintroduces the god of poetry, Orpheus, to the world.

Can the new god save us? It depends upon what you are looking for and believe “salvation” implies, but I would suggest that Rilke does not and cannot solve the problems and quest he sets himself. It is not possible in Christian terms and not especially possible, even just psychologically, as regards many faith systems to approach God unmediated. Philosophy may think otherwise and Sagittarius is both philosophical and very optimistic about what it sets out to do, but experience denies it. Some kind of lens is required. Even Tibetan Buddhism which denies the existence of a Creator virtually renders the guru a mediating divine figure.By repudiating (Christian) mediation one simply opens oneself up (to the extent one does touch ultimacy at all) to horror. As the opening lines of the Duino Elegies have it:

Who if I shouted, among the hierarchy of angels

Would hear me? And supposing one of them

Took me suddenly to his heart, I would perish

Before his stronger existence. For beauty is nothing

But the beginning of terror……..Every angel of terrible

One might add to this perception that “our God is a consuming fire” (Heb 12:29). Rilke sort of knows but ignores this. If early on his alter ego monk had conceded that outside of Russia God was a flame, he didn’t absorb this himself. Polikoff’s psychological analysis of the poet’s soul life has things to say about his experience of Coagulatio, (earth phase) Solutio (water phase) and Sublimatio (air phase) i.e. those mental states, especially Coagulatio’s black depression or Nigredo, that are terms borrowed from alchemy and used by Jung to describe mental states and processes towards individuation. But Calcinatio, the process of purification by fire scarcely features. In alchemy the Lion screams as his paws are burned off in the destruction of pride. As a fire sign Sagittarius can have a great sense of entitlement with affinities to the pride of Leo the lion. Rilke, even at his most humble or vulnerable, is still full of entitlement towards God and Life (his prose work, Tales of God, could be considered distinctly presumptuous if not blasphemous). Considering that in his early Visions of Christ, in the poem Jewish Cemetery Jesus raves against God invoking powers at an occult Rabbi’s tomb to curse the world with destruction by fire, there is a special irony in the poet’s death which he experienced as fiery. It is as though a certain repression of psychological/spiritual “fire” and the feelings of the fiery Christ curse manifest in him.

This is why I have called Rilke the poet of Hades which biblically is one of the words for hell. Rilke intends to join all things. Life must be joined to death, even is itself death so that death should be sung as much as life. Orpheus himself is a kind of death god. In Christianity hell itself is effectively experience of God, (since all things do exist through God), but it’s experience as only fire, not any of the other elemental cum psychological states possible. Having refused the fiery Creator God, Rilke is consumed by him. He wanted to have, as he wished for everyone, their own death and in effect he evoked his own. (Granted much of what he felt during his last illness was simply common to leukaemia, but his relation to it was psychologically peculiar – he even believed he could know the very first moment it began, and plainly there was as much psychological as physical going on in his case. He needed to explain it because he almost seems to have thought he gave his illnesses permission, which at a certain level is just possible).

UTTERANCES AND AFFIRMATIONS

It is impossible to summarize the work of Rilke to make it merely easy, but one can evoke it through lines of or references to his poetry particularly the first and most popular Book of  Hours.  It anticipates so much else even if it’s more about deity making than the later soul making. The book is divided into three sections The Book of Monastic Life, The Book of Pilgrimage and The Book of Poverty and Death, the last written part reflecting a hard time in the poet’s life and his very negative initial impressions of urban life in especially Paris. The poems have no titles. The collection’s sub-title is Love Poems to God, but the feeling is closer to a one-sided argument, love attaches rather to the atmosphere of art and religion

Poem 1:1 affirms in harmony with the Idealist strain in German philosophy that “nothing has ever been real/without my beholding it/ All becoming has needed me”. This helps set the collection’s attitude towards God, even though the poet is willing to describe himself as like “a tree rustling over a gravesite” (1:5) which already justifies my description of Rilke as very Hades identified.

The approach to God is quirky and petulant. Living next door to God, the icon painter declares: “If you should be thirsty/ there’s no one to get you a glass of water…I wait listening”   (1:6).   Psychologically significant is 1: 11’s admission “I love you more than the flame that limits the world” and this because “the dark embraces everything….I believe in the night”. Conflict with the Christian view that “This is the judgement, that the light has come into the world and people loved darkness rather than light” ( Joh 3:19) is patent here.

There is anyway no submission to the divine whether as darkness or light because (and it’s very modern!) “I want to know my own will/ and to move with it” ( 1:13). In Rilke’s attitude to God even where a trace of conventional humility enters, it is never from any sense of shortcoming. The attitude has affinity for the resentment of other Sagittarian poets towards the divine like Emily Dickinson and Heinrich   Heine.

Though the poet is more interested in knowing himself, there’s hope for God yet: “You are not dead yet; it’s not too late/ To Enter your depths” ( 1:14)

Also according to (1:25), God is the great homesickness (Heimweh) we could never shake off.

The same poet who doesn’t believe that death can remain a sorrow or a need for us asks:

“What will you do God, when I die?/I am your pitcher when you shatter (1:36)

Poem 1:44 is almost an ultimatum. Having said that God’s first word was light, that his second birthed man and fear, the poet doesn’t now want to hear the third word. Admitting he sometimes prays he says, “Please don’t talk/Let all your gesture be by doing only……Be our shepherd but never call us”. Plainly this God is not the Word. Silence like darkness is required of him or it.

1:55 wants to make God “complete” (without speech?!) because that will make the poet complete.

Anticipating the spirit of New Poems 1: 61 wants to love “the things”.

1:62 is a little more conventionally pious. The “deep power” is thanked that he/it works with the poet ever more lightly, and this feeling carries over to the beginning of book 2 on Pilgrimage.

In 2:2 the poet yearns to belong to something and be contained in an all-embracing divine mind which however significantly will need to perceive him “as a single thing”.

2:3 sees God as the Being without voice to whom all bow, but inquires is the poet himself not “the whole” and asks if God is distracted from hearing him by “some whining little tune”.   He wishes God were back inside him in the darkness that grew him.

In 2: 4 the poet decides he loves God as his son. In 2:6 he affirms it would create a gulf between them if God were to be thought of as any father. Sons are superior to fathers. (I imagine some of Rilke’s contempt for his own father colours this!)

2:16 anticipates many later poems in its declaration “if we surrendered to earth’s intelligence/ we could rise up rooted like trees”. 2:25 dismisses all yearning for the afterlife, all looking for a beyond, all belittling of death. We should long for what belongs to us and “serve earth” (a very new age sentiment). 2:26 declares we won’t be herded in churches, God meets us in solitude only).

In Book 3 on poverty and death the poet still goes on seeing God in places and situations he would rather not. 3:1 declares the big cities are lost and rotting. Perceiving that people live unfulfilled lives in cities, again anticipating various developments in 3:6 the poet asks God to give us our own death   “The dying that proceeds/From each of our lives”. 3:7 speaks of the “The great death that each of us carries inside”.   Pursuing the wretchedness of city life it is suggested in 3:18 that God is “the diseased one/whom we fear to touch”. 3:31 condemns cities for caring for only what is theirs and in effect for being totally unspiritual. There is a block here which the next main collection of verse will somewhat resolve.

Prior to Paris Rilke was prone to wait for inspiration to fall however long it took. Under the influence of the workaholic Rodin he went to the other extreme of believing he must force himself to create poetry rather like sculpture, working at it, rather than waiting for it, carving it from the block of existence which will release radiance, epiphanies. Some of the poems of New Poems, parts 1 and 2 are Rilke’s best loved like The Carousel known to most schoolchildren in Germany. The most famous and exemplary for the whole collection is the celebrated Archaic Torso of Apollo which is about the power of art and its capacity to contain and convey life itself. It is somewhat the power of eros that is conveyed since though headless and broken the image still smiles at the viewer, still holds the power of its loins. The image is the kind of living imprint alive and dead that belongs to existence and immortality Rilke style.

The poems reflect simply life as in The Square, or The Lady Before her Mirror and the well known Venice poems. There are also some memorable poems about animals like The Panther (a Sagittarian speciality as for example Blake’s The Tiger). However the religious theme persists throughout in such as Abishag, David Sings Before Saul, Joshua’s Council, The Olive Garden, The Prophet, The Angel, The Departure of the Prodigal Son and many more. Numbers of these anticipate queer theology with its revisionings of familiar scriptural stories. The Olive Garden presents a Jesus who feels he couldn’t succeed, has had a lot to put up from a Father who doesn’t exist “Oh ineffable shame”. It is affirmed no angel ever came to Gethsemane as reported, only night did and it was only like any other night anyway. The Crucifixion portrays the soldiers wanting something special from Jesus’ death but all they get is Mary screaming and Christ bellowing and “caving in”. There are two poems about the Buddha – The Buddha in Glory even finishes the collection. But it is the Buddha’s power to reflect, to be and influence life along perhaps with the artistic beauty of his image that seems to be the attraction since Rilke was far from a believer having more affinity with Mohammed though it is unlikely Muslims would be quite delighted with the peculiar Mohammed’s Summoning which has the prophet at first resisting an angel who then worships him for his ability to read. The relatively long Orpheus, Eurydice and Hermes loosely anticipates Sonnets to Orpheus in establishing a certain association with the Hermetic and to my mind casts a few doubts on how completely spontaneous the vision of the Sonnets should be considered.

The organ peals of the highly if jaggedly lyrical dense and oracular Duino Elegies arguably constitute Rilke’s finest work. They take him nearest to the role of prophet or shaman to which, Sagittarian style, he always seemed to aspire. The vision of the poetry traverses several levels and the material is not easy to understand and is not meant to be. It comes from some Beyond and is to be meditated like so much scripture. At least some of the verse borders on glossolalia, a speaking in tongues though it never quite reaches the surrealistic incoherence of a Dylan Thomas. (The likely meaning of each elegy is neatly summarized in the McIntyre’s German/English version of 1961, but there will always be some level of difference over the exact meanings even as we sense the drift of the whole).

The Elegies are elegies to the extent their subject is the lamentable difficulty of life, our attempts to get things right amid the sorrows of existence and not being able to reach to the level of the inspirational, numinous (“terrible”), energy transforming angels. (The angels are Mohammedan not Christian ones from the period in which following a trip to Southern Spain Rilke felt an attraction to the Koran and Islam). The poem is most essentially about soul-making and the need of soul to hold within itself the underlying substance of spirit (Hillman’s Psyche/Eros theme). This is often assisted by love as exemplified by the great lovers of history and others… “then sing the girls who were lovers /the fame of their passion has not made them immortal enough” and “when we love, arises in our arms/the sap from immemorial ages”. Love of all or any kind thus helps link us to the great Whole, to Life-in-itself beyond just life and death – significantly the angels, unlike us, don’t know if they move among the quick or the dead.

Especially the second half of the Elegies (Elegies 5 to 10) is about the poverty of life and its perception short of realizing the pure consciousness inhabiting it and the things and the animals who may have wisdom we lack. “Nowhere beloved can world exist but within/ our life is spent in changing”. There is a certain emphasis upon wind and space or the Open (Das Offene), space being a symbol for the mystic experience itself and effectively an initiatory one which arguably the poetry is directly evoking by its disorientation of the reader through the shock of its images, unexpected connections and declarations. Eventually realization of Truth creates simply praise. Working through the numerous paradoxes of the elegies the poet exclaims in Elegy 9, “Earth, isn’t this what you want: invisibly to arise in us? Is it not your dream/to be some day invisible? Earth Invisible!/ What if not transformation, is your insistent commission? Earth, dear one, I will!”.   This in my opinion is almost the core of the work, the affirmation of and commitment to a kind of quasi-Spinozan pantheism which worships and praises Life-in-itself and “the things” and which, whether visible or invisible (and ultimate energies are invisible) is one, now and eternal.

Although apart from the many New Poems Rilke relied upon “inspiration”, this was never so pronounced as for the Sonnets to Orpheus. Unlike other inspirations he experienced these as gift and virtual dictation or revelation from the god (i.e. Orpheus, mythic founder of music and poetry and escapee from the Hades where he lost his wife). Certainly all 55 were completed in an incredible few days in February 1922, the month which also saw the completion of the long unfinished Elegies. The sole possible triggers were an image of Orpheus bought in a local shop in Switzerland where Rilke was living and at the beginning of February news of the premature death at twenty of the highly talented Vera Ouckama Knoop, daughter of a friend. It was the kind of death that for Rilke was the worst, the life not lived, not come to “ripeness”, apparently wasted and for which we want comfort or explanations even if God and afterlife present no answers.

As opposed to the oracular often philosophical statements of the Elegies, the Sonnets are more like sensory and sensuous, showings of what transcendence into life in the whole through or as the god of poetry and music really is. What this is borders at times upon a surrealism. Obviously referring to Vera’s recent decease Sonnet 2 (again the poems are untitled) begins “Almost a girl it was and issued forth……She made herself a bed inside my ear/ And slept in me. And all things were her sleep”. It was the miracle of the singing god that he so perfected her she had no desire to awake or she arose and slept at once. In short once again for Rilke death and life are ultimately the same and he can sing this power of Hades/Orpheus to make it so.

Sonnet 15 which is one of the most eccentric and confusing may be one of the most typical and closest to what the poet felt, meant and taught. It begins “Wait…that tastes good….it’s already in flight”. It then encourages the girls to dance the taste of the fruit they have experienced. “Dance the orange” which it is declared is something they have possessed but which has been converted into them and therefore they can dance it. They can create a relationship to the rind and to the juice in the orange.

In the first poem of the second half of the collection “the open” is stressed’ “World space in pure/Interchange with our own being”. It’s a counterpoise within which the poet is happening rhythmically. He asks the air if it realizes how many of the places within it have already been in him. Many winds have been like his sons and they are like a leaf containing his words. The earth also contains all and by the end of the collection everything is flowing into everything else. The last lines are

Say to the still earth: I flow

To the rapid water: I   am

Overall Rilke seems to be saying in the Sonnets that all life is composed of energies, hence rhythm. This fact automatically supplies Orpheus and his disciples, the poets and musicians, some higher understanding; but at the same time it is at least implied that the organizational power of death/Hades is what most makes sense of the life which must be grasped as a whole. There is a sort of refusal of negativity, an optimism based on an idea of the Elegies that “our life is spent in changing”, which is almost ultra-Sagittarian (the sign is “mutable”) and philosophical though not necessarily convincing as philosophy. The sound of it is better than the sense, and if Rilke is “In the Image of Orpheus” according to Polikoff, less positively his message is simply that of Death and Hades.

I could be accused of religious prejudice here, but not only has one of the few guides to meaning in the Sonnets Rilke ever gave (to a Polish translator) declared one should perceive nothing Christian about afterlife etc in them because he is ever more departed from any Christian ideas, haven’t the Sonnets as good as declared the poet’s overriding attachment is to Hades and to a god of death rather than life? In Sonnet 13 of Part 2 we are advised to “ Be ever dead in Eurydice [i.e.the one whom Hades claimed and took back]….. know the condition/Of not-being , the infinite ground of your deep vibration”. This seems to give the last word to darkness and death as existence-controlling and is even the core message of a wonderfully gifted poet of a vision strange and limited and with psychological effects that came back to bite him. The poetry offers a special experience and in especially the Elegies marks a defining moment for the modern in art. However it is surely a great contemporary error to treat Rilke as any kind of life guru.

 

 
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Posted by on July 3, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

RILKE SINGER OF HADES, (Part One: Rilke’s Stars)

RILKE SINGER OF HADES

RilkeverseRilkepic

WHO WAS RILKE?

Given the wisdom and insight attributed to Rilke’s verse, the title of this feature may seem controversial. It will only be fully apparent in its Part Two just what I am aiming to say, which is something I do in the wake of absorbing a large, ground breaking and fairly recent study of Rilke, In the Image of Orpheus: Rilke, a Soul Journey (2011). Here I am just briefly introducing a person and setting the scene in a way which hopefully makes things clearer around an  increasingly popular and influential figure but who by general consent nonetheless remains somewhat elusive.

In outer Tahiti my plans for a short epic on the divine nature (plans which I have not abandoned) didn’t get much further than reading up on elements of modern spirituality and the poet Rilke. Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926) is generally considered to be the greatest German language poet of the twentieth century by birth; he was however an Austrian born in Czech speaking Prague. His beliefs or unbeliefs around God have been seminal in contemporary spirituality if not modern poetry which as T.S.Eliot complained inclines to the secular and unspiritual). He increasingly enjoys an almost scriptural and guru status – just how much you can tell from works like Stephanie Dowrick’s  In the Company of Rilke and Anita Barrows’ reverent introduction to her and Joanna Macy’s translation of Rilke’s Book of Hours. The latter is the poet’s early, most accessible and popular collection of verse which nonetheless doesn’t reach the dramatic heights of the celebrated Duino Elegies. The latter especially have something about them that strikes one as equivalent to Picasso and Stravinsky in art and music.

The more New Age side of Rilke’s reputation is akin to that of Khalil Gibran – likewise a Sagittarian. We may well ask quite where the message and appeal of the poet’s sometimes difficult output resides and there are things about this and the meaning of Rilke for contemporary religion and art I shall need to examine. In Part One however I will keep mainly to interesting and descriptive features of his birth pattern that may later be seen to help explain the poet who in his inwardness, contradictions and essential self  has been called impenetrable and hard for biographers to capture, starting with the fact that asteroid Poesia closely conjuncts the poet’s Midheaven of destiny, reputation and career.

Rilke’s feeling he was born for and destined for poetry alone – he disliked to take on any work without some literary connection – seems eminently justified or at least well reflected in this signature topping the natus. Despite the philosophical tone and the messages readers try to tease out of his work, plainly Rilke was more poet than philosopher. Apart from the inclusion of some basic philosophy in his university studies and some obvious identification with elements of  German philosophical Idealism, Rilke in the role of prophet may be said on principle to have relied upon his own vision to supply ideas. It’s a position reflected in the way Philosophia  in intuitional Scorpio stands in his third house of writing in opposition to Pluto in the ninth of philosophy and higher education, (a position also suggestive of various Rilkean ideas of God sought for and perhaps found in darkness and God as a Being to be challenged, opposed, reformed and even made by us).

Likewise clearly justified by the natal pattern  is the poet’s belief that the sculptor Rodin, with whom at one time he lived in Paris as part secretary and  biographer, was crucially influential for a major stage of his development, specifically the New Poems of 1908.  These show a  stress upon art, objects and scenes in which Rilke will  evoke epiphanies. Rodin holds a dominating position at 18 Gemini in Rilke’s house of destiny and career from where it directly aspects an innovation favourable Uranus in the 12th house of the unconscious – the improbable influence went deep – and makes fortunate trine to Saturn. For Rilke, Rodin suitably taught him about the role of work in the production of art!’. The New Poems which emerged under Rodin’s  influence got called “makings”. However this “work” would be only a pause amid the more essential prophesying.

INSATIABLY PROPHETIC

Rilke was born in Prague at 11.50pm on the 3rd December 1875. This supplies him a birth pattern with a sun in free-wheeling Sagittarius. The overall pattern is nonetheless shaped by and subordinated to 15 Virgo rising and then 11 Gemini at the destiny Midheaven. (This combination happens to interest me personally as a writer, including of poetry, born with 16 Virgo rising and 11 Gemini at the Midheaven and also like Rilke with Mercury and Jupiter in the 3rd house of writing. I will be putting out a poem here in September which is curiously  if unintenionally Rilkean. I set out aiming for something in the style of early Goethe and his Prometheus, but despite everything the material swerved towards the Rilkean, at any rate in style). For any writing, perhaps especially poetry where style and beauty are traditional concerns, it’s always helpful to have Mercury and Venus in close contact. Rilke shows Mercury at 29 Scorpio (conjunct his Part of Revelation and he was a poet so often writing as though to reveal something in the style of a prophet or mystic!), Venus at 29 Sagittarius, Orpheus his alter ego, as per the collelction Sonnets to Orpheus, at 29 Capricorn while his Mars was at 28 of original, independent Aquarius. It’s quite a line-up.

But these late degrees tell us something – 29 degrees of anything is “anaretic” and inclines to insatiability. With especially Venus at 29 of playful, free spirited Sagittarius, Rilke couldn’t have enough of women – he was a bit of a Don Juan and could scarcely write anything without either a woman, whether married or single, as patron, muse or guide of some sort. His first major involvement was with the married Lou Andreas-Salome, whose influence upon him would be lifelong  for all of religion, poetry and psychology (she was an early Freudian).  Rilke’s wife, the artist Clara Westhof  along with his daughter Ruth scarcely mattered to him. He did little to support them (a packet of oats was notoriously a birthday present to his wife!), spent very little time in their company  – in the last month of his life he even declared he wouldn’t let his wife cross the threshold to visit – while he went travelling, text book Sagittarian style, from place to place. He kept moving variously in search of truth, experience, renewal of his sometimes precarious health and sometimes the work and patronage which as he grew older engaged the support of notable aristocrats like Maria von Turn und Taxis. It was at her castle of Duino overlooking the Adriatic that Rilke underwent the inspiration for the Duino Elegies.

One could say that like many Don Juans Rilke was seeking for, or seeking to replace, images of the mother. Undeniably his moon in independent Aquarius in the fifth sector of any romances, is suggestively degree exact conjunct Eros. But that same Eros fed soul life as he understood it and was essential to spirituality of his kind signalled by the way that joined on the same degree as moon and Eros was the Part of Soul.. At the same time, the fact that in a chart with Venus on an anaretic degree and the moon in the romance house opposed to Uranus, a factor which can be separative, there tends to be an association of love with simply leave-taking and non-attachment. Cold Saturn conjuncting the moon from just inside the sixth house of health is involved not just with the heart break cavalierly caused to many a woman but Rilke’s frequent illnesses, some genuine but many just neurotic. The conjunction also bespeaks his means, from childhood and in relation to his mother, of gaining love and attention on his own terms.

The peculiar nature of the poet’s marital tie which endured despite everything, is reflected in the way asteroid Clara conjuncts one end of the connective nodal axis in the first house from where it opposes the nodes in the seventh house of unions. However and almost amusingly for a poet who as in the Elegies could write things like “What if not transformation, is your insistent commission?/ Earth, dear one (du liebe), I will!” Rilke’s real and permanent love was precisely the earth itself. Asteroid Erde (Earth)  is conjunct to three minutes of a degree of exactitude with the descendant, the cusp of the house of unions. And then, even his inspirational and original Uranus is conjuncted by Gaea (i.e. Gaia, symbol of earth).

Amid his travels Rilke nonetheless considered the Russia to which Lou Salome had introduced him his true (spiritual) home. His first seriously successful collection of verse, The Book of Hours of 1905 with its main voice  a heretical icon painting Russian monk, is witness to this genuine obsession with Russia, its people, art and even landscape. We duly find asteroid Russia in the fourth house of “home” and origins (Rilke liked to claim  Slavic forebears which is doubtful) in direct aspect to form-giving Saturn and in affliction aspect to Rilke’s native Austria (to which Prague belonged at the time of his birth) and which meant so little to him. A connection of Russia with at any rate art and love (the connection with Lou Salome) is exquisitely described by a north/south Venus IC (i.e “home” line) through Russia and near Moscow. ‘

Rilke was an only child, at once pampered and dominated by a well connected, hyper-religious and eccentric mother. This is duly reflected in eccentric Uranus opposite Moon (the mother) in eccentric Aquarius conjunct Saturn, (restriction and convention).  Sophie Rilke selfishly raised her son in his early years dressed as a girl to overcome her grief at losing a daughter. The experience, paralleled by a distant father who separated from his wife when Rilke was nine, nonetheless in no wise influenced her son’s sexuality. Instead by his late teens and after “the hell” of a military academy to which his parents so inappropriately sent him, he did reject his mother’s crucifix kissing super-religiosity for atheism. This phase was however of relatively short duration as Rilke was too spiritual and imaginative for it and Sagittarius, a “mutable” sign, is anyway a great changer of beliefs and opinions.

INVENTING A SPIRITUALITY

Rilke’s rejection of Christ, Christianity and all organized religion was nonetheless radical and enduring. Accordingly we should note certain strong religious factors in the natus, though not without first and more generally noting that Uranus in the hidden twelfth sector colours a lot of the Rilkean spirituality by which readers are either entranced or repelled when not simply baffled. Uranus here marks a dependence upon and invitation to pure receptivity and to sudden, surprising intuitions from the realms of the unconscious. This Uranus would seem to belong to the poet’s notion as described in his Letters to a Young Poet, of a pure inspiration which borders on automatic writing  – despite his scepticism he did sometimes attend séances! – or virtual shamanism. Especially the Sonnets to Orpheus   were experienced as though a dictation given at abnormal speed. The first three of the Duino Elegies came in a flash one day walking down steps in front of Duino Castle and the final Elegies then had to wait a whole decade for another rush of inspiration to get completed.

The little known but psychologically important and early composed Visions of Christ plainly define Rilke as non or anti Christian. Rilke’s belief was that Christ was arrogant to have portrayed himself as in any sense divine or in any kind of mediating position vis-à-vis God. Suitably the  asteroid Christian – yet another late degree factor at the malefic 29 Pisces! – squares the poet’s artistic Venus at 29 Sagittarius, possibly hinting (though it’s not usually acknowledged) that Christianity was less a purely philosophical encumbrance than a social inconvenience to the Don Juan side of Rilke who envisages a purely human Jesus who gets the Magdalene pregnant.

The more ideological aspect of Christ rejection is reflected in the way Isa (Ar. Jesus) in the seventh sector (unions) is closely opposite the poet’s ascendant marking Jesus out as someone liable to be seen as the close companion (which during the school period he somewhat was) to open enemy, while Jupiter (beliefs, religious and philosophical issues) opposite Pluto (the God planet) in the 9th  of religion and  square Saturn  marks out a stressed, struggling and problematic relation to the divine. (Indeed one could add that Rilke’s almost 20 degree Leo Uranus and his 20 Aquarius Saturn fall across Christ’s MC/IC axis as surely as did the Satanist Aleister Crowley which might be said to confirm the picture another way). However Orpheus at 29.56 Capricorn conjunct asteroid Theotes (Godhead), one of the two God planets and itself placed at 1.5 of unusual Aquarius, is testimony to the ideas and mood of the late Rilke of Sonnets to Orpheus (1922). In these Orpheus has himself become God or the voice of God. The other God asteroid, Bhagwat (Lord) squares Rilke’s sun from 9 Pisces again betraying certain tensions around God and, given the degree of association of Pisces with myth, probably relevant to the production of Rilke’s prose collection, Stories of God (1899).

I shall look at the meaning and message of Rilke in another feature having outlined these astrological basics to which I shall only add we find similarly significant God issues expressed through poetry in the work of the privately often God hating Sagittarian Emily Dickinson in America and the often enough profane Heinrich Heine in Germany, the Jew become Christian turned agnostic who like Rilke seemed to be another poet needing much attention from women for the inspiration to flow. (Neither poet had Rilke’s Virgo rising – it is believed Emily had Scorpio and Heine had Gemini rising at birth). Rilke’s nearest philosophical affinity is with yet another Sagittarian, Spinoza, whose desire for absolute unity and certain spiritual abstractions he somewhat shares.

I find considerable significance in the close conjunction of Rilke’s sun with his fourth house cusp of home and endings.  I shall only mention that by tradition the emphasis on fire and Sagittarius placed here could point to such as burial in a high place; and valid or not, Rilke certainly lived and was buried in the mountains in the Valais district of Switzerland where he had spent his final years. But Rilke also died of leukaemia which he experienced as being burned alive, so it was as though his end was fiery.

The Part of Death itself in fiery Aries exactly trines the Nadir (point of endings) from the eighth house of death and in view of what I shall have to say about Rilke and Hades, I would note that the hypothetical planet Hades (in effect a point in the heavens) makes exact aspect to the Nadir from 11 Aquarius. Was Rilke most essentially the singer of Hades? Does he anticipate certain notions of death and the beyond? These are the kind of questions I shall ask in the next part.

 
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Posted by on May 25, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

IS THERE MEANING IN ITALY’S DEATH BY FALLING CRUCIFIX?

Crucifix    Crushed

IS THERE MEANING IN ITALY’S DEATH BY FALLING CRUCIFIX?

ACCIDENT OR BAD OMEN?

According to Silvio Citroni, mayor of Cevo village in Brescia, the tragic death beneath a suddenly falling massive crucifix of 21 year old Marco Gusmini on Thursday 24th April (some reports say Wednesday 23rd) was “inexplicable tragedy”. The Repubblica newspaper declared  “Everyone is seeing a hidden hand, an undeclared meaning, connecting details that have no connection in reality”. Some Italians saw it as a bad omen for Italy. Lina Wertmuller, widow of Enrico Job, sculptor of the 600 kilogram Christ figure attached to the strange and almost sinister curved cross, also spoke of the tragedy and how silly it now seemed to regard the crucifix as a symbol for Italy and its protection.

The cross was dedicated to John Paul 11 and some Catholics have suspected divine disapproval of the canonization of this controversial Pope. The disaster occurred only days before  his elevation to sainthood on Sunday 27th, and on the same day that the Vatican was  hosting a press conference with the Costa Rican woman whose reported miracle had been a needed proof for the new status.  In Cevo village pilgrims were celebrating the forthcoming ceremony for this pontiff who years before had visited their region of Lombardy and to whom, as said, the cross was dedicated. It seems a sudden wind loosed the giant 30 metre high cross from where it has for years been anchored to earth by cables tested for safety last year.

The accident in the run up to the double canonization in which John Paul was joined in sainthood with the reformist Pope John XX111 has seemed stranger still in light of the fact the pilgrim victim to the  cross lived in a street named for…..Pope John XX111. It is the sort of thing that has helped take the event somewhat out of the range of just unfortunate occurrences into the realm of synchronicity and special messages.

But if so, just what messages?  While the following makes no claim to be direct revelation from on high, I will present some uniquely suggestive information for what this event could signify. Due to the fact I have claimed for years now to possess the true birth data for Jesus (as per my Testament of the Magi,  http://bit.ly/Y43dvj ) and provably so in that it also works for Christ events to this day, I was rather confident I should find something tellingly relevant and I feel that I have done so.

A “GRAND CROSS” SETTING TO BEGIN WITH

To place all this in context however, any astrologer would want to stress that on the 24th we had just passed exactitude  of (and on the 23rd were still within) a stressed formation of the planets that stargazers had not liked the look of for some time. It stood moreover at the midpoint of 2 eclipses – the first being the lunar blood moon, first of the notorious blood tetrad which can have relevance to especially wars and affairs of Israel. Personally I suspect these recent signs were involved with the Ukraine crisis which could be seeding what will develop into something larger…..Be that as it may….the Italian crucifix disaster basically belongs within a celestial stress pattern called of all things The Grand Cross. This had lined up Mars at 13 Libra, Jupiter at 13 Cancer, Uranus at 13 Aries and Pluto at 13 Capricorn (though on the 24th Jupiter was just entering 14 degrees from 13 Cancer slightly easing the tension).

Libra, Cancer, Aries and Capricorn are what are called “cardinal” signs and they provoke action. 13 degrees of these signs are also deemed “critical”. This means they are accented, strong, liable to trigger events. Something serious had to happen. Mars itself is anyway an action planet, one often making for violence too. Uranus is any accidents, shocks and surprises. Pluto is force majeure, an extreme planet which I believe can be used as symbol for God as Creator and Judge.

Jupiter is the religion planet and was even the original Star of Bethlehem at Christ’s birth, (to be precise it was at 19 Pisces on the day of birth and if the day of the accident was the 24th as most claim, peaceful Venus at 20 Pisces had just departed from conjunction with that position, a point on which I can comment later). The crucifix that killed the unfortunate Marco was more the heavy sculpture of Christ’s body than the cross itself. Accidents are most essentially Mars/Uranus events. With these thoughts in mind, what was happening on the day to the chart of Christ?

ON THE ARMS OF THE GRAND CROSS

Uranus at 13 ARIES was conjunct the asteroid ITALIA at 13 Aries in Jesus’ birth chart. Italy would be deeply involved and shocked. And on the 24th itself ITALIA was transiting at 0 Aries, in other words on a world point. This was an Italian event the world would certainly hear of.

Opposite Uranus  (and recall an accident event is itself a Uranus/Mars one), at 13 Libra stood Mars. But in the chart of Jesus 13 Libra is special. It is the position of Mercury, “ruler” of his body and even the whole birth pattern because the Mercurial sign of Gemini rises at the moment of birth. But for Jesus this degree is also the same as his  Part of Death and the asteroid GRATIA (Grace). One could say the body of Christ was vowed to death, sacrificed to it, and full of physical and spiritual grace. But could contact with even the image of his body risk death  under such as a Mars transit to this position?

Nothing of significance falls on 13 Capricorn in Jesus’ natus, but to the extent we might look at the chart of Christianity (taken from Pentecost AD 30) as a supplementary source for what is after all also a church involving event, 13 Capricorn  happens to be the degree of REQUIEM (rest). And as it happens the Jupiter arm of the Grand Cross formation that I haven’t so far mentioned, is conjunct Jesus’ FRIEDEN (Peace) carrying the same kind of message. It may be assumed Marco went straight to God and Paradise – there is no Marco asteroid but its French equivalent, MARC, was strangely enough at the time of the accident at 0 degrees of dangerous Aquarius on an axis opposite to PARADISE at 0 Leo.

……But however interesting, none of this notably hints at the meaning of the event as any sign. We must look further.

THE DAY AND THE MEANING

On the 24th April the all-important sun at 4 Taurus exactly conjuncted the HELL asteroid in Christ’s chart [1]. Obviously some would be inclined to blame precisely hell for the day’s disaster – the forces of evil busy trying to make the cross a symbol feared, rejected or neglected or even staking claims to a victim because the religious community had got too far outside the divine will. Moreover Saturn, planet of restriction and woe and often Satan-identified, at 21 of Scorpio ( a strong “critical” degree for “fixed” signs like Scorpio) was degree exact on Jesus’ own action releasing Mars, along with his FIDES (Faith) and SALAVAT (Salvation). Needless to say faith was severely challenged by the accident at Cevo!

But then on the other hand, and no matter at what precise time the accident occurred (around lunchtime is all I can find), the moon was in Pisces in 2 or 3 degrees conjunct the CHRIST asteroid for the day [2]. What  we have to consider in light of this and other factors (like this same difficult Sun fortunately trine  COELUM/Heaven on the day) and that I shan’t include lest we finish with too many factors, is whether the meaning is something which could proceed from the forces of evil at the same time as it is could still be willed, or at least permitted and used by God as a specific sign of something.

I will immediately state I think there is as suspected something here about John Paul and his approaching canonization which the villagers and pilgrims were celebrating at a cross dedicated to him, because though I don’t know the precise time (I have guessed around 12.30 pm since lunch preparations were being made) for a start it is very likely for any “lunchtime”  that JP11’s destiny and reputation sign of Leo would be rising,  Also asteroid JEANPAUL is very strangely and weakly placed at 29.33 of Aquarius, the sign that Uranus of the shocks and surprises rules. Jean Paul associates with the accident event from its last degree as MARC(o) does from its first.

In order to comment and deduce anything at all from the data, before continuing a very few words about divine providence are appropriate. God doesn’t desire the death of persons through accidents and those who die in them aren’t automatically more guilty than anybody else – Jesus affirmed as much about those who died in the tower of Siloam (Luk 13:4). However, at least according to biblical rather than later philosophical Christianity that colours a lot of Catholic thought, the world most essentially belongs to the forces of evil and Jesus appears on earth to begin resistance to that rule. The original idea was also, rather as in continental law where one is assumed guilty unless proved innocent rather than innocent until proved guilty, that people – perhaps not everyone and certainly not children but in broad principle – are deemed simply guilty before God and needing ransom back from the devil who “owns” them. God does not deal with realms of sin, so prayer is important in invoking the protection and involvement God does not normally reckon to engage before the end of time and evil.

So……it follows that in an imperfect world God will permit evil, will refuse or withdraw any specific cover against it, especially so when evil and error pass beyond a certain point – the “wrath” of God usually signifies withdrawal of protection to let chaos have its natural way. But that same refusal, even leading on to disaster itself like the destruction of Jerusalem and Solomon’s temple in 586 BC, then becomes prophetic lesson and sign. Something of the sort could well be the case in the bizarre, spectacular death of the unfortunate Mario.

JOHN PAUL A FALSE SAINT?

The crowd was celebrating the soon canonization of John Paul at John Paul’s own cross. Let’s not even dwell on the fact that at least Protestants would protest any cult of the saints amounted to practice of a species of  forbidden idolatry or necromancy  – it is biblically forbidden to attempt contact with the spirits of the dead Deut 18:11, even the righteous dead like King Saul attempting to contact the prophet Samuel. Prayer and worship is supposed to be directed to God alone. On this basis the fact that revered “saints” may give occasional well certified cures such as the Vatican was highlighting on the day of the accident, could be deemed irrelevant, especially as exorcists know that devils can be forced to withdraw a curse and thus cure people. So healing may not have the assumed source and might serve a wider deception.

But even assuming the cult of saints can be theologically justified, could and should it really be practiced in the case of specifically John Paul? His canonization has been rushed through by normal standards on public demand (the other Pope John XX111 has not even been required to supply the usual second miracle!). It is believed Pope Francis has been happy to waive rules because he wants the symbolism of joining  an in some respects very traditionalist pontiff (John Paul) with a reformist, modern one (John X111).

But the more that is known and written about John Paul the more shady he becomes and in his way non-traditional and even heretical. Those who have suffered child abuse believe no one who ignored that phenomenon to the extent John Paul did in the face of evidence can be called a saint. But he anyway presents serious contradictions. On the one hand his cult of the Virgin was extreme (should not self-dedication like his Totus Tuus “only yours” be reserved for God not Mary?) while at Assisi in 1986 he virtually opened the door to some kind of new universalism when he prayed with leaders of a hundred different faiths and allowed such as a Buddha image over the tabernacle and various non-Christian rites to be performed in front of the altar.

Certainly things were not limited to the Assisi gathering but manifest amid the pontiff’s numerous travels. This Pope had the sign of Shiva painted on his forehead in India. He kissed and bowed towards the Koran in the presence of Muslim leaders which, all matters of doctrine apart, was felt to be outrageous to the suffering of Christian minorities in places such as Iraq. There was also  woeful irony in the fact that this Pope, famed for his reconciling attitude to the Jews, should have venerated the Koran on of all days 14th May  (in 1999), in short the birthday of the Jewish state which at least some Muslims would wish to see destroyed since on some readings of the Koran the Jews need to be annihilated in jihad at the time of the end. In Benin John Paul was a cheerful spectator at a witch doctor’s snake worshipping ceremony and in Togo he prayed alongside Animists. For things like this some Catholics denounced John Paul as an anti-Pope and apostate.  Might he even have been preparing the way for the late Catholic Seeress, Jeane Dixon’s false prophet who will succeed to the last Pope and inaugurate a world faith through Rome?

Let’s not go into the controversies that still surround the story of John Paul’s finances and politics which last, if it had some positive features in relation to Poland and East European Communism, is itself not beyond criticism – he may have had inappropriate dealings with the CIA. I don’t know and don’t need to know or judge for present purposes. However, although I don’t personally lend it credence, I am aware that Latin America has been fascinated by some young woman claiming Jesus showed her various celebrities in hell including John Paul 11 whom she claims privately was anything but saintly. Again I can’t and won’t comment on what I don’t know, but this much can be known….

It was mentioned that on the day of the Cevo, accident the sun of the day was conjunct hell. It is hard to avoid the impression John Paul doesn’t release mayhem, if not hell in some way. For example, on Oct 21st 2012, the same day that a relic related to Jean Paul arrived in Lourdes, the town was seriously and rarely flooded.  Then again in 2013 on June 18th, the day it was announced a second miracle certified John Paul’s sainthood, Lourdes was flooded once again.

Oddly enough for John Paul’s  associations with chaos, the Vatican chart reveals asteroid JOHNPAUL at 29 Cancer in direct sextile (i.e opportunity aspect) to HELL at 28 Taurus. This pontiff therefore risks releasing mayhem in some  fashion as, let us be frank, does Jupiter the religion planet itself which stands in the Vatican’s house of religion conjunct JP on the same degree. A chaos apt to be released, not least perhaps through precisely Lourdes of the floods?! It should not be forgotten that originally St Bernadette of Lourdes thought it was the devil rather than the Virgin had appeared to her there, and originally the French clergy were opposed to the whole false notion, as it seemed to them, of Immaculate Conception. It was essentially a papal overruling endorsed Bernadette’s highly dubious vision  – for why it is dubious see notes to my poem Maryianity  at http://bit.ly/17NTJeh

What I would agree about with the nonetheless probably delusionary young visionary who places John Paul in hell, is that God is “no respecter of persons” (Acts 10:34). If someone including a Pope does not behave well they do not obtain divine approval or convey anybody any blessings (recall how John Paul was unable to exorcize a girl screaming blasphemies in the Vatican)  even if they don’t finish up in precisely hell. It is not for believers to put any person of obvious known errors and failures upon a pedestal thereby distracting from the prayer and attention supposed to be directed upon God. (And if by chance John Paul were in hell, it would needless to say be the final irony and judgement-invoking sin for Christians to be making him the object of a cult!). The odd, so-called, “void of course”, weak position of JEANPAUL at the time of the Cevo accident bespeaks his odd relation  to believers. Those celebrating him shouldn’t really be doing so as he is no presence to save and help them. Nor really is the Cevo image of Christ which is effectively an upside down one faced towards earth and not declaring anything like Christ’s victory through and amid suffering and its effect in a subsequently heaven borne direction.

A SERIOUS CALL TO CHANGE

Beyond even these negatives,  those who erected the cross shouldn’t be saying or believing that it is any symbol of Italy and/or of its protection. I don’t write as someone against crucifixes and images per se, but the evident notion that the image just in and of itself is a kind of protective talisman is a subtle idolatry that should be rejected. If one persists with false beliefs God will answer according to one’s idols and permit the false visions that ensue (Ezek 14:4) but also remove such protection as may be hoped for from God within a fallen world. The collapsed crucifix is an event of a fallen world in which accidents occur. It may however also be an effect of the forces of evil like the winds that blew the life threatening storm on Galilee, and which in this case wish to overthrow the power of the cross. But  whether that’s so or not, it  could still be a sign of divine disapproval of John Paul, or at least a warning sign for a church to abandon the cover-ups and elements of creeping idolatry that John Paul’s reign saw too much of. It may be a bit more than even that and I rather suspect so.

I have had Italy much on my mind in recent months and it’s a reason I shall briefly be visiting there (no, not to Rome) while in Europe this year. Just as I wrote the quasi-prophetic Beyond Dover Beach,( http://bit.ly/1gLlckG)  I suspect there is something to know and that I may be able to write on the ground concerning Italy. Anyway, I think it would be unwise for Catholics to dismiss as lightly as they have done that the present Pope is the last according to the long disputed prophecies of St Malachy. At the time of the recent suggestively symbolic accident, peaceful and fortunate Venus was moving away from the star of Christianity itself in Pisces. Things are ending and there are attitudes and beliefs that need to be abandoned.

[1]. The hell asteroid is HELLA because originally all asteroids were recorded in feminine form hence Nelsonia  and Washingtonia for Nelson and Washington

[2]  The Christ asteroid is CHRISTA.  As said above originally all asteroids were recorded in feminine form but empirically this asteroid does work for Christ issues as does ISA (the Arabic name of Jesus).

 
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Posted by on April 29, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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SECRET YEATS AND THE IGNORED ARCANA

Yeats2YEATSASTRO    (click to enlarge)

SECRET YEATS AND THE IGNORED ARCANA

In the extravagantly magical/mystical life of Yeats, astrology was major and arguably this strangely secret public figure is insufficiently understood without factoring in this aspect of the esoteric. The poet frequently cast horoscopes or, because he hated the maths, got his maternal uncle George Pollexfen to do it for him, and he was always noting transits to his pattern (terrible argument tonight under Mars square moon; Venus to Mars, meeting Maud Gonne today etc). Yeats’ affinity for astrology is obvious – he even had the planet of astrology, Uranus, conjunct his sun if widely, but then this same Uranus exactly trined the also astrology associated asteroid Urania. Even so, it was mainly for practicalities of life and some basic decision making that Yeats had recourse to horoscopes.

Had Yeats accepted that the pattern of a natus also and even especially speaks for the unconscious, inspiration and thus art, he might have been less confused and confusing in his curious understanding and core doctrines of the self and much more. However it’s also true that on the best reading for his times, what Yeats most needed to know, (similarly to critics and biographers subsequently!), would remain largely hidden. That includes even as regards his relation to the modern Ireland he helped define. Possibly the only meaningful item of information he obtained from the disillusioning séances he attended was to be told his horoscope was “incomplete”.

It was. For purposes of understanding the mind of a notable literary/historical figure, perhaps few horoscopes read along standard lines would seem more “incomplete”. But today more information is available, not least because such factors as Pluto, Chiron and the name, place and concept asteroids can all be added to the picture and they prove remarkably descriptive and informative. It is for example impossibly correct that for the man who so long desired marriage and family yet who married past fifty only to come within days to the painful realization he’d made a serious mistake, should have his Part of Marriage conjunct the wounded healer factor, Chiron. The marriage only worked, survived and was “healed” one might say, after the pair managed to collaborate on their mediumistic project of The Vision. But there is much more to say.

I have long admired Yeats’ work, not just for some very fine specimens of poetry and drama  – even if some of the early and late material is a bit dated or just weak – but his invaluable critical capacity to summarize across the too long fragmented Irish/Celtic tradition which he helped save, revive and popularize. Yeats was not just a poet and dramatist but an important prose writer of many ideas. Nevertheless what appears to be the truth about Ireland’s unofficial poet laureate is not as reassuring as one might wish. It raises questions, and I mean more seriously so than, at the gossip level, how much his otherworldly visions may have owed to hashish and mescalin imported from Paris rather than the collective Celtic unconscious most of us, even including co-workers like Lady Gregory, may have supposed. Yeats, the poet and theorist of the mask, tended to show people the face he knew they wanted to see!

What concerns me is more radical. And the personal interest I bring to it, and whose reasons will become clear by the conclusion where I ask what is poetry today, is linked to my own poetic and dramatic work published this month, New Poems and Two Celtic Dramas  amzn.to/1eJXHGC. This is material closer to at least elements of Yeatsian tradition than majority literary trends current within Ireland today. (Perhaps it helps to be outside Ireland in this generation to cultivate a certain type of vision!).  First however, I will briefly describe main features of Yeats’ natus as it would be known to the poet and then describe the  more acute and disconcerting truth, secrets in effect, that a modern reading can supply.

BASICS OF THE NATAL CHART

Yeats was born in Sandymount Dublin on June 13th 1865 at 10.40 pm. This means he was a divided, intellectually curious, multi-tasking Gemini with eccentric, independent, often rebellious Aquarius rising at 0 degrees. There is more than one type of Gemini and ascendant signs physically modify any sun sign, but Yeats still strongly corresponded to the textbook typical Edward Snowden image of the Gemini, tall, slim and intellectual looking. The poet’s birth time seems more or less correct. His career/destiny Midheaven at 4 of philosophical Sagittarius is on what is called a strong, “critical” degree. And the fact that at birth the Part of Fortune falls exactly on Gemini’s “ruler”, Mercury, the planet of writing and writers, itself in Gemini its sign of rulership and in its natural house the third too, all augurs well for the data of a celebrated writer and indefatigable conversationalist. For that matter so too does the Part of Soul conjuncting the rising. Yeats is about nothing if not the colours and intuitions of “soul” as against the para-intellectual directions of spirit. So the birth time appears correct.

Since the moon was rising for Yeats in Aquarius at 19 degrees (a reason he always regarded himself as “lunar” not “solar”) this strengthens any Aquarian input and personal style as well as inclining him to be either dominated by or associated with women as we know he was. Also, not only could Yeats prove astonishingly, ultra-Aquarian eccentric on occasions such as cutting up a fur coat in order not to disturb the magic sleep of a cat lying on it, but he was oddly accident prone in Aquarian style like scoffing a box of cough drops mistaking them for regular sweets and sending himself to sleep for 30 hours as a result. His spelling and punctuation could be amazingly idiosyncratic for a writer, and it’s odd he could never master French despite often visiting France and even dying there.

The fact that the ruler of this Aquarian rising, Uranus, falls in writerly Gemini widely conjunct Yeats’ natal Sun (the core self) further entrenches the eccentricity of style at the same time as it promises great originality of personality and/or creativity (his love of the avant-garde in theatre and design was notable) especially from within the creative fifth house. (Shelley, Yeats’ early model, likewise had Sun conjunct Uranus in the fifth house so he would naturally stir Yeats, especially as Shelley’s Sun/Uranus conjuncts Yeats’ own Mars in Leo).

Yeats’ Gemini Sun trine Saturn in the arts and genteel society sign of Libra shows Yeats can get somewhere through great effort, but also good patronage like that of Lady Gregory and the tea heiress Annie Horniman; also that he can live long enough to do so unlike one of his siblings who died young. Jupiter in Sagittarius inclines to religion, philosophy, the kind of big generalizations Yeats directed upon Ireland – unlike his father who was intended for the church Yeats admitted to be unable to live without some kind of religion.

Mars in spectacular, dramatic Leo in Yeats’ unions house promises plenty of argument and problems with associates, spouses or long term lovers and very much so as Mars stands in affliction square to a close, obsessive, Venus/Pluto conjunction in fixed, immovable Taurus. Though Yeats wouldn’t have known of Pluto unless in his latter years, the combination describes especially the lifelong obsession and frustration with the fiery, theatrical Maud Gonne, an image of Ireland itself/herself – Ireland, by tradition at least, has always been under Taurus though Gonne herself wasn’t. (Gonne was a Sagittarian which means she could dominate, as she certainly did, in the sector of Yeats’ career and destiny. But as the tormented Venus/Pluto falls in the 3rd of writing, Gonne and love’s frustrations can be much written about personally and also nationalistically as a Cathleen ni Houlihan image).  I should perhaps mention that we arguably only  know Yeats’ poetry because of the (seventh house) agency and original support, including financial, for the poetry and its publication by the retired Fenian John O’Leary (b 23 July 1830). O’Leary’s sun at 0 Leo falls exactly on Yeats’ seventh house cusp of  agency. Moreover O’Leary’s 23 degree Venus in Gemini falls conjunct Yeats’ sun so that he really liked and favoured the poet who would later suitably write  of him, “Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone, it’s with O’Leary in the grave”.

To be mystical, one normally needs something in the 4th, 8th or 12th houses which will reflect the types of mysticism. Yeats only, but importantly, had Saturn (and itself exalted in Libra) in his eighth of sex and mysteries, (i.e. the occult). Yeats’ mysticism does in fact incline to the occult or sexual/tantric. Saturn here can make for a lot of structuring or ritual in the realms of the erotic. Saturn could nonetheless also indicate some sexual frustration which Yeats had an admitted fair share of despite his many affairs, and/or Saturn could reflect the sheer effort of attempting union with especially the elusive Gonne via astral means (which apparently Yeats was able to do in the form of a serpent!). We also know that in old age (Saturn) Yeats underwent the Steinach operation (apparently a partial vasectomy) to release more libido. But it worked (Saturn helpfully trine Sun) even if it proved a bit embarrassing. Such are the main, visible features of a horoscope Yeats would recognize. But what of the rest of the data that the poet didn’t know and which almost better describes but also rather betrays him?

WHAT YEATS DIDN’T KNOW

At first glance the new information is satisfying, especially if we pose it a question the traditional data can’t quite answer like: was Yeats fated to be the poet, voice and revealer of specifically modern Ireland to itself?….The answer is yes and the efficiency of the supplementary data to demonstrate just that should be proof to the uninitiated that it reliably works. The asteroid Yeates (interpretation of asteroids follows sound not spelling) conjuncts the asteroid Ireland and The Part of Revelation. These three factors then fortunately trine asteroid Poesia (Yeates at 22. Pisces conjuncts The Part of Revelation at 21 Pisces and Ireland at 20 Pisces, which trines Poesia at 19 Cancer). Then too, Erato (traditional muse of specifically lyric poetry) rises at 15 Aquarius (a world point, helpful for fame) loosely conjunct the poet’s rising moon – asteroid aspects don’t exceed 2 degrees unless as here to sun or moon.

Erato itself is closely and surely significantly conjunct at 16 degrees to Lugh, traditionally the versatile Celtic Mercury who the gods of Ireland made the chief ollamh (poet) of the land. This tells us what seems true: Yeats’ Ireland lyric poetry is more notable than the dramatic. And much of the lyric output is linked to an atavistic, ultimately pagan worldview (Yeats the descendant of clergymen would write of “my unchristened heart”) which reckons to speak, and is mostly accepted as speaking, for all Ireland. But since the 19 degree moon is favourably exact to Prometheus at 19 Aries, we can also appreciate why for Yeats, Shelley’s Prometheus Unbound provided his virtual call to the bardic role and why he rated it not just good poetry but truth-in-itself, something to rank with world scriptures, a strange and significant point to which we can return.

In view of things said later, I should stress that the muse Erato can be taken as the equivalent of Yeats’ all-powerful “daimon” without which he believed no true poetry could be written. The “daimon” could however only possess and inspire if one had assumed the “anti-self” or “mask”. Yeats’ concept of “mask” is interesting because the first house in which Erato is found is always the house of at any rate the persona, the filter or mask for the core will and personality of an individual’s sun sign. However, Yeats’  poetic “anti-self” is an awkward, misleading word (much Yeatsian jargon is confused not least because he was bound not to reveal secret society principles). Essentially it designates the unconscious as opposed to everyday consciousness. But ‘anti-self’ can get combined with theories of the (astral) mask because in the rituals of the Golden Dawn and its Isis-Urania temple, Yeats learned to reach unconscious planes invoking spirits while wearing the appropriate god mask which obviously would seem the antithesis of the human. With the “anti-self” concept (which might also be involved with orgasm and the sex magic Yeats didn’t discuss) we can see how Yeats is going to trap readers and even confuse himself because modern psychological astrology would not allow that the unconscious has anything to do with the first house energies in which the nearest thing to Yeats’ daimon resides.

It seems no accident that many of Yeats greatest poems as in The Tower are about simply himself and his various roles and masks rather than unconscious deeps! We can also see that asteroid Memoria (i.e. memory but also the ancient world equivalent of the unconscious or Yeats’ “Great Memory” or “Great Mind”) is not in aspect to Erato. Instead it afflicts the writer’s Mercury and his IC angle (base of chart).Small wonder Yeats is going to make poetry amid conflict, misdirecting himself as regards inspiration and arriving at any “anti-self” closer less to the unconscious than to precisely an opposite of the self in terms of roles, an opposite with which he struggles like Jacob with the angel.

If you enter the unconscious to mine inspiration, you do so via your 4th, 8th or 12th houses. These are untenanted by any planets for Yeats – except for Saturn which, though planets as opposed to asteroids are symbolically multivalent, by tradition has been the devil symbol.  And Saturn is at very least the archetype for any fear. Yeats, whose name in magic is devil associated, reaches the “anti-self” through precisely fear. Admittedly at the planetary level (as opposed to the mentioned levels of houses) the moon just by itself enjoys some traditional associations with the unconscious as opposed to the consciousness of sun. This is one reason that Yeats’ own “masks” tend to be golden and glittering or yellow reflecting things solar, or complete silvery lunar to rouse unconscious energies. Even so, Yeats’ moon by being in the non-mystical first house and in a masculine (i.e. extravert) sign, is poorly placed to assist him in strivings towards sublime oppositions or magical unions of conscious with unconscious. This may also be the reason Yeats was so reliant upon women – he wanted or needed them to do his mental and symbolic work for him!

I at first wondered why Yeats’ crucial Poesia should be in his 6th house (even though I maintain it’s in the same house for Shakespeare) as opposed to somewhere obvious like near his destiny/reputation Midheaven as for the career poet Rilke. However the 6th house is not just work (and Shakespeare apparently regarded his labours in dramatic poetry as a bit beneath him, a kind of money spinning venture allowing him to become a big property owner) but the house of any “practical magic” i.e. magical operations. Magic was Yeats’ mysticism, but magic is very much what a lot of Yeats’ poetry aimed to be, whether readers realize it or not. Many poems like Wandering Angus are evocations, symbolizations, active dreamings along occult society lines. And note too that the Shakespeare of at least The Tempest, seems to identify his poetic labours with a species of magic, “but this rough magic I here abjure” etc.

Yeats however never abjured any magic. Magic was his religion. The Part of Occultism exactly conjuncts the cusp of his ninth house of religion/philosophy. Suitably for this, if possible Yeats would have founded full blown Celtic rites at Key Lodge, Galway and he certainly put much work towards that. Like many readers, aware how haunting and beautiful the long slow twilights of Yeats’ western Ireland could be, I managed to overlook how Yeats’ obsession with “The Celtic Twilight” was less poetic than a reflection of the principle that druid rituals to raise power were performed in hour before sunrise. Yeats is all about bringing back the light of the god Lugh! Significantly Yeats’ Part of Race Consciousness at 24 Aries conjuncts the Part of Religion at 24 Aries. Accordingly he even maintained it was essential to experience Ireland rather than Judaea as a, or the, holy land, an idea which has a touch of pagan Nazi love of die Heimat and unsurprisingly Yeats had a brief flirtation with the Nazis. That his aim for a new Celtic religion did not fully succeed is involved with the fact that Saturn opposes these factors from 23 Libra. In this case forces of tradition (Saturn) oppose it.

WHAT DID YEATS BELIEVE (BEYOND THE SACREDNESS OF IRELAND)?

To the extent that Credo at 20 Gemini (near to Yeats’ sun at 22) trines his lyrics-associated moon at 19 Aquarius we might say women and poetry constitutes Yeats’ “truth”; but real poetic truth for Yeats began with Shelley and not least because Shelley was Promethean. Shelley’s Prometheus and The Witch of Atlas also seemed after a fashion so magical they were the inspiration for even Yeats’ fellow Society of the Golden Dawn member, Alistair Crowley, the Satanist who (though no great truth teller) accused Yeats of being a demonologist who used black magic against him. In turn Yeats accused Crowley himself of being a disgusting person who used black magic.

But why did both Yeats and Crowley find such inspiration in Shelley? Shelley was self-described and often thought of as an atheist, but he admitted to belief in an immanent Spirit of Nature and he was chiefly against the Christian God. He had invoked the Devil while still at Eton. Prometheus Unbound is effectively Shelley’s response to Milton’s Paradise Lost with Prometheus as a kind of do-good devil, a Lucifer light challenging God. Seeing that Yeats called Prometheus Unbound a scripture, we notice that at Yeats’ birth asteroid Shelley at just 1 Scorpio opposes Isa (Ar Jesus) at nearly 1 Taurus, while in parallel to this the Christ asteroid at 19 Taurus is square Yeats’ lyrical moon. This is not a person who much likes Christ and Christianity and he indicates as much in many places like the conclusion to The Magi who are left “unsatisfied with the mystery of the bestial floor” and in the dance drama Calvary which assures us God has not died for the white heron (meaning Yeats himself who in one of his last poems insists he wants no conventional sign, i.e. the cross, on his gravestone at Drumcliffe where his ancestors were buried). We should take this more seriously than many critics do. Susan Johnston-Graf’s important study (W.B.Yeats: A Twentieth Century Magus, 2000) seems correct to maintain the occult side of Yeats is insufficiently known, understood or acknowledged by scholars of Christian or Jewish background who finish up giving Yeats’ occultism a secular humanist reading it shouldn’t have.

If Yeats really had any feeling for Christ and Christianity as some Christian critics imagine, it is unlikely he would have taken as his first lover the strange and some said decadent Olivia Shakespear whom Ezra Pound declared “hated Christ like the devil” or let Nietzsche, the author of Der Antichrist and radical critic of leading Christian values become a major influence. We know Yeats declined to attend church with the fairly devout Irish Anglican Lady Gregory during his extended residences with her at Gort. More to the point, he surely would not have associated with Maud Gonne, a woman who admitted to having sold her soul to the devil (though she did feel some remorse about it when her father died shortly after the event!). Later after a pragmatic conversion to Catholicism to marry someone from whom she soon separated, Gonne reckoned to work with Yeats to unify Christianity with paganism having decided the devil was simply England.

Gonne is the model for Yeats’ drama The Countess Cathleen who, surrounded by predatory demons, sells her soul on the behalf of the Irish peasantry, a Shelleyean sort of good diabolism. This odd, Faustian style drama was the first offering of the Irish Literary Theatre aiming to change the face of Irish national culture. It would be hard to describe just how mad the real life, but by all accounts stunningly beautiful Gonne was, and how much she drew Yeats into her madness which in a lucid moment he confessed to Lady Gregory would be sufficient to have her locked up. Despite despising marriage and apparently sex too, unbeknown to the besotted Yeats she had an illegitimate child by a French lover, a child which died and which she then tried to get reincarnated by having occult sex with the father in front of the child’s tomb. (Regrettably there are no asteroids for either Maud or Gonne). Even Yeats’ attitude towards Christ is however only an aspect of a wider negative feeling about God and religion about which I feel the chart is fairly graphic in line with the fact that at the Golden Dawn Yeats assumed the remarkable name DEDI or Demon est Deus Inversus (the Demon/Devil is God inverted). The initiate name seems involved with Yeats belief in Blakean, Gnostic notions of Good needing Evil. What does the horoscope show?

YEATS AND GOD

There are two deity asteroids Theotes (Godhead) which is more like Trinity and there is Bhagwat which is in effect Lord as in Bhagwat Gita (Song of the Lord). Both of these are notably afflicted for Yeats. Bhagwat at 25 Virgo is in affliction square both to Jupiter, the planet of religion (and some of us would say the Bethlehem Star), at 24 Sagittarius and Yeats’ natal sun at 22 Gemini while Theotes at 28 makes square to Uranus at 29 Gemini. This suggests more than enough tension and oddity in the outlook. If there is a planet of God as biblically understood it is unquestionably Pluto. Since this planet can symbolize both creation and destruction and on the human plane obsession and hatred, its inharmonious conjunction with Yeats’ Venus belongs with lines like, “Hatred of the soul can bring the soul to God”. Except that it never especially did so for Yeats himself for whom God is at best a symbol of the All that embraces Good and Evil (hence Yeats’ name in magic circles). God is not any creator or end for Yeats. In typical Gemini fashion he prefers journey to arrival, and can thus feel free to describe God in many ways, none definitive, unless possibly as “The Great Mind” – but including if need be as demonic energy. At this point we come across the real problem, the vital question regarding Yeats’ beliefs and identity. Was he, as Crowley would have it, a Satanist? Was Yeats himself merely bragging when he told the artist Beardsley that he had been much taken up with and studied what he called “diabolism” in certain occult circles in Paris? (R.M.Foster. W B Yeats, A Life, p, 158).

YEATS AND THE DEVIL

The evidence for at least some degree of attachment to “diabolism” or Satanism seems clear enough since we find that Lucifer at 20.16 Pisces is conjunct both Yeates and Ireland. Granted that on a matter so controversial one needs what any astrologer would look for in such a case which is some back-up (after all, there are many asteroids and all must be somewhere so they are not automatically significant for everyone!) but we do have this. There are two devil asteroids as there are two deity asteroids. They are Lucifer which seems to represent Satan as St Paul’s deceptive “angel of light” and Satan as darkness which is Malin (Fr. Devil) of which presently. There is however a possible, “sort of” third devil asteroid and it is Sethos, Greek for the Egyptian devil god Set or Seth. Sethosat 19 Pisces is conjuncting Yeats’ Lucifer at 20 Pisces. This obtains more significance in light of something else. Yeats (like the Golden Dawn) was quite taken up with Egyptian symbol and ritual – in the famous and rather sublime Second Coming poem Yeats pretty well identifies his second Christ/Antichrist with Egypt through a sort of Sphinx or Sekhmet solar figure. Suitably, therefore, Aigyptios (Egypt) at 23 Aquarius fortunately trines Yeats’ Saturn at 23 Libra in his mysteries-linked eighth house, while in the other direction his Aigyptios is favourably placed towards his beliefs-signifying and determining Jupiter at 24 Sagittarius.

Beyond Ireland Yeats believed in some kind of light from Egypt (“Swear by what the sages spoke/Round the Mareotic lake”) as did Crowley who received his essentially Satanic Book of the Law for the coming (Aquarian) era while in Egypt. And though she represented no secret occult orders, for what it’s worth the late Catholic seeress, Jeane Dixon, who notoriously claimed the Antichrist was born under Aquarius in 1962, maintained much of that individual’s youth was passed in Egypt. So if we follow the astrologer’s law of sensitive degrees, we could ask in heaven’s name what vibe might Yeats have been in touch with in this vision poem of an avatar seeing that the alleged birth time of Dixon’s false prophet shows that person’s moon at the same fated 23 Aquarius? Moreover if this person actually exists, Yeats’ relation to him is between astonishing and sinister. On the Pied Piper’s birth chart Yeates falls at 18 Sagittarius i.e. in favourable aspect to in one direction the prophet’s Venus at 18 Aquarius (he can love this person) while in the other it makes favourable trine to the nodes at 18 Leo (planets in the degree of the nodes have something fated in terms of connection). Before we dismiss this as purest coincidence, let’s note that Nietzsche, himself author of Der Antichrist, has an exact Nietzsche asteroid in agreement to the 9 degrees of the avatar’s power and authority Pluto. There may even be, given Yeats’ visionary anticipations of an avatar, a further subtle message in the fact that the poet’s Sethos falls at 19 Pisces. I believe as per my Testament of the Magihttp://amzn.to/19v1jJf ) this degree is very provably that of the Bethlehem Star. Thus Yeats unconsciously (prophetically?) places Egypt, the new era and Antichrist against Christ and Sethos on what is in effect the chief degree of the Christian revelation and era.

YEATS AND AN OCCULT IRELAND

Yet with even this I digress because what is more immediately relevant here is that having determined there seems to be some kind of identification of Yeats with the demonic, we find that his Lucifer at 20.16 is to the minute of a degree exactly conjunct Ireland at 20.16. I believe this could be linked to a certain ideological identification of Yeats with Mme Blavatsky and her theosophy that influenced the Golden Dawn. (Yeats even described the Russian Blavatsky as like a wise old Irish peasant woman which I imagine recommended her to him!). Blavatsky taught (shades of Shelley’s Prometheus again) that the true ruler of the world is the light-bearing, heroic Lucifer. This could well mean that Yeats would assume Lucifer, perhaps identified with god of light, Lugh, was the true hidden ruler of Ireland for any invocation purposes. In a roundabout, unintended way Blavatsky was of course correct. The NT acknowledges that the devil is currently “the prince of this world” (Joh 14:30) and declares, (as most Christians never do lest it seem to compromise divine omnipotence), that the world has been given over to the forces of evil. Christ’s incarnation is a major stage in combating that – the devil offers Christ the world as the final temptation. The difference is that Blavatsky, like Shelley and almost certainly Yeats, regarded Lucifer’s rule as beneficent. DEDI Yeats probably believed that Lucifer is just God/”The Great Mind”/”The Condition of Fire” seen through another lens amid the endless perning of gyres, turning of ages and incarnations.

The destructive, often hate-bearing, sold soul Maud Gonne who for years was willing to birth Ireland in violence, took Yeats in directions he wouldn’t otherwise have chosen. Gonne, though she managed to mellow somewhat, was in many respects Yeats’ own Lucifer Light and Devil Dark together. Provided Lucifer was, so to speak, politically supreme, there was room of sorts for Christ and Christian mysticism more spiritually – the later Yeats could even allow for the notion of a future Irish druidic Christ, and when he talks about nations needing prophet, priest and king he can even sound like a kind of Christian; but this merely reflects the way he always lets good and evil merge. Nevertheless the 0.59, i.e virtually 1 degree Isa (Jesus) asteroid in Ireland-associated Taurus makes opportunity aspect to Malin at 2 Cancer, the sign, if any, of paganism and polytheism. I should say that Yeats just never bothered about any form of truth that didn’t seem “visionary” or symbolic. Not only can his sign of the Twins be notoriously dark/light, a Dr Jeckell and Mr Hyde because its intellectualism dissociates easily, but we do find asteroid Lie, at 9 Pisces conjunct the poet’s Part of Boredom and Indifference. To discover the truth in the ordinary sense whether practical, philosophical or theological was almost too much trouble to a person like Yeats who found common reality a bore. Sometimes just superficial in a way most common under the air signs he was usually unburdened by what he was teaching and the energies he was possibly releasing….Except in one major case. A séance could unnerve him and attendance at one in January 1895 seems to have been definitive for much subsequently and it was years before he would consult mediums regularly for mundane guidance.

YEATS IN POETRY AND THE ASTRAL LIGHT

It was at a séance that Yeats was suddenly jerking and shuddering uncontrollably in ways that frightened those in attendance like Kathryn Tynan and are suggestive of something akin to kundalini experience or possession by a spirit. We have echoes of the kind of experience, but in a more positive light in the poem The Cold Heaven, where the poet describes himself as “rocking to and fro riddled with light”. I don’t have a chart for this but plainly it would have something to do that month with transiting Jupiter in Gemini conjuncting and setting off the “electrical” natal Uranus. Jupiter trine Uranus in specifically fire was in evidence in Pentecost AD 30 when the Spirit fell on the disciples. But if Yeats was, let’s say, mildly rather than madly possessed by a spirit (his Discoveries portray him as already hearing voices and under certain “influences” from an early age), that would only be consistent with his early established belief that a poet was essentially someone possessed, a go-between earth and heaven and revealing messages accordingly. The Yeatsian experiential reality (as opposed to the convoluted theory!) was that daimonic/poetry experiences were, at best, of lightning and hence Uranus. The reason that in later life Yeats bought and assumed residence in the Tower of Thoor-Ballylee was because, practically, he associated true sudden inspiration as akin to the lightning of the lightning struck Tower of the Tarot card archetype. He also knew from the Cabbala of the Golden Dawn, loosely based on elements of Jewish mysticism, that lightning descended from the height of the God/Mind/Higher Self dominated Tree of Life for those who knew the right keys, symbols, deity names and vibrations, these being much associated at the Golden Dawn with Isis-Urania.

It is beyond present scope, but I would insist as per certain statements in my Puer Poems one of whose offerings is itself based on the structure of the “Tree” which links the names of God in a pattern, that the three highest nodes from which any lightning descends in fact correspond to the Trinity. Astrologically the Trinity can be symbolized by Pluto (the Creator), Uranus (the Holy Spirit) and Neptune (Christ). Yeats and Golden Dawn magicians who made alternative, less convincing astrological correspondences with the Hebrew divine names were not receiving from the Spirit but at the Isis-Urania temple spiritist energies related to the Urania representing whatever, which exactly trines Yeats’ Uranus, or perhaps in Yeats’ case the light energies the ancient Celts associated with Lugh. Any Uranian lightning for members of The Golden Dawn was also the “astral light”. Through Eliphas Levi and the French Occultism that also influenced him, Yeats obtained the notion that the astral Light is the vehicle of magic and inspiration. It can be variously God’s power, the awaited Holy Spirit of the coming age and the Edenic Serpent’s power all in one field.

YEATS AND MODERN IRELAND

But if Yeats (most of the time) didn’t care what he was doing and remained largely agnostic about who or what the spirits he invoked truly were, there are reasons why we, and I, might have some reason to care. The first point concerns the nature of Ireland and the second the perennial nature and meaning of poetry. Like it or not, modern Ireland inherits something from Yeats. I am certainly not suggesting modern Ireland should not have come into being, but the when and how of its doing so seems a little dubious and national self-understanding of the process to some extent the product of the Yeats/Gonne (mis)alliance, their symbol formation and policies. And we may recall that the English originally dismissed the Easter Rising as “a poet’s revolution”, just more Irish theatre and show. Granted that Yeats himself, who was more implicitly than overtly political, did not take part in the uprising whose immediate leader was the poetic and mystical Padraic Pearse with his loosely Christian theories of sacrifice. However, Gonne, though she hated Socialists along with Jews, had some history of stirring Pearse’s co-revolutionary, the socialist James Connolloy into action. Overall, what took place on April 24th 1916 was in many respects the effects of a Yeats/Gonne cultural revolution that was building for years. Stephen Gywnn famously observed after a performance of Cathleen-ni-Houlihan he wondered “if such plays should be produced unless one was prepared for people to go out to shoot and be shot”. Yeats if not Gonne did have a few twinges of conscience as in The Man and the Echo where he asks, “Did that play of mine send out/Certain men the English shot?”.

Revolutions are of Uranus……Yeats’ poetic birth moon at 19 Aquarius was exactly conjuncted by Uranus in Aquarius that Easter of 1916. The Venus of the day was fortunately trining it. Neptune was degree exact semi-sextile (any meetings of mind) to Yeats’ Uranus so he can glamourize the revolution – which he did. Mercury had just passed conjunction to his Venus/Pluto (it’s the basis of his famous poetic reaction “a terrible beauty is born” Venus being beauty and Pluto being the terrible!). And though Mars representing conflict at the time was at 16 Leo (rather than Yeats own 12, itself one of the reasons he did not actively engage in the revolution), what was happening was nonetheless very much in his spirit. And his spirit and values would endure.

If we look at the absolute foundation of modern Ireland, i.e. its complete, final republican rupture with England (April 18th 1949 at 12 am), a decade after Yeats death, we find Jupiter (religion/beliefs) at 0 Aquarius, the degree of Yeats’ rising. The novelty and eccentricity of this position, especially as it trines Saturn in Eire’s religion house gives, I believe, long term (Saturn) promise that despite the nation’s conservative, enduring, sad and bachelor signifying moon in Capricorn, entrenched traditional values and Catholicism would not be so secure. Instead, as has happened, they would considerably succumb to disillusion, scepticism and revolt. There would be a quiet revolution in many cases prompting return to a sort of Yeatsian style paganism. Uranus at foundation time at 27+ Gemini was conjunct Yeats’ 29 degree Uranus and asteroid Yeates was conjunct Eire’s Mercury (its writing, its thought patterns).

However, more significantly for permanently linking the poet to the life and arts of the nation, Eire’s sun and Venus in Aries exactly conjuncts Yeats’ 27 Libra/Aries nodal axis. But as one might suspect, the contact is not altogether fortunate or inspiring in the right way – one thinks for example how much the design and feeling of Samuel Beckett’s depressing nihilistic dramas owes to such as Yeats’ drama Purgatory. It is always the North Nodes which point the way forward and to what is best for person or entity, Eire’s 27 Aries falls on Yeats’ backward looking South Nodes. A little more positively, the one time “Isle of the Saints’ rising sign is 5 degrees of (religious) Sagittarius itself conjunct Yeats’ destiny and reputation Midheaven which was 4 Sagittarius. Ireland will always be thought of as religious even if it isn’t very notably so and it will always be somewhat Yeats country as to tourists it very much is. Taken all in all, I can imagine that those of charismatic persuasion or Catholics re-instating exorcism might think that the almost perpetually unfortunate, economically vulnerable, population haemorrhaging Ireland, could use a few banishing rituals at sacred sites where Yeats tried either to call down the gods or to confirm their fairy rule – even the unusually down-to-earth Seamus Heaney could say of Yeats “Reading Yeats, I can feel at times a transmission of dangerous force”. With that thought in mind what I will explore in conclusion is the question of what poetry is and does because for me that becomes a personal and oddly Yeatsian question.

YEATS AND THE IDEA OF POETRY TODAY

This month I have published New Poems and Two Celtic Dramas. The sometimes polemical poems have sundry themes but the dramas are based on the Welsh Mabinogion legend of Branwyn and various Irish legends of Oengus the love god and also Graine and the Fenian men. I think it can honestly be claimed and claimed as simple fact, not boast, and as something anyone reading the material could be hard put to dispute, that though I belong to no occult societies, since 1949 (or even 1916) no poet or Protestant claiming Irish nationality will have been closer to the spirit of Yeats and many (though by no means all) of his interests. In the interim as in Seamus Heaney’s to my mind ghastly The Vision (it leaves me feeling claustrophic and a bit queasy!) “imagination” has been downplayed in favour of an overwhelming, sometimes vulgar earthiness. And even the quasi-Yeatsian 1916 revolution, which was a revolution of consciousness as much as politics, is just a little bit mine to do something literary with because Ireland at my birth was conjunct the fatal Easter’s 16 degree Leo Mars, itself conjunct my almost 16 degrees Mars. When at the beginning of my writing career I wrote rather combatively on The Irish Nation, I was as unaware of this celestial tie-in as Yeats was of so much else in his chart. Whatever revolution of consciousness Yeats aimed at, I, spontaneously and broadly somewhat take up again, and even when not in specifically poetry have done so in prose as in works like Temple Mysteries and Spiritual Efficiency  ( http://amzn.to/Xz9L7X ) which effectively assume a hidden occult order of reality and which in their way are expressive of a Yeatsian ideal – “love for the Unseen”.

I could perhaps hardly help going in the direction taken. Mercury and Venus again in the house of writing, Uranus again in late Gemini, Jupiter again in Sagittarius (which with the Leo Mars makes for a somewhat similar emphasis upon the hieratic, the priestly, prophetic role etc), the Neptunes of both on an axis and unsurprisingly too I find, even Catullus. So… here we go again, except that now it’s poetry in itself, not specifically Irish poetry,that chiefly concerns me . After all, I don’t live in Ireland and for perhaps that reason have not been generously treated by anyone in literary Ireland for whom it seems I am merely someone outside and beyond, perhaps even a kind of inconvenient truth safely dismissed in the way I properly mock in my satirical Catullus Redux (http://bit.ly/1ci1WMX ).

POETRY AND SOME “MAGICAL” SYNCHRONICITY

New Poems and Two Celtic Dramas marks a new departure for me after nearly a quarter century’s poetic silence. I had abandoned poetry with the offerings of Puer Poems ( http://amzn.to/11i5hkI )because of the endless, sometimes quite hostile rejections which not even broadcast of a poetic drama on the ABC could overcome. But while, as I thought, I had abandoned poetry for good in disgust, there was a touch of relief that accompanied it too. Poetry and its effects had also begun to puzzle me in certain areas, especially in the way described in the introduction to Puer Poems. There, and citing a peculiar experience surrounding one of my poems, I perceive possible justification for the most traditional bardic/druidic notions that Yeats picked up and ran with, namely poetry as magic and spell à la Prospero or even as the Bible has it, “Death and Life are in the power of the tongue” (Prov 18:21). Poet and poetry as the druids assumed can bless or curse. In modern times and outside Ireland both Ted Hughes and Robert Graves would have at any rate the curse associated with their work.

A lot of modern poetry is “ekphrastic”. It describes objects to offer possible epiphanies – even if these  are often told in flat, bald tones which depart from almost all previous poetic tradition stretching back into the night of time. It’s poetry for the agnostic, materialistic society Yeats abhorred, as I do myself. Traditional/classic poetry, even if it’s blank verse, has rhythm and aims to memorably compress certain ideas. The combination of rhythm and compression and then its repetition seems capable of assisting trance or creating something like thought forms or situations. (Modern exorcists for example find that many possessions can be traced back in the first instance to the psychic wound opened up by parents or associates just repeating to a child that they are ugly, worthless and so on). If Shakespeare was a Prospero, it is notorious that many actors are highly superstitious about “a certain play” (Macbeth) because of the amount of bad energy or ghosts its incantatory verse seems to generate in performance.

As recounted in Puer Poems, I presented what would become the first poem of that collection to a fairly celebrated Australian stage and TV actor as a present. Included were references to typical features of the Puer archetype with which I associated the actor in question so that I wrote “and if he fell he’d bleed and bleed”. Within days of presenting the poem the actor happened to switch to a leading role in the play Blood Brothers and not long after that was hospitalized because there was blood all over the place either in some dressing room fight with another actor (now internationally famous star of screen Russell Crowe), or something that occurred on stage where the future star was reckless – it has never been clear to me which since I have heard and read different stories. I don’t say I “caused” the fiasco, and it’s possible my timing was purest coincidence, but at very least it looks like there was what Jung would call a significant “synchronicity”. It was as though I had timed, declared or released effects of the Puer archetype. Moreover it wasn’t as though there hadn’t been people to have experienced my poetry of  entities that I didn’t believe in, as though I believed in them and that they were somehow real. The thought leaves one feeling a bit more cautious or responsible about literature and its potential to influence. A lot of art, I don’t say all, seems occult either in its generation or effects, or both. The world of Yeatsian poetic stands somewhere between celebration of things Celtic and (magical) imposition upon the culture with any distancing being purely aesthetic as in the admirable experiments with Noh drama. My own effort to achieve a needed distancing for especially the Celtic material of the dramas is through letting the characters establish certain understandings about the culture, history and psychology within which they exist. They are not all Yeatsian heart and emotion but intellect.

SO WHAT IS POETRY TODAY?

So what do I think poetry is? Of course it’s not one thing and some it will always be just entertainment like nursery rhymes or more seriously devoted to the history and myth of the people as in ballads. There is a variety of forms and functions. However, “serious” or “classic” poetry I do believe is “magic” or “mysticism” to the extent it is transcendent of the everyday. Its words, its rhythms, its different organization of language defamiliarizes us with common existence, encourages us to imagine different things, ideas, situations, perhaps begin to do so through a degree of participation in the different reality itself. The movement into the other plane can be either through a hearing or a seeing. Some classic poetry like Shakespeare’s is highly auditory, others as in much Latin verse and Ovid is highly visual; either way one goes beyond in a way that prose which belongs with the ordinary movements, observation and memories of life doesn’t.

In some respects poetry is, or borders, philosophy as witness Lucretius, Dante and in his way Yeats; but if poets have offered philosophy it is more like the work of the pre-Socratics who open minds towards the more developed schemes of the philosophers working with reason in prose rather than imagination and creative imagery. Poetry’s “magic” can be prophetic – much biblical prophecy is delivered in poetry rather than prose – but its messages can also be perennial, drawing us back into the essential and eternal underlying or overseeing our existence. At this point in time I should say that Auden was correct in looking forward to a return of “high style” which is to say a more transcendent poetry. It is time to say goodbye to modern or even post modern experiments in poetry and return to the art as the wisdom and vision which, no matter how much we may criticize and reject his particular beliefs, the legacy of Yeats represents and which no contemporary poet should disdain to follow.

My poem Under Parnassus: An Under Ben Bulben Variation  can be found at  http://bit.ly/1wdsnwa

 
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Posted by on April 16, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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NORTH/SOUTH: A POEM OF CULTURAL CONTRASTS

[March 21st is the new World Poetry Day so I am posting the following poem which is included as the last poem of those to be published next month in my New Poems and Two Celtic Dramas]

Rottweil

NORTH/SOUTH: A POEM OF CULTURAL CONTRASTS

Even if from the end of the woods and the edges
Of forested mountains wonder horns echo [1] and
Sweetest chords summon, there is no call to roam there,
I carry their music within. Here too existence
Deeply resounds as bells toll to the breezes and soul.
Give me my wand! Through village and town I conjure coaches
And elves. There’s more magic than whispers in fir trees
And murmurs at river banks joins me. Mine readily plays
Beneath turret and spire, meanders past fountain and
Steep gabled houses, along winding streets where
Openly dreaming I’ve wandered. In regions like these,
What spell, what enchantment doesn’t journey the same ways
I’ve gone, even entered within each closed door?
Like wishes, no fairies of mine dance only on hilltops in rings.
Here sun need but glint on an alchemist’s pewter for
Whole worlds to be joined. [2] Sculpted satyrs and cherubs
Both smile. So much is enabled, diffused and collected,
Clouds carrying word of bright pasts and charmed futures,
Tell me, what could I lack? With a myriad flowers
I seize the many buds of potential.

Yet for love of particular things, descending
From castles and hill tops and not to snare dragons
I used gladly to linger below in the shadow
Of cavern and rock face, beside lake shores under
Star-heavy skies.[3] They resounded to high tumbling waters
Rushed to valleys that drew and detained me as though
There was a home. And consider that in such places
Souls would take refuge, including it seems to make
And unmake their own gods, [4] even if, as in arts
Of unconscious formation and enlarging mandalas,
The good of those prophets would slide into evil,
Combine, emerge, be revived as the serpent sheds skin.
Is that why they always return to your house and they
Haunt it, those shades, those unsatisfied spirits moaning
They attained to no rest at Jerusalem’s walls? [5]
Could it be that motion is all that they learned? Below
In earth’s darkness it’s said the circle of Mothers
Spin world turning change. But can they transform things, and
By using those steps in our treadmills (called by you
Recreation) whose labours recycle what you chose
To assume were so long left behind? [6] Behold then
A womb scarce more than a tomb and for even
The beauties of Helen not to be rescued.[7] I thought
To absorb the power of forests standing
Noble amid cloud drift. But let no evergreens grow
To enclose me forever. Where canopies rise let
The wishing trees shake out their gold. I will to depart.

11

Beneath these granite, barer mountains
Of the south it’s morning by a tideless lake.
On this, like sighs, the slightest motion
Falls against the unhindered rising of
The day, its atmosphere both still and
Brilliant as marbled columns to the sun.
Compressed infinities reside within
Quiet choruses of air which zephyr-light
Through and beyond the ripening citrus groves
Breathe out of “now” but also, and
Half mournfully before what might seem
Promise, murmur “wait”. Between
Ranged blue below and blue above,
Does body now go swim or row, or soul
Rise up to flow into the higher element?

The glance of Venus is behind, it looks away
Even when widest vistas are displayed and
It’s behind me Venus reigns: fashion dressed
To persons as to time, and shortening it with
Passing loves amid a careless opulence,
Still thrives.[8] But see ahead the flower-topped
Balconade adjoins the shallow steps down
To the lapping waters’ edge beyond which now
You can, but may not wish to go. Give me
The horn! Make noise and bring, clothed like the soul
In only dawn, tritons to race across
The waters into greater light and sky
Bearing upon their backs the time not
Personal but far directed and historical,
An energy that expands, builds, teaches and
Subdues in nature’s course beneath the eagle’s path
Found out by eyes directly fixed upon the sun.[9]
With this you could reach Athens and Jerusalem
And not return. And here from earth accepted in
Its myriad forms, with clarity you can rise high,
Seize infinity and the heavens themselves
Provided you would know to refuse
Those powers some craved on Mediolanum’s way
Seduced by love of emperors and of virgins’ lives [10]
Your talk become like baskets all too full
With blossoms over-ripe, weighed down with
Questions and the many answers not quite given. [11]

No lovers of the infinite and divine
Need dwell on petty joys and small regrets
And celebrate the in-turned mind through record
Of those thoughts, sometimes too humble then
Too proud, that monastery gardens best enclose. [12]
Tolle, Lege : words no angel but a child declared,
No doubt a sweet deceit played on the mind
Too mystical and unprophetic. [13] What faith
Is not far journey and a pilgrimage?
Who but he of alienated mind would seek
Divine felicity through intellect internally
As though to render earth with sea and sky
With body and each material thing all
Valueless besides the soul and God? [14]
What was that fallen temple of the Jews,
If not a heaven reflected and an Eden
Symbolized that mere abstraction never knew
Or else, like prophecy at the core, ignored
With all the mare nostrum world beyond
The cradle of new vision too despised. [15]
Truth here was lost and must again be found.

The shimmering light of day would consecrate
Life’s inner verities, and soul calls out
To banish time’s past monstrous interval,
Its centuries of night and misdirected
Prayer with contemplation pitched, in seeming
Innocence, between oppression and the
Foulest strife. [16] Accept again the sun
And wide created world which are your
Heritage toward the higher life,
By this take flight, reach even further south.

Though time and cycles will repeat they also
Form and never bring what’s quite the same again.
So now upon the age’s cusp, even though it be
An era’s end, go far upon the opened way
Receiving beams from an increasing light;
And while seas roar and skies unfold
Await of Salem’s city all surprise -
It is decreed again its temple rise
And seers with fiery prophecy outshine 
Closed revelations of the mystic’s mind.

Still waters of the lake and so bright atmosphere
Of risen day, you are that mirror jewel of
My mind, its inner being and my future life. [17]

TRITONS2

    NOTES

[1] Des Knabes Wunderhorn (1805) was a collection of poetry by Arnim and Brentano important for German literary Romanticism and music, both generally evoked by the poem.
[2]  The initial visions of the German Theosophist Jakob Böhme (15750-1624) involved sunlight on a pewter dish.
[3] Loose references both to Nietzsche’s Lake Silvaplana and personal experiences of a time spent in a Swiss college.
[4] Various German speaking sages like Nietzsche, Rilke and Jung have “remade” religion or the gods – Nietzsche believed Zarathustra was revealed to him on the shores of Silvaplana.
[5] In Jung’s Seven Sermons to the Dead, the spirits return from Jerusalem complaining they find no salvation there. Jung experienced the spirits as actually entering his house. German magical vision is not just rural like most magic but urban.
[6]  Evoking celebrated words of Goethe’s Faust  important for Jung, “Formation, Transformation, Eternal Mind’s Eternal Recreation”. They are not however specific to the Mothers who represent the Unconscious and the Feminine with which for Goethe as for Jung  mind must be reconciled.  However there seems nothing particularly liberating about the Mothers in their darkness and even if they inspire, the only salvation is in a certain repetition.
[7]  Homer’s Helen is effectively trapped in the Underworld from which Faust does not deliver her.
[8] Many properties bordering the Italian lakes are home to the rich and famous, fashion designers,  models and stars, the people of Venus, whose devotion to fashion highlights the ephemeral and  passing time.
[9]  The triton’s more masculine energies and nudity as against the well draped Venusian world (Luther taught the soul was naked before God and  a certain spiritual and aesthetic nudity may be said to join North and South) direct east and south toward Rome and beyond which marched under the sign of the eagle. The eagle looks directly at the sun which in the kind of medieval mysticism inaugurated by Augustine is almost rejected: “The good which  I now sought was not outside myself, I did not look for it in things which are seen  with the eye of the flesh by the light of the sun”. Augustine’s views were many and subject to change and his City of God even concedes Rome may be an imperfect symbol of heaven, but the poem suggests that (at its best) Rome represented a general impulse to civilisation of a kind in everything from language to roads.
[10] Mediolanum was the ancient name for Milan. It lies to the west of Garda rather than east like Athens and Jerusalem. Augustine greatly idealized Bishop Ambrose as “saintly” though he represented a lot of the too typical fourth century church politicking and chicanery. He was ordained bishop without having been a priest, wasted vast amounts of money on frantic church building  projects, dubiously courted and supported the emperor Theodosius and developed an obsession with virginity which he seemed to think the only true role for a women. Augustine’s cult of Ambrose is about as edifying as would be to hear he had followed money obsessed tele-evangelist Kenneth Copeland today.
[11] Augustine had been a rhetorician and his Confessions can be extremely florid, even its opening is half obscured by speculations and questions partially answered.
[12] Augustine’s florid conversation with himself and God anticipates the small universe of the enclosed monastery, with its controversial mixture of humility and presumption which has lost a grip upon normal life which is getting exchanged for an extended, minute self- analysis which inevitably shocked his contemporaries for sheer novelty. (It’s generally accepted that Augustine, who said as many good things as bad, is foundational for Roman Catholicism and the western medieval mind).
[13]  Tolle, Lege (Lat: Pick up and read). A child’s voice instructs Augustine. Since spiritualists and witches like Sybil Leek report children’s voices delivering messages, it is possible Augustine’s conversion represents self or spiritual deception, quite possible in view of the fact his theories would leave a  legacy of false beliefs from the damnation of unbaptized infants to theories later justifying the Inquisition.
[14] Augustine is always dismissing the earthly as example of anything heavenly and thus “no bodily pleasure….and whatever earthly light might shed upon it, was worthy of comparison, or even mention (italics mine) besides the happiness of the life of the saints.(Confessions X1 : 10). The corollary of this extreme idealism is a hidden contempt for the Jewish legacy and the temple which not only was intended as symbol or reflection of things heavenly but whose doctrine ironically may even have been the remote basis for the Platonic theory of the archetypes according to Margaret Barker.
[15]  Linked to the last statement, Mare Nostrum (the Mediterranean) and its culture should be seen as part of the flow of divine history as historical/prophetic revelation centred round Israel which Augustine virtually denies, famously dismissing all biblical prophecy as  transferred symbolically from Israel to a Catholic Church Triumphant.
[16]  Augustine’s turn to mysticism favoured a purely inactive contemplation, a gazing upon God in a static heaven that became standard for medieval religion and which ignored the ills of the world around it.
[17]  An  implicit affirmation of the believing soul’s possibility to reflect and reach to the good without seeing or being only Augustine’s original sin.
 

 
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Posted by on March 21, 2014 in Uncategorized

 
 
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