While Pico and Patrizzi might differ on Aristotle, their philosophies incurred the common fate of condemnation by the Church. Yet neither was intentionally unorthodox, and in this they differed from the most notorious of the Renaissance Platonists, Giordano Bruno (1578-1600), who, not content with “telescoping” Plotinus’ three Hypostases into one another, took the further step, which all ancient Neoplatonists had resisted, of identifying the infinity of Matter with that of the One.
R.T. Wallis, Neoplatonism, p.172
While earlier Neoplatonists “telescoped” the Hypostases of the Psyche (soul), Nous (higher mind or spirit), and the wholly transcendent One, holding the first two as aspects of the last, Bruno came to view lower Matter as also being entirely identical with the One. This idea represents both a radical pantheism and an assertion of absolute transcendence. There is literally nothing apart from God.
But neither is this the naive pantheism of equating the known universe with deity. Matter, for Bruno, is not this limited. While it is true that the actual world is in fact God, the potential world is also God.
And potentia is infinite and eternal, as unbounded as the imagination (and there is an echo of this in the rhizomatics of
Félix Guattari and Gilles Deleuze). The Mother (matter and perception) is always united
with the Father/Spirit and imagination; the sensible is always fused with
Bruno’s philosophy is all of one piece. Just as there is no absolute physical centre to the universe—it is not geocentric and it is only locally heliocentric—and there is no single exclusive incarnation at a particular time and location but is instead distributed in entirety everywhere, there is also no transcendent and unattainable One set apart from the world of appearances.
Matter has always already been fully redeemed by the One. This quite obviously involves a total inversion of perspective, a view that contributed to getting Bruno burnt at the stake (his own Tree) as a heretic. Interestingly, though, this inversion seems to have been anticipated by the safely orthodox poet, Dante.
In Canto 28 of the Paradiso, Dante in ascent through the highest heavens with his beloved Beatrice, exclaims with great wonder:
And I to her: “If the world were arranged
In the order which I see in yonder wheels,
What’s set before me would have satisfied me;
But in the world of sense we can perceive
That evermore the circles are diviner
As they are from the centre more remote
Wherefore if my desire is to be ended
In this miraculous and angelic temple,
That has for confines only love and light,
To hear behoves me still how the example
And the exemplar go not in one fashion,
Since for myself in vain I contemplate it.”
is amazed to behold that from this heavenly prospect, Earth was no
longer at the centre of the cosmos, as it was firmly positioned within
the geocentric paradigm of his era, but was in fact on the outer and
darkened peripheral of a Greater Cosmos or Trans-cosmos of increasing
light and glory in eternal dance around the Rose of the Empyrean.
Beatrice responds to his bewilderment:
On which account, if thou unto the virtue
Apply thy measure, not to the appearance
Of substances that unto thee seem round,
Thou wilt behold a marvellous agreement,
Of more to greater, and of less to smaller,
In every heaven, with its Intelligence.
Dante, Paradiso, Canto 28 lines 46-78, Longfellow trans.
All things have at once become divinely inverted, turned inside-out. It is as if we have been unrolled from the centre of a torus or universal doughnut, and have arrived at the outer rim to face the gaping maw of the endless void, only to realize that this is only a new centre filled with luminosity and grace.
It is once again fascinating that,
around six hundred years after Dante’s night journey, William Blake
describes an incredibly similar stellar and soular inversion:
The nature of infinity is this: That every thing has its
Own Vortex; and when once a traveller thro Eternity
Has passd that Vortex, he percieves it roll backward behind
His path, into a globe itself infolding; like a sun:
Or like a moon, or like a universe of starry majesty,
While he keeps onwards in his wondrous journey on the earth
Or like a human form, a friend with whom he liv’d benevolent.
William Blake, Milton, Book the First, 15, Complete Writings, p.497
In many of the Hellenistic traditions touched upon here, the path of the soul, both in celestial descent and ascent, is described as being spiral- and vortice-like in movement. Here, Blake explains that this motion is also toroidal; there is a rolling back at the edges and an infolding into a new centre.
As with Dante and Bruno, both
universe and individual reverse the polarities of internal and external.
Blake goes on to say that after passing through this vortex of
perception, eternity is revealed within the apparently narrow confines
of lived daily experience; one’s limited world “of five hundred acres square.”
Through this vortex of eternity, Bruno’s explication of endless and centreless suns and worlds is simultaneously and identically Blake’s teaching of “the earth one infinite plane.” The Multiverse is interchangeable with the Flat Earth.
from the same mindset, we would be wrong to consider this majestic
architecture or geometry as abstract, impersonal, alien or unfamiliar.
In fact, we are each perfectly ensouled and embodied within it at this
The body of man must be regarded as a holy temple, a shrine of the Divine—the most marvellous House of God that exists, fairer far than the fairest temple raised with hands. For this natural temple which the Divine has wrought for the indwelling of His beloved sons, is a copy of the Great Image, the Temple of the Universe in which the Son of God, the Man, dwells.
G.R.S. Mead, “The Gnosis of the Mind,” Echoes from the Gnosis, p.19
Mead here is very much echoing Blake’s own conviction, but of course this expresses an insight understood many thousands of years before both writers.
The image or symbol through which perception is ignited by the imagination—through which Double Vision, in Blake’s term, is possessed—can
be described as the Word or Logos from a more intelligible viewpoint
but, closer to a material context, it is the human body itself. Yet this
fair temple of the body, although human in form, is not bound to the
Each grain of Sand,
Every Stone on the Land,
Each rock & each hill,
Each herb & each tree,
Mountain, hill, earth & sea,
Cloud, Meteor & Star,
Are Men Seen Afar.
William Blake, “To Thomas Butts,” Complete Writings, p.804-5
inevitably gets derided as extreme Romantic “personification,”
as “pathetic fallacy,” from people who do not understand Blake and the
Romantics. The temple of the universe, in the form of the Divine Man, is
replicated in a sort of fractal entirety in every “part” of the
universe. Little men are everywhere.
But it is likewise limited to understand these human-formed figures as being exclusively male in sex or gender. At the very least, they are androgynous, hermaphroditic or, as I prefer to fantasize, each comprises “man” as a couple of full-lotused, yab-yummy, ecstatic lovers—male and female He created them—gloriously grinding out the each and all in generation and regeneration.
But we also know from the Apocalypses of Ezekiel and John that these figures are fourfold: Leonine, Taurean, Aquiline and Angelic; three-quarters bestial, whirling and interlocking and illuminated UFO-like; great multi-eyed wheels within wheels within wheels, rollicking and undulating in indescribable ways.
These are the iynges and synoches of the Chaldean Oracles, the Vishvarupa of the Mahabharata, the Thrones and Seraphim of the Pseudo-Dionysian celestial hierarchy, the sprites and nixies of rural pagan folklore, the etymological root deities, each atom, every quark.
They are in truth our own
bodies “seen afar” and seen within. And they are the reflections of the
Word, just as the Word is a reflection and a refocusing of them.
But perhaps my readers will say: But this is the Christian Gnosis and not the Gnosis of the Mind! My dear friends (if you would permit me, I would reply), there is no Christian Gnosis and Trismegistic Gnosis; there is but one Gnosis. If that Gnosis was for certain purposes either associated with the name and the mystic person of the Great Teacher known as Jesus of Nazareth, or handed on under the typical personality of Great Hermes, it is not for us to keep the two streams apart in heart and head in water-tight compartments. The two traditions mutually interpret and complete one another. They are contemporaneous; they are both part and parcel of the same Economy.
G.R.S. Mead, “The Gnosis of the Mind,” Echoes from the Gnosis, p.22
Mead necessarily reminds us at this point that it is upon categories and typologies that we stumble. Jesus Christ remains the ultimate stumbling block, for both believers and deniers.
For believers, Jesus is exclusively expressed through the words and deeds of the perfectly-human/perfectly-divine figure of the four gospels of the New Testament and the biblical and extra-biblical orthodox commentaries on these gospels. To suggest that there are other sources and commentaries available for our upliftment is to utter heresy.
Such “orthodoxy” involves the faith that the Canon was solely determined by existing ecclesiastical and political authorities, and that true vision both starts and ends with this established Canon. It is Christ-in-a-box and all who remain open to past and present revelation will necessarily stumble and trip over this particular obstacle.
But the deniers are similarly blocked, tripped up by the flipside of the same dogma. The orthodox position being evidently no secure centre, they deny the possibility of all centres. “Christ” even “God” become hateful, shameful words for them, tainted inexorably by Church excesses.
The history of vision is foolishly equated with the history of hypocrisy and corruption—Empire, Crusades, Inquisitions, witch-hunts, wars of religion, colonialism, slavery, fundamentalism.
But in truth, vision has nothing to do with history. It is a glimpse, and maybe longer than a glimpse, into eternity. Just as Nietzsche exclaimed that there was really only one Christian—Christ Himself—Christianity does not exclusively own or contain its namesake.
As we’ve seen, the Manichaeans and other Gnostics—hell, even St. Augustine himself—believed that Christ, the Luminous Jesus, was there at the beginning of time. And, even within full orthodoxy as the Second Person of the Trinity, He is exalted as being eternal, timeless, coming from before the beginning. But for the same reason, He should not be considered as the exclusive theological property of any one tradition or denomination.
Thus, in understandable reaction to the intolerance and provincialism of the orthodox churches, the deniers are impaled on the other horn of limitation. Yet instead, the centre is truly everywhere—in space, in time, in thought, in perception. Christ has definite teachings, which should be meditated deeply upon, but He is bound by no churchly dogma.
For myself, and for many, many others, partially and fully traumatized by what gets called “Christian fundamentalism,” perhaps the most heinous doctrine promulgated is that of eternal damnation: the belief that a soul of whatever cultural background will suffer endless torment in Hell for the sole crime of not having faith in official Christian dogma, and so not having her preexisting sins forgiven.
This doctrine, while maybe temporarily enabling the Church to gather wayward sheep back into its fold through sheer fear alone, is enough to repulse anyone who values compassion as a virtue.
This was my own experience and one that is best told of Stephen Dedalus in The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. How many millions have rejected Christ on the grounds that they falsely thought that He advocated the endless fiery torture of nonbelievers?
But without wading into the centuries-long debate of “infernalism” vs. “universalism”—the counter-teaching that eventually all souls will be lovingly saved—it is enough to assert that the former doctrine is not biblical; it is not incontrovertibly taught in either the Old or the New Testaments, and it was disputed by early Christians and by Church Fathers like Origen, Clement of Alexandria and Gregory of Nyssa.
Universalism, often coupled with rejection of the nearly as pernicious doctrine of Original Sin, persisted as a largely underground belief throughout the history of the Church. It was a common creed of Christian mysticism and many of the writers that float through these pages were more or less universalists—Bruno, Blake, Steiner, Yeats, Mead, Upward, Dante(?), Law(?), Barfield(??).
The one big exception here is St. Augustine himself who, based on his own prejudices and his interpretation of occasionally mistranslated Latin versions of the scriptures, was instrumental in solidifying and codifying the doctrine of eternal damnation within the Church.
Even C.S. Lewis, beloved of literalist Christians of all stripes, may have been a closet universalist. At the very least he was an inclusivist—one who believes that good non-Christians could be saved after death.
The case of Emeth in The Last Battle is
often cited in the argument for Lewis’ inclusivism. Emeth was a
Calormen captain, an enemy of Narnia, who faithfully served the heathen
god Tash and who considered Aslan a false deity. But because of his
faith, his good works and character Emeth was saved by Aslan after his
death. Aslan explains this apparent incongruity:
Therefore if any man swear by Tash and keep his oath for the oath’s sake, it is by me that he has truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him. And if any man do a cruelty in my name, then, though he says the name Aslan, it is Tash whom he serves and by Tash his deed is accepted.
C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle, p.156
other words, the Logos is not limited by language, or culture, or
religious tradition or even by world. It is the heart that would receive
the Logos that is paramount. And only a knock at the door is required.
But beyond this and other textual indications in his written work that Lewis might have had quasi-universalist sympathies, there is the fact that two of his biggest influences, the Scottish author George MacDonald and the contemporary Indian Christian mystic, Sundar Singh, who disappeared without a trace on a solo Himalayan pilgrimage, were both outspoken universalists.
In any case, Christianity without the scourge of the doctrine of eternal damnation at once frees itself from the fear and control games of historical authorities and returns to the message of universal love.
And, as Mead points out, the early Gnostic traditions, Christian, Hermetic and otherwise, were inseparable, interpenetrating, mutually illuminating, universal in scope. Just as, within orthodox Christianity, the gospels and epistles and revelation of the New Testament unlock and complete the law, wisdom, histories, visions and prophecies of the Old Testament, the non-canonical Gnostic scriptures take on the same hermeneutical and exegetical role for the New Testament.
Reading the Old Testament of the Bible, one realizes that the entirety of the New Testament is essentially contained within it. It’s all there. But, in precisely the same way, through the lens of the Gnostic scriptures—only available in part for widespread study in the West for little over a hundred years, with the Nag Hammadi translations released to the general public only in the 1970s—a reader discovers the incredibly “Gnostic” quality of the canonical Bible.
An encyclopedic, apocalyptic, psychedelic, wise, multi-dimensional, erotic and endlessly uplifting masterpiece of literature is opened up. It is incontestably the greatest books of books.
Nothing in the
Nag Hammadi scriptures is lacking from the Bible. Christ is on every
page of the Old Testament, just as the gnosis is found on every page of
the New. Our culture has, comparatively recently, been textually
empowered to discover that orthodoxy is in fact gnostic, just as gnosis
is orthodoxy. But it has been a long strange path to this realization,
much of it far from and in resistance to the citadels of temporal and
Christianity is a Greek mystery religion which developed logically step by step out of those which came before it. After Jesus’ death, the next great step was Paul; after that the pagan writer Plotinus—not the Catholic/Christian Church; it was Neoplatonism which carried Jesus’ true esoteric doctrines on, which before Jesus came out of the Orphic mysteries and so on back, especially to Zagreus. That all this had to encoded was because of the Roman-Jewish opposition to Greek mystery cults, since several of those cults had conspired/were continually conspiring to overthrow the tyranny of Rome.
Philip K. Dick, The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick, p.83
Philip K. Dick was an author of speculative fiction who early on was able to apply—to make new—the insights of the recently translated Nag Hammadi Library to his own profound and postmodern apocalypses. Yet it was not until 2011, with the partial publication of his massive Exegesis, that the scope and depth of his own interpretive exploration was made clear.
If the gnostic mysteries, as he explains, stretch back to Orpheus, to Zagreus and further back to primeval mystical explosions and implosions everywhere, then they also span forward, in a lineage that he sketches out, to PKD himself (although Dick here does not mention the potent Neoplatonic tradition—from Pseudo-Dionysius to St. Maximus the Confessor to Eriugena to later mystics like Meister Eckhart, etc.—within Christianity itself).
The publication of the Exegesis is also the unearthing of the homoplasmate, the Gnosis in human form, the Christ, the Word that bridges and infuses Perception with the Imagination. Dick is also a priest of the order of Melchizedek.
And as a true prophet, PKD is crying out in the wilderness, on the margins of acceptable thought, against the Powers and Principalities of this world: Pharisaical and Roman Imperial authority, and the tentacles of this Leviathan which also reach out to the present—Babylon, Rome, London, Washington.
It has always—on
through the early Christians and Gnostics, the Cathars, the
troubadours, the Brethren of the Free Spirit, the Levelers and Diggers
and anti-authoritarian revolutionaries everywhere—been a
spiritual and existential struggle of AMOR against ROMA. The Empire, the
Black Iron Prison, has never died but neither has the radical
Everlasting Gospel that has resisted it at every turn.
represents the partial vision, the Lesser Mystery confined to the
initiates of the elite, the monopolization of mystic potency trapped in
time and place. But the Word is AMOR and the full Mysteries have once
again been opened to everyone. Nothing has been held back. All will be
saved, final justice attained, through the Imagination.
I know of no other Christianity and of no other Gospel than the liberty both of body & mind to exercise the Divine Arts of Imagination. Imagination the real & eternal World of which this Vegetable Universe is but a faint shadow & in which we shall live in our Eternal or Imaginative Bodies, when these Vegetable Mortal Bodies are no more. The Apostles knew of no other Gospel.
William Blake, Jerusalem, “To the Christians,” Complete Writings, p.716-7
Blake not only extols with passion that the Christian Gospel is identical to the freedom of the mind and body of the individual “to exercise the Divine Arts of the Imagination,” but he definitively and defiantly asserts that the Apostles knew and affirmed the same truth.
from inventing or fantasizing his own quirky belief system, Blake is
saying that the Imagination is at the very core of Christianity. He is
in fact saying that Jesus is the Imagination and the fully perceived world—the world of double, triple, quadruple vision—is
also identical to this. When the doors of perception are cleansed by
Christ, then Christ, the eternal and infinite Word, becomes the sole
object of perception.
Nietzsche, smashing his hammer down upon all that was resentful, false, hypocritical, twisted, life-denying, non-creative in Western culture, was not that far from Blake.
God whose death Nietzsche’s Madman announced, was the the minimal
post-Enlightenment God of Deism, the Blind Clockmaker that wound up the
universe and let it slowly run down. This was the God who modern science
had made obsolete, irrelevant, disposable, and whose moral laws and
huffing and puffing had long since been ignored by Western
But if by this great death the horizon has been erased, the centre unfixed, all secure categories blurred and melted away, the poles of certainty plucked out of the ground and cast without vessel or support into the Maelstrom and the Abyss, then once more Chaos, the ever-flowering source of all potential, generation and surprise comes glaringly into view.
This is the Imagination of the I AM, the true Deity of which the modern Yaldabaoth, our own Demiurge, Blake’s Nobodaddy, is only a single small aspect and facet and personae of. Nietzsche’s
radical critique of existing Christianity directed a blast to the heart
of Platonic transcendentalism, which he rightly argued was the basis
for almost all European theology and philosophy, but a blast that did
not fire back to the pre-Socratic philosophers—Thales, Heraclitus, etc.
The everlasting and exclusive coming-to-be, the impermanence of everything actual, which constantly acts and comes-to-be but never is, as Heraclitus teaches it, is a terrible, paralyzing thought. Its impact on men can most nearly be likened to the sensation during an earthquake when one loses one's familiar confidence in a firmly grounded earth. It takes astonishing strength to transform this reaction into its opposite, into sublimity and the feeling of blessed astonishment. Heraclitus achieved this by means of an observation regarding the actual process of all coming-to-be and passing away.
Friedrich Nietzsche, Philosophy in the Tragic Age of the Greeks, p.54
early Greek thinkers were hailed by Nietzsche for teaching of the
divine within that is not apart from this world, of the transcendent
within the immanent, of the potential within the actual. Nietzsche also
seems to have recognized a similar realization in the Christian
Dostoevsky, who he called “the only psychologist from whom I had anything to learn.” (Friedrich Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols, p.109)
And I would argue, perhaps alongside several of those struck by Nietzsche—Yeats, Steiner, Joyce, etc.—that there is a definite lineage, stemming from the negative dialectics of Plato’s Parmenides (Plato's thought more fully described as representing a merger of Parmenides’ monism of being with Heraclitus’ monism of becoming), which has run through the Neoplatonists, the Christian mystics and onward, and which also celebrates God in this world.
At times, this negative theology approaches the anti-metaphysical fourfold negation—neither A, nor not-A, nor both A and not-A, nor neither—of Nagarjuna, the first century Mādhyamaka Buddhist philosopher, himself in all likelihood indirectly influenced by Parmenidean-derived negative dialectics.
From negative theology—God is not this, not that, inexpressible by human language—to negative atheology—the radical negation that breaches the category of theology altogether, neither theos nor logos—to the idea that all things, all objects of perception, substantial and mental, in Buddhist terms all dharmas, are ultimately unclassifiable, wondrous, utterly mysterious.
Here also is an entry point back to Bruno’s equation of the One with Matter. All is empty. No single thing can be untwined from the everything without the unravelling of all. Yet again, this is no simple pantheism. This is not the equation of the actual with God, but the identity of all that is potential, opening up at every unhindered instant of perception, with the “mind” of the eternal I AM.
And if this can be expressed as a pantheism, then it also is a monotheism—it is singular—and a polytheism—all gods, all spirits, reflect the rays of the Light—and in a Buddhist manner also an atheism—the One is well beyond the limiting categories of existence and non-existence, truly more Zero than One.
So where does this take us? This is not the “absolute vacuum” of modern nihilism that Hans Jonas warns against. Instead, as with the Gnostics, the sparks of the One are witnessed in all things and especially within the hearts of those witnessing.
Yet more in line with Plotinus than with those sects of extreme anti-cosmic, anti-psychic dualistic Gnostics—if this anti-material interpretation of their beliefs was ever in fact the complete and correct one—this beautiful universe and its truly angelic archons—not cosmic oppressors but the planetary guardians of the inner and outer spheres—are lauded, revered and worshiped as manifestations of the One.
The extensions of the imagination through our tools and media are likewise, as with McLuhan, affirmed but not without caution. Things are made idols when we attempt to categorize them and set them apart from the One. McLuhan’s own critique of the Gnostics, greatly informed/misinformed by Eric Voegelin, was that they represented the most damnable heresy—the conviction that humans can become gods, without and separated from God entirely.
It may be that present-day transhumanists have in effect taken this position, but this is not the thought of the original Gnostics of any sect. In fact, the blasphemy of a lesser being arrogating ultimate control and authority is precisely that which the Gnostics accused Yaldabaoth, the blind and tyrannical Demiurge and chief enemy, of committing.
From the Gnostic perspective, the jealousy which the Demiurge and his fellow Archons expressed when Adam and Eve partook of the Fruit of the Tree of Good and Evil, was not the disappointment of the true Father about the disobedience of his most beloved creatures, but the fear and envy of a lesser deity about the imminent ascension of humanity to the One.
The Gnostic “inversion”—really only a reinterpretation—of “orthodox” Christianity begins with this myth. But in fact gnosis—an intuitive thunderbolt of knowledge—is
not opposed to either reason or faith. The three are aspects of one
experience. Alexandria ring-dances with Athens and Jerusalem.
judgemental and at times apparently genocidal Yahweh of the Old
Testament can either be rejected as a cosmic tyrant, as he largely was
by the Gnostics, or he can be understood as being but one aspect of the
Father, Justice as well as Mercy, as he is worshiped by orthodox Jews
and Christians alike. Or, as in the mystic reading, he can be taken as
something wholly beyond what is literally expressed or expressible.
In any case, sin, as taught by Nietzsche, is separation. A god, or an angel, or a demon, or a human, who attempts to set themselves apart from and above the One, maybe to deny its reality entirely, and to declare themselves as the only and highest authority is the ultimate sin for both good Christians and good Gnostics.
Contemporary transhumanism, contemporary scientism, to the extent that it claims this supremacy, is really plunging into the depths, to total idolatry, to the “absolute vacuum” of nihilism, to a hell that is not forever but is very close to it.
Yet Imagination, for Blake as for many of the others assembled here, is from the One and is the One. Our poetic trinity is no heresy or blasphemy. The Imagination is identical to the Father and the Word is Christ, the Son. And Christ is the mediator, the focal point, the lightning strike between higher Imagination and daily Perception.
Our perception is always already determined by the imagination; we are already Nietzsche’s great but largely unconscious artists, always already engaged in the operations of the Primary Imagination.
The Good, as scripture testifies, produced everything and it is the ultimately perfect Cause. In it “all things hold together” and are maintained and perserved as if in some mighty receptacle. All things are returned to it as their own goal. All things desire it: Everything with mind and reason seeks to know it, everything sentient yearns to perceive it, everything lacking perception has a living and instinctive longing for it, and everything lifeless and merely existent turns, in its own fashion, for a share of it.
Pseudo-Dionysius, The Divine Names, The Complete Works, p.75
The movement away from both Barfield’s non-dualistic yet unconscious and passive Original Participation and from entirely dualistic Idolatry, involves the conscious and active energising of Perception with the full force of the Imagination, and this is accomplished by the Symbol, by the Word.
The world is a spiraling dream locked into a fixed pattern by unconscious idolatry and kept ever-wound by the highly aware necromancers and demons of the dominant story and history. The only escape is the total transformation of reality, that which is perceived and is taken as something apart from the perceiver, through the imagination.
Perception—the Third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit—is
in Gnostic teaching the Mother of all things. And even in the Old
Testament, she is revered as Wisdom, as Hokmah, as Sophia, who was with
the Father from before the beginning.
When he prepared the heavens, I was there: when he set a compass upon the face of the depth: When he established the clouds above: when he strengthened the fountains of the deep: When he gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment: when he appointed the foundations of the earth: Then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him; Rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth; and my delights were with the sons of men.
Proverbs (8:27-31), KJV
The Word, then, is also the renewed hierogamy, the Sacred Marriage of Father and Mother. The sparks of the divine, lodged deeply in our hearts, are the symbols, the Symbol, required to wed Imagination with Perception.
Christ we may call this, or the sister and future wife of Christ, the “lower” Sophia, or with any other name of the same power, of the same order of magic, of the highest theurgy. Like Agrippa, it is hard for me to find a more significant name, and like Dostoevsky, at this point I would stay with the “mistake” even if it was proved to be wrong.
Pound asserted that poetry is constructed with language that is charged with
the utmost meaning. The poet does this by consciously employing symbols,
the older and more archetypal the better according to Pound's friend
and mentor W.B. Yeats, and yet even more powerful if each symbol resonates
and reflects all others, feedbacking and amplifying upon one another, making
all ring and shine together at once.
This forest of symbols (from Charles Baudelaire), this final correspondence, this synthesis and synesthesia, is in fact the Eucatastrophe, the missing chapter, the happy ending that is always occurring. The divine sparks or embers, the dismembered flesh of Zagreus and Osiris, present in all things, are symbols apprehended by the symbol-making mind.
On this Psellus comments: “Each, therefore, diving into the ineffable depths of his own nature, findeth the symbol of the All-Father.” “Uttering the word” is, mystically, bringing this logos, or light-spark, into activity.
G.R.S. Mead, “The Chaldean Oracles II”, Echoes from the Gnosis, p.367
There is no need to “see”
differently in terms of physically altering the organs of sight. It is a
matter of learning to behold the living, breathing Symbol which finally
ties together the entire tapestry of sparks or symbols or logoi (formative principles) we are already composed within.
If by reason and wisdom a person has come to understand that what exists was brought out of non-being into being by God, if he intelligently directs the soul's imagination to the infinite differences and variety of things as they exist by nature and turns his questing eye with understanding towards the intelligible model according to which things have been made, would he not know that the one Logos is many logoi?
St. Maximus the Confessor, “On the Beginning and End of Rational Creatures,” On the Cosmic Mystery of Jesus Christ, p.54
Often I’ve noted that after reading Finnegans Wake, all books become the Wake. All texts in fact become open-ended, multi-dimensional, eternal generators of meaning, conscious and intelligent organisms. This is without a doubt true.
And as I read the Bible from creation to apocalypse over the last year, as well as the translated Nag Hammadi texts and other extra-biblical scriptures, these works also became the Wake. The Bible is the Wake.
But, even more powerfully, the reverse is also true—the Bible, becoming Wake-ified, likewise transforms all books into iterations and reflections of itself—including the Wake. The entire gnostic/orthodox Trinity is right there in Finnegans Wake—HCE is the demiurgic Imagination, ALP is the Mother, the Holy Spirit, Perception herself, the Spirit of the Earth.
First she let her hair fal and down it flussed to her feet its teviots winding coils. Then, mothernaked, she sampood herself with galawater and fraguant pistania mud, wupper and lauar, from crown to sole. Next she greesed the groove of her keel, warthes and wears and mole and itcher, with antifouling butterscatch and turfentide and serpenthyme and with leafmould she ushered round prunella isles and eslats dun, quincecunct, allover her little mary. Peeld gold of waxwork her jellybelly and her grains of incense anguille bronze. And after that she wove a garland for her hair. She pleated it. She plaited it. Of meadowgrass and riverflags, the bulrush and waterweed, and of fallen griefs of weeping willow. Then she made her bracelets and her anklets and her armlets and a jetty amulet for necklace of clicking cobbles and pattering pebbles and rumbledown rubble, richmond and rehr, of Irish rhunerhinerstones and shellmarble bangles. That done, a dawk of smut to her airy ey, Annushka Lutetiavitch Pufflovah . . .James Joyce, Finnegans Wake, p.206-7
And bringing these two parents of us all together, and driving them apart, is their own only begotten, the rival yet conjoining twin Sons, Shem and Shaun, the descending and ascending Word, and Issy, the younger flowing reflection of the higher Sophia in her own cycles of ascent and descent.
From here the “family” or pantheon or emanations branch and rebranch out to more characters or deities then are present even in the prophetic epics of Blake or in the cosmogonical apocalypses of the later Gnostics.
And in mock-kabbalism, all of this vast seething divine, heroic and human multitude is boiled down to the Ain Soph, to groupname for grapejuice, to the both majestic and cheeky vesica piscis of page 293: the true centre of the book, both the womb of the Goddess and the unmistakable sign of her Son, the Fisher of Men. The fish bladder is also a focusing lens.
Anyone who plays around with poetry, with synchronicity, with symbols and with correspondences long enough will come to realize that the materialist explanation of reality is incredibly inadequate and eventually deceptive.
Life is far more like a dream than it is a machine and from this realization quickly follows the awareness that this is the ticket out of history, out of what Blake condemned as “natural religion,” out of the determinism of fate and towards the creative liberty of the I AM.
In any case, this has been my own trajectory. I have discovered that I have long been hunting for a “central” symbol or image that would unite, clarify and make radiant all things. Looking back, I’ve written of this several times in my journals.
We desperately need a common, yet individually realized and arbitrary, metaphor that will allow us to celebrate the ever-increasing individual differences all around us, but at the same time enable us to experience the sacredness and deep interconnection of all things—combined with the realization that each of these different parts are essential and equally play a role in the infinite. (1993)
We seek a symbol, an image, a sound, a philosophy, a song, to capture the captureless, to represent that which cannot be represented; a single point to focus our wills, a round door that opens onto the infinite, a thought that leads to new thoughts and to further thoughts and then to fully embrace thought itself, a crystal clear vision of the highest in all things, a graphic epitome of the flow of love which squirms, twists, vibrates and whirls within the swampy riot of nature. (1999)
And very recently I have learned that I already possess that which I’ve been seeking. A tradition that I’ve turned from, both reluctantly like Odysseus and with eagerness and rebellion like the Prodigal Son, has drawn me back, not through guilt or any other moral compulsion, but through its own inexorable logic, through a strange attraction: the downward reaching waterspout and the upward swelling whirlpool mirroring each other in mutual yearning.
Yet none of this could conceivably be mistaken for orthodoxy, for dogma, for apology, for fundamentalism of any sort. Although, neither is it intended as eclectic or syncretic heresy or the rejection of tradition.
Heresy, more than the assertion of false beliefs, is yet another form of idolatry. It is the claim that one distinctly possesses the true doctrine, a kind of flipside fundamentalism, to the point where the idea itself becomes primary, becomes deified. This also is not what is happening here.
The present gimmick—Imagination-Word-Perception—is a means and not an end and only valuable for as long as it is useful and vital. Like all metaphors, if widespread, it will become cliché and at that point it must be discarded as an inedible husk or shell.
This is no grand synthesis. It is not an attempt at a One World Religion and in fact it militates against any attempts at establishing this, against any final global transhumanist idolatry.
In a sense, it is a return to, a regeneration of, my own family tradition which happens to be Pentecostalism. This is a tradition I once rejected as embodying one of the worst literalizing and intolerant tendencies of Protestant Christianity. I now realize that it cannot be adequately summed up in this way, regardless of the many unsavoury forms that take on its name, in either roots or essence.
The modern roots of Pentecostalism, I discovered, are in the Azusa Street Revival in San Francisco from 1906-15, a spontaneous outpouring of enthusiasm that was open to everyone, that was interracial at a time when segregation was the norm, that was disturbing of the status quo, that was ecstatic and free. Pentecostalism did unfortunately, in its “white” branch at least, move away from these eminently radical roots, but its boundary-dissolving character remains.
And as for its essence—this entails the descent of the Spirit to the early Church (which as yet had no split between “gnostics” and “catholics”) fifty days after the ascent of the Saviour, echoing the descent of the Law with fire to Moses on Mount Sinai fifty days after Passover and exodus from Egypt.
But personally this goes far deeper. In the Bardo Thodol, the departed “soul” spends a maximum of forty-nine days in the bardo after death, the bardo also being the dream state. Forty-nine to fifty years also represents the time of the orbit of Sirius B around Sirius A, Sirius having become a potent symbol for myself and in the Neoplatonic tradition the star is also linked to the spiralling descent of the soul.
Richard Strassman, in his pioneering research on DMT, asserted that the pineal gland, endogenously producing DMT, is first observable in the foetal brain at 49/50 days after conception, an observation that led him to dub DMT “the spirit molecule.” Finally, Thomas Pychon’s The Crying of Lot 49 is also woven deeply into this symbolic forest; its “anarchist miracle” being none other, in my current estimation, than the Grand Miracle itself.
In any case, Pentecost is about descent and ascent, a recapituation of everything attained during the Mystery of Golgotha—glossolalia, the laying on of hands, the casting out of the demons of separation, the fruits of the Spirit, the siddhis, the inception of perception charged with imagination. Of it, I can affirm with Yeats:
I was born in this faith, have lived in it, and shall die in it; my Christ, a legitimate deduction from the Creed of St. Patrick as I think, is that Unity of Being Dante compared to a perfectly proportioned human body, Blakes’s ‘Imagination,’ what the Upanishads have named ‘Self’; nor is this unity distant and therefore intellectually understandable, but imminent, differing from man to man and age to age, taking upon itself pain and ugliness, ‘eye of newt, and toe of frog.’
W.B. Yeats, “A General Introduction for My Work,” in Modern Poets on Modern Poetry, p.21-2