This morning I woke from dream with a bit of a headache, the sort I have come to associate with dreams that are just a little too big for the ole’ noggin. In the dream, Adam West’s Batman was explaining to me the principle of substitution while burning blue spheres of light spun slowly behind him, suggesting the tree of life.
The message was simple, that each sphere or sefirot was defined by the way in which it substituted one thing for another. Each sefirot had a basic substance which it used to represent to itself the message it received from other sefirot. There wasn’t a clear sense that this followed any easy pattern of descent or ascent, and there was a sense that the message retained some part of its original constitution. Over the course of being passed between several sefirot, a message would end up being a hodge podge of substances, of feeling and thought, matter and spirit.
There was a clear sense that this paralleled the way in which language operated. In the same way that language takes sounds and modulates them into meaning, so too does each sefirot modulate what it receives. Like language, the original medium (sound) remains and occasionally causes problems and resistance.
I pulled the collection of Yeats’s Vision materials off the shelf not long after waking without a clear reason. In the process of flipping around fairly randomly, I came across a discussion of beauty and allusion. The Yeatses’ spirits make a contrast out of the two, with beauty the final result of choice and ugliness the result of chance. Remember their distinction between the four faculties? Well, this goes back to that.
Beauty comes to fruition through the careful arrangement of material discovered in the Body of Fate. The principles of beauty make use of the Creative Mind’s understanding of how the Body of Fate is structured, its sequence. It is a neat way to think of beauty, really. What we ought to see in Beauty is an understanding of creation so deep that it can transform creation without mutilating it. The beautiful shows us the world as it is and that world is capable of sustaining profound beauty.
Ugliness, by contrast, is a product of the allusive, which the Yeats’s spirits affirm to be:
an object or image forcing its way into a picture…[that is] released involuntarily from the automatic faculty in which it has formed a coherent picture…[which is] the result of an imperfect interaction between the mask and creative genius [i.e., the creative mind]. (Yeats’s Vision Papers, Volume 2, 40)
The allusion is the point at which an otherwise automatic process enters into our experience of the world. While beauty finds its basis in the appreciation of the world, ugliness finds its basis in a symbolic network that erupts into the world as allusion. Beauty has its basis in analytic intelligence but ugliness has its basis in logical intelligence where “all is symbol but the result.”
This is starting to sound like commentary to Batman’s lesson, right? Keeping it grounded in the subjective experience of souls in this world, we can think of the sefirot as ‘automatic faculties’ which we access through specific kinds of symbolic practices (e.g., logic or the rites of Horus). What those practices make possible is the eruption of the symbolic world into the material world at a single point (e.g., a symbol or talisman).
Let’s keep going with the Yeatses. Their spirits describe a (lunar) cycle that join beauty and ugliness into a continuum. What emerges as mere chance and automatism as ugliness may become an aspect of the body of fate and so enter into manifestation of beauty. Intriguingly, when asked who the active agent in the process of allusion is, the spirits reply with “the person who does not reject the object” (Ibid., 30), i.e., the person who affirms the object as more than mere chance, the one who treats it as a truthful thing in the world.
The way in which a spiritual reality enters into material reality is through a being that affirms its truth. After that affirmation, it develops by a deepening relationship with the world, and through that becomes an element subject to beutification. This creates a path that joins revelation to art, with art the vehicle for spirit’s deepening attachment to the world. Simplicity grows elaborate, becomes fruitful in beauty, and goes to seed.
It is worth noting, too, that ugliness and allusion are joined to the dark of the moon, when the stars dominate the sky, when the distant heavens can whisper clearly to those of us on earth.
There is more to consider, I know (including the figure of Batman himself), but that will have to come with some quiet contemplation. This is probably as much as can be quickly managed with a blogpost.