For poetry makes nothing happen: it survives
In the valley of its making where executives
Would never want to tamper, flows on south
From ranches of isolation and the busy griefs,
Raw towns that we believe and die in; it survives,
A way of happening, a mouth.
And ruled by dead men never met, By pious guess deluded, Upon the stool of madness set Or stool of desolation, Sits murderous and clear-headed; Enormous beauties round him move, For grandiose is his vision And grandiose his love.
The searcher must burn out when he senses that nothing will save him from himself. He is extinguished in the dilemma of having to choose between the unbearable and the impossible. Only in the fire of disillusionment can the last remaining illusions be burned away. With the departure of what is being sought, the search itself becomes the goal and the path flows with a tragic bend into the pain from which it was initially able to turn away.
If I can’t, in spite of all my painstaking art, Carve a Moon of silver for your Pedestal, I shall put the Serpent which is eating my heart Under your heels, so that you may trample and mock, Triumphant queen, fecund in redemptions, That monster all swollen with hatred and spittle.
[Si je ne puis, malgré tout mon art diligent
Pour Marchepied tailler une Lune d’argent
Je mettrai le Serpent qui me mord les entrailles
Sous tes talons, afin que tu foules et railles
Reine victorieuse et féconde en rachats
Ce monstre tout gonflé de haine et de crachats.]
A first enlightenment came about when the spiritual teachers showed that humans are not so much possessed by demons as controlled by automatisms. They are not assailed by evil spirits, but by routines and inertias that force them to the ground and deform them. What impair their reason are not chance errors and occasional errors of perception – it is the eternal recurrence of the cliches that render true thought and free perception impossible.
Next to Gautama Buddha, Plato was the first epidemiologist of the spirit: he recognized everyday opinion, the doxa, the pestilence that does not kill, but does occasionally poison entire communities. Empty phrases that have sunk down into the body produce ‘characters ‘. They mould humans into living caricatures of averageness and turn them into incarnated platitudes.