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Archive for september, 2010

The Language of Night

I påsken 2007 fikk jeg og en venn tilsendt et budskap fra en voksende kjempe som hadde forlatt sin fortids titaniske, livsbejaende krigervei. Nå skulle han forvandle omgivelsene taktfullt og diskret. Fra det intellektuelle hærverk til åndens stille veving. Han hadde på dette tidspunkt forkastet enhver form for politisk aktivisme. Dette var enda to år før hans vei  – tilsynelatende? – stabiliserte seg i en bestemt retning.

Nå som kompassnålen igjen virker, har han gjenoppdaget betydningen av handlingens imperativ. Men i metapolitisk forstand, for han er og blir en kontemplativ sjel som inspirerer lanseknekter og åndens centurioner, heller enn å egenhendig storme citadellene. Hvem vet, kanskje dette er nattsvermeren som utløser en orkan på motsatt side av kloden? Om ikke det, så iallfall en herværende lavine…

Gjennom alle prometeanske overganger har han på uforkrøplet vis aldri forlatt troen på et hellig prinsipp: Kjærligheten mellom mann og kvinne som den mest grunnleggende kraft i kosmos. Denne dygd strømmer som en gyldenblank flod gjennom hele hans virke. Dette vil vedvare, tross alle framtidige transformasjoner. Kjernen vil være diamantintakt selv om han skulle endre glasur.

Etter å ha kjent ham i seks år tør jeg ikke si om han ennå har funnet sin endelige gestalt. Men på sin vei videre vil han fortsette å begunstige de få heldige som innehar det privilegium å kjenne ham. Topografien og jordsmonnet på Rørosvidda frambringer tydeligvis ennå skatter, selv etter kobbergruvenes sorti. Alt er ikke bare slagg i Bergstaden [ja, du gjettet riktig: han kommer derfra].

I brevs form skrev han dette påsken 2007:

”Hei X og Magne! Politikk, økonomi, sosiologi, biologi – underlig å lese diskusjoner om den slags nå, – jeg har beveget meg en annen vei, mot grunnlaget som alt dette hviler på, nemlig språket. Tidvis svever jeg til og med i utkanten av det, mellom språket og ingenting, eller kanskje mellom språkets synlige del og dets usynlige tvilling. Jeg har vel havnet her fordi det er min lodd, og jeg vet ikke hvor gagnlig et perspektiv herfra er for andre som har andre lodd. Derfor er det fristende å like gjerne tie med observasjonene men mynten falt visst denne gangen slik at jeg fikk lyst til å skrive.

Jeg har svært lite tro på aktivisme i dag, på debatter, avisskriverier, og det meste av idealistiske initiativ. Tenkningen i dag greier ikke å overskue verden slik den har blitt, og greier ikke å holde oversikt over sammenhenger mellom ulike fenomener. Rammene som tenkning og aktivisme foregår innenfor i dag er alt for stramme. Problemet er nok ikke først og fremst de eksterne rammene, som kapitalismens logikk og vår manglende kontroll på teknologien, men det at språket vårt ikke lenger evner å gi oss noe meningsfullt forhold til tilværelsen.


Når språket blir stivt og dødt, blir også tanken død, og handlingen død, vi tenker, taler og handler automatisk, ut fra en rekke premisser vi ikke har skikkelig oversikt over. Løsninger bygges på sandgrunn når språket ikke holder. Man kan bruke ord som høres akademiske eller profesjonelle ut og imponere andre med det, overbevise andre om at man har forstått noe, og dermed få både aksept og økonomiske goder, men dette har utrolig lite å gjøre med det å finne virkelige løsninger.

Før vi forsøker å frigjøre andre bør vi kanskje frigjøre oss selv. Vi står langt sterkere med et lite repertoar med ord og sammenhenger mellom dem som vi virkelig kjenner enn vi ville gjøre med et utall store tankebygninger, de siste hviler nemlig på de første. Den med kunstnerisk kall kan også jobbe med å forme om selve språket”.

Mannen fra Røros har modifisert standpunktene siden han skrev dette, men budskapets alvor henger fremdeles ved. Han har siden da funnet et metafysisk fundament, samt innsett at språket trenger matematisk armering for å ikke bli et virvelløst bløtdyr som flyter omkring. Og han har gjenvunnet troen på mer direkte handling, og det er bra: Vi kan rett og slett ikke vente på at språket alene skal berede grunnen for en ny virkelighet.

Tilbake til 2007 og om de med kunstnerisk kall som vil omforme språket: Rørosingen fant særlig Eugene Jolas (1894-1952) inspirerende i så måte. Og det samme har jeg gjort. Men for å låne ordene til rørosingen (fra en annen sammenheng, men kan også anvendes her): Han må ikke leses som en Mester, en hellig forvalter av sannhet, eller som en arkitekt av en ferdig idébygning. Han er mer en figur som med sine imaginære kanonader av ord og ideer rydder rom som andre kan gå inn i og erobre”.

Og det er nettopp slik jeg forstår Jolas. Altså velger jeg å lese ham gjennom gullgraverens blikk, med spade i stedet for rød korrekturpenn i hånden. Her er et utdrag skrevet i mellomkrigstiden i tidsskriftet Transition.

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Workshop

The art of expression is suffering from a paralysis that is one of the symptoms of a civilization in collapse. It struggles for its autonomy against the sociological flood. On every side we are belaboured with the question: How can the artist of the word continue his search, when the misery of humanity is without parallel in history, when wars and catastrophes threaten everywhere, when the destruction of world capitalism is the only task that should occupy him?

He is not a reformer. He does not preach ethics. He does not aid in a religious revival. The creative can never be bound by political frontiers. It is never concerned with being «left-wing» or «right-wing.» It is by its very nature syncretistic. It takes life as a totality. It lives it and expresses it. It blends the unconscious and conscious, the mythic and historic, the individual and the collective, into a superconscious reality.

The new human type that is emerging as an élite is not dominated by environmental changes, social revolutions or chiliastic conceits, but by the explosive force of an inner mutation that may very well run parallel with the social mutation, but is hardly caused by it. It seems to me that we are witnessing the slow emergence of a new creative personality.

He seeks the law of totality. He seeks a restitutio in pristinum. He develops whatever embryonic mystical faculties he may have. He lets new perceptions inundate him. He watches in himself the efflorescence of extra-normal states of consciousness. Or better: he redevelops in himself ancient and mutilated sensibilities that have an analogy with those used in the mythological-magical mode of thought in the primitive man, with prophetic revelations, with orphic mysteries, with mystic theology such as that of Dionysius Areopagita, with the Kabala, Tao, Hindu philosophy, with Egyptian wisdom, with Gnostic rapture, with

mantic experiences like those of Van Roesbroeck, Böhme, Master Eckhardt, St. John of the Cross, with the attitude of the early romantics, with the mental habits still extant in folklore and fairy tales, with clairvoyance, clairaudience, day and night dreaming, even with sub-human or psychotic thinking. This attitude to the creator is the antithesis of one that believes in the primarily conscious genesis of creation.

The two attitudes are best represented in the antipodes: Mallarmé and Rimbaud, Hölderlin and Goethe. Yet we know that the identification of the «poet» with the vates or seer has always existed. Novalis and Rimbaud were at one in postulating this union. It is only in periods of «enlightenment» and positivism that the tendency has been temporarily buried. (This is what was happening until the war.)

Yet it emerged again and again explosively after each period had run its course. The new creator builds the bridge between the two attitudes of the unconscious inspiration and the superconscious creation: the line passes from irrationalism to a transcendental superlogic. I believe that we stand today at the treshold of a new flowering of this spirit: the resurrection of the vertical attitude towards life.

We feel that we are living in a mental climate that, in its collective alienation and apocalyptic mood, resembles the one in which romanticism flowered in the beginning of the last century. We cannot forget that our interest in the night-side of life is identical with that manifested by the romantic thinkers and seers. They were the first to emphasize the importance to the creator of irrationalism, of the dream and the day-dream, of mysticism and mythos.

The preoccupation with the dream, especially, haunted all romantics from Coleridge to Nerval, to Petrus Borel, to Novalis, to Tieck, to Jean Paul. They considered it an integral element of the «novel» and of «poetry,» after Goethe, strange to say, had led the way by being the first to use the dream as part of his anecdote in Wilhelm Meister. They regarded it as the principal aesthetic organon. They identified it with the fairy story. They interpreted the symbols through metaphysical categories.

We feel a relationship with the aura of that age. But that is as far as we go. We are through with its forms of expression, with its language, with its style. The period of the «lyric» and «poem» is definitely over. The world of sonnets, ballads, octaves, elegies, odes, is over. The «poem» with its narcissism, descriptions of the milieu, paeans of land and loam, lovesick whines, melodramatic anecdotes of bloodlust and incest, Hellenic parallelisms, propaganda of «living issues,» little individual aches and troubles, cynically objective naturalism, is liquidated.

A new style is in the making that will present the inner and outer reality in a synthesis; that will present the dramatic unity of «body and soul»; that will be subobjective. New forms to present the identity of the ancestral world and the present world will have to be found; epic word-symphonies will have to be discovered; an inter-racial language will have to be forged to express the collective inner vision of mankind.

The «poem» must change into a mantic compost which organizes the expanding consciousness of «the expanding universe.» It will go parallel with science which is no longer afraid of intuition, which is joining the ideations of mystics and seers, which has discovered the cosmic ray as the confirmation of the gnostic pneuma, which has annihilated three-dimensional space. The mantic compost will be the expression of the noumenal reality, the super and inter-planetary cosmos, the dynamis of a new imagination.

The chief need for the expression of this inner mutation is a new art of the word. We need a new plastic word composition that has nothing to do with the pedantry of modern philology, or the sterile dogmas of “estheticism”. It is related to the existential, to anthropology, to depth-psychology, to metaphysics.

The artist of the word who participates in this process of inner metamorphosis attempts to forge language into a mantic instrument. In calling for the language of night some years ago, I had this in mind as an aim. I expressed a wish-image, a postulate, a nominalistic fiction. I knew this language did not exist today. It existed in the past, it was the Homeric language of the gods, the language of the heroic age of the races, the inner language of the mystics. Poets like Angelus Silesius, St. John of the Cross, Blake, Nerval, Novalis, Francis Thompson wrote in a manner approximating it. So did the anonymous poets who created their hymns in «mystic Latin.»

Yet we can only use their expression as a base. They did not solve the question. They merely attempted with the means at their disposal to give voice to the inner vision they had. Theirs was the liturgical, hymnic attitude to the word, which is the attitude we should try to    recapture today.

The extension of consciousness which modern science places within the zone of possibility today seems to require a new form of expression. I noticed in my own linguistic development that the words in my native and acquired tongues were beginning to wear out. Having used creatively the three principal European languages, I saw how in each one of them I was reaching a dead point beyond which there was no use going. In this trilingual difficulty I had no precedent to go by.

Creative language, I feel, is sick. A curious muteness lies over it. The nihilistic collapse of the world is mirrored in it. It is inadequate to transmit even the simplest psychic phenomena. There no longer exists any language for our deepest emotions about love and death. The «lyrical» language today is filled with banausic clichés and metaphoric banalities. To the epigones the thematic material is everything.

Their language is poisoned by the déchets [waste] of the utilitarian mind. It suffers from the vacuity of the «little housekeeping words,» and from the logic of the conceptualist system. The use of words in what is known as «poetry» occurs through the reflective and conscious hammering of sense-impressions into the objective image. Language has lost the Heraclitean sense of movement.

A new «alchemy» is needed. This has been felt by a few isolated word-artists for the past hundred years, but the full clinical picture of the pathology has been recognized only in the last decade or so. The romantic poets had a presentiment of it. Edgar Allan Poe, now passing through an unjustified eclipse, was struck with it.

Lewis Carroll tried to find a solution of his own. Rimbaud had a grandiose vision of the need of «hallucinated words.» Mallarmé fought heroically for his own inner language. Marinetti, albeit in a non-metaphysical sense, was the first in this century to open the offensive by making the word autonomous and dynamic.

The expressionists and early dadaists, following in his footsteps, made the isolated word anarchic. James Joyce, the greatest word-artist of the age, mirrored his independent vision of the disintegration of language in Ulysses, and is now hammering out his own polysynthetic solution, which cannot be imitated.

We are beginning to sense the metaphysics of language again. I envisage the language of night as a mediumistic organ, the attempt to cognize the meta-real value of the word and syntax. Here we come face to face with those processes that cannot be sensed with the intellect. For it is the unconscious vision which created language, and we stand before the task of re-discovering the knowledge of the daemonic-magical things that lie hidden in words and have been lost to modern man. This is, I take it, the real significance of Emerson‘s dictum: «The corruption of man is followed by the corruption of language.»

The word was song and liturgy in the beginning of man’s verbal expression. The epos existed before the novel. Sagas were recited as litanies. Today’s «poetry» has lost this sense of the ancestral rhythm in which the word was considered a formule magique, in the literal sense. We have in us the heritage of billions of years of common mutation. The language of night does not want to break with the past.

Numberless words in every language are eternal, because they carry the weight of mythical experience with them. The ancient symbols still live, but we have to experience them again and again in order to open the way for other experiences by the liberated imagination. Once there was a language of parables, runes and fairy tales. We no longer understand the fervour with which past epochs employed the Word. It was sacred, it was the atman‘s echo, it was the Johannite logos.

The ancient felt it contained the inner wonder of the Godhead. It was a means of conjuration and creation. When the Hindu spoke AUM, the interjection became power through the forty different ways of its pronounciation. The poets of the Veda regarded the word with religious fanaticism; they examined each intonation, and meditated every grammatical and rhythmic relationship.

The primitive man – the homo divinans, as he has been called – had the same attitude to the word. Among certain tribes in Africa, America and Australia, it is still the custom, on special occasions, to sing in a sacred language handed down from primeval days. In the magical texts of the past there are to be found extraordinary sound-formations that refer to the sacred element of language. These forms of ancient wisdom were transmitted liturgically, they represented enigmatic sigils, they had exorcistic potency. In this alchemy of letters the mythological mind approached the hidden or supernatural powers.

We cannot break with the past, but we cannot return to it either. For language cannot stand still or go back. It is in constant movement and simply carries the symbolic remnants of the past in its stream. It carries with it the phylogenetic mass. The psychic liberation which new discoveries have made possible (eidetic images, the collective unconscious, all the oneiromantic or hermeneutic operations) open up new means of expression.

The artist of the word whom these psychic experiences have liberated finds the contact with the mystic seer’s view of the world and uses language in its function of suggestion, as  [Jean] Paulhan has called it. He acquires changed faculties of expression. He is in search of new symbols and sigils, and weds them, in a voluntary arrangement, with ancient words inherited from an ancestral past. He seeks hieroglyphs to express what to many seems the inexpressible. In his process of the mystic metamorphosis of reality, he also metamorphoses the means of representation.

The experiences of the yore-world vibrate in him; he senses abysmal life through the operations of dreams, diurnal phantasies, hypnogogic hallucinations, visions of rapture. His words themselves become mediumistic. They live a life of their own, like all living organisms. They have the power to create a universe that heretofore existed only as a fiction.

The language of night being the total expression of all the material that goes to make up the experiences of the daemonic-cosmic dynamics of the inner world in flux needs a liberty such as the recent literary epochs have denied the creator. The artist of the word having extended his consciousness and created in himself an intuitive apprehension of the invisible world must be free to de-rationalize the language of an intellectualist age.

There are two ways of approaching this problem. His temperament may be such as to make him limit himself to a mere phantasmatic re-arrangement of his material. In that case, I believe it essential that the irreality he presents should find voice in the mysticism of a montage in words, in a semantic revolution, in an attempt to dislocate mediumistically all those vocables that have become poisoned by the contact with the empirical reality.

He is not bound by the syntactical laws of logic used in the language of communication, although he may use them if his inner vision makes it necessary to do so. He is out to create a new syntax: the sentence becomes conjuration. On the other hand, if his temperament be more impatient and if he finds many words definitely useless and pathological for the purpose of manifesting the mediumistic experience, he ought to have the right to invent new ones. In this revolution of the word he does not forget that he always builds on a language saturated with the ancient mythic symbols.

He does not forget that the substratum of the unconscious psyche is identical in all races throughout the world. Age-old magic texts well up from the tertiary memory. Word-images emerge somnambulistically. He makes a “spiritual wedding” of the old and new sigils and thus gives language wings again. His primary aim is the creation of a new metaphoric language that might approach the mood of illumination.

In this revolutionary process he does not neglect the collective language as speech. The language of night absorbs the language of communication in a metaphorical syncretism. It passes through continents and centuries, through dead and living worlds. The mutation now going on, which is helped dynamically by the new technological means such as the cinema, the radio, and other mechanical forces, is about to create a linguistic interpenetration that will doubtless have its effect on the final morphological process of modern languages.

There will be modifications eventually that may kill certain weaker branches and develop new ones. The migrations of peoples since the war have also contributed to this process. I see today a vast intercontinental revolution of language.

The language of night I have in mind will make the intercontinental synthesis of the inner and outer language. It may thus become the truly universal language. Not that of the “educated philistine” who demands signs to simplify his world of communication, not an auxiliary language that will never remind him of his solitude, not a quotidian language of gestures that flees from consecration. But a language that will dance and sing, that will be the vision of the “troisième œil” [the third eye] that will bind the races in a fabulous unity.

One of the steps towards this language is the entrance into the pre-logical. We are still on the treshold to the discovery of an authentic language of the dream. During a number of years when I attempted to transcribe my dreams verbally, I encountered considerable difficulties.

Certain objects of the unconscious worlds often appeared to me to have no analogy whatever with the objects which they might have resembled in the waking state. They were definitely new objects created automatically in the state of sleep, or half-sleep, deformations of well-known objects, synthetizations of them. Since the objects were subjective creations, I felt that naming them objects was a misnomer. I invented the word “subobject” for these phenomena.

In making them according to approximate correspondences with the objects known in the waking condition, I realized I was making a compromise. For often they were, in fact, other objects. I therefore proceeded to invent certain vocables for them. It so happened also that in the dream itself words presented themselves spontaneously to me as pure neologisms. I noticed a selective relationship between the objects and the words.

The semantic sense of the dream-words and their sound character determined their interpretation. I saw that the jeux de mots in the dream were full of meaning. Behind each new word stood another word, another reality. I had suggested to myself during the dream, or else I name-invented such words as: Grala, Ascaton, Alzneiwein, Spaenlein, Sickermore, Old Griper, Verstehung, Hiera Ut, Gillabet, Cosmosa, Zweegey-Weegey, Bourgeoisin, Géantade, Grandoloquet, Lussurus, Garillon, Mélodore and numerous others.

During hypnogogic experiences I often caught isolated sounds that I have not been able to explain satisfactorily. Usually they are Franco-German sounds that have no relation to anything I have read or heard. In this subobjective oneiromancy it is important to remember the experiences of the day-dream. We are always dreaming, and it is only the irruption of the outer world of civilization that puts brakes on this process.

The night-world of the day-dream has not been studied thoroughly up till now, although the Cooks of psychology are preparing to do so. Here we enter the mutation of the metaphor.  One of the chief faults I have to find with the present art of the word is that it tends to ignore almost completely the daemonic content of language. By this I mean the word that is the reflex of the descent into the mythological world, into the ritual universe.

Some years ago, during the infant stages of transition, I once spoke of the diabolical principle in connection with an analysis of Lautréamont’s work. I am inclined to substitute for the word “diabolical” (which now smacks too much of old-fashioned theology) the more precise term “daemonic,” which was first used by Goethe, I believe, to describe that inner dynamics in man denoting the experience of the lower or subhuman forces.

Life is a polarity between the sub-human, or daemonic, and the supra-human, or cosmic, an energetical process, in which both principles flee each other and sometimes join. This phenomenon can be traced in every mystic and gnostic philosophy, the Chinese knew it as Yang and Yin, the dualistic Manicheans built a marvellous cosmogony around the idea. Even the Catholic Pascal acolyte says triumphantly: “O certe necessarium Adam peccatum” [O assuredly necessary sin of Adam]. It is what Bachofen called “the road to the mothers.”

In studying the unconscious – my own, of course, for, n’en déplaise aux collectivistes [no offense to the collectivist], it’s the only one I really know well – I came upon certain phenomena that, by dint of repetition, attracted my attention. I found that the dream symbolism was subject to laws that apparently went beyond mere psycho-analytical interpretation.

Urged on by the mystic and gnostic writers I was then studying I understood that that material in my dreams was not only non-personal, but definitely related to certain myths or legends I had learned to know in my childhood. There seemed to be a polarity between the daemonic and celestial images. What struck me, as I went on, was that behind the objective images there stood other images. Hidden behind the foreground of the realistic symbols, there apparently was a universe inherited from the ancestors. It was the unconscious of mankind  that was revealed.

These dream-beings were mostly phantoms, sometimes also light-beings. Grotesquely masked apparitions, cobold-like creatures, animal-men predominated in these phantasmata and chimerae. I had the impression that my night-world was the playground of the lucifernian and celestial powers, to use the terms of the biblical mythos. The de-personalization I sensed in the dream-state was a kind of schizophrenic phenomenon. I felt that we are split personalities in our dreams, that we are really being dreamed, that there are other “I’s” in us, that we are like persons possessed.

We have to face these demons and phantoms. What is at stake here is this: the artist of the word who seeks transcendental perceptions cannot hesitate to confront chaos. He must accept it as a necessary step to a higher medial cognition. He must pass willingly through what  St. John of the Cross called “the dark night of the soul.” Ordinarily men try to ignore these maleficent forces. They live in the cynical belief that their little intellect suffices to approach the immense complexity of the unconscious.

To go down into this troubling labyrinth, to descend into the abyss is a catharsis. As I have watched these phenomena, I have tried to transcribe the conflict in words. This presented itself to me as an exorcistic process, the redemption from the larval power of what the gnostics called daimones. The exorcism translated itself through a word-synthesis that seemed to solve the tension between the sub-human word of the “I” and the transcendental word of the “you.” The inner duologue found its conclusion apparently in a language of mantic metaphors, in a superconscious synthesis.

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