Land, Home, and the Gods

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To Frigg, I address these words.

Beloved, Who Suffered Two Griefs,

Whose ashen box and secrets are tended by Volla,

In Whose Name Hlin brings peace and rest,

At Whose command Gna flies upon the Hoof-Kicker,

By Whose grace gentle Lofn brings union,

By Whose good counsel the women of the Winnili

Put their hair down in the likeness of beards and were thus rewarded with victory.

Receive these words

And grant that my hearthfire always burns brightly.

“When going back makes sense, you are going ahead.”

— Wendell Berry

Make the home the center of your life. For so many, home is lost in memory and dream. Nostalgia, a devastating longing. A force beyond our ken. What is it about the idea of home that is at once so comforting and so uncanny? It is precisely that link with those subterranean currents within us. The notion of home, so often retreating from us, brings us back to long forgotten memories. Not of our own childhoods, necessarily, although of course, the dollhouse world of the child is the model for the great world beyond. But the life of meaning and connection severed by industrial society. For where else is the power of the pre modern world felt more strongly than in the home and in the idea of the home. We cannot return to our home, any more than we can return to the wholeness that was taken from us. But we can reclaim something of our inheritance. We may light the fire in the hearth, call the gods and spirits to us, and make a new home for ourselves.

If we do not make a space within us and our lives for the gods and spirits to dwell, can we be surprised when we do not find them? Home is where the gods are. Home is not where the bones of ancestors lie, for the greater part of them dwells within us. We have all been driven hence, a vagabond humanity, and there is none who can find his home without seeking. Come upon your gods and you will need to build them a home. Gods and memories need a home with shadowy corners, nooks and crannies, garrets, attics, and cellars. They are tired and worn and are in need of refuge. They need places to sink down and sleep among the cobwebs and dust. And we will keep the fire burning on the hearth and fill the rooms with good smells and laughter and light. This is what Jung meant when he said that the spirits of the home loved old iron pots and pans. So much so was the divine alive in these simple old tools, that Jung developed friendships with the pots and pans at Bollingen Tower.

What kinship can the gods claim with things of steel and silicon? Veins of iron pulse in the earth, such things are known to gods and spirits.  The home binds us to the earth and through it, to the gods. Agrarian philosopher Wendell Berry writes: “The soil is the great connector of lives, the source and destination of all. It is the healer and restorer and resurrector, by which disease passes into health, age into youth, death into life.” In other words, the gods dwell in the soil and we find our home in the soil. The pagan is the country dweller. The godly world is not to be found in the cities. Home cannot be made of concrete and asphalt. After all, if we are made by the place that we come from, what manner of thing shall we be when we live and die in cities that stretch to the horizon? Sure enough, we are become things that do not need soil, do not need home, do not need gods. Not soul and blood, but machine. And the logic of the machine is war against life. Berry: “It is easy for me to imagine that the next great division of the world will be between people who wish to live as creatures and people who wish to live as machines.” Declare for the creature within! For land, home, and the gods!

As Wendell Berry and many others have observed, the modern industrial home is little more than a site of consumption. It is not a place for creation, for production. There is no joy in it, only distraction, which passes for entertainment. The energy of life is expended outside the home. The business of living, we pay experts to manage for us. To grow and cook our food. To build what we require. To create what we desire. The home, understood as a place of creative energies, on the other hand, necessarily connects us to the earth and to the divine. Hands plunged into soil, planting seeds. Hands bathed in blood, slaughtering livestock. Creation and destruction are alive inside of us. We have sacrificed everything to escape struggle, never understanding that struggle is what gives us meaning. It is struggle that connects us to the earth and gods.

Modernity and industrialism, we believe, frees us from work but in truth, all it does is deprive our work of any meaning. There has never been a more overworked human being than the industrialized one. Work becomes labor, crushing the body and soul. The idea of the home retreats into the world of dreams, while we are bled dry to pay for the meanest and most squalid tenements. Let the home and the idea of the home become a pillar of strength. Let the home become a site of defiance, a bold denial of industrial society. Let the home be made into a bulwark against the modern world.

Make the home the center of your life. Economy, of course, originally referred to the management of the household. The global market, inseparable from industrialism, in this regard, is opposed by the agricultural home. Home work does not occur in the marketplace. Nobody is making money or profiting by your work except for yourself and your family and kin. Cooking, growing food, cleaning, chopping wood, raising children, arts and crafts. Industrial society shifts this work away from the home. But when we work where we live, we become more profoundly connected to both our work and the place we inhabit. Such work, the work of the home, is rooted in the cycles of the natural world, and as such honors the gods.

The human world is in ruins. It will not get better. The sooner we can withdraw from it, the better. Timothy Leary was right when he urged young people to “drop out” in 1966. His message is all the more profoundly true today. Life in urban, industrial society has no future. The modern world has failed on all levels. Capitalism and industrialism cannot be reformed. The gods have fled. Whether or not we can become completely independent of industrial society is irrelevant. The fact that it is difficult and perhaps impossible to utterly separate should not be used as an argument against withdrawal. Connection to the gods and the land is ultimately more important than material self-sufficiency. To whatever extent you are compelled and able, withdraw from society and make the home the center of your life.


Ramon Elani

Ramon Elani holds a PhD in literature and philosophy. He lives with his family among mountains and rivers in Western New England. He walks with the moon.

More of his writing can be found hereYou can also support him on Patreon.

 

 

The Path of Wyrd

“Why do we rage against modernity, enlightenment, and humanism? Because they are the ultimate forms of denial and repression. We suffer from a wound in the soul.”

From Ramon Elani

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“A wise man must understand how terrifying it will be, when the riches of all this world stand deserted, as now in various places throughout this middle-­earth walls stand wind-­blown, rime-covered, the buildings snow-­swept.”

“All is fraught with hardship in the kingdom of earth, the creation of the fates changes the world under the heavens. ”

— “The Wanderer”

Fate omnipotent bind the earth! Every day the world declines and falls!

Everywhere we see the signs of the unraveling that has come upon the world. This should surprise no one. We have been living on borrowed time for the last several hundred years. Some would put that number in the thousands or longer still. Some would claim that the sin was written upon humanity from the moment it dawned into cursed consciousness. Others would find it in the ancient practice of agriculture. Perhaps it is true that we were always destined to come to this moment, that every stage in our history was written by what had come before. Thus, following the views of Hegel, the emergence of consciousness, the development of written language, and the advent of agriculture contained, in embryo, the wretchedness of the techno industrial society. That there was no other path to follow. That our doom unfolded inexorable. That this is our fate.

But we were not made to be so lonely. We once had the cosmos in our hands and our hearts. Separated from the world, we die, and the world dies with us. Whatever else one may say about agriculture and so-called civilization, humanity was still of the land until the machine came. For all the suffering of feudalism and the dark ages, we were tied to the earth. We worked the land and give it our blood. We bonded ourselves to it. We have lost the cosmos because we have lost our connection to the land. And industrialism severed that connection, tore us away from our home. As it tears us from the land, it tears us from our bodies, and it tears us from the sacred. Ours is an age of unspeakable tragedy.

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Modernity is inseparable from industrialism. Indeed, modernity is the philosophy of the machine. A mechanistic understanding of humanity and the cosmos. A dream borne from a cold lifeless heart. Modernity is a spirit, an orientation, a worldview, a cosmology. In one hand, humanism: the notion that humanity is the center of the universe, that human suffering should be avoided at all cost, that human happiness is the goal of all endeavors. In the other hand, industrialism: the creation of mass society through mass production. Reason exalted. The uncanny subterranean power of the moon, displaced by the blazing sun.

The non human world is sacred, understood as populated by entities that possess agency and individuality. The world is driven by forces beyond human comprehension. Cyclical flux and change is the law of the world. Just like everything in the world, humanity bears a trace of this divinity, which it shares with all other things. This divinity is honored by recognizing humanity’s place as one among many intelligences and awarenesses. The worship of the premodern gods is consistent with this. Acknowledging the power of the gods above us, we gesture toward the fallibility of humanity, it’s weakness, the limits of its understanding, the contingent nature of our lives. This archaic structure, the knowledge that we are subject to powers beyond our control, that we live and suffer and are happy by the will of these powers, is preserved within our souls, the memories of our spirit. We can be reminded of this heritage when we experience the vastness of the wild, the passion of sex, the magic of poetry, the beauty of art, the thrill of the fight. These experiences bring us closer to our fundamental nature, which has been eroded by the modern industrial world, which privileges the intellect, rationality, and instrumental thinking. Morality and religion that deny meaning in the body. Pleasure reduced to a mere biological urge that needs to be occasionally satisfied, rather than a holy experience of the divinity within us and the cosmos. D.H. Lawrence writes:

“My great religion is a belief in the blood, the flesh, as being wiser than the intellect. We can go wrong in our minds. But what our blood feels and believes and says, is always true. The intellect is only a bit and a bridle. Anger is blood, poured and perplexed into froth; but malice is the wisdom of our blood.”

The intellect separates us from the unity of the cosmos. We are individual but bound by the world. We have kinship with the non human world, which the modern world denies. It does not encourage us to see ourselves as the cousins of bears and the grandchildren of stones and mountains. Superstition is the name that modernity gave to the awareness that it represses.

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It is not a coincidence that modernity denies the spiritual nature of the world, while devastating the ecosystem. Reverence of the gods is the same thing as reverence of what is called ‘nature.’ The gods are the land. They are the representation of the land. As the gods demand sacrifice and worship from us, the land demands that we also place it above ourselves. That we acknowledge that we serve the land and exist by the will of the gifts of the land. Modernity denies both these bonds of reverence, service, and love. The gods, and the spiritual nature of humanity, are nothing but tales told to scare children and keep society ordered and controlled, so we are told. And yet, the godless world that modernity created is more highly administered than anything before. The earth itself is nothing but raw material for us to use as we see fit.

Modernity: time is an arrow, rather than a circle. Tomorrow is more important than yesterday. Unfortunately this has meant that we have no future. Following the ways of the past gave us a future. Turning on our backs on where we came from means we walk to our death. The endless process of birth, death, and rebirth is shattered. Now there is only death. Put another way, Marx defined it as the metabolic rift. A closed, endlessly sustaining system is ruptured, leading to a doomed system that will eventually suffocate on its own filth and waste.

Why do we rage against modernity, enlightenment, and humanism? Because they are the ultimate forms of denial and repression. We suffer from a wound in the soul. We see all around us the price of this repression. He who would deny the darkness within or seeks to imprison in a maze of reason it will find it rise again a thousand times deadlier and more foul. Whether or not the summum bonum is create a kinder world (and I will say that it is not), modernity has led us astray. Its promises of a better tomorrow have led to more suffering than the benighted wretches of the so-called ‘dark ages’ could have imagined. We have believed the lie that yesterday was always worse than today and today is always worse than tomorrow. Let us say this: if yesterday was worse than today, it must have been grim indeed. And if our dreams will only be fulfilled in the tomorrows to come then we are forever doomed in the infinite present.

Modernity claims to offer freedom. But freedom in words is not freedom in fact. To define is to control and exclude. As Freud observed, civilization or modernity did not confer freedom, as they claimed, freedom was greatest before such a thing existed.

Thus modernity must be attacked from two points. In the first regard, we can observe that its promises were empty and bankrupt. Either a massive fraud or a failed experiment. Modernity has not brought us to a worldly paradise. It has not conquered our demons. If anything it has emboldened them and merely granted them an even greater power to exploit and destroy both humanity and the non-human world. Modernity promised equality and we unquestionably find ourselves in a less equitable world than has ever existed. No serf and lord, no slave and emperor were ever so far apart in wealth and power than the poor and the rich of the 21st century. Modernity promised an infinite of better tomorrows, a vision of progress without limit. And yet we find ourselves in a world on fire, standing upon the very brink of human extinction.

In the second case, and perhaps importantly, the principles of the enlightenment, modernity, and humanism were ultimately misguided and doomed from the start. The enlightenment was a mistake, along with the forces it brought into the world. There is no peace in the cosmos. Not among the beasts of the earth, not among the shifting subterranean flows, not among the stars that are born and die in cataclysm. There is no freedom, all things are subordinate to powers beyond them. To paraphrase D.H. Lawrence, it is the most profoundly unfree who shout “freedom!” Enslave yourself to the gods, to your dreams, to love, to fate, to the earth. To be enslaved is to be bonded. To be bonded is to be connected. To be free is to be lost. Humanity will resist with relentless fury all attempts to be subjugated by other humans and institutions of human power. And so it is for every sapling that struggles for light amongst its fellows, so it is for every salmon that thrashes against the jaws of the grizzly, so it is for every fly that finds itself trapped by the spider. The world is endless struggle, for the gods as well as humanity. But we follow the laws of the gods, not the laws made by men. Freedom does not lie in being unfettered, unencumbered, unbound. This is the state of the exile. No, true freedom is found in utter surrender and obedience to the voice of the sacred within yourself.

Modernity promises bread, though it does not deliver. Damn the bread, anyway! As D.H. Lawrence wrote, “The human soul needs beauty more than bread.”

Winter

So here is my war against the modern world: restore the world of dreams! Let loose the madness of the moon. Dive into the abyss of beauty. Bury yourself in the dirt and the mud. Offer your blood to the forgotten gods. The intuitive, magical, noumenal world never truly vanished. We have blinded ourselves to its presence with four hundred years of delusion. We must not fear our darkness but embrace it and welcome it home. It must be claimed, it must be spoken. The wolf within humanity has roamed far and wrought calamities without number upon the world. Bring the wolf back to the bosom, for it is of our flesh and spirit. The passion of life and the agony of struggle are one and the same. D.H. Lawrence: “The blazing tiger will spring upon the deer, un-dimmed, / the hen will nestle over her chickens, / we shall love, we shall hate.” The tiger does not apologize and hate himself for his violence. He shines forth like a fiery star.

The true war against the modern world is not a war for racial or sexual hierarchy. The war against the modern world, a holy war, is debased by the bigots, who are only too quick to use it to pursue their own fantasies. Fantasies of male power, white power. As though the gods and the earth and the spirits cared for such things.

No, what we are after is something altogether more grand and ambitious. It is a war against an idea of time. It is a war against the linear, in all its various manifestation. It is a restoration of the law of cycles. It is a war, yes, a bloody war. Against industrialism, perhaps on some level, against humanity itself. But more deeply, the war against the modern world is a spiritual war. A war fought every day within our own souls. To renounce the modern world is to embrace fate, the eternal return, the dreamtime, the mythic world.

D.H. Lawrence reminds us that the hell we see in the world will be washed away in the end. Climate change will clean the foulness we have made. We can return to the cosmos and its living gods. Renounce what Lawrence calls, “the diseased stability of possessions” and embrace the flux and change of love and conflict, “the fight and the embrace.” So many do not want to return to the world and the sacred. Because the cycles of the universe are death and rebirth. Growth and decay. Joyous life and bloody slaughter. They turn their backs on vitality because it reminds them of death.

The Red King and White Queen are waiting for the sacred wedding. They have been kept apart for such a long time. They wait for the union that will give birth to the God in the Egg, who is both luminous and dark. Without the darkness, we cannot know the light. Modernity, in making war upon the former, eradicates the latter. We live in an age without darkness or light. A barren waste of lifeless grey.

There is only one path, the path of wyrd, the path that is unfolding before us.

“They constantly try to escape
From the darkness outside and within

By dreaming of systems so perfect that no one will need to be good.”

– T.S. Eliot


Ramon Elani

Ramon Elani holds a PhD in literature and philosophy. He lives with his family among mountains and rivers in Western New England. He walks with the moon.

More of his writing can be found hereYou can also support him on Patreon.

Our Rage Against The Modern World

No really-existing fascism has arisen within humanity that was not industrialist. This then begs an obvious question–why do those of us who oppose industrialization find ourselves being accused of being fascist?

From Ramon Elani & Rhyd Wildermuth

“It will be seen that, as used, the word ‘Fascism’ is almost entirely meaningless…I have heard it applied to farmers, shopkeepers, Social Credit, corporal punishment, fox-hunting, bull-fighting, the 1922 Committee, the 1941 Committee, Kipling, Gandhi, Chiang Kai-Shek, homosexuality, Priestley’s broadcasts, Youth Hostels, astrology, women, dogs and I do not know what else……

Why, then, cannot we have a clear and generally accepted definition it? Alas! we shall not get one — not yet, anyway. To say why would take too long, but basically it is because it is impossible to define Fascism satisfactorily without making admissions which neither the Fascists themselves, nor the Conservatives, nor Socialists of any colour, are willing to make.”

–George Orwell, “What is Fascism?”

Those of us who criticize civilization, industrial capitalism, and the delusion of the Modern invariably encounter accusations that our critiques somehow link us to Nazism or fascism. Because we are not Nazis nor fascists, and perhaps because we mistake the mauvaise foi of our critics as honest confusion, we too often accept a mysterious sense and moral duty to respond. But is it not strange that we automatically accept our interlocutor’s premise that the rejection of civilization, industrialism, and modernity implies Nazism or fascism? Worse, is it not strange we feel obligated to provide a defense to such a false accusation?

Most us of who accede to the demands of our accusers that we must differentiate ourselves from those odious ideologies find ourselves drowning in the morass of contemporary political discourse. No amount of evidence is enough, no amount of repeated statements that we hate fascism ever suffices. Such a situation is akin to the anti-capitalist asked their opinions about gulags or Stalin, or the gay person forced to assure people that they don’t rape children. As in those situations, the critic who stands in opposition to modern, industrial, capitalist civilization—with its regimes of authority, its hierarchies of divided race and labor, its vapid and alienating aesthetic, and all the forms of its civic religion worshiping progress and destructive technology—is somehow to be held account for abhorrent political constellations to which none of us ascribe.

To fail to answer to is to be deemed guilty. Yet worse: to give answer is to assume the premise of the accuser and the moral authority to deem what is and is not an acceptable critique. Let this essay be our final answer.

We are neither fascists nor Nazis. But now that we have said this, we must now go further, because the question itself is wrong in its false constellation of fascism as anti-civilizationist, anti-modernist, or anti-industrial. The truth is quite the opposite. Except by the most inverted of logics, neither the 20th century Nazis and fascists, nor their 21st century counterparts, can possibly be seen as anything but fanatic devotees of the Modern, evangelists of industrialization, and fundamentalist defenders of civilization.

Dachau: Scientific study of the effects of cold exposure on the human body.

Consider the National Socialists. For all their deployment of romantic aesthetics and traditionalist rhetoric, Nazism was both essentially industrialist and modernist. The management logic of the early English industrialists, Fordism, and the “scientific management” of Taylorism found their full consummation in the pristine efficiency of the concentration camp: facilities in which humans were classified, examined, methodically tortured, “scientifically” vivisected, and then killed. Further, the transformation of the German population’s labor power towards the production of war machines—as well as the organization of German society and economic activity along avowedly Fordist lines—was explicitly industrialist and modern.

Nor were the Nazis anti-civilizationist by any means. Hitler’s fantasy of a Neuordnung Europas (“New European Order”) was a detailed plan to save civilization from what the Nazis saw as the barbaric, degenerate, inferior races by bringing all of Europe under their own enlightened civil order.

Neither can the organization of Italian and Spanish society under the fascism of Mussolini and Franco be painted as anti-modern, anti-industrialist, or anti-civilization. While neither reached the same levels of Fordist industrial efficiency that German society under the Nazis attained, industrial efficiency was a core aspect of fascist propaganda. “At least Mussolini made the trains run on time,” regardless of the fact it was unlikely true, is hardly a mantra that would appeal to someone who hates trains or the Modern religion of time-management. And as regards Spain, General Franco is even now still praised as a “modernizer,” and it was his industrialist economic policies which kept supposedly “anti-fascist” states such as the US on neutral terms with his regime.

No really-existing fascism has arisen within humanity that was not industrialist. This then begs an obvious question–why do those of us who oppose industrialization find ourselves being accused of being fascist? As George Orwell noted in his short essay, “What Is Fascism,” to get at a real definition of fascism would require even admissions others (including fascists) are not eager to make. That is, the answer is not a comfortable one for our critics, because fascism is hardly the only modern political ideology for which industrial production is a core, foundational value.

Soviet displacement of peasants, repeating the same Modern acts that birthed capitalism in Europe and the Americas

Take for example the majority of “Leftist” political ideologies born from European industrial civilization. The Authoritarian Communism of the USSR and China, which morphed later into State-Capitalism in both places, similarly organized the labor power of the people over which those ideologies ruled into wide-scale industrial production. In both iterations, rural populations which had lived in relatively static technological states for thousands of years were industrialized within mere decades, all in the name of making them more “modern.”

But lest we lay blame only at the feet of Marx, many anarchists too embraced the logic of industrialism. One need consider one of Kropotkin’s many glowing paens regarding the conquest of nature by machine, reproduced later in Bookchinite worship of technology:

With the introduction of machinery into economy, wings are given to liberty. The machine is the symbol of human liberty, the sign of our domination over nature, the attribute of our power, the expression of our right, the emblem of our personality.

While the actually-existing iterations of both Fascism and Authoritarian Communism organized the societies over which they ruled along industrialized principles, and many anarchist tendencies likewise fantasize about such arrangements, none of these political systems can claim to have birthed industrialism. That honor instead goes to the ideological system which founded Modernity and still dominates the world: Liberal Democratic Capitalism.

Industrialism started in England in the early 18th century with the birth and quick spread of textile mills, midwifed by the imperative of modernization articulated by Adam Smith, Thomas Hobbes, and other Enlightenment philosophers. These philosophers were not merely the ideological architects of industralisation, however—they also formulated the “modern” and its civilizational structure itself. Nation-states ruled by representative government, individual rights granted by sovereign charter,  enclosure, displacement, and private ownership of land, divisions of people through artificial racial categories, and the juridical, bureaucratic, administrative, and penal institutions required to implement and sustain this modern, “civilized” order: all this arose from the very same ideology which ushered in industrialised capitalism into the history of humanity.

Children of the Modern: British factory, 19th century

Even Karl Marx in the Communist Manifesto recognized the oppressive, authoritarian nature of this modernizing, “civilizing” drive:

The bourgeoisie, by the rapid improvement of all instruments of production, by the immensely facilitated means of communication, draws all, even the most barbarian, nations into civilisation. The cheap prices of commodities are the heavy artillery with which it batters down all Chinese walls, with which it forces the barbarians’ intensely obstinate hatred of foreigners to capitulate. It compels all nations, on pain of extinction, to adopt the bourgeois mode of production; it compels them to introduce what it calls civilisation into their midst, i.e., to become bourgeois themselves. In one word, it creates a world after its own image.

That all the aspects of what even Marx recognised as “civilization” arose from the very same classes which created industrialised capitalism is no accident. Civilization, Modernity, and Industrialization are all part of the same delusion, a forced imposition of mechanistic logic upon the rest of life. Along with this logic comes all our other “modern” ideas of what a state is and should do, as well as what rights it must provide and what freedoms we humans are due. These are rights inextricable from industrialisation, the energy which propels it, and the damage it does to the earth. As post-colonialist historian Dispesh Chakrabarty noted in his essay, “The Climate of History,”

In no discussion of freedom in the period since the Enlightenment was there ever any awareness of the geological agency that human beings were acquiring at the same time as and through processes closely linked to their acquisition of freedom. Philosophers of freedom were mainly, and understandably, concerned with how humans would escape the injustice, oppression, inequality, or even uniformity foisted on them by other humans or human-made systems… The period I have mentioned, from 1750 to now, is also the time when human beings switched from wood and other renewable fuels to large-scale use of fossil fuel—first coal and then oil and gas. The mansion of modern freedoms stands on an ever-expanding base of fossil-fuel use.

Of what value, we ask, is that freedom if it comes at the cost of the earth’s ability to sustain human life?

But we must go even further, because the rights offered by Liberal Democratic Capitalist (Modern, Industrial) civilization are themselves only an offer after conquest. As many contemporary critics of human rights discourse from India and Africa, including Makau Mutua, have observed, the concept of rights is inextricable from the existence of a state which defines to whom those rights extend (and do not extend) and enforces and exports those rights.

Let us be clear: the Modern idea of freedom and the equally modern reality of colonialism and slavery go hand in hand. The promises of an order in which humanity is entitled to peace, prosperity, and happiness and that human life must be preserved at all costs are not only false but are bound up in the logic that reduces the earth to ashes, purges the gods from the wild hills and deep forests, all while poisoning the very humanity that it claims to deify.

The gifts of modernity were never offered in good faith. Expand the length of life, but reduce the quality of that life. Kill the gods and worship humanity, but destroy and degrade human life like never before. Create technology that will remake the earth to serve us, but turn the earth into a barren wasteland that will literally boil us alive. Banish superstition and the irrational, but be governed by faith in technological progress and the market, neither of which you may question.

Tuskegee syphilis experiment, one of many similar experiments on Black and Central American people to test the efficacy of syphilis treatment. Victims were lied to about the nature of the experiments. The above depicted people were told they were being treated for “bad blood.”

But let us entertain, briefly, the miracles modernity claims to have birthed into the world: medicine, rights, peace. These are the sacred proofs to the worshippers of the Modern, evidence that what the Modern has wrought in the world is Good and Just. Yet rarely is it mentioned how these things have been gotten. Much of modern medicine requires first the torture of some other living thing to give it its efficacy. We can cure syphilis thanks to experimentation on poor Black men, we can treat mental disorders thanks to the lobotomization of women diagnosed with hysteria.

Schizophrenic woman before and after lobotomy.

When they speak of peace, they do not speak of the barrel of the gun and the threat of nuclear annihilation which gives the great modern civilizations their serene placidity. Peace means “peacekeepers,” military occupations, covert subversions and overthrows of governments elected by the same “democratic means” such violence is meant to protect. Civil order and peace within the cities are maintained by armed gangs called police, and it certainly appears to take quite a few prisons to ensure modern “freedom.”

And of rights? The right to property comes through the slaughter of indigenous peoples through colonial conquest. The right to wealth and even access to social safety nets both are funded through the exploitation of the poor outside the modern construct of Nation. Freedom to communicate through technological wonders built by near-slave labor from materials mined by actual slave-labor. And all the rest of these rights derive, as Chakrabarty notes, “from an ever-expanding base of fossil-fuel use.”

All hail Modern Industrial Enlightened Civilization!

The Enlightenment claimed to banish the darkness within humanity and raise humans above the rest of nature. In so doing, it conjured a new darkness into the world, the Modern. Perhaps numbered among its chief conjurers were those who truly believed that science and technics could make the world a paradise for all. It has done nothing of the sort, but rather scorched the skies, melted the glaciers, poisoned the air, and further yoked nature–including the human–to the capitalists and their machine logic.

Indeed, the most delusional aspect of modern Liberal Democratic civilization is its claim to do all this in the name of the “human.” Human rights, human advancement, human wealth, human freedom, all this promised to us as benefits of civilization’s destruction of the rest of nature through factories, the assembly lines, the pipeline, the automobile, the urban, and the internet server. Yet even humans are ground up into bone and dust to feed the machines of progress, their lungs blackened, fingers broken, bodies crippled, minds subjugated, environments ruined, souls destroyed. How much more the myriad other parts of nature? The extinctions speak for themselves.

More probably, the Modern was yet another mere trick to consolidate power. Promises that humanity could be perfected, sorrow and suffering eradicated, inequality eliminated–all by men who themselves owned slaves, spread war and rape, and subjugated all that lives to their dominance. Upon the ancient shrines of forsaken gods of nature they placed the human, then proceeded to sacrifice not just the natural world but other humans themselves to their vain worship of the modern.

Let us make the admission the fascists, the socialists, and the liberal democrats refuse to make. Fascism could not have been possible without the worship of the Modern the Enlightenment birthed. Nazi doctors and scientists vivisecting and dissecting humans to find in their entrails the cause of their behavior merely continued the work begun by the Enlightenment. The efficiency of their war machine was only possible thanks to the humanist search in centuries past to perfect the movement of human in industry. And what else could we make of the Nazi organization of human society into taxonomies of race and degeneracy, but a mere perfection of the Enlightenment’s desire to discover and then make the world run according to “natural laws?”

Let us say yet more: to be against the modern is to be also against the fascist. But to be against the modern is also to be against the fascist’s twin, the State-Communist, and against the patriarch which birthed them both, the Capitalist-Democratic neueordnung.  As with the three monotheist religions which together inform them, they each worship the Modern and merely disagree on how to implement Its will.

And let us say yet one more thing: it is not we who oppose the Modern, or industrialism, or civilization, who must answer our critics, but our critics who must answer us. Those who praise the Modern for its medicine must answer first for the Black and Indigenous people experimented upon to bring it forth into the world. Those who defend the Modern for its rights and freedoms must first answer for the colonial rape and slaughter which brings those rights and freedoms. Those who celebrate the Modern for the peace and prosperity of its cities must first answer for the homeless, the displaced, and the murdered. Those who sing paens to the Modern for its technological progress must first answer for the children mining the minerals to make computers and smartphones.

And especially, those who would call the anti-modern “fascist” must answer us. It is we who accuse you, defenders of the Modern and its industrial, humanistic delusions. It is you who must answer for the very reason we rage against the Modern, with its machine logic that mobilized entire populations to eradicate what once connected humans to nature and its gods. It is you who must answer for the Modern industrial camps in which humans were dissected, dismembered, and killed in the name of saving civilization from barbarism.  It is not us but you who must account for the latest technology that sorted the deported and damned, for the most scientifically advanced chemicals which choked out their lives.

We have seen what your civilization and your progress really means. We have seen what your technology, your government, your orders of discipline and your machines are really for. In the slums, the prisons, the gutters, and the factories we have seen how fascistic your vision of humanity actually is, and in the dying forests, the rising seas, and the darkened skies we see what comes of people that forget its gods to become Modern.


Ramon Elani

Ramon Elani holds a PhD in literature and philosophy. He lives with his family among mountains and rivers in Western New England. He walks with the moon.

More of his writing can be found hereYou can also support him on Patreon.

 

 

Rhyd Wildermuth

Rhyd is one of the co-founders and co-editors of Gods&Radicals. His recently released collection, Witches In a Crumbling Empire, is available now. You can support him on Patreon, and listen to his podcasts with Alley Valkyrie, Empires Crumble.

Rise From the Deep

“Beneath the modern, industrial world and all of its rationality, the world of intuition, dream, and madness is alive. And it is returning. As this world crumbles, the old world will burst forth and the gods will walk again. I will dream your ruin.”

From Ramon Elani

tree2

“Thus Odin graved ere the world began;

Then he rose from the deep, and came again.”

–Havamal, the Words of the High One

We do not choose the forms in which the gods appears to us. It is carved into the hidden heart of the dream inside of us. It was written there in the dreaming world, before this world began. Turn your back on it at your peril, for it is madness in either direction. We are striated and sedimented things. We walk this dead and rotten world, while we dance at the gates of dawn. I am a contingent thing, a breath upon the wind. But I am too the flames of distant stars, I am a torch in the night. I was there when the earth was born, I was there when the first dream was dreamed.

I am now, I am again, I am always.

The gods, like the trees, don’t care for a one-sided conversation. In the end, if they have spoken to us for too long without receiving a response, they will cease trying. To follow the gods is to speak to them, not to speak to humans of them, nor to listen to humans speak of them. To follow the gods is to follow the signs they give, not the instructions of any man or woman who claims to know them.

The gods are the land, it is said. They are in the land and of the land. It is said that if you are not of the land then you are not of the gods of that land. Fools! The fen and moor, fjord and glacier exist within us as memories. They are memories from the time before. My memories are not only my own. My memories are yours as well. My memories are the land itself. My memories, my dreams are the home of the slumbering gods.

If the gods are tied to those places, then I must only seek for them in my dream. For where is the land but within ourselves? What is our blood but the water of the earth? What is our soul but the spirit of the heavens? Inside and outside. The land penetrates us and we penetrate the land. Where do I end and the land begin? We think the ground beneath us is solid. We think we know what we stand upon. And yet, the world we know is fragile as an eggshell. We drift through currents of time and place. Beneath the modern, industrial world and all of its rationality, the world of intuition, dream, and madness is alive. And it is returning. As this world crumbles, the old world will burst forth and the gods will walk again. I will dream your ruin.

We go in to go out.

We go up to go down.

The gods sleep within us.

There is only one way to find them, only one path to wake them.

Dive down, dive down. Deep into the sunless indigo sea. The gods lie there beneath the gentle waves. In the dimness, among strange and antique shapes. Structures forgotten. Memories left to gather sediment. Suddenly, a one-eyed face emerges from the murky water. Grim and mad, blazing with poetry, dark with blood. I know him. I too have sacrificed myself. I have made a gruesome offering of myself. And whatever gifts I received, I received them shrieking. I too picked up the knuckle bones and I saw the world that will come, in fire and wolf blood. There is only one sacrifice that means anything. The self to the self! What else have you to offer? Who else is deserving? Hang yourself and rise again. Pierce your side with the spear and the soul shines bright.

The whisper is what he brought back from the gallows. A secret. That is his gift. Words. A magic unlike any other. Not the changing of shapes or things. You may change a shape but not the thing itself. For you cannot change what you do not know. What is a whisper but a thing known? What is a secret but a kept word? Thus the whispers are the knowing of things put together, of things in their way, and in their place.

He bade write on the shield before the shining goddess,

On Arvak’s ear, and on Alsvith’s hoof,

On the wheel of the car of Hrungnir’s killer,

On Sleipnir’s teeth, and the straps of the sledge.

On the paws of the bear, and on Bragi’s tongue,

On the wolf’s claws bared, and the eagle’s beak,

On bloody wings, and bridge’s end,

On freeing hands and helping foot-prints.

On glass and on gold, and on goodly charms,

In wine and in beer, and on well-loved seats,

On Gungnir’s point, and on Grani’s breast,

On the nails of Norns, and the night-owl’s beak.

What will I not write upon? What is it that is written on beak of the owl? The word vibrates that upon which it is carved. The whisper is a way of knowing. Nothing controls like knowing, naming, speaking, writing. In this is comprised his evil, his woe-working, his swift deceit. I name a thing, and thus I rule over it. My dominion is the word. What I write upon is my kingdom. With my words, I bind it to me. Whisper, whisper. And I will write upon the wolf’s tooth and upon the raven’s wing. And I will know them, and they will know my sovereignty. Deed follows word. Therein lies its power. The word is a movement upon the tapestry. A storm that is felt throughout the worlds.

Of what do the whispers speak?

They speak of triumph. To bless the sword, speak and write the name of the Sword God, who gave his wolf’s joint.

They speak of birth. To bring new life from the womb of the mother, speak and write the names of the Three Sisters upon the palm of the hand.

They speak of the waves and the terrible sea. To come safe across the whale road, burn and speak to oar and stern.

They speak of the nine twigs of glory. To overcome the worm, to bring forth the apple and the poison both.

They speak of the dire thorn. To bring evil, severity. Blood icicle. It is to be shunned and never written. It is a cliff dwelling thing and abhorred.

They speak of the branches that bind flesh and blood together. Blood to blood and bone to bone, speak and write upon the branch and tree that faces east.

They speak law and judgement. With word and thought, he weaves those sundered together.

And the last whispers of all, the ones that shall outlive the gods themselves. For one day, the god will come upon a man hanging from a tree. And he will know him. He will paint his whispers upon the dead man’s flesh and sing soft secrets to him. And the man will descend. He will go down. And he will speak the whispers back.


Ramon Elani

Ramon Elani holds a PhD in literature and philosophy. He lives with his family among mountains and rivers in Western New England. He walks with the moon.

More of his writing can be found hereYou can also support him on Patreon.

Dreams in Fire

“What is needed now is reconsecration, for there are no longer any paths for us to follow. Let us proudly declare to the mountains and the rivers: we renounce the cult of humanity, we renounce the world of techno-industrial society, and we bind ourselves in reverence and service to the living gods of earth and sky.”

From Ramon Elani

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We lead two lives, and the half of our soul is madness, and half heaven is lit by a black sun. I say I am a man, but who is the other that hides in me?

-Arthur Machen

I awoke from dreams of fire. Dark hills loom on the horizon. Thin clouds drift through golden light. The hour is late in the day, later than we have thought by far. How have we come to this place? Where is this desert? A world burning and gods fled. How did we get here? We threw down the gods and worshiped ourselves. We loved ourselves too much. And what have we received for five hundred years of self-love? Ruin. No justice, no freedom. We sought to make the world a paradise for humanity. All the world brothers and sisters. Not a mouth hungry, not a body sick without a cure. Peace and abundance. There have been no greater crimes than the ones done in the names of these dreams. To paraphrase Robinson Jeffers, would that we were never anything more than worms and our lot would have been a kinder, more fortunate one. The crimes of the beast are nothing compared to the crimes of man. We are faced with the death of the world and it was done by our hands. We will burn a star right out of the sky. Says the Seeress: Would you yet know more? An acid ocean, a desert world, air we cannot breathe, water we cannot drink, life gone. By all of the gods, it makes the cruelty of barbarism seem kind and merciful. What a heaven we inhabited before we thought to cure ourselves of our darkness! This I swear, there is no crime done by the bestial part of man that can touch what has been wrought by the cold and rational heart of the machine. I spit endless curses, until I bleed from the mouth, upon those that seek to put the world and the gods beneath man, to put the pettiness of man’s society above life.

But can we not order things just so? Can we not remove the fetters and throw down the tyrants that oppress us? Can we not bring the light of truth and love to those ignorant and misled who torment us? The engineer comes with his technics and seeks to put it all to rights. And yet, and yet. Our lives are not our own. Humanity declares its independence and in so doing, brings hell to the world.

Made from stones and stars, we are. A glittering galaxy in a drop of dew, fading fast before the dawn. All the same, when the power to move things came into our hands, how quick we were to discard our true kin, the stars and moon. With what enthusiasm did we cast aside thousands of years of muck and blood and song in favor of this thing we called ‘society’ and ‘humanity.’ Consumed with human dreams, we closed the door within our souls to the dreams of the world. And so the light passed away from us.

To truly dehumanize our perspective means changing our response to the sufferings of humanity. If we truly seek to renounce an anthropocentric view of the world, we must unfortunately recognize that equality, justice, and freedom are unknown to the spirit of the cosmos. They are ideas that were banished from our lives forever when we named them. The engineer, the scientist, the statist, the capitalist gave us these words, and thereafter forever held their power. Now we beg them to give us what every pebble and drifting speck of dust could not possibly be separated from.

Reason, rationality, and the others are not to be found on earth, other than in the dreams of the same modern, Enlightened consciousness that enslaved and massacred the half the world. The same consciousness that gave birth to industrialism. To deny the existence of a world without suffering, exploitation, and cruelty is not the same thing as sanctioning, promoting, or celebrating the horror and vileness of the current state of humanity. We may be able to trade certain types of suffering for others. And doing so may constitute more than a quantitative difference. But as long as solving human problems, whether disguised or not beneath layers of superficial variation, remains our primary orientation, we will continue to maintain and reinforce an anthropocentric consciousness. Regretfully, we would be better off sitting on the mountaintop and dedicating our lives to prayer than trying to fight the battles that so many are preoccupied with. In the words of Dogen: “The imperial power has no authority over the wise people in the mountains.” These are understandable battles, perhaps. Worthy battles, perhaps. But nonetheless, battles which will bring us no closer to what we claim to seek. Perhaps with prayer and meditation we can return to the spirit of the world: “knowing that nothing need be done, is where we begin to move from.” There is no doubt that we stand in the midst of the Kali Yuga, the age of vice, of quarrel and contention, and the bull of dharma stands upon one leg alone.

We know that the spirit world exists, because we see it in our dreams. Our hidden parts, the parts that have been sealed shut by techno-industrial society like an oyster protecting the pearl within, remain connected with the spiritual nature of the world. It is within the unconscious, within the world of dreams that we confront the self that is beyond the self. And is this not ultimately the lesson of spiritual and mystical traditions? That all is one, all is not human. For that matter, human is not human. We are in the rock, tree, beast, and insect. And they are in us. For all is one, and that one is the spirit. Gary Snyder, once called the ‘poet laureate of deep ecology,’ puts it thus:

the world is our consciousness, and it surrounds us. There are more things in the mind, in the imagination than “you” can keep track of—thoughts, memories, images, angers, delights rise unbidden. The depths of mind, the unconscious, are our inner wilderness areas, and that is where a bobcat is right now. I do not mean personal bobcats in personal psyches, but the bobcat that roams from dream to dream.

Gary Snyder offers us little as far as action and praxis. This is not a coincidence. The more we search for paths to follow, the further we are from the way of the world. We have only to effortlessly grasp the meaning of things and leave it at that. As it is written in the daodejing: “a path that can be followed is not a spiritual path.” Let us leave things to the spirit of the world. In the end, this is the way to ultimately renounce our anthropocentrism. If humanity is not the culmination of the natural world, then why should we assume that the world is ours to save. It will not be saved by us, no matter what path we try to follow. Our delusions of control will only become reinforced in the process. If we are gods, as techno-industrial society tries to convince us, then the world is ours to exploit or attempt to save. But if we reject the idea that humanity is the center of the universe then

it would be presumptuous to think that Gaia much needs our prayers of healing vibes. Human beings themselves are at risk—not just on some survival of civilization level but more basically on the level of heart and soul. We are in danger of losing our souls.

We don’t understand what we are, what we are made of. We don’t understand that this world we treat as the backdrop for our petty dramas and squabbles or as material for our conquests, is alive with spiritual energy and myriad entities and powers. We would not be able to ignore this fact if we threw ourselves into the fearsome and awe-inspiring heart of life. Once, we could perceive the leopard’s grammar. The law that says, ‘I will eat you. I will devour you. For you are weak and I am strong.’ Techno-industrial civilization denies the law of the world. The spiritual life of our ancestors taught us to honor the law. As Gary Snyder writes, “the archaic religion is to kill god and eat him. Or her. The shimmering food-chain, the food-web, is the scary, beautiful condition of the biosphere.” If we wish to recover what has been lost, what has been taken from us by techno-industrial society, we must look inward to find it. We must rediscover that we exist as spiritual beings in a living world that is simultaneously alive and divine. What is needed now is reconsecration, for there are no longer any paths for us to follow. Let us proudly declare to the mountains and the rivers: we renounce the cult of humanity, we renounce the world of techno-industrial society, and we bind ourselves in reverence and service to the living gods of earth and sky.


Ramon Elani

Ramon Elani holds a PhD in literature and philosophy. He lives with his family among mountains and rivers in Western New England. He walks with the moon.

More of his writing can be found hereYou can also support him on Patreon.


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The Songs I Know

“The Spirit of the Depths had shown me how to awaken the dead,

How to bring forth the lost memories of the dream world,

How to touch the primordial power

That I thought I had banished from the world,

When I filled the womb of the gods with blood.

For the well beneath the tree is the well of dreams.”

From Ramon Elani

Odin-Norse-mythology-Wanderer

“The wheel of time cannot be turned back. Things can, however, be destroyed and renewed. This is extremely dangerous, but the signs of our times are dangerous too. If there was ever a truly apocalyptic era, it is ours. God has put the means for a universal holocaust into the hands of men.”

“The shadow is nonsense. It lacks force and has no continued existence through itself. But nonsense is the inseparable and undying brother of the supreme meaning.”

—C.G. Jung

I am a man of extraordinary violence.

I am the one who roars in the heart of battle.

I am the At-Rider, who drives down my foe.

I am the Evil Worker, the Man of the Spear.

I ride forth.

I am the one of Gaping Frenzy.

I drive men to madness.

I am the Resounder.

I am the Master of Slaughter.

I am the One Who is Merry in War.

I am the Hanging God.

I am the bringer of Runes.

I am the War Father.

 

I slew my father,

He Who Existed Before Time,

The First Being,

The undifferentiated consciousness,

The Slumbering God,

Substance and spirit of the cosmos.

He was beyond good and evil,

Though he was grim and terrible.

How he howled in the abyss of night.

What memories drifted and floated through his mind?

In a somnolent universe, what did he dream?

Will, Thought, and Spirit arose in fierce arms.

With my brothers I sundered him and split him.

And his blood drowned the world,

It spilled over from the Yawning Gap,

It drenched the stars.

And a shining fragment of ice,

The Primal Cosmic Egg,

The heart of ice,

The pattern of all things,

The bridge between the seen and unseen,

Burned through the fabric of the world.

And the ice poured into the Realm of Mist,

And there his kin grew strong and proud.

And upon those frozen plateaus

A lost kernel was buried in ice

And its power dripped between the worlds

And formed a well beneath the Tree.

For god is in the egg.

Far_away_and_long_ago_by_Willy_Pogany

I have Nine Twigs,

I see beyond the nine worlds,

And into the endless cycles of time.

I have seen the devastation that will come,

I have seen the vision of the Wolf that will come for me.

The Wolf is always there in the darkened forests of my mind.

I know that he is my ruin and doom.

I know that he will bring blood and fire upon the world.

And I know that I will see the world born again in water.

The Gods are not immune to fate.

I follow my destiny.

I am the Son and the Father,

I am the Cold Sky,

I am the Wanderer and Deceiver.

Those who wander do not remember.

I seek my shadow.

He is the damp and the moist,

The One beneath the dirt,

He is the sacrifice and I am the blade.

In the hollow beneath the tree,

He remembers everything

For he sits by the pool

That is fed from waters that flow

From that savage realm.

I have forgotten,

The world lives through forgetting.

But he who dwells among the mosses and dripping roots,

He alone carries the memories of what I destroyed.

My hoary uncle,

Lost in an infinity of dreams.

 

And I went down to him,

From my golden palaces and joyful battles.

I went down beneath the tree.

And I found him there lost in his endless wisdom.

I went down

To become whole,

To repair the gaping wound,

To atone for rending the world.

As I had climbed the tree,

As I had hung myself from the branch,

As I had pierced myself with spear,

As I had gone up

To gain the power of the Runes,

To gain the power to bind,

To control,

To create order,

The fire of the sea and the path of the snake,

The horror of the clouds,

The ruin of the harvest,

The Cliff-Dwelling horror,

The Home of Mortification,

The grain that brings famine,

The Grief of the humanity,

The rivers of ice,

And the destroying Sun,

The One Handed God of Temples,

The adornment of ships,

The iron that bends.

As I went up for these things,

So I knew I must go down to complete myself.

For chaos must join order.

 

My ancient uncle made me look into the murky waters of the well.

And in the well,

I saw rage unconquerable,

I saw power ungovernable,

I saw a consciousness unreasonable,

I saw a force unstoppable.

And I knew that I was blind,

I could not see myself,

Could not see the way.

I knew what I had rejected,

The spirit of the womb.

Among the clouds and winds, the lord of the sky,

I had lost the earth,

The body of my father, who was also my mother,

In the landscape I had carved in his bones,

This truth was written.

The truth was etched into the mountains,

Into the fjords,

Into the forests,

Into the rivers,

Into the glaciers.

But I could not read it,

For I could only read the runes,

The language of artifice and doom.

I could not longer read the words of the world below.

And therein dwelt my weakness.

I had made myself strong

Only with the power of heaven.

I knew that I was spirit without body,

And the spirit is nothing on its own,

But my destiny is to walk both paths,

To walk in two worlds,

To walk in all the worlds at once.

 

And so I begged my uncle to drink from his well.

And I learned the Nine Songs,

And what my uncle requested,

I gave him.

And I took my hand and raised it to my face,

And my fingers dug into my skull,

And I ripped my eye from my face,

And the world became all blood,

And the tree shuddered above me,

And the gods wept,

And tears of blood dripped into my beard.

My grim uncle took the quivering eye in his hand

And he cast it deep into the well.

And I fell upon my knees

And I plunged my fingers into the rich, wet dirt

And I screamed

As the cosmos became one

Within my shattered mind.

And I saw stars exploding,

Galaxies being born,

I saw the dragon stirring.

I saw everything that had ever been and would be.

I felt fate burning me.

I saw that all my knowledge,

Was nothing more than an attempt

To impose something knowable

Onto a universe that defied me.

Or had defied me.

 

Then I understood,

That all my wandering had led me back to myself,

Back to this madness.

How far must a star travel through space

Before it finds the part of itself

That it once thought lost?

As my soul came together,

The child came forward:

The knowledge that transcends knowledge.

The meaning that surpasses meaning.

That which can only be achieved through

The cosmic union.

The Spirit of the Depths had arisen within me.

And for all my rune might

I could not teach it,

I could not share it,

It was mine to bear alone.

The Spirit of the Depths had shown me how to awaken the dead,

How to bring forth the lost memories of the dream world,

How to touch the primordial power

That I thought I had banished from the world,

When I filled the womb of the gods with blood.

For the well beneath the tree is the well of dreams.

And in my dreams was the only path of truth.

And a thousand voices spoke to me,

And I heard the destiny of time,

That will outlast the longest night.

And my Sun became darkened

And my Moon rose on the horizon of my consciousness.

And as I had once lost everything

Upon that gallows tree,

So I lost everything again,

Beside the well of dreams.

For I am the God that is to come,

I am the God that is becoming.

 

And my uncle smiled gently,

For he knew as well as I,

That his destiny was to die for me,

Though his kin would survive the great destruction of the world.

He smiled patiently, lovingly,

And he showed me the horn from which he drank,

The horn that signaled the end of things,

The end of my power,

The time when the wolf within me

Would step out of the shadows and engulf me utterly.

And my uncle touched my arm,

For long before the time of the wolf

He would be cut down

And his head severed from his body

And I would use my charms and herbs

Upon it and keep it with me always.

The_twilight_of_the_gods_by_Willy_Pogany

It’s coming now, it’s coming soon.

The world of dreams will swallow up this rotten thing.

Our lives and struggles

Occur as so much flotsam

Upon a sea of unfathomable depth.

Sometimes gracefully, sometime fully of woe,

We float, dreamless, through a galaxy of powers.

Countless pasts and futures, overlaid upon each other.

The world we walk through is part ruin and part verdant growth.

Cycles, which, though we may long to escape, shall never end.

The world drives itself to its doom, unrelenting.

I have given up separating dreams from wakefulness.

I have abandoned the task of assigning truth to one,

And illusion to the other.

Give me deep and muddy waters.

 

“Without a mother, one cannot love. Without a mother, one cannot die.”—Hermann Hesse


Ramon Elani

Ramon Elani holds a PhD in literature and philosophy. He is a teacher, a poet, a husband, and a father, as well as a muay thai fighter. He wanders in oak groves. He casts the runes and sings to trolls. He lives among mountains and rivers in Western New England

More of his writing can be found here. You can also support him on Patreon.

Down, Down to Troy Town

“But with what desperation do we seek to deny the cycles of time! That it were not so is the dearest wish of humanity. Any catastrophe imaginable would be preferable to the secrets hidden in Troy Town.”

From Ramon Elani

307160

“The bird fights its way out of the egg. The egg is the world. Who would be born must first destroy a world. The bird flies to God. The God’s name is Abraxas.”

—Hermann Hesse

“In this world is man Abraxas, the creator and the destroyer of his own world.”

—Carl Jung

Roused from my sleep by turbulent dreams, I came to the riverbank. The river opened its eyes to me and galaxies were born and died in its eddying currents. Mist rose in hissing tendrils from moss and fern. The moon, a cold shining knife blade. Two figures emerged from the darkened wood, one wearing a mantle of straw, the other clad in twigs and alder and hazel leaves. Each was crowned with bark, with ferns upon their feet and masks of wood covered their faces. One carried a wand of hawthorne, the other a wooden sword. Hands clasped, they stood before me in silence. Then came forth a third figure, darker than the night and in its hands, a flaming sword. At the approach of this fell thing, the Wild Ones bowed their heads in unison and knelt upon the ground. The executioner raised his dire sword and I turned my head as the dolorous stoke found its mark. Soundlessly the two figures, hands still entwined, slumped to the earth and the dirt was stained with bright blood, which poured into the river below. A thong of shadowy mourners came and lifted the bodies onto a litter of branches, decorated with antlers. At the executioner’s behest, the procession began to move, and I, compelled by an urgency in my blood, followed. Then we came to a tarn, deep and still, surrounded by oak trees and standing stones. And the bodies of the Wild Ones were thus drowned in that black water. Down and down, through uncountable fathoms, I saw the bodies sink. A shudder passed through the world. The lips of the executioner moved: “guilty,” “guilty,” “guilty.”

Then came a number of young girls, with flowers in their hair. And they sang this song:
Now carry we Death out of the world,

The new Summer into the world,

Welcome, dear Summer,

Green Little corn.

Death will sleep beneath the oak tree,

Summer will soon be here,

We carry Death away for you

We bring the Summer.

Give us a good year

For wheat and for rye.

We carry Death out of the world,

And the New Age into the world.

Dear Spring, we bid you welcome.

Green grass, we bid you welcome.

We carry away death.

And bring back life.
The girls carried between them a small coffin and when they set it down, the executioner and all his attendants entered the coffin and the girls buried it beneath an oak tree. Then one among the girls spoke: “Of what was he guilty? For he was so good.” And three girls stepped forward, each bearing a chalice. “Weep not,” they spoke. “For what is sweeter than milk, honey, and brandy?” And the first of them poured sweet milk upon the dirt, the second, honey, and the third, brandy. At that, the sound of a horn broke the silence of those grim woods and a jubilant crowd passed before me. At its head, upon a fair horse, rode a figure robed in bark and crowned with gold. He was adorned with flowers and ribbons hung from his breast. Behind him came boys and girls bearing straw effigies upon tall poles. I remembered the words:
Those trees in whose dim shadow

The ghastly priest doth reign

The priest who slew the slayer,

And shall himself be slain.

 

And the King of the Wood came again into his kingdom.

And I awoke by the side of the river.

And I knew that as I slept, she goddess of the river had placed her tynged upon me. That I would be cursed to see the dying of an age and know that not I, nor any other, can prevent what is coming. For this world is truly a fortress of turns. And what has come is always fated to return. Against whom do we war but ourselves? To go out, one must go in. The law of history and the law of the maze are one and the same. As Rebecca Solnit writes: “sometimes you have to turn your back on your goal to get there, sometimes you’re farthest away when you’re closest, sometimes the only way is the long one.” One must not approach the hilltop but by the ringed paths that surround it. Remember, with every step, I have been here before, I will be here again. Nothing could be more profane than to walk straight to the center. No, the lines of seven folds must be obeyed. And why? Because unless we follow the circle path, we will find nothing at all when we reach the end.

But with what desperation do we seek to deny the cycles of time! That it were not so is the dearest wish of humanity. Any catastrophe imaginable would be preferable to the secrets hidden in Troy Town. We will come, in time, to deny everything in the world in our attempt to be free. Destiny, fate is abhorrent to the modern mind because it is so self evident. A vision of humanity that sits, impervious, upon a shining pyramid, looming over the barren plain cannot abide the notion that powers beyond us direct the course of all things. Borges, one haunted by the labyrinth:

Time is the substance I am made of. Time is a river which sweeps me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger which destroys me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire which consumes me, but I am the fire. The world, unfortunately, is real; I, unfortunately, am.

We are the body of the cosmos. We are the dreams of the world. And we, and the world, are no more than mist and dew.

Within the maze, we look up at the eternal stars. Their implication suddenly becomes clear. We find that past and future are the same. We find that the present is the only illusion. There is only the endless rhythm of the tide. A wave that is always coming and going. There is a sensation, most acutely felt, of being pursued throughout our lives. Something implacably seeks us. It finds us in our dreams, in Troy Town.

Modernity fails because it teaches us to kill the monster. Confine it because we fear it. Trap it and bind it. Instead of the hallowed offerings we once gave freely, it now will take its own bloody rewards. And on its own terms, the price will be arbitrary and cruel. Then, when it has trespassed too far, we will hunt it, drive it down to Troy Town and butcher it and declare ourselves rid of its vileness forever. And then we will act surprised when its bloody lips spread wide again to devour us. We only sin against ourselves. Joseph Campbell:

Where we had thought to find an abomination, we shall find a god; where we had thought to slay another, we shall slay ourselves; where we had thought to travel outward, we shall come to the center of our own existence; where we had thought to be alone, we shall be with all the world.

The cycles turn, without end. We can escape nothing. We are destined to fight the same battles forever. Just as Holly and Oak, winter and summer, life and death. When we embrace this awful truth and walk the spiral path in Troy Town, we will once again dwell in the bosom of the living gods.

 

Amor fati, amor fati.

 


Ramon Elani

Ramon Elani holds a PhD in literature and philosophy. He is a teacher, a poet, a husband, and a father, as well as a muay thai fighter. He wanders in oak groves. He casts the runes and sings to trolls. He lives among mountains and rivers in Western New England

More of his writing can be found here. You can also support him on Patreon.

Beasts Must Stick Together

“Said the old beast to the young: Unless you make a hollow of yourself

There will be no room for the gods to dwell inside of you.”

From Ramon Elani

Plate 4 of 'Visions of the Daughters of Albion' c.1795 by William Blake 1757-1827

—For Bec

“If wanderers were not themselves the cause, then like the scent and color
of the lotus in the sky, there would be no perception of the universe.”—Nagarjuna

 

The young beast said to the old: How can I live in this world?

This lacerated, ruptured world.

 

Said the old beast to the young: Follow your breath. Speak to the spirits in puddles.

These things shall pass.

 

Said the young beast to the old: All I see is foul and unspeakably ugly.

A world that is torn and I, torn, within it.

 

Said the old beast to the young: Go into the forest, make pies, and knit.

Listen to the voices of the storm upon the cliffs.

 

Said the young beast to the old: O crone, hag! I seek the deep well in the dark woods.

I cannot find it.

 

Said the old beast to the young: You will only find it in the murky depths of sleep.

What will you search for that you cannot find within yourself?

 

Said the young beast to the old: But I rage with anger! I crave blood and vengeance!

The gods must witness the terror I will unleash upon this bad world.

 

Said the old beast to the young: Unless you make a hollow of yourself

There will be no room for the gods to dwell inside of you.

 

Said the young beast to the old: My heart is black and I cannot let go of my bitterness.

I spit upon peace and the gentleness of slumber.

 

Said the old beast to the young: When you are alone upon the ice, surrounded by devils

There will only be the voice of your true soul to guide you.

 

Said the young beast to the old: Storm Crone, I am drifting away, floating,

Haunted by the ever-watching eyes of the deep.

 

Said the old beast to the young: Look at the cuts upon my breast. I severed my flesh

With jagged cuts of the skinning knife.

 

Said the young beast to the old: I will prepare you a feast and glistening red meat

Will wet your mouth.

 

Said the old beast to the young: See this spear upon which I have impaled myself.

See the braids of hair with which I have strangled myself.

 

Said the young beast to the old: I saw you in the dusky house that was choked with

Smoke. I saw you walk with the moon.

 

Said the old beast to the young: I slew my brother for his blackened hands that night.

I slew them all for their silence.

 

Said the young beast to the old: What did you see walking among the stars?

What did you hear in the whispers of the snow?

 

Said the old beast to the young: The blue demon is rising from his icy depths.

He digs his sharp fingers into the guts of the world.

 

Said the young beast to the old: Will we drown in tears? An ocean of rust.

Obliterated into fragments by the iron waves.

 

Said the old beast to the young: Dive deep into the abyss of the ocean and do not fear.

After all, beasts must stick together.


Ramon Elani

Ramon Elani holds a PhD in literature and philosophy. He is a teacher, a poet, a husband, and a father, as well as a muay thai fighter. He wanders in oak groves. He casts the runes and sings to trolls. He lives among mountains and rivers in Western New England

More of his writing can be found here. You can also support him on Patreon.


Support our work here.

The House of Cold Rain

“To join our essence and consciousness with the world was once the common inheritance of humanity. Now, it can only be found in the hinterland, the lands beyond. Beyond techno-industrial society. For what is there to join with in concrete and steel?”

From Ramon Elani

Den grønne ridder 1

Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.

—W.B. Yeats

In the House of Cold Rain there is mirth and joy. The children sing and dance and gambol among the violets. The smell of lilacs is heavy about the place. Bread is baked in the bright oven and old stories are told. The pots and pans in the kitchen are of black iron. There are but few things within those wooden walls that might frighten the household spirits. Any number of cats mysteriously peer out from shadowy corners, grey with cobwebs. A broken staircase leads down beneath the house, where there is naught but black dirt, from whence come the songs and whispers of the Fair Folk. The garden is thick and overgrown with cabbages and potatoes. Visitors are welcome, though perhaps regarded with a touch of suspicion and the hounds howl always. Moss creeps up slowly from the ground, washing over gnarled apple trees like a wave from the sea and dripping from the roof. A cairn of stones stands beneath an old white pine. And it always rains. Merwin’s “old house in the dawn rain.” And the world is still burning. Or perhaps it burned down entirely long ago and we live among the ashes, unknowing.

The House of Cold Rain sits within a defile between two hills. A roaring brook lies beside it, singing and moaning and shrieking. The rain trickles down the slopes in rivulets. From the top of the hill, crowned with an old stone wall, the valley opens up beneath. Mist rises from the piney woods and drifts and dances. It is a place of strength and a high place. It is a tower and refuge from the world. This tower is build of loving charms and songs of peace and silence, rather than stalwart bricks or stone. But a tower nonetheless. For there is a great horror upon the land and I would protect my family and any others who seek shelter within these walls. A place of peace in a broken world. And not by human hands can the world be remade and restored. There is no shame in turning away from the world. It is no surprise that the sages of all people fled from the world, to live out their days among the spirits of the forests and mountains.

Even in the month of May, when all is bright and green, the House of Cold Rain lies under shadow and mists that hide. Even in May, when the Druids light the goodly fire and guide the cattle to pasture and singe their tails with the Sun God’s flame. When the spirits of the dead come a’ night to seek their ancient homes and at the House of Cold Rain are they fed and appeased with gifts and libations are poured. When primrose is cast about the threshold, to keep the Fair Folk at bay in their merry-making. When the White Heifer stands upon the mountain and the Sun shall not burn her and the Moon shall bestow kisses upon her. When the ruddy maidens sing:

“Yarrow, yarrow, yarrow,
I bid thee good morrow,
And tell me before to-morrow
Who my true love shall be.”

For it is known that in the Maying month the Fair Folk are strong in their power and roam abroad the land. And I shall place garlands of marigold over the door and around the necks of my wife and daughter, for I know well that Fionnbharr stirs from his rath and searches for comely women to snatch away to his halls beneath the hills.

Alas, Fionnbharr, cursed to sit in his crystal court and remember forever the lost glory of his people. Time diminishes all, true enough and even the gods themselves have retreated to hidden places. So remember, Fionnbharr, remember the stature and greatness of the Children of Danu. Remember the coming from the Four Cities of the North, remember the spells and charms that brought them to regain their inheritance, in fire, smoke, and the sword. Remember, Fionbharr, how the Children strode with long, vigorous steps and slew their enemies until the earth was sticky and black with blood and mounds of the fallen blotted out the sun. So fight your little battles, Fionnbharr, only that you may recall the thrill of the blood. And neglect your golden haired Queen for the fleeting pleasures of mortal flesh. Your Queen who is arraigned in dew drops and sweeps the ground with her golden hair. And sing, above all, sing those songs of loss and remembrance so sweetly and painfully that any who hear shall have nothing but madness and death for the rest of his days. Sit in the violet twilight and remember, Fionnbhar.

Cast out of the world and scornful of modernity and it’s hatred for all things slow, dark, and messy, the Fair Folk retreat deeper and deeper in the wilderness. There are few places left that have not been touched by the contagion of techno-industrial society and it’s dreadful mechanistic logic. So the Fair Folk remain in their palaces of gold and pearl, deep beneath the earth. What is there left for them in the world? A world forever haunted by the specter of causality. The Children of Danu once burned their ships so they could never return to the Four Cities of the North. So too, the Fair Folk now seal themselves within the realms of grove and glen and hillock. And I seal myself in the solitude of the House of Cold Rain.

On the hill above the House of Cold Rain, I put the salve upon my eyes and watch the Fair Folk dance under the moon. Of reason and modern, they know nothing. Theirs is a world animated by intuition and instinct. Madness is the price, but then again, do we not have our own madness borne from rationality and overmuch technology? And though the Fair Folk are doomed in their souls for they have no hope of life eternal, as Osian once said to Saint Patrick, “if there is no fighting and drinking in heaven and my kinfolk are not welcome for being pagans, then what need have I of heaven?” So if the old gods have been chased out of the world by the spirit of modernity and its accusations of superstition, then I will welcome them into my heart. And I will walk nine times around Fionbharr’s rath at midnight and drink his wine and eat bread. Primrose and marigold notwithstanding.

As Carl Jung wrote, “Civilized man…is in danger of losing all contact with the world of instinct—a danger that is still further increased by his living an urban existence in what seems to be a purely manmade environment.” The march of techno-industrial society is inexorable. It will continue until it destroys itself and much else along with it. Jung saw this clearly even in the early 20th century. When he was forty-eight, he went to the shores of Lake Zurich and built a stone tower by hand. He pumped water from the well, chopped wood for the fire, and read by candlelight. The rooms were simple and bare and smelled of “smoke and grits, and occasionally of wine and smoked bacon.” Here, he felt, his ancestors would be honored and his own wound would be healed. The spirits shun the cities and the works of man. Jung knew that only in his tower at Bollingen could the covenant be restored. He longed to see humanity fleeing from the cities and returning to the wild world, of “terminals deserted, the streets deserted, a great peace descend upon us.” The vital world of intuition remains and we bear its mark. But each day that we remain in society, the mark fades and our connection to the spirits weakens. It was in the Bollingen tower that Jung dreamed that he stood beside an ancient chief: “We both know that at last the great event has occurred: the primeval boar, a gigantic mythological beast, has finally been hunted down and killed.” The Promethean, Apollonian impulse of techno-industrial society has finally succeeded in its horrifying task: it has killed the beast, at last.

At the Bollingen tower Jung found the primeval self, the intuitive self restored at revitalized. If there is hope for the world, it lies in the ancient spark within our hearts. The tiny whisper that calls out to the trees and the hills. The small door that opens into a universe without end inside of us. So too did Jung find himself stripped of his fragile, misguided ego and dissolved into the living world around him. There are few errors more profound in the modern perspective than the horrifying notion that consciousness is limited to humanity. All things have their consciousness, not merely living creatures. The landscape itself is conscious. And just as important is the recognition that our own consciousness is constituted precisely by the interplay with the consciousness of the cosmos. As a species alone, we are nothing. This is precisely what Jung found at Bollingen. He writes, “here is space for the spaceless kingdom of the world’s and the psyche’s hinterland.” To join our essence and consciousness with the world was once the common inheritance of humanity. Now, it can only be found in the hinterland, the lands beyond. Beyond techno-industrial society. For what is there to join with in concrete and steel?

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In 1950 Jung built a stone monument at Bollingen, beside his tower. Having ordered a shipment of stones to build a wall around his garden, Jung found that the cornerstone had been measured incorrectly and was a large cube rather than a triangle. The mason was about to take the stone away but, as Jung writes, the stone called out to him, spoke to him and in that moment he knew he must have it. As we will see in what follows, there is something in the task of hewing stone, building with stone , communing with stones that connects us profoundly to the world beyond, the world of the cosmos. There is a intelligence in all things that may express itself to us, if we have the power to listen. At Bollingen, Jung reconnected himself to the animated universe and to the spirits of the past. He writes,

my ancestors’ souls are sustained by the atmosphere of the house, since I answer for them the questions that their lives once left behind. I carve out rough answers as best I can. I have even drawn them on the walls. It is as if a silent, greater family, stretching down the centuries, were peopling the house.

This sense of a “greater family” extends beyond the individuals and communities that make up our own personal history. Like Jung’s collective unconscious, our lineage stretches back to the birth of the cosmos itself. We contain within us the memories of dying stars and galaxies uncountable. In the swampy regions of psyche, the memories of the dinosaurs are alive. The Fair Folk are there too, dancing in the moonlight. But there is no room for ancestors and spirits in the world of techno-industrial society. We must create a physical place for them, as well as an inner place. They need silence, for their voices are hard to hear from centuries of being unused. Or rather, they have shouted themselves hoarse because we have not listened for so long.

It was at his tower, among his stones and solitude, that Jung developed his rhizomatic metaphor, which has since inspired so many great thinkers, most notably, of course, Gilles Delueze and Felix Guattari:

Life has always seemed to me like a plant that lives on its rhizome. Its true life is invisible, hidden in the rhizome. The part that appears above ground lasts only a single summer. Then it withers away—an ephemeral apparition. When we think of the unending growth and decay of life and civilizations, we cannot escape the impression of absolute nullity. Yet I have never lost a sense of something that lives and endures underneath the eternal flux. What we see is the blossom, which passes. The rhizome remains.

It is no surprise that this idea came to him in that setting. Far away from the techno-industrial world we can perceive the eternal world. As the walls of our own little, determinate, particular, historically constituted identities fracture and crumble, we perceive the self that is present in all things. We are bonded to the cycles of death and rebirth. The true nature of time, which is to say its cyclical nature, becomes clear. The techno-industrial world denies this. It postulates time as ruthlessly linear, hurtling toward perfection. Though we all know that the only place it will lead us to is doom.

Around the same time that Jung was building his stone tower by hand on the shores of Lake Zurich, another stone tower was being built by hand, thousands of miles away, upon the edge of the abyss, at the very end of the world. This tower was built by American poet Robinson Jeffers. After the conclusion of World War I, Jeffers purchased a piece of land on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Carmel, California. There, in 1919, Jeffers built a stone cottage called ‘Tor House’ for his wife Una and went on to construct a stone tower adjacent to the cottage, which he named ‘Hawk Tower.’ Like Jung, Jeffers found discovered something within himself through the process of working with stone. In fact, scholar Tim Hunt goes so far as to describe masonry as Jeffers “other lifework.” The work inspired his poetry and features largely in many of his most famous poems. His first major book was only published during the final phases of construction.

We can clearly perceive Jeffers belief in an animate cosmos in poems such as “To the Rock that will be a Cornerstone of the House.” Mirroring Jung’s own private conversation with a cornerstone at Bollingen, Jeffers addresses the stone thus:

You have been dissevered from humanity

And only known the stubble squirrels and the headland rabbits

Or the long-fetlocked plowhorses

Breaking the hilltop in December, sea-gulls following.

Screaming in the black furrow; no one

Touched you with love, the gray hawk and the red hawk touched yourself

Where now my hand lies. So I have brought you

Wine and white milk and honey for the hundred years of famine

And the hundred cold ages of sea-wind.

Through his poetry, Jeffers devoted himself to the stones and the cliffs and crags of his refuge, evoking them as models for the beauty and violence of the cosmos. Entrenched in the human world, Jeffers argues, the universe becomes nothing more than a reflection of ourselves. We see our own smallness, our own weakness, our own ugliness radiated throughout the cosmos. In order to escape this apocalyptic solipsism, Jeffers urged a reconnection with the non-human world. A reckoning with the vast powers and forces of the world. But precisely in seeing how small we truly are, and in recognizing how awe-inspiring the non-human world is, lies our hope for rediscovering ourselves as kin to the world. Techno-industrial society makes a titan of humanity, only to make us worthless and alone. The brutality and transcendent beauty of the wild world makes us small but in that we find our redemptive unity. This fundamental belief, which Jeffers described as ‘inhumanism,’ is defined in the poem “Double Axe,” as “a shifting of emphasis and significance from man to notman; the rejection of human solipsism and recognition of the trans-human magnificence.” This shift requires a necessary detachment from the human world, from techno-industrialism, and from the entire constellation of moral and conceptual apparatus that we have inherited from centuries of disconnection with the wild world.

While Jeffers built his stone tower, he was visited every day by a single hawk that came and perched on the stones. On the day he finished the tower, the hawk disappeared. Like the stones, the hawk became a symbol for Jeffers. Of the hawk, Jeffers writes,

I think, here is your emblem

To hang in the future sky;

Not the cross, not the hive,

But this; bright power, dark peace;

Fierce consciousness joined with final

Disinterestedness;

Life with calm death.

Rejecting the monotheistic religions as well as human society, Jeffers posits the hawk and urges us to follow its path. High above the human world, the hawk does not see our struggles. It burns with the light of creation and finds its unity in the indifference of the world. The hawk perceives the death that it is inherent in life and remains unconcerned. Contrast this to the vanity of techno-industrial society, which views death as the ultimate enemy to be resisted by any means. For Jeffers, the wild world conveys much of what Jung saw from his tower at Bollingen, the permanence that underlies all change and flux. Humanity, and techno-industrial society even more so, is a passing thing that lives, decays, and dies in its time. There is no force that could make it otherwise. And yet, the our society seems devoted to the idea that we stand equal or perhaps beyond the natural world in force and durability. Jeffers reminds himself and us that the stone tower he builds will outlast him by generations. And the cliffs upon which it is built will outlast the house by millennia. And the sea will outlast the cliffs for countless aeons.

Living in the midst of human society we are deafened by countless voices. Competing morals and ideologies, each promising an eternal answer. And yet each hungering for the blood of the other. The world we live in is not the world. All the rationality and cleverness of modernity comes to nothing. For Jung, the path away from this world depended upon perceiving and awakening the dormant memories of the old ways, the gods and spirits. For Jeffers, the illusions of society are burst apart by the majesty of the wild world:

I believe that the beauty and nothing else is what

Things are formed for. Certainly the world

Was not constructed for happiness nor love nor wisdom. No, not for pain,

Hatred and folly. All these

Have their seasons; and in the long year they balance each other, they

Cancel out. But the beauty stands.

In the dark woods and upon the craggy mountaintops, we stand in the immanent power of that beauty. To live apart from human society is to live among the undying things and to find a fragment of ourselves among them. We are not exempt from the beauty that Jeffers describes. But we forget the source of that beauty: it is not derived from what makes us human, it is precisely derived from the parts of us that are not human. The parts of us that can hear the voices of the stones. The parts of us that hear haunting songs drifting over hill and valley. The parts of us that awaken suddenly on moonlit nights and frantically look toward the meadow at the edge of the woods.

In the end, for all his urging us to abandon society to itself and even turn away from ourselves as human, Jeffers’ vision is not a pessimistic one. Like Jung, for whom the turn away from the modern world facilitated a resurrection of banished demons and a healing of a wounded humanity, Jeffers argued that in detaching ourselves from a rigid and poisonous conception of what it means to be human, we discover a strength within us that can endure the agonizing flux of history. The horrors of the world are no less horrifying but we can be made to be much more resilient than we are. The late poem “Carmel Point” perfectly illustrates this hopeful quality in Jeffers’ thought:

The extraordinary patience of things!

This beautiful place defaced with a crop of suburban houses—

How beautiful when we first beheld it.

Unbroken field of poppy and lupin walled with clean cliffs;

No intrusion but two or three horses pasturing,

Or a few milch cows rubbing their flanks on the outcrop rock-heads—

Now the spoiler has come: does it care?

Not faintly. It has all time. It knows the people are a tide

That swells and in time will ebb, and all

Their works dissolve. Meanwhile the image of the pristine beauty

Lives in the very grain of the granite,

Safe as the endless ocean that climbs our cliff. — As for us:

We must uncenter our minds from ourselves;

We must unhumanize our views a little, and become confident

As the rock and ocean that we were made from.

The world burns and the ruins gather in piles all around us. There are those who criticize quietism and the desire to escape. In answer to them I will paraphrase the great Ursula Le Guin: What’s wrong with escaping? What else should a prisoner seek to do?


Ramon Elani

Ramon Elani holds a PhD in literature and philosophy. He is a teacher, a poet, a husband, and a father, as well as a muay thai fighter. He wanders in oak groves. He casts the runes and sings to trolls. He lives among mountains and rivers in Western New England.


Support our work here.