LAMENT: 4th response to Catafalque

In 2011 Peter Kingsley underwent a revelatory experience late at night:

Halfway through the night, it was like a call I could no longer resist. I knew I had to sink down inside myself to see what’s happening in my life; with my work; in the world. In the intense quiet which sometimes comes at the middle of the night I see that everything has stopped. But the stillness is full of terror because this isn’t the stillness of nature resting for the night. This is the stillness at the end of a civilization. Quite literally our western world has come to an end. (429 ff)

Earlier this year I had written a post, Darkness Darker Than Night,  in reference to Béla Tarr’s movie, The Turin Horse, which oddly enough was released in 2011, the year of Kingsley’s revelation of the final darkness. I describe the movie this way:

Throughout this movie, we enter an ever-deepening mood. At no point does the expected “I can’t take this any more!” arise. This mood, with its accompanying dreary music, does not belong to any character. It is a mood of inevitable, ineluctable, and final withdrawal of the light, the light that animates everything, that endows life with Meaning, the light without which we are reduced to automata, like the father and daughter. Their philosopher friend speaks of those that acquire and debase everything. This denouement occurs when we focus exclusively on our “little lights”, the light of ordinary consciousness, and ignore the greater light that surrounds us and informs us. This greater light must now appear dark and menacing, as Jung discovered as a young man.

After writing this passage down, on an impulse, I returned to my dream journal, the year 2011. I found this entry:

Last week I entered a waking state that led to my own version of Zosimos’ visions of torture and transformation: [1] 

“Rising heat, inflammation, skin breaks out, needles pierce me. I am asked to wear a nettle shirt, nails tear into skin, lesions from nettles increase, am tearing myself apart, gouging into myself, flaying my skin off, I am a victim, suffering under this onslaught. Can no body help me? I am under attack and I am attacking myself without mercy. There is no one to help it is all me. I am doing this to myself as I am being done to. Place of dark terror engulfs me. I am engulfed. Blackness, Don’t touch me I crave to be touched its agony unbearable, I want more, more gouging tearing in the blackness, deep whimpering fear, howls burst out, It’s all me there is no other, victim killer devour each other. Then … A silence, bloodied battered, exhaustion, there is nothing left. Space, emptiness engulfment to space, pure space I am pure space even though in saying this I know I have left that space, nonetheless I am space.”

At the beginning of his book Kingsley speaks of such crazy descents into Hell by reference to Parmenides:

Parmenides had allowed himself to be taken on the most terrifying journey imaginable—straight down into the underworld, the bowels of all existence, to meet the queen of death. … If you were extremely lucky you might make it down in one piece, then even come back alive—and safe. To anybody else, the underworld was deadly. (53-54)

I did make it back in one piece (after a year of such torture) and brought with me a series of poems (see below) that I received in that dreadful Stillness.  You could call them poems from the dead to assist us all in making the passage into death, the death of Western Civilization, as Kingsley’s book and revelations also teach us.

He speaks a lot throughout Catafalque about the central importance of becoming a mouthpiece for the ancestors:

Once we are cut off from the ancestors we are also brutally cut off from ourselves. There was nothing [Jung] considered more important. The ancestors, the dead, are the only true source of life in our world … to block off the realm of ancestors by refusing to value or acknowledge or respect it, as the modern psyche with its ruthless personality tries to do, is the prefect recipe for disaster. (223)

The earliest preparatory dream I had for encountering and then speaking for the ancestors occurred in 1986:

I am being initiated by Native Americans, the only white man. A ceremonial sacrifice in which we are placed on the cross and then cuts on the face and genital. I am also talking with the ancestors who are asking to be released by me. They are trapped. I gain a flash of insight—release into modern incarnation? The scene takes place in a garbage dump— the holy work of initiation in such a setting, with tramps, ill fitting clothes, garbage, bits and pieces…

There is now nothing to be done. It is the end of Western Civilization, and perhaps more than this. All my books and essays are a witness to this truth, over twenty-five years—just statements and re-statements of the early signs, made visible to the inner eye through language, of our Western civilisation’s utter destruction. It’s now happening outwardly, empirically, perceptibly, to ordinary eyes, but this empirical ending is just a post-script, or a posthuman script!

Kingsley offers us an appropriate response to this denouement:

The correct attitude right now is to come together to raise a ritual lament. You could call this the most basic hygiene, as well as sanity. We need to grieve; need to celebrate the ending before a clean new beginning can take place…this is the moment for marking, and honouring the passing of our culture. (442)

Or as a dear friend once wrote, “just drink up and welcome Ragnarok.”

 

Entire Response in 7 parts

[1] Jung, Carl (1983). “The Visions of Zosimos”. Alchemical Studies. Princeton University Press.