Sunday, 30 March 2008
The female is the earth, the sky, the rocks, everything that is and is latent. The Male is the wizard that brings the life. The magic wand sprinkles and ignites the life force and life 'happens'. Trees, buds, flowers, animals, they spread upon the earth. The magician creates and observes, the mother nurtures with her insight. The magician needs the nurture too - he is not equal to the 'mother' but is essential. Without him the mother would just be forever latent.
Friday, 28 March 2008
...Both the two great forces pouring forth from the double-natured First Cause possess the energy of sex. One is creative, the other destructive; one is good, the other evil; one loves, the other hates. But through both of them pours forth the magnetic energy that moves and disturbs the lethargy of Matter. Both of them have abysmal levels in their being that transcend all that we at present know of the duality of life and death.
There is no ultimate mystery! Such a phrase is meaningless, because the reality of Being is forever changing under the primal and arbitrary will of the First Cause. The mystery of mysteries is Personality, a living Person; and there is that in Personality which is indetermined, unaccountable, changing at every second! The Hindu philosophies that dream of the One, the Eternal, as an Ultimate behind the arbitrariness of Personal Will are deluded. They are in reality - although they talk of "Spirit" - under the bondage of the idea of the body and under the bondage of the idea of physical matter as an "ultimate."
Apart from Personality, apart from Personal Will, there is no such "ultimate" as Matter, there is no such "ultimate" as Spirit. Beyond Life and beyond Death there is Personality, dominating both Life and Death to its own arbitrary and wilful purposes.
What mortals call Sex is only a manifestation in human life, and in animal and vegetable life, of a certain spasm, a certain delicious shudder, a certain orgasm of a purely psychic nature, which belongs to the Personality of the First Cause.
There are human minds - and they find it easy to hypnotise the shallowly clever - who apply to the primordial mysteries of life and sex certain erudite names, and by this naming, and by the noting of certain sequences, they think things are explained. Nothing is explained. The only causal energy in Nature is the energy of the double-natured First Cause and of the innumerable lesser personalities whose existence is revealed in the unrolling of Time. And the ecstatic quiver of that great cosmic ripple we call Sex runs through the whole universe and functions in every organism independent of external objects of desire!
Parthenogenesis, as Christian clairvoyance has long ago defined it, is a symbol of what the soul constantly achieves. So are the Dragon's Teeth sown by Cadmus; and the pebbles cast behind them by Deucalion and Pyrrha.
The composers of fiction aim at an aesthetic verisimilitude which seldom corresponds to the much more eccentric and chaotic dispositions of Nature. Only rarely are such writers so torn and rent by the Demon within them that they can add their own touch to the wave-crests of real actuality as these foam up, bringing wreckage and sea-tangle and living and dead ocean monsters and bloody spume and bottom silt into the rainbow spray!
They intersperse their "comic" and their "tragic" in a manner quite different - so hard is it to throw off the clinging conventions of human tradition! - from the ghastly monotonies and sublime surprises that Nature delights in.
All through, all conscious feelings belonging to living organisms, in a particular spot upon the earth's rondure, mount up and radiate outward from such a spot, overtaking in their ascent the sound-eidola and the sight-eidola which accompany them!
A Glastonbury Romance - page 666
John Cowper Powys
Friday, 21 March 2008
I know now… what the Grail is. It is something that has been dropped upon our planet, dropped within the earthly atmosphere that surround Glastonbury, dropped from Somewhere Else…
I don’t know… of what substance this thing is made; or whether it was flung into our material dimension purposely, or by accident, or by…it is evidently possessed of radiations that can affect both our souls and …Everyone who believes in it increases its power. That, at least, is clear – wherever it came from!…
Sometimes in dreams… some little inanimate thing becomes terrible to us… becomes tremendous and terrible…producing ghastly shiverings and cold sweats…Little inanimate things…can become great symbols… Certain material objects can become charged with supernatural power…They can get filled with a kind of electricity that’s more than magnetism!… This is especially the case when a number of people, century after century has believed…
…Thought is a real thing -…it is a live thing. It creates; it destroys; it begets; it projects its living offspring. Like certain forms of physical pain thought can take organic shapes. They can live and grow and generate, independently of the person in whose being they originated…
For a thousand years the Grail has been attracting thought to itself, because of the magnetism of Christ’s Blood. The Grail is now an organic nucleus of creation and destruction. Christ’s Blood cries aloud from it by day and by night… It is the desire of the generations mingling like water with the Blood of Christ, and caught in a fragment of Substance that is beyond Matter! It is a little nucleus of Eternity, dropped somehow from the outer space upon one particular spot!…
A Glastonbury Romance
John Cowper Powys - page 456
Saturday, 15 March 2008
In Search of the Kenward stone - Chute Causeway
Ken Watts in "Exploring Historic Wiltshire" records that a 19th century farm labourer recalled moving the stone from Kinwardstone Farm at Burbage 5 miles away. However it seems odd to move a large stone this distance to such a remote spot when field clearances normally involved moving sarsens to the edge of a field or breaking them up. Kinwardstone itself is the name of the local medieval hundred.
The stone is highly unusual and only a geologist can determine whether the markings are natural or man made. Some sarsens carry striations caused by glacial movement and the lines look less clearly man made than the grooves for example on the Polissoir Stone at Avebury.
The stone lies at the edge of a pit (which may relate to the building of the adjacent Roman road along Chute Causeway). There are three sarsens in the Churchyard at Tangley (St Thomas of Canterbury) and remnants of a sarsen chambered tomb at Tidcombe longbarrow a mile away.
Kinwardstone Conferencing. http://www.kinwardstone.co.uk/venuefindingservice.htm
Visitors to our offices are often impressed with our collection of "Do Not Disturb" signs. It began about 15 years ago and now features several hundred examples of this often neglected art form. They have come from as near as Marlborough and as far as Mongolia and Bali so if you would like to contribute to our collection please post us any that you come across - they will be very much appreciated.
People also ask about our name.- Kinwardstone. It is now unique to Burbage and the following is a short explanation of its probable origin:
England's administrative system was established during the Saxon period. They created the Shires (controlled by the Shire Reeve or Sheriff), which were in turn divided into Hundreds, but the latter's power gradually declined until they were replaced by the District Councils in 1894. Typically, the Hundred's elders met monthly at an open place to consider local criminal offences, minor ecclesiastical matters and to levy local taxes. Wiltshire was divided into about 40 Hundreds of which Kinwardstone was the second largest. It's Court reputedly originally met at a now ploughed out tumuli in a field near Kinwardstone Farm, Burbage. In later years they more sensibly met at the White Hart Inn, Burbage.
The name probably came from a local Saxon royal (or 'cyne') called Werstan or Wickstan who achieved victory over Ethelmund, Earl of Worcester, about 800AD. It is claimed that a stone was erected on Chute Causeway in celebration of his victory and our logo is derived from its carvings.
…Towards her lover’s high-pitched worship a woman can grow as tenderly humorous as the slyest cynic in the world. His infatuated rapture in her beauty becomes as nothing, in comparison with the desperate sweetness of her surrender to him. There are levels of feminine emotion in the state of love entirely and forever unknown to men. Man’s imaginative recognition of feminine charm, man’s greedy lust, man’s pride in possession, man’s tremulous sense of the pathos of femininity, man’s awe in the presence of an abysmal mystery – all these feelings exist in a curious detachment in his consciousness. They are all separate from the blind subcurrent that sweeps the two together. But with women, when they are really giving themselves up without reserve, a deep underflow of abandonment is reached, where such detachment from Nature ceases completely. At such times the woman does not feel herself to be beautiful or desirable. She does not feel her lover to be handsome or strong or clever or brave. She might be the more abject of the daughters of her race. He might be the least admirable of the sons of his race. His body, his face, might be contemptible. She has reached a level of emotion where everything about him is accepted and taken for granted; and not only so, but actually seen for what it is, without a flicker of idealism. She has reached a level wherein sublime, unconscious humility she takes as her possessor this image, this simulacrum, this poor figure of earth; and as she does so, she accepts in exactly the same way her own most grievous limitations, discounting ironically and tenderly, with an understanding that is deeper than cynicism itself, all his erotic amorous illusions.
There is thus, in a woman’s love, when it has sunk to this level, no illusion left. He is what he is and she may be what she may be! Inform, cowardly, conceited, stupid, he is her man. She has given herself to him as a free gift. He is her possessor. She belongs now, not to herself, but to him. The danger implicit in this implicitness of a woman’s love, when she really gives herself up, is that a man should get a glimpse of its sublime realism. Architect of illusion as he is, it is only in the full volume and top crest of his love that a man can bear an inkling of how realistically his woman regards him below the surface of her flattery. His love for her will probably weaken before hers does for him. And this will happen just because his love depends on an exaggerated admiration of her, which, if he id not something of a Don Quixote, will pass away by degrees. The tragic danger of the “absoluteness” of her love will arrive when he has really got tired of her and has come to regard her as a stranger to his mind and a burden upon his spirit. At this point his vanity will soon teach him, and her “crossness” and “sensitiveness” will soon teach him, that she is completely free from every illusion about his personality. And then another element will enter. The slow cooling of his love for her will rouse in the woman a blind anger; an anger directed, not so much against the poor, weak man himself, as against all men, and incidentally against all the laws of Nature; and yielding to this anger she will not care how much she hurts his feelings. Let him suffer a little on the surface – which is all he understands! – while she is suffering such tortures in the depths! In this mood how can she resist taking advantage of her knowledge of his character? How can she help prodding and stinging him where she knows it will hurt the most?
What in any woman renders a union lasting is the power of letting her man see that she likes him extremely in addition to loving him. What in any man renders a union lasting is this element of the rational-irrational “Don Quixote” in his mind and soul. And wherein consists this Don Quixote element? It consists in an act of the imaginative will; an act of the man’s soul that is actually creative; an act by means of which he sets up his particular Dulcinea del Toboso in an indestructible and imperishable niche. The act of the imaginative will to which I refer gives a man , in fact, the power to treat his woman, in her lifetime, as if she were dead…which is the rarest essence of human relationship and the supreme triumph over mater of the human spirit…
A Glastonbury Romance
John Cowper Powys
The unicursal hexagram, is one of the key symbols within Thelema, the tradition founded by Aleister Crowley in the early part of the twentieth-century. Crowley did not invent the unicursal hexagram, the emblem was created by the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and adapted by Crowley for his own use.
Crowley's adaptation of the unicursal hexagram placed a five petaled rose, symbolizing a pentacle (and the divine feminine), in the center; the symbol as a whole making eleven (five petals of the rose plus six points of the hexagram), the number of divine union.
Combined with the Marian Rose, the unicursal hexagram becomes Crowley's personal sigil, which is the magical union of 5 and 6 giving 11, the number of magick and new beginnings.
When Crowley introduces the unicursal hexagram in his The Book of Thoth he writes that "The lines, however, are strictly Euclidean; they have no depth.
Thelema is a philosophy of life based on the rule or law, "Do what thou wilt." The ideal of "Do what thou wilt" and its association with the word Thelema goes back to François Rabelais, but was more fully developed and proselytized by Aleister Crowley,who founded a religion named Thelema based on this ideal. The word itself is the English transliteration of the Koine Greek noun θέλημα: "will", from the verb θέλω: to will, wish, purpose. Early Christian writings use the word to refer to the will of God, the human will, and even the will of God's opponent, the Devil.
In the 16th century, François Rabelais used Thélème, the French form of the word, as the name of a fictional Abbey in his famous books, Gargantua and Pantagruel. The only rule of this Abbey was "fay çe que vouldras" ("Fais ce que tu veux," or, "Do what thou wilt"). This rule was revived and used in the real world in the mid 18th century by Sir Francis Dashwood, who inscribed it on a doorway of his abbey at Medmenham, where it served as the motto of The Hellfire Club.
The same rule was used in 1904 by Aleister Crowley in The Book of the Law. This book contains both the phrase "Do what thou wilt" and the word Thelema in Greek, which Crowley took for the name of the philosophical, mystical and religious system which he subsequently developed. This system includes ideas from occultism, Yoga, and both Eastern and Western mysticism (especially the Qabalah).
Shri Gurudev Mahendranath, in speaking of svecchachara, the Sanskrit equivalent of the phrase "Do what thou wilt", wrote that "Rabelais, Dashwood, and Crowley must share the honor of perpetuating what has been such a high ideal in most of Asia...
The Physiologus is a didactic text written or compiled in Greek by an unknown author, in Alexandria; its composition has been traditionally dated to the second century AD by readers who saw parallels with writings of Clement of Alexandria, who is asserted to have known the text, though Alan Scott has made a case for a date at the end of the third or in the fourth century. The Physiologus consists of descriptions of animals, birds, and fantastic creatures, sometimes stones and plants, provided with moral content. Each animal is described, and an anecdote follows, from which the moral and symbolic qualities of the animal are derived. Manuscripts are often, but not always, given illustrations, often lavish.
The book was translated into Latin in about 400, and into Ethiopic and Syriac, then into many European and Middle-Eastern languages, and many illuminated manuscript copies such as the Bern Physiologus survive. It retained its influence over ideas of the "meaning" of animals in Europe for over a thousand years. It was a predecessor of bestiaries (books of beasts). Medieval poetical literature is full of allusions that can be traced to the Physiologus tradition; the text also exerted great influence on the symbolism of medieval ecclesiastical art: symbols like those of the phoenix rising from its ashes and the pelican feeding her young with her own blood are still well-known...
All, all in Life’s but repetition,
Fancy sole is new in ev’ry stage.
What in past days nowhere came to vision,
That alone doth never age!
Johann Friedrich Christoph von Schiller
“What is the meaning of those absurd monstrosities, that astounding, amorphous plethora of form, that formal opulence of shapelessness standing in front of the eyes of studious monks in the cloisters? What are those obscene apes doing there? Those savage lions? Those centaurs and half-men? The striped tigers? And the fighting warriors? And the horn-blowing huntsmen? There we can see many bodies with one head and, conversely, many heads on a single body, here a quadruped with a serpent’s tail, over there a fish with a quadruped’s tail. Over there a beast, horse in front and goat behind, and again, a horned beast with a horse’s rump. Everywhere is such a rich and amazing profusion of different shapes, that one would sooner learn from the statues than contemplate the commandments of God…”
Saint Bernard, founder and abbot of the twelfth-century monastery of Clairvaux, was the iconoclast who thundered out this invective in an open letter to Abbot William of Cluny. Bernard was a leader of the strict, puristic reformed order set against the newly rich disciples of older reformers; he was a man of intense and personal mysticism, opposed to external show, crusading against waste of money on superfluous ostentation. Nevertheless, he was astute enough to allow instructive images of the benefit of lay people. Those monsters adorned the facades of Romanesque churches, crawled around the capitals of the pillars inside and gazed down from the timbered roofs. Three roads – antiquity, the Bible, and Physiologus – had converged and intertwined, bringing more than the unicorn into the European experience. In the West, with its not overly mature, not too deeply penetrated Christian tradition, where certainly many a pagan lay barely skindeep, they collided with relics of another world. This in fact produced a medley from which it was scarcely possible to unravel the original components, and in which concrete Christian tenets seemed in any case to be thoroughly lost. The uncivilized images appeared only to interfere with the desire of the flowering mysticism for direct communion of the soul with God. And yet those images became a gateway to such an encounter…
Unicorn Myth and Reality
Rudiger Robert Beer
Ash & Grant Ltd
Sunday, 9 March 2008
Frys Hill - Cheddar
There being no official guardian of our country’s beauty, its guardianship is by default in commission amongst the few who care for it; and it is generally and rightly held that in such matters those who care the most are therefore those who know. That , at any rate, is all the claim that can be made for the authority of the Amenity Protectionists: they have no formal charter, no credentials of infallibility, and they have no legal or executive power or say whatever. They are small though passionate voices crying in the wilderness, and no one need heed them or pay the smallest attentions.
Nor, to be sure, do they – as yet. Being an almost (but not quite) negligible minority, they are prudently regarded as cranks – cranks too detached from the driving-shaft of the modern world to grip it effectively or to promote or retard its revolutions.
That, unfortunately, has some truth in it - or has had; but various organisations, of which the Council for the Protection of Rural England is typical, have recently been tightening things up, and it seems that power may yet be transmitted through these crank – combined and ordered so as to deliver a synchronised and quite appreciable thrust, not only on public opinion, but also upon Parliament, and so ultimately altering the very laws of the land.
The hose having been well and truly stolen, we are about to stage the great national ceremony of locking the stable door - not quite fruitlessly, as we are fallen so low that even the remaining straw and the halter have become precious to us as emblems of our former wealth.
Having already had the larger part of the South Downs filched from us, together with the margins of the New Forest and most of our accessible seaboard (to say nothing of the Home Counties and, at an earlier date, our commons throughout the land), our proposed door-locking comes none too soon.
But can we lock the door effectively even on what is left us – are the would-be janitors strong enough and numerous enough to prevail against the horse-thieves? That is a very urgent question, and one that only the event will answer.
Still, as has been said, all those who really concern themselves with beauty or care about amenity are agreed that England is being rapidly disfigured, and we may accept this as a fact. To many, indeed, it seems the most humiliating and tragic fact of the twentieth century. Cultivated people of all classes must deplore what is happening; are no doubt more or less indifferent; but there can surely be none so perverted as actually to welcome and applaud this mass violation. Pure and whole-hearted diabolists are as rare in aesthetics as in morals, but that there are those who will still or defy their consciences for the sake of personal gain – in any place and at any time – is incontestable. We are probably all ready to sin against the light to some extent (if we are well enough rewarded); and our consciences are as individual and personal as the palms of our hands.
A.’s quasi-religious zeal about the sacredness of natural beauty and our duty towards it in right building may seem queer and wrong-headed to his neighbour B. as B.’s perturbation over blasphemy or sexual unconventionality may seem to A. Yet B.’s sort have all the might, majesty and power of the law and the Churches on their side.
You may ravish and defile the most divine landscape in the world, and your children (being your children) will rise up and call you progressive. You are a “lucky prospector” or a “successful real-estate operator,/” a “live wire” and what local newspapers call “a prominent and respected citizen.” By your exploitation of the land you have enriched yourself and your heirs. You have done very well. God’s footstool! How convenient for the unscrupulous to sharpen their claws upon! How tattered is it becoming, how for ever gone and forgotten its first fresh comeliness!
If we technically blaspheme – mere perishable words – we are threatened with hell-fire and/or six month’s hard labour. For a hastily expressed thought we incur mot merely odium, but penalties definite and severe.
Yet for a deliberate act, brutally disregardful of natural beauty, essentially anti-social, sacrilegious and blasphemous, we receive the protection of the State, the accommodation of the banks, the approbation of our fellows, and the toleration of the Churches.
In the late War we were invited to fight to preserve England. We believe, we fought. It may be well to preserve England, but better to have an England worth preserving. We saved our country that we might ourselves destroy it.
Possibly that is the only road to pacifism - to destroy all that is fair and of good repute in our own country, all that fosters our pride and our love, so that we shall no longer care greatly what becomes of it, nor show any feeling save surprise should a foreign invader think it worth appropriating.
Certainly the dangerous adventure of war, even the probability of death or mutilation, offered a more attractive prospect to many of our countrymen than did their normal life back in England.
“The response of the Black Country and the industrial North has been magnificent - the patriotism of these simple, toil-worn men in leaving their homes and flocking to the colours is truly wonderful.” One recalls such paragraphs, and one recalls visions of Wigan, St Helens, Oldham and Sheffield.
True, the affections of man are strange and unreasoning, but the average home in such places is not calculated to inspire much love or loyalty or great self-sacrifice in its defence. That of course, is the danger of letting one’s country become too unpleasant – the dead point of indifference is passed and war (whether civil or other) is welcomed as at any rate a change from normal life.
The hundred per cent. Pacifist should perhaps aim at a country which, purged of all causes for pride, love or enthusiasm, is yet not so utterly bereft of all attractions as to exasperate.
That is the sober norm towards which we are now trending. We are modifying both towns and country, removing the worst reproaches from the one and much of its essential charm from the other.
We plant trees in the town and bungalows in the country, thus averaging England out into a dull uneventfulness whereby one place becomes much the same as any other – all incentive to exploration being thus removed at the same time as the great network of smoothed-out concrete roads is completed.
Truly it’s an ill bird that fouls its own nest, and not merely ill but perverted if it rejoices in the fouling.
The fat is that English people need mass psycho-analysis. We know the morbid symptoms - false standards and values, blindnesses and callousnesses and such-like. We need to discover the root causes of these disastrous abnormalities, and having discovered them, we many hope to prescribe for a cure. False values, and insensitiveness – particularly to beauty – these are probably at the root of the trouble.
Money itself has somehow usurped in our desires the place of the good things that it can purchase, or things good in themselves have crowded our of our limited imaginations the things which are better and best.
“I often wonder what the vintners buy
one half so precious as the things they sell.”
Insufferably hackneyed as a quotation, how often does this doubt affect our actual lives?
Because natural beauty is so prodigal, because so much of it is free, we are in danger of disregarding it, like the air we breathe. It is perilously easy to lose all consciousness of it, to become inured and dead to its stimuli, as are most English people. As a fact of any significance in their lives it ahs ceased to exist, and talk about it seems to them just tedious and unrealistic.
Because the balance-sheets ignore the more real values, and chartered accountants apprehend them not, we too disregard them or treat them as amiably fictitious; so ludicrously topsy-turvy is the current evaluation of the practical, normal Englishman!
Yet the apprehension and contemplation of beauty have yielded and can still yield the most ecstatic pleasure of which humanity is capable. So complete an ecstasy may be rare – sharp, stabbing pleasure even may only visit us occasionally; but a happy awareness of beauty about us should and could be the everyday condition of us all.
“The beauty about us” – that is, the beauty of country, town and village, the normal visible setting of our ordinary everyday lives – not that which is mewed up in galleries and museums or between the covers of books.
It is this common background of beauty that this book seeks to champion and defend.
England and the Octopus
First published 1928 reprint 1975
Watchmen and Thieves
For 25,000 years, more or less, Man or near-man has inhabited this world of ours. Only for the last few thousand years do we know very much about him. Only for the past century or so has he given cause for alarm and despondency in his maltreatment of the earth’s surface.
In all probability (so the authorities inform us) another 25,000,000 years or so will be lived through by humanity on this planet. If there is even the roughest sort of truth in these figures, the human race is after all very, very young, and may still be allowed a good deal of folly.
Certainly the thought of those millions of years ahead of us is somehow comforting – it does seem to give time in which to straighten out our muddles and mistakes, though it provides no good reason for our going on making them. Indeed, if wee could count fairly confidently on the world coming to an end quite soon , that would be the only excuse for letting things slide – trouble, even if they should serve to alleviate certain immediate distresses.
As, however, there seems to be no immediate prospect of fundamental changes in those wider spheres in which are expressed the philosophical and political genius of a people – changes that would go to he very seat of the disorders of the body politic – ameliorative measures are all that meanwhile seem possible in this as in to her departments of our national life. These measures are here suggested in no great hope of even a gradual cure being thereby assisted, but rather because, if the major operation that is really necessary cannot be performed, it is perhaps better to try ointments and lotions than to do nothing at all. They may give local and temporary relief, and are in any case a refuge against despair.
Some of our self-inflicted wounds and sore are in their very nature incurable and will leave indelible scars upon this physical world of ours that will outlast humanity itself. Others will remain as blemishes for generations, or perhaps for centuries; and if we can do even a little in the way of preventing that which is so abidingly disfiguring, so uncertain of cure, it would seem worth while, like the holding of a beleaguered city in the hope that something may survive to reward the rescuing host.
It is only a somewhat wilful faith in the ultimate sanity of the English people that can hearten one sufficiently to engage in so seemingly lost. The relieving force is not yet even enrolled, let along disciplined, and we have no proof that its steadiness or morale will be adequate to the enormous tasks that await it, to which each year, each day, we meanwhile add and add.
Everyone who reads this book – indeed, everyone who reads at all or has eyes in his head – knows that England has changed violently and enormously within the last few decades. Since the War, indeed, it has been changing with an acceleration that is catastrophic, thoroughly frightening the thoughtful amongst us, and making them sadly wonder whether anything recognisable of our lovely England will be left of our children’s children.
Little enough will be left for our own latter days: already we begin to tell each other guardedly and secretly of remote places where things are still as they used to be, where brutal exploitation is not yet, and where there is no new building, or where such buildings as there may be are well-mannered and harmonious.
For- need it be said? – it is chiefly the pate of mean building all over the country that is shrivelling up the old England – mean and perky little souls should inhabit with satisfaction.
Yet for the sake of our countrymen and our good opinion of them we must hope and believe that the unfortunates who dwell therein are thoroughly miserable, furtive and ashamed, and by no means the creatures that would seem the only appropriate tenants of what the twentieth century has offered them as homes.
But what vindictive monsters must their builders be – what grudge they must have against their England and against generations of Englishmen yet unborn!
All of which, of course, is no more than oratorical nonsense.
We know well enough that decent, God-fearing, God-damning Englishmen live very contentedly in the pink asbestos bungalow; and if they chance to be on Salisbury Plain or Dartmoor or the South Downs, or some commanding hill in the Cotswolds or the Chilterns where they can be seen from miles around, they are the more content and very far from ashamed.
And the builders, even the speculative builders – they are charming. Most of them take a pride in their work, many of them are honest; and to be a builder or contractor at all bespeaks considerable enterprise and organising ability – qualities very valuable in the citizen.
Here we have two parties, each estimable and perhaps without reproach in everything else, conspiring together to commit an outrage upon the mother that bore them.
We have become tender in these days; yet because these people are blind, and ignorant of what they do, are we to hold them guiltless? And who shall decide what is and what is not an outrage?
England and the Octopus
First published 1928 reprint 1975
Chapter 1, The Prodigal Planet - page 11
There is nothing weighty or authoritative about the gadfly, yet for all that its sting has sometimes so tickled or exasperated the noblest of the brutes that his plunging reactions have changed the very course of history.
The generously endowed English seem to have been given a special immunity against visual beauty that only the most violent attacks can break through, and it is in the hope of piecing the thick and often calloused skins of my countrymen, and injecting a little doubt and discomfort, that I have deliberately envenomed my small dart.
Individuals as well as classes can well defend themselves, and I am less concerned about being wholly just to them than in shocking tem into some realisation of what their defenceless England is becoming through the acts and omissions of its prodigal people as a whole.
The biological use and justification of pain is to give warning of damage or ill-heath, and the following pages are designed to provoke a sensibility that must mean discomfort for the reader rather than pleasure. A state of things that some of us already find intolerable can only be changed by enlisting, through pain, a great body of active sympathisers who have come to see that to go as you please is not always to arrive at what is pleasant.
England and the Octopus
First published 1928 reprint 1975
Wednesday, 5 March 2008
There is a desperate irony in the flooded plain.
As far as the eye can see the mass of glittering water tells the tale,
Adrift in tree-topped nests clinging souls stretch out,
and From the air the leafy perches dangle their Human fruits
And the plane Drones over.
So It seems, a whole TV nation is Entranced, spellbound by this Strange arboreal Display.
Globally glimpsed and earnestly Engaged by this we witness abscission.
One by one, almost Nonchalantly, the bright fruits drop Silently from the trees;
Heaven receives its harvest of souls and the earth Surrenders its children.
… They prayed to this unknown Ultimate, out of their hollow boar, above that gleaming current, so simultaneously and so intensely, that the magnetism of their prayer shot like a meteorite out of the earth’s planetary atmosphere. Something about its double origin, and something about the swift and translucent water from which it started on its flight, drove it forward beyond the whole astronomical world, and beyond the darkness enclosing that world, till it reached the primal Cause of all life.
What happens when such a wild-goose, heart-furious arrow of human wanting touches that portion of the First Cause’s awareness that encircles the atmosphere circumference of the earth? So many other organisms throughout the stellar constellations and throughout the higher dimensions are unceasingly crying out to this Primordial Power, that it can obviously only offer to the supplications of our planet a limited portion of its magnetic receptivity. And again, as all earth dwellers discover only too quickly, it Itself is divided against Itself in those ultimate regions of primal causation. Its primordial goodness warring forever against its primordial evil holds life up only by vast excess of energy and by oceans of lavish waste. Even though the cry of a particular creature may reach the First Cause, there is always a danger of its being intercepted by the evil will of this vast Janus-faced Force. Down through the abysses of ether, away from the central nucleus of this dualistic Being, descend through the darkness that is beyond the world two parallel streams of magnetic force, one good and one evil; and it is these undulating streams of vibration, resembling infinite spider webs blown about upon an eternal wind, that bring luck or ill luck to the creature praying. The best time for any human being to pray to the First Cause if he wants his prayers to have a prosperous issue is one or other of the two Twilights; either the twilight preceding the dawn or the twilight following the sunset. Human prayers that are offered up at noon are often intercepted by the Sun – for all creative powers are jealous of one a other – and those that are offered up at midnight are liable to be waylaid by the Moon in her seasons or by the spirit of some thwarting planet. It is a natural fact that these Two Twilights are propitious to psychic intercourse with the First Cause while other hours are malignant and baleful. It is also a natural fact, known to very few, that many of the prayers offered to the First Cause by living organisms in their desperation are answered by less powerful but much more pitiful divinities. Priests of our race, wise in the art of prayer, are wont to advise us to pray to these lesser powers rather than to the First Cause; and they are wise in this advice. For whereas the evil in the First Cause is only partially overcome by the good, in some of these “little gods” there is hardly any evil at all. They are all com pact of magical pity and vibrant tenderness…
A Glastonbury Romance
Saturday, 1 March 2008
… He had turned as soon as they were a few paces away from the stones and was now gazing at them with an ecstasy that was like a religious trance. It was an ecstasy that totally abolished Time… the enormous body of colossal stones wavered, hovered, swayed and rocked before him; so wrought upon was he, so caught up was he. It rocked like the prow of a vast ship before him before him. He and It were alone in space. Its dark menacing bulk seemed to grow calmer and larger. The taciturn enormity of the uplifted horizontal stones seemed to impose themselves upon his mind with an implication more stupendous than the supporting perpendicular ones. These uplifted stones – these upheld nakednesses - that covered nothing less than the breast of the earth and upon which nothing less than the universal sky rested, seemed to have become, by their very uplifting, more formidable and more sacred than the ones that held them up. They were like cyclopean Sabine women upheld by gigantic ravishers. Both those that upheld and those that were upheld loomed portentous in their passivity, but the passivity of the latter, while more pronounced, was much more imposing. What the instinctive John Crow recognized in this great Body of Stones – both in those bearing-up and in those borne-up - was that they themselves, just as they were, had become, by the mute creative action of four thousand years, authentic Divine Beings. They were so old and great, these Stones, that they assumed godhead by their inherent natural right, gathered godhead up, as a lightning conductor gathers up electricity, and to any priest! And what enhanced the primeval grandeur of what John Crow gazed at was the condition of the elements at that hour. Had there been no remnants of twilight left, the darkness and Stonehenge would have completely interpenetrated. Had the stars been bright, their eternal remoteness would have derogated from the mystic enormity of this terrestrial portent. The stars were, however, so blurred and so indistinct, and, atmospherically speaking, so far away, that Stonehenge had no rival…
Never would Stonehenge look more majestic, more mysterious, than it looked tonight! The wind had almost dropped and yet there was enough left to stir the dead stems of last year’s grasses and to make a faint, very faint susurration as it moved among the Stones. The very indistinctiveness of the dying daylight served also to enhance the impressiveness of the place. Had the night been pitch dark nothing would have been distinguished. On the other hand, had the twilight not advanced so far, the expanding sweep of the surrounding downs would have carried the eye away from the stones themselves and reduced their shadowy immensity. No artificial arrangement of matter, however terrific and un-hewn, can compare with the actual hollows and excrescences of the planet itself; but the primeval erection at which John Crow stared now, like the ghost of a Neolithic slave at the gods of his masters, was increased in weight and mass by reason of the fact that nothing surrounded it except a vague, neutral, Cimmerian greyness…
A Glastonbury Romance - John Cowper Powys
Typed on March 1st, 2008 whilst listening to The Laminations of Jeremiah by Robert White (1538-1574)