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Florence or Athens:
The Word as the Weaving of Worlds

1,798 words

[1]Translated by Michael O’Meara

The Revolution, despite appearances, is not a democratic phenomenon. There are good reasons why the birth of a world symbolizing the dawn of a new human era is born from a minority – and a minority not easily defined. For it’s the fringes that produce the cultures of the world, their symbolic oceans, Christ as well as the Red Flag.

The fringes feel the desire and the need for a new world, for continents situated in the setting sun, at the end of sea space, the end of frontiers, of violence, of crusades – and not death in the shroud of their routines, not revelry in fat buns or fine sushi. The fraternity and springtime of this world is situated somewhere between the poets and criminals – the cursed poets who break the law just by wanting to be poets – the force they need to feel, before even the words – as it was with the giant Mayakovsky.

Even Dante, Nietzsche, and Marx were relatively isolated, and suffered its consequences – in exile, in solitude, in poverty in London, revolutionary thought being even less of a collective phenomenon. Dante’s work was born in the medieval universities, in heresies, in the secret societies surrounding the reign of the Hohenstaufen Frederick II — son of the Apulia, magician, Emperor of the Apocalypse, excommunicated king of Jerusalem. Nietzsche was similarly born from a philological school, infant of the Renaissance and of the age of iron and fire that was the 19th century – as to Marxism, it senses still the perfume scent of smoke-filled halls.

The fringes, like Villon’s prodigal, are full of rage, full of the force of great flooded rivers, of volcanoes – Pasternak feeling small in face of Mayakovsky. But this rage, this power, can flounder – sinking into criminality, into madness, drugs, and alcohol – for rage is like the wolf, sister of the night. Self-destruction is common among such siblings, despair immense, urgent, the terror from the most profound depths of the soul, the tears shed without reason, startled by the slightest noise – and the melancholy and nostalgia of other, unknown worlds, thrown back into a depression, by a fool, on the subject of Barrès, for example.

Just as Saint Francis caressed the cruel wolf, man — this being who carries the night’s darkness in himself — soothes with his words the violence of his infinite love, the furor of his indecipherable desire, of his aspiration for the secret, unspeakable One. I speak from experience, the last of a May evening.

Such beings are often born deformed, impotent; they don’t know what to do with the power in themselves, which consumes them.

Life in the microcosm reflects the heavenly drama of the gnostic narrator. The Devil desperately seeks God’s love . . . and God particularly loves the Devil, like his prodigal son, who’s gone off over the horizon. The world born of Lights and Shadows collapses in their opposition, like the tension in the glistering sails of a great ship – both images of God, the Shadow containing the star, and the Light woven from a secret darkness.

The fringes are nothing without love – this word that has to be taken in the most secret sense, as one turns the ear toward it, like a child listening to a conch shell, concentrating, frowning, to hear the great secret it discloses – the secret implicit in the immensity of things foiled by time, death, and tears. There is no Master without Marguerite, such is the Vita Nuova. ‘????, ???? ???? !’ ‘Lily, love me!’ were the last words of Mayakovsky. And it’s love at the level of the microcosm that is the collective kairos – this ‘passing instance when an opening appears which must be driven through with force if success is to be had’ – as it was in Athens, or the Florence of Lorenzo the Magnificent.

Flamboyant Princes, or gifted chiefs, like Pericles, want to sculpture the face of the world with the noble grandeur of their fatherland, imagined as the celestial homeland. They search for the men who will raise their works and thoughts to the height of the sky.

The certainty and finesse of their taste and their refined sense of friendship enabled them to surround themselves with women and men — of power, of virtuality — who became the greatest of their time. But it would be wrong to think that they could be without him; or him without them. It’s the force that never can be vanquished; it’s the root of their fragility. It’s Arthur and his Round Table; the King and his Court . . . An immense thought of the esoteric meeting of men, based on the Kabbalah, and a flamboyant Prince surrounded by works, that even today, give off a splendid aurora — the child born to the realm, as Frederick II emerged as an Empire: This new Arthur to whom graciously submits, herald of the spring. The man with the eyes of a serpent, before whose laughter the most powerful lords bow their heads. Aristotle raised Alexander.

Men do not possess eternity, they must ceaselessly renew their Alliance with it, living at the dawn and spring of it – this eternity that lies in the highest instances of their lives and history. Happiness is there as the solar face of Time, daughter of the Night. Just as there is an original sense of the revolution, there’s an original, cosmological sense to this word happiness, whose significance is intimately and secretly linked to that of kairos.

The prince, as a figure, is the desired spring, the desired kairos. I repeat these luminous words of Bulatovic:

– “Without king, there is no realm nor philosophy. Nor poetry. Nor hierarchy!

– What, then, is the King?

– The man . . . whose sadness is immense . . . The king is an actual being, a state of soul, the only being in our age that expresses itself as a metaphor. The king is the dialectic!”

The man whose sadness is immense is the man of the fringes and of the horizons mentioned above. The king is also the dialectic, in the original sense of the term, the clash of opposites in the image of the world that is the Word, that brings forth a new creation — the power of a new world. In the dialectic of the spring, there was held the Alliance of men, the sermon of the round table, the gathering of the disciples, the formation of the court, of the schools, of friendships. Thus the figure of the King, the apostle, the knight, the courtier – related to the mastery of the Word and the formation of languages, to the always recurring Pentecost. Primordial friendship is a world’s foundation – friendship is the conviction and the world lived in the dialectic.

The poet is first of all the word of the true King – and the language is his language, in the image of Adam, himself the image of the primordial word. The Court of the Sun King, the founder of our language, mirrored this archetype.

It’s respect, it’s the experienced man, it’s the Prince, who makes possible the slow elaboration of thought full of sap — red, honeysuckle, long-vines of thoughts — incredible blossoms, delectable perfumes – it’s the slow, studied discussions that give birth to new worlds, in the aristocracies of the soul. The infinite urbanity and gaiety of the Platonic banquet, mother of Greece’s great descent. The gallant comity of the medieval courts of love, mother of joy and the gaya scienza, the subtle thought that is always new. It’s Castiglione’s courtier, and even the world of Classical France, to which the refinements of the 18th century were heir.

A strict respect for the rules of collegial discussion are the basis upon which a collective intelligence is born – and the essence of the superior civilization. This respect is the golden thread that runs through the history of thought and language. These rules within the cadre of closed discussions have nothing democratic about them. Ramana Maharshi, in his interviews, is both the Master and the figure of lasting, unaffected courtesy.

In spite of all the Word’s misuse, there is no practical way to prevent virtual banquets and salons from elaborating a thought powerful enough to lift the slab on Europe’s tomb, now covered in sediment and waste, that was set in 1933. The printing press and the postal carrier, starting out as powers of renewal, made the Enlightenment possible. The technical character of the tools created a void in which the technical character of ideology could be fought; it happens for a moment, but can’t be sustained. Reality is dialectical, the modern can kill modernity, just as time designates the elliptical orbits of stars. This is evident in fact – not in reason or in lamentations on the ruins of now lost worlds.

Refinement and the refusal of invective doesn’t imply weakness – the man of the 16th century, or the gallant knight, resorted to violence in ways to which we’ll never be able. They covered themselves in human blood, like Socrates in combat. Invective, simply, is a weakness. The latter implies that our words lack ontological consistency, that they vary in significance. This means the discussion can’t create a common world respecting our highest wishes or those of our common inner sun, as embodied in the Word — it leads only to the triumph of small egos — at the expense of Word and Truth.

Why do we try so hard to persuade ourselves that we can think about any subject and have the right to say anything about it? If words are mere noise, if what I say is without importance, if I don’t WANT to think, if it’s not important to say it – such is the last word, by the Last Man, on freedom of expression. It deserves no respect. But the wise man, in the image of the sacred labyrinths constructed from commentary, always adds something in the march toward the sky — for at least one man, for one day.

The modern incapacity to engage in fundamental discussion gives us one more image of the world’s inversion, when the Word and the desire for spring have been instrumentalized into a desire for egoistical power and the infantilization of the world.

It should be treated like a dried up fig tree. In abandoning it, I shake the dust from my feet.

I can’t accept the sacrifice of hope for the pleasure of insult. A discussion that doesn’t create is nothing, like a disturbed nest of spiders. The Word is a privilege, and a privilege is not to be humbled.

Long live death! And long live the Unconquerable Sun!

French original: “Florence ou Athènes, ou le Verbe comme tissage des mondes” (February 2, 2011), http://agedefer.blogspot.com/2011/02/florence-ou-athenes-ou-le-verbe-comme.html [2].