Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Word is a Bird: Forging our Feathers from Poetry

Back to Whitehead tomorrow. Today we'll wrap up The Star, part of our premeditated ascent on Meditations on the Tarot.

The next major theme discussed by unKnown Friend is poetry. As he puts it, "One cannot pass by poetry if one attaches value to tradition. The whole Bible breathes poetry -- epic, lyric and dramatic..."

Now, poetry is one of those quintessentially human modes that frustrates the reductionistic instincts of scientistic barbarians. To try to contain poetry within materialism is to kill it, for poetry is to language as life is to matter or mind is to life. A "scientistic poet" is a contradiction in terms, for poetry involves the use of something lower in order to express something higher. Poetry highjacks words and then uses them as the vehicle for a climb.

I happen to be reading a lightful little book called Riverrun to Livvy: Lots of Fun Reading the First Page Finnegans Wake (heretofore FW), which has a lot of material related to the mystical and translinguistic properties of language.

In FW, Joyce endeavored to exploit these properties, but only for all they're worth. Indeed, FW is intended to be nothing less than "a working model of the universe," something that is only possible and perhaps even sane because the universe is composed of language (in the sense discussed in yesterday's post).

As wonderful as language is, it can also become diseased, pathological, enfeebled, dead. Consider Marxist or Nazi rhetoric, which are only extreme cases.

But there are also subtle ways in which our minds become hostage to noughty words that really only shoot blanks. This undoubtedly contributed to Joyce's effort to escape the limits of language via his "Wakese." For just as poetry deploys language to express what cannot be said with words, Joyce left conventional language behind in order to express what only words can say.

However, Joyce was only doing "at an accelerated rate what the English language has been doing for centuries" (Cliett), which is to say, stealing, incorporating, morphing, poaching and playgiarizing with other tongues. Cliett notes that English has "accumulated three times the number of words of the next closest language." But Joyce still needed more. As. Do. I. After all, if the existing words were sufficient, we wouldn't be here.

Far from being some sort of superfluous or stupid human trick, poetry is essential to understanding the world. Only dumb-as-a-post modern prejudice tries to convince us otherwise, for poetry "gives wings to imagination, and without winged imagination... no [spiritual] progress is possible" (MOTT).

But this cannot be the undisciplined imagination that seeks only egoic (at best!) self-indulgence and self-aggrandizement -- you know, all those lousy little poets tryin' to sound like Charlie Manson -- but "an imagination that loves truth" and is in conformity with the hyperdimensional Real.

This is why poetry "is not simply a matter of taste, but rather one of fertility (or sterility) of the spirit. Without a poetic vein there can be no access to the life of the Hermetic [i.e., esoteric] tradition" (ibid.).

Poetry defies the law of gravity, and represents "the union of the upper waters and the lower waters on the second day of creation." The poet operates at "the point at which the separated waters meet" and converge, which facilitates a "flow" between realms. Surrealism meets at the other end -- where the lower waters of the unconscious meet with the ego to produce mostly nightmares.

Being that nothing human should be alien to us, surrealism (which is really subrealism) has its place, but real overmental poetry is like a window on the world from which it descends. It has light, power, and truth, because it is written with a combination of "warm human blood" and the "luminous blood of heaven." Such poetry casts a bright bloodlight over the mindscape to reveal things that would otherwise glow ungnosissed.

It it interesting to me that two of my favorite 20th century 〇lymen, Frithjof Schuon and Sri Aurobindo, relied solely on poetry in their later years, abandoning prose altogether. As Aurobindo wrote, "the poet's eyes perpetually go behind the thing visible to the thing essential, so that the symbol and significance are always in a state of interfusion."

In other words, poetry directly transmits something of which it is attempting to describe with words. To get lost in the words can obscure that to which they are pointing, which infuses their very substance. One has to let oneself go and allow the words to lift one up to the realm from which they are a descent.

Poetry transforms language from the closed circle to the open spiral. Note that deconstruction does this as well, but in that case, it is a death spiral that goes straight down into the infrahuman muck of the tenured. It is a result of the naturally supernatural desire of the soul to break free of language, but in the absence of recognition of the Divine hierarchy. Therefore, it is like the exchange of one hell for a worse one, for anyhell involves a closed system from which one cannot escape. The security just becomes tighter the lower one goes from the Logos.

Truly, we can forge our fetters out of language, which results in the flightless turkey of radical secularism. Conversely, we may forge our feathers word by Word to achieve a kind of verbical liftoff.

Of course, some thinkers take the contradictory position, and maintain that the bird is the word:


julie said...

Doh! Just seeing the title is enough for the earworm to implant. Any poetry I might have tried to grasp has just flown out the window. However the boy is dancing, and now he, too, knows about the word, so that's something...

Rick said...

"poetry gives wings to imagination, and without winged imagination... no [spiritual] progress is possible"

How did I miss that. Although the MOTT is chock full-O that level of quality.

julie said...

Re. the Riverrun, I like the observation that "if the tempo of a sentence is misunderstood, the sentence itself is misunderstood." So true, and also what makes it difficult to listen to some people read aloud. It's clear when someone doesn't grasp the way words string together to create meaning, and painful to hear someone hammering out word after word with no inflection, or the wrong inflection, oblivious to the content coming out of their mouths.

julie said...

And speaking of awful inflection, I give you The King that Never Was: the most epically awful video of 2011 (see the rest here", if you dare...

John Lien said...

You suggesting that these lofty concepts are easier to bag with a thoughtgun approach over a single bullet-point theory?

John Lien said...

@julie. Watchoo talkin bout? That was pure mythic melodious mayhem!

mushroom said...

...if the tempo of a sentence is misunderstood, the sentence itself is misunderstood.

A good little book to read when you have read everything else is W.B. Yeats' Ideas of Good and Evil. I know somewhere in there he has a closer parallel. But this might do:

Modern acting and recitation have taught us to fix our attention on the gross effects till we have come to think gesture and the intonation that copies the accidental surface of life more important than the rhythm; and yet we understand theoretically that it is precisely this rhythm that separates good writing from bad, that is the glimmer, the fragrance, the spirit of all intense literature.

mushroom said...

Back to the post. One of the reasons I know poetry is central to life is because it is generally either neglected or perverted.

Van said...

OT: Mushroom, in answer to the question you asked me (I can't find your email in my online hotmail), yes, but I can't really say until after tonight.

Van said...

" Far from being some sort of superfluous or stupid human trick, poetry is essential to understanding the world. Only dumb-as-a-post modern prejudice tries to convince us otherwise, for poetry "gives wings to imagination, and without winged imagination... no [spiritual] progress is possible" (MOTT)."


Van said...

... And I would say that no real understanding of 'real world' matters is possible either, without the poetic.

Sure, you can collect enough words, and link them by their database id's, to get a diploma... But thats only a shallow mockery of understanding.

mushroom said...

I understand. It will be interesting.

ge said...

Young Christopher would have rather read a book. He was a "a mere weed and weakling and kick-bag" who discovered that "words could function as weapons" and so stockpiled them.
-NY Post
alas, no more wielding of words for the Hitch...he coulda been a poet