Friday, August 4, 2023

Strange and Blessed Fire 5: Mothernaked

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 the intelligible. 

Bruno’s philosophy is all of one piece. Just as there is no absolute physical centre to the universeit is not geocentric and it is only locally heliocentricand 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.

Dante 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. 

And 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 moment.

The body of man must be regarded as a holy temple, a shrine of the Divinethe 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 imaginationthrough which Double Vision, in Blake’s term, is possessedcan 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 merely human.

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

This 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 corruptionEmpire, 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 ChristianChrist HimselfChristianity does not exclusively own or contain its namesake. 

As we’ve seen, the Manichaeans and other Gnosticshell, even St. Augustine himselfbelieved 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 everywherein 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 savedit 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 universalistsBruno, 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

In 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 scripturesonly 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 1970sa 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 ecclesiastical control.

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 Plotinusnot 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 presentBabylon, Rome, London, Washington. 

It has alwayson through the early Christians and Gnostics, the Cathars, the troubadours, the Brethren of the Free Spirit, the Levelers and Diggers and anti-authoritarian revolutionaries everywherebeen 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.

ROMA 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. 

Far 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 worldthe world of double, triple, quadruple visionis 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. 

The 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 intellectuals.

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, Blakes Nobodaddy, is only a single small aspect and facet and personae of. Nietzsches 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 philosophersThales, 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

These 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 NietzscheYeats, Steiner, Joyce, etc.that there is a definite lineage, stemming from the negative dialectics of Platos 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 negationneither A, nor not-A, nor both A and not-A, nor neitherof Nagarjuna, the first century Mādhyamaka Buddhist philosopher, himself in all likelihood indirectly influenced by Parmenidean-derived negative dialectics. 

From negative theologyGod is not this, not that, inexpressible by human languageto negative atheologythe radical negation that breaches the category of theology altogether, neither theos nor logosto 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 Brunos 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 monotheismit is singularand a polytheismall gods, all spirits, reflect the rays of the Lightand in a Buddhist manner also an atheismthe 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 Gnosticsif this anti-material interpretation of their beliefs was ever in fact the complete and correct onethis beautiful universe and its truly angelic archonsnot cosmic oppressors but the planetary guardians of the inner and outer spheresare 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. McLuhans own critique of the Gnostics, greatly informed/misinformed by Eric Voegelin, was that they represented the most damnable heresythe 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 inversionreally only a reinterpretationof orthodox Christianity begins with this myth. But in fact gnosisan intuitive thunderbolt of knowledgeis not opposed to either reason or faith. The three are aspects of one experience. Alexandria ring-dances with Athens and Jerusalem.

The 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 Nietzsches 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 Barfields 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. 

Perceptionthe Third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spiritis 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. 

Ezra 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 Ive 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 truethe Bible, becoming Wake-ified, likewise transforms all books into iterations and reflections of itselfincluding the Wake. The entire gnostic/orthodox Trinity is right there in Finnegans WakeHCE 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, Ive 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 thingscombined 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.

And very recently I have learned that I already possess that which Ive been seeking. A tradition that Ive 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 gimmickImagination-Word-Perceptionis 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 essencethis 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 Pychons 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 Golgothaglossolalia, 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


Strange and Blessed Fire 4: Sow & Reap

Owen Barfield’s longtime friend and anti-materialist co-conspirator, C.S. Lewis, made his own journey from reductive physicalism to something far beyond. Lewis took great pains to ensure his readers and listeners that his position was inarguably commensurate with Christian orthodoxy. 

But as is evident in reading his intellectual autobiography, Surprised By Joy, and his many other works both fictional and nonfictional, his own imagination soared far beyond any limited expression of Christian fundamentalism or literalism.

In Surprised By Joy, Lewis maps out his mental progression from atheist materialism to Christian belief. Lewis came to understand that the materialist position is inconsistent and incomplete. 

We all, he realized, occasionally have subjective and meaningful aesthetic and other experiences of a sort that reductive behavioralism cannot adequately explain. Meaning does not arise from any mechanism. We are not merely biological robots.

If the materialist position fails to satisfy, one is compelled logically to consider the idealist position that mind takes precedence over matter. This is not the conviction that all matter is conscious, but that all is mind. 

Lewis quickly discovered, however, that idealism, and especially the notion of the Absolute within German philosophy, was too impersonal, too abstract. It also failed to contain the full picture. Bernardo Kastrup would likely disagree, but this unsatisfactorily abstract impersonalism highly corresponds with most expressions of Kastrup’s own idea of the “transcendent subjective.”

Lewis turned next to the idealism of the Irish philosopher, George Berkeley. This he found to be far more coherent than the philosophy of Hegel and the German idealists precisely because it appeals to a personal God not an inconceivably transcendent abstraction. But even in his understanding of Berkeley, Lewis’ imagination began to move.

If, as Berkeley asserted, all is the mind of God and He can be experienced as a person then the distinction, which even Berkeley may have helped to perpetuate, between the God of popular religion and the God of theology begins to break down.

At this point, Lewis was well on his way to becoming a theist. And over a fourteen month period, culminating with the famous Oxford stroll and conversation with his friend and mentor, J.R.R. Tolkien, in September 1931, Lewis came to fully accept Christianity.

The Christian path understands Jesus Christ to be the personal expression of God. Lewis realized that it, contrary to fundamentalist arguments, is not the negation of other past or contemporary religions and philosophiesclassical Paganism especiallybut their climax, the completion of the metaphor or the image, so to speak.

Christ’s ministry on Earth is the fulfillment of the myriad multi-cultural Dying God myths, so painstakingly recorded by James Frazer and other scholars of religion, within history itself.

The real clue had been put into my hand by that hard-boiled Atheist when he said, “Rum thing, all that about the Dying God. Seems to have really happened once”: by him and by Barfield’s encouragement of a more respectful, if not more delighted, attitude to Pagan myth. The question was no longer to find the one simply true religion among a thousand religions simply false. It was rather, “Where has religion reached its true maturity? Where, if anywhere, have the hints of all Paganism been fulfilled?”

. . . If ever a myth had become fact, had been incarnated, it would be just like this [the Gospel]. And nothing else in all literature was just like this. Myths were like it in one way. Histories were like it in another. But nothing was simply like it. And no person was like the Person it depicted; as real as recognizable, through all that depth of time, as Plato’s Socrates or Boswell’s Johnson, . . . yet also numinous, lit by a light from beyond the world, a god. But if a god—we are no longer polytheists—then not a god, but God. Here and here only in all time the myth must have become fact; the Word, flesh; God, Man. This is not “a religion,” nor “a philosophy.” It is the summing up and actuality of them all.

C.S. Lewis, Surprised By Joy, p.235-6

Christ perfected, not destroyed Mosaic Law and his teaching is not at all contrary to the Pre-Socratics, Plato or the Neoplatonists. In this way, Lewis, like Augustine surprisingly, came to accept the idea of an eternal Christianity which had its fullest and most obvious expression in the Incarnation and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Far from demonstrating that the Christian revelation is refuted by the near universal presence of Dying God fables and myths, the relevance of the Gospel is vastly strengthened by it being the crowning and fulfillment of these ancient narratives.

Now as myth transcends thought, incarnation transcends myth. The heart of Christianity is a myth which is also a fact. The old myth of the dying god, without ceasing to be myth, comes down from the heaven of legend and imagination to the earth of history. It happens-at a particular date, in a particular place, followed by definable historical consequences. We pass from a Balder or an Osiris, dying nobody knows when or where, to a historical person crucified (it is all in order) under Pontius Pilate. By becoming fact it does not cease to be myth: that is the miracle.  

C.S. Lewis, “Myth Became Fact,” The Grand Miracle, p.41-2

The sacrifice of the first fruits of Spring in substitution of, and/or substituted by, the sacrifice of the priest, king or scapegoat, was in turn exemplified in the ultimate sacrifice of the One, within human form and history, to the One beyond the cosmos. 

Lewis points out, however, that his friend Owen Barfield encouraged both a respectful and delighted reception of these earlier pre-Christian myths, finding within them the fertile soil of original participation. Just as these stories were “redeemed” and made meaningful by the Incarnation, so the Incarnation could only have the significance it contains, from a human perspective, because of millennia of mythic preparation.

Through the Word becoming Flesh, through death and resurrection, the annual ritual killing of the plant-spirit within tribes across the Earth becomes an act of the highest religious and philosophical importance. 

And contrariwise, the ministry of Christ should be accepted as being as humble, as simple, as commonplace and yet as nourishing and necessary, as the yearly harvest cycle. Every King-Kill, even of the King of Kings, is the sow & reap dance of the vegetables.

The killing of the god, that is, of his human incarnation, is therefore merely a necessary step to his revival or resurrection in a better form. Far from being an extinction of the divine spirit, it is only the beginning of a purer and stronger manifestation of it. If this explanation holds good of the custom of killing divine kings and priests in general, it is still more obviously applicable to the custom of annually killing the representative of the tree-spirit or spirit of vegetation in spring. For the decay of plant life in winter is readily interpreted by primitive man as an enfeeblement of the spirit of vegetation; the spirit has, he thinks, grown old and weak and must therefore be renovated by being slain and brought to life in a younger and fresher form. Thus the killing of the representative of the tree-spirit in spring is regarded as a means to promote and quicken the growth of vegetation.

Sir James Frazer, The Golden Bough, p.300-1

In this way, Christianity should not be threatened by Paganism, nor should Paganism complain that Christianity is intrinsically (although it was often unfortunately this historically) a co-option and colonization of its own best tales. There is but one story. 

And if even someone as hard-nosed and intolerant as St. Augustine at times was, could insist on a timeless Christianity, acknowledging the traces or divine sparks of it as present within the wisdom of all lands, then can we not also reverse the perspective and discover in the authentic Church the wonderful timeless truths of the pagan imagination?

As the most famous Inkling, J.R.R. Tolkien, celebrated, these insights can be furthered and enriched through the study of fairy tales, themselves narratives with roots in earliest human memory. 

The joy of the fairy story comes finally with the turning, with the happy ending, with what Tolkien called the “eucatastrophe,” the good catastrophe: the sudden and miraculous vanquishing of evil, the winning of the treasure, the recovery of the kingdom, the glorious wedding of the prince and princess, the Happily Ever After.

Tolkien then asks us to imagine how much more our joy would become if we found out that one particular fairy story, one that seemed to contain and enact all the others, was indubitably true. This, he asserts, is the Gospel, the good news, the good catastrophe or turning of history.

It is not difficult to imagine the peculiar excitement and joy that one would feel, if any specially beautiful fairy-story were found to be “primarily” true, its narrative to be history, without thereby necessarily losing the mythical or allegorical significance that it had possessed. It is not difficult, for one is not called upon to try and conceive anything of a quality unknown. The joy would have exactly the same quality, if not the same degree, as the joy which the “turn” in a fairy-story gives: such joy has the very taste of primary truth. (Otherwise its name would not be joy.) It looks forward (or backward: the direction in this regard is unimportant) to the Great Eucatastrophe. The Christian joy, the Gloria, is of the same kind; but it is preeminently (infinitely, if our capacity were not finite) high and joyous. But this story is supreme; and it is true. Art has been verified. God is the Lord, of angels, and of men—and of elves. Legend and History have met and fused.

J.R.R. Tolkien, “On Fairy-Stories,” The Tolkien Reader, p.89

Art has been verified” and “Legend and History have met and fused.” Lewis elsewhere takes this idea of Tolkien’s, itself likely inspired in large part by Barfield, and does apply it to all art, all literature. 

Not only is the Gospel the archetypal fairy story, not only is it the summary and climax of pagan myth within the historical record, but it, “the Grand Miracle,” is the lost or overlooked cornerstone or chapter to all of literature. 

If, as the French poet Stéphane Mallarmé not alone declared, all of literature really makes up one Book, then it is evident, at least in the West and in parallel or subsequent literature affected by the West, that the placement and importance of the gospel is central to this Book. 

This is certainly my own experience throughout these years of deeply exploring literature with “synchromystic” reading specsthe prose and poetry of the West either anticipates the Incarnation or it is a response, a repetition or an exegesis of it. 

As in the sutra and shastra tradition of India, the lineage of literature is commentary upon commentary upon commentary upon scripture and ultimately vision. This is not to say there was one and only one dispensation and that every subsequent creative act was secondary and derivative of this, but that every genuine work of the imagination arises simultaneously with the Grand Miracle.

Supposing you had before you a manuscript of some great work, either a symphony or a novel. There then comes to you a person, saying, “Here is a new bit of the manuscript that I found; it is the central passage of that symphony, or the central chapter of that novel. The text is incomplete without it. I have got the missing passage which is really the center of the whole work.” 

The only thing you could do would be to put this new piece of the manuscript in that central position, and then see how it reflected on the whole of the rest of the work. If it constantly brought out new meanings from the whole of the rest of the work, if it made you notice things in the rest of the work which you had not noticed before, then I think you would decide that it was authentic. On the other hand, if it failed to do that, then, however attractive it was in itself, you would reject it. 

. . . That is why I think this Grand Miracle is the missing chapter in this novel, the chapter on which the whole plot turns; that is why I believe that God really has dived down into the bottom of creation, and has come up bringing the whole redeemed nature on His shoulders. The miracles that have already happened are, of course, as Scripture so often says, the first fruits of that cosmic summer which is presently coming on.

C.S. Lewis, The Grand Miracle, p.56&61-2

Northrop Frye is another author and visionary who teaches that literature is whole and of one cloth. The “words of power” revealed in Ancient Egyptian funerary texts like the famous Papyrus of Ani (The Egyptian Book of the Dead), resound in the Bible and are made new in the epics of modernism.

Frye's colleague Marshall McLuhan, at least more famously, went further. Not only are all texts part of this one book containing the “missing” but crucial chapter, but so are all media, themselves extensions of our nervous system and its linguistic expressions, just as all technology is the extension of various parts and functions of the human body. 

Our text is also tech and in it, embedded and hardwired in the artificial environment we all increasingly dwell within, is the very structure of the Good News, the Mediator to the One, waiting for us to behold it and with this beholding utterly transform and redeem this environment at an instant. And the tale stretches as far back as it does forward.



Of this Divine Mystery the Christian gospel is a reflection in the heart and mind of man. It is an old, old story, retold from generation unto generation. Its words and signs are inherited from a primeval language, a true catholic speech, whose grammar is being recovered in our days from the tombs and dust of prehistoric peoples, from the daily life of savage tribes, and from the tales that are still the bible of the peasant and the child.

Allen Upward, The Divine Mystery, p.xxxv

This “old, old story,” rediscovered in, or maybe intentionally leaked out of, tombs and tribes and tales in our own time, nonetheless did break through into documented history for all to come to witness at a definite point and for a definite purpose along the course of the evolution of human consciousness. 

According to Rudolf Steiner, this “Mystery of Golgotha,” which occurred almost precisely at the midpoint between the birth of Alexander the Great and the death of Emperor Julian the (so-called) Apostatethereby the centremark of Greco-Roman empireenabled a democratic initiation of all humanity into individuated consciousness, even if for some centuries precise understanding of this event and its initiation was mostly lacking.

Now there is one period of time that has had to be left out in tracing this evolution: the period between Alexander and Julian. In the middle of this period fell the Mystery of Golgotha. Those to whom the Mystery of Golgotha was brought did not receive it as men who understood the Mysteries, otherwise they would have had quite different ideas of the Christ Who lived in the man Jesus of Nazareth.

A few there were, a few contemporaries of the Mystery of Golgotha, who had been initiated in the Mysteries, and these were still able to have such ideas of Him. But by far the greater part of Western humanity had no ideas with which to comprehend spiritually the Mystery of Golgotha.

Rudolf Steiner, World History in the Light of Anthroposophy, p.99

All poetry aspires to mysticism. All Western mysticism is infused with the Mystery of Golgotha. 

Owen Barfield, a follower of Steiner and in some respects both a popularizer and rationalizer of Steiner’s ideas on the evolution of consciousness, understands that the gospel of Christ was the key to collectively advance from the passive non-duality of original participation to the more liberating affirmation, involving duality within non-duality, of final participation and thereby bypassing or escaping from history. 

History in its fully secular prose sense did not begin until it was tabulated within the published histories of Herodotus in the 5th century BC. And by then the Hebrew prophets had already valorized history as the setting for the unveiling of the divine plan. Christ then, unlike his predecessorsKrishna, Zoroaster, even the Buddhalands within history as history. 

There may indeed be certain retroactive, as it were, evidence for the historical reality of Siddhartha Gotama, but even so he lived during a time that did not yet understand itself as being literal, progressive, prosaic, historical. In contrast, in the thought of Steiner and Barfield at least, Christ was the first and triumphal saviour of history, the liberator from idolatry.

From this vantage, Christ as the emissary of the One descended and sacrificed Himself to forgive our sins (i.e. artificial separation) and to provide a way or an archetype for us to be like Himself both one (individual) and One (the All). 

Instead, as in the transitional phase of “idolatry,” of experiencing everything that we perceive as being outside of and alienated from ourselves, we would once again merge with the “objects” of perception, but this time with our own subjectivity fully intact. 

For only in this way, as Coleridge also instructed, can a human individual truly create as the Creator created us. And this involves charging perception with the active imagination. 

. . . Participation as an actual experience is only to be won to-day by special exertion; that it is a matter, not of theorizing, but of imagination in the genial or creative sense. A systematic approach towards final participation may therefore be expected to be an attempt to use imagination systematically.

. . . Therefore, as imagination reaches the point of enhancing figuration itself, hitherto unperceived parts of the whole field of the phenomenon necessarily become perceptible. Moreover, this conscious participation enhances perception not only of the present phenomena but also of the memory-images derived from them.

Owen Barfield, Saving The Appearances, p.137-8

Here, Barfield provides the key to entire mystery and also its method; the imagination is systematically employed to enhance “figuration” (the process of perception). By actively employing the imagination, redirecting it back into perception, the entire “field of the phenomenon” alters. 

What was once unnoticed by the senses can now become apprehended, and this not only affects sensation in the present, but retroactively, as it were, transforms the objects of memory as well.

Yet this is not to suggest that one would be able to suddenly “see” things which were always already there. This, after all, would imply that there actually is a given, objective world “out there” that reveals itself in a similar way that furniture flashes into sight when a lamp is turned on in a dark room. But neither would one be experiencing phenomena that are “not there,” mere figments of fancy.

Whereas both of these perspectives take the existence of an objective world for granted, for Barfield the “objective” realm of “particles,” of the indifferent interstellar void, has been bracketed off as being practically meaningless to lived human experience. 

Indeed, this radical phenomenology is not all that different from philosophical idealism. Mind is prior to and elevated from matter, and it is mind which has been opened up and enhanced by the active application of the imagination. 

Repeating Nietzsche once more, we are already the largely unconscious artists of all that we perceive; the further step that Barfield is advocating is, in a way, simply that we make this process conscious.

In our present historical and transitional phase of “idolatry,” it is precisely this unconsciousness with regards to perception that causes us to feel that there is an independent world “out there,” separate from our senses, our relations, our desires, our memories, our fantasies, our emotions, our bodily movements. 

This is not to say, however, that our own world(s) of experience does not have its own habits, rules, customs, “laws,” consequencesif you jump from the roof of a high building you would almost certainly land with a horrible squish to the ground. But ultimately, none of these patterns are fixed. Imagination is the overruling agency. It is a matter of how powerfully, how consciously and intentionally, it is wielded.

This thought is not original or unique with Barfield, or even to Steiner who preceded him. Steiner himself was deeply impacted by his early and profound study of Goethe and related figures within the German romantic and idealist tradition (in addition to Nietzsche, who Steiner later visited). And Samuel Taylor Coleridge, also influenced by his German near-contemporaries, was admittedly an English source of Barfield’s ideas, as the latter conveyed in What Coleridge Thought

Coleridge famously explains in his Biographia Literaria, that while the Primary Imaginationthe continual creation of the world through the process of normal human perceptionrepeats what the infinite I AM originally achieved with the creation of the cosmos, the Secondary Imagination furthers ordinary perception to the conscious creation of poetry and art.

The Imagination then I consider either as primary, or secondary. The primary Imagination I hold to be the living power and prime agent of all human perception, and as a repetition in the finite mind of the eternal act of creation in the infinite I AM. 

The secondary Imagination I consider as an echo of the former, co-existing with the conscious will, yet still as identical with the primary in the kind of its agency, and differing only in degree, and in the mode of its operation. It dissolves, diffuses, dissipates, in order to recreate: or where this process is rendered impossible, yet still at all events it struggles to idealize and to unify. It is essentially vital, even as all objects (as objects) are essentially fixed and dead. 

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Chapter XIII, Biographia Literaria, The Major Works, p.313

Once again the method is evident. Through perception, naturally but unconsciously engaged in by everyone at every moment, we passively reproduce or reenact creation, but through the imaginative enhancement of perception our creations become infinitely meaningful works of art. This enhanced perception ceases to be experienced as separate from us. It is understood as being begotten by us.

The obvious question that arises here is, how can this method be enacted? It is easy to speak of supercharging perception with imaginative salience, but how is this done? Clearly, there is a missing step; an essential angle of our trinity is absent. The Word is the bridge from Imagination to Perception.

The Word in an important sense is all words, all language, all technologyas McLuhan taughtthat extends from language. When we explore or spelunk, as Barfield did, back through the etymological caverns of language, we discover that there are gods behind and dwelling within each and every word. 

The study of etymology represents travel through time back to original participation. Here, as in the schemata of Vico and Frye, all words were “words of power;” no definite boundaries yet existed between words, gods, things and the perceiving minds of men.

Yet it was also through words that separation arose, that “idolatry” resulted. Perhaps the first statement of separation is the I AM itself. It is the Word. As the Spirit unified and identified itself as a single egoic consciousness, humanity, reflecting this ultimate I AM, individuated itself out into separate consciousnesses as well.  

The Burning Bush of the I AM revelation is the same Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil by which humanity fell through its awareness of duality and separation. And thus arose the fear of the gods that the original human couple might eat of the Tree of Eternal Life and “become like us,” possessing both the egoic I AM, dualistic consciousness, and the conscious return to non-dual awareness of eternity. So this Tree is also one. The way of descent is also the way of return ascent. 

And the Tree is also the Cross, both of wood and of light. It is the true seat of the world and it is here where imagination and perception can become consciously united again. But the Cross, the most basic technology, symbol of death and liberation, is not primarily physical or technological. It is not centred exclusively in time or space. It dwells in our hearts. 

As British mystic, William Law, an immense influence on Blake and later Barfield and Lewis, and himself deeply inspired and informed by the German mystic and shoemaker, Jacob Boehme, teaches:

Though God be everywhere present yet He is only present to thee in the deepest and most central part of thy soul. Thy natural senses cannot possess God, or unite thee to Him; nay, thy inward faculties of Understanding, Will and Memory can only reach after God, but cannot be the place of His habitation in thee. But there is a root or depth in thee, from whence all these faculties come forth, as lines from a centre, or as branches from the body of the tree. This depth is called the Centre, the Fund or Bottom of the soul. This depth is the Unity, the Eternity, I had almost said Infinity of thy soul; for it is so infinite that nothing can satisfy it, or give it any rest but the infinity of God.

William Law, The Spirit of Prayer, quoted in Saving The Appearances, p.158

Within the heart or the soul is found the Cross, the Word, the door which opens both upwards to Spirit and downwards to Matter. Here again is the cardiac synthesizer, the little space of the Upanishad which is as great as the universe, the common sense. 

From the Creation to the Fall, then, is the long paleolithic trance of prehistory and original participation, the far journey before the opposites to the taste of the fruit of the first tree. And this was followed by the nightmare of history, the idolatry of dualism spanning from our exile from the Garden to final Apocalypse. 

But between these extremesat their very midpointis the turning, the Cross, which is the entry up to the second tree, ultimately experienced as being a single tree. At this turning, the joining of duality and non-duality has already been attained for thoseChristian and otherwisewith eyes to see and ears to hear and noses to smell. The Abyss of the Tree of Life has been crossed and the Kingdom is spread across the land, under the rock and within the split log. 

The sensory world is synesthetically fashioned and coagulated at this locus and projected outward, mistaken as a place apart. But to return to this depth, to this decentred centre within us all, is to regain and restore Paradise, and even more: to reach the final satisfaction of “the infinity of God.”

As we were lost at the Tree through the Word, by the Tree and the Word we will also be restored, but this time perfected. It is a matter of entirely inverting perception.

Strange and Blessed Fire 3: Certain Poets

In The City of God, St. Augustine deconstructs the entire pantheon of Roman gods. He argues, quite convincingly, that the gods are ineffective, immoral, unjust, contradictory, overlapping in functions and thus redundant, irrelevant, irrational, trivial, too abstract, introduced from abroad, solely the inventions of poets, etc., etc.

Yet all of these gods, as represented within the various schools of pagan Hellenic philosophy, came to be considered as facets of the One, and subsequently psychological aspects of the soul. Augustine seems to dismiss this idea and rejects the gods as being wholly demonic.

But the fact is, the One cannot be approached except through imagesthat is,  through the imaginationand of course the images generated by humans fall far short. The point, as Fyodor Dostoevsky reiterated, is to keep refining the image, to make it clearer and clearer, ever more perfect. For Dostoevsky, this image was that of the Christ and the aim was to get closer and closer to it.

It is not enough to define morality as fidelity to one’s own convictions. Even more one must endlessly stimulate within oneself the question: are my convictions true? Only one verification of them exists—Christ. But this is no longer philosophy it is faith, and this faith is a red color . . . 

I cannot recognize one who burns heretics as a moral man, because I do not accept your thesis that morality is an agreement with internal convictions. That is merely honesty (the Russian language is rich), but not morality. I have one moral model and an ideal, Christ. I ask: would he have burned heretics?—no. Well, that means the burning of heretics is an immoral act . . . 

Christ was mistaken—it’s been proved! A scorching feeling tells me: better that I remain with a mistake, with Christ, than with you . . .

Fyodor Dostoevsky, 1881 notebook entry, quoted in “Bakhtin’s Poetics of Dostoevsky and Dostoevsky’s Christian Declaration of Faith” by Robert Louis Jackson

As an image of the ideal that propels us forward, even if mistakenly, Jesus really is the Imagination, as Blake taught.

C.S. Lewis adds consideration of our inner conscience into the mix; our souls are eternal and with all of our choicesfree will being granted explicitlywe make our souls ever more angelic or ever more infernal. Heaven or hell or somewhere in between is thus our own choice, like the mysterious workings of karma. We daily transform our own souls and save or damn ourselves accordingly.

The process of purifying our conscience or soul is thus the same process as creating a more lucid image of the One. Our souls naturally gravitate towards a central image, and the conscience reflects the image as the image reflects the soul. This is an ongoing, life-long process, as Dostoevsky recognized.

Lewis, unlike Augustine, understood that the old gods could be used as partial or entire images of the One, particular attributes of eternity. Even Augustine admitted that the philosophers were able to provide transcendent interpretations of the gods as sang by the poets. But maybe, after all, the poets should be understood as being the greater psychologists.

The polytheistic experience of the gods is fully immanental. It imbues all things with divine meaning and presence. This is the excellence and strength of pagan polytheism. But within each of these images of the lesser gods there is a potential portal into the One. Meaning intensifies and deepens into the infinite, and the bewildering and often contradictory flurry of gods and demigods does not alter this.

Yet the image of Christ could be the clearest and strongest image of all, as it incorporates both myth and history. It is intended as an image of the One and as the Perfect Man. It is the consummation of both the ubiquitous and perennial Dying God myths and of the Logos formulations of the philosophers.

St. Augustine may have demonstrated that a rational polytheism is not really tenable because of the inherent contradictions it incorporates, but the gods are redeemable as both irrational and rational, psychological and physiological aspects of the One. 

From Parmenides and Empedocles on through Plato, the Stoics and the Neoplatonists, this was in fact the understanding. By dismissing the multitude of gods as evil demons, by failing to acknowledge the potentially salvific function of sexuality, the feminine, the body and nature herself, Augustine exposes his Manichaean and dualist background.

Both in the Hellenistic period and then more fully during the Renaissance, there nearly developed a Hindu-like henotheistic theology of the West, which combined Christian mysticism, Neoplatonism, the Kabbalah, southern and northern pagan mythology, Hermeticism, Gnosticism etc., until it was almost entirely stamped out by the reaction of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation.

C.S. Lewis, an author knownaside from the far more popular Narnia fantasiesfor his mainline Christian apologetics, was centrally aware of this great synthesis of the Renaissance and celebrated it throughout his works.

I have called this system, as Ficino himself calls it, ‘Platonic theology’, to distinguish it from the Platonism on which lectures are given in a modern university. It is not sufficiently distinguished even by the term ‘neo-Platonism’. It is a deliberate syncretism based on the conviction that all the sages of antiquity shared a common wisdom and that this wisdom can be reconciled with Christianity.

If Plato alone had been in question the Florentines would in fact have been attempting to ‘baptize’ him as Aquinas had ‘baptized’ Aristotle. But since for them Plato was merely the greatest and most eloquent of the consenting sages, since Pythagoras, the Hermetic Books, the Sibylline Books, the Orphic Books, Apuleius, Plotinus, Psellus, Iamblichus, and the Cabbala all meant the same, their task was hardly distinguishable from that of reconciling paganism, Judaism, and Christianity in general.

C.S. Lewis, English Literature In The Sixteenth Century, Introduction

Integral to this Renaissance synthesis was the goal to draft or formulate, as object or concept or both, a pan-comprehensive symbol that would represent and contain all knowledge, all experience and light the way to the One. John Dee's monas hieroglyphica and Giordano Bruno's geometric memory wheels and sigils and so on were attempts at this, a return to the pagan Hellenic or Alexandrian aim to unite the symbols of disparate cultures and traditions into a coherent whole. 

Echoes of this quest can be found in the Romantic period, but now confined within the arts alone, in which the imagination was reactivated and reinvoked to understand nature and the self within subjective and aesthetic experience. 

Subsequent, more underground, waves of this grand syncretic synthesis deepened with Symbolism, Modernism, Surrealism and Postmodernism, becoming ever more subversive of both Christian and Jewish orthodoxies, national governments and rigid scientific materialism.

The accompanying resurgence of occultism deeply shared this aim, but it hampered itself with its anti-Christian severance from tradition. The extremely influential Inklings sought to repair this breach by venturing outside and beyond the Classical world into Norse and Celtic myth etc. and finding the prisca theologia, the “archetypal antecedents,” even here. 


In short, St. Augustine condemns paganism because its adherents worship malign demons which they take to be the gods and goddesses of Greek and Roman mythology (and that of other countries.)

He is especially against the pageants of the theatres where the transgressions of the gods are reenacted to the delight of the people and apparently to that of the gods themselves. Augustine abhors the “abominations” that he has seen on stage (and used to cheer on himself.)

Augustine examines the threefold division of theology presented by Marcus Terentius Varro: the “fabulous” or mythical theology of the theatres, invented or transcribed by the poets; the civil theology of the temples, presided over by the priests; and the physical or natural theology of the philosophers.

Augustine believed that the first is shameful and should be outlawed, but the second is nearly as bad or worse because the rites of the temple repeat, justify and sanctify the first. Both are ineffective to help one achieve eternal or even worldly good.

The third type, the natural theology of the philosophers, Augustine finds to be most acceptable and closest to his own (Catholic) attitude. He examines if this third type can help to win eternal life.

Of the philosophers, Augustine affirms that Plato and the Platonists “approach nearest to us” because they conclude that the one God is the drafter of the first principles of nature and all within it (metaphysics), that He is the light by which the doctrine of truth is revealed and everything is made known (epistemology), and that He is the Good by which things are accomplished and happiness in life is achieved (ethics).

But beyond merely the Platonists, Augustine confesses that Pythagoras and the Pythagoreans have also held these true positions and, astoundingly, he similarly accepts the wise people and philosophers among all nations and lists “Atlantics [from Atlantis??], Libyans, Egyptians, Indians, Persians, Chaldeans, Scythians, Gauls, Spaniards, or other nations.”

Whatever philosophers, therefore, thought concerning the supreme God, that He is both the maker of all created things, the light by which things are known, and the good in reference to which things are to be done; that we have in Him the first principle of nature, the truth of doctrine, and the happiness of life,—whether these philosophers may be more suitably called Platonists, or whether they may give some other name to their sect; whether, we say, that only the chief men of the Ionic school, such as Plato himself, and they who have well understood him, have thought thus; or whether we also include the Italic school, on account of Pythagoras and the Pythagoreans, and all who may have held like opinions; and, lastly, whether also we include all who have been held wise men and philosophers among all nations who are discovered to have seen and taught this, be they Atlantics, Libyans, Egyptians, Indians, Persians, Chaldeans, Scythians, Gauls, Spaniards, or of other nations,—we prefer these to all other philosophers, and confess that they approach nearest to us.

Saint Augustine, The City of God, Book VIII, 9, p.253-4

Augustine then goes on to say that the reason why such diverse sages have all nearly discovered the authentic path is best discovered in scripture. He quotes Romans 1:19-20:

Because that which is known of God is manifest among them, for God has manifested it to them. For His invisible things from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things which are made, also His eternal power and Godhead.

Romans 1:19-20, quoted in Saint Augustine, The City of God, Book VIII, 10, p.254

This is essentially an affirmation of the perennial philosophy, of timeless theosophythe ultimate heart of all traditions on Earth.

In Him we live, and move, and have our being . . . as certain also of your own have said.

Acts 17:28, from Saint Augustine, The City of God, Book VIII, 10, p.254

What then sets Platonism, or the wider traditions, apart from Christianity? Many of these traditions were earlier than Christ of course so naturally they could not worship Jesus as Christ, but they do seem to prepare the way for His coming mission. Yet they go astray according to Augustine, even the illustrious Plato himself, because they allow for the worship of both the gods and daemons or demons. 

Augustine does largely accept the Platonic categorization of these latter beings. Gods are rational animals (animated) with immortal lives and “impassible” (non-passionate) souls. Demons are rational, immortal yet passible (passionate or changeable), and men are rational, mortal and passible. Demons were taken by the Platonists as being the intermediaries between men and the gods. This last item is the sticking point for Augustine.

For him, demons are wholly malign (while the gods, understood in the proper theological sense, are in fact the benign angels), so it would not be possible for them to act as intermediaries as such. But here is the rub. As there are good and bad (because passionate) men, could there not be good and bad (because passionate) demons? Augustine’s entire distinct Christian theology seems to hinge on this point.

Augustine feels that the crucial flaw in Platonism is that it allows for the worship of and sacrifice to gods and demons when it is fully aware that the highest principle is the One, but at the same time it rejects the reality that this principle is solely manifested on Earth with the Incarnation of Christ.

Augustine does not accept theurgy, a type of “divine” magic advocated by particular Neoplatonists, because it seeks boons and wisdom from entities lesser than God. The good gods (or angels) in Augustine’s reckoning would decline any worship of themselves because they would feel that all praise must be given to God alone, and the bad gods (demons) are unfit to receive either worship or sacrifice in the first place.

The main reason Augustine understands all demons as being intrinsically evil is because they have a passionate soul (therefore they suffer emotionally like men) and yet as they are immortal they cannot change their conditions as men can with death, so they are eternally trapped by their own passions. There is no chance for them to rise above their fallen state and as such they are likely to be envious, spiteful, deceptive and ultimately evil. They are clearly unworthy mediators between men and the gods.

Christ is the only possible mediator as He is mortal like men, yet He is able to overcome death and is blessed even more than the angels, being the Son of God. Therefore, given the Gospel, theurgy is useless at best and demonic idolatry at worst. It is intrinsically an advanced tool of the Devil’s deception.

Yet this still does not seem to rule out the possibility of wise daemons, which are surely those that the Platonists thought would be mediators. Just as a man could become wise in seeking the One, why not the daemons? Their immortal lifespan would only increase their wisdom. 

There is certainly a high probability that many demons would feel trapped in their position and go wrong, but it is reasonable to conclude that others would make gaining wisdom their highest priority. And if so, why not whole cultures of these good demons?

The fairies and elves and other such liminal creatures, explored at length by G.K. Chesterton, Tolkien, Lewis etc., and sang about in mythologies and folktales across the globe and throughout history, are an example of a class of potentially good demons/daemons.

Augustine decries the fact that in Greek and Roman paganism, demons and gods/angels are worshiped when only God, the One, is deserving of worship. But even Augustine acknowledges that within the Roman Catholic Church, the saints receive prayers and reverence which are hard to distinguish from worship. It seems, as is only natural, that there are degrees to reverence, worship and sacrifice.

Augustine also appears to manipulate scripture to his own advantage. In the Bible verse quoted above, the saint omits the word “poets” to apparently better make his case: “In Him we live, and move and have our being, as certain of your poets have said” (Acts 17:28). As Augustine argued that the poets were singularly damned for praising the gods, he seems loath to admit that the Bible recognizes their wisdom.

In Ephesians 6:12 we read the following: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

To my knowledge, Augustine does not comment on this verse (at least in The City of God), but it is necessary to understand what is meant by powers, principalities and rulers in high places. These cannot be demons, as the verse refers to beings that dwell beyond the the lunar sphere, whereas demons are by station confined to the sublunar and aerial spheres and below. 

Not possibly demons, these entities dwelling in high places can only be orders of angels! And in fact, in later Catholic theology in succession from Pseudo-Dionysius the Aeropagite, two of the higher angelic orders in the celestial hierarchy are explicitly called Principalities and Powers. What is going on here? 

It appears that this verse reveals a very close affinity to most sects of Gnosticism, in which the angels of the cosmic spheres were thought of as being oppressive Archons who actively hinder the soul’s attempted flight to the One. If the demons have a possibly ambivalent role, is it likewise possible that the angels may not be exclusively or by necessity “good” either? A sobering thought.

However, as we have seen, Neoplatonism, following from Plato in the Timaeus and elsewhere, came to accept the world, the Demiurge and his Archons, as being ultimately good, as being lesser emanations or representations of the One itself. Creation is revealed or experienced as being emanatory and this idea is thoroughly reconcilable with the general Platonic view of daemons. 

According to this understanding, a movement upward through the spheres to the One is a movement through subtler and subtler forms of matter, or less and less dense forms of spirit. 

Each “layer” or emanation thus provides a link or transition to those above and below it. Gnostic and Neoplatonic thinkers tended to excessively inflate these emanatory layers, but the reasoning behind this inflation is very similaran ontological “jump” between layers is too far without intermediary stepping stones. 

Hence, our earthly bodies require the mediation of the aerial bodies of the daemons in order to reach the ever more aetherial “bodies” of the angels/gods. All are indispensable links of the Golden Chain. And each of these links can appear to either harm or help the ascending or descending soul.

Augustine, as a Christian, understandably sees Christ as the only needed intermediary between Matter and Spirit, and from this angle he overplays the harmful aspect of the aerial demons while downplaying the potential hindering aspects of angels (or what pagan considered to be gods).

But all this changes if the Incarnation is accepted, like the imagination and like perception, as being entirely diffuse throughout the world, as a decentralized centre present in all things. 

There is then less a movement from matter and the flesh to pure spirit, then an epistemological shift from seeing ourselves as being wholly separate from God and the rest of creation (what contemporary analytical idealist philosopher, Bernarno Kastrup, suitably calls “dissociation”) to the awareness of our actual and eternal union with the mind of the One, Plotinus’ henosis.

In our own era, and unlike Augustine’s time, a very reductive materialism reigns supreme—to the point where this paradigm tints and taints the day-to-day experience of hundreds of millions of individualseach convinced that his or her own consciousness is walled off in the skull, forever separated from other human consciousnesses let alone any minds extra-human (itself an even more ridiculed and verboten notion). 

During such a time, theurgy has almost revolutionary implications against the materialist order. This is an order ruled over by its own fallen iteration of the Powers and Principalities and their priesthood of the scientific dictatorship. These rulers are wholly bent to contain all souls, like they themselves are contained, below the sphere of the Moon.

Theurgy, in this revolutionary sense, is a step towards Owen Barfield’s “final participation,” at once a venture towards full epistemological and ontological liberation and a move fraught with intense and terrifying danger. 

Counterfeits and simulacra abound, alongside false revivals, counter-initiations, strange fire, antichrists and imposters. Once the spell, or counter-spell, of materialism is fully shattered then all the gods will return. Signs and wonders, old men seeing visions, young men dreaming dreams, the Day of the Lord cometh. 

The surety of death being the Big Sleep evaporates like the puff of smoke that it is, and the primal nightmares of the underworld begin once again to bleed into our own. 

In René Guénon’s term there is “a breach in the wall,” and according to the psychedelic Apocalypse of Patmos, our guide for the times, the Great Deceiver will be permitted to rule “for a little while.” More than ever, a living image of the unfixed centre is needed.

At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement.
And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.

 T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets, “Burnt Norton,” p.15-6