Tag Archives: A la recherche du temps perdu

Sleepwalking near the Río Orlina

29 Aug

small cliff on path near Dia's pool

So I am looking at this rock, on my way back from walking the dog to a favourite pool in the river for his evening swim, looking at this rock without any particular intent, and I realise that I am drawn to it, drawn to this small cliff or outcrop, framed by dusty green vegetation, and my reaction to it is a strange one: why am I attracted by this, why does it move me? It feels almost as though it were inhabited. It might be the colours of evening that my phone camera signally fails to capture, the richness of texture and shade; the browns and greens and the hint of blue. It might be that peculiarly faculty that certain peoples – notably indigenous Australians – attribute to specific places because they are haunted by or have become the presiding force of some human or animal spirit. In fact Proust mentions it near the beginning of À la recherché du temps perdu:

‘Je trouve très raisonnable la croyance celtique que les âmes de ceux que nous avons perdus sont captives dans quelque être inférieur, dans une bête, un végétal, une chose inanimée, perdu en effet pour nous jusqu’au jour, qui pour beaucoup ne vient jamais, où nous nous trouvons passer près de l’arbre, entrer en possession de l’objet qui est leur prison.’

I find the Celtic belief very reasonable, that the souls of those we have lost are held captive in some inferior creature, in an animal, in a plant, in some inanimate thing, effectively lost to us until the day, which for many never comes, when we happen to pass close to the tree, some into possession of the object that is their prison.

And then I remember that only yesterday morning I was thinking of rock, or rather was struck by the image of blue rock, or slate-blue rock, that seemed to be drawing me in, it was in a kind of waking dream, and then – as if to corroborate the thought – later in the morning I read, in an article by Michael Wood, this quotation from Claude Lévi-Strauss’ Tristes Tropiques:

‘Every landscape offers, at first glance, an immense disorder which may be sorted out howsoever we please. We may sketch out the history of its cultivation, plot the accidents of geography which have befallen it, and ponder the ups and downs of history and prehistory: but the most august of investigations is surely that which reveals what came before, dictated, and in large measure explains all the others.’

In other words, as should be clear: geology is the base model of all things. The most ‘august of investigations’ are therefore those made by the geologist. And for Lévi-Strauss, this becomes a pervasive metaphor, or a mode of representing ‘structures’ as though they were essential, fundamental to the whole of his theory.

In my confused and semi-conscious, sleepwalker’s way, maybe I was doing something similar: bumping into physical aspects of the universe that seemed somehow to correspond with images originating in the inner world of the mind. Though I take no credit for it, and it proves absolutely nothing; does not even tell a story. So I add to the stone outcrop or small cliff with two pictures that help narrativise my walk back to the village: the winding path connecting with the St Quirze road – and the almost full moon. The way home.

long and winding road rabos

moon rabos 28 August 2015

Self-knowledge is blue

12 Jul

Marcel Proust

 

I like it when very distinct sources come up with the same material. One of the pleasure of writing a blog lies in sharing this kind of weird shit with my readers.

What to make of this?

Marcel Proust, in the last volume of A la recherché du temps perdu, having lost his footing on an uneven paving-stone, is reminded of an instance in Venice when, similarly, he had lost his footing, and through a process of accumulated memories of this kind attempts to measure the definitive instance of recall, the moment in which the whole process of revelatory recollection comes together. And his moment of revelation arrives in the colour blue, or azure:

The happiness that I had just experienced was indeed just like that I had felt when eating the madeleine, and the cause of which I had at that time put off seeking. The difference, purely material, was in the images each evoked; a deep azure intoxicated my eyes, impressions of coolness and dazzling light swirled around me and, in my desire to grasp them, without daring to move any more than when I had tasted the madeleine and I was trying to bring back to my memory what it reminded me of, I continued . . . to stagger, as I had done a moment before, one foot on the raised paving-stone, the other foot on the lower one.

It would seem that this swimming about in the blue, as an image of self-awareness, or imminent revelation, was something familiar to the ancient alchemists. Lindy Abraham, in A Dictionary of Alchemical Imagery writes:

[T]he mercurial water and alchemical quintessence are frequently described as being sky blue or azure. Paraclesus introduced the symbol of the sapphire from the Cabbala into alchemy, where it came to signify the arcane substance. Thomas Vaughan described the tincture as having the colour of a certain inexpressible Azure like the Body of Heaven in a clear Day.’ He called the Stone ‘an azure Heaven.’ Elsewhere Vaughan wrote that the water of the sages was a ‘deep Blew Tincture’. To clothe in an azure shirt or garment means to make projection of the tincture on molten metal in order to convert it into silver or gold.

And finally Thomas Vaughan himself,  alchemist and brother of the great poet Henry Vaughan writes in his Aula Lucis:

Hence you may gather some infallible signs, whereby you may direct yourselves in the knowledge of the Matter and in the operation itself, when the Matter is known. For if you have the true sperm and know withal how to prepare it – which cannot be without our secret fire – you shall find that the matter no sooner feels the philosophical heat but the white light will lift himself above the water, and there will he swim in his glorious blue vestment like the heavens.

If you have the true sperm and know withal how to prepare it . . . prepare, dear reader, to swim into the livelong blue.

 

 

 

 

 

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