Intuitively developed art that follows its own internal logic free of other rules.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Apologia, Animal Spirits

"You never know, I said, the ones you give some semblence of burial, to whom you offer an apology, may have been like seers in a parallel culture. It is an act of respect, a technique of awareness."  Barry Lopez

For Barry Lopez the wolverine enlivens the force of natural wilderness as the bear does for Momaday. We know we are less human by the loss of the wilderness contrast. One of four mammals will become extinct. Forests of the north, coyote and elk in storm, dead fall fires in yarrow meadows, armed men, dogs, tent, truck, prevent the hunger of the bear. But this is small stuff to the scapegoated  puritan fear of the spirit. It has a name in Leviticus that Barry Lopez does not mention because the names of the gods depend on who uses them. Once above the outbuildings of a flour mill near ASU was the proud declaration "Ashtaroth" written high above. This was not a misspelling of Ashcroft. The ambiguity of the world of spirits to a people who have no gods is that power and money mix up an argument about consequence and cause and make a literature out of it. They are all gone out of the way, there is none that does good. There is a dominant group of new pietists, newscasters and reporters who proclaim this morality of disconnect from the comfort of their desks. They have the compassion of a war reporter living off amputees while pretending to be a conscience, an English puritan living off smallpox, el exterminador and amonetizer of home mortgages living off public consumption. When these fail they express the greatest compassion for the failed, but it is for themselves. Surely no one expects to end this discussion with a conclusion.

Animal Spirits

Poets wrote of the coming biological extinction, prophetic celebrations of the natural before the industrial revolution. We find ourselves determining extinction’s cause.  Beasts first go extinct. The pain of the bestiaries is they compare the animal to the human to the detriment of both. Humans adopt some negative animal trait. Yale professor Robert Shiller says Animal Spirits are a forecasting tool, that the business world has discovered irrationality as a means to wealth. But he did not learn that animal spirits involve the reality of hunger and laying low, to love the sun and love night. When Bunyan says "poor silly Mole, that thou shouldst love to be, / Where thou, nor Sun, nor Moon, nor Stars can see," Bunyan can't see.

Physiologus heaps all occult myth and fancy on animals. Science heaps our health hazards.The asps founded fast food. Prester is the asp that  anybody who gets “struck by this animal swells to a prodigious size and is destroyed by corpulence” (T. H.White. The Book of Beasts. 175). Media heaps on our loss of identity and confusion of soul. The sirens founded media, television  (Conversation IV), “entice poor chaps by a wonderful sweetness of rhythm, and put them to sleep…pounce upon them and tear them to bits” (White, 134). In this Coercion of the Senses Odysseus is tied to the mast, tie open the eyes gates to violence as in Clockwork Orange. If they will not see they will not sleep.

If Mr. Blake were the first to celebrate the toll of industrialization in his chimney sweep, and if he were the prophet of the week, we’d resort to him to explain the man's fear of animals, fear of the tree, fear of the woman which sums the fear of himself.  Blake's portrayal of animals is like the bestiaries, a picture of the negative states as an gnostic creation, a heresy compared with Psalms and Job. Don't be like the tiger. Do be like the ant (Proverbs). Each species becomes a morality play, not a thing in itself of wonder, which attitude translates to science. What use is the thing, what experiments can be run, will it make a good paper, improve human lot? This morality play will be running when polar ice extincts. Thus in the cliched pattern of English folklore songbirds are good, hawks are bad.

In this divided state  every threat perceived in the outer world from animals, which includes all nature, is a human fear caused by division and mirrored back. That is, the savagery of the tiger, or cruelty in any exterior form is a human internal state, a spiritual despondency.  In Mysterium Magnum Boehme calls the primal "Image" corrupted, which became "a Beast of all Beasts" manifesting outwardly the inward negative properties of the man. Thus medieval bestiaries were moralities of man, you name them: "Fox, Wolf, Ear, Lion, Dog, Bull, Cat." Go around the zodiac and to every cave art to see the divided image projected upon the animal. It's not the outward form the man assumes, but the inward projected by him upon the beast. A supposed ravening, or sloth in the seven deadly sins at least is that "the Man must bear such a Beast in the Body."  This is the motive of reabsorbing these projected fears.


A theory of correspondence says the inside is the out: "for as the Essence is in the Body, so the Spirit figures and forms itself internally”  (Boehme),  but if the beasts are a picture of the human their removal does not redeem him. He is redeemed by the reabsorption of projected fears. Imagine a winch of the spirit where first lust and greed, then fear and hate are pulled back! That all external nature reflects the in cast out, bestiaries unmasked.

It sounds like  fantasy to hold that all forms of life were originally part of the human, then projected out, like Plato says the woman was taken from the man. In Jerusalem, Blake says "You have a tradition, that Man anciently contained in his mighty limbs all things in Heaven & Earth" (To the Jews). In the Four Zoas he says:

"So Man looks out in tree & herb & fish & bird & beast
Collecting up the scattered portions of his immortal body"

... where ever a grass grows
Or a leaf buds The Eternal Man is seen is heard is felt
And all his Sorrows till he reassumes his ancient bliss"(Four Zoas, 110)

"As man falls from vision, he objectifies into separate existence more and more aspects of himself. He stands in awe and horror, wondering where a beast like the tiger comes from, for he does not see in it a portion of his own fallen, divided self" (The Scattered Portions, Baine, 7).

This rehumanization of all that was separated out back into the man becomes beatific. The tygers and lions "sing they seize the instruments of harmony" (FZ 124.17). As the animals shed their skins of the human projection, "they enter upon a new life; as all forms of life rejoin Albion they reject the Selfhood which has separated man from man and man from nature"  (Baine, 8).

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