David Ross (dyvyd) wrote,
David Ross

On Silence

I was greatly excited to find a copy of Yates' The Art of Memory while browsing for Wittgenstein at the Bloomington B&N store.  Being older now, I managed not to fall down a short staircase and break my elbow as I once did in a book store when I lunged for a book like it was a fumbled football, off balance and in vertigo over my discovery.  I had no interest in the price of this paperback.  It was now MINE.

I was looking also for Kripke's book on naming, but found instead his book on Wittgenstein: On Rules and Private Language.

So this morning I was very happy beginning to do some archaeology in the Foucault-ian sense on how John Crowley used the Yates materials in his Aegypt Cycle.  Profoundly, the concept of the imagines agentes-- or personifed,  fantastic tableaux that consist both of drama and symbol-- jumps right out as a wonderful novelistic tool.  So now I am re-reading Aegypt to see if not only do the fictional characters use this technique-- but are the characters themselves a form of this technique?  I suppose that a general or obvious way, of course they are if I insist;  but I will re-read to admire how much art may have been built into this idea that I may have missed on the first reading, not yet knowing Yates.

What I am trying to get out of Crowley's writing, beyond the story, the enrichment of the art, is an idea of how to imagine and structure a work of multiple volumes.  The Aegypt Cycle gets its structure from the research of Yates, significantly, but not of course, totally.  I am exploring options, for instance, such as a fictional journey using Wittgentein's propositions from the Tractatus as the structural glue.  Anybody is welcome to that, if they want to take it on!  There is more material out there than can be worked, and to some extent I believe the structural elements needed for fictiion may be nearly arbitrary-- merely a tree on which to hang things that must be brought to life.  And it is getting to the life part that is the real work.

That is another level that I appreciate about Crowley's fiction-- that it by itself is a work of alchemy.  By the arrangement of parts, and by the incantatory power of its text the alchemist brings forth "literary gold" from the dross, the confusion and messiness of our willy-nilly history. 

Note: the first book plate in the Yates book is titled Hermetic Silence.  Wittgenstein says we are in error if we attempt to say more than is demonstrably given. Logic is a smaller system than we would like it to be.  We confuse it with our need to explain.  Whereof one can not speak, thereof one must be silent.  Of course the trick is knowing where the line is drawn? I am wondering if Wittgenstein is thus not part of the hermetic tradition?  Do his pronouncement have the feel, if not the content, of a kind of Rosicrucianism? Does hermetic silence cover not some arcane wisdom, but instead hide the void?  Nothing to know, and thus nothing to say?

Fiction then, art?  To Wittgenstein are they just forms of wild error, unethical displays of excess, a crack cocaine for our brains, something that makes life a little more comfortable for us?  And yet if these illogical extensions of logic and fact are something we indulge in, are they then not in turn facts of our existence? But what sort of facts are they-- lesser, or imagined facts?  As humans do we exist in at least two realms-- the real and the humanly extended?  But since all that we can know is filtered by our human capacity, can we know the real at all, even though we may physically exist in it?  Don't we exist instead in a human fantasy we call reality as best we can, different perhaps for each of us?

And if reality cannot be known, then what is our task? Stop asking and look elsewhere? This is largely what we have always done.  But there is an important place for those who ask,  to keep asking.

I suppose our real task is to use  our human tools to live out our desires? 

And if we are to do so with human values, humanely, ethically, wisely,  do we not need rules, common principles of a mutually agreed reality? And if Wittgenstein's rules cannot in the end help us in our task? Don't we need novelists (like JC) whose fantasies give us structure and hope?  My circular logic is thus complete.

And yet the frustrated realist in me asks:  what can be more dangerous than a mutually-agreed-upon fantasy we call reality?  To which I immediately respond: who ever said we were safe?                       

Tags: john crowley, wittgenstein

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