1. In the McLingua teacher room the other day, i walked in on a conversation about the university, fussed about with my papers for a bit then butted my Huddersfield head in, to learn that a colleague was thinking of studying Philosophy but had to learn German first; i commiserated and suggested avoiding Heidegger for the nonce; conversation turned to academia and we were all of the opinion that it is a nest of venomous adders vomiting forth servile gibberish.
i have at times encountered hearty I’m-alright-Jack Southron types who say any kind of academic writing is incomprehensible gibberish, but in truth the university only became a den of filth in the late 80s, early 90s. i sometimes miss reading pre-1990 literary criticism, and writing my own untimely commentaries, though it is such an artificial form that, lacking any audience at all, i would prefer to write my Racist Remarks on my Cold War typewriter, or just drink whisky and smoke contemplatively over the ruins of Mother Europe.
2. For years, i felt an odd conflict about literary criticism, for almost everyone i met openly despised me for reading books in the first place, let alone writing about them. The conflict arose because i loved reading 1950s-1980s-era literary criticism, and felt my best essays were valuable, in their own way, and yet when almost everyone sneers, you tend to think you must be wrong, and so i felt one of my strongest passions must, in fact, be totally mistaken.
i no longer feel this tension, partly because i no longer really talk to people, certainly not about anything important, but also because i more & more sense the subtle underpinnings & influence of the world of art, culture, and the spirit, almost invisible to the rabble. It is striking and strange that a very small minority can perceive significant realities, and an even smaller can begin to understand and deploy these forces; and yet, these seemingly recondite persuasions create the mundane reality of the belly-patting managerial Southron, Tony Blair, and your everyday chav.
3. Study of anything can provoke an understanding of the world, however brief, fragmentary, fraught; and this understanding is the more likely the more the object is either created by the gods, or a work of true art (i.e. not modern). Make your rabbits rabbinical, master, and set them to the carrots of the field; for it is this study and commentary which sensitizes to realities of spirit. Browsing through my notes on Annie Dillard’s For the Time Being, i find:
“In the pictures of the old masters,” Max Picard wrote in The World of Silence, “people seem as though they had just come out of the opening in a wall; as if they had wriggled their way out with difficulty. They seem unsafe and hesitant because they have come out too far and still belong more to silence than themselves.”
So it is, that this study and work involves an apprehension of the generally denied or despised substratum of being. There is small work and great; mine, i deem, is small, for i am long quit of greatness and its malheurs.
4. Attention to primal works can forcegrow certain capacities. Our age seems designed to prevent such attention: our technologies, and a lack of respect for art and religion. When i was 20 or so i bought Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew, and listened to it in great distress, thinking “I just wasted twenty quid, this is shit”. After the third or fourth listen/ordeal, i sat me down and thought “now Elberry old son, this must be good because it’s from before you were born and people STILL say it’s good”. On this listen, the previously appalling sounds cohered into music, i think because i was suitably reverent and willing to attend. Amusingly, when i told the Journalist, he refused to believe that i liked the album, boldly declaring that even leftfield eclectic cultural magpie jazz aficionados given to self-affirmation and self-transcendence didn’t like Bitches Brew; he then added something like “I can’t help but feel that your alleged liking of Miles’ 1970 fusional foray into experimental and avant-garde jazz is based solely on your wish to appear COOL and to conform to what music critics tell you to think. I can’t help but feel that in fact you DON’T understand Miles D at this stage in his experimental maverick trajectory, ably assisted by old studio hands at the legendary 30th St, but you FEEL you can IMPRESS me by CLAIMING to do so.”
So obviously, reading and listening and looking do not suffice for clarity of spirit; and a bad spirit will transform even the greatest of artworks into his own self-importance.
5. i’ve been thinking/remembering the Great War, as i experienced it in the life to which i seem closest (consciously, at least). Artillery stunned, even quite distant artillery; the noise and percussive shock reduced one to a childlike state, of terror and helplessness. Perhaps in others it was less profound, but in me – because i lived more in my mind – it entailed an overwhelming loss of what i knew as my self. My whole body would react with the artillery, blinking and breathing in that tempo, as if my whole body was flinching and contracting, my mind utterly consumed by terror. It was not ordinary fear, which in our world today is localised and usually integrated into the self; this was more i suppose a carnal terror, the body believing (with some justice) death to be imminent.
There was a curious resolve & clarity after artillery attacks. In part it could be that my ordinary problems became relativized and actually trivial in these moments of terror, and so i could more easily live with myself by coming close to death, time after time. On reflection, i think it was also that, the terror being so extreme, survival – the self reforming in quietness – seemed a significant achievement; and also the annihilation of self, however horrible, showed that the self was not, finally, indispensable, that it could disintegrate without the body dying; that there must be something indestructible within, from which the self would reform, standing however apart from the self.
6. Another note from For the Time Being, on Teilhard de Chardin’s service as a stretcher-bearer in the same war:
A witness remembered his “rough-hewn face that Greco had prefigured” and his “total lack of ecclesiasticism.” One of the officers serving with him wrote, “Two features of his personality struck you immediately: courage and humility.” His regiment’s Tunisian sharpshooters, who were Muslims, used to say rather cryptically that a “spiritual structure” protected him when he plucked bodies from the ground in crossfire.
Chardin’s life, however wayward and various, is all of a piece. There are people who can move from one sphere to another, and whose earthly actions bear a spiritual imprimatur. If Andrew Breitbart was correct to say politics is downstream from culture, then i would say culture (in the sense of customs, social norms, and the arts) is downstream from what is today wholly denied: religion, spirit, the occult.
As i see it, there are powerful & malign forces currently working to destroy the connection between Europeans and the highest order of reality. Some of their earthly vessels are easily identified; they are, all the same, merely vessels.
i will not be too disheartened if Le Pen loses the French elections on May 7 – the situation with our 3rd World guests will only grow much worse, so she will probably be able to win with a clear majority next time, and be able to take more decisive action, if France hasn’t then already gone up in the flames of diversity and multicultural enrichment, Balkans-style. Contra Varg, i see nothing wrong with voting for so-called Right-wing parties, however i would say hope lies not in politics (the lowest, densest sphere) and not even in culture – we must work for the old gods to come once more to us, in new guise and manner. i stress new despise my general loathing of anything modern, because the irruption of the divine cannot be predicted, planned, controlled – even for those who expect them the gods come as a shock; even in their very gentleness as an artillery barrage to a self that no longer is; nor are they always gentle.