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Monkey Junk”— Zora Neale Hurston’s Experiment in Oragean Modernism

Sophia Wellbeloved and Jon Woodson

Monkey Junk”— Zora Neale Hurston’s Experiment in Oragean Modernism   

Abstract

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A.R. Orage’s literary celebrity attracted a large following among the New York intellectuals of the 1920s including the Harlem Renaissance. He gave creative writing workshops and lectured on Gurdjieff’s esotericism, gradually forming his own version—Oragean Modernism. According to Gurdjieff, objective art is the only art that has value, and Zora Neale Hurston and other Harlem writers were engaged in the quest for objective art. Orage’s writing groups performed the contradictory functions of disseminating Gurdjieff’s ideas into society with the hope of raising the number of people belonging to the circle of conscious humanity, while at the same time preserving the teachings by placing them in a coded form in widely distributed popular texts. Hurston’s story, F was an attempt both to spread the Gurdjieffian teaching through objective art and to make sure that esoteric ideas would survive the collapse of the present form of civilization. In this story Hurston’s concerns are complex, being synthesized from anthropological research, the Bible, Orage’s teachings, and the literary model of Gurdjieff’s Tales.

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1. Oragean Modernism

      Alfred Richard Orage, (1873 – 1934) began his professional life as a charismatic intellectual school teacher who lectured and wrote variously on Plato, Nietzsche, Theosophy, and psychoanalysis. His political interests included Fabian Socialism and monetary reform. He co-founded the Leeds Art Club, which became a center for modernist culture in pre-World War I England (Webb 200). Orage’s interests and concerns included personal and political well-being, eventually extending to a concern for cosmological and planetary well-being that would profoundly influence his pupils in New York. In 1916 he moved to London, where he edited the influential literary weekly The New Age, publishing G. K. Chesterton, H. G. Wells, Bernard Shaw, Katherine Mansfield, and others including Ezra Pound with whom he wrote several issues of The New Age. During that phase of his life, he was considered by T. S. Eliot “the finest critical intelligence of our age” (Taylor 16).  However, in October 1922, having heard the Greek-Armenian guru George Ivanovich Gurdjieff give a talk in London, Orage left The New Age and England to work with Gurdjieff at his “Institute For the Harmonious Development of Man” in France.

    Gurdjieff (1886?-1949) offered a teaching that was a blend of Theosophy, a variety of predominantly Western esoteric sources, and hypnotism and other therapeutic practices. He used a methodology composed of practical work on the self and sacred dancing, along with alchemical, psychological, and cosmological theory, to “wake up” and develop human beings whom he defined as sleeping, hypnotized machines with no central “I” or soul. Orage remained a practitioner and assiduous disseminator of Gurdjieff’s teaching, known as the Work (and in America also as the Method), for the next ten years.

    When Orage arrived in New York in December 1923, fourteen months after leaving England for the Institute, he set about raising funds and arousing interest in the teaching. Gurdjieff himself arrived a month later in January 1924 for a highly publicized visit, during which he gave talks and demonstrations of his sacred dances in New York, Boston and Chicago. Orage’s literary celebrity attracted a large following among the New York intellectuals of the 1920s. He gave creative writing workshops, and lectured on Gurdjieff’s teaching, gradually emphasizing and moderating elements of the teaching to form his own version of it that differed from the Work as taught by Gurdjieff in Europe.  Orage’s modernism was imbued by Gurdjieff’s esotericism, and both elements were embraced by his pupils.

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2. Esotericism — the Tales and Objective Works of Art

    Beginning in 1925, Orage became the principal editor of the first volume of Gurdjieff’s three volume work known as Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson (Tales) [1], and his continuing process of editing and interpreting the chapters as they arrived from France over the next four years was shared with his American pupils (Driscoll 3) and also with other pupils in France. The book became central to Orage’s teaching, especially of his Gurdjieff study groups, such as the Harlem group, led by Orage with the assistance of  poet and novelist Jean Toomer and psychologist and mystery-writer C. Daly King.

    The epic narrative of the Tales takes place during a voyage on a spaceship. Beelzebub tells his grandson of his own exile to our solar system, the creation of Earth, the multiple Gnostic Falls, the failures of men and their worsening state, the only remedy for which is remembrance of death.

Gurdjieff meant his reader or listener, the text was often read aloud, to be confused by the complex sentence structure of the Tales,by its many anomalies, contradictions, inconsistencies, and by the acknowledged deceptions within the narrative (See Wellbeloved 2002, 77-83). Gurdjieff warned his reader that he was unique in respect to “muddling and befuddling, the notions and convictions of everyone he comes into contact with” (Tales 26). Published posthumously in 1949, the book has 1238 pages, all of which he had intentionally made difficult to understand.  The text includes his reading instructions, but these are in themselves contradictory and so are impossible to follow. Gurdjieff said he had “buried” a secret that readers should search for, and gives an apparent clue as to how the secret was buried. He describes how a questioning attention can be drawn to decode a secret message by what he terms a “lawful inexactitude.” The secret is pointed to by placing something “out of place” or in the wrong scale, for example an otherwise perfectly proportioned sculpture might have hands that are far too big (Tales 461). The law in question in “lawful inexactitude” is the Law of Seven, a series of descending vibrations that represents the inevitably destructive nature of time (Webb 503; 40; 141-42). This has led his many readers to search through multiple readings for the one “lawful inexactitude” that might reveal Gurdjieff’s secret. Orage himself was convinced there was a specific secret that Gurdjieff was withholding from him, and the members of his groups also engaged in this search.

    The Harlem writers, along with the other pupils, believed the Tales to be an objective work of art.  According to Gurdjieff, objective art is the only form of art that has value. Its meaning cannot be mistaken, whereas subjective art made by “mechanical man” can be misunderstood. However, to understand objective art a person must have “at least flashes of objective consciousness” (Ouspensky  298; also see Wellbeloved 11). So, searching alone is not the way to find objective meaning in an objective work of art; this can only be found by raising the level of consciousness, becoming “an initiate of art.”  

    While the demand to make or write an objective work of art may have inhibited readers and writers immediately within Gurdjieff’s influence, this was clearly not the case with Orage’s group of writers who were intent on writing their own objective works of art (Woodson 9-10). They also related his teaching to Objective Drama as expounded by Orage together with Gurdjieff’s teaching on the necessity to play roles (Webb 537-41). Orage emphasized the central place of esotericists in the world especially in relation to evolution. The evolution or self-perfecting of individuals was said to be necessary also for the safe evolution of the planet. If there were not a sufficient number of evolved people within a certain time frame, the planet could be destroyed. Ideas of specially evolved members of a “conscious circle of humanity” were in accord with contemporary notions that extended Darwinian evolution to describe a Nietzschean evolution of man into a super-race. Gurdjieff’s teaching echoed that of Blavatsky’s specially evolved “Masters.” Orage’s writing groups performed the contradictory functions of disseminating Gurdjieff’s ideas into society with the hope of raising the number of people belonging to the circle of conscious humanity, while at the same time preserving the teachings by placing them in a coded form in widely distributed popular texts.   

    Thus Zora Neale Hurston’s short story, “Monkey Junk: A Satire on Modern Divorce,” was one of those attempts both to spread the Gurdjieffian teaching and to make sure that the ideas would survive the collapse of the present form of civilization. In order to serve in this capacity, the story sets out to entertain the reader, while also containing a highly concentrated hidden content. “Monkey Junk” entertains by performing a satirical treatment of the flapper phenomenon under the guise of being a satire on marriage, the flapper and marriage themes being treated through a comic parody of the Bible. The story exhibits little concern with marriage or divorce, and the depiction of the wife through French garters (verse 29) and silk stockings (verse 45) establishes that the wife was a flapper; the wife’s casual treatment of sex (verses 13, 14, 33, 39) also establishes her identity as a flapper. Dorothy Parker’s satirical depiction of the flapper in her poem “The Flapper” (published in Lifein 1922) parallels the wife’s treatment of the husband in “Monkey Junk”: the poem’s concluding couplet states “Her golden rule is plain enough / Just get them young and treat them rough” (Parker 113-14). Parker’s use of the Bible barely registers, though her reference to the golden rule relates to a specific verse, Matthew 7:12,

Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets” (KJV). Hurston’s story is written in a parody of Biblical verses, and she refers to Matthew 7:12 directly in the first verse as “he knew all the law and the prophets” and in verse 14 with the mockery of “he that is so wise and knoweth all the law and the profits.” The passage occurs a third time in verse 25 of Hurston’s story:

25.“Thou art very dumb for nowthat I, thy husband, knoweth that thou art a flirt, making glad the heart of back-biters, I shall support thee no more—for verily know I ALL the law and the profits thereof.” (Emphasis added)

Not only must the reader conclude that Hurston has intentionally emphasized Matthew 7:12, but that when the word “now” appears instead of “know” that this also is intentional. Hurston has engaged the phonetic level of language, and prophet/profitand know/nowactively point to this altered interpretive convention.

While directly humorous treatments of the Bible were rare in the 1920s, we may see Hurston’s treatment of religion as being in step with the writings of Sinclair Lewis and H.L. Menken: Menken’s “nihilistic criticism of American culture—literature, politics and religionmade him among the most hated and admired men in America” (emphasis added; Cheatham “Provincial America in the 1920s”). Hurston’s blasphemy is moderated, because she has cast the language of the Bible into the black sociolect of the 1920s. Blind Willie McTell’s ragtime lyric “A Married Man’s a Fool” incorporates a similar parody of the Bible, though unlike the text of “Monkey Junk” it lacks a frame [2]. Hurston’s derisory treatment of the Bible is further made complex by the fact that she placed her story in a black newspaper, The Pittsburgh Courier,tacitly the national news organ for the black Americans of that era. The implication of the folk-parody approach is that the popular understanding and practice of the Christian religion is itself a parody of a more authentic version of the religion.

Hurston includes direct and indirect references to the Bible, which she knew would have been recognized by her readers. At the same time her exploitation of the Bible’s familiarity worked against the expectations of her readers, since Hurston’s use of these references is consistently ironic. Among others we find:

Then did he make a joyful noise saying, “Behold, I have chosen a wife, yea verily a maiden Ihave exalted above all others, for see I have wed her.” (“Monkey Junk” verse 5; emphases added)

A joyful noise” is made by the Psalmist in Psalms 95:1 and 98:4; while the maiden with the attribute of “exalted above all others” is referred to within Catholicism as Mary Mother of God.

And he gave praises loudly unto the Lord saying, “I thank thee that I am not as other men.”

refers to Luke 18:11:

The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as

other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.

In Matthew 13:45-46 the Kingdom of heaven is like a pearl of great price, for which a rich merchant sells all he has; in Hurston’s verse 13 the pearl refers to a woman who sells herself.   

    Then did his pearl of great price form the acquaintance of many men and they prospered her.

    It is difficult to assess the practical application of the Harlem group to the whole of Gurdjieff’s teaching, but in relation to their own writings all of them employed “inexactitudes,” in order to draw attention to Gurdjieff’s book and his teaching. Whereas Gurdjieff gives the visual example of a dis-proportioned sculpture in the Tales (Gurdjieff 1950 477), the participating writers of the Harlem group, Zora Neale Hurston, George Schuyler, Nella Larsen, Gwendolyn Bennett, Eric Walrond, Richard Bruce Nugent, Rudolph Fisher, Wallace Thurman, and Melvin B. Tolson began to look for ways to include unexpected insertions, absurdities, or apparent errors that might point to concealed texts within their texts that would lead readers to Gurdjieff’s book and to his teaching. Thus the Harlem group, believing that they had little time to save the world from destruction, operated at a high level of anxiety. The eschatological fixations of the Oragean Modernists drove them to create a considerable body of published writing in a very short time [3].

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3. Gurdjieff and Literature

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    Gurdjieff spent much time writing in Parisian cafés and so was not isolated from the cultural milieu of 1920s and 1930s Paris, a center for European esotericists and American writers. The conflation of these two groups can be seen in modernist interest in the occult, esotericism, and myth. Gurdjieff’s institute attracted many literary figures, and Gurdjieff himself collected an influential group of writers willing to translate and to edit his writings. Although Gurdjieff insists that the Talesis not a literary work, he was aware of modernist literary interest in myth, esotericism, and the desire for immaterial values that pervaded the inter-war years.

    Prominent literary pupils of Gurdjieff are well known in the Work, via the lists of participants in books by Louise Welch, James Webb, and Paul Beekman Taylor. For example, in the 1910s and 1920s, The Little Review—published in Greenwich Village from 1917 to 1929—was the most influential literary magazine in the world. It was the first to publish a chapter of James Joyce’s Ulysses, for which the editors, Jane Heap and Margaret Anderson were tried for obscenity. The editors became followers of Gurdjieff in 1924 after meeting him in New York and spending the summer at his Institute in France (Webb 276-285). Despite the centrality of Oragean Modernism to the creation and dissemination of modernist culture, the Gurdjieffian project is maligned and castigated when it is noticed, as in this discussion by Kristin M. Mabel Bloomberg:

Another notorious guru was the Russian mystic and dancemaster George Ivanovitch

Gurdjieff who turned from the idealistic tenets of Theosophy to a philosophy

of “barbarism and primitivism” (170) that highlighted the ideology of man as

the noble savage and encouraged its students to become conscious of their

true selves and to cease being human machines. For Gurdjieff, this practice

could not be a pleasant one, and the process was “enhanced” with an emphasis

on stress, pain, tension, and conflict. Gurdjieff ’s philosophy is one that is

linked explicitly by Peter Washington in Madame Blavatsky’s Baboon to the

Left Bank lesbian expatriate circle that included Jane Heap, Margaret Anderson,

Djuna Barnes, and Janet Flanner (288). Gurdjieff ’s ideals also surface in

Harlem, with Thadious Davis linking a study group led by Gurdjieff disciple

Jean Toomer to writers including Nella Larsen. (24-5)

4. Hurston’s Esoteric Content

Zora Neale Hurston was a prominent figure in the Harlem Renaissance, and studies of the movement describe her as a participant in Jean Toomer’s Gurdjieff groups (see Woodson 147-70). In the 1920s Hurston was in New York studying anthropology with Franz Boas at Columbia University, and during that period she came into contact with such important white cultural figures as Carl Van Vechten, Fannie Hurst, C. Daly King, her patron Charlotte Osgood Mason, and A.R. Orage who presided over the New York Gurdjieff groups. Orage organized writing seminars that attracted many important writers, and for many members of the Harlem group of writers the Harlem Renaissance was a subset of this wider, esoteric literary movement. Orage’s influence on these groups of writers has been acknowledged by writers on esotericism but not by mainstream scholars of literature. Academic adherents of American Studies routinely frames Oragean Modernists figures as nationalists, so that the esoteric content of the works produced by these figures has not previously been realized. It is not only Hurston who has been evaluated without reference to these fundamental components. Such writers as Djuna Barnes, Dawn Powell, C. Daly King, Carl Van Vechten, and James Agee have introduced into their writings the same esoteric elements (phonetic codes, roman a clef of esotericists, intentional mistakes, and esoteric vocabulary) as Hurston used in her texts. Hurston’s participation in the Harlem Renaissance and her affiliation with Toomer, Orage, C. Daly King, and Van Vechten turned her to esoteric influences that are evident in her writings once they are read with attention to this aspect. The esoteric content within Zora Neal Hurston’s writings is consistent from “Monkey Junk” (1927) to her incomplete novel, “Herod,” (snatched from a fire after her death in 1964). It is only through the well-documented disinterest of literary scholars in occultism [4] that there are such consistent misreadings of Hurston. Hurston’s texts make it clear that their many anomalies are signs of a coded, esoteric level. Hurston’s critics have detected this esoteric level but have explained it away by portraying Hurston as an eccentric. For example, on her Mules and Menwebsite Laura Grand-Jean states that “More than anything Zora Neale Hurston was the worlds greatest liar and her own duplicity explains why for so long she was lost to us”  (Grand-Jean “Introduction”).

It is likely that Hurston absorbed the system of esoteric literary coding from her close associate Carl Van Vechten. Van Vechten, a best-selling novelist in the 1920s, is acknowledged to have been vital to the publishing of Harlem Renaissance texts, and he befriended the Harlem writers. Moreover, there is a direct literary influence from Van Vechten on Nella Larsen who stated that Van Vechten’s novel, Nigger Heaven (1926)was one of the big influences on Harlem and its artistic life (Davis 212). Moreover, Thadious Davis states that when Larsen was writing her first novel, Quicksand (1928), she ceased writing, read Nigger Heaven, and then after destroying a good half of what was completed, returned to work on her novel keeping Nigger Heaven as a stylistic model (Davis 212). This account does not specify what is meant by matters of style. Since literary scholars do not recognize that Van Vechten was himself a follower of Gurdjieff or that Nigger Heavenis an esoteric text, their assessment of its influence on Larsen (and on Hurston) is incomplete [5]. The code used by Van Vechten and the other writers in the Gurdjieff camp was the phonetic cabala, the traditional code used by the writers of alchemical texts since the fourteenth century. (Research on the use of codes in Oragean Modernism is at a preliminary stage, and more papers will follow.) At about the same time as Van Vechten began to write his novels in the cabala, Fulcanelli’s Le Mystère des Cathédrales(1926) was published making the delineation of the alchemical code available to a wide audience. But as Van Vechten moved in Parisian artistic circles, he and his American associates may have had access to early copies of the Fulcanelli [6] book or even direct access to Fulcanelli.

5. Hurston, C. Daly King, and Van Vechten

Hurston’s reverence for Carl Van Vechten has long been remarked. They met when she was working as a secretary for the writer Fannie Hurst. They liked each other instantly and shared a close friendship thereafter [7]. But this association has dismayed Hurston’s scholars and has not stimulated them to make a close exploration of the literary consequences of their friendship: Van Vechten is seldom dealt with by scholars of the Harlem Renaissance writers and only insofar as his novel, Nigger Heaven, is found by them to be inescapable. Major treatments of the Harlem Renaissance (Amritjit Singh, Theodore Francis) make no mention of Van Vechten’s other novels, though Thadious Davis’s biography of Nella Larsen establishes that Larsen read Van Vechten’s Peter Wiffle(1922) and that by 1929 he was one of her favorite authors (Davis 165). Yet, Van Vechten was a prolific best-selling novelist, and his novels were the models for some of the Harlem Renaissance writers. More to the point, some of Van Vechten’s novels concern themselves with esoteric material, and Firecrackers(1925) is a thinly veiled presentation of A.R Orage’s organizing of the New York branch of G. I. Gurdjieff’s “Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man.” Beneath the roman a clef, Van Vechten’s Firecrackersis more deeply coded using the cabala cipher.

In Firecrackers, Van Vecthen’s fourth novel, a character clearly based on Muriel Draper organizes Pinchon’s Prophylactic Plan, a school of self-development based on Ouspensky, Arthur E. Waite, Gurdjieff, Jaques-Dalcroze, and Einstein (175), so that Van Vechten cannot actually be said to have removed his fictional school very far from the actualities of Orage’s school. The list in the novel presents only Jaques-Dalcroze and Einstein as red herrings—though the former was, like Gurdjieff, a teacher of therapeutic dance and there is a great deal about science in the Tales. Van Vechten’s character, Miss Pinchon, the organizer of the fictional school, was based on New York saloniste and interior decorator Muriel Draper. Draper was a close associate of both Van Vechten and Orage. In fact, Draper was responsible for the running of the New York branch of Gurdjieff’s Institute, thus allowing A. R. Orage the freedom to organize an extensive movement that maintained an influential literary component [8].

    C. Daly King is another important influence on Hurston who has not been taken into account by Hurston scholars: he studied at Columbia University during the period of Hurston’s anthropology studies at that school. King wrote the “Obelist” series of detective novels, novels that are esoteric, written in code, and contain characters based on Jean Toomer and other Gurdjieffians; the word “obelist” is a variant of obelisk, a character used in ancient manuscripts to indicate spurious passages, so that the very titles of King’s novels declare their duplicity. It is of central importance that King compiled Orage’s teachings into The Oragean Version (unpublished, 1951), a widely circulated volume which contains the essential esoteric doctrines on which Hurston based her fictions.

6. “Monkey Junk; A Satire on Modern Divorce”   

Monkey Junk” is contained in faux-Biblical verses numbered from 1 – 62, but the alert reader encounters a number of anomalies, or what we are calling “lawful inexactitudes.” The first evidence of “lawful inexactitude” is Hurston’s question-provoking use of a title apparently unrelated to her story about a rich man who, imagining that he understands women, marries a wife who only wants his money, for it is not apparent that the words monkey junkconnote anything about divorce. When the husband doesn’t give his wife enough money, she turns to other men, and he is scorned for being a cuckold. The central action of the story is a trial in which due to her sex appeal and tears she is unjustly granted alimony. Her husband threatens her with violence, but she is scornful, and he returns to Alabama to pick cotton.

The titleMonkey Junk” reflects Hurston’s dependenceon self-educated, nineteenth century  Egyptologist Gerald Massey. In Massey’s Ancient Egypt, the light of the world, on page 889 he has a footnote that reads “The Ankh-key of life.” This corresponds phonetically to “monkey” in the title of Hurston’s story, and it gives the meaning of Hurston’s strange construction. Massey explains the word Ank as meaning “the living one,” in A Book of The Beginnings(209), and he connects the title of “the god Tum in Pithom as being the Ankh, the living; he being the sun of the resurrection; written in Egyptian … as P-ankh, Punk, or Punch.” Massey goes on:

 Punch and Nuk have their correlatives in Hunch, Bunch, and Junk. Punch means the short, fat, pudgy, thick-set fellow, whence the puncheon. So in the Xhosa and Zulu Kaffir dialects a short thickset pudge of a person is called isi-Tupana from tupa, the thumb. The “hunch” of bread is a thick lump; the junkis also a short thick lump (Massey 2007, 209; emphases added).

    Massey connects the English language to the Egyptian language in a manner that is original to Massey [9], so that it is clear that Massey is Hurston’s source for these inclusions.  It is also clear that Hurston has followed Massey’s disclosures, for the story emphasizes words that Massey has interpolated from “ankh” (“Monkey” [onk]) into the English words “hunk” (verses 20, 61) and “junk” (title).Furthermore,junk” was 1920s slang for opium, the drug that induces sleep, the condition that Orage was teaching his followers precludes possession of a soul and so leads to death unless a person “wakes up.” Because it was such a powerful metaphor for sleep, Gurdjieff inserted thirty-two references to opium into the Tales (see Anon, Guide & Index, 431), some of them extended: opium as a drug, as a civil evil, a religious doctrine formed to combat the use of it, its culture, and scientific inquiry into its chemical constituents.

7. The Verses: biblical lawful inexactitudes?

The biblical verse form used in “Monkey Junk” immediately suggests a biblical content or a biblical reading of the wife’s story, but there are also indirect references to the Egyptian Book of the Dead, to Gerald Massey’s writings, and to Gurdjieff’s parody of the judgement of the dead by “Mister” God in an invented religion (Tales 217-18) in Beelzebub’s Tales. The narrative of a trial, which results in an unjust judgement, allows Hurston to explore themes of the “fallen” woman, judgement, and justice in relation to these three “scriptures.” As we shall see, this short, short story contains references to a number of trials.

Lawful inexactitudes” also occur as willful errors in grammar and especially in the numbering of the verses, for in Hurston’s story the 15thverse is omitted. Somewhat more cryptic are the “lawful inexactitudes” that require the reader to realize that neither sweat nor mud come in hunks (verses 8 and 21), as the story relates. The text situates the reader in the same position as the jury is situated in the story; Hurston tells us that “the jury leaneth forward to catch every word which fell from her lips” (verse 46)and as in all such coded texts, this is meant literally, since listening is the key to the phonetic cabala of the alchemists.  

The absence of the fifteenth verse is a pointer. Given the biblical format and the subject of a trial, we are forced to question whether any of the fifteenth chapters of the Gospels refer to a trial? Yes, Mark gives his account of the trial of Jesus by Pilate in the fifteenth chapter. Pontius Pilate, the fifth Prefect of the Roman province of Judea, from AD 26–36, presided at the trial of Jesus. Despite stating that he personally found Jesus not guilty of a crime meriting death, Pilate pleases the “multitude,” by handing over Barabbas to them. In Mark 15:15 Pilate releases Jesus to be crucified. In her story Hurston’s character Miles Paige bears a phonetically-coded form of the  name Pilate (See note 11.). Hurston has pointed to this trial-within-a trial by leaving out the fifteenth verse of “Monkey Junk.”

     Hurston has emphasized the purposefulness of her omission by having selected the fifteenth verse, since Mark 15:28is not included in the earliest and best Greek manuscripts. Thus “Monkey Junk” imitates the handling of this dubious verse in some modern Bibles—as in the exclusion of the twenty-eighth verse in theNew Living Bible:  

Mark 15

27 Two revolutionaries were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left.
29 The people passing by shouted abuse, shaking their heads in mockery. “Ha! Look at you now!” they yelled at him. “You said you were going to destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days.

The KJV verse 28 which had been left out is:

     28 And the scripture was fulfilled, which saith, And he was numbered with the transgressors.

This verse relates back to KJV Isaiah 53:12:

Therefore will I divide him [a portion] with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intersession for the transgressors. (emphasis added).  

Thus Hurston has also pointed out a missing link between the Hebrew Scripture and Mark’s Gospel.

8. Objective Drama  

Hurston’s interest in placing the trial of Jesus in her story as a subtext is in keeping with the doctrines that A.R. Orage imparted to the New York group of Gurdjieff’s followers: as Orage had it, the teachings of Jesus were far more ancient than Jesus’s historical period, having been formulated in what Gurdjieff called pre-sand Egypt. According toOrage, the re-emergence of those teachings in the narrative of the New Testament was a work of “objective” art performed by the Essenes.       

    So far, we see that there is a divorce trial in the surface text of “Monkey Junk” and a trial in a subtext, the trial of Jesus indicated through the missing fifteenth verse. In addition to this relatively obscure biblical subtext, there is yet another subtext containing yet another trial with an Egyptian subtext that corresponds to the Gurdjieffian reading of Jesus’s trail as an esoteric event. The Egyptian subtext is directly related to the Gurdjieff Work, for The Oragean Version [10] opens with the argument that Egypt is the source of the Hidden Learning:  

   

The Hidden Learning has existed (as it exists today) at all times of which we know….  And once it even appeared with accustomed clarity in Public History itself, in the official religion of Ancient Egypt whose complexities are rendered only the more dubious by the anthropological naïveté of professional Egyptology but which shine with an almost unbelievable illumination when a few key principles of the Hidden Learning have been achieved. (King 4).

Orage stressed the centrality of this ancient Egyptian Hidden Learning:

About us, in the creeds, the sects and the distortions of modern Christianity lay the

fragments, of another work of Objective Art, the life of Christ, so it has been said.

According to that account the story of the Christ, a messenger of God upon this planet, was

and is Objective Drama, played not on a stage but in life by the Essene initiate, Jesus. This

play had its origin far earlier, in ancient Egypt, as the drama of the life, death and

resurrection of Ausar (Osiris), the God-in-Man; its function was to present ultimate human

truths through the medium of consciously acted roles.For centuries, we are told, the later

Essene brotherhood, a School itself deriving from Egyptian origins, had held the aim of

presenting this drama in life rather than as a prescribed mystery play and for generations

had trained its postulants to that end. Eventually the cast of thirteen was complete with

Jesus, who had been sent to Egypt for temple training there, cast as the leading actor and

Judas, who must play the next most difficult role, that of the betrayer, fully prepared for his

part. With the necessary modifications demanded by the local scene and times, the action

began.

It is difficult for us to appreciate the magnitude of such an undertaking. The

immediate audience is also without knowing it, the unconscious part of the cast and the

conscious actors must not only fulfill the requirements of their own roles, thereby

objectively demonstrating the truths they have self-selected themselves to manifest, but in

addition they must consciously and deliberately so affect their unconscious counterparts

(the priests and money-changers at the temple, Pontius Pilate, the Jewish mob, the Roman

soldiers, and all the rest) that the latter are forced to enact their own roles, too. Even with

all possible preparations made beforehand, it may well be imagined what hitches in the

performance unforeseen and unpredictable circumstances must threaten and what

consummate ability must be required in order to meet these difficulties and keep the drama

upon its course. No comparable type of acting, the playing so successfully of conscious

roles upon the objective stage of real life, has ever been reported. This was Objective Art.

(emphasis added; King 162-63)

9. Unjust Trials

The scheming woman in “Monkey Junk” is clearly “fallen,” and she prostitutes herself. But she is wrongly judged to be innocent even though it is clear that the wife has been unfaithful to the aggrieved husband. In verse 14, Hurston mentions the horns of adultery:

    “… other men posed the tongue into the cheek and snickered behind the handas he passed,

    saying, “Verily his head is decorated with the horns, he that is so wise and knoweth all the

    law and the profits” (emphasis added).

In the Tales, we find that among many other types of fallsof continents, of civilizations, of religion, and of learningthere is a long section on the degeneration of marriage in which a young Persian confesses to his vices. He has settled in Paris, where immoral women from all over Europe and other parts come “with the obvious intention of putting horns on their other legal halves” (Tales 990-94;emphasis added). Beelzebub finds them guilty.

The Biblical format of “Monkey Junk” will bring to mind Eve, the archetype of fallen woman. Eve is judged by God, and she is found guilty; as a consequence of Eve’s disobedience all mankind has been exiled from eternal life in Paradise into time, suffering, and death. Was this a just judgment? In the trial of Jesus of Nazareth by Pilate (and the judgment of “the multitude”), he is found guilty and so suffers a miscarriage of justice. We have seen that there is an Egyptian intertext in “Monkey Junk,” and there are several other unjust trials relating to the Egyptian Book of the Dead. In E. Wallace Budge’s Osiris and the Egyptian Resurrection(1911), the God Set wants to inherit Osiris’s kingdom and so must usurp Horus, the rightful heir son of Osiris and Isis. Set accuses Isis of being a whore who has conceived Horus with another after Osiris’s death.  Therefore, Set argues, Horus is illegitimate and cannot inherit the throne of Egypt. However, the Gods find Isis innocent. In a second trial Set accused Osiris, but his accusations are unknown; Osiris is exonerated and triumphs over Set. (Budge 309-12)  Here the gods give the correct judgment. The Trial of Osiris by Thot after which Osiris is made god of the underworld plays a major role in Hurston’s story and will be discussed below. Once Osiris becomes the judge of the dead he presides over a court in which the dead have to plead perfection: as this is impossible, they must rely on the mercy of Osiris. Both Osiris and Christ were resurrected after death, and each of their teachings shows how time and death can be defeated; this was also Gurdjieff’s teaching, and the fall narrative of the Tales confirms this necessity

    An esoteric text uses a masking text to provide an outward premise. Hurston used the contemporary 1925 Scopes “Monkey Trial” (The State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes) to give her story the title “Monkey Junk.” Since the Scopes trial was not a divorce, the fit between the Scopes trial and the fictional trial is not directly obvious, and the association of the trials as unjust trialsmay be thought of as another “lawful inexactitude” that points to the entire esoteric content of “Monkey Junk.” The reader in the 1920s may not immediately have seen how Hurston’s divorce trial related to the Scopes trial, and careful thought would have been required to reveal the connection through the common factor of injustice. In the Scopes trial a public school biology teacher was accused of illegally teaching Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.  The prosecuting counsel, William Jennings Bryan, asked Scopes questions about Adam and Eve in relation to the creation of Eve from Adam’s rib, and in relation to her temptation by the serpent. “In his last words to the court, Scopes, the man who was reluctant from the start, said, “Your Honor, I feel that I have been convicted of violating an unjust statute. I will continue in the future … to oppose this law in any way I can. Any other action would be in violation of my idea of academic freedom’” (“The Scopes Monkey Trial).  This demand that the Bible be read attentively rather than literally relates to the necessity to read the Talesattentively, and Hurston makes the same demands of her reader in “Monkey Junk.”

10. The Scopes Monkey Trial    

The Scopes “Monkey Trial” was of great interest to the public, and it was especially of interest to anthropologists, in that it focused on the split between religious and scientific understandings of evolution. Although Scopes lost his case, his defending attorney demolished the prosecuting counsel by asking questions about Adam and Eve in order to demonstrate that belief in miracles and in the historicity of the Bible is unreasonable. Paul Beekman Taylor points out that in the TalesGurdjieff ridiculed the arguments of both the prosecution and the defense lawyer in the Scopes trial, when Beelzebub remarks to his grandson that evolution “was an American topic of interest. In a parable echoing the Biblical version of the fall of Eve, Beelzebub explained that apes are descended from humans” (Taylor 100).

Hurston’s two-word title “Monkey Junk” links Massey’s Egyptology, the Bible, Gurdjieff’s Tales, and the 1925 Scopes trial. The contemporary divorce trial in her story, like the modern inquisition of science, enacts a travesty in which superstition (for Gurdjieffians a form of “sleep”) triumphed over reason.  It is difficult not to see some racial connection being made to the monkeys in her story, but it remains to be worked out to what extent the levels of esotericism, irony, parody, and social protest can be discriminated.

11. Playing Roles

As we have seen, one aspect of the esoteric is the manipulation of reality. According to Orage, the most ambitious form of this activity was the intervention in history in connection with the story of Jesus Christ. This intervention took the form of conscious and unconscious roles acted in a public objective drama. One aspect of the divorce trial is that it depicts the activity of unconscious role playing, for the wife depicts herself in such a way that the finding is for her side of the case. That the wife’s role- playing is entirely given up to sex appeal is entirely in keeping with what Hurston learned from Gurdjieff, for Gurdjieff taught that sex is the driving force behind “sleep”:

[S]ex plays a tremendous role in maintaining the mechanicalness of life. Everything that people do is connected with ‘sex’: politics, religion, art, the theater, music, is all ‘sex’. Do you think people go to the theater or to church to pray or to see some new play? That is only for the sake of appearances. The principal thing, in the theater as well as in church, is that there will be a lot of women or a lot of men. This is the center of gravity of all gatherings. What do you think brings people to cafés, to restaurants, to various fetes? One thing only. Sex: it is the principal motive force of all mechanicalness. All sleep, all hypnosis, depends upon it.” (Ouspensky 254)

Orage also taught pupils how to experiment with playing more conscious roles in their everyday lives than the automatic roles that they usually assumed:

The automatic roles which one plays in life automatically and unconsciously

are dictated by one’s falsely subjective image of oneself ….  [To] alter such roles consciously

and to attempt to play other roles, not on a stage but in life itself, is an extremely advanced

exercise in its final development but a beginning can be made at this stage. Of course there is

nothing “better” about the artificial role which the subject selects to attempt than about the

automatic one he has always been playing; the whole value of the exercise depends upon

the practice of a different, not a better impersonation. Here also we have a field in which

outside confirmation is both possible and required; the criterion of success is not the opinion

of the experimenter himself but is based upon his demonstrated ability to impress others

who are not involved in the experiment, with the validity of his impersonation.

(King 119-20).

This conscious assumption of roles was often referred to by Orage as “experiment.”Clearly esoteric “experiment” is generated by radically different assumptions about morality, truth, and freedom. In short, since the Gurdjieffians saw mankind as being asleep, they did not limit themselves to the social conventions of the sleepers. With this type of model in her mind, there is no wonder that many of Hurston’s critics point to Hurston’s tendency to dissemble. As Laura Grand-Jean has observed, “Throughout her life she lied about her age, her place of birth, and often times her identity. She cloaked herself in the garbs of the many different identities that she created for herself and recounted in her work(Mules and Menwebsite; emphasis added). This is seconded by Henry Louis Gates in his Afterword to Their Eyes Were Watching God: “Hurston did make up significant parts of herself, like a masquerade putting on a disguise for the ball, like a character in her fictions” (202). These discourses account for these effects as being related to matters of Hurston’s individual personality and not to any greater purpose or to a more general group strategy. A similar duplicity was evidenced by the careers of Melvin B. Tolson (a vexing and enigmatic “Marxist” poet who wrote transcendent, complex, intellectually dense poetry) and George Schuyler (“a literary schizophrenic who created a conservative public persona for himself while expressing extreme leftist views through the pseudonymous Samuel I. Brooks” and “a skillful role player, who [created] an array of masks for himself” [Gruesser 679]), two other African-American writers who are were unacknowledged followers of Gurdjieff and who were colleagues of Hurston’s. Similarly, authoritative accounts of Carl Van Vechten relate that he published six bestselling novels during a brief period of several years during which he is supposed to have been habitually drunk night and day and not to have slept at all (Kellner 165); Van Vechten’s behavior also seems to be a case of what Orage called “experiment” in which Van Vechten played the role of a wastrel.

Hurston and her Harlem Renaissance colleagues were but imitating Gurdjieff, who recounted stories about his selling dyed sparrows as rare birds, passing off cheap wines as rare vintages, or conning

Parisian merchants into giving him credit with stories of Texan oil wells. Gurdjieff was enacting

a morality that departed  from the “sleep”-based activities of ordinary people, and his

followers were enthusiastically imitating him to the best of their capacities.   

12. The Trial of Osiris by Thoth

        One of the curious features of “Monkey Junk” is the number of times bodily organs are mentioned in the story. The Egyptian intertext provides a solution to this question. Here is the description of the trial of Osiris in Gerald Massey’s Ancient Egypt:

The highest verdict rendered by the great judge in this most awful Judgment Hall was a testimony to the truth and purity of character established for the Manes [the spirit of the dead] on evidence that was unimpeachable. At this post-mortem the sins done in the body through violating the law of nature were probed for most profoundly. Not only was the deceased present in spirit to be judged at the dread tribunal, the book of the bodywas opened and its record read. The vital organs, such as the heart, liver, and lungs, were brought into judgment as witnesses to the life lived on earth.Any part too vitiated for the rottenness to be cut off or scraped away was condemned and flung as offal to the powers who are called the eaters of filth, the devourers of hearts, and drinkers of the blood of the wicked. And if the heart, for example, should be condemned to be devoured because very bad, the individual could not be reconstructed for a future life. (201-206; emphases added)

As the whole outcome of the trail in Hurston’s story depends on the speech of the accused being true speech, it is fitting that the list of organs and parts of the body commences with the mouth in the second verse of “Monkey Junk.” Thence follow liver (verse 4); heart, tongue, cheek, hand (verse 14); back, tongue (verse 16); tongue (verse 18); teeth (verse 20); hands, hip (verse 22); tongue (verse 26);  (kidneys verse 27); head (verse 35);   heart (verse 38); stiff-necked (verse 41); eyes (verse 43); lips (verse 46);  lips (verse 47);  mouth (verse 51), skin (verse 58); and nose (verse 59).

    Thus, there is yet another trial being conducted in “Monkey Junk”—and it is very likely to have been in Hurston’s mind the most important of the trials. Namely, the trial of Osiris by Thoth by which he was “Osirified” and became the lord of the underworld, seems to be the esoteric focus of Hurston’s story. The drama of the life, death and resurrection of Osiris (the Egyptian theme) was not only fundamental to Orage’s rendition of the Gurdjieff Work, it was a near obsession of Hurston’s. Hurston’s  most ambitious works of fiction (Seraph, Moses, Their Eyes) are suffused with Egyptian lore taken directly from Massey’s Ancient Egypt, and her most highly regarded novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, is a covert retelling of the Osiris myth.  It is only the determination of Hurston’s critics to construct preordained feminist and socio-cultural interpretations of her writing that have caused them to assign whatever Egyptian influences have been noticed to a sort of non-specific Afrocentric interest on Hurston’s part: as a sort of culmination of these efforts, Patricia Hill Collins situates Hurston in an “Afrocentric feminist epistemology” (“Race”). But this Egyptian influence is intricately worked into her writings, so that many words, motifs, and symbols were derived from specifically Egyptian sources. Not only that but these materials were specifically taken from the writings of Gerald Masseyparticularly from Ancient Egypt. Massey, for his part, studied the extensive Egyptian holdings in the British Museum and was able to read Egyptian hieroglyphics.  So tied up with Massey’s volumes is Hurston’s fiction that without reference to Massey, there is essentially no means of discovering what Hurston is getting at. On the other hand, by means of a sound knowledge of Massey most of the difficulties that are presented by Hurston’s writing can be cleared up rather efficiently—though here we are speaking of difficulties that proceed from her esotericism, not those presently framed by her critics. (Since searchable versions of Massey’s books are now available on the Web, Hurston’s references to Massey are readily ascertainable.) Hurston had good reasons to depend on Massey for her Egpytology, for he was a Gnostic, an esotericist, and a powerfully imaginative thinker and researcher who traced the entirety of Christianity back to the Egyptian cult of Horus. The work of connecting Egypt to Christ had already been done by Massey in exhaustive detail. Thus Massey served as a storehouse for the detailed lore that supported the Oragean version of Christianity. Leaving nothing to chance, Hurston pointed the reader toward Massey by coding his name into the text of “Monkey Junk, with Gerald in verse 59 and Massey in verse 58.

Hurston unites Biblical and Egyptian references to terrible and finite ends in her penultimate verse:

    61. And he desisted. And after many days did he receive a letter saying “Go to the monkeys,

    thou hunk of mud and learn things and be wise. (emphasis added)

This puzzling end to her story becomes clearer if we recognize it to be, firstly, an allusion to the King James Version of the Bible’s Book of Proverbs, though the entire passage must be consulted to reveal the entire sense of Hurston’s passage. Hurston’s conclusion also echoes both Gurdjieff ‘s exhortation to “wake up,” and the references to body parts discussed above in relation to the trial of Osiris by Thoth.

   

6Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise:

 7Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler,

 8Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.

 9How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep?

 10Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep:

 11So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man.

 12A naughty person, a wicked man, walketh with a froward mouth.

 13He winketh with his eyes, he speaketh with his feet, he teacheth with his fingers;

 14Frowardness is in his heart, he deviseth mischief continually; he soweth discord.

 15Therefore shall his calamity come suddenly; suddenly shall he be broken without remedy.

(KJV Proverbs 6:6-15)

Secondly, Massey’s discussion of “Sign-language and Mythology” states that:

    Again, the Monkey who is transformed into a man is a prototype of the Moon-God Taht, who is a     Dogheaded Ape in one character and a man in another” (Massey 1995,15).

The monkey can be the source of wisdom, since through this sign Hurston points to the Egyptian god Thot (Thoth), the inventor of writing, the developer of science, and the judge of the dead. In volume two of Ancient Egyptthe profound character of the wisdom of the “monkey” is made manifest, for Massey reveals that the Bible is synonymous with Egyptian scriptures, (Massey, vol.2, 1995,  903). The hellish judgement and sentence is passed in the final verse:  “62. And he returned unto Alabama to pick cotton. Selah.”

Conclusions  

In concluding, we will observe that the majority of research on Hurston’s writings continue to make self-fulfilling assumptions about Hurston and to proceed through circular and pre-conceived arguments and thereby does little to explicate Hurston’s texts meaningfully. For instance Hurston’s folk play “Cold Keener” presents a title that Alice Birney of the Library of Congress states “remains a mystery.” Birney then uses a concept of Hurston’s, “primitive angularity,” to explain why the play “with nine skits that are unrelated in their themes, characters, or even their settings” makes no discernible sense. The title uses the same code used in “Monkey Junk” and says “code key” (See note 11.): the play is esoteric and Hurston’s “primitive angularity” is an inadequate approach. While writing this paper we came across Miriam Thaggert’s Images of Black Modernism: Verbal and Visual Strategies of the Harlem Renaissance(2010). Attracted to Hurston’s provocative assertion that “the white man thinks in a written language and the Negro thinks in hieroglyphics” (Thaggert 2012, 48) in Hurston’s essay “The Characteristics of Negro Expression” (1934), Thaggert undertakes an analysis of Hurston’s “theories of black language” (Thaggert 2012, 47) with no basis for this discussion beyond what Hurston has said about black language. According to Cheryl Wall, Hurston’s “Characteristics” essay has become  “a protocol for reading Hurston’s novels”: Wall observes that “Many critics, including Henry Louis Gates Jr., Karla Holloway, and Lynda Hill have remarked on the intellectual boldness and the insightful brilliance of this essay (Wall 2005). Not only is Hurston’s “Characteristics” essay not anthropology in the first place, it is a parody of W.E B. Du Bois’s discussions of black culture in The Souls of Black Folk(1903) and in his later writings. Hurston took her title from a sentence in “Of the Faith of the Fathers: “The Negro church of to-day is the social centre of Negro life in the United States, and the most characteristic expression of African character” (191). The thesis of Hurston’s essay comes from a statement by Du Bois that “The Negro is essentially dramatic,” (Lorini 2001, 167), and Hurston’s “Characteristics” can in part be understood as a send-up of Du Boisian pomposity. Thus Hurston is fundamentally poised to deceive her trusting, sleeping reader. Even in a brief, early piece like “Monkey Junk” Hurston’s concerns are complex, being synthesized from anthropology, Massey’s long and dense discussion in “Sign-language and Mythology,” the Bible, the esoteric ideas of Orage, and the perplexing text of Gurdjieff’s Tales. Thus scholarship on Hurston is years away from a comprehensive understanding of Hurston’s theories of language and of her literary texts.

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ENDNOTES

1] The full title of G.I.Gurdjieff’s text was Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson or AnObjectively Impartial Criticism of the Life of Man, and it was the firstvolume of his All and Everythingtrilogy. The All andEverything trilogy also includes Meetings with Remarkable Men (firstpublished in 1963) and Life Is Real Only Then, When ‘I Am’ (first privately printedin 1974).

[2] Blind WillieMcTell (William Samuel McTier) began to sing “A Married Man’s a Fool” about1920. As this is a folk song, its distribution cannot be specified.

“A Married Man’s a Fool”

Had a friend, Louie Brown, he was a deacon
Just as wise as he could be
Now I realized he could read the good book
Back from revelations down to genesis
You know last Sunday morning we was over to the church
My buddy wants to take him a stand
And he looks out upon that whole congregation
The good book in his hand

Now he cast his eye about, and then he looks over in the amen corner
All the sisters commenced to shout [What’d he say? ]
He said a married mans a fool to think that his wife love nobody else but him
She stick by you all your life the chances is mighty slim
Now you read the good book, chapter twenty-one:
Every married woman got to have a little fun
Read on over chapter twenty-two:
Its a sin to let that woman make a fool outta you
Now you read a little further, chapter twenty-three:
She two-time you, brother, like she double-crossed me
Read on back, over chapter ten:
She shimmy one time, you got the problem again
cause a married mans a fool to think that his wife
Loves nobody else but him, I mean, loves nobody else but him

Well, a married mans a fool to think that his wife
Loves nobody else but him
She stands by you all your life the chances is mighty and slim
Now you read on over twenty-fifth page:
Married womens, lord, is hard to engage
Read kinda careful, chapter twenty-six:
Back door slamming you got to learn to get it fixed
Read on out, chapter twenty-eight:
Who’s that back slidin out through the back gate ?
I believe I’ll close on chapter twenty-nine:
Woman get tired of the same man all the time
cause a married mans fool to think that his wife love nobody else but him

 

[3] In 1926 these texts werepublished: Wallace Thurman, Fire!!; Carl Van Vechten, Nigger Heaven;Eric Walrond, Tropic Death, and these works marked the manifesto phaseof Harlem literary esotericism. Van Vechten’s novels were the models for theHarlem group’s novels. Two of their esoteric novels followed in 1928— RudolphFisher’s The Walls of Jericho; Nella Larsen’s Quicksand.  1929 brought two more novels from the Harlemgroup —Nella Larsen’s, Passing and Wallace Thurman’s The Blacker theBerry. In 1931 George S. Schuyler brought out Black No More. 1932saw the publication of Rudolph Fisher’s, The Conjure Man Dies andWallace Thurman’s Infants of the Spring. Thus seven novels were writtenand published by members of the Harlem group between 1926, when the esoteric publishingprogram was initiated, and 1932, a notable literary achievement.

[4] See Tom Hodd.

[5] As an example of Van Vechten’shandling of esoteric coding (see note 11), there is an extraordinary passagetowards the conclusion of Nigger Heaven. It is related that when patronswho appear to be wealthy arrive at a particular Harlem restaurant they aregreeted as “Mr. Gunnion” (241). This rude and intolerable handling of patrons couldnot have taken place, and it is clearly a “lawful inexactitude” meant toindicate that there is esoteric content in the passage. Since Gurdjieff wascommonly referred to by his followers as “Mr. G.” and since the goal of histeaching was to produce unity in the self (“one ‘I’”), the name “Mr. Gunnion”(Mr. G.—union) is a transparent indication of Van Vechten’s interest in theteachings of George Ivanovich Gurdjieff.

[6] Thissuggestion is supported by the word “alchemy” (90) and by the codedpresentation of Fulcanelli’s name  (90) inDjuna Barnes’s novel, Nightwood, —again, a poorly understood modern textwhich is Gurdjieffian (and Oragean) and extensively coded in cabala though notcritically categorized as being esoteric, despite Barnes’s association with aParis Gurdjieff group (see Rauve 53). The Orageanliterary code is a curious apparatus in a number of ways. It is a variation ofthe traditional alchemical cabala code. Speaking of the cabalaGleb Butuzov states that “the phrases, read aloud must be understood not justin the sense they have on paper, but also in that elusive sense they acquire onbeing ‘misheard’ (where, in common speech, we would ask our interlocutor torepeat the sentence, because we had heard something that seemed to beinappropriate to the context of the conversation). This second – reallyesoteric – meaning is often irrelevant to the first, and people who neglectthis level of the information–exchange actually read a very different book.”

[7] For her part, Hurston wastremendously fond of Van Vechten. “If Carl was a people instead of a person,”Hurston once said to Fannie Hurst, “I could then say, these are my people” (Hurst 19). Van Vechten’s copy of Hurston’s novel Jonah’sGourd Vine bears the inscription, “For Carl Van Vechten who blows the slidetrombone in the same band with Ol’ Gabr’el.”  (Hurston “Hurston to VanVechten”).

[8]See Welch 31; Taylor 71-2.

[9] Gerald Massey held an Egypt-centric position about the origin of the world’s early advancedcultures that he argued through a scholarly comparative analysis of language, names, and mythology.

[10] The Oragean Versionis the title of an unpublished manuscript by C. Daly King. He compiled thismanuscript during the nineteen twenties in New York to record the teaching ofAlfred Orage.

[11] Unlike a crosswordpuzzle, the coded text does not directly betray its presence. It shows itselfonly through some anomaly. Since anomalies do not necessarily suggest that theyare connected to puzzles, they often go unnoticed. In “Monkey Junk” one chiefanomaly is that Miles Paige is the only name attributed to a character, and heis the lawyer for the defendant. Thus there is no discernible reason for him tohave a name while the major players are nameless. By the rules of the Orageanliterary code Miles Paige has been marked as being of particular interest andthe name represents some other meaning.

The rulesof the phonetic code are simple but since they are not habitual, it isdifficult to work out what they are hiding. One clue has been provided—theproximity of Miles Paige to the word “multitude.” Once the solution has beenarrived at, the surrounding text points to the solution so as to confirm it.The verse where Miles Paige first appears reads as follows: “55. Thendid the multitude rejoice and say ‘Great is Miles Paige, and mighty isthe judge and jury.’” For Hurston’s the purpose, this was equivalent toMat 27:24—“When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but [that] rather atumult was made, he took water, and washed [his] hands before the multitude,saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye [to it].” Thisis not to say that this clarifies the matter since there are other allusionsand particularly since Miles Paige is not only associated with Pilate but withJesus. But the mainstay of the code it phonetic and the sounds of“Pilate” must be heard inside of “Miles Paige”:

Miles Paige

            P

 il

             a

                [t]e

The objections to reading “MilesPaige” as “Pilate“ are as follows: M, e s, and I are remaindered and have to beignored. There is no t.  g is a poorsubstitute for t.  One word is made outof letters in two words. The beginning of the word is in the second word.

In answer it can be suggested thatthis is a code, and the solution is hidden by the extra letters and by the useof two words. Pilate has but one name and Americans have two names, so the useof two words was unavoidable; the deferral of the initial letter to the secondword is one of the rules for the code and has to be worked out over manyexamples: for example, Dust Tracks on a Road (the title of Hurston’sautobiography) reads as “trust code” by adding the tr of the second wordto the ust of the initial word. Only a few consonants (d,b, etc.) mightbe substituted for t, and the writer still has to make an English word fromwhatever is used.

 

Once the logic of the method has beengrasped, it is still difficult to know exactly where to draw the interpretiveline. Most inclusions, as with Massey’s name, are merely the names of theesoteric teachers of the writer, so that “Monkey Junk” also presents the namesOrage (verses 42 bear, 43 jury judge—compare to verse 48),Gurdjieff (verses 10 chaff; 28,59 ger), and King (verse 25 making), and these names are found in most ofHursrton’s texts as well as those of many other writers influenced by Orage.Massey’s name is original to “Monkey Junk,” so its inclusion is particularlyinteresting.

Monkey Junk”—Zora Neale Hurston’s Experiment in Oragean Modernism


Sophia Wellbeloved and Jon Woodson

Monkey Junk”— Zora Neale Hurston’s Experiment in Oragean Modernism   

Abstract

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A.R. Orage’s literary celebrity attracted a large following among the New York intellectuals of the 1920s including the Harlem Renaissance. He gave creative writing workshops and lectured on Gurdjieff’s esotericism, gradually forming his own version—Oragean Modernism. According to Gurdjieff, objective art is the only art that has value, and Zora Neale Hurston and other Harlem writers were engaged in the quest for objective art. Orage’s writing groups performed the contradictory functions of disseminating Gurdjieff’s ideas into society with the hope of raising the number of people belonging to the circle of conscious humanity, while at the same time preserving the teachings by placing them in a coded form in widely distributed popular texts. Hurston’s story, F was an attempt both to spread the Gurdjieffian teaching through objective art and to make sure that esoteric ideas would survive the collapse of the present form of civilization. In this story Hurston’s concerns are complex, being synthesized from anthropological research, the Bible, Orage’s teachings, and the literary model of Gurdjieff’s Tales.

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1. Oragean Modernism

      Alfred Richard Orage, (1873 – 1934) began his professional life as a charismatic intellectual school teacher who lectured and wrote variously on Plato, Nietzsche, Theosophy, and psychoanalysis. His political interests included Fabian Socialism and monetary reform. He co-founded the Leeds Art Club, which became a center for modernist culture in pre-World War I England (Webb 200). Orage’s interests and concerns included personal and political well-being, eventually extending to a concern for cosmological and planetary well-being that would profoundly influence his pupils in New York. In 1916 he moved to London, where he edited the influential literary weekly The New Age, publishing G. K. Chesterton, H. G. Wells, Bernard Shaw, Katherine Mansfield, and others including Ezra Pound with whom he wrote several issues of The New Age. During that phase of his life, he was considered by T. S. Eliot “the finest critical intelligence of our age” (Taylor 16).  However, in October 1922, having heard the Greek-Armenian guru George Ivanovich Gurdjieff give a talk in London, Orage left The New Age and England to work with Gurdjieff at his “Institute For the Harmonious Development of Man” in France.

    Gurdjieff (1886?-1949) offered a teaching that was a blend of Theosophy, a variety of predominantly Western esoteric sources, and hypnotism and other therapeutic practices. He used a methodology composed of practical work on the self and sacred dancing, along with alchemical, psychological, and cosmological theory, to “wake up” and develop human beings whom he defined as sleeping, hypnotized machines with no central “I” or soul. Orage remained a practitioner and assiduous disseminator of Gurdjieff’s teaching, known as the Work (and in America also as the Method), for the next ten years.

    When Orage arrived in New York in December 1923, fourteen months after leaving England for the Institute, he set about raising funds and arousing interest in the teaching. Gurdjieff himself arrived a month later in January 1924 for a highly publicized visit, during which he gave talks and demonstrations of his sacred dances in New York, Boston and Chicago. Orage’s literary celebrity attracted a large following among the New York intellectuals of the 1920s. He gave creative writing workshops, and lectured on Gurdjieff’s teaching, gradually emphasizing and moderating elements of the teaching to form his own version of it that differed from the Work as taught by Gurdjieff in Europe.  Orage’s modernism was imbued by Gurdjieff’s esotericism, and both elements were embraced by his pupils.

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2. Esotericism — the Tales and Objective Works of Art

    Beginning in 1925, Orage became the principal editor of the first volume of Gurdjieff’s three volume work known as Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson (Tales),and his continuing process of editing and interpreting the chapters as they arrived from France over the next four years was shared with his American pupils (Driscoll 3) and also with other pupils in France. The book became central to Orage’s teaching, especially of his Gurdjieff study groups, such as the Harlem group, led by Orage with the assistance of  poet and novelist Jean Toomer and psychologist and mystery-writer C. Daly King.

    The epic narrative of the Tales takes place during a voyage on a spaceship. Beelzebub tells his grandson of his own exile to our solar system, the creation of Earth, the multiple Gnostic Falls, the failures of men and their worsening state, the only remedy for which is remembrance of death.

Gurdjieff meant his reader or listener, the text was often read aloud, to be confused by the complex sentence structure of the Tales,by its many anomalies, contradictions, inconsistencies, and by the acknowledged deceptions within the narrative (See Wellbeloved 2002, 77-83). Gurdjieff warned his reader that he was unique in respect to “muddling and befuddling, the notions and convictions of everyone he comes into contact with” (Tales 26). Published posthumously in 1949, the book has 1238 pages, all of which he had intentionally made difficult to understand.  The text includes his reading instructions, but these are in themselves contradictory and so are impossible to follow. Gurdjieff said he had “buried” a secret that readers should search for, and gives an apparent clue as to how the secret was buried. He describes how a questioning attention can be drawn to decode a secret message by what he terms a “lawful inexactitude.” The secret is pointed to by placing something “out of place” or in the wrong scale, for example an otherwise perfectly proportioned sculpture might have hands that are far too big (Tales 461). The law in question in “lawful inexactitude” is the Law of Seven, a series of descending vibrations that represents the inevitably destructive nature of time (Webb 503; 40; 141-42). This has led his many readers to search through multiple readings for the one “lawful inexactitude” that might reveal Gurdjieff’s secret. Orage himself was convinced there was a specific secret that Gurdjieff was withholding from him, and the members of his groups also engaged in this search.

    The Harlem writers, along with the other pupils, believed the Tales to be an objective work of art.  According to Gurdjieff, objective art is the only form of art that has value. Its meaning cannot be mistaken, whereas subjective art made by “mechanical man” can be misunderstood. However, to understand objective art a person must have “at least flashes of objective consciousness” (Ouspensky  298; also see Wellbeloved 11). So, searching alone is not the way to find objective meaning in an objective work of art; this can only be found by raising the level of consciousness, becoming “an initiate of art.”  

    While the demand to make or write an objective work of art may have inhibited readers and writers immediately within Gurdjieff’s influence, this was clearly not the case with Orage’s group of writers who were intent on writing their own objective works of art (Woodson 9-10). They also related his teaching to Objective Drama as expounded by Orage together with Gurdjieff’s teaching on the necessity to play roles (Webb 537-41). Orage emphasized the central place of esotericists in the world especially in relation to evolution. The evolution or self-perfecting of individuals was said to be necessary also for the safe evolution of the planet. If there were not a sufficient number of evolved people within a certain time frame, the planet could be destroyed. Ideas of specially evolved members of a “conscious circle of humanity” were in accord with contemporary notions that extended Darwinian evolution to describe a Nietzschean evolution of man into a super-race. Gurdjieff’s teaching echoed that of Blavatsky’s specially evolved “Masters.” Orage’s writing groups performed the contradictory functions of disseminating Gurdjieff’s ideas into society with the hope of raising the number of people belonging to the circle of conscious humanity, while at the same time preserving the teachings by placing them in a coded form in widely distributed popular texts.   

    Thus Zora Neale Hurston’s short story, “Monkey Junk: A Satire on Modern Divorce,” was one of those attempts both to spread the Gurdjieffian teaching and to make sure that the ideas would survive the collapse of the present form of civilization. In order to serve in this capacity, the story sets out to entertain the reader, while also containing a highly concentrated hidden content. “Monkey Junk” entertains by performing a satirical treatment of the flapper phenomenon under the guise of being a satire on marriage, the flapper and marriage themes being treated through a comic parody of the Bible. The story exhibits little concern with marriage or divorce, and the depiction of the wife through French garters (verse 29) and silk stockings (verse 45) establishes that the wife was a flapper; the wife’s casual treatment of sex (verses 13, 14, 33, 39) also establishes her identity as a flapper. Dorothy Parker’s satirical depiction of the flapper in her poem “The Flapper” (published in Lifein 1922) parallels the wife’s treatment of the husband in “Monkey Junk”: the poem’s concluding couplet states “Her golden rule is plain enough / Just get them young and treat them rough” (Parker 113-14). Parker’s use of the Bible barely registers, though her reference to the golden rule relates to a specific verse, Matthew 7:12,

Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets” (KJV). Hurston’s story is written in a parody of Biblical verses, and she refers to Matthew 7:12 directly in the first verse as “he knew all the law and the prophets” and in verse 14 with the mockery of “he that is so wise and knoweth all the law and the profits.” The passage occurs a third time in verse 25 of Hurston’s story:

25.“Thou art very dumb for nowthat I, thy husband, knoweth that thou art a flirt, making glad the heart of back-biters, I shall support thee no more—for verily know I ALL the law and the profits thereof.” (Emphasis added)

Not only must the reader conclude that Hurston has intentionally emphasized Matthew 7:12, but that when the word “now” appears instead of “know” that this also is intentional. Hurston has engaged the phonetic level of language, and prophet/profitand know/nowactively point to this altered interpretive convention.

While directly humorous treatments of the Bible were rare in the 1920s, we may see Hurston’s treatment of religion as being in step with the writings of Sinclair Lewis and H.L. Menken: Menken’s “nihilistic criticism of American culture—literature, politics and religionmade him among the most hated and admired men in America” (emphasis added; Cheatham “Provincial America in the 1920s”). Hurston’s blasphemy is moderated, because she has cast the language of the Bible into the black sociolect of the 1920s. Blind Willie McTell’s ragtime lyric “A Married Man’s a Fool” incorporates a similar parody of the Bible, though unlike the text of “Monkey Junk” it lacks a frame. Hurston’s derisory treatment of the Bible is further made complex by the fact that she placed her story in a black newspaper, The Pittsburgh Courier,tacitly the national news organ for the black Americans of that era. The implication of the folk-parody approach is that the popular understanding and practice of the Christian religion is itself a parody of a more authentic version of the religion.

Hurston includes direct and indirect references to the Bible, which she knew would have been recognized by her readers. At the same time her exploitation of the Bible’s familiarity worked against the expectations of her readers, since Hurston’s use of these references is consistently ironic. Among others we find:

Then did he make a joyful noise saying, “Behold, I have chosen a wife, yea verily a maiden Ihave exalted above all others, for see I have wed her.” (“Monkey Junk” verse 5; emphases added)

A joyful noise” is made by the Psalmist in Psalms 95:1 and 98:4; while the maiden with the attribute of “exalted above all others” is referred to within Catholicism as Mary Mother of God.

And he gave praises loudly unto the Lord saying, “I thank thee that I am not as other men.”

refers to Luke 18:11:

The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as

other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.

In Matthew 13:45-46 the Kingdom of heaven is like a pearl of great price, for which a rich merchant sells all he has; in Hurston’s verse 13 the pearl refers to a woman who sells herself.   

    Then did his pearl of great price form the acquaintance of many men and they prospered her.

    It is difficult to assess the practical application of the Harlem group to the whole of Gurdjieff’s teaching, but in relation to their own writings all of them employed “inexactitudes,” in order to draw attention to Gurdjieff’s book and his teaching. Whereas Gurdjieff gives the visual example of a dis-proportioned sculpture in the Tales (Gurdjieff 1950 477), the participating writers of the Harlem group, Zora Neale Hurston, George Schuyler, Nella Larsen, Gwendolyn Bennett, Eric Walrond, Richard Bruce Nugent, Rudolph Fisher, Wallace Thurman, and Melvin B. Tolson began to look for ways to include unexpected insertions, absurdities, or apparent errors that might point to concealed texts within their texts that would lead readers to Gurdjieff’s book and to his teaching. Thus the Harlem group, believing that they had little time to save the world from destruction, operated at a high level of anxiety. The eschatological fixations of the Oragean Modernists drove them to create a considerable body of published writing in a very short time.

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3. Gurdjieff and Literature

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    Gurdjieff spent much time writing in Parisian cafés and so was not isolated from the cultural milieu of 1920s and 1930s Paris, a center for European esotericists and American writers. The conflation of these two groups can be seen in modernist interest in the occult, esotericism, and myth. Gurdjieff’s institute attracted many literary figures, and Gurdjieff himself collected an influential group of writers willing to translate and to edit his writings. Although Gurdjieff insists that the Talesis not a literary work, he was aware of modernist literary interest in myth, esotericism, and the desire for immaterial values that pervaded the inter-war years.

    Prominent literary pupils of Gurdjieff are well known in the Work, via the lists of participants in books by Louise Welch, James Webb, and Paul Beekman Taylor. For example, in the 1910s and 1920s, The Little Review—published in Greenwich Village from 1917 to 1929—was the most influential literary magazine in the world. It was the first to publish a chapter of James Joyce’s Ulysses, for which the editors, Jane Heap and Margaret Anderson were tried for obscenity. The editors became followers of Gurdjieff in 1924 after meeting him in New York and spending the summer at his Institute in France (Webb 276-285). Despite the centrality of Oragean Modernism to the creation and dissemination of modernist culture, the Gurdjieffian project is maligned and castigated when it is noticed, as in this discussion by Kristin M. Mabel Bloomberg:

Another notorious guru was the Russian mystic and dancemaster George Ivanovitch

Gurdjieff who turned from the idealistic tenets of Theosophy to a philosophy

of “barbarism and primitivism” (170) that highlighted the ideology of man as

the noble savage and encouraged its students to become conscious of their

true selves and to cease being human machines. For Gurdjieff, this practice

could not be a pleasant one, and the process was “enhanced” with an emphasis

on stress, pain, tension, and conflict. Gurdjieff ’s philosophy is one that is

linked explicitly by Peter Washington in Madame Blavatsky’s Baboon to the

Left Bank lesbian expatriate circle that included Jane Heap, Margaret Anderson,

Djuna Barnes, and Janet Flanner (288). Gurdjieff ’s ideals also surface in

Harlem, with Thadious Davis linking a study group led by Gurdjieff disciple

Jean Toomer to writers including Nella Larsen. (24-5)

4. Hurston’s Esoteric Content

Zora Neale Hurston was a prominent figure in the Harlem Renaissance, and studies of the movement describe her as a participant in Jean Toomer’s Gurdjieff groups (see Woodson 147-70). In the 1920s Hurston was in New York studying anthropology with Franz Boas at Columbia University, and during that period she came into contact with such important white cultural figures as Carl Van Vechten, Fannie Hurst, C. Daly King, her patron Charlotte Osgood Mason, and A.R. Orage who presided over the New York Gurdjieff groups. Orage organized writing seminars that attracted many important writers, and for many members of the Harlem group of writers the Harlem Renaissance was a subset of this wider, esoteric literary movement. Orage’s influence on these groups of writers has been acknowledged by writers on esotericism but not by mainstream scholars of literature. Academic adherents of American Studies routinely frames Oragean Modernists figures as nationalists, so that the esoteric content of the works produced by these figures has not previously been realized. It is not only Hurston who has been evaluated without reference to these fundamental components. Such writers as Djuna Barnes, Dawn Powell, C. Daly King, Carl Van Vechten, and James Agee have introduced into their writings the same esoteric elements (phonetic codes, roman a clef of esotericists, intentional mistakes, and esoteric vocabulary) as Hurston used in her texts. Hurston’s participation in the Harlem Renaissance and her affiliation with Toomer, Orage, C. Daly King, and Van Vechten turned her to esoteric influences that are evident in her writings once they are read with attention to this aspect. The esoteric content within Zora Neal Hurston’s writings is consistent from “Monkey Junk” (1927) to her incomplete novel, “Herod,” (snatched from a fire after her death in 1964). It is only through the well-documented disinterest of literary scholars in occultism that there are such consistent misreadings of Hurston. Hurston’s texts make it clear that their many anomalies are signs of a coded, esoteric level. Hurston’s critics have detected this esoteric level but have explained it away by portraying Hurston as an eccentric. For example, on her Mules and Menwebsite Laura Grand-Jean states that “More than anything Zora Neale Hurston was the worlds greatest liar and her own duplicity explains why for so long she was lost to us”  (Grand-Jean “Introduction”).

It is likely that Hurston absorbed the system of esoteric literary coding from her close associate Carl Van Vechten. Van Vechten, a best-selling novelist in the 1920s, is acknowledged to have been vital to the publishing of Harlem Renaissance texts, and he befriended the Harlem writers. Moreover, there is a direct literary influence from Van Vechten on Nella Larsen who stated that Van Vechten’s novel, Nigger Heaven (1926)was one of the big influences on Harlem and its artistic life (Davis 212). Moreover, Thadious Davis states that when Larsen was writing her first novel, Quicksand (1928), she ceased writing, read Nigger Heaven, and then after destroying a good half of what was completed, returned to work on her novel keeping Nigger Heaven as a stylistic model (Davis 212). This account does not specify what is meant by matters of style. Since literary scholars do not recognize that Van Vechten was himself a follower of Gurdjieff or that Nigger Heavenis an esoteric text, their assessment of its influence on Larsen (and on Hurston) is incomplete. The code used by Van Vechten and the other writers in the Gurdjieff camp was the phonetic cabala, the traditional code used by the writers of alchemical texts since the fourteenth century. (Research on the use of codes in Oragean Modernism is at a preliminary stage, and more papers will follow.) At about the same time as Van Vechten began to write his novels in the cabala, Fulcanelli’s Le Mystère des Cathédrales(1926) was published making the delineation of the alchemical code available to a wide audience. But as Van Vechten moved in Parisian artistic circles, he and his American associates may have had access to early copies of the Fulcanelli book or even direct access to Fulcanelli.

5. Hurston, C. Daly King, and Van Vechten

Hurston’s reverence for Carl Van Vechten has long been remarked. They met when she was working as a secretary for the writer Fannie Hurst. They liked each other instantly and shared a close friendship thereafter. But this association has dismayed Hurston’s scholars and has not stimulated them to make a close exploration of the literary consequences of their friendship: Van Vechten is seldom dealt with by scholars of the Harlem Renaissance writers and only insofar as his novel, Nigger Heaven, is found by them to be inescapable. Major treatments of the Harlem Renaissance (Amritjit Singh, Theodore Francis) make no mention of Van Vechten’s other novels, though Thadious Davis’s biography of Nella Larsen establishes that Larsen read Van Vechten’s Peter Wiffle(1922) and that by 1929 he was one of her favorite authors (Davis 165). Yet, Van Vechten was a prolific best-selling novelist, and his novels were the models for some of the Harlem Renaissance writers. More to the point, some of Van Vechten’s novels concern themselves with esoteric material, and Firecrackers(1925) is a thinly veiled presentation of A.R Orage’s organizing of the New York branch of G. I. Gurdjieff’s “Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man.” Beneath the roman a clef, Van Vechten’s Firecrackersis more deeply coded using the cabala cipher.

In Firecrackers, Van Vecthen’s fourth novel, a character clearly based on Muriel Draper organizes Pinchon’s Prophylactic Plan, a school of self-development based on Ouspensky, Arthur E. Waite, Gurdjieff, Jaques-Dalcroze, and Einstein (175), so that Van Vechten cannot actually be said to have removed his fictional school very far from the actualities of Orage’s school. The list in the novel presents only Jaques-Dalcroze and Einstein as red herrings—though the former was, like Gurdjieff, a teacher of therapeutic dance and there is a great deal about science in the Tales. Van Vechten’s character, Miss Pinchon, the organizer of the fictional school, was based on New York saloniste and interior decorator Muriel Draper. Draper was a close associate of both Van Vechten and Orage. In fact, Draper was responsible for the running of the New York branch of Gurdjieff’s Institute, thus allowing A. R. Orage the freedom to organize an extensive movement that maintained an influential literary component.

    C. Daly King is another important influence on Hurston who has not been taken into account by Hurston scholars: he studied at Columbia University during the period of Hurston’s anthropology studies at that school. King wrote the “Obelist” series of detective novels, novels that are esoteric, written in code, and contain characters based on Jean Toomer and other Gurdjieffians; the word “obelist” is a variant of obelisk, a character used in ancient manuscripts to indicate spurious passages, so that the very titles of King’s novels declare their duplicity. It is of central importance that King compiled Orage’s teachings into The Oragean Version (unpublished, 1951), a widely circulated volume which contains the essential esoteric doctrines on which Hurston based her fictions.

6. “Monkey Junk; A Satire on Modern Divorce”   

Monkey Junk” is contained in faux-Biblical verses numbered from 1 – 62, but the alert reader encounters a number of anomalies, or what we are calling “lawful inexactitudes.” The first evidence of “lawful inexactitude” is Hurston’s question-provoking use of a title apparently unrelated to her story about a rich man who, imagining that he understands women, marries a wife who only wants his money, for it is not apparent that the words monkey junkconnote anything about divorce. When the husband doesn’t give his wife enough money, she turns to other men, and he is scorned for being a cuckold. The central action of the story is a trial in which due to her sex appeal and tears she is unjustly granted alimony. Her husband threatens her with violence, but she is scornful, and he returns to Alabama to pick cotton.

The titleMonkey Junk” reflects Hurston’s dependenceon self-educated, nineteenth century  Egyptologist Gerald Massey. In Massey’s Ancient Egypt, the light of the world, on page 889 he has a footnote that reads “The Ankh-key of life.” This corresponds phonetically to “monkey” in the title of Hurston’s story, and it gives the meaning of Hurston’s strange construction. Massey explains the word Ank as meaning “the living one,” in A Book of The Beginnings(209), and he connects the title of “the god Tum in Pithom as being the Ankh, the living; he being the sun of the resurrection; written in Egyptian … as P-ankh, Punk, or Punch.” Massey goes on:

 Punch and Nuk have their correlatives in Hunch, Bunch, and Junk. Punch means the short, fat, pudgy, thick-set fellow, whence the puncheon. So in the Xhosa and Zulu Kaffir dialects a short thickset pudge of a person is called isi-Tupana from tupa, the thumb. The “hunch” of bread is a thick lump; the junkis also a short thick lump (Massey 2007, 209; emphases added).

    Massey connects the English language to the Egyptian language in a manner that is original to Massey, so that it is clear that Massey is Hurston’s source for these inclusions.  It is also clear that Hurston has followed Massey’s disclosures, for the story emphasizes words that Massey has interpolated from “ankh” (“Monkey” [onk]) into the English words “hunk” (verses 20, 61) and “junk” (title).Furthermore,junk” was 1920s slang for opium, the drug that induces sleep, the condition that Orage was teaching his followers precludes possession of a soul and so leads to death unless a person “wakes up.” Because it was such a powerful metaphor for sleep, Gurdjieff inserted thirty-two references to opium into the Tales (see Anon, Guide & Index, 431), some of them extended: opium as a drug, as a civil evil, a religious doctrine formed to combat the use of it, its culture, and scientific inquiry into its chemical constituents.

8. The Verses: biblical lawful inexactitudes?

The biblical verse form used in “Monkey Junk” immediately suggests a biblical content or a biblical reading of the wife’s story, but there are also indirect references to the Egyptian Book of the Dead, to Gerald Massey’s writings, and to Gurdjieff’s parody of the judgement of the dead by “Mister” God in an invented religion (Tales 217-18) in Beelzebub’s Tales. The narrative of a trial, which results in an unjust judgement, allows Hurston to explore themes of the “fallen” woman, judgement, and justice in relation to these three “scriptures.” As we shall see, this short, short story contains references to a number of trials.

Lawful inexactitudes” also occur as willful errors in grammar and especially in the numbering of the verses, for in Hurston’s story the 15thverse is omitted. Somewhat more cryptic are the “lawful inexactitudes” that require the reader to realize that neither sweat nor mud come in hunks (verses 8 and 21), as the story relates. The text situates the reader in the same position as the jury is situated in the story; Hurston tells us that “the jury leaneth forward to catch every word which fell from her lips” (verse 46)and as in all such coded texts, this is meant literally, since listening is the key to the phonetic cabala of the alchemists.  

The absence of the fifteenth verse is a pointer. Given the biblical format and the subject of a trial, we are forced to question whether any of the fifteenth chapters of the Gospels refer to a trial? Yes, Mark gives his account of the trial of Jesus by Pilate in the fifteenth chapter. Pontius Pilate, the fifth Prefect of the Roman province of Judea, from AD 26–36, presided at the trial of Jesus. Despite stating that he personally found Jesus not guilty of a crime meriting death, Pilate pleases the “multitude,” by handing over Barabbas to them. In Mark 15:15 Pilate releases Jesus to be crucified. In her story Hurston’s character Miles Paige bears a phonetically-coded form of the  name Pilate (See note 11.). Hurston has pointed to this trial-within-a trial by leaving out the fifteenth verse of “Monkey Junk.”

     Hurston has emphasized the purposefulness of her omission by having selected the fifteenth verse, since Mark 15:28is not included in the earliest and best Greek manuscripts. Thus “Monkey Junk” imitates the handling of this dubious verse in some modern Bibles—as in the exclusion of the twenty-eighth verse in theNew Living Bible:  

Mark 15

27 Two revolutionaries were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left.
29 The people passing by shouted abuse, shaking their heads in mockery. “Ha! Look at you now!” they yelled at him. “You said you were going to destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days.

The KJV verse 28 which had been left out is:

     28 And the scripture was fulfilled, which saith, And he was numbered with the transgressors.

This verse relates back to KJV Isaiah 53:12:

Therefore will I divide him [a portion] with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intersession for the transgressors. (emphasis added).  

Thus Hurston has also pointed out a missing link between the Hebrew Scripture and Mark’s Gospel.

7. Objective Drama  

Hurston’s interest in placing the trial of Jesus in her story as a subtext is in keeping with the doctrines that A.R. Orage imparted to the New York group of Gurdjieff’s followers: as Orage had it, the teachings of Jesus were far more ancient than Jesus’s historical period, having been formulated in what Gurdjieff called pre-sand Egypt. According toOrage, the re-emergence of those teachings in the narrative of the New Testament was a work of “objective” art performed by the Essenes.       

    So far, we see that there is a divorce trial in the surface text of “Monkey Junk” and a trial in a subtext, the trial of Jesus indicated through the missing fifteenth verse. In addition to this relatively obscure biblical subtext, there is yet another subtext containing yet another trial with an Egyptian subtext that corresponds to the Gurdjieffian reading of Jesus’s trail as an esoteric event. The Egyptian subtext is directly related to the Gurdjieff Work, for The Oragean Version opens with the argument that Egypt is the source of the Hidden Learning:  

   

The Hidden Learning has existed (as it exists today) at all times of which we know….  And once it even appeared with accustomed clarity in Public History itself, in the official religion of Ancient Egypt whose complexities are rendered only the more dubious by the anthropological naïveté of professional Egyptology but which shine with an almost unbelievable illumination when a few key principles of the Hidden Learning have been achieved. (King 4).

Orage stressed the centrality of this ancient Egyptian Hidden Learning:

About us, in the creeds, the sects and the distortions of modern Christianity lay the

fragments, of another work of Objective Art, the life of Christ, so it has been said.

According to that account the story of the Christ, a messenger of God upon this planet, was

and is Objective Drama, played not on a stage but in life by the Essene initiate, Jesus. This

play had its origin far earlier, in ancient Egypt, as the drama of the life, death and

resurrection of Ausar (Osiris), the God-in-Man; its function was to present ultimate human

truths through the medium of consciously acted roles.For centuries, we are told, the later

Essene brotherhood, a School itself deriving from Egyptian origins, had held the aim of

presenting this drama in life rather than as a prescribed mystery play and for generations

had trained its postulants to that end. Eventually the cast of thirteen was complete with

Jesus, who had been sent to Egypt for temple training there, cast as the leading actor and

Judas, who must play the next most difficult role, that of the betrayer, fully prepared for his

part. With the necessary modifications demanded by the local scene and times, the action

began.

It is difficult for us to appreciate the magnitude of such an undertaking. The

immediate audience is also without knowing it, the unconscious part of the cast and the

conscious actors must not only fulfill the requirements of their own roles, thereby

objectively demonstrating the truths they have self-selected themselves to manifest, but in

addition they must consciously and deliberately so affect their unconscious counterparts

(the priests and money-changers at the temple, Pontius Pilate, the Jewish mob, the Roman

soldiers, and all the rest) that the latter are forced to enact their own roles, too. Even with

all possible preparations made beforehand, it may well be imagined what hitches in the

performance unforeseen and unpredictable circumstances must threaten and what

consummate ability must be required in order to meet these difficulties and keep the drama

upon its course. No comparable type of acting, the playing so successfully of conscious

roles upon the objective stage of real life, has ever been reported. This was Objective Art.

(emphasis added; King 162-63)

7. Unjust Trials

The scheming woman in “Monkey Junk” is clearly “fallen,” and she prostitutes herself. But she is wrongly judged to be innocent even though it is clear that the wife has been unfaithful to the aggrieved husband. In verse 14, Hurston mentions the horns of adultery:

    “… other men posed the tongue into the cheek and snickered behind the handas he passed,

    saying, “Verily his head is decorated with the horns, he that is so wise and knoweth all the

    law and the profits” (emphasis added).

In the Tales, we find that among many other types of fallsof continents, of civilizations, of religion, and of learningthere is a long section on the degeneration of marriage in which a young Persian confesses to his vices. He has settled in Paris, where immoral women from all over Europe and other parts come “with the obvious intention of putting horns on their other legal halves” (Tales 990-94;emphasis added). Beelzebub finds them guilty.

The Biblical format of “Monkey Junk” will bring to mind Eve, the archetype of fallen woman. Eve is judged by God, and she is found guilty; as a consequence of Eve’s disobedience all mankind has been exiled from eternal life in Paradise into time, suffering, and death. Was this a just judgment? In the trial of Jesus of Nazareth by Pilate (and the judgment of “the multitude”), he is found guilty and so suffers a miscarriage of justice. We have seen that there is an Egyptian intertext in “Monkey Junk,” and there are several other unjust trials relating to the Egyptian Book of the Dead. In E. Wallace Budge’s Osiris and the Egyptian Resurrection(1911), the God Set wants to inherit Osiris’s kingdom and so must usurp Horus, the rightful heir son of Osiris and Isis. Set accuses Isis of being a whore who has conceived Horus with another after Osiris’s death.  Therefore, Set argues, Horus is illegitimate and cannot inherit the throne of Egypt. However, the Gods find Isis innocent. In a second trial Set accused Osiris, but his accusations are unknown; Osiris is exonerated and triumphs over Set. (Budge 309-12)  Here the gods give the correct judgment. The Trial of Osiris by Thot after which Osiris is made god of the underworld plays a major role in Hurston’s story and will be discussed below. Once Osiris becomes the judge of the dead he presides over a court in which the dead have to plead perfection: as this is impossible, they must rely on the mercy of Osiris. Both Osiris and Christ were resurrected after death, and each of their teachings shows how time and death can be defeated; this was also Gurdjieff’s teaching, and the fall narrative of the Tales confirms this necessity

    An esoteric text uses a masking text to provide an outward premise. Hurston used the contemporary 1925 Scopes “Monkey Trial” (The State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes) to give her story the title “Monkey Junk.” Since the Scopes trial was not a divorce, the fit between the Scopes trial and the fictional trial is not directly obvious, and the association of the trials as unjust trialsmay be thought of as another “lawful inexactitude” that points to the entire esoteric content of “Monkey Junk.” The reader in the 1920s may not immediately have seen how Hurston’s divorce trial related to the Scopes trial, and careful thought would have been required to reveal the connection through the common factor of injustice. In the Scopes trial a public school biology teacher was accused of illegally teaching Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.  The prosecuting counsel, William Jennings Bryan, asked Scopes questions about Adam and Eve in relation to the creation of Eve from Adam’s rib, and in relation to her temptation by the serpent. “In his last words to the court, Scopes, the man who was reluctant from the start, said, “Your Honor, I feel that I have been convicted of violating an unjust statute. I will continue in the future … to oppose this law in any way I can. Any other action would be in violation of my idea of academic freedom’” (“The Scopes Monkey Trial).  This demand that the Bible be read attentively rather than literally relates to the necessity to read the Talesattentively, and Hurston makes the same demands of her reader in “Monkey Junk.”

8. The Scopes Monkey Trial    

The Scopes “Monkey Trial” was of great interest to the public, and it was especially of interest to anthropologists, in that it focused on the split between religious and scientific understandings of evolution. Although Scopes lost his case, his defending attorney demolished the prosecuting counsel by asking questions about Adam and Eve in order to demonstrate that belief in miracles and in the historicity of the Bible is unreasonable. Paul Beekman Taylor points out that in the TalesGurdjieff ridiculed the arguments of both the prosecution and the defense lawyer in the Scopes trial, when Beelzebub remarks to his grandson that evolution “was an American topic of interest. In a parable echoing the Biblical version of the fall of Eve, Beelzebub explained that apes are descended from humans” (Taylor 100).

Hurston’s two-word title “Monkey Junk” links Massey’s Egyptology, the Bible, Gurdjieff’s Tales, and the 1925 Scopes trial. The contemporary divorce trial in her story, like the modern inquisition of science, enacts a travesty in which superstition (for Gurdjieffians a form of “sleep”) triumphed over reason.  It is difficult not to see some racial connection being made to the monkeys in her story, but it remains to be worked out to what extent the levels of esotericism, irony, parody, and social protest can be discriminated.

9. Playing Roles

As we have seen, one aspect of the esoteric is the manipulation of reality. According to Orage, the most ambitious form of this activity was the intervention in history in connection with the story of Jesus Christ. This intervention took the form of conscious and unconscious roles acted in a public objective drama. One aspect of the divorce trial is that it depicts the activity of unconscious role playing, for the wife depicts herself in such a way that the finding is for her side of the case. That the wife’s role- playing is entirely given up to sex appeal is entirely in keeping with what Hurston learned from Gurdjieff, for Gurdjieff taught that sex is the driving force behind “sleep”:

[S]ex plays a tremendous role in maintaining the mechanicalness of life. Everything that people do is connected with ‘sex’: politics, religion, art, the theater, music, is all ‘sex’. Do you think people go to the theater or to church to pray or to see some new play? That is only for the sake of appearances. The principal thing, in the theater as well as in church, is that there will be a lot of women or a lot of men. This is the center of gravity of all gatherings. What do you think brings people to cafés, to restaurants, to various fetes? One thing only. Sex: it is the principal motive force of all mechanicalness. All sleep, all hypnosis, depends upon it.” (Ouspensky 254)

Orage also taught pupils how to experiment with playing more conscious roles in their everyday lives than the automatic roles that they usually assumed:

The automatic roles which one plays in life automatically and unconsciously

are dictated by one’s falsely subjective image of oneself ….  [To] alter such roles consciously

and to attempt to play other roles, not on a stage but in life itself, is an extremely advanced

exercise in its final development but a beginning can be made at this stage. Of course there is

nothing “better” about the artificial role which the subject selects to attempt than about the

automatic one he has always been playing; the whole value of the exercise depends upon

the practice of a different, not a better impersonation. Here also we have a field in which

outside confirmation is both possible and required; the criterion of success is not the opinion

of the experimenter himself but is based upon his demonstrated ability to impress others

who are not involved in the experiment, with the validity of his impersonation.

(King 119-20).

This conscious assumption of roles was often referred to by Orage as “experiment.”Clearly esoteric “experiment” is generated by radically different assumptions about morality, truth, and freedom. In short, since the Gurdjieffians saw mankind as being asleep, they did not limit themselves to the social conventions of the sleepers. With this type of model in her mind, there is no wonder that many of Hurston’s critics point to Hurston’s tendency to dissemble. As Laura Grand-Jean has observed, “Throughout her life she lied about her age, her place of birth, and often times her identity. She cloaked herself in the garbs of the many different identities that she created for herself and recounted in her work(Mules and Menwebsite; emphasis added). This is seconded by Henry Louis Gates in his Afterword to Their Eyes Were Watching God: “Hurston did make up significant parts of herself, like a masquerade putting on a disguise for the ball, like a character in her fictions” (202). These discourses account for these effects as being related to matters of Hurston’s individual personality and not to any greater purpose or to a more general group strategy. A similar duplicity was evidenced by the careers of Melvin B. Tolson (a vexing and enigmatic “Marxist” poet who wrote transcendent, complex, intellectually dense poetry) and George Schuyler (“a literary schizophrenic who created a conservative public persona for himself while expressing extreme leftist views through the pseudonymous Samuel I. Brooks” and “a skillful role player, who [created] an array of masks for himself” [Gruesser 679]), two other African-American writers who are were unacknowledged followers of Gurdjieff and who were colleagues of Hurston’s. Similarly, authoritative accounts of Carl Van Vechten relate that he published six bestselling novels during a brief period of several years during which he is supposed to have been habitually drunk night and day and not to have slept at all (Kellner 165); Van Vechten’s behavior also seems to be a case of what Orage called “experiment” in which Van Vechten played the role of a wastrel.

Hurston and her Harlem Renaissance colleagues were but imitating Gurdjieff, who recounted stories about his selling dyed sparrows as rare birds, passing off cheap wines as rare vintages, or conning

Parisian merchants into giving him credit with stories of Texan oil wells. Gurdjieff was enacting

a morality that departed  from the “sleep”-based activities of ordinary people, and his

followers were enthusiastically imitating him to the best of their capacities.   

10. The Trial of Osiris by Thoth

        One of the curious features of “Monkey Junk” is the number of times bodily organs are mentioned in the story. The Egyptian intertext provides a solution to this question. Here is the description of the trial of Osiris in Gerald Massey’s Ancient Egypt:

The highest verdict rendered by the great judge in this most awful Judgment Hall was a testimony to the truth and purity of character established for the Manes [the spirit of the dead] on evidence that was unimpeachable. At this post-mortem the sins done in the body through violating the law of nature were probed for most profoundly. Not only was the deceased present in spirit to be judged at the dread tribunal, the book of the bodywas opened and its record read. The vital organs, such as the heart, liver, and lungs, were brought into judgment as witnesses to the life lived on earth.Any part too vitiated for the rottenness to be cut off or scraped away was condemned and flung as offal to the powers who are called the eaters of filth, the devourers of hearts, and drinkers of the blood of the wicked. And if the heart, for example, should be condemned to be devoured because very bad, the individual could not be reconstructed for a future life. (201-206; emphases added)

As the whole outcome of the trail in Hurston’s story depends on the speech of the accused being true speech, it is fitting that the list of organs and parts of the body commences with the mouth in the second verse of “Monkey Junk.” Thence follow liver (verse 4); heart, tongue, cheek, hand (verse 14); back, tongue (verse 16); tongue (verse 18); teeth (verse 20); hands, hip (verse 22); tongue (verse 26);  (kidneys verse 27); head (verse 35);   heart (verse 38); stiff-necked (verse 41); eyes (verse 43); lips (verse 46);  lips (verse 47);  mouth (verse 51), skin (verse 58); and nose (verse 59).

    Thus, there is yet another trial being conducted in “Monkey Junk”—and it is very likely to have been in Hurston’s mind the most important of the trials. Namely, the trial of Osiris by Thoth by which he was “Osirified” and became the lord of the underworld, seems to be the esoteric focus of Hurston’s story. The drama of the life, death and resurrection of Osiris (the Egyptian theme) was not only fundamental to Orage’s rendition of the Gurdjieff Work, it was a near obsession of Hurston’s. Hurston’s  most ambitious works of fiction (Seraph, Moses, Their Eyes) are suffused with Egyptian lore taken directly from Massey’s Ancient Egypt, and her most highly regarded novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, is a covert retelling of the Osiris myth.  It is only the determination of Hurston’s critics to construct preordained feminist and socio-cultural interpretations of her writing that have caused them to assign whatever Egyptian influences have been noticed to a sort of non-specific Afrocentric interest on Hurston’s part: as a sort of culmination of these efforts, Patricia Hill Collins situates Hurston in an “Afrocentric feminist epistemology” (“Race”). But this Egyptian influence is intricately worked into her writings, so that many words, motifs, and symbols were derived from specifically Egyptian sources. Not only that but these materials were specifically taken from the writings of Gerald Masseyparticularly from Ancient Egypt. Massey, for his part, studied the extensive Egyptian holdings in the British Museum and was able to read Egyptian hieroglyphics.  So tied up with Massey’s volumes is Hurston’s fiction that without reference to Massey, there is essentially no means of discovering what Hurston is getting at. On the other hand, by means of a sound knowledge of Massey most of the difficulties that are presented by Hurston’s writing can be cleared up rather efficiently—though here we are speaking of difficulties that proceed from her esotericism, not those presently framed by her critics. (Since searchable versions of Massey’s books are now available on the Web, Hurston’s references to Massey are readily ascertainable.) Hurston had good reasons to depend on Massey for her Egpytology, for he was a Gnostic, an esotericist, and a powerfully imaginative thinker and researcher who traced the entirety of Christianity back to the Egyptian cult of Horus. The work of connecting Egypt to Christ had already been done by Massey in exhaustive detail. Thus Massey served as a storehouse for the detailed lore that supported the Oragean version of Christianity. Leaving nothing to chance, Hurston pointed the reader toward Massey by coding his name into the text of “Monkey Junk, with Gerald in verse 59 and Massey in verse 58.

Hurston unites Biblical and Egyptian references to terrible and finite ends in her penultimate verse:

    61. And he desisted. And after many days did he receive a letter saying “Go to the monkeys,

    thou hunk of mud and learn things and be wise. (emphasis added)

This puzzling end to her story becomes clearer if we recognize it to be, firstly, an allusion to the King James Version of the Bible’s Book of Proverbs, though the entire passage must be consulted to reveal the entire sense of Hurston’s passage. Hurston’s conclusion also echoes both Gurdjieff ‘s exhortation to “wake up,” and the references to body parts discussed above in relation to the trial of Osiris by Thoth.

   

6Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise:

 7Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler,

 8Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.

 9How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep?

 10Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep:

 11So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man.

 12A naughty person, a wicked man, walketh with a froward mouth.

 13He winketh with his eyes, he speaketh with his feet, he teacheth with his fingers;

 14Frowardness is in his heart, he deviseth mischief continually; he soweth discord.

 15Therefore shall his calamity come suddenly; suddenly shall he be broken without remedy.

(KJV Proverbs 6:6-15)

Secondly, Massey’s discussion of “Sign-language and Mythology” states that:

    Again, the Monkey who is transformed into a man is a prototype of the Moon-God Taht, who is a     Dogheaded Ape in one character and a man in another” (Massey 1995,15).

The monkey can be the source of wisdom, since through this sign Hurston points to the Egyptian god Thot (Thoth), the inventor of writing, the developer of science, and the judge of the dead. In volume two of Ancient Egyptthe profound character of the wisdom of the “monkey” is made manifest, for Massey reveals that the Bible is synonymous with Egyptian scriptures, (Massey, vol.2, 1995,  903). The hellish judgement and sentence is passed in the final verse:  “62. And he returned unto Alabama to pick cotton. Selah.”

Conclusions  

In concluding, we will observe that the majority of research on Hurston’s writings continue to make self-fulfilling assumptions about Hurston and to proceed through circular and pre-conceived arguments and thereby does little to explicate Hurston’s texts meaningfully. For instance Hurston’s folk play “Cold Keener” presents a title that Alice Birney of the Library of Congress states “remains a mystery.” Birney then uses a concept of Hurston’s, “primitive angularity,” to explain why the play “with nine skits that are unrelated in their themes, characters, or even their settings” makes no discernible sense. The title uses the same code used in “Monkey Junk” and says “code key” (See note 11.): the play is esoteric and Hurston’s “primitive angularity” is an inadequate approach. While writing this paper we came across Miriam Thaggert’s Images of Black Modernism: Verbal and Visual Strategies of the Harlem Renaissance(2010). Attracted to Hurston’s provocative assertion that “the white man thinks in a written language and the Negro thinks in hieroglyphics” (Thaggert 2012, 48) in Hurston’s essay “The Characteristics of Negro Expression” (1934), Thaggert undertakes an analysis of Hurston’s “theories of black language” (Thaggert 2012, 47) with no basis for this discussion beyond what Hurston has said about black language. According to Cheryl Wall, Hurston’s “Characteristics” essay has become  “a protocol for reading Hurston’s novels”: Wall observes that “Many critics, including Henry Louis Gates Jr., Karla Holloway, and Lynda Hill have remarked on the intellectual boldness and the insightful brilliance of this essay (Wall 2005). Not only is Hurston’s “Characteristics” essay not anthropology in the first place, it is a parody of W.E B. Du Bois’s discussions of black culture in The Souls of Black Folk(1903) and in his later writings. Hurston took her title from a sentence in “Of the Faith of the Fathers: “The Negro church of to-day is the social centre of Negro life in the United States, and the most characteristic expression of African character” (191). The thesis of Hurston’s essay comes from a statement by Du Bois that “The Negro is essentially dramatic,” (Lorini 2001, 167), and Hurston’s “Characteristics” can in part be understood as a send-up of Du Boisian pomposity. Thus Hurston is fundamentally poised to deceive her trusting, sleeping reader. Even in a brief, early piece like “Monkey Junk” Hurston’s concerns are complex, being synthesized from anthropology, Massey’s long and dense discussion in “Sign-language and Mythology,” the Bible, the esoteric ideas of Orage, and the perplexing text of Gurdjieff’s Tales. Thus scholarship on Hurston is years away from a comprehensive understanding of Hurston’s theories of language and of her literary texts.

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Rauve, Rebecca. “An Intersection of Interests: Gurdjieff’s Rope Group as a Site of Literary

Production.” Twentieth Century Literature  49.1 (2003): 46-81.

The Scopes ‘Monkey Trial’ – July 10, 1925 – July 25, 1925” [Introduction, “Inherit the Wind”]Web. http://xroads.virginia.edu/~ug97/inherit/1925home.html

Singh, Amritjit, The Novels of the Harlem Renaissance: Twelve Black Writers, 1923-1933, Pennsylvania State University Press, 1976.

Taylor, Paul Beekman. Gurdjieff’s America. Gurdjieff’s America: Mediating the Miraculousby Paul Beekman Taylor, Cambridge: Lighthouse Editions, 2004. Reissued as Gurdjieff’s Invention of America. Utrecht, The Netherlands: Eureka Editions, 2007.

Thaggert, Miriam. Images of Black Modernism: Verbal and Visual Strategies of the Harem Renaissance. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2010.

Van Vechten, Carl. Nigger Heaven. 1926. New York: Harper Colophon Books, 1971.

Wall, Cheryl. “Zora Neale Hurston’s Essays: On Art and Such.” The Scholar and Feminist Online. Online  3.2. Jumpin’ at the Sun: Reassessing the Life and Work of Zora Neale Hurston.
Monica L. Miller, Guest Editor (2005). Web.
http://www.barnard.edu/sfonline/hurston/wall_04.htm.

Washington, Peter. Madame Blavatsky’s Baboon: A History of the Mystics, Mediums, and Misfits who Brought Spiritualism to America. New York: Shocken Books Inc., 1966 (London: Secker and Warburg, 1993).

Webb, James. The Harmonious Circle. Boston: Shambhala, 1987. (London: Thames and Hudson, 1980).

Welch, Louise. Orage with Gurdjieff in America.Boston: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1982.

Wellbeloved,Sophia.Gurdjieff: The Key Concepts. London: Routledge, 2003.

_____. Gurdjieff, Astrology & Beelzebub’s Tales. New Paltz, NY: Solar Bound Press, 2002. (New Paltz, NY: Abintra Books, 2001).

Woodson, Jon. To Make a New Race: Gurdjieff, Toomer, and the Harlem Renaissance. Jackson: UP of Mississippi, 1999.

ENDNOTES

Apologies: these endnotes will arrive shortly when whatever glitch is holding onto them lets go!

NEW FROM EUREKA EDITIONS

The_Lamp

THE LAMP
Ilan Amit

A (Not Quite) Spiritual Biography

The voyage of a spiritual seeker: Ilan Amit tells about his youth in the 1950s and life in Israel, attempting to realize ideals. Meeting Dr Erich Neumann and Moshe Feldenkreis who gave him Ouspensky¹s In Search of the Miraculous. Then into Gurdjieff Groups, meeting Dr. Conge and Mme de Salzmann and others.
Ilan Amit writes:

” It has often been said that inner growth can come about only in the wake of voluntary suffering. I became blind in middle age. In my experience it is not the suffering in itself that fosters transformation, but the collapse of our carefully constructed shields that comes with it, opening us up for the infinite. My suffering would remain. What of it? Something in me is present to the immensity we are in, with all its absurdity and wonder..”

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The _Attention_Paradox


THE ATTENTION PARADOX
Bob Hunter

The Attention Paradox explores the nature of different degrees of attention, and its relationship to awareness, consciousness and self-development.
How can this phenomenon be defined? Is it an energy, a function, a power, a relationship?
The author draws on the thoughts and experiencesof many thinkers and writers, including G.I.Gurdjieff, founder of the system known as The Work, and students of his teachings who have continued to develop and interpret his ideas.

Eureka Editions began by republishing the Nicoll books THE NEW MAN, THE MARK and LIVING TIME and works by Beryl Pogson. Maurice Nicoll, and bob Hunter. Bob had been a student of Beryl Pogson in the 1960s Pogson was a student of Nicoll’s. Eureka are not connected formally to any Gurdjieff Foundation or Group but their publications focus on texts by Maurice Nicoll and Beryl Pogson both known as Gurdjieff influenced teachers of the Work or Fourth Way.

more info at http://www.eurekaeditions.com/

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The CAMBRIDGE CENTRE for the study of WESTERN ESOTERICISM is independent of any academic or esoteric communities, the directors share an interest in the need for a wider dialogue between scholars and practitioners in the field of Western Esotericism and in the establishment of a secular space in which an interdisciplinary network can thrive. From 2009 CCWE has operated within Lighthouse editions Limited, a small publishing company Directors: Dr Sophia Wellbeloved, Jeremy Cranswick – see http://gurdjieffbooks.wordpress.com

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Written by SOPHIA WELLBELOVED

June 17, 2009 at 2:50 pm

MONSTERS & THE MONSTROUS: myths & metaphors of enduring evil

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7th Global Conference
Monsters and the Monstrous: Myths and Metaphors of
Enduring Evil

Monday 14th September 2009 – Thursday 17th
September 2009
Mansfield College, Oxford

Call for Papers
This inter-disciplinary and multi-disciplinary
project seeks to investigate and explore the
enduring influence and imagery of monsters
and the monstrous on human culture throughout
history. In particular, the project will have a
dual focus with the intention of examining
specific ‘monsters’ as well as assessing the role,
function and consequences of persons, actions or
events identified as ‘monstrous’.
The history and contemporary cultural influences
of monsters and monstrous metaphors will also be
examined.

Papers, reports, work-in-progress and workshops
are invited on issues related to any of the
following themes:

* The monster through history
* Civilization, monsters and the monstrous
* Children, childhood, stories and monsters
* Comedy: funny monsters and/or making fun of
monsters (e.g. Monsters Inc, the Addams Family)
* Making monsters; monstrous births, childhood
* Mutants and mutations and freaks
* Technologies of the monstrous
* Horror, fear and scare
* Do monsters kill because they are monstrous
or are they monstrous because they kill?
* How critical to the definition of monster
is death or the threat of death?
* Human ‘monsters’ and ‘monstrous’ acts? e.g,
perverts, paedophiles and serial killers
* Revolution and monsters
* Enemies (political/social/military) and
monsters
* Iconography of the monstrous
* The popularity of the modern monsters; the
Mummy, Dracula, Frankenstein, Vampires, Cannibals
* The monster in literature
* The monster in media (television, cinema,
radio, internet)
* Religious depictions of the monstrous
* Metaphors and the monstrous
* The problematic attraction and admiration
of monsters
* Gothic Monsters

Papers will be accepted which deal solely with
specific monsters. Pre-formed panel proposals are
also encouraged.

The 2009 meeting of Monsters will run alongside
our project on ‘Madness – Probing the Boundaries’
and we anticipate holding sessions in common
between the two projects. We welcome any papers
considering the problems or addressing issues of
Monsters and Madness for joint project
sessions.

Papers will be considered on any related theme.
300 word abstracts should be submitted by Friday
17th April 2009. If an abstract is accepted for
the conference, a full draft paper should be
submitted by Friday 7th August 2009.

300 word abstracts should be submitted to the
Organising Chairs; abstracts may be in Word,
WordPerfect, or RTF formats, following this
order: author(s), affiliation, email address,
title of abstract, body of abstract.

Please use plain text (Times Roman 12) and abstain
from using any special formatting, characters or
emphasis (such as bold, italics or
underline). We acknowledge receipt and answer to
all paper proposals submitted. If you do not
receive a reply from us in a week you should
assume we did not receive your proposal; it might
be lost in cyberspace! We suggest, then, to look
for an alternative electronic route or resend.

Organising Chairs

Sorcha Ni Fhlainn
Hub Leader
School of English, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland
E-mail: snf@inter-disciplinary.net

Rob Fisher
Network Founder & Leader, Inter-Disciplinary.Net
Freeland, Oxfordshire
United Kingdom
E-mail: m7@inter-disciplinary.net

Stephen Morris
Hub Leader
Independent Scholar
New York, USA
USA
E-mail: smmorris58@yahoo.com

The aim of the conference is to bring together
people from different areas and interests to share
ideas and explore various discussions which
are innovative and exciting. All papers accepted
for and presented at this conference are eligible
for publication in an ISBN eBook. Selected
papers may be invited to go forward for
development into a themed ISBN hard copy volume.
Some papers may also be invited for inclusion in
the Journal of Monsters and the Monstrous.

Please note: Inter-Disciplinary.Net is a
not-for-profit network and we are not in a
position at this present time to be able to assist
with conference travel or subsistence.

For further details about the project please visit:
http://www.inter-disciplinary.net/at-the-interface/evil/monsters-and-the-monstrous/

For further details about the conference please visit:
http://www.inter-disciplinary.net/at-the-interface/evil/monsters-and-the-monstrous/call-for-papers/

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The CAMBRIDGE CENTRE for the study of WESTERN ESOTERICISM is independent of any academic or esoteric communities, the directors share an interest in the need for a wider dialogue between scholars and practitioners in the field of Western Esotericism and in the establishment of a secular space in which an interdisciplinary network can thrive.. From 2009 CCWE has operated within Lighthouse editions Limited, a small publishing company Directors: Dr Sophia Wellbeloved, Jeremy Cranswick – see http://gurdjieffbooks.wordpress.com

——————————————————————

INTERNATIONAL SOCIETY for NEOPLATONIC STUDIES

krakow2

Krakow

Call for papers
The International Society for Neoplatonic Studies Conference

Krakow, Poland, June 18 – 21, 2009.

The conference and the panel may be of interest to you. Conference registration is open to all; papers may only be submitted by ISNS members, however. Further information on the conference can be found at:
http://members.upcpoczta.pl/m.podbielski9/Welcome.html

If you wish to submit a proposal to be considered for the panel and you are not yet an ISNS member, membership information can be found at:
http://www.isns.us/

“Ecstatic Experience in the Platonic Tradition”
“The greatest of blessings come to us through madness, when it is sent as a gift of the gods” (Phaedrus 244A). Plato’s discussion of mania opened the door to a role for ecstatic experience in the Platonic quest for wisdom. Late Antiquity saw a rising emphasis on ecstatic experience, reflected in aspects of the ‘Platonic underworld’ of Hermetism, Gnosticism, Magic and Theurgy. And in Ficino’s Florence, mania was central to the praxis of the Platonic world view in Natural Magic. I invite papers on ecstatic experience within a broadly Platonic framework from a variety of angles, which might include: interpretations of Platonic mania; ritual and contemplative inductions of ecstatic experience; ancient terminologies for altered states of consciousness; Neoplatonic epiphanies; philosophical vision and ecstatic vision; the fate and legacy of the ‘shamanism’ concept in classical studies; initiatic and oracular experience in Platonism; modern psychological perspectives on ancient ecstatic experience.”

Please submit proposals directly to me: lgeorge@capilanou.ca . The submission deadline is Feb 23, 2009.

Leonard George
lthoth@hotmail.com

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The CAMBRIDGE CENTRE for the study of WESTERN ESOTERICISM is independent of any academic or esoteric communities, the directors share an interest in the need for a wider dialogue between scholars and practitioners in the field of Western Esotericism and in the establishment of a secular space in which an interdisciplinary network can thrive.. From 2009 CCWE has operated within Lighthouse editions Limited, a small publishing company Directors: Dr Sophia Wellbeloved, Jeremy Cranswick – see http://gurdjieffbooks.wordpress.com

==============================

DAVID POLLARD ON SIMON JENNER’S PESSOA SERIES

THE SIMON JENNER PAGE

simon-jenner-2

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crowley19

Crowley and Pessoa

——————————————–

DAVID POLLARD WRITES:

Simon Jenner – the Pessoa Series
I bend to pluck its auxiliary nerve

We are treating here of colours. To be precise: of the constituents of white light. Can we use the prism as a metaphor for hetero-naming? Jenner at least implies as much as his series on Pessoa is flooded with the violence intrinsic to the breakdown of light – every colour of the rainbow as ‘a lozenge of April / shafts a century’s light through the glass, / oblique’. When a writer retreats from his own creativity, leaving it in the hands of others, his reader, especially if he is also a poet, will have to change the way he reacts to what is left behind; the shimmering range that flows from the other side of the prism which is ‘out of your shining character’ and cannot return to its origin. The flow is also, as it must be, of blood: ‘Take blood colour from you for visages you now don’t believe’. He will remind us of the medieval makers of stained glass that flooded the floor with golds and reds and blues – ‘some fantastic redundant glow’ – all that is visible of the transformation the window performs on the light beyond, ‘sectioned in jade’:

in different stains of glass:
intense throw of lapis, freaked with violet,
age-burnt ruby and sunken emerald;
gold whitened by the sun. Encrusted.

Or, in ‘Bernardo Soares’:

azure shirts
apple-green and stretched through the bole.
Coral dresses would flounce slowly to
Burgundy underwater, fluting in the glaze

Pessoa’s portraits returns the writer’s glance:

The slowing down of mauve I can face.
Its unnatural chemics striate: cerulean,
faded cerise stranding in my nose’s shadow.

This can be put another way, as Jenner also does. There is a discourse here that involves rather too much in the way of aufheben in the sense of a discourse that the prism has bent rather too much under the weight of its own creativity and cannot return to the upright to synthesise with its opposite. It “has been cleared away or annulled” rather than ”kept and preserved”; a bowed reed of dialectic which is indeed one of separation, of division, of distance that ‘could bend to pluck its auxiliary nerve’, ‘it was your language that leaned on without me’, granting speech to the other in a retreat that vanishes behind its newspaper in the corner of his favourite bar, the Martinho da Arcada:

mixed palate, hat dwarfing
me as it has to – sits on approval, smudged
into the Dufy marine of Lisbon

Here Pessoa sits while a host of others write chest-loads of words with the merest of glances in his direction. Thus at the core of his creativity is a refusal which speaks in strange voices that are (let us be clear) not his own and yet must (let us be equally clear) in some sense also be his own in order to grant him his avowal that:

Dignity is the last refuge
of the abandoned.

Some 25,000 fragments were indeed found abandoned in a trunk after his death. These were written on the backs of envelopes, on scraps of paper and on the reverse side of other manuscripts. They were written on a huge range of topics including philosophy, history, sociology and literary criticism There were plays, short stories, treatises on astrology and a variety of autobiographical material. Much of this is still to be catalogued. We are reminded perhaps of the valise that Walter Benjamin dragged across the Pyrenees in 1940 on his escape from Vichy France a journey that led to his death at the age of 48 (Pessoa died at 47). Like The Book of Disquiet, Benjamin’s ‘Arcades Project’ is a fragmentary work that was never completed:

And who’s here when I’d pick about his books,
piled in ranks like a hypocaust exposed?
Fernando’s stripped us back to our paper looks;
we play through his collapse, hot winds where no flue’s closed.

But we are left with a problem; If words keep flowing, surely the author must accept responsibility for them as words can hardly generate themselves. Indeed the word ‘author’ means ‘beginner, former, or first mover of anything; hence, the efficient cause of a thing; a creator; an originator’. Auto = self-driven; independency as in autochthonous, autobiography, autoerotic, etc. After all, when the author dies, the words stop coming. Again: a text cannot generate itself as long as the writer continues to place his signature under it and claims his copywrite. Seeing the writer as function (Foucault), position (Derrida) or relationship (Barthes) does not really overcome this.

It may be that there are two kinds of hetero-naming: the liar and the truth-teller. The first of these is the role player who hides behind a mask so that his reader may mistake him, Cyrano-like, for what appears. He is a ventriloquist of sorts and wishes to avoid the fixity of personality or the constraints of a philosophical or literary position or the restrictions of a particular set of ideas. He may even be the victim of political repression. Here the hetero-naming is done for a reason, the retreat is tactical and this is a kind of lie and, inevitably, the voice behind the mask has a tendency to re-assert itself. The authorial voice still speaks behind the mask.

The second is more complex as the validation of his voices is grounded in a more radical otherness. This self-destruction or negative capability is crucial if heteronomy is to be authentic and entirely genuine.

And so to Keats as exemplar of so many who speak of this truth-telling retreat from pure light and the fragmentation of identity and write of the ‘silent workings of the imagination’ which come ‘continually on the spirit with a fine suddenness’. He writes that, ‘nothing startles me beyond the moment’ and continues, ‘If a Sparrow come before my Window I take part in its existence and pick about the Gravel’. Hazlitt said of Shakespeare that:

“He was the least of an egotist that it was possible to be. He was nothing in himself; but he was all that others were, or that they could become. He not only had in himself the germs of every faculty and feeling but he could follow them by anticipation, intuitively, into all their conceivable ramifications, through every change of fortune […] He had only to think of anything in order to become that thing, with all the circumstances belonging to it”.

We are speaking here of ‘negative capability’ where Hazlitt replaces einfühlung – empathy – with something more like einfüllung – a filling up with. The poet fills himself up with the object of contemplation to such a degree that his own ego, like white light, is dissolved into the many. Keats tells us:

“what quality went to form a Man of Achievement especially in Literature & which Shakespeare possessed so enormously – I mean Negative Capability, that is when man is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact & reason”.

The “poetical Character”, the character “which Shakespeare possessed so enormously”, has no identity of its own, least of all some special kind of identity which can be called “poetic”. “A Poet is the most unpoetical of any thing in existence; because he has no Identity”. A poet is “camelion”, “he is continually in for – and filling some other Body”. So, whereas “Men and Women who are creatures of impulse are poetical and have about them some unchangeable attribute, the poet has none, no identity”:

“As to the poetical Character itself […] it is not itself – it has no self – it is every thing and nothing – It has no character – it enjoys light and shade; it lives in gusto, be it foul or fair, high or low, rich or poor, mean or elevated – It has as much delight in conceiving an Iago as an Imogen”.

Pessoa wrote of his “purely negative” state of mind. In a “Personal Note” he writes: “My intellect has attained a pliancy and a reach that enables me to assume any emotion I desire and enter at will into any state of mind. And so the poet retreats into silence leaving the stage to the others. Pessoa as Keats and Shakespeare, Cyrano-like, vanishes and leaves the others (in his case 72 at the last count, the first appearing at the age of 6) to do the talking. “To deny me the right to do that would be the same as denying Shakespeare the right to give expression to Lady Macbeth’s soul. And if that’s true for fictitious characters in a drama, it is equally true for characters not in a drama, since it applies because they are fictitious and not because they are in a drama”. The white light is left behind in its ‘dignity’ shattering out into all the colours of the rainbow:

Jenner gives us:

He never borrowed these other selves. He purloined
both sides so much there was just a heavy pencil
shadow of him left, like the gable on a time-
eaten roof before the timbers crash

or, so as he is held at bay ‘simple in the soft declension of his no’s’ as another poem has it:

throw his casements open to denote
friends from all the suburbs of his will;

In Jenner Queiroz can write to Campos:

You need no’s like ball bearings,
Campos, my dear, offerings for sweet oil
to keep Fernando running on tracks he thinks his own.

We worry for it, want to freshen it from its calf
bind a gender; a name, so it can feel at home
with the way your joint and several selves
field different rhythms, let alone
vocabulary. This foxed it, spotted it quite.
An author’s words smell comforting, dark fustian
even. Yours war and shift, on some sucked-out
bones of metaphor.

Go for the verb, we told it, make black coffee sense
of Campos’ sweep of referents, or
Caeiro’s double-takes on sheep. Ries
crossing the cod classic bar-line; and Pessoa,
we said, simple in the soft declension of his no’s.

Pessoa’s grasp on his own self was so weak that he even wrote to former acquaintances in Durban as the psychiatrist Faustino Antunes. He earnestly asked their opinion on the mental state of one, Fernando Pessoa, his patient, who had, he said, either committed suicide or was in a mental institution. Having so little grasp of his own identity, he was desperate that they might be able flesh him out. Retreat because retreated from, perhaps, his father dying when he was only five and his brother a year later, the same year that his mother remarried.

This silence of retreat to the point of neurosis could leave a space for hetero-naming. Not ventriloquism which implies an original voice speaking through others, rather other voices speaking for. These speakers are rather too real, their existence crowding out Pessoa’s own orthonymous existence which was other even when writing under his own name. He certainly existed but so did Ofelia and so did More, Crowley and others. Jenner is concerned to give us a concrete insight into this rainbow of characters. We have come to the point when we are in need of some examples.

First is Alberto Caeiro, the pagan who is closest to Pessoa himself and almost but not quite orthonymic:

He bid me rise pristine, he said. I can’t see this.
I was there, phlegm in the throat of his idiom.
Stood within him? He could hardly spit me out;
a year his junior, I’d taken possession of words, walked in,

shook his flinched hand – the index still tender? – before he
dreamed of me

and, again like Pessoa, is himself a hetero-namer:

I never kept poets, but it’s as if I had.
You who claim me like a branding-iron
to crisp a finger-tip’s breadth of skin
where your writing callous crimps your index.

So Queiroz could write:

– told him only you existed.
Not the others, not him, but you, absent snap-
finger master.

He has “all the simplicity, all the grandeur of the ancients”. He dresses carelessly in the style of Ribatejo after living too long in the country with little to do. He has little education. He has taken on the positivism of the peasant; ‘It’s how I shepherd the sounds, if I could imagine. / But I can’t’ (Jenner). ‘He sees things with the eyes only, not with the mind and he refuses subterfuge and artificiality. He does not allow any thoughts to arise when he looks at a flower and in this he is totally unpoetic. “My mysticism is not to try to know / It is to live and not think about it”’ (Pessoa). Jenner’s Caeiro begins:

To arrive, ripe with the appointed fire
and quake your scribbling like a seismograph
sheer off its track, wasn’t it at all.

so writes in free verse with a wide-eyed, childlike wonder at the infinite variety of the natural world which is hard, quizzical, homely: ‘a farm / cat’s purr amplified in an empty tin bath’. He is happy through simple acceptance and the limitations that demands and asks nothing of life.

who mastered him in a nice decree

Next we have Alvaro de Campos, another disciple of Caiero, a naval engineer, bisexual and a dandy who, after studying in Glasgow where:

They ravish patter-songs in upper Albion,
spilling from pubs on the Clyde, swinging
like derricks rusted by a hundred years.

Here, my tuning fork rings through an empty hull,
a campanile of instant religions.
They’re right. Cheaper labour will kill it all
like a finger on the fork’s windpipe.
I cannot stay here and breathe.

So went out to the Orient to work and later lived outrageously in London. He does his master’s travelling so that Pessoa can stay at home. ‘The best way to travel is to feel’ yet this feeling is grounded in a sense of isolation and nothingness which ‘throws a lattice work before him

shade of an Eiffel dawn, Chicago’s sudden steel reach’,
a powerful striving for exultation resting on a melancholic vacuum.

Unlike Caeiro he asks too much of life.

With Queiroz we come to something a little too translucent; too real, This is Queiroz; Ofelia. Pessoa worked with her in the offices of Valladas & Freitas in 1919, He 32 she 19, a middle class woman working in those day and at that time was thought dangerously emancipated. He developed a love for her that lasted something over a decade not entirely unrequited:

Your fingers reached for the difficulty
of yes across the cream lace fiction
of the cheap restaurant.

Yet sufficiently:

What surgery of refusal will your acumen elide
this time? My voice, perhaps, so I’m a girl
shuttling returns of black and white, silent
as the movies.

She it is who now stands up of her own free will and comes over to him placing on his table a few papers before paying the waiter with a strange smile and departing. Our poet replaces his glasses and, dragging the papers towards him, reads

my oxygen revives a spent taper
in a bell jar of glass arteries, pumped of
the old self that had blood to lose. I’m happening
to you in a last glow. Forgive me. You’re transparent.

He loves her among the heteronyms as our poet (in his own love for her) understands:

I could never stake out the man who kissed me
from the league who write each other screeds
of how it happened to another, dead now; as it had, and is.

What can a minor voice like mine
hope to sliver between such querulous giants?

Perhaps it was he put the non-requital in her soul:

but there’s me O stenographer,
putting words to your mouth to bite with your nails.
It’s me, stop, me.

She wrote a gentle portrait of him in her old age.

Bernardo Soares as Pessoa avers “was only a semi-heteronym because, although his personality is not mine, it is not different from but rather a simple mutilation of my personality. Jenner’s Pessoa asks :

Why did I feel such cruel paring, this
shoehorn of a life to shadows, was more me
than me?

“He is me minus reason and affectivity”. It is he, of course, who wrote The Book of Disquiet and this demands apology:

I’m sorry I so straitened you, a poor clerk; me,
minus intellect and affectivity –
a stupid way to touch the why I felt.

Yet admits that there is some lack of control as there must be:

You’ve outgrown me, are the essence
of what I forgive in me for what I can’t absolve:
the Venetian blind heart that knows itself false,
for the gem mind that glances with the truth.

The heteronyms became more and more fantastical. Having so little ego Pessoa, influenced in this by his Aunt Anica, tried the occult.

Aunt, she vanishes into planets,
their essence of sanctuary, flashing rounds.
I can’t abandon such foreign witness.
I’ve jotted her dark lines into Venus’ mounds

For a year or so about 1916, he involved himself in a series of automatic writing sessions and succeeded in contacting several intelligences, among them Henry More, the Cambridge Platonist who told him: “You masturbator! You masochist! You man without manhood!… You man without a man’s prick!”
and advised him to lose his virginity.

You, sir, are a masturbator, as if
your destiny was a virgin splash of names –
a self-swallower’s barren touch of time.
How can an onanist engender truly, inhere
the identities of all your bloodless ticking selves?

The striking thing here is the solidity, the reality of all this naming. These people, even when they are real, are real. It is both the solidity of their reality and how this reality came to be that is the subject of this wonderful series of poems. This solidity is crucial. There is a fugal intensity here that plays with words to create an interplay of lives. A couple of examples

a charcoal-dishevelled
de Campos, sucked-in tubercular Caeiro, Reis wan
as a child’s first essay in wax pastels.

again:

I’ve breathed each of you, Caeiro, Reis too,
though city-white I’m not his rich-skinned taste.
I give you breath, write de Campos who winces you

a second skin he sees I’ve burned,

These people talk among themselves, about themselves and about Pessoa. Even Pessoa speaks about Pessoa. And that is as it should be. Thus this series gives us a meditation on language and creativity as well as subtle biographies and inter-relationships.

So there should be a ‘library wine to sip books with’ that ‘should be noiselessly refilled. All these , ‘self-cancellings’ For now the poet (Jenner?) beckons to the waiter who brings him his bill. He is now a super-homonym and stands above them all, Pessoa included, and granting himself a quiet unnoticed smile, takes his leave of the place and of them all:

my self-communers who echo whitewashed
walls I concaved for them; and those who drew me
outside my circle. This café loses them; fleshed and
not of my sad gravity, they can’t compel me back.

Thus he allows himself, along with all of them to:

shuffle half-cut home, to bare boards,
an aching bulb, planting no long evening shadows;
days bleached so much together
that the scent of memory is impossible

DP 2009

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David Pollard

David Pollard was born under a hospital bed during the blitz in 1942 and brought up a Londoner. After working in the furniture trade and serving his articles for accountancy, he fled to the University of Sussex where he was given his three degrees in literature, the history of ideas and philosophy. The last of these, a doctorate, awarded on his 40th birthday, was published as The Poetry of Keats: Language and Experience.

He worked at the University of Essex and Sussex and pesnt a year at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem as a Lady Davies Scholar. He also published the KWIC Concordance to the Harvard Edition of Keats’ Letters as well as other work on Keats, Blake and Nietzsche. His latest, Nietzsche’s Footfalls, is a meditation on the philosopher and his times and came out in 2003.

He has also reviewed extensively in the fields of both philosophy and literature. Apart from a Waterloo Sampler, this is Pollard’s first book of poetry although his work has appeared in: Omphalos, Tears in the Fence, Aletheia, Fire, Eratica, Eclipse and Poetry Monthly. He is currently writing a comparison of Blake and Nietzsche and his holiday task is a historical novel, The Memories of Herod Agrippa II.

Simon Jenner writes for Poetry Review, PNR, The Tablet, Music on the Web and the British Music Society, is the recipient of many awards and bursaries, his collection of poems ‘About Bloody Time’ was published in 2007. He is Director of Survivors’ Poetry, and editor of Waterloo Press (see http://www.waterloopress.co.uk)

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Written by SOPHIA WELLBELOVED

February 6, 2009 at 12:50 pm

THE LURE OF SECRECY: WESTERN ESOTERICISM & THE ARTS ——– CCWE CONFERENCE 2OO9 ——–

THE CAMBRIDGE CENTRE FOR THE STUDY OF WESTERN ESOTERICISM
3rd ANNUAL CONFERENCE 10th OCTOBER 2009

THE LURE OF SECRECY: WESTERN ESOTERICISM & THE ARTS

This year’s conference is one of a series of CCWE conferences that continue and deepen research specifically in the field of Western Esotericism and the Arts, with a primary focus on secrecy.

CALL FOR PAPERS
Participative panel discussions will focus on secrecy: its positive, negative and ambiguous aspects, its uses and abuses in relation to literature, music and the visual arts, these may be expressed in such themes as:

vision, transformation, truth, the divine
the unknown, the future, death, the afterlife
power, control, anti-establishment aims, membership of an elite
language, texts, places, teachers
revelation, interpretation, levels of consciousness, ambiguity
codes, ciphers, correspondences, magic, hypnotism, hallucination
in the context of their relevance to the political, cultural and social demands of their time.

Presentations will be published on the website ahead of the conference. Lighthouse Editions are considering publishing a book of the conference papers, but these should not be submitted before the conference.

EXTENSION OF DEADLINE
Deadline for submission end of July
Please send an initial abstract of 100-200 words to:

Dr Sophia wellbeloved
s.wellbeloved@gmail.com

PANELS
THE INTRODUCTORY PAPER FOR EACH SESSION WILL NOT BE MORE THAN 15 MINUTES IN LENGTH and will be followed by an open discussion for the remaining thirty minutes so 45 minutes in total.
All papers will be published on the CCWE website ahead of the conference.

RESPONDENTS to papers are invited to send a brief email with their interests in the areas of:

Secrecy related to:
French Surrealism in the 1930s
19th Century Hermeticism and Magnetism
Musical Modes
Imagery drawnfrom Bibblical story and Greek myth
Swedenborg
17th Century painting in the Netherlands

POSITION PAPERS
Respondents may be asked to prepare short Position Papers from which they may contribute during the relevant panel session. Accepted Position Papers will be published on the CCWE website.
All participants are welcome to take part in the panel discussion that follows the above address. If you have a specific interest in this area or a contribution you would like to make please send details to s.wellbeloved@gmail.com

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KEYNOTE ADDRESS

birth_of_bacchus-2_crop

Nicolas Poussin: The Birth of Bacchus, 1657, detail
(see the complete image below the Keynote Address)

KEYNOTE ADDRESS:THE BIRTH OF BACCHUS

An exploration of the genesis and evolution of Poussin’s schema for The Birth of Bacchus will be given by
JULIA CLEAVE MA member of the Academic Board of the Temenos Academy THE LURE OF SECRECY
For of the knowledges that contemplate the works of Nature, the holy philosopher hath said expressly; that the Glory of God is to conceal a thing, but the glory of the king is to find it out: as if the Divine Nature, according to the innocent and sweet play of children, which hide themselves to the end they may be found; took delight to hide his works, to the end they might be found out; and of his indulgence and goodness to mankind, had chosen the Soule of man to be his Play-fellow in this game.”
Francis Bacon Preface to the Advancement of Learning (1640)

THE BIRTH OF BACCHUS
Poussin, the Quadrivium and the Mysteries

The circle of learned men for whom Poussin painted regarded themselves in some ways as privileged persons, who had been initiated into mysteries unknown…incomprehensible to the vulgar. Anthony Blunt Nicolas Poussin The A.W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts (1958)

Theon of Smyrna, writing in the 4th century CE, states in the midst of his Mathematics Useful for the Study of Plato: We can again compare philosophy to the initiation into things truly holy, and to the revelation of the authentic mysteries.

OED Definition of Theurgy:
2. The operation or intervention of a divine or supernatural agency in human affairs; the results of such action in the phenomenal world.

Poussin’s approach to his art was essentially theurgic. He conceived his compositions as a form of sacred theatre in which what is portrayed – an encounter between human and divine worlds – is intended (for those who have eyes to see) to move the soul of the viewer.

Bernini – after examining in detail, on his knees, the third painting in Poussins’s series of the Seven Sacraments Extreme Unction – declared: it has the same effect as a beautiful sermon to which one listens with rapt attention and after which one is left speechless, for one’s innermost being has been moved.

Poussin, himself, likened his art to the Greek theory of the musical modes: When all parts of the composition were assembled together in due proportion…there proceeded a power to breed various passions in the soul. In his final statement on the nature of his art he went further:

It is an imitation with lines and colours on any surface of all that is to be found under the sun. Its aim is delectation
. Not only is Poussin hinting here at his espousal of a form of solar mysticism but, in using the term ‘delectation’, he means not simply pleasure or delight, but is invoking St. Augustine’s notion of ‘delectatio bono’: a beatitude which leads to union with the divine.

Bernini’s phrase: left speechless recalls the Greek concept of arrhetos meaning ‘unspeakable’ or ‘inexpressible’ – a term from the lexicon of the mysteries which applies both to the injunction on initiates to keep secret the sacred rites – a necessary protection from the profane – but equally it implies the impossibility of conveying in speech such momentous experiential knowledge, or gnosis.

Whether Poussin is drawing for his subject-matter on Biblical story or Classical myth, he is concerned with such moments of epiphany or epopteia – with the dramas of initiation, trial, revelation and transformation which we associate with the Mysteries. The word mysteria, meaning secret rite or doctrine, was applied by the Church Fathers to the Christian sacraments as well as to the initiation ceremonies of the ancient world.

In the service of this aim, Poussin deploys the disciplines of the Quadrivium – the four subjects (literally the four ways) which were regarded by classical writers as pathways to spiritual enlightenment.

Hence the meticulous architectonics which underpin his art: a deployment of whole number ratios, root geometries and musical proportions which is analogous to a form of temple-building. As in the history of architecture, so in the history of art, knowledge of these mathematical subjects was regarded as a closely-guarded secret – what Luca Pacioli called, in his treatise on the Divine Proportion: secretissima scientia, the most secret science. De Divina Proportione – drawn largely from the work of Piero della Francesco – was illustrated by Leonardo and published in 1509. While all claims to the persistence of a tradition of speculative geometry in painting need to be judiciously made, there is clear evidence that, more than a century later, artists like Poussin (buon geometra) were still making conscious use of geometry in their compositions for what appear to be both symbolic and talismanic purposes.

Not only is Poussin concerned with Arithmetica, Geometria, and Harmonia; he also engages with the fourth of the Quadrivium subjects: Astrologia or Astronomia. In a number of his canvasses, through a subtle combination of ecliptic geometry, together with solar, planetary or zodiac imagery, he explores the symbolic links between microcosm and macrocosm – humanity and the visible world under the influence of super-sensible forces.

Academic approaches to Poussin’s art have a tendency to treat his subject-matter as fossilized cultural memes – the stock topoi of sacred or secular art – to be interpreted in socio-historical, psychological or aesthetic terms, rather than as possessing spiritual content. On Dante’s hermeneutic scale of the four levels of interpretation: literal/narrative, allegorical, moral and anagogical, modern scholarship seldom ventures beyond the third level. Our predominantly secular culture has difficulty in acknowledging transcendence: shying away from lived spiritual experience, from the possibility of visionary flights of soul.

A myth gets its animation from a mystery (Pico della Mirandola)

The interpretation of The Birth of Bacchus is a case in point. This ‘mysterious canvas’, originally painted for one of Poussin’s closest friends and fellow-artist, Jacques Stella, now hangs in the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard. It has given rise to some puzzlement among art historians. They are at pains to account for the artist’s decision to combine in one scene two disparate myths which appear unconnected by any narrative thread: the stories respectively of the Birth of Bacchus and the Death of Narcissus. Drawing on scientific ideas current among Poussin’s libertins contemporaries, as well as Renaissance traditions of mythography, their solution has been to interpret the picture as essentially an allegory of opposing physical processes of regeneration and decay in Nature. While this theme is undoubtedly present, an exclusive focus on natural history is too reductive, and forecloses on more esoteric readings of the composition. It is only when this is viewed in the light of metaphysical traditions that we discover a more profound rationale for Poussin’s ‘mysterious’ conception. His sophisticated schema encodes a complex pattern of alchemical and planetary symbolism, consistent with Neo-Platonic and Hermetic conceptions of cosmology and the transcendent destiny of the human soul. Further confirming this anagogical interpretation, the artist left behind a number of clues in the form of some mythographical notes, and in a more explicit detailing of his ideas in one of his preparatory sketches.

Poussin’s highly-charged and often enigmatic canvasses invite us to muse deeply on their esoteric import – holding out the promise of access to veiled or submerged hermetic truths. This is the lure of secrecy, implicit in Francis Bacon’s remarkable image of a concealed God, inviting human souls to be his Play-fellows in a game of divine hide-and-seek, de-coding the phenomenal world in search of Deus Absconditus, and, in the process, discovering their own true destinies. (Vere tu es Deus absconditus was the gnomic inscription given to a posthumous engraving by Claudine Stella of one of Poussin’s most striking works The Holy Family on the Steps.)

An exploration of the genesis and evolution of Pousin’s schema for The Birth of Bacchus will be the subject of Julia Cleave’s keynote address.

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birth-of-bacchus-4991

Nicolas Poussin: The Birth of Bacchus, 1657
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JULIA CLEAVE (MA Oxon, MA Essex) is a member of the Academic Board of the Temenos Academy. As an independent scholar, she is currently conducting research into the encoding of the hermetic traditions in Renaissance and Seventeenth-century art and literature, including evidence for proto-masonic symbolism and ritual practice. In 2003 her proposal for a doctoral thesis on sacred geometry and the mystery traditions in the works of Nicolas Poussin was accepted by the School of Traditional Arts at the Prince of Wales Institute of Architecture. She has given lectures at the History of Astrology Seminar, the Theosophical Society, the School of Economic Science, the Jupiter Trust and the Temenos Academy. http://www.temenosacademy.org/

Publications include:
A review of Friend to Mankind – Marsilio Ficino 1433-99 ed. Michael Shepherd in Temenos Academic Review 4 (Spring 2001)
Ficino’s Approach to Astrology as Reflected in Book VII of his Letters
Culture and Cosmos Volume 7 Number 2 (Autumn/Winter 2003)
Burlesquing the Brotherhood (Paper given at the 6th International Conference at the Canonbury Masonic Research Centre).
The Canonbury Papers Vol. 4: Seeking the Light – Freemasonry and Initiation (2007)
Of Hiram and Aymon – the Evolution of the Legend of the Third Degree
Transactions of the Manchester Association for Masonic Research Vol XCVIII [98] [2008].

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Leverhulme GES

PROFESSOR GYORGY SZONYI
Universisties of Szeged and Budapest
Leverhulme Visiting Professor
Department of English, Communication, Media and Film
Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, England

will respond to the Keynote Address.

Professor Gyorgy Szonyi
Selected Publications

6 monographs, 11 edited volumes, 91 articles in the fields of Renaissance research, English and Hungarian studies in periodicals, collections of essays, encyclopedias. Book reviews, essays, critiques on Hungarian culture and current European issues. Two novels (1983, 2002) and short stories

Books:
Gli angeli di John Dee. Roma: Tre Editori, 2004, 170 pages, 9 illustrations.

John Dee’s Occultism. Magical Exaltation Through Powerful Signs. Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2004 (Series in Western Esoterism), 350 pages, 32 illustrations.

Pictura & Scriptura. Hagyományalapú kulturális reprezentációk 20. századi elméletei [Pictura & Scriptura: 20th-century Theories of Tradition-based Cultural Representations]. Szeged: JATEPress, 2004 (Ikonológia és muértelmezés 10), 324 pages, 54 illustrations.

Edited Books and Journal Issues:
“The Voices of the English Renaissance.” Special Issue, Hungarian Journal of English and American Studies 11.1 (2005), 253 pages.

The Iconography of Power: Ideas and Images of Rulership on the English Renaissance Stage. Szeged: JATE Press, 2000 (Papers in English & American Studies 8), 214 pages, illustrated. With Rowland Wymer.

European Iconography East & West. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1996 (Symbola & Emblemata 7), 263 pages, illustrated

Selected Articles and Book Chapters since 2001:
“The Dark Offsprings of Humanism: Erasmus, Reuchlin, and the Magical Renaissance.” In Marcell Sebök (ed.), Republic of Letters, Humanism, Humanities. Budapest: Collegium Budapest (Workshop Series 15), 2005, 107-25.

“John Dee as Cultural, Scientific, Apocalyptic Go-Between.” In Andreas Höfele, Werner von Koppenfels (ed.), Renaissance Go-Betweens. Cultural Exchange in Early Modern Europe. Berlin, New York: Walter de Gruyter, 2005, 88-104.

“Occult Semiotics and Iconology: Michael Maier’s Alchemical Emblems.” In Karl Enenkel – Arnoud Visser (ed.). Mundus Emblematicus: Studies in Neo-Latin Emblem Books. Turnhout: Brepols, 2003 (Imago Figurata, Studies 4), 301-25.

“Le intuizioni di Aby Warburg alla luce delle sfide postmoderne”. In Carlo Bertozzi (ed.), Aby Warburg e le metamorfosi degli antichi dèi. Modena: Franco Cosimo Panini, 2002, 183-203.

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TESSEL M. BAUDUIN MA University of Amsterdam

LES SECRETS DE L’ART MAGIQUE SURREALISTE:
elite knowledge and the avant-garde in French surrealism of the 1930s

Andre Breton

André Breton

In the first Manifeste du Surréalisme André Breton, founder of surrealism, states that he will reveal the “secrets of the magical surrealist art”, subsequently describing different surrealist techniques. In this paper I will investigate some of these “secrets”, focusing predominantly upon automatism, visual alchemy and other techniques for creating surrealist art, combining this furthermore with a review of the concept of secrecy in surrealism. As I will show, concepts of secrecy, elite knowledge, or even of gnosis, were prevalent in the art theoretical discourse of surrealism in the 1920s and ‘30s (the particular scope of this paper), and concerned reception of art, creation of art, as well as exhibition practices. Secrecy in surrealism was intimately tied to its avant-garde tenets, and thus to the internal paradox of the avant-garde: the simultaneous need for elitism and for revelation. The secret of surrealism is only meant for a select few and the approval of the general public needs to be avoided at all cost – but then, how can the surrealist revolution be inclusive and reach out to all? As I will make clear, the particular “secrets of the magical surrealist art” provide an answer.

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Tessel M. Bauduin, MA, is a historian of art and culture. She is currently working at the University of Amsterdam, in a double position as lecturer and PhD-student, at the department History of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents. After having taught art history for a couple of years, she is now teaching various courses in religious studies and history of hermetic philosophy. Her PhD-research is concerned with the interaction of esotericism and avant-garde art movements in general, and with the reception of esoteric sources in the discourse of Parisian surrealism in the 1920s and 1930s in particular. Her thesis is expected to be published in 2012. Tessel’s freelance activities include lecturing and teaching in art history. For more, please see http://www.tesselbauduin.nl and http://home.medewerker.uva.nl/t.m.bauduin/.

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Berit

DR DES. BERIT WAGNER
Kunstgeschichtliches Institut der Goethe Universität Frankfurt

haecht2

Art Cabinet: Willem van Haecht 1628

FROM DURER TO RUBENS: PAINTERS AND THE ORDER OF THE INSPIRATI

In the 15th century, scholars, patrons and artists (re-) introduced the hermetic tradition and with that the Order of the inspirati into European thought. Even in the southern Netherlands, especially in Antwerp, esoteric literature was studied and printed very often.
Nevertheless, with the counter-reformation in Antwerp there were frequent bans, and legal processes against these philosophical-religious currents. A famous process took place against the painter Otto van Veen, teacher of Pieter Paul Rubens. My paper explores the influence of esoteric traditions in the Antwerp School in the early 17th century. It focuses on Willem van Haecht ‘s Art Cabinet painting from 1628 that depicts paintings with hidden Hermetic-Christian and Paracelisian contents and asks why it was favored by elitist thinking and why esoteric interests had to remain secret. Haechts Art Cabinet of illusion – studied alongside the Corpus Hermeticum and little examined theoretical treatises by Giovanni Paolo Lomazzo or Pieter Paul Rubens – seems to display an elitist and secret microcosm within the Antwerp society.

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DR CHRISTOPHER WEBSTER

THE PHOTOGRAPHIC PORTRAIT: ESOTERIC NAZISM AND THE FETISH OF THE HITLER ICON IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY

The photographic image gives a new form of ‘life’ – or in any case, a new ‘state of things’, a new way of being a thing – to something available out of our visible field, out of our hands, out of our immediate apprehension. It is life transported to another world by the sensitivity of the photographic plate. Michel Frizot

And even if he be dead. He will come back. Sooner or later. He is eternal. Savitri Devi from Pilgrimage (on the return of the Hitler Avatar)

Since the cataclysm of the Second World War that ended in Europe with the death in his bunker of Adolf Hitler, there has arisen, out of the ashes, an underground and secret esoteric movement where, according to Nicholas Goodrick Clarke, certain individuals have “transformed the negative attributes of Nazism into a cult of cosmic significance.” Drawn by the lure of Ariosophist myths and dreams of a resurrection of Hitlerist ideals there are some for whom the relics of the Third Reich are more than historical curiosities associated with a war that ended more than sixty years ago. To those devotees of Esoteric Nazism objects associated with Hitler and in particular photographs, have become fetishized as iconic links with his presence. I am specifically interested in the use of the Hitler image, the postcard photograph and photographic portrait, which works as both index and icon. It seems evident that there is an enormous interest in collecting ‘relics’ from the Nazi era (ranging from badges and items of clothing to dinner plates) but beyond the remit of the specialist, historic or military collector there is also an esoteric impetus to access objects with direct links to Hitler for a ‘spiritual’ reason. This is particularly true of photographic representations of Hitler that suggest a closeness to the photographed subject without having to be personal objects directly linked to Hitler the man (usually rare or with a high price tag). This notion of the photograph as a piece of material culture carrying with it a deeper association is evident in this quote by Elizabeth Barrett-Browning:

It is not merely the likeness which is precious in such cases – but the association and the sense of nearness involved in the thing…the fact of the very shadow of the person lying there fixed forever! It is the very sanctification of portraits.

It is this transmutation where the photograph becomes a religious icon that intrigues me. I have been exploring aspects of Esoteric Hitlerism as a Nazi cult where the use and iconic transformation of images of the ‘Führer’ play a major role. Esoteric Nazism has developed in a covert but broad form since the end of the Second World War. Inspired by the writings of devotees such as Miguel Serrano and Savitri Devi, Esoteric Hitlerists regard Adolf Hitler as a Messiah, deified after his Berlin ‘sacrifice’; or even as the tenth and final Avatar of Vishnu.
Again according to Savitri Devi, Hitler was:
 …the god-like Individual of our times; the Man against Time; the greatest European of all times. (From the dedication to her book, The Lightning and the Sun).

This research has developed out of my examination of the use of photography as a pseudo-scientific tool in areas such as criminology, colonialism, eugenics and racial science; and the origins of such ideas in esoteric theories dating back to the Classical era. My specific interest here lies in the analogue photographic trace as related to such ‘religious’ practices – a small but significant area within the devotions of Esoteric Hitlerism.

My paper will briefly explore the relationship between the material connectivity of photography and the subject recorded and in particular the iconic status attributed to such images as ‘unholy’ relics for these secretive Esoteric Hitlerists.

CHRIS WEBSTER

Dr. Christopher Webster was born in the UK in 1965. In 1982 his family moved to South Africa. Webster studied art and art history as an undergraduate and postgraduate in South Africa. In 1989 after graduating from art school, he lived and worked as an artist and lecturer in the Johannesburg area for several years. In 1996 he was appointed lecturer in fine art at Aberystwyth University’s, School of Art. Membership of international research committees and editorial boards has included and includes: The South African Association of Art Historians, Association of Studies in Esotericism, European Society for the Study of Western Esotericism, Overseas Advisor to Faculty of Art, Vaal University of Technology (South Africa), international editorial board of Consciousness, Literature and the Arts, international editorial board of the South African Journal of Photography. Most recent contributions to books include chapters for: The Nineteenth Century Encyclopaedia of Photography, Routledge, (2007) and Esotericism, Art and Imagination, MSU press (2008). As evidenced by international exhibitions and conference papers, Webster continues to develop, with his PhD and Masters students, alternative approaches to photographic practices (both chemically and conceptually). Webster’s most recent practice is centred on the production of short 16mm films that include stop motion animation and manipulation of the film surface. Areas of research and research supervision covers: (specifically) – occult and esoteric applications of photography (including physiognomy, spirit photography, documentation of esoteric events, photographs as evidence of the supernatural), the staged and manipulated photograph (especially in photo-collage and photomontage). Webster has investigated and adapted the iconography of the photographic image and in recent years he has participated in many group and solo shows including exhibitions in Johannesburg, Lancaster, Cape Town, London, Tel Aviv, New York, Chicago, Berlin, Baltimore, Cardiff and Pretoria. His recent art practice work centres on 16mm film experimentations. He is continuing to work on making new short films whilst concurrently researching material for a book exploring the use of faked photographs and photographs of doubtful provenance produced during the Second World War.

One person exhibitions/screenings

· Cipher – Aberystwyth Arts Centre, Aberystwyth, UK, 1 October – 19 November, 2005; Theatre Clwyd, Mold, UK, 21 January – 4 March, 2006; St Michaels Theatre, New Ross, Ireland, April, 2006; Garter Lane, Waterford, Ireland, 8 May – 5 June, 2006; UNISA Art Gallery, Pretoria, South Africa, 4 July – 30 September, 2006; Association for Visual Arts, Cape Town, South Africa, 16 April – 4 May, 2007
· Visions and Traces – School of Art Gallery, UWA, Aberystwyth, UK, 2006
· Fragments – Artemisia Gallery, Chicago, USA, 2002, Gallery International, Baltimore, USA, 2003
· Sleepwalkers – Gallery 1885, London, UK, 2000; School of Art Galleries, UWA, Aberystwyth, UK, 2001
· Riemland’s Edge – (part of africainside during Photofestival Noorderlight 2000) Museum het Princessehof, Leeuwarden, the Netherlands, 2000
· Gnosis – Folly Gallery, Lancaster, UK, November 1999 – January 2000; 100 X C (online exhibition), The Month of Photography, Cape Town, South Africa, 1999-2000
· Memory of the Fall – School of Art Galleries, UWA, Aberystwyth, UK, February – March 1998; MuseuMAfrica, Johannesburg, South Africa, May – June 1998; Durban Centre for Photography, Durban, South Africa, July – August 1998
· Roadworks – Goldfields Gallery, Vanderbijlpark, South Africa, 1993

Group exhibitions/screenings

• Beyond Words, (six person group show), Safehouse Gallery, Belfast, UK 24/01 – 07/02 2009.
• Film House, filmmakers in Wales, National Library of Wales Drwm, 29/01/2009.
• Outcasting, Season 4 (http://www.outcasting.org/) August to September, Cardiff, UK, 2008.
• Imaging the Bible, Aberystwyth University School of Art, Aberystwyth, UK, 2008.
• Stone, Plate, Grease, Water – International Contemporary Lithography, The Museum of Modern Art Wales, Machynlleth, 12 March – 12 May 2007; Bankside Gallery, (next to Tate Modern), London, 14 August – 27 August 2007; The Naughton Gallery, Queens University Belfast, 4 September – 29 September 2007; Llantarnam Grange Arts Centre, Cwmbran,
8 March – 26 April 2008
• Prints of Wales, Belger Arts Centre, Kansas City, USA, 2007
• fforma, Theatre Clwyd, Mold, UK, 2007
• fforma, Plas Glyn-y-Weddw, Llanbedrog, UK, 2006
• Originals 06, The Mall Galleries, London, UK, 2006
• Aberystwyth Printmakers, Ceredigion Museum, Aberystwyth, UK, 2005
• fforma, Stark Gallery, London, UK, 2005
• Aberystwyth Printmakers, Aberystwyth Arts Centre, Aberystwyth, UK, 2005
• fforma, Theatre Clwyd, Mold, UK, 2005
• Swansea Print Workshop, auction of original prints, The Glynn Vivian Art Gallery and Museum, Swansea, UK, 2004
• fforma, Theatre Mwldan, Cardigan, UK, 2004
• Contemporary Art from Around the World , Gallery International, Baltimore, USA, 2003
• fforma, Y Tabernacl, Museum of Modern Art Wales, Machynlleth, November – February 2003; St.David’s Hall, Cardiff, February – March, 2004
· Group Show, Gallery international, Baltimore, USA, 2003
• Toko, fforma exhibition at Toko, Aberystwyth, UK, 2003
· Exhibition of International Assemblage Artists, Gallery 24, Berlin, Germany, 2003
· Group Show, Gallery International, Baltimore, USA, 2002
· Harlech Biennale (Print Open), Theatr Ardudwy, Harlech, UK, 2002
· Premier Exhibition, Gallery International, Baltimore, USA, 2002
· Emerging Artists 2002, Limner Gallery, New York, USA, 2002
· Exposed, Fulton Street Gallery, Troy, New York, USA, 2001
· Identikit, Brixton Art Gallery, London, UK, 2001
· Current Works 2001, Society for Contemporary Photography Gallery, Kansas City, USA, 2001
· Studios Midwest A-I-R Program, Knox College Arts Building, Galesburg, USA, 2001
· fforma, Courtroom Gallery, Lampeter, UK, 2001
· Emerging Artists 2001, Limner Gallery, New York, USA, 2001
· International Young Art 2001 – international group exhibition finalist: Sotheby’s, Tel Aviv, Israel, January 2001; Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts, New York, USA, January 2001
· The Welsh Lens, international touring group exhibition: Parco e Museo Genna Maria Villanovaforru, Sardinia, September 1999; Galeria Zirpoli, Belizona, Switzerland, May – June 1998; Y Tabernacl, Machynlleth, UK, October – November 1997
· Through the Glass, Darkly – School of Art Galleries, Aberystwyth, UK, 1996
· Images with a Twist – The Photo-Arte Gallery, London, UK, 1996
· International Environment Week Exhibition – United Banking Hall, Vereeniging, South Africa, 1994
· Art School Staff Exhibition, Goldfields Gallery, Vanderbijlpark, South Africa, 1994
· Drawing With Light – ‘Pushing the Limits of Photography’- ICA, Johannesburg, South Africa, 1993
· Art School Staff Exhibition, Goldfields Gallery, Vanderbijlpark, South Africa, 1993
· Vaal Triangle Artists – ICA, Johannesburg, South Africa, 1993
· Art School Staff Exhibition, Goldfields Gallery, Vanderbijlpark, South Africa, 1992
· Kaleidoscope – Gallery 88, Sasolburg, South Africa, 1992
· Rolfe’s Impressions – Grahamstown Arts Festival, Grahamstown, South Africa, 1991
· Anniversary Exhibition of Photography – Goldfields Gallery, Vanderbijlpark, South Africa, 1991

Artist-in-residence

· Studios Midwest A-I-R program, Galesburg, USA, 2001

Gallery representation

· Gallery International, Baltimore, USA
· Clampart, New York, USA

Collections/databases

· Kato-Ezell Collection, West Virginia Center for Creative Photography, Elkins, USA
· MuseuMAfrica, Johannesburg, South Africa
· The Johannesburg Art Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa
· School of Art Collections, Aberystwyth University, Aberystwyth, UK
· Axis database, Leeds Metropolitan University, Leeds, UK
· Many private collections (international)

Exhibition catalogues

• Prints of Wales, exhibition catalogue, Belger Arts Centre, Kansas City, 2007
• Cipher, exhibition catalogue, Aberystwyth Arts Centre, 2005
· fforma, exhibition catalogue, UWA & Museum of Modern Art Wales, 2003
· Fragments, exhibition catalogue, Artemisia Gallery Chicago & Gallery International Baltimore, 2002
· International Young Art 2001, exhibition catalogue by Artlink and Sotheby’s, 2001
· Riemland’s Edge, Catalogue published, Noordelicht Fotofestival, 2000
· Riemland’s Edge, CD-ROM published, Noordelicht Fotofestival, 2000
· Sleepwalkers, exhibition catalogue, a Gallery 1885 publication, London, 2000
· Memory of the Fall, exhibition catalogue, UWA School of Art & MuseuMAfricA, 1998
· The Welsh Lens, exhibition catalogue, Museum of Modern Art Wales, 1997

Publications, conference papers, public lectures/workshops

• Paper delivered ‘ Face of the Divine: The Esoteric roots of Physiognomic Photography’ at the conference Hidden Sources: Western Esoteric influence on the arts, The Cambridge Centre for the Study of Western Esotericism, Cambridge, October 2008.
• Spirit, Ghost and Psychic Photography, in the Nineteenth Century Encyclopaedia of Photography, Routledge, 2007.
• Paper delivered ‘Fragments in Photography’ at the conference Cultural Histories and Vocabularies of the Fragment in Text and Image c.1300-2000, Aberystwyth University, June 2007.
• Cipher: Staging the Mind in the Photographic Construct, South African Journal of Photography, 1 (3), 2006.
• Gallery talk and exhibition walkthrough (x 4), University of South Africa Art Gallery, Pretoria, South Africa, July 2006
• Paper delivered ‘Photography, bastard of science or esoteric art?’ at the conference of the Association for the Study of Esotericism, at the University of California, Davis, Davis, June 2006
• Gallery talk, Garter Lane Arts Centre, Waterford, Ireland, May 2006
• Public lecture and gallery talk, Aberystwyth Arts Centre, Aberystwyth, UK, October 2005
• Analysis of Love, image reproduced in The William and Mary Review, Williamsburg, Virginia, Volume 42, 2004
• Paper delivered ‘Drawn from Nature; Hermetic references in the early photographs of W. H. F. Talbot ’ at the conference of the Association for the Study of Esotericism, at Michigan State University, East Lansing, June 2004
· Public Lecture, Galesburg Civic Art Center, Galesburg Illinois, July 2001
· Images from the Past, (book review), Inscape No 41, spring 2001
· What is and What is Not, Inscape, No. 40, winter 2000/1
· The Portrait Cabinet of Dr Bleek: Anthropometric Photographs by Early Cape Photographers, in Critical Arts: A journal for Cultural Studies (Murdoch University, Perth, Australia & University of Natal, Durban), South Africa, March 2000, ISSN0256004
· Paper delivered ‘Spiritualism and Photography’ at the conference Visions, Dreams and Nightmares at Marymont University, Washington DC, March 2000
· Robert Greetham Photographs 1978 – 1998, Inscape, No.32, winter 1999
· Seeing the Odalisque: Aspects of the colonial gaze in South Africa 1845 – 1975, in de Arte, University of South Africa art journal, South Africa, July 1999, ISSN00043389
· Paper delivered ‘A Woman of Sofala’ at the conference Encounters with Photography organised by the University of Cape Town and the South African Museum, Cape Town, July 1999
· Gallery talk, School of Art, Aberystwyth, UK, February 1998
· ‘The Sale of Dante’s Dream to the Walker Art Gallery Liverpool’, University of Michigan Press; The Rossetti Archive (Internet archive devoted to the life and work of D. G. Rossetti and compiled by Jerome McGann), 1998
· Public Lecture, ‘Rossetti and Hall Caine’, Walker Art Gallery Liverpool, September 1998
· Public workshop accompanying The Welsh Lens, Y Tabernacl, Machynlleth, UK, October 1997
· Paper delivered ‘Memento Mori: The dichotomy of the desire to marry the machine (camera) to the spiritual in an increasingly secular age’ at the conference Shamanism and Belief in European Photography organised by The European Society for the History of Photography, Helsinki, October 1997
· Africa Obscura, University of Pretoria Art Journal, Vol. 2 (2), June 1997
· Photographing Anything, Inscape, No.24, summer 1997
· The Use of Metaphor in Landscape Photography, Inscape, No.12, winter 1995
· Photography in South Africa, Inscape, No.13, spring 1995
· Life in the Liberated Zone, (book review), Inscape, No.13, spring 1995
· Black Dog (short story), in Probe, the quarterly publication of Science Fiction South Africa, No.81, South Africa, September 1990

Media

· Review of the exhibition Cipher in the Cape Argus, 29 April 2007
· Review of the exhibition Fragments in the Baltimore Sun, 11 February 2003
· Television interview for Ghosthunters a program for French TV channel 3, and the Discovery Channel, 2002 (broadcast 2003)
· Register Mail interview whilst an artist-in-residence at Studios Midwest, Galesburg, Illinois, July 29 2001
· Interview on the radio station the Laser, WLSR, Galesburg , Illinois, July 30 2001
· Exhibit-A, issue 6, September 2000, ISSN14629496
· Soul Searching (the work of Christopher Webster), in (not only) Blue, No.26, April 2000, ISSN13230026

Education

· National Diploma (distinction visual communication), School of Art and Design, Vaal Triangle Technikon, South Africa, 1989
· National Higher Diploma, cum laude & academic colours, School of Art and Design, Vaal Triangle Technikon, South Africa, 1993
· PhD, University of Wales, Aberystwyth, School of Art, 2006

Other experience

· Lecturer in fine art, University of Wales, Aberystwyth, UK, 1996 – present
· On the Editorial Board of the South African Journal of Photography, 2006 – present
· On the Editorial board of Consciousness, Literature and the Arts, 1999 – present
· On the International Editorial board of Consciousness, Literature and the Arts & Rodopi publishers (Amsterdam)
· Lecturer in photography, Vaal Triangle Technikon, Vanderbijlpark, South Africa, 1991 – 1994
· Guest-curator, Johannesburg Art Gallery, South Africa, 1992 – 1993
· Liaison Officer for the visual arts, Vaal Triangle Culture Coalition, South Africa 1993
· Photographer’s Assistant, Michael Meyersfeld Studio – Johannesburg, South Africa 1990 -1991
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DR JON WOODSON Howard University, Washington
The Lure of Secrecy for Writers in Early Twentieth Century America

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Lighthouse Editions are most grateful for the charitable donation we have received from Education Services that have allowed us to offer some funding towards fees for presenters.

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REGISTRATION FEE is £135 which includes lunch and refreshments during the day and the conference dinner in the evening. This can be paid as

£135.00 by UK checuqe
£143.00 (£135 plus bank charges £8.00) via bank transfer to the UK from Europe
or £138 via Paypal

details will be sent by email. Registration fees must be paid before a place at the conference, or can be confirmed. Places will be limited so early application is advised.

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Friday 9th October
6.30pm
On the evening before the conference there will be an informal get together for those who have already arrived in Cambridge at the Double Tree Hilton. This is a superb hotel in the historic Cambridge city centre, beside the river Cam.

Hilton 3

We will gather in the Bar which looks out onto the Cam, you can ask for us at the reception desk.

Hilton map

Granta Place, Mill Lane
Cambridge, CB2 1RT
01223 259 988

See more info at:

http://doubletree.hilton.co.uk/HiWayWeb/appmanager/portals/hotel?_nfpb=true&_pageLabel=hotel_home_standard

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see map at

http://www.cam.ac.uk/map/v4/drawmap.cgi?mp=main;xx=1300;yy=720;mt=c;mx=1344;my=862;sx=4;tl=Cambridge%20University%20Library

Wofson Court is on Clarkson Road at the top of the map off Grange Road.

CONFERENCE VENUE:
Wolfson Court Cambridge CB3 0EH
Girton College’s Wolfson Court in central Cambridge is built around seven courtyards, within easy walking distance of the city centre and the University Library.

wOLFSON COURTfloralwalkway

Wolfson Court

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Andrew Brown

Chairing the conference for the day is

ANDREW JAMES BROWN
a liberal Christian minister, a University Chaplain to Cambridge University, Anglia Ruskin University and Cambridge Regional College and also a professional jazz double-bass player. He teaches jazz/rock bass at Anglia Ruskin University and occasionally teach subjects related to inter- and multi-faith matters for the Woolf Institute of Abrahamic Faiths in Cambridge.

He writes of the connection between Western-esotericism and the Socinian/Unitarian Christian traditions: ‘that there were a number of figures within both the Radical Reformation and the later Radical Enlightenment periods who, for a variety of reasons, were particularly interested in neo-Platonism and the Kabbalah. In affirming Jesus’ humanity and the Unity of God the Socinian/Unitarian tradition (initially born out of an interesting mix of Italian Renaissance Humanism and Polish Anabaptism) naturally found some of the fruits of this study particularly interesting because it opened up new theological and philosophical possibilities for a genuine reconnection with Judaism and Islam, both of which also denied the divinity of Christ.’

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CCWE CONFERENCE DRAFT PROGRAMME

Friday 9th October
from 6.30 – 8.00
informal get together
in Hilton Bar Mill Lane
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SATURDAY 10TH OCTOBER 2009
DRAFT PROGRAMME

9.00
Registration and welcome

9.30 – 10.30
First panel
9.30-10.00
Julia Cleave Keynote
10.10.30
Gyorgy Szonyi responds

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10.30-11.00 coffee
coffee
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11.00- 12.30
Second panel
11.00 – 11.45
1st presenter – 15 mins presentation 30 mins discussion
11.45 -12.30
2nd presenter – 15 mins presentation 30 mins discussion
—————–
12.30 – 1.30
lunch
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1.30 – 3.00
Third panel
1.30-2.15
1st presenter – 15 mins presentation 30 mins discussion
2.15- 3.00
2nd presenter – 15 mins presentation 30 mins discussion

3.00 – 3.30
Plenary

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3.30 – 4.00
tea
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4.00 – 5.00
reflections on the day

5.00 Close

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7.30
CONFERENCE DINNER at

browns-bar-and-restaurant

BROWN’S RESTAURANT & BAR
23 Trumpington Street, Cambridge
CB2 1QA

As we go along Trumpington Street towards Brown’s for our conference dinner you will see what looks like a wide open gutter, on both sides of the street. This is known as Hobson’s Conduit and was built from 1610 to 1614 by Thomas Hobson to bring fresh water into the city of Cambridge from springs at Nine Wells near the village of Great Shelford. There is more info about this and on Hobson himself, from whom we get the phrase Hobson’s choice’ on Wikipedia,
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hobson%27s_Conduit#Trumpington_Street_branch

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SUNDAY

girton-tower

Girton College Tower

4.30pm There will be a visit guided to Girton College and chapel with special reference to the scholar Annabel Kitson, and poet and Fellow of Girton Kathleen Raine. We will be shown around by Rev Dr Malcolm Guite who is Chaplin at Girton, and was our Keynote Speaker at last year’s conference. After an English cup of tea in the Fellows common room, there will be the opportunity of going to Evensong, where we will hear Girton’s particularly fine choir.

Raine was a research fellow at Girton College from 1955 to 1961, and in 1962 she was the Andrew Mellon Lecturer at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. She taught at Harvard for at least one course about Myth and Literature offered to teachers and professors in the summer. She also spoke on Yeats and Blake and other topics at the Yeats School in Sligo, Ireland in the summer of 1974. A professor at Cambridge and the author of a number of scholarly books, she was an expert on Coleridge, Blake and Yeats.

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CAMBRIDGE – PLACES TO VISIT – ACCOMMODATION

If you can stay for a few days, either before or after the conference there are many wondereful buildings to visit and places to go to in Cambridge which this year is celebrating the 800 years since it’s founding.

Websites which give useful info about where to go and what to see in Cambridge:

http://www.heritagebritain.com/county-list/Places%20to%20Visit/Cambridge.html

“The name “Cambridge” summons breathtaking images – the “Backs” carpeted with spring flowers, Kings College Chapel, punting on the river Cam, and of course the calm of the College buildings. The City known worldwide as a centre for academic excellence, retains much of the atmosphere of a bustling market town, with its narrow streets, and cobbled market place. Home to 100,000 people, it is also a centre for technological expertise, has a varied arts programme, and many good shops, including fine book shops. The City, is richly served with museums and galleries, from the Fitzwilliam Museum, with a fine collection of paintings and works of art, Folk Museum and many collections of scientific and classical interest, available in the University Museums. Close to the city centre, the Cambridge University Botanic Garden is well worth a visit. A forty acre paradise of plants, the garden includes a lake, tropical glasshouses, Systematic Beds and Winter Garden. Cambridge with its’ winding streets and splendid architecture has much to offer at any time of the year; it is also the ideal centre for visiting the surrounding country side – the historic houses of Wimpole Hall and Audley End are close by, Ely Cathedral – the “Ship of the Fens”, peaceful villages with riverside pubs; the rolling wooded countryside made famous by the artist John Constable, are all a short drive away.”

This is probably the most comprehensive website giving details of

ACCOMMODATION,
hotels and bed and breakfast, self catering,
(you can also find other internet sites with bed and breakfast lists). Accommodation is always booked up in Cambridge and the week of the conference will be an expecially busy one as the new academic yer is beginning and many parents will be staying in town.

PLACES TO VISIT
include Gardens, and nature reserves.

among their Museums, Art Galleries listing are:

kettlesyard
Kettle’s Yard House’

http://www.kettlesyard.co.uk/house/index.html

For sixteen years, Kettle’s Yard was the home of Jim Ede, a former curator at the Tate Gallery, London, and his wife, Helen. It houses Ede’s collection of art, mostly of the first half of the twentieth century. The collection includes paintings by Ben and Winifred Nicholson, Alfred Wallis, Christopher Wood, David Jones, Joan Miró and many others, along with sculpture by artists including Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, Constantin Brancusi, Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth. Paintings and sculpture are interlaced with furniture, glass, ceramics and natural objects. Ede’s vision of Kettle’s Yard was of a place that was not ” an art gallery or museum, nor . . . simply a collection of works of art reflecting my taste or the taste of a given period. It is, rather, a continuing way of life from these last fifty years, in which stray objects, stones, glass, pictures, sculpture, in light and in space, have been used to make manifest the underlying stability . . .” Each afternoon (apart from Mondays) visitors can ring the bell and ask to look around.

Kettle’s Yard, Castle Stree,t Cambridge CB3 0AQ
Tel +44 (0)1223 352124
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The Fitzwilliam Museum

fitzwilliam.museum.2

from their website: http://www.fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk

“History of the Collections”

“Few museums in the world contain on a single site collections of such variety and depth. Writing in his Foreword to the catalogue of the exhibition for Treasures from the Fitzwilliam which toured the United States in 1989-90, the then Director of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, wrote that “like the British Museum, the Fitzwilliam addresses the history of culture in terms of the visual forms it has assumed, but it does so from the highly selective point of view of the collector connoisseur. Works of art have been taken into the collection not only for the historical information they reveal, but for their beauty, excellent quality, and rarity… It is a widely held opinion that the Fitzwilliam is the finest small museum in Europe”.

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http://www.localserviceguide.com/Article/Article_5199.asp

gives details of colleges you can visit see their entry on St John’s College below:

About St John’s College St John’s College was founded in 1511 by Lady Margaret Beaufort, mother of King Henry VII. The second largest of the constituent Colleges of the University of Cambridge, it has about 135 Fellows, 530 undergraduates and 300 graduate students. The total current membership of the College, comprising in essence all those who have studied here, stands at around 12,000. Visiting St John’s The College is open to visitors from Saturday, 7 March 2009 to Sunday, 25 October 2009 (10am to 5.30pm)

They also list details for

Trinity_College__chapelCambridge

Trinity College Chapel

Trinity College: founded in 1546 of particular interest to visitors are the Great Court (scene of the Great Court Run ) and the Wren Library

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kings_chapel

Kings College : was founded in 1441 and attracts many visitors each year especially to see the Kings College Chapel. If you like walking you can download a one hour MP3 walking tour of Cambridge from http://www.tourist-tracks.com/tours/cambridge.html?gclid=CJSh5ZnjzZoCFRxGkgodjF1y3A

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cambridge-cam

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The CAMBRIDGE CENTRE for the study of WESTERN ESOTERICISM is independent of any academic or esoteric communities, the directors share an interest in the need for a wider dialogue between scholars and practitioners in the field of Western Esotericism and in the establishment of a secular space in which an interdisciplinary network can thrive.. From 2009 CCWE has operated within Lighthouse editions Limited, a small publishing company Directors: Dr Sophia Wellbeloved, Jeremy Cranswick – see http://gurdjieffbooks.wordpress.com

Lighthouse Editions are most grateful for the charitable donation we have received from Education Services.
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Written by SOPHIA WELLBELOVED

January 12, 2009 at 2:27 pm

Posted in CCWE CONFERENCES, THE LURE OF SECRECY: WESTERN ESOTERICISM & THE ARTS -------- CCWE CONFERENCE 2OO9 --------

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FACE OF THE DIVINE: the esoteric roots of physiognomic photography

Sculpture of Hercules, Athens

Greek Sculpture, Diadomenes

Sculpture by Arno Brecker Official Sculptor of the Third Reich

Hans F. K. Günther

DR CHRISTOPHER WEBSTER: Face of the Divine
This paper, given at the CCWE conference 11 October 2008, is something of a combination project for me – I have been examining photography and its relationships to esoterica for some years (for example spirit photography). In addition I have also examined, as a separate area of research, the use of photography as a definer of race in colonial contexts. Recently I have begun to draw aspects of the two areas a little closer together. This paper is concerned with an examination of the visualisation of an esoteric idea become exoteric as photograph; a visualisation of racial and physiognomic types culminating in the image of the so-called Nordic master race and its antithesis, photographic (and ultimately racial) constructs of what was termed miscegenated and Jewish-types. Although many of these images were made more latterly under the banner of science, part of the hypothesis behind their creation has strong esoteric roots in both divinatory physiognomy, i.e. the art of judging character and fortune from facial characteristics and Pan-German Ariosophy an early twentieth century movement that mixed occult and racist ideas.

****

Schopenhauer stated:

‘That the outer man is a picture of the inner, and the face an expression and revelation of the whole character, is a presumption likely enough in itself, and therefore a safe one to go on…Photography…offers the most complete satisfaction of our curiosity.’

This paper briefly explores the application of photography (a product of both art and science) to recording the shape and form of the human face in order to create catalogues of knowledge. This journey includes an esoteric connectivity to a mystical ideal or understanding of the self through to an early twentieth century search for a (mystical) purity of race and type in the comparative photography of German scientist and eugenicist Hans F. K. Günther.

****
From its inception in 1839 the medium of photography was quickly associated with the genesis of an extension of the self, as a fragment of the soul, extended and captured in the silver. Indeed the very process of allowing any image to be produced as likeness was linked to the concept of soul replication. As Sir James Frazer (1854-1941) pointed out in The Golden Bough many peoples believed the soul to lie in the shadow or reflection. The nineteenth-century travelling photographer often discovered as a result that photography was considered a dire threat to the lives of those photographed and the photographer’s reception was often hostile. For example:

When Dr. Catat and some companions were exploring the Bara country on the west coast of Madagascar, the people suddenly became hostile. The day before the travellers, not without difficulty, had photographed the royal family, and now found themselves accused of taking the souls of the natives for the purpose of selling them when they returned to France.

Nor were such ideas confined to the non-western ‘other’. Photography wielded a deep psychological power over those photographed and for those in possession of photographs. This power stems from the fact that rather than the image being a simulacrum – a sketch – the photograph is perceived to be the very image of the sitter, their reflected shade even to the point of bearing a dangerous occult power over the subject.

The apparent veracity that the photographic image provided absorbed nineteenth and twentieth century users and consumers of images and lent it an unprecedented (and often unquestioned) credibility. The camera’s ability to accurately reproduce the world on a two-dimensional surface seemed to stand as proof that the manner in which a subject was recorded was definitive and unquestionable. Despite its shrunken, (often) monotone and two-dimensional appearance, the photograph was held in a position of unparalleled importance as a piece of factual evidence. Even today in this digital age of electronically created and manipulated images, we are still inclined to give credence to an event or subject if there is a lens based record (whether photograph or moving image) that can be presented as evidence of such a situation.

When photography arrived as a culmination of chemistry and optics, it was long anticipated and much desired. From the Renaissance onwards the urge to provide greater and greater accuracy drove artists to use devices like the Camera Obscura.

Giovanni Battista Della Porta, the Renaissance polymath, wrote the first description of the Camera Obscura in his text Natural Magic published in 1558:

If you cannot draw a picture of a man…draw it by these means…Let the Sun beat upon the window, and there about the hole, let there be Pictures of men, that it may light upon them, but not upon the hole. Put a white paper against the hole, and you shall so long sit the men by the light, bringing them neer, or setting them further, until the Sun cast[ing]a perfect representation…shall describe the manner of the countenance.

From around the end of the fifteenth century artists began using optics to gain ever greater accuracy. Utilising more and more accurately made lenses and mirrors, simple devices like the Camera Obscura, allowed artists to produce more realistic depictions of perspective and likeness demanded in an age where empirical measurement was in the ascendancy.

For the newly wealthy and emergent middle classes, there was also a desire to have an image making process that did not rely on the expensive and select process of painting. Devices such as the Camera Obscura led to other machines that could provide simple likenesses such as the shadowgraph, the physionotrace and the Camera Lucida.

In the nineteenth century the ability of the camera to take (as opposed to make) a likeness quickly became enormously popular. Within a year of the invention being announced photographers had begun travelling the globe with their photographic paraphernalia recording all manner of subject areas but most of all, despite the length of exposure often requires, portraits.

The timing of the invention coincided with the ascendance of science. Emergent sciences such as anthropology lived alongside established concepts such as physiognomy where the outer likeness could be read as a measure of the inner man.

Physiognomy
Until quite recent times, physiognomy and its descendent ‘sciences’ such as anthropometrics were generally assumed to be true sciences which could, by careful study of physicality, reveal something about the inner person.

The Swiss pastor Johann Casper Lavater is perhaps the most famous of apologists for physiognomy and he helped to revive it as a credible study after it had fallen somewhat into disrepute during the middle ages and Renaissance when it became associated with palmistry and other divinatory practices (Della Porta himself had been hauled before the inquisition after over enthusiastic Neapolitans hailed him as magus). Lavater published his influential essays on physiognomy in German in 1772. Lavater assured his readers that: “The physiognomy is often a sermon on the goodness of God.”

Lavater’s work described how, after careful training, the physiognomist could make such a reading. But Lavater was drawing on a broad tradition. He saw his ideas as confirmed by, and part of, a tradition that included works by Della Porta who had amongst his other publications had also published De Humana Physiognomia in 1586.

Della Porta’s work makes a comparative study between the external characteristics of humans and animals. As with many of the nascent sciences of the Renaissance, Della Porta’s worldview was intrinsically spiritual and magical, a kind of spiritual metaphysics.

Della Porta subsequent investigation by the Inquisition was partly due to the fact that the work was perceived to border too closely on divination.

Many studies followed Della Porta’s such as Richard Saunder’s physiognomy published in 1671 which relates shape and form to planetary influences and readings.

Sir Thomas Brown published his Religio Medici in 1642. Brown stated: “For there are mystically in our faces certain Characters which carry in them the motto of our Souls, wherein he that cannot read A.B.C. may read our natures.”

The study of the human face and body as indicator of links between the macrocosm and microcosm placed men at the centre of creation and his physicality, derived from God, was linked to the cosmos itself.

Brown and Della Porta certainly played a part in influencing Lavater and Lavater ensured the continuing popularity of such understanding through likeness. Nor should the extent of his influence be underestimated. When Lavater died in 1801 the Scots Magazine called him: “For many years one of the most famous men in Europe.”

For Lavater the likeness was a derivation of the mark of the creator, a mystical connection to a higher ideal that through moral degradation led to visual ‘types’.

In his work Lavater claimed that:

The human countenance, that mirror of Divinity, that noblest of the works of the Creator – shall not motive and action, shall not the correspondence between the interiour and the exteriour, the visible and the invisible, the cause and the effect, be there apparent?

Photography and science in the nineteenth century
The empiricist nineteenth century sciences that sought reason over superstition and evidence over faith, nevertheless explored processes of visual examination linked to and born out of Lavater’s understanding of physiognomic reading. Thus when photography was invented it was quickly assimilated as a tool for making such assessments. Certainly by the end of the nineteenth century photography was being applied prolifically throughout emergent scientific fields of study.

Thomas Henry Huxley suggested that by understanding and measuring every aspect of the physical exterior of the body something of the inner man and his history might be revealed. If knowledge could be gleaned from looking then it followed that such measurement and documentation would lead to understanding. As a device of moralising and comparison the photograph was unsurpassed – for as it was so closely linked to reality belief followed. Scientific Naturalism demanded objective study that was independent of the bias of the observer, photography, lenses and chemistry, the product of a machine, was regarded as objective, real. Photography was embraced by emergent social sciences as the epitome of the kind of scientific device that could reveal without interference. But their science was often grounded in ideas which seem rather incredible today.

British scientist Sir Francis Galton, perceived photography to be a scientific and veracious tool and using the medium he sought to study physiologies and understand aspects of their race, class and social position through complex photographic composites.

By making such combination photographs, overlaying images, Galton sought to understand the evolution of the human species and the negative aspects or unhealthy elements to the evolution. Galton coined the phrase ‘eugenics’ in 1883. Galton was most concerned about inaction and the decline through miscegenation of the dominant aspects of the human race (primarily Caucasoid) and specifically the British race. In a lecture given in 1902 Galton argues for the new science of eugenics:

The faculties of future generations will necessarily be distributed according to the laws of heredity….we cannot doubt the existence of a great power ready to hand and capable of being directed with vast benefit as soon as we shall have learnt to understand and to apply it. To no nation is a high human breed more necessary than to our own, for we plant our stock all over the world and lay the foundation of the dispositions and capacities of future millions of the human race.

Esoteric undercurrents and derivations – the mystical Aryan ideal in National Socialist photography

In Mein Kampf (1925) Adolf Hitler wrote: “All great cultures of the past perished only because the original creative race died out from blood poisoning.”

Hitler had become familiar with the concept of an endangered racial heritage through reading texts such as Human Heredity by the German eugenicists Baur, Fischer and Lenz (published 1921), and through his early influences during the wilderness years of his life in Vienna particularly the work of Ariosophist (Aryan occult wisdom) thinkers such as Guido von List and Jorg Lanz von Liebenfels.

The image of the other, the relevance of the difference between groups, became accentuated throughout the nineteenth century as scientific ideas became appropriated and adapted as evidence of a racial problem and as a clarion call to mystical racists who saw a time of coming struggle and survival for the dominant European races.

In central Europe this appropriation occurred as influential elements of emergent Pan-German nationalist groups developed concepts that combined contemporary trends of race science into the ‘Völkisch’ cannon of thought towards the end of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Primarily Ariosophists such as von List and von Liebenfels adapted ideas from a broad range of influences including Helena Blavatsky’s Theosophy, and notions of Aryan racial history as espoused by figures such as Arthur de Gobineau (The Inequality of the Human Races, 1855). Effectively the Social-Darwinian concept of a coming biological struggle for survival of the fittest was accepted and amalgamated with the notion of the inevitable dawn of a mystical and supreme root-race, the Nordic-Aryan.

German race scientist Hans F. K. Günther made extensive use of photographic source materials to make comparisons and collections of ‘types’ in order to substantiate his text as in The Racial Elements of European History (1927).

The use of photography as a comparative means of assessment and identification became paramount during this period not only in scientific documentations but also in popular publications that contained photographs of racial types from around the world displayed in photographic charts.

But what these studies highlighted was not only the geography and range of race but also the admixture and miscegenation that, according to scientists like Günther, posed a threat to German and Nordic race society.

The influence of the Jewish spirit, and influence won through economic predominance, brings with it the very greatest danger for the life of the European peoples and of the North American peoples alike. For what is here at stake is the unhindered development of the bearers of the highest culture of mankind who, if the process of amalgamation with these emissaries of the East goes further, run the risk in mind and body of wandering off these paths which their own genius has marked out for them.

When the National Socialists came to power in Germany in 1933, Günther, who had been a member since 1932 became a leading figure in developing National Socialist racial scientific thought receiving the Goethe medal from Alfred Rosenberg in 1941 for his anthropological work. Rosenberg stated: “Your work has been of the utmost importance for the safeguarding and development of the National Socialist Weltanschauung.”

Rosenberg was convinced that the so-called Aryan peoples had, as a mystical Über-race, advanced into Europe from an Atlantis-like continent in the north and northwest of the European mainland again assimilating Theosophist and Ariosophist ideas. He stated:

“The geologists show us a continent between North America and Europe…[which Rosenberg refers to as Atlantis] on which a creative race raised a mighty wide-ranging culture….[this race] spread out from the North over the entire world…[its culture] borne by a blue-eyed, blond race which, in several massive waves, has determined the spiritual physiognomy of the world…”

I would like now to explore a little further how this racist mystical ideal (and its antithesis) became enshrined in physiognomic photographic images produced in Germany during the National Socialist era images which ultimately emerge from concepts that are both pseudo-scientific and esoteric.

Photography like other modern inventions and ideas was readily utilised in the promulgation of National Socialist thinking. Certainly in terms of the definition of the ideal racial type it was seen as indispensable. Journals such as Volk und Rasse used photographic covers to highlight the ‘ideal’ type.

Nor were such interventions confined to mainland Europe. Like Rosenberg, Heinrich Himmler was fascinated by the concept of a mythical Aryan race that had originated in some northern Ultima Thule.

Under the auspices of Himmler’s Ahnenerbe (Research and Teaching Community of Ancestral Heritage) study projects included an expedition to Tibet, to locate the racial relics of this migratory Aryan elite race.

Artists that remained in the Reich after the National Socialist accession to power in 1933 generally complied with the doctrinal values of the regime. Photography was no exception and photographic artists such as Leni Riefenstahl and Erich Retzlaff made images that promulgated in their work the mystical qualities of an idealised German type.

The pure racial German identity was that of a mystical Volk who like Tacitus’s Germanic barbarians were not simply in the land but were part of it, a Volkish peasant race. Simultaneously the dangers posed by so-called lesser races were also illustrated:

And the representation of the antithesis of the Nordic racial ideal was again based upon a mythological idea of the Jew as the great enemy, the racial descendent of Blavatsky’s Lemuria, the parasitical racial poisoner.

In 1937 an exhibition took place in Munich entitled the Der Ewige Jude or the Eternal Jew. A film of the same name was then commissioned by Goebbels in 1940 which ’demonstrated’ the problems of the Jewish question for Germany.

But in addition to such films and exhibitions photographic slide shows were made that used images such as this in order to demonstrate difference and to aid in identification of unwanted physical traits.

Ominously Hans Günther wrote that in order to avoid what the historian Spengler termed the ‘Fall of the West’ the German race had to decide: ”…whether we have the courage enough to make ready for future generations a world cleansing itself racially and eugenically.”

Conclusion
In the nineteenth-century, the photograph seemed to affirm that science could transcend the confines of raw nature and that through man’s ingenuity photography would be the medium that allowed nature to record itself unfettered by the imperfect mark making of the human hand. Thus captured an image could then be studied as a truthful account of the thing that had been before the lens of the camera.

The connection between the camera obscura space and the uncanny has been prevalent since the inception of the medium. The earliest experiments used terminology such as miraculous, marvellous and magical. The transmutational state where light, the fleeting trace of life, could be codified into image-icon still has echoes of the marvellous even in the twenty-first century. Photography has a history of associations through to the photographic period with its ghosts, soul stealing and evidential structures. The photographic space was credited with the ability to ‘see’ where the human eye could not. It is this power which was applied as both a scientific rationalising tool and a divinatory medium of assessment.

According to Marina Warner in her excellent book ‘Phantasmagoria’:
“When the biological sciences of the enlightenment converge[d] with the quest to grasp the knowledge of the secret life…[there was]…a new emphasis on the face as the repository of individuality…This…[led]…eventually to realistic photography becoming the most convincing available record of the soul, and ultimately the usurper of other material relics. The distinctiveness of the countenance was established as the seat of the individual…”

Thus for a short period at least the scientific ‘truth’ of the medium of photography was applied in a defining search for a mystical-racial and ultimately an esoterically derived, reading of the human face. Photography became a marker by which a specific ‘type’ might be codified in order to set it apart from the so-called inferior races that were perceived to threaten its hegemony.

Dr Christopher Webster
Prifysgol Aberystwyth University
School of Art/Ysgol Gelf

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THE PESSOA SERIES

The Simon Jenner Page

simon-jenner-2

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Pessoa 72 dpi

Pesoa

THE FIRST TWELVE
The poems that follow are the first twelve of a sequence that address a fictional extension of Pessoa’s selves, including people he met, those he created, and those of the past he conjured, like the shade of Henry More. As often, they write to him, or (as will occur later in the sequence) to each other. Pessoa is often writing from beyond the grave, and Crowley turns up in a contemporary Brighton bar. I imagine neither he nor Pessoa would have thought this out of the ordinary. Since Crowley too, wrote poetry of a kind, and was esteemed by Pessoa, it seems fitting he should find his niche in what follows.

——————–
Pessoa: Disseminations, 1914

You’d need a convex soul for these,
the heteronyms blown through the cautious
amber of my hive, huddling the wax
of metaphor just a moment before the bubble burst,
my translucent timorous talent waving legs,
weighted already with so much pollen.

I said I heard my master born within me,
a fury of assurance dipped with what
flees – my entry of farewells, my buzzing monogram
habit on a canvas flora that should fill a hall.
My master shall flourish something better,
more than the cut rose of a clerk’s ambition.

I’m the husk for what emerges, goes on without me
to pollinate other names, when I’m found dead
in winter: Caeiro, de Campos, Reis, Soares.
I’ll blow on them in the cold; their murmur’s pitiful.
Each chamber is lit with tallow till it dies,
where I shiver out: Pessoa, Pessoa, Pessoa.

30. 5. 08

Alberto Caeiro to Pessoa, 1914

To arrive, ripe with the appointed fire
and quake your scribbling like a seismograph
sheer off its track, wasn’t it at all.

If anything it was mulberries and fishes,
words veiled from their clear air and water
by the cheesecloth muslin of saying, taking

thought of letters filtering through their net.
If I hear them it’s hard, quizzical, homely: a farm
cat’s purr amplified in an empty tin bath.

It’s how I shepherd the sounds, if I could imagine.
But I can’t. It’s my forlorn strength, full of impossibly-reared
mulberries and fishes left awhile, gone rotten and real.

6-15. 6. 08

Pessoa to Pessoa: June 13th, 2008

Today I complete my one hundred
and twentieth year, set trine
for the circle where I eat up my names;
they jockey to agree I don’t exist.

My sketch – mixed palate, hat dwarfing
me as it has to – sits on approval, smudged
into the Dufy marine of Lisbon that should
lie somewhere behind, but is denied

like the Turkish coffee dried to charcoal
between us, code of a clerk non-extant, that must be
a sheet copy of an original that never existed.
No, as something heavy, circling, that thought it did.

It’s my yellowed two-way ticket to voices:
my self-communers who echo whitewashed
walls I concaved for them; and those who drew me
outside my circle. This café loses them; fleshed and
not of my sad gravity, they can’t compel me back.

13-20. 6. 08

Crowley to Pessoa

You faked my death so well, so quixotically
shuffled it last century, where your pack
loosed its chances to us. I was a card.
Now I’m the Apostate reborn.
Whilst the police combed my Hell’s
Mouth plunge from the eyrie, you quelled
rumours of my breath snickering back up
with that announcement in The Times.

She saw it, shivered for portents after that;
apologised to my shade, my edges bevelled
by memory and the consequences of a dog-
eared suit. None suffered questions or irons,
save the field of Scorpio, negative Mars.
Your fingers splayed the ritual slaughter
of Ten of Swords. I made it back through
bullfights and Spain, playing at keeps.

But this started with the fortunate truth.
You corrected my horoscope from Lisbon.
All square. And translated my Hymn to Pan,
my dream to reverse the Christian imperium.
Now, an epoch of planetary returns
later, I cannot thank you in kind,
my voice fluting; an opiate Pan fallen
from his stops to
this oboe register I still seduce with.

Too simply. So take this Red Bull, a brew of blood
staining Vodka, as it steams up an aroma of
sacrifice for Julian, the Pagan’s last champion,
who wears my halo, the Emperor’s
major Arcana. No: dead, I’m still
incarnate in my own beastly trap. Unlike your
heteronyms I can’t return, or trace back
to the flex of another’s power. I should
have been such a name to shudder with,
but am just a busted flush in the cheek,
numbered 666 in the pack.

20-27. 6/1. 7. 08

Alfredo de Campos to Pessoa, 1914

They ravish patter-songs in upper Albion,
spilling from pubs on the Clyde, swinging
like derricks rusted by a hundred years.
Then all hands here shall be orphans
of the patricians’ oil long dried
into that well’s inversion; into the shape
of their scions’ teetering villas.

So they prophesy along the upper Clyde
that my doctrine of rivets, my blueprint
of engineer puckering through the tracing paper,
is dead as an Etruscan’s night song,
down the Arno, where kyries overtone his breath.

Here, my tuning fork rings through an empty hull,
a campanile of instant religions.
They’re right. Cheaper labour will kill it all
like a finger on the fork’s windpipe.
I cannot stay here and breathe.

I’ll go where the cabbagey kings of
overtime listen with their cauliflower ears
to this polyphony of planes, these vortices
of the sliding century, where only metalled work
can save it, with more and more surfaces
fanning out to stop the silence.

Don’t believe in me, tight rhapsodist;
I’d reduce you to lines, your vanishing point
moustache and tiny matchstick hands –
bride of the wind machine,
or settled cubist nocturne of faces, navy
blue, pendant, blown hatless slowly round.

So each sees each of us. So I
stick too much from one side, my trumpet
nose still sniffing disdain at your quiet,
with you and Reis shushing my sump accent,
and Caeiro saying this could never happen.

27. 6/1. 7. 08

Ricardo Reis to Pessoa, 1917

You are a June evening, my Pessoa, or you catch
that pretence so achingly it’s truer than your death;
spared in the café awning, your wide-awake’s brim.
De Campos throws a lattice work before him
shade of an Eiffel dawn, Chicago’s sudden steel reach.

I watch the blinds’ ombrage pine to eleven.
Their cool stripes feign holidays. Only Caeiro strides –
coughing, it’s true – a match blaze
invisible in the noon that will take him,
refusing shadows that imagine.

28-29. 6/1. 7. 08

Alexander Search to Pessoa, 1919

Why, my imagineer, abandon me? Your brothers
in London read you in The Times –
A. A. Crosse, not a seriffed character.
Your Oxon Durban tutors still snip your rhymes.

Your defend Butto – Reis’s true kin – with Pater,
as if Lisbon would languish into Jowett’s Greece.
The war’s gentled hate here; it’s not Paris or
Berlin’s cauldron, but Anon can kiss in peace.

It’s your elective language. Your sole books are English Poems,
a series you shouldn’t stale. Nothing Portuguese
since Camoens is read. Be universal. Recall me
to your cozenage, now Caeiro’s dead. Bring sad Reis.

You can harangue the flickering Monro again,
or the Astrological Society as a Baconite.
But cast me in, not out, a fatal transit at least;
a soft Zeppelin, to steal my solitary night.

29. 6. 08

Bernardo Soares, 1934

There should be a library wine to sip books
with; rammed chalk palate but enough fruit
to show the browsers’ azure shirts
apple-green and stretched through the bole.
Coral dresses would flounce slowly to
Burgundy underwater, fluting in the glaze.
Time itself would admire the dust pittering
down the rim, impervious to my day-drumming
fingers; to whether a lozenge of April
shafts a century’s light through the glass,
oblique; or a cubit of November fog.

It should be noiselessly refilled. All’s replenished
but us, the drinkers with a stopper to what
we can slake with our eyes. We who can’t yet
read with them shut; or nose a work’s fusty
bouquet, even its decade, race of soil, a floral
tribute of decay. But we have to learn before
we shuffle half-cut home, to bare boards,
an aching bulb, planting no long evening
shadows; days bleached so much together
that the scent of memory is impossible.

4-6. 7. 08

Ophelia Queiroz, 1920-35

De Campos blocks my letters; that sub-divided
self to mask the mask of the self that peeks
out behind the egg-white Venetian half-Arlecchino
is too cautious to let that mask fire in such
arsenic-green twilight.

That’s wrong. I see him as a winter
carbuncle, a futurismo ski-launch from your nose.
No. I can’t send this train of paste and flesh,
since, not knowing yours beyond that flurried
late office kiss when I knew nothing of you,
I know you too well.

Knowing is fire, and I’m your reach of air
A latitude of one day, and twelve Gemini years later.
Our birthday telegrams still almost cross and dash.
I’ve breathed each of you, Caeiro, Reis too,
though city-white I’m not his rich-skinned taste.
I give you breath, write de Campos who winces you

a second skin he sees I’ve burned,
capillaries brightening to filaments
as my oxygen revives a spent taper
in a bell jar of glass arteries, pumped of
the old self that had blood to lose. I’m happening
to you in a last glow. Forgive me. You’re transparent.

What can a minor voice like mine
hope to sliver between such querulous giants?
Quarrels, self-cancellings? I know timbre,
that mine, a wisp, flares trouble between them.

I could never stake out the man who kissed me
from the league who write each other screeds
of how it happened to another, dead now; as it had, and is.
Only our telegrams, transcribed by others to coded shocks
and blanks, give proofs: delivered in yellow
with botched type, by beautiful, frowning boys
whose children might recite you too literally.

10-11. 7. 08

Henry More, Platonist 1614-1916

You, sir, are a masturbator, as if
your destiny was a virgin splash of names –
a self-swallower’s barren touch of time.
How can an onanist engender truly, inhere
the identities of all your bloodless ticking selves?

You must take my wife, reborn as mistress.
She’s the greater masturbator, your charts
will flow, kindle her balsamic moon.
Here’s her horoscope – note Libra rising.
Sapient lust will empty you both into day.

Mistress is my judgment, not the state of wife
with its basket of tares. You’re built
for the flurry and rive of afternoons.
Nights volunteer the compasses and trembling arc
attuned to me who writes this through your quiet
of two of the clock though not of my time.

I’ll progress through your cadent houses
and make an end of each procrastination.
I was in your case, oaken centuries back, stalking
groves of aromatic learning, but never to pluck
the basil tubs my wife flourished simply at the door
to her knot garden. I never entered. You’re in my leaf.
Don’t lay them flat or dry them grey pale and brittle.
Chew them to the stalk. Let her swallow you.

11-15. 7. 08

Aunt Anica to Pessoa, 1916

Nephew, I write where night and Mercury
are retrograde – so in a sleepy language; fit
for More. His ether’s crossed by demons of late.
He says not to believe all he transmits –
save, I suppose, his tart retort to me.
And certain erotic admonitions I’m not
permitted. Does that ring to you?
Should it? I’m tending a herb garden
that needs clay – not the chalk or limestone
only Whitebeams root in. That basil pot
you christened Isabella puts forth surprisingly.
I should plant near a graveyard.
I furnish enough rites to the fallen
in this German war. Besant has failed us.

Durban’s full of evacuations. Letters
are drained of the old family colours. We
can’t dream your mother travels, heightened
in her premonitions. And now that continent
bleeds khaki north – dyed through German
hands we hear, darkly dealt through Holland.

These hills drain off doubts, hopes,
the terraced patience of civilisation.
I’m glad. I’ll desiccate to some mummy
lightly handed down, my scribblings
papyri hieroglyphs only you can decipher,
slough, and don at will. A light-boned aunt’s
exhortations; sepia, a faint blood tie –
beyond this time of khaki, the butterfly
dyes we can’t rub from the compass
of a garden are ones that kill; scarlet
of cardinals, tyrian, all those swart indelibles.

Forgive my writing whilst your ruling planet
lies against us. But he’s colourless,
takes no tincture of this time, lets
the dryest spirit seep you something.

12. 7. 08

Pessoa to Charles Robert Anon, December 1935

The stunted weave of pigeons
spoke more than their sleepless monotone.
This is Chelsea, garden of the dead.

I was booked for ’36. Search was right.
My brothers here pluck the threads of my estate,
tangled by miles of misunderstanding, twanged

by migrating swallows that tip Lisbon
black with their plumed edges, London’s
soot blued to Morocco. My lines, you’d say

stretch all compassion, balled like reclaimed wool
in that domed trunk where you too lie awake
mis-counting my old crab-apple of an iambic beat.

Now I’m dead I can keep promises; appoint
you my joint English executor. Now genius evaporates
like ouzo I’d be less cruel, since I add nothing.

It’s the spoil of families, how they fall out,
The paper ones spilled by the livid hearts.
Be kind to each other; repeat nothing of me.

18-19. 7. 08

Pessoa to Bernardo Soares

These are the sparkling days for stone –
Portland white’s pearl glow in July, that
marmoreal throb I saw in Durban, whose slow

expense we never slatted into glints between
cedar – those narrow-blinded streets I thrust
us both into, venturi of dust and gritted sun.

I’m sorry I so straitened you, a poor clerk; me,
minus intellect and affectivity –
a stupid way to touch the why I felt.

Your superstition of superstition, as if
I’d stripped back so much into flinch
that I’d bleached your swart melancholy:

where pain should have flung wide blinds,
called across broad masonries. I contrived
just that brief intercourse over laminate tables.

My café friends you learnt nothing of, my
pucker of free days from translation of cheap
alloys, to translate pure precipitate, what was mine.

Why did I feel such cruel paring, this
shoehorn of a life to shadows, was more me
than me? As if suffering could be concertina’d

down to your trembling watch from two storeys:
on me, walking away briskly. Better a jack-in-the-box
eureka. You’ve outgrown me, are the essence

of what I forgive in me for what I can’t absolve:
the Venetian blind heart that knows itself false,
for the gem mind that glances with the truth.

22-25. 7. 08

Crosse to Pessoa, 1920

Magus of silence, do you stalk me? How droll
the oval rumble is with footfalls
I catch, as the hush pitches to a lights-down pipe draw

a sucked-in constellation of pink sparks.
We breathe a planetarium’s dark.
At this premiere, the planets talk.

Galleried at the top of the Albert Hall
I felt the Proms stifling – your circles of hell.
Then the wash of you; ghost air flutters my back’s hollow.

A promenader disturbs casement-chilled air.
Lattice monogrammed shutters give to dusk sapphire,
pearl, Victorian brick aping Restoration – Vermeer

in Kensington. Too grand as the dead hold me
spellbound before in mahogany Brahms bassoons,
to register your profound drop – a pannet of ice-cream, a moon

plummeted on a balcony might laugh such a fathom.
But it is you, who never note music down
as a singing beast, but let me review your doubts of it, drawn

in the plush and dash of London, your Times correspondent.
Why trace my back, mower of souls, in this fashion. You’d relent
say I’m vulgar Crosse no longer, the small day rescinded?

Would they play Schubert at the world’s end – serve
so much lyric withdrawal? Or assert with
siren Beethoven? Are these the questions I lose you with?

Holst’s stoop would suit you, sir, an esoteric
but one English Swede who snapped the logic
of our songlessness like a brittle Prussian baton. The sad magic

steeps the well of sound between us – you, perambulant
whooshing opposite round the gallery’s instep, impatient
for a shush you gifted your British voices with. Now we’re clamant.

You’re walking over me in the interval. They throw the roped
shutters for violet minutes. The wraith-earned chill envelops
me, a grainy psychic fog. Your hat’s bobbing everywhere. You’d hope

it’s out of fashion. And I, too smart, am out of yours. Your English blue
alters, Search, Anon, need me to make your book-crease fold true.
I’ll descend to the Second Circle, sad god, and await you.

25-30. 7. 08

Pessoa to de Campos

Why do you write in thunderstorms?
It’s your charge, lightning’s invisible ink only
singeing where burned, jagging forms
zig-zag, discharging the static century.

Too neat, and this decade’s all burned holes.
Your machine fandangos drop: Leger
turns Dali. I’d wear more than rubber soles –
proof against aesthetes of a creased march square.

But I cramp you in my trope, old conductor.
You’ve said I can summon the aftershock
of sad rain, but never the rider.
I can earth you; just a blank stensil you’d mock.

Brother thunder, I forgive you Ophelia’s fading –
she believed your version of you about me.
Should I have told her to divine you between lightnings,
braille my face in the flash of dark; refuse to read it back to me?

28-30. 7. 08

Pessoa to Anica

Aunt, she vanishes into planets,
their essence of sanctuary, flashing rounds.
I can’t abandon such foreign witness.
I’ve jotted her dark lines into Venus’ mounds

notated with lust’s ephemeredes.
Her moon is richer than her last week’s bob; I’d hope
her tides murmur louder than all these –
my time for her freezes to a horoscope.

I live in portents, where my whey face thrives –
we’re sphered as equal, clerk and queen
touched with a transit of Venus, they quicken lives
consumed together with where their planet’s been.

Time is the oldest bread I’ve broke, stale
Because I won’t see her fresh mouth open.
I’m aroused by wild conjunctions that fail:
see her, rather than her sequence, broken.

1-2. 8. 08

De Campos to Pessoa, 1930

Let’s go to Heligoland. It’s a wilderness
I think. Been bombed so often that there’s nothing there.

Martin Seymour-Smith

Heligoland has a sensitive tip, I’m told,
by you, the Frisian who diced me raw haddock
and onion, the taste self-cancelling in each other’s
mouths, when we kissed, when the husband departed,
far too quickly. Loyalty’s not faithfulness, you said.

Sweet fishmongers can’t marry outside
fishes, you declared; they sweat roe,
are a catch for gut-knifed fingers on skiffs only:
the cerulean, the tangerine numbered white
with shore conquests or a year-brined register.

‘Suck this finger – underneath I’m no grammarian.
I’ll startle your versed notions. I’ll startle to you.’ I should have said:
you’re tipped in Parisian black leather, though, no scales;
your breasts cod-white hard still, though older, as I cup them.
They killed you after, plunged from remission.

You were a lick of salt from time, an unstable loan
from the sinew of your element. Love, am I your imaginer?
Can’t I break from my round of air, its neutered Libra,
switch to your mutabilities, to say I once existed,
howling somewhere on my grainy travels;

out of the pinhole Brownie’s blood sepia trancing all
mourning to period legend? Or out of yours, maestro, or how
you snatch my ‘you’ from her, turn me lunar to your pocked
gravity? There, when my geographies fling me peregrine
to your orbit, more eccentric as we year by year drag apart.

Or skew as a shanty is to notation; how it would look,
a sudden hook like the Plough’s. It’s how her menfolk
spied it for centuries, and now, as they burn her to night sparks
on that spit of crusted desolation. Out of my sphere
you say, who cannot see it, but allow I can.

Till you summon me, pronounce: this is out of your shining
character. I could never foresee Heligoland, its northern
rank, its stench of dying to absurd heartbreak.
So we’ll not got there, you’ll not remember her,
make me shudder with her nipple’s salt on my pillow.

4-8. 8. 08

Ries to Campos

Days of the sweet pavilion, Alvaro,
when all his clown facades shone apricot
in some fantastic redundant glow –
he’d throw his casements open to denote

friends from all the suburbs of his will;
and Caeiro who mastered him in a nice decree
brought – save you in your icy latitudes still –
quiet fire, the Portuguese for party.

Far south, now, I can see those thermal hours,
his conscious fabric like this mantelpiece
preserved in the dry outskirt’s Roman ruins next to ours,
foundations, stone curlicues aping Greece.

And who’s here when I’d pick about his books,
piled in ranks like a hypocaust exposed?
Fernando’s stripped us back to our paper looks;
we play through his collapse, hot winds where no flue’s closed.

8-11. 8. 08

Caeiro to Campos

I never kept poets, but it’s as if I had.
You who claim me like a branding-iron
to crisp a finger-tip’s breadth of skin
where your writing callous crimps your index:

Come off it, Campos, you’re no puppet.
Pessoa, I fear is one, invisible silken pulleys, he’d say,
from Durban, foreign voicing education
curls his tongue with calcined Jacobean glottals.

He bid me rise pristine, he said. I can’t see this.
I was there, phlegm in the throat of his idiom.
Stood within him? He could hardly spit me out;
a year his junior, I’d taken possession of words, walked in,

shook his flinched hand – the index still tender? – before he
dreamed of me. Then back tending the dialects I’d set free.
This nudges metaphor; it reads me uneasily. Come with a
carafe. Fact is, I’m home; keep open house to any words but mine.

9-11. 8. 08

Queiroz to Campos

Would they have disdained me too,
those soul avenues Caeiro and Reis,
riddles of orange spikes, cigarettes
moving the mauve evening to its own masque?

You know the perversity of debut
contorted him farther from my virgin knot.
Nineteen no longer, my strumpet thighs
would flicker black on your machined face.

I’d had no deflection of your shining,
but trust to the matt trace of love in skin,
follow the guttering sparks, accost the dead
so they importune their living host.

You need no’s like ball bearings,
Campos, my dear, offerings for sweet oil
to keep Fernando running on tracks he thinks his own.
Let him shunt, just once, to this grassy siding.

15. 8. 08

Crosse to Search

Atlantic friends forever trek west,
tread water, but we shrink back to Portugal.
Now he rounds his going with the small
of Keats’s back, when southing to his Roman death.
Fernando managed cod-Jacobean in Lisbon:
‘I know not what tomorrow will bring.’ Nor did he.
His horoscope was out by a lunar progression.

Fernando won’t further our maps of the dead
with such pomegranates mined for Hades’ orchards,
we only bring back as coal. He’ll talk of King Alonso
redux, some earache of the last queen.
Such royalists might approve of Pluto, beyond
provincial canines like Salazar, who tiger their demands
to prove they’re portals to such dark blue gods.

So we’re plumb-lines, Alex. It’s typical – and we are –
Fernando raises the bar of phantom intimates
by heralding death as sole beneficiary.
We’re cut out, link our futures to a ravelled west,
a fake antique map he rolled up.

Should we follow him to hell and back? Because
he thinks he’s happy there, talking Odes to a shorter poet.
And we know we’ll be politely escorted back
to the surface of things, to breakers,
to the crusts.

22-29. 8. 08

Pessoa to his Trunk

Hush, casket, cinnamon-barrelled chest.
Read me my divisional self again.
Bevel your tooled face to the scalloped edges
of my brain. Seal me back to the twenty thousand
scraps of me in squid-ink darkness written on,
in a Indian ocean.

You remember me better, cut my cloak
according to my discretion, swathe my secrecies
not to shroud them from my quartered selves.
School my fortune in the blackboard’s
inner lid of the heavens where worm-holes
pick stars from the year-drawn dazzle of my room
where I’m cribbed in its larger breath.

But gimleted through you, my sweet wood
I’m constellated in your limitless coffin,
like an ancient minaret.

Shine on my forest of decade-curled leaves,
but fitfully. Usher me out, but close the gates
before I can leave. And in your leathern courts of ox-blood
revolve me; keep me dreaming.

27-29. 8 08

Trunk to Pessoa

Last night we entertained your
bibliography. It tupped your imprisoned
words quite gently, left mementos
of that harem of nouns and wine-stained
adjectives in a barrage of columns
for things drunk long and hard.

But it did start, as if it shouldn’t dream here.
Some of those called from it couldn’t see
themselves, and we let them gallant an escape
to sea ports other than Lisbon, where
blood-stains dream themselves backwards
and plague jumps back into a flea.

We worry for it, want to freshen it from its calf
bind a gender; a name, so it can feel at home
with the way your joint and several selves
field different rhythms, let alone
vocabulary. This foxed it, spotted it quite.
An author’s words smell comforting, dark fustian
even. Yours war and shift, on some sucked-out
bones of metaphor.

Go for the verb, we told it, make black coffee sense
of Campos’ sweep of referents, or
Caeiro’s double-takes on sheep. Ries
crossing the cod classic bar-line; and Pessoa,
we said, simple in the soft declension of his no’s.

29. 8/5. 9. 08

Ries to Caeiro

A glance at the mourners excluded us.
Jealousy, but of what? An Arcadian ego?
Some, like his aunt Anica, smiled the difference
of welcome, as if of all his Christened names, she’d know

which kinned to us, the randomness of nostalgia,
battened on by any saboteur of reason.
We asked so little, the phonemes after ‘p’ or ‘a’
sufficed for our grief’s modest anarchism.

December bleared on black twigs. Who repaired
with bodies cupped cognac to the blistering cold.
After all his atomies, where his nuclear heart so flared
renewal, he’s a mahogany funeral, ridiculously old.

Monologues suck the oxygen of reply.
The dead talk us out, or deputise
half-dead priests whose breath freezes the lobby.
Where should his friends go, but the silence of his eyes?

5/9. 09. 08

Pessoa to Queiroz

Your fingers reached for the difficulty
of yes across the cream lace fiction
of the cheap restaurant. Their slimness owned
no ratchet backwards, no fleer away
as if you didn’t mean them, flush-tipped
the way your mouth pouts at your hurt,
hooding plangent consonants.

Your candour stranded you, and the boys moved in.
How could you, Campos asked, all anti-Cyrano,
address me – my – self-walling and not add another brick?

‘I leant across the table’ you’d say –
‘what mass nerves in my wrists, my nails
ink-stamped with my typewriter’s class?
What surgery of refusal will your acumen elide
this time? My voice, perhaps, so I’m a girl
shuttling returns of black and white, silent
as the movies. Who’s stopping me in the last
carriage return?’ but there’s me O stenographer,
putting words to your mouth to bite with your nails.
It’s me, stop, me.

12-13. 9. 08

Pessoa to Crowley

Your face, once leonine, is unreadable
as frosted glass. It reads out
obliquely from your naked Beast
pinked comically behind. Is this
the way I read your slate smudges for eyes?

Your kind, you whisper through your
melt and ice, make a trapeze of ethics.
This is a sad vertical lie, as gifted
as your fall from the Alpine Club.
You’re more on the level than you wish:

can hardly levitate in the desert. But you live,
reluctant ground, dream glyphs only, fluted glass
a calligraphy of powers in horoscopes,
spread the tarot’s ligaments like entrails.
You can’t fly, but behind your refraction

I see it’s your breath keeps you opaque
to me and the drome of the world you play to.
Sad Puck, you were not born for gravity.
It weighs pouches from your eyes like pennies
Waiting to assume them. When risen, take me too.

Am I your only coeval, no acolyte?
I’ve become a myrmidon of myself –
made Caiero my master. So forgive my not following
you behind your onyx doors, your glazed look,
but dream I’ve rippled all your faces flat.

19-20. 9. 08
rev. 21. 8. 09

Campos to Pessoa

What were Search and Crosse in Bangor for?
You can’t imagine it; I can but not them
till you introduced us over your pencil.

Crosse is a Times Roman exclamation point;
Search, crouchy as a Dutch font question mark
hugged close to the groundswell of moles here

who smell storm in a strew of rubbish
and autumn, always looking up north. How did they
exit London’s swift black tails, art deco’s sans-serif

to sample you so slowly – unscribbled in this slew of slate?
My sanguine fury has matched you till now,
flexible melancholic. These have no defence, blunt monotypes

vivid chips of your grey, haunting themselves
unfinished, on unfinished business, scanning
for the calm block type of their obituaries.

26. 9/2/ 10. 08

Queiroz to Caeiro

Laughter, now, is fly-by-night. No source
of its magnetic north shows, that wince
of humanity even his cruelty honoured.
Now we smile nothings in telegrams.

I had thought of tears, that sudden eye rinse
to twist wild scansions from his brows.
Their arrest was quizzical, as if he’d been shot
slowly, like a king; it was my dismissal.

I’d mangled some unguarded ort
from his lips – told him only you existed.
Not the others, not him, but you, absent snap-
finger master. He took his turmoil off, somewhere

near the smile he banished once, for being familiar.
No surprise, no sophist happiness; no burning
bush but mine, soaked with tears, and not
the fleeting night joys he shuddered not to hold.

3-4. 10. 08
rev. 21. 8. 09

Pessoa to More

Strike away from the body
and the lunar mansions light up time
with this small red match.

That’s esotericism – Japanese lampshades
seen from shrunk medieval courtyards
chilled with the night’s speed.

You’re moving off from me More, your
Neo-Platonics red-shift with new physics
as Europe’s vigilance dons black armbands.

Here, Salazar or Nationalist pickle
of struts and a hand-cranked posture,
celluloid energy of marches and flat drink.

These crowd what a small lamp once did.
The courtyard’s a drill square, the lamp a swivel.
I look up for you in time, find us both gone.

10. 10. 08

Crosse to Campos

Alex said you’d survived him too
Mulled in the cramp of his blood –
your own far nearer than ours, his circulation
a vortex we thought would suck you down
like those flocks Caeiro dreamt he didn’t have.

Such gates aren’t for us then. But arteries
feeding his Styx bleed into daylight rivers
seeping small blanks of memory, like air bubbles
rending a pond’s scum, moths to lace,
clear flukes of glass corrupting old grisaille.

It’s how he provokes forgetting. What if we
refuse, so when he’s struck his near boundless tent
we stray from its stripes forever, these showmen
barbers candying the blood. Enlightened, his
prophets must fondly escape his gravity.

17-18. 10. 08

Aunt Anica to Queiroz

For you see he did not grow old
in despair, but a melancholy of windows
half-opened in different stains of glass:
intense throw of lapis, freaked with violet,
age-burnt ruby and sunken emerald;
gold whitened by the sun. Encrusted.

That’s my fancy, but it was his occlusion;
some near-finished toy cathedral, turned pagan –
a gargoyle zodiac of himself, revolving tints
to pervert daylight, none of it clear. But what
miracles he displays for those who squint him
dazzle and lead, like medieval shepherds.

24-31. 10/7. 12. 08

More to Anica

His decan was too tender of itself,
fragile monster of doubt, keeping the vigil
of its own defeat. Strange, too. His June
was the last whisper hour of spring. Why are
so many winter hearts born at midsummer?

Gemini’s a cruel window onto its own
icefields, the river of the absurd
winking blackly beyond. Yet inside
his hot unaired room he needed the shutters
beating open like a cheap wooden heart.

He never borrowed these other selves. He purloined
both sides so much there was just a heavy pencil
shadow of him left, like the gable on a time-
eaten roof before the timbers crash. Fire
and ice sef-cancelled on his precious scales.

31. 10-7. 11. 08

Search to Crosse

Violent shadows in the heather
deep as plaid in a slant autumn
afternoon; struck violet, a beard of froth
importunes me like a male siren –
I bend to pluck its auxiliary nerve.

Vegetable star, I’d not strike your veins
then, groping at the axle ore of earth.
Your pulse is magnetic instinct; you pall
like a cottager or dram-casked laird
darkening to the topsoil of their creed.

Say I’m the other, postcard Scots, blown settler
broadcasting our purple seed in mad
blueprints, engineer of vaulting time.
No. He beat me thinner than thistle head or card
pressed ‘twixt sheets to fix my colour.

7-14. 11/5. 12. 08

Pessoa to Search, Crosse, Anon

Dignity is the last refuge
of the abandoned. But it was
your language that leaned on without me,
beyond its natural Jacobean stops,
whose baroque cascades out of Inigo Jones
launched my slant cadence.

For me sonneteer was sectioned in jade,
a tortoise-pieced thing, abraded
with brick enjambment, I knew
was centuries out, but your
gaslit myths turned down faster.

So how could I travel with you, friends,
etched on your landscape of copper,
out of Chardin’s faces and Watteau’s marines?
Too arcane? I felt English too old
and adolescent, late child of a late tongue.

Narrating this of course is English,
like my Durban guide, the luting
about must, about must go
to this time-blacked seminary of self,
the Portuguese under the ruby crust
of export English, breaking
through schooling to such education.

14. 11-5. 12. 08

Days of 1933

They told me Cavafy you were dead
and I thought how such antipodes
could never meet. You an orient English
agent in Alexandria, trafficking the classics;
my shabbier occident tricking the living.

English scarred us, like a milky cornea
abraded by a master tongue.
But your limpid demotic tuned classic
or memorial tablets, fantastically removed.

Your tongue translates too, falls
rhythmically to Anglo-Saxon I can read.
Mine’s grafted on contemporaries
whom you at least might concede existed.

No inscription from the sixth century
but a ledger, rolled blueprint, office
frozen to northlight or forever facing west.
This decade will fold us both up,
somewhere near Greenwich to
compare our dead.

21. 11. 08

Pessoa’s Portrait to Pessoa

The slowing down of mauve I can face.
Its unnatural chemics striate: cerulean,
faded cerise stranding in my nose’s shadow.

Now this is you: artificial but fixed. The
moustache hatched in a single scratchy brio,
round the hyperbolic modernismo of my lines.

It’s your face blotches, deviates to a charcoal-dishevelled
de Campos, sucked-in tubercular Caeiro, Reis wan
as a child’s first essay in wax pastels. You’re often away.

And these hollows lengthen down your cheeks,
Take blood colour from you for visages you now don’t
believe. This blind maquillage will last. I’ll fit you.

28. 11. 08

=========================================
Pessoa's typwriter: Photo Ernst Schade

Pessoa’s typewriter: photo Ernst Schade
=========================================

Written by SOPHIA WELLBELOVED

August 22, 2008 at 4:23 pm

CAROLL’S PHILOSPHY: LANGAUGE & CONTINGENCY IN ALICE IN WONDERLAND

Lewis Caroll

John Tufail

Although much has been written on Lewis Carroll’s philosophy, it can be reasonably stated that the vast majority of what has been written has been based, understandably, on a false premise. This premise, first asserted by S. Dodgson Collingwood in the first biography of Carroll -1898 – and re-affirmed consistently since, is that Lewis Carroll was, in all things, the epitomy of 19th century traditional and conservative thought. Thus, the idea that Carroll, in his writings, would espouse a neo-Platonist philosophy and a ideas on the nature of language that flew in the face of mainstream Victorian thought, could not be countenanced. It is only recently that the traditional view of Carroll has been successfully challenged.

As a consequence little thought has been given to Carroll’s use of illustration in his collaborations with his artists other than from a purely aesthetic point of view. Neither has the full import of Carroll’s use of ‘nonsense’ as a device for systematically presenting a coherent and persuasive philosophy of language been sufficiently well explored.

This short paper, concentrating on ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ (AiW) is by way of an introduction to Carroll’s philosophy of language – most especially of his challenge to the traditional view of how language developed historically from motivated sign, to arbitrary sign, with all other written linguistic forms being merely milestones in this ‘advancement’.

Although the primary purpose of this paper is to examine the relationship between motivated and arbitrary sign in (AiW), it is felt at least useful to begin by providing some groundwork on how Carroll sees the relationship between reality, truth and the articulated and written text (arbitrary signs).
I would therefore like to begin by examining a position that has fairly general acceptance in contemporary Western Thought. A position that has been strongly articulated and supported among philosophers from a wide range of ideological and philosophical schools. It is a position taken by people as disparate as Mannheim, Althusser. Ayer and Lukes – that although some aspects of reality are culturally mediated, socially determined, irretrievably ideological in nature. Others are not. I quote for example, Steven Lukes from his essay on ‘The Social Determination of truth’:

a. There are no good reasons for supposing that all criteria of truth and validity are contextually dependent and variable:
b. there are good reasons for maintaining that some are not, that these are universal and fundamental, and that those criteria that are context dependent are parasitic on them…

To support this position, Lukes appeals to language as evidence of the universality of meaning with the notion of:

The existence of a common reality as a necessary pre-condition of our understanding ‘G’s language (‘G’ being a member of a language group other than my own). Though we need not agree about all the facts, the member of ‘G’ must have our distinction between truth and falsity as applied to a shared reality if we are to understand the language.

I believe that this appeal is essentially misplaced and is based on a misconception of how meaning develops in language. To illustrate this point I can turn, inevitably, to ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ as this very question is one that Lewis Carroll addressed extremely succinctly one hundred years before Lukes!

A three inch high Alice has just fallen into a pool of tears , previously formed by a nine foot Alice. As she struggles in the pool she is overtaken by the Mouse which she attempts to engage in pleasant conversation. Failing in English, she tries again in French:

‘So she began again; ‘Ou est ma Chatte’ which was the first lesson in herFrench lesson book. The mouse gave a sudden leap out of the water, and seemed to quiver all over with fright.

‘Oh I beg your pardon!’ cried Alice hastily, afraid that she had hurt the poor animal’s feelings, ‘I quite forgot you didn’t like cats’.

‘Not like cats! cried the Mouse, in a shrill passionate voice. ‘Would you like cats if you were me.’

‘Well perhaps not,’ said Alice, in a soothing tone; ‘don’t be angry about it, and yet I wish I could show you our cat Dinah; I think you’d take a fancy to cats if you could only see her. She is such a quiet thing.. And she is such a nice soft thing to nurse – and she’s such a capital one for catching mice…’

The switch from English to French here by Carroll is interesting and useful when looking at Luke’s argument. It seems to me that Carroll is showing that, contrary to Luke’s claim, it is not necessary for us to share a common reality in order to develop a knowledge of how another language operates, merely to develop a negotiated perceptual approximation. Thus Wittgenstein argues that such a negotiation of meaning does not require a ‘common understanding’ (Luke’s phrase) but a; ‘complicated network of superficial similarities which overlap and crisscross’ (Philosophical Investigations).

Alice was in this manner able to communicate on the level of superficial appearances with the Mouse (note, by the way, the Platonic capital), in the sense that there was a similarity between her concept of ‘Cat’ and that of the Mouse at the level of superficial perception/material appearance. However, she remained fundamentally unable to share Mouse’s world view at the level of meaning. To Alice a cat would always be a loveable, harmless (indeed by virtue of being an excellent mouser, extremely useful) pet. To the Mouse, on the other hand, it would always remain a dangerous, nasty, low assassin.

——————-

This is a theme to which Carroll returns on a number of occasions in AiW and can be seen as a central theme in this particular work. In her very next conversation with the Mouse she starts to talk about her loveable, ‘bright eyed terrier’ and reference will be made to the episode where Alice nibbles the mushroom and finds her neck extending from her body. In this incident she meets a pigeon who identifies her as a serpent: the Idea of a serpent being to a pigeon any creature that is both all head and neck and eats eggs. To underline his point, Carroll brings the 3” tall Alice into confrontation with a ‘normally’ sized puppy – an episode in which Alice’s universalist (Idealistic?) world view nearly brings her to grief. Yet having been nearly trampled to death by this relatively enormous animal, our heroine cannot conceive of it in any other terms than,

and yet what a dear little puppy it was!”

Carroll in these episodes appears to be making a crucial distinction between perception and understanding – between the material and the essential – the point being that two people with different world views, different realities, would not necessarily disagree that something is perceived (a puppy, a cat or a tear for example) but their understanding of the significance of the perception would fundamentally differ.

This understanding/perception distinction is important when one is considering the function of illustration in nonsense works (in particular), for it reflects directly on the position taken by people like Bacon, Spencer and Crane on the evolution of language, in that it asks questions of their position that illustration is purely and formally an evidentiary mediator between language and reality.
In ‘The Colours of Rhetoric’. Wendy Steiner puts the evidentiary case as follows:

Illustrations are pictures of the thing-world inserted into the verbal text. As pictures,icons, they both signify and contain the characteristics of what they picture.’

But of course Carroll’s book both exploit for its humorous possibilities and deny the validity of this and like statements at any but the most superficial level.

The importance of illustration in the works of Lewis Carroll cannot be overstated. Throughout his life he used the perceived evidential properties of illustration to brighten and clarify not only his fictional texts but also his non-fiction. In fact, it is worth stating that the distinction between fiction and non-fiction as applied to Carroll is a particularly arbitrary one – ‘useful’ only because Carroll himself made the distinction clear by deciding on the authorship (Lewis Carroll or CL Dodgson) of each piece.
Nonetheless, even in his most ‘academic’ works, Carroll employed ‘fictive’ devices for their illustrative properties and possibilities.

The opening paragraph of AiW contains the following reflection from the mind of Alice:

“What is the use of a book”, thought Alice, “without pictures or conversation?”

This could easily (though less effectively!) be written as:

‘How can any development in knowledge or understanding take place without dialogue/dialectic or illustrative devices’.

The classic Platonist response to the observer-centred philosophy of Aristotle. In AiW, the narrator the narrator plays on the evidentiary concept of illustration – not only in his attempt to ‘legitimise’ his fictive world – but also to subvert it. As an aside it should be remembered that Carroll was a superb photographer, and more than most he understood at an early stage the fallacy of the claim, ‘the camera cannot lie’.

When Alice meets the Gryphon, for example, the narrator refers out from the written text by saying,

“if you don’t know what a Gryphon is (emphasis added), look at the picture.”

Apart from the subtly tautologistic nature of the statement, the main point to note here, is Carroll’s use of ‘is’. He doesn’t say, for example, ‘if you don’t know what a Gryphon looks like’, he uses is – a word that implies existential import for the Gryphon. Given Carroll’s careful use of language throughout the ‘Alice’ books, this application is unlikely to be merely fortuitous – particularly in view of the earlier distinction made between material perception and Platonic idealism. It is a distinction that is crucial to Carroll’s humour. Indeed, it is something more than humour that Carroll is achieving. Carroll’s choice of gryphon for this particular piece of existential sleight-of-pen brings to mind his intense interest in Blake’s illustrations during the period her was writing AiW. We know that Carroll was so interested in them that he had ordered a special printing of them through his publisher, McMillan. We do not know, but it is likely that one of these illustrations would have been that of ‘Beatrice addressing Dante from the Car’ (1826-27) with its prominent illustration of a gryphon before Ezekiel’s chariot. Certainly the religious and poetic symbolism of the Gryphon would have been well known to Carroll and his contemporaries As Stephen Pricket says in book, ‘Words and the Word’:

‘For Blake, Dante’s bi-fold vision of the Griffin is not merely an encounter with the spirit of prophecy, but more specifically with poetic genius.’

This ‘bi-fold vision’ linking the Gryphon with ‘poetic genius’ not only reflects Blake’s powerful biblical imagery, but also brings to the forefront Coleridge’s insistence of the primacy of the poetic in Biblical translation – and the huge influence Coleridge’s neo-Platonism had on Carroll’s linguistic, philosophical and theological development.

In 1855, we have this entry in Carroll’s diary:

Jan: 15. (M) ‘Read Coleridge’s ‘Aids to Reflection in the evening – it is one of those books that improve on a second reading: I find very little in it even obscure now’

On January 7 1856, there is an extended entry by Carroll in which he states,

Finished Alton Locke’.

This book, written by Charles Kingsley caused Carroll much anguish and spiritual soul searching. Kingsley was part of the mid-19th century neo-Platonist revival group that included F.D. Maurice and Alfred Lord Tennyson.

On January 3rd 1857, Carroll noted,

Began reading Kingsley’s Hypatia’.

He finished it on January 7th and again it threw him in turmoil. Hypatia was arguably the greatest of the early neo-Platonist philosophers and she was savagely murdered at the behest of ‘St Cyril’. Carroll notes,

‘The book has interested me strongly in the history of Cyril, which I intend to read the next opportunity’.

On January 3rd 1858, Carroll writes:

Began Coleridge’s ‘Aids to Reflection’ for the second time. ‘I intend to make a sort of analysis of it this time…’

Actually Carroll’s memory is at fault here, as in the earlier diary entry he makes specific reference to the fact that he had read it earlier – this was his third full reading (at least). So, In four (perhaps five) consecutive years, in the early part of January of each month, Carroll read, and was greatly moved by the works of either Charles Kingsley or Samuel Taylor Coleridge – both strongly associated with the emerging 19th century neo-Platonist tradition, itself almost entirely due to the writings of Coleridge.

This may help explain why Carroll’s precise use of language is always an appeal to understanding rather than the visual perception of the phenomenon. In AiW Carroll leaves little to chance. Later in the same work, at the trial of the Knave, the narrator once again interjects with the statement.

The King wore his crown over his wig (look at the frontispiece if you want to see how he did it)’.

This is the second time in the book that Carroll has appealed to the evidentiary nature of illustrations – but surely ironically! Not only that but, as this thesis will demonstrate, there are other reasons why Carroll might well have wanted to draw attention to these particular illustrations.

Once again, however, the appeal is to understanding (how the Act was achieved) rather than to perception (what it looked like).

——————–

Of course Lewis Carroll was not the only 19th century writer to use illustrations linguistically, either to enhance, or even subvert, the written text. Most famously Thackeray (‘Vanity Fair’) and Dickens (notably in ‘Dombey and Son’ where he used illustration to evade Victorian mores on adultery) also used illustration in the same linguistic manner. Readings of neither ‘Vanity Fair’ nor ‘Dombey and Son’, for example, can said to be complete unless the illustrations are ‘read’ as extensions of the text.
This challenging of illustration as purely evidentiary, essentially subservient to the written text was, if not common, at least a notable feature of certain strands of Victorian linguistic philosophy. Yet the prevailing view of the text/illustration relationship remained (and to a large extent still remains) that stated by Wendy Steiner earlier in this piece or more expansively by Herbert Read in his historical account of the evolution of aesthetics in ‘Icon and Idea’:

‘Before the word was the image, and the first recorded attempts of man to define the real are pictorial attempts, Images scratched or pecked or painted on the surface of rocks or caves. Our knowledge of the existence of this primal art is comparatively recent, and so staggering was the impact of the knowledge on the scientific mind that for some years the authenticity of the evidence was doubted. Even now the significance of this art, for anthropology, for aesthetics, and I would say, for philosophy, has not been fully appreciated.’

The presumption (unfounded) that the motivated sign precedes the arbitrary in the evolution of language is a powerful motivator in the perception that the motivated sign is necessarily secondary and subservient to the arbitrary. Yet such accounts are demonstrably selective and wrong. It ignores, for example, the fact that in so-called ‘pre-literate societies, the arbitrary sign pre-dominates over the motivated sign. Status and rank badges, boundary signifiers, and direction indicators are all examples of the arbitrary sign taking its place alongside the motivated sign in human culture. Read’s presumption also assumes an evolutionary theory of language based on the extremely subjective idea of a hierarchy of linguistic types; hieroglyph, cuneiform, ideogram, alphabet. Read again:

The stylised symbol of the human form, though it is so dynamic in the Franco-Cantarian and Bushman art…. Is a sign, and in the extreme case we are near to the Chinese ideogram or pictograph. We are at the beginning of a long evolution that led to the invention (sic) of writing.

Or see Francis Bacon writing in Novum Organum:

‘Again, if one considers the refinement of the arts….as the discovery of the letters of the alphabet (still unadopted by the Chinese) in grammar.’

We are presented with an evolutionary continuum ranging from the pictorial representation of the ‘Bushman’s’ art – representing a one-to-one relationship between sign and object, symbol and reality, and the arbitrary, unmotivated, abstracted linguistic sign of Western Culture at the other – apparently representing a retreat from the ‘real’ to the intellectual. This is a hypothesis that is pregnant with qualitative implications. For example, without context, it is impossible to know to what extent Bushman’s art is merely evidential representation or whether at least some is symbol, metaphor or allusion Yet ironically, much of the debate about language since the Baconian revolution has been precisely to attempt to force language back into a one-to-one relationship with reality.

The attempt to somehow ‘purify’ language – return it to a State of Grace – was both a powerful philosophical movement throughout the 18th and much of the 19th centuries (indeed the rejection of the ‘poetics’ of the St James Bible in the 20th century evidences the continuation of this into the 20th century). This movement, although initially instigated by philosophical empiricism, taken to its extreme in theological and Biblical debate.

One of the fiercest debates running through the 19th century surrounded to what extent the Bible should be taken as a literal and historical record (literality) what contents should be read as allegory or metaphor. This, of course, is a fundamental and long-standing debate that continues to the present day – but in the 19th century it was given additional impetus by the project undertaken by Horst and Wescott to provide a new interpretation of the Bible.

Brooke Foss Westcott (1825-1903) and Fenton John Anthony Hort (1828-1892) undertook to carry out a complete revision of the King James Bible aimed at eliminating inaccuracies of translation from the original Greek texts. This project caused great controversy at the time – a controversy that continues to this day.

On the one side their supporters acclaim them for their contribution to biblical scholarship, having profoundly advanced knowledge of the original Greek texts. On the other side, they are accused of heresy and apostasy. Their opponents, largely, see the King James’ version of the Bible as ‘inspired’ and the True scripture.

Although the debate was complex and often convoluted, at the heart of the debate was the question of literality.

This mode of thought opposed allegorical, interpretive and metaphorical interpretations of biblical passages (to a greater or lesser degree – depending on how ‘fundamentalist’ the views of the advocate).

It is in this historical and theological context that Carroll’s work must be seen in order to fully understand the radical nature of his works. It also provides a pragmatic and contextual reason why Carroll was so keen to separate his fictional from his non- fictional works by way of a pseudonym.
To return to AiW, the frontispiece contains at least one other contradictory element that can be seen as challenging the evidentiary nature of illustration. Every reader of AiW makes the assumption that at the trial the prisoner before the court is, indeed, the Knave of Hearts. This, quite reasonable, assumption is based primarily on extra contextual evidence. Knowledge of the Rhyme in question, the consequent relationships between the key characters (the Knave and Queen of hearts – with the poor King acting as judge). Illustratively the Carroll/Tenniel relationship produces two illustrations that both show a predominance of Heart symbols – reinforcing out initial perceptions.

Curiously, however, (as Alice herself may have exclaimed), it is the case that nowhere in Carroll’s text does he refer to the prisoner before the court as the Knave of Hearts, merely the Knave, of which in a pack of cards there are four. The only reference to a Knave of Hearts is in the nursery rhyme itself. The fact that actual identity of the prisoner by the reader is rarely queried is due to three factors.
First is the conscious (and/or unconscious) ‘recognition’ by the majority of readers of the nursery rhyme itself – this is crucial

Second is the ‘fact’ that in the eyes of the reader, most illustrations appear to operate comfortably as subservient to the text.

Third is the fact that Carroll (as the narrator) mischievously and subtly reinforces this with hints and associative allusion that almost, but never quite, confirm the fact that the Knave present in the trial is indeed the Knave of hearts. Thus, in the garden scene, Carroll mentions the King and Queen of Hearts…. And the Knave – as opposed to the certainty of ‘The King, Queen and Knave of hearts’.

The frontispiece itself underlines this dialectic between certainty and uncertainty. Although it is a full page illustration, dominating the reader’s consciousness, it is both spatially and temporally removed from the trial scene. It is only when the illustration is examined closely that it can be seen that there is no conclusive evidence that the Knave before the court is, indeed, the Knave of hearts.

Indeed, of all the playing cards that Tenniel’s illustrations portray, it is only the Knave whose identity remains consistently ambiguous. In none of the illustrations of the Knave (there are three) is he unambiguously represented, in text or illustration, as The Knave of Hearts – we only have the nursery rhyme itself as evidence.

Never, for example, is he shown sporting a heart motif (as, for example, the gardeners’ display their suits, as do the King and Queen – quite ostentatiously). Indeed, in the frontispiece the dominant motif on the Knave’s dress is the Club.

There is one significant exception to this. Uniquely, in chapter VIII (‘The Queen’s Croquet Ground’), a knave is indeed identified clearly as the Knave of Hearts . In the procession (first) the narrator says,

Then followed the Knave of Hearts, carrying the King’s crown.

Then, a few lines later,

‘…the Queen then said severely, “who is this?” She said to the Knave of Hearts…

Immediately adjacent to these observations is an illustration depicting the Knave of Hearts bearing the crown. Compare this illustration of the indubitable Knave of Hearts (‘what I say three times is true’!) with the illustration of the knave in the trial.

They are quite clearly two different characters. The clothing differs (look at the headwear, for example – and the tunic design). More compelling, however, are the features. Tenniel has the knave in the two Trial illustrations sporting a prominent up-turned moustache, whereas the Knave of Hearts in the Croquet Ground scene is wearing a rather more desultory, down-turned moustache. Also, as befitting a knave who has just scoffed the Queen’s tarts, the face of the Knave of heats is round and plump – unlike the face of the knave in the trial scenes.

It could be queried that this is a mere error by Tenniel that both illustrator and author overlooked. Indeed this argument has been advanced. There are two counter-arguments to this objection. First is the fact that this is unlikely given the fact that it is known just how carefully both Carroll and Tenniel scrutinised the book for just such errors (remember Carroll withdrew the first print-run because of lack of quality).

Secondly, this is not the only time Carroll plays the same trick on the reader. Look at the two Bellman illustrations below from the Hunting of the Snark. Different Illustrator same illusion:

Not only are the beards of the two Bellmen quite different, the one above fine and flowing, the one below coarse and bushy.

here the Bellman sports a wart on his nose that the Bellman above completely lacks.

To the unwary reader, the nonsense element of the Knave’s trial is the fact that the normal procedures of a court of law are reversed – sentence-verdict-evidence, Yet is this really such nonsense? A nursery rhyme is, after all, a closed system. The Knave of Hearts, being a member of this closed system, has no existence or function other than being the knave that stole the tarts. Logically, the only evidence required is the nursery rhyme itself. This Carroll duly provides at the opening of the trial, as of course, should be the case.

If it is the Knave of hearts before the court, both evidence and verdict are contained within the rhyme itself. The only possible question, therefore, is whether the prisoner before the court is actually the right knave – the Knave of Hearts – for we know that only the Knave of Hearts can be guilty!
And, as has been shown, Carroll goes to great lengths to create an ambiguity on precisely this issue.
It is suggested that thee are few better examples of the dangers inherent in accepting at face value the ‘evidentiary’ properties of illustration. In this case it can be seen that the reader’s ‘reading’ of the illustration is determined by his own expectations – just as the illusionist relies on the
audience’s ‘expectations’ to create the illusion. Because the reader expects the illustration to be evidentiary to an unambiguous text, Carroll the illusionist is able to perform his illusion.

The illustrations refer not out from the text of a universe of playing cards and stolen tarts (not, of course, Carroll’s creations) but back into the body of the written text. The Trial illustrations carry an incomplete information structure that render them meaningless as signifying agents without the additional information contained in the verbal text and the reader’s external knowledge of the nursery rhyme. What we have are two complex but incomplete structures that are mapped onto each other in such a way that to each part of one structure there is a corresponding part in the other. This, of course, includes significant absences.

In his book, ‘Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid’, Douglas Hofstadter discusses how fomal systems come to create meaning. He suggests that a primary causative factor is the existence of what he terms ‘isomorphic relationships’:

‘It is a cause for joy when a mathematician discovers an isomorphism between two Structures which he knows. It is often a ‘bolt from the blue’,and a source of wonderment. The perception of an isomorphism which creates meaning in the minds of people. A final word on the perception of isomorphisms: since they come in all shapes and sizes, figuratively speaking, it is nor always totally clear when you really have found an isomorphism. Thus isomorphism is a word with all the usual vagueness of words – which is a defect but an advantage as well.

It is interesting that Hofstadter’s book is subtitled, ‘A Metaphorical Fugue on Minds and Machines in the Spirit of Lewis Carroll’, for surely few writers have so sympathetically summed up the wonderment and enlightenment that readers of Lewis Carroll’s works experience. And few have given a better rebuttal of the nature of language as embraced by those mentioned earlier in this paper.

This concept of isomorphism, though, as Hofstadter acknowledges, is generally restricted to a discussion of mathematical structures. However, this concept of isomorphic generation of meaning can be usefully and most satisfyingly applied to the complex relationship that exists between text, illustration and audience. Hofstadter appears to be arguing that understanding arises not though mere physical perception but through a process similar to that described by Wittgenstein (op cit). Painters, illustrators, cartoonists, novelists and other artists utilise this process, translating the world as an infinitely complex and shifting series of signs and images. The idea of humanity’s relationship with reality is thus something like a detective story in which we are given a series of more or less disconnected clues – an incomplete picture from which we form an image of sufficient coherence that enables to formulate and negotiate our existence.

This theory is used by Umberto Eco (‘A Theory of Semiotics’) when discussing his ideas on sign production – stressing that the recognisability of a clue is a socially learned process in the first instance:

Recognition occurs when a given object or event, produced by nature or human action (intentionally or unintentionally) and existing in a world of facts,comes to be viewed by an addressee as the expression of a given content, either through a pre-existing and coded correlation or through the positing of a possible correlation by its addressee.’

Or, in a more concise manner as presented by a gentleman at least slightly ‘known’ to the readers of this paper:

‘Still, you know, words mean more than we mean to express when we use them; as a whole book ought to mean a great deal more than the writer meant.’

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John Tufail
is an independent consultant in Health and Social Policy and a visiting lecturer in the philosophy of health. He has published widely on the relationship between verbal and non-verbal language and for the last four years has been carrying out research in the field of learning difficulties.

John’s interest in Lewis Carroll developed from his doctoral studies on the relationship between language and illustration in the early 1980s. His interest in Carroll then broadened to include a continuing exploration of the philosophical, political and theological influences bearing on Carroll’s life and his works. He has been very instrumental in rediscovering Dodgson’s ‘lost’ associations with radicals like F.D. Maurice and in placing Dodgson’s political conservatism in its proper historical context.

John is a former Director of the Pracyabani Institute and has edited various journals and magazines.

He worked closely with Kate Lyon on an analysis of ‘The Hunting of the Snark’ and other Carroll-related projects. He is a former director of the Pracyabani Institute and has edited various journals and magazines.

PUBLICATIONS INCLUDE:

Lewis Carroll’s ‘conservatism’ The Illuminated Snark

(paper presented at the 2nd International Carroll conference, University of Rennes, 2003)

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[Alice readers: see also Sherry Ackerman’s ‘Looking for Lewis Caroll’ presentation on the Hidden Sources: Western Esoteric Influence on the Arts post for the 2008 CCWE Conference.]

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