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 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

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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.


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The Anima of Disintegration

“Titanic forces war within us. A war waged by the blood against the intellect, between the influences of the industrial fallen world in which we live, and the primeval, fecund, blood drenched swamps that we remember in our dreams and in the shadows of the woods at night.”

From Ramon Elani

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“Life is never a thing of continuous bliss. There is no paradise. Fight and laugh and feel bitter and feel bliss: and fight again. Fight, fight. That is life.”

—D.H. Lawrence

The birth of the modern world brought with it the death of the old gods and their ways. As D.H. Lawrence wrote “it was in 1915 the old world ended.” When the factories came, when the machines arose, when history became the demon that had once haunted our groves and forests. The ethos of the modern age placed humanity at the center of the cosmos. They promised a world of endless human perfection, a world without suffering, a world were engineering could so arrange society that the demons would be driven out. But, as we know, the demons will always find other homes. Now we see what these promises have come to. A world of ash, a world of endless ruination. Inseparable from the acts of enclosure, from the mechanization of human life, came the prohibition against violence. Modernity and the techno-industrial society that it created, teaches us that violence is a thing to be abhorred, resisted, renounced, abandoned The Christ-worshippers and their other desert dwelling brethren of the crescent moon and the temple and the lamp teach us this. The servants of capital and industry persuade us to repudiate violence so that we might not be tempted to turn it against them. The ghosts and bones speak: we would rather die than live mechanically. There is truth in blood. Not in the blood of this tribe or that nation. But the pumping, wild, vital blood of the animal that still lives within us. There was a time when we listened to the lessons of the blood, before the spirit of the modern age told us to fear that voice. The spirits still dwell among the blood, in the world of instinct, of wildness. The spirits that modernity sought to quell. For my blood is of the ocean, and the ocean is of my blood. It is in blood and vitality that humanity discovers its true being. Modernity has taken the cosmos from us and replaced it with a lie. A grotesque lie, made of factory chimneys and machines. We would rather die than live mechanically! The techno-industrial world denies the blood and denies its expression in violence. As we shall see, there are few voices that argue more compellingly in defense of the truth of the blood and against the tragedy of the modern age than D.H. Lawrence.

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Though Lawrence had no direct contact with Sigmund Freud, the ideas of the unconscious and the subconscious run deeply through Lawrence’s oeuvre. The key point to make in this regard, however, is that Lawrence instinctively rejected Freud’s conclusion that pre-modern or pre-civilized humanity was nothing more than a horrific riot of bloodshed. Clearly there was blood and suffering but there was also a deeper connection to the mystical essence of humanity and to the cosmos as well. And the eradication of the primal violence of the pre-modern era also brought with it the derangement of the cosmos, the annihilation of the natural world, and the alienation of humanity. While Freud is terrified of primal humanity and sees it as a force that must be imprisoned, to protect humanity from itself, Lawrence finds the darkness to be fertile and ripe with meaning and beauty. In the words of Ursula Brangwen, heroine of both The Rainbow and Women in Love, “You are a lurking, blood-sniffing creature with eyes peering out of the jungle darkness, snuffing for your desires.” For all our veneer of civilization and rationality, we are still bloody beasts haunting the dark forests. And this is why modern humanity fears the forest. We know that among the shadowy trees and the uncanny light of the moon, we will find our true selves. Not only is there a truth in acknowledging the essential, primal, bloody nature of humanity but further, there is a greater beauty in it than the fictions of modernity and the humanists.

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For Lawrence, like Carl Jung, the unconscious is not merely the basement prison where our complexes and repressed memories ferment and mutate, as it is for Freud. Lawrence saw in the unconscious a burial mound, a haunted relic from pre-modern times where a world invigorated by blood still lived and breathed. The forces of industrialism and modernity sought to keep these ancient memories suppressed and thus deprive life of its true meaning: violent, bloody, life-affirming struggle. Lawrence was disgusted by Freud’s fear of primal humanity: “The psychoanalysts show the greatest fear of all, of the innermost primeval place in man, where God is, if he is anywhere.” For Lawrence, who had strong inhumanist tendencies, it was not clear that divinity still resided within humanity at all but if it did, if even a spark of the world soul still flickered in our hearts, it could only be in the depths, where we still lived as dark primordial beings, monstrous and bloody and alive.

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The soul of the pre-modern world is unapologetically violent. Blood ran freely and the people were possessed by blood. But the lived and they lived in the lap of the gods. They saw them, felt them in the roar of ritual and the darkness of oak groves. As we see everyday around us, humanity is dying. Its vitality denied. Its blood denied. Like a tree uprooted, humanity is torn from its intuitive life. Modern consciousness displaces instinct. We are taught to fear the body, for it is the source of wickedness. How telling that as modernity seeks to dispel the old gods, the same repressive impulse is given free reign by the stories of the Christ-worshippers. Thus modernity and Christianity go hand in hand. They work together to deny the body and its blood. To eradicate the world of nature, which cannot be conquered so easily by technics. Both fill our heads with stories of a world to come, in which all struggle will disappear. Humanity will live in peace, in harmony, as one. Whether this is told via the worship of Christ the Redeemer or Technology the Redeemer, the message is the same. The demons in our heart enter the world through the body and the blood. To keep them at bay, to suffocate them, we must deny our nature. Forget the body, it is the source of pain and misery. Deny the body until someday, the priests of technology promise, we may be able to do without them altogether.

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The only path for humanity that leads away from the waking nightmare of industrialism is to successively dive deeper and deeper within our psyches to rediscover the true self, the self forged in bloodshed, and animated by passion. As modernity evolved and expanded, this true self was buried beneath the lies of a benign, passive cosmos and a docile human nature. Industrialism taught us that the world could be controlled and that what was best for humanity should be our only concern. Thus the truth of blood became hidden from us. For Lawrence, our only hope is to swim through the oceans of the unconscious and to arrive again on the mysterious shores, thick with fierce life, where we abandoned ourselves. The intellect, the tool of industrialism, the demon of modernity, denies this true essence and pushes it down. In fact, the intellect seeks to persuade us that it never existed at all. The intellect, which speaks in the language of control teaches us to fear and disregard the things that overwhelm us, the forces that resist control. Thus violence is, above all, abhorred by the intellect. Violence appears as an irrational power. It seizes us in the language that only blood can understand. Everything that we have not chosen, everything that is above and beyond us is anathema to the intellect. And therefore, the intellect cannot help us understand the most profound experiences of life for truly, who can say that when they were consumed by the living heart of the world that the rational, conscious mind gave them words to express the wisdom that was bestowed upon them.

Lawrence dedicated his life to discovering the power that lead to greater wisdom than the bland, tasteless fruits of the intellect and the conscious mind. The power that could shatter the bitterness of the industrial world and its crimes against the earth. In a letter dated 1913, 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. What do I care about knowledge. All I want is to answer to my blood, direct, without fribbling intervention of mind, or moral, or what-not.

The inhumanist, who boldly asserts the limits of the human view of the world and the weakness and fragility of our species before the might of the cosmos, knows too that morality is nothing more than a trick of the mind. The blood pays no attention to these inventions that are not reflected in the universe beyond ourselves. Throughout his career, Lawrence sought to refine this view. He maintained that there was a seat of higher wisdom and greater self-knowledge than the mind. The blood contains its own consciousness, for Lawrence, separate from the rational faculties of the mind. In 1919, Lawrence writes:

the blood has a perfect but untranslatable consciousness of its own, a consciousness of weight, of rich, down-pouring motion, of powerful self-positivity. In the blood we have our strongest self-knowledge, our most powerful dark conscience. The ancients said the heart was the seat of understanding. And so it is: it is the seat of the primal sensual understanding, the seat of the passional self-consciousness.

In other words, our consciousness is not monolithic. Our innermost soul is Vigrid, the plains of battle where Ragnarok will be fought. Titanic forces war within us. A war waged by the blood against the intellect, between the influences of the industrial fallen world in which we live, and the primeval, fecund, blood drenched swamps that we remember in our dreams and in the shadows of the woods at night. Industrialism has deified the intellect, since it is by such powers that humanity has gained its cursed dominion over the earth. The heart and the blood will not assist in such an unholy crusade. The law of the blood is to tear down, to expend itself in a glorious detonation of fire. The intellect is a bridle, a yoke forced upon the wild human spirit. For truly, how else could those that hope to reduce humanity to a state of endless servitude accomplish their designs? The wild within us will not serve! It cries out with foaming jaws! The wild will must be broken in order to build the world of artifice and degradation that the Mammon worshipers desire. The call of the blood must be silenced. The vigor of humanity must be denied and renounced.

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The destiny of blood is war and struggle. Bliss and self destruction. As violence is denied, so to is the joy of an unfettered life. For Lawrence, predating Jung, the blood consciousness was seen as the subterranean force, which the domination of the intellect was built upon.

Destroy! destroy! destroy! hums the under-consciousness. Love and produce! Love and produce! cackles the upper consciousness. And the world hears only the Love-and- produce cackle. Refuses to hear the hum of destruction under- neath. Until such time as it will have to hear.

These two complimentary forces, destruction and creation, were both given their due in the world before industrialism crashed down upon us like a wind from the abyss. The imbalance in these forces is what now drives us to the precipice. Lawrence saw, like Jung, that the blood could only be denied for so long. Slumbering powers would not consent to dream forever. There will be a time when the blood rises again and it will take its revenge upon the bland, tasteless, ashen prisons that we have built around it. What will that time look like? Apocalypse. Revelation. The veil built by centuries of denial and repression will be shredded. And blood will return with a fury that we have never seen. It has grown rancorous in its years of imprisonment. Oh, that we had shown reverence to the blood and cast aside the chains of the machines and the intellect when we had the chance. And Lawrence saw all this: “There’s a bad time coming. There’s a bad time coming, boys, there’s a bad time coming! If things go on as they are, there’s nothing lies in the future but death and destruction, for these industrial masses.” A bad time, indeed.

The spirit of blood and violence screams in the words of Lawrence, “I’d wipe the machines off the face of the earth again, and end the industrial epoch absolutely, like a black mistake!” The gods fled in the face of these monstrosities that we gave birth to. And in our denial of them, they retreated further and further. And so humanity began to rot. Only in the vigorous struggle does life exist and only in the throes of a wild battle the likes of which have not been seen in hundreds of years, will the gods open their bleary eyes and gaze upon us with curiosity and something approaching tenderness. The intellect and modern consciousness lead us, again and again, away from the path. The intellect of consciousness knows nothing but anguish and dullness. It winds around and around in mazes of its own creation. But it is too blind and bedizened by its own design to ever find its way out. Look what I have created! It proclaims like a madman. But it is nothing more than its own tomb. The intellect knows nothing of value. It knows how to imprison, it knows how to divert the natural course of the water until it pools in fetid, subterranean filth. The blood, the blood only knows the language of freedom, the language of the gods. Truly there is nothing to fear from anger and the letting of blood. It is when blood is denied that it becomes stagnant and sick and infects the body of humanity. Born from the cosmos, humanities only hope is to return to the rhythm of the cosmos themselves. A rhythm of destruction and creation, death and rebirth. There can be no rebirth without death.

As Jung and others have articulated, the self is not the self. The unconscious and its hidden depths are not clear to us. They are murky as a forest tarn, thick and black with the compost of millennia of dead leaves. The unconscious, the deepest self, the blood self, the awareness of the bodily, returns to us only in brief glimpses and hauntings: “The self that lives in my body I can never fully know. . . My body is like a jungle in which dwells an unseen me, like a black panther in the night, whose two eyes glare green through my dreams, and, if a shadow falls, through my waking day.” To shun and renounce the intellect and the techno-industrial world is to dive into the world of dreams, to seek what we have forgotten in ourselves. At the bottom of the murky pool, we will find a beast. There is terror in the depths. But that is not all, for we can only be free and experience joy when we find and do homage to the monster that lives in our deepest places. For Lawrence, this path, the diving path meant abandoning the scientific view of the cosmos, which had grown out of modernity, the bloody sire of industrialism. Science represented to him the principles of death and the machine. The unconscious may be unknowable to the rational mind, to the intellect. But like Jung, Lawrence believed that we could rediscover our essential nature by returning to a religious conception of the universe. We must realize that the techno-industrial world and its rational, scientific view is precisely what puts us out of balance and separates us from the world of blood and wild nature. The ancient spiritual teachings of the pre-modern world sought not to explain the mysteries of the gods and cosmos, but to acknowledge them, to honor them.

Lawrence dedicated his life and creative efforts to articulating the meaning of the blood and rediscovering the true self that techno-industrial society has displaced. It ultimately led him to write this creed:

That I am I. That my soul is a dark forest. That my known self will never be more than a little clearing in the forest. That gods, strange gods, come forth from the forest into the clearing of my known self, and then go back. That I must have the courage to let them come and go. That I will never let mankind put anything over me, but that I will try always to recognize and submit to the gods in me and the gods in other men and women.

We must submit to the gods, and the blood through which they speak. Forces beyond our understand and control rule us, utterly. At best, we may hope to discern their presence in the nighttime places, the dreamtime places. Beyond this, the beauty and truth of Lawrence’s creed speaks for itself.

Unfortunately, Lawrence’s religion of blood and dark self-knowing was misunderstood by many. Bertrand Russell, who maintained a correspondence with Lawrence even identifies this philosophy as an antecedent of the horrors of the Nazis. Russell writes “He had a mystical philosophy of “blood” which I disliked…This seemed to me frankly rubbish, and I rejected it vehemently, though I did not then know that it led straight to Auschwitz.” Perhaps it is unsurprising that a philosophy of the world that conforms so much to Jung’s view also becomes conflated with abhorrent ideas and actions. It is also unsurprising that someone with such a radically rational perspective as Russell misunderstood Lawrence so outrageously. When Lawrence writes of the blood, I believe it is quite clear that he refers, like Jung’s collective unconscious, not to the blood of this particular race or nation but to the blood of humanity as a whole. To an impulse which is universal in humanity and a force that is vitally present in the non-human world as well. This is a cosmic force, not one that suffers the pettiness and vileness of nationalism or the intolerant, narrow minded hatred of the demagogue. Author Rex Warner likewise situates Lawrence in this milieu, writing in 1946: “There must be nothing at all gentle about the ‘dark’ force to which the dark independent outlaws of his dreams would owe a sort of reverence… Fascism finally succeeded, at least temporarily, in making the synthesis that eluded Lawrence.” Again, this misreading of Lawrence fails to acknowledge that the power of the blood brings with it joy and bliss, as well as violence and struggle. Lawrence is significant precisely because, like Jung, he understood that humanity must accept that it has a dark dimension to its nature. And that this element within us puts us in touch with the vast sublimity of the cosmos.

What both Warner and Russell mistake in Lawrence is the same problem that we can see so clearly in Freud: the hysterical fear of the realm of instinct, blood, and wildness. There is an assumption among over-rational minds that if there is something we cannot control within ourselves then that thing must be feared, abhorred, shunned, denied, or denigrated. There is something to be feared within the wild, bloody heart of humanity. But it is not this force that left unchecked that will turn the world into a graveyard. It is the other. The intellect, running rampant, will annihilate humanity and the world far quicker than the savage violence of those who sleep in tombs beneath the earth. No, let us be quite clear: the gas chambers and the unspeakable horror of the holocaust were born from the ruthless, rational, mechanistic mind of industrialism not from the pre-modern darkness that dwells in of the blood and its mysterious power. And likewise, there can be no doubt whatsoever that the rule of the intellect and the techno-industrial order is solely responsible for the destruction of the earth. A holocaust against the earth which has lasted every single moment of every single day for hundreds of years.


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

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