Curiouser and Curiouser, Said Alice
This morning feels like a watershed moment in the fortunes and direction of The Chrysalis, connected to a comment by reader “John” to my last post and my response, along with a comment by LittleBigMan to an earlier posting and my reply there, too. Something “twigged” in my mind, as they say.
I occurred with the fortuitous juxtaposition of two snippets of verse from the English poet Alexander Pope (1688-1744) in the context of attempting to explain Blake’s objections to, and dread of, “Single Vision & Newtons sleep”, or Newtonianism as a Weltanschauung, or “world view” and a mode of perception.
The first selection is Pope’s homage to Newton, which Pope proposed as an epitaph for the great scientist,
Nature and Nature’s laws lay hid in night:
God said, “Let Newton be!” and all was light.
The second selection is a snippet of verse that somehow reflects the first,
Love seldom haunts the breast where learning lies,
And Venus sets ere Mercury can rise.
These verses are not cryptic. Taken together, they provide profound insight (perhaps unwittingly on Pope’s part) to the meaning of what is called “The Enlightenment”, the development of the mental-rational consciousness structure, as well as its essential deficiency. They help illuminate the reasons for William Blake’s great dread of “Single Vision & Newtons sleep”.
Pope’s lines are a precise description of what Goethe was later to develop into his character “Faust” (c. 1806), who is considered the quintessential archetype of the human of the modern type as “Faustian Man”. This Faustian Man is what Blake dreads, the man who has bargained away his “soul” for the sake of power and knowledge. Pope gives us to understand — perhaps inadvertently — what that bargain actually entailed — the suppression of love, the sacrifice of love. Venus must set before Mercury can arise. And with the sacrifice of love, of course, also comes sacrifice of the powers of empathy. This is, in essence, the meaning of Jean Gebser’s use of the term “deficit” or “deficiency”, and which is connected to Christopher Lasch’s “culture of narcissism”, the counterpart of which is Gary Olson’s Empathy Imperiled.
This is what we now call “the objective attitude” or the attitude of “disinterestedness”. So, now we see what Sir Francis Bacon’s choice really involved in deciding between “science” (natural philosophy) or “magick” for our pursuit of power and knowledge, and why the “death of God” invariably follows from “scientia potens est“. For Blake, Newton was not “light”, but a plunging of the soul into darkness, the darkness later to be called “the unconscious” or “collective unconscious”.
What became “occult” or “arcane science” — magic or alchemy — had, as already discussed earlier, been entirely based upon love, compassion, empathy: “to know the thing, you must become the thing you want to know” is the principle of what we call “magic” or, today, as “shamanism”. Oddly enough, it was the Inquisition that provided the model of what the sacrifice of caritas (love or empathy) did for “inquiry”. Bacon’s method of “putting Nature to the rack” is modeled on the Inquisition, after all. So, it’s not at all surprising to see Inquisitorial methods once again exploited, this time in the name of “Reason” — in the so-called “war on terror” — “extraordinary rendition” (ie, “disappearing” or Nacht und Nebel operations), interrogation under torture, suspension of habeas corpus, etc.)
So, that leads to my second comment in reply to John’s as linked above, “the return of magic” in the form of what we might call “arcane science”. Mind as cause rather than effect. Consciousness as being intentional rather than simply reflective. But most importantly, the modus of arcane science being this: “to know the thing you must become it”. It’s a diametrically opposite approach to that of Faustian Man with his “objective attitude”. This kind of “knowing” is what we might call “Biblical” — a sacred marriage or hieros gamos. Indeed, we get our word “game” from the idea of marriage, as it originally meant “participation, communion, people together”, the central notion being “togetherness” or “communion”. In ancient Greece, the “games” were where the gods and humans met and mingled, presided over by Eros, something like Blake’s “Marriage of Heaven and Hell”.
So, it’s not surprising either that we understand neither the meaning of “games” nor of “marriage” any longer, which are after all the works of love.
The return of “arcane science” is the return of “empathetic epistemics” or “intimate knowing”. And, as I noted in the comment, there are some rather curious parallels between the transition also from the Piscean Age (the fish) to the Aquarian Age (water), or in terms now being used by theologians as the shift from the Pauline Age of the Church to the Johannine Era of “religionless Christianity” as some call it. The “ego” is the fish. But the water is consciousness.
What are the connections between all these events, if any? That’s the theme I want to dive right into and explore. I don’t think its a trail of gingerbread crumbs that only lead to the house of the wicked witch. There appears to be a common undercurrent to events that seem to escape our notice (because of our entrenched “perspectivising” habits), but which I find quite intriguing and exciting.
Let’s see where this undercurrent carries us.