The Higher Self in Christopher Brennans Poems: Esotericism, Romanticism, Symbolism (Aries)

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Want to Read saving…. Want to Read Currently Reading Read. Other editions. Enlarge cover. Error rating book. Refresh and try again. Open Preview See a Problem? Details if other :. Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. In a remarkable poetic work appeared in Sydney, Australia, written in the form of a Symbolist livre compose by one of Stephane Mallarme s earliest admirers, Christopher Brennan. The book, simply titled Poems , shows that Brennan was exploring pressing religious issues of his time.

He melded Western esoteric currents such as alchemy and Rosicrucianism with Romantic lite In a remarkable poetic work appeared in Sydney, Australia, written in the form of a Symbolist livre compose by one of Stephane Mallarme s earliest admirers, Christopher Brennan. He melded Western esoteric currents such as alchemy and Rosicrucianism with Romantic literature and philosophy and French Symbolist theory.

This book argues that the focus of Poems is the notion of a higher self. It is the first major study of Brennan s work in this broad religious, philosophical and literary context. Its argument is supported by evidence from Brennan's own library and the holdings of the Sydney library in which he worked. Get A Copy. Hardcover , pages. More Details Original Title. Other Editions 1. Expressive typography distinguishes poems with particular structural rolesepigraphs, interludes, the prelude to the entire work as well as separating o poems in an impersonal voice in the Lilith sequence from poems in other voices.

No page numbers or poem numbers appear in the text except that some poems within sequences are numbered with Roman numerals , capitalisation is restricted to the beginnings of sentences, and the tables, including the table of contents, appear at the end, as in a French text.

A number of aspects of this arrangement are apparent in the facsimile edition published by Wilkes in , 37 but there the reproduction of the text on much smaller pages signicantly alters the artefact by reducing the ratio of blank paper to text. Traces of his activities there may be found in the old card catalogue, now relegated to one of the lower oors, where there are 35 A throw of the dice will never abolish chance. I dont infringe this limit, only disperse it. Printed library catalogues, in some cases turned back to front, became notebooks.

His job seems to have left him plenty of time for his own reading and writing, but he was known for his ability to catch up quickly on his work mainly cataloguing when necessary. When A. Stephens of the Bulletin wrote an obituary for Brennan in , this is what he said about Brennans time at the library: The prime of his youth and brilliant proven talent as scholar, philoso- pher, master of six languagesEnglish, Greek, Latin, French, German, Italianand original writer in prose and verse, was spent in cup- board-musty weeks as a cataloguer at Sydney Public Library, ; thirteen years.

Popular belief that Brennan wrote salacious poetry seems to have contributed to his being passed over for positions at the University of Sydney on several occasions, and it was not until he was thirty- nine that he was nally appointed there. As we will see in succeeding chapters, however, he did not waste his time during those years of cupboard-musty weeks a quotation from one of the Poems. Turning his mind to the search for a substitute for the religion of his child- hood, he explored the self and the higher self, tackling the question head-on in a number of important pieces in Poems, which we will examine in the rst chapter.

Stephens, Chris: Brennan. Among the best intellects of our time, how few are there who freely accept the dogmas of the priesthood, and among the priesthood itself how many are there who sadly seek to believe at once in fact and fable, and to reconcile the revelations of religion with the revelations of science. For this class, the struggle between science and religion is fraught with terrible interest.

They would fain believe, despite their reason; they are compelled to reason, despite their belief.

Here he notes that writers in the popular press strive to avoid even the appearance of belief in the supernatural, while the dilemma is even more pressing for those in the priesthood. Believing that some kind of religion is a politi- cal necessity, 2 Clarke hopes for a new form of religious expression, with a dierent object of veneration, that does not depend on belief in the supernatural: Mankind, freed from the terrors of future torments, and comprehending that by no amount of prayers can they secure eternal happiness for their souls, will bestow upon humanity the fervour which they have 1 Marcus Clarke, Marcus Clarke: For the Term of His Natural Life, Short Stories, Critical Essays and Journalism, ed.

And this consummation of civilization is nearer at hand than many think. The demonstrably false, says a writer in the North American Review, now exists in occasional and limited survivals, and if the process of popular enlightenment continues in the future as in the present, a twentieth century will see for the rst time in the history of mankind a civilization without an active and general delusion.

During the later nineteenth century and after, many people in the West transferred their allegiance to alternative forms of religious expression, which they did not necessarily subject to the same sceptical scrutiny which had led them to abandon their previous aliations. Eleven years after the publication of Clarkes comments, when Brennan was a student at Sydney University, he read Herbert Spencers First Principles This was the immediate cause of his abandoning the Catholicism of his childhood and upbringing for agnosticism.

Huxley invented this term in to contrast his uncertainty with the certainty or gnosis knowledge of others. Although agnosticism was often taken as a synonym for atheism or scepticism, the main agnostics Spencer, Huxley, Stephen and Tyndall did not feel those terms accurately represented their position, which was one of genuine un-knowing. In his autobiographical fragment entitled Curriculum Vitae, he declares that at this time he was already beginning to elaborate a special epistemology of the Unknowable, which was the Absolute. Ninian Smart, et al. Brennan, Christopher Brennan, ed.

Brennans Master of Arts thesis, The Metaphysic of Nescience , represents a further development of this position. The word nescience, a synonym for agnosticism, is one used by Spencer himself. The point of departure of the thesis is the Kantian deduction that the noumenon the unknown ultimate reality is not accessible to the faculty of reason, a deduction which inspired the Romantics to dis- cover other human faculties which are not so limitedfaculties of vision, imagination and intuition. During his time in Berlin, Brennan began to explore possible alter- native versions of the unknown and unknowable God.

This involved an investigation of Gnosticism. With its emphasis on gnosis, or knowing, Gnosticism could be considered antithetical to agnosticism. Gnosticism appealed to Brennan, however, because it substituted for a personal or knowable God the notion that human beings themselves are of divine origin. Brennans earliest known encounter with the doctrines of Gnosticism was in , when he read Flauberts La Tentation de Saint Antoine. Demiurgus subordinate and B. Demiurgus evil. The Ophites and Marcion are listed under the second section.

A note referring to his rst reading of the work in implies later readings. These notes are written on the front endpapers, right-hand side. In some systems of Gnosticism, the demiurge is identied with the God of the Old Testament, who deprived human beings of the knowledge of good and evil. See I. Wiesner and I. Delmer: I have been reading Blakes prophecies and am now proceeding, along the track of the Gnostics, towards the East, to nd a mysticism with- out personal God or personal immortality, wherein to forget the vain hubbub of the West with its parochial religions and no less parochial atheisms [.

Meads Fragments of a Faith Forgotten that same year the year of its publication , 19 and his annotations indicate his interest in establishing connections between Lilith and gures of Eden in Gnostic myth, even though he had completed his Lilith sequence in These are the Gnostics, the fountain-heads of one of the great streams of mysticism in the West. What they oered in theology was an eirenicon, a theory which would explain and justify all special religions. MacMahon, Edinburgh: Clark, This letter sounds as if Brennan is considering adopting the doctrines of Gnosticism as a personal religious position.

However, this comment was made dur- ing the Boer War, and its criticism of the generally noisome worship of the Demiurge is primarily directed towards the triumphalist British rhetoric of God and country which Brennan loathed. Thus the primary application of this state- ment is political. It is likely that he is speaking of read- ing Meads book when he mentions proceeding, along the track of the Gnostics, towards the East.

Allen, who subsequently became a lec- turer in English at the Australian National University. Both owners have marked the book, Brennan in lead pencil and Allen, it seems, in red and blue pencil. I would compare symbol- ism or poetry with their eirenicon. It oers a theory of the world which is also a fact, a theory from which every religion must set out. Looking for a human divinity In response to the conicting pressures of scepticism and the desire for faith, there had been widespread interest during the early nineteenth century in developing a universal religion, which could be thought of as either extending or superseding Christianity.

Pierre Leroux was probably the rst to use the term religion of human- ity, in His 21 P, pp. Charlton expresses the advantages nicely: Instead of worshipping an imaginary god, separate from the world and human activity, men will devote themselves to a deity that unques- tionably exists and that demands no less reverence and service than the gods of the pastdemands, indeed, even more, for its very preser- vation and development will rely on our love for it.

Positivist religion thus satises the intellect in that its object is real, not illusory, and, unlike Saint-Simonism, it provides a tangible deity who can be sym- bolized in the guise of great men of the past. Translations by Ernest Renan and George Eliot ensured a wide reception for David Friedrich Strausss inuential essay in higher criticism, Das Leben Jesu, kritisch bearbeitet, published in The scepticism of the later nineteenth century, a well-established heritage of the Enlightenment, was immensely strengthened by this work.

Renans introduction denies the authenticity of miracles. In the earlier LAvenir de la sciencePenses de he had pronounced il ny a pas de surnaturel. His Posie des races celtiques , on which Matthew Arnold drew for On the Study of Celtic Literature , promotes the literature of the Celts as an important source of inspiration for Romantic writing, the Celts being seen as exemplary in their employment of the faculty of imagination.

Renan describes the ideal and representative character of Arthurian legend; this alone is able to explain why a forgotten tribe on the very connes of the world should have imposed its heroes upon Europe, and, in the domain of imagination, accomplished one of the most singular revolutions known to the historian of let- ters.

For my own part, I prefer the frank mythology, with all its vagaries, to a theology so paltry, so vulgar, and so colourless, that it would be wronging God to believe that, after having made the visi- ble world so beautiful he should have made the invisible world so pro- saically reasonable. A number of other books available to Brennan in the library, including studies of psychology, psychic 32 Ernest Renan, LAvenir de la sciencePenses de , ; Paris: Calmann-Lvy, n. William G. Hutchison, London: Scott, [], p.

Brennan could have found pertinent material in a variety of very disparate sources. Theories of the unconscious, such as that of Eduard von Hartmann, developed in a climate of widespread interest in various possible con- ceptions of a universal religion of humanity. In an article in the Revue blanche, which Brennan collected, Jules Laforgue relates Hartmanns work to trends away from personal conceptions of God agnosticism, for instance : Il est un domaine qui, on le sait, vient douvrir la science les forts vierges de la vie, cest latmosphre occulte de ltre, linconscience ; ce monde rservait la crature dbarrasse de ses dieux personnels, conscients et parfaits, mais que ne trompaient pas ses sicles dadora- tion perptuelle, le dernier divin, le principe mystique universel rvel dans la Philosophie de lInconscient de Hartmann, le seul divin minu- tieusement prsent et veillant partout, le seul infailliblede par son inconscience, le seul vraiment et sereinement inni, le seul que lhomme nait pas cr son image.

Evidently Laforgue felt that Hartmanns unconscious met the need of his age for a credible form of religious expression. Not having been created by humanity in its own image, the unconscious, con- sidered as a divine force, is felt to be immune to religious scepticism, although it is not clear why it should not itself be considered a cre- ation of the human mind.

Hartmann presents his philosophy of the unconscious as a form of monism. He relates it to religious and philosophical systems of the past, including mysticism and pantheism, as well as to the conceptions 36 Jules Laforgue, LArt moderne en Allemagne in La Revue blanche 9 , p.

It is the hidden atmosphere of being, unconsciousness; this world reserved for the creature divested of its personal, conscious, perfect gods, but whom centuries of perpetual adoration [of them] have not led astray, the ultimate divine principle, mysterious and universal, revealed in Hartmanns Philosophy of the Unconscious, the only divinity present in every smallest detail and keeping vigil every- where, the only infalliblebecause of its unconsciousnessthe only truly and serenely innite [element], the only one which mankind has not created in its own image.

Ellenberger, the Romantic psychologist Carus was the source of Von Hartmann and of the later philosophers of the unconscious. He states: Only when one has come to see that consciousness does not belong to the essence, but to the phenomenon, that thus the plurality of consciousness is only a plurality of the appearance of the One, only then will it be possible to emancipate oneself from the power of the practical instinct, which always cries I, I, and to comprehend the essential unity of all corporeal and spiritual phenomenal individuals, which Spinoza apprehended in his mystical conception and declared the One substance.

There exists only one individual, the One Absolute Individual, the single existence, which is All. Like it, I am born of the coincidence of relations, become another in every second because these relations become other in every second, and shall dissolve when these relations are dissolved. What is substance in me is not I. As Brennan knew, Novalis described the dissolution of the self in both the Hymnen an die Nacht and Heinrich von Ofterdingen. For a dis- cussion of early German Romantic notions of the unconscious, see page below.

Neoplatonism, founded by Plotinus in the third century AD, made an important contribution to mystical tradition, and Brennan refers to Plotinus experiences of mystical ecstasy in his lec- ture on Vision, Imagination and Reality In a chapter entitled The Unconscious and the God of Theism, Hartmann attempts to demonstrate the superiority of his idea of the unconscious to any conception of God as a conscious being. Although it must be designated by the negative prex un-, the unconscious is free from the limits of consciousness somewhat like the unknowable God of Spencer and might be more accurately designated as the super-conscious.

See P, p. In England, A. Orage was also interested in supercon- sciousness. He was a member of the Theosophical Society, interested in Neoplatonism, 28 cn. On the other hand, he who seeks and desires an immanent God, a God who descends into our breast and dwells therein, a God in whom we live and have our being [. It is a substitute for God, superior to God because unlimited by consciousness, but located within the human being to the extent that the unconscious of every individual is merely a function of one Universal force. In England, Frederick Myers expected the emergence of a new religion that would combine the universally appealing ele- ments of Christianity, such as immortality, with a scientic apprehension of the world.

Such investigations drew heavily on the evi- dence of abnormal psychical states, which had attracted much interest in the wake of mesmerism, and later of spiritualism. Like the Canadian Richard Maurice Bucke Cosmic Consciousness: A Study in the Evolution of the Human Mind, , whom he read, he was interested in superconsciousness as a further stage in the evolutionary development of human consciousness.

What Hodgson himself says is this: Those cerebral re-actions which sustain the volitions of a conscious agent, from birth to death [. During life there is no traceable reaction from this new organism upon the brain, within which it is being produced; but it becomes capable, on the dissolution of the body, of surviving as an independent organ- ism in that unknown material region, to which the material out of which it was organized originally belonged, carrying with it the mem- ory of those acts of choice, to which it owes its organization.

Here, Hodgson postulates 50 Turner, p. Brennan refers to Podmore in his lecture Vision, Imagination and Reality. This comment is in Brennans handwriting. The esoteric Christianity of Anna Kingsford and Edward Maitland emphasised that an inner, higher self may be released by a process of regeneration. The partnership of Kingsford and Maitland began in Maitland had lived in Australia in the s, helping to found the Goulburn School of Arts, whose library Brennan used while he was teaching in Goulburn in , 54 and forming a long-lasting friendship with Margaret Woolley, widow of Sydney Universitys rst principal and professor of classics, and an early member of the Theosophical Society.

Kingsfords back- ground was in freethought, anti-vivisectionism, womens rights and vegetarianism. The two were associated with the Theosophical Society in London for a time, and subsequently with the Hermetic Society, also in London. Frank Paul Bowman explains what this term refers to: The word does not mean today what it meant then. Traditionalism proposed that a universal revelation of religious truth had been given to man by God at the beginning of history, and transmittedor cor- ruptedby man ever since, but vestiges of it remained in the tradi- tions of humanity.

Charlton, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, , p. In one of the introductory essays to their edition of the Hermetic text Kor Kosmou, The Virgin of the World, Maitland makes substantial claims: All history shews that it is to the restoration of the Hermetic system in both doctrine and practice that the world must look for the nal solution of the various problems concerning the nature and conduct of existence [. For it represents that to which all enquiryif only it be true enquiry, unlimited by incapacity, and undistorted by prejudice must ultimately lead; inasmuch as it represents the sure, because exper- imental, knowledges, concerning the nature of things which, in whatever age, the soul of man discloses whenever he has attained full intuition.

Kingsford and Maitland represent the Hermetic texts as being of great weight and antiquity, claiming [t]hat the doctrine contained in the Hermetic books is in part, at least, a survival from the times of ancient Egypt. Greek myths themselves conceal profound occult truths.

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The under- lying message of the traditionthe hidden meaningis the potential of the human being to become divine, through a spiritual death and rebirth which reverse the eects of the Fall into material existence. Brennans position on the question of the antiquity of the Hermetic literature may be indicated by the entry in his handwriting under Hermes Trismegistus in the library card catalogue: Under the name of Hermes, the Greek equivalent of the Egyptian god Thoth, was collected a body of literature purporting to be a revival of the ancient priestly lore of Egypt.

It dates from the rst three cen- turies AD, was composed in Egypt, and contains mystical elements derived from Neoplatonism, Judaism etc. A further dis- cussion of traditionalism begins on page below. It is thus the birth of the soul, or faculty whereby we are enabled to rise from the nite to the innite, from the real to the ideal, from the earth to God, and to know that from which we have sprung, and to which it is our highest function to aspire.

Maitland argues against a personal deity, claiming that only the uninstructed materialising masses should be encouraged to think of the Trinity in personal terms; for the spiritual and philosophic thinker, the Trinity refers to principles rather than Persons. Higgins two volumes represent, by his account, many hours of gruelling researchI believe I have, upon the average, applied myself to it for nearly ten hours daily for almost twenty yearsas a result of which the author eventually concluded that the original doctrine, though perhaps the secret 59 This is in the old card catalogue, SLNSW, Sydney.

We have no direct evidence of Brennans familiarity with any of these works. Anna Kingsford, M. Massey, vol. The transcendental subject is a member of a dual ego, one part of which belongs to this world and the other called the alter ego to the transcendental world. They are transcendental faculties, reactions of the soul, conformable to law, on external inuences which remain normally unconscious because going on below the threshold [. The transcendental sub- ject it reveals is the common cause of body and mind and, as such, is continuous before and after death.

Twilights of the Gods and the Folk A number of pieces in Brennans Poems create a context in which the notion of an inner, higher self may be explored both as a psy- chological entity the unconscious mind and as an alternative form of religious belief. Two signicant sequences of poems on the theme of the passing away of religions occur in The Forest of Night. The rst begins halfway through The Quest of Silence with A gray and dusty daylight ows and includes about eight poems. Towards the end of this group of poems, attention is gradually transferred from the passing of religions to the possibility of a new religious form, especially in the two nal pieces, grouped under the title The Womb of Night.

When Brennan interprets Mallarms famous sonnet Ses purs ongles trs haut ddiant leur onyx, commonly referred to as the sonnet en -yx, in one of his Minuits chez Mallarm articles, he suggests that it is a poem about the departure of the gods. The missing funerary vessels Que ne recueille pas de cinraire amphore, line 4 73 of Mallarms poem are away drawing tears from the Styx, representing, for Brennan, the majesty anterior to the gods [. The symbols have lost their meaning: those seven stars in the northern sky are neither Kallist nor the Bear, nor the Wain, nor the septem trionesthey are just le septuor de scintilla- tions, and wait to be read anew.

The present dilapidation of the building in Brennans poem is con- trasted with its former role as a communal centre where worshippers had gathered on labour-hardened knees line 4. The gray and dusty daylight of the rst line anticipates the unglamorous gray day in which the speaker nds a kind of resolution at the end of the Wanderer sequence. The word dusty has similar connotations to the dust out of which Adam was created, and to which human bodies return at death. The poem expresses the dilemma a world empty of religious signicance poses for its inhabitants.

The absence of the rose, stated in the third line and reiterated with slight variation in the last line, recalls labsente de tous bouquets of Mallarms Crise de vers, the ideal ower which no actual bouquet includes but which all bouquets suggest. The poem which follows, Breaking the deserts tawny level ring, also uses the method of evocation by absence. Here, a desert oasis, a cell where once the god abode, has become a burning desola- tion line 6.

Three columns indicate that this place was once the focus of human worship, but the accompanying shade and water, which would make this a place where both physical and spiritual needs might be satised, have disappeared, so humans its leaning maid, line 4 are also absent. The hope once aroused by an oasis in the desert has not been fullled. Although this poem and the pre- vious one have similar themes, the tones are markedly dierent.

In 77 OCM, vol. One of the poems in The Quest of Silence, Out of no quarter of the charted sky, evokes the Ragnark, the passing of the Norse gods at the end of history. Brennan uses the conversion of the Norse peoples to Christianity to depict the cataclysmic eect of the end of a religion. Their land is barren and infertile the lands inicted blight, line 6 , the result of the battle in which they have been defeated as well as of the loss of the gods who ensured its fertility. The end of another immense cycle of history, the destruction of a star, has hurled to earth a meteorite the stranger stone [.

Such emptiness may be lled by a higher self. The sequence of seven poems under the title Twilights of the Gods and the Folk in The Labour of Night, mostly written in , develops and extends the theme, imagery and atmosphere of Out of no quarter of the charted sky. Twilights refers both to the passing of the gods especially those made familiar through the Nibelung cycle and Wagnerian opera and to the daily death of the sun at dusk.

The voice of the earlier poems is that of the folk themselves; as the sequence proceeds, these little folks, once brave number IIII, line 13 yield their place as spokespeople, rst to their conquerors number V , whose victory is hollow because the god they follow has absconded, and then to a more representative voice numbers VI and VII speaking on behalf of an entire humanity bereft of their gods. The physical setting is bleak and cold; Brennan may well have had in mind the Fimbulvetr Fimbulwinter , which, according to Norse legend, would precede the end of the world.

The second stanza of the rst piece describes the dawn [.


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In the fourth piece, the 38 cn. In this fourth piece especially, the sense of loss is vividly imagined and expressed. In the third poem of the sequence, In that last ght upon the western hill, we understand that the hero whose death has left the folk bereft is a pagan sun-hero; his adventures are those of the sun itself as it travels through the sky. This is evoked in the line and the mount smoked and trembled, and thou wert lost, which clearly refers to the giving of Old Testament law on Mount Sinai.

In keeping with the Gnostics interpretation of the Old Testament, Brennan links the parts of Christianity of which he disapproves with the God of the Old Testament, interpreted as an evil demiurge. It is the actions of such a demiurge which bring about the end of the pagan religion of the sun. The Norse hero to whom this piece most likely refers is Balder.

His destruction by means of the mistletoe, the only vegetation 80 Hesperian means of the west, evening or sunset; it also evokes the mythi- cal Garden of the Hesperides of Greek myth so-called because it was in the west , where the golden apples grew and were plucked by Hercules, interpreted as a sun- hero in a tradition going back, as Joscelyn Godwin points out The Theosophical Enlightenment, SUNY Series in Western Esoteric Traditions, Albany: State University of New York Press, , p. However, whereas other fertility gods, such as Adonis, are said to return from the land of the dead every year, Balder is fabled to return only at the end of time, following the cataclysmic Ragnark.

Such a cataclysm is imagined at the end of the rst poem in the Womb of Night sequence, which follows immediately after these two poems: Oh that all ends of the world were come on us and re were close beneath earths stubborn crust, and all our days were crumbling, ruinous lines The coming of a day of reckoning for the entire human race is envisaged, even wished for, as a catastrophe out of which an entirely new world might appear.

Apart from the Norse Ragnark, Brennan is likely to have drawn on the eschatology of other religions. The disapproving lines in 81 OCM, vol. Maitlands reduction of all myth to solar myth in The Perfect Way and The Keys of the Creeds must also have contributed to Brennans interest in pagan solar religion. There we read of the abandonment of Egypts religious belief, of foreign occupation and the replacement of the outward symbols of religious aliation, the temples and shrines, with symbols of death: And yet, since it bets the wise to know all things in advance, of this you must not remain ignorant: a time will come when it will appear that the Egyptians paid respect to divinity with faithful mind and painstaking reverenceto no purpose.

All their holy worship will be disappointed and perish without eect, for divinity will return from earth to heaven, and Egypt will be abandoned. The land that was the seat of reverence will be widowed by the powers and left destitute of their presence. When foreigners occupy the land and territory, not only will reverence fall into neglect but, even harder, a prohibition under penalty prescribed by law [.

Then this most holy land, seat of shrines and temples, will be lled completely with tombs and corpses. Every divine voice will grow mute in enforced silence. The fruits of the earth will rot; the soil will no more be fertile; and the very air will droop in gloomy lethargy. We know Brennan was familiar with the gure of Asclepius; in the notes he prepared for writing the Lilith sequence, he refers to the sacerdotal snakes of Hermes and Aesculap.

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They also contribute to a deliberate echo of Mallarms sonnet en -yx. The French poets Maint rve 82 Copenhaver, p. In warring against their cher- ishd name line 13 , the stars reject traditional symbolic associations of the constellations; the phoenix-birth after the cataclysm will have to provide them with new meanings. Brennans stars, like the former constellation in the sonnet en -yx now merely a group of stars , are all that remains of an old order whose meaning will have to be reforged.

Esoteric wisdom A sequence of four poems with the title Wisdom immediately pre- cedes the Twilights of the Gods and Folk. Here the gures of the historical King Solomon and the Preadamite Solomons of Arabic legend are the focus of an exploration of esoteric traditions, which are seen to have retained their power to signify, at least potentially. The three books comprising the wisdom literature of the Old Testament, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes Qoheleth and the Song of Songs, are traditionally associated with King Solomon.

By the rst century BC, according to Pablo A. Torijano, a new portrait of Solomon arose that described him as endowed with secrets and esoteric knowl- edge, i. From then on Solomon and demonology appeared together. Chisholm alters the order to agree with the Table of Contents in V, pp. The Table may have been compiled hastily, for in itemizing No. Agreeing with Wilkess later argument, I follow the original order of the poems. In the second appendix to his Voyage en Orient , Grard de Nerval , an author whom Brennan knew well, compares these beings with the elemen- tal spirits of European tradition: 89 Peut-tre les Europens se rendent-ils compte dicilement de ce quen- tendent les Orientaux par les races pradamites.

Ils supposent que la terre, avant dappartenir lhomme, avait t habite pendant soixante- dix mille ans par quatre grandes races cres primitivement, selon le Coran, dune matire lve, subtile et lumineuse. Ctaient les Dives, les Djinns, les Afrites et les Pris, appartenant dorigine aux quatre lments, comme les ondins, les gnomes, les sylphes et les salamandres des lgendes du Nord. Il existe un grand nombre de pomes persans qui rapportent lhistoire dtaille des dynasties pradamites.

Stephens a note on Nerval for the Bulletin in Later, two articles on Nerval appeared in the Bookfellow as part of the series Studies in French Poetry See P, pp. Perhaps Europeans realise only with diculty what the Orientals mean by the Preadamite races. They think that, before the earth belonged to humankind, it was inhabited for seventy thousand years by four great races originally created, according to the Koran, from matter that was elevated, subtle and luminous. These were the Dives, the Djinns, the Afrits and the Peris, originating out of the four elements, like the ondines, the gnomes, the sylphs and the salamanders of the legends of the North.

There are many Persian poems which recount in detail the history of these Preadamite dynasties. Belkiss is endowed with lonely beauty, but perhaps with something else as well. She comes from Arabia, blessed with the heat of a chymic sun line 7. The word chymic suggests alchemy, itself a word derived from the Arabic language. We may draw the inference that the Queen brings to Solomon from Arabia the secret wisdom of esoteric traditions. The union proves fruitful: desert blossomd where she came line 11 , and although the sand has long since covered over their traces, one yellow desert line 14 still joins them.

The identication, common in legend, of the Queen of Sheba with Lilith adds a further dimension to this poem. In a story in the Koran, in which Belkiss is not mentioned by name, King Solomon demonstrates that the Queen is a demon by forcing her to lift her skirt to walk across a glass oor which she believes to be water, revealing her hairy legs.

Gershom Scholem makes the following comments about the connection between the two in Jewish legend: Widespread, too, is the identication of Lilith with the Queen of Shebaa notion with many ramications in Jewish folklore. It originates in the Targum to Job based on a Jewish and Arab myth that the Queen of Sheba was actually a jinn, half human and half demon.

This view was known to Moses b. Shem Tov de Leon and is also mentioned in the Zohar. In Livnat ha-Sappir Joseph Angelino maintains that the riddles which the Queen of Sheba posed to Solomon are a repetition of the words of seduction which the rst Lilith spoke to Adam. In Ashkenazi folklore, this gure coalesced with the popular image of Helen of Troy or the Frau Venus of German mythology.

In the second and third poems of this sequence, Solomon has dra- matically extended his powers. The Solomon of the second piece has put elemental spirits to work building the Temple, and kept them at work by ensuring that his body appears to be supervising 92 I follow Brennan in referring to her as Belkiss. See discussion on pages below. They reappear in the fourth poem of the sequence. In the third poem Solomon is buried in a tomb beneath the Temple, guarded by a seraph, waiting, like King Arthur in British legend, for the day when he will be restored to life.

In the meantime his word of might is gured in solid re and is therefore still sterile line This solid re links the poem to the next one, where it appears in the breasts of the Preadamite Solomons. It is well known that William Beckfords Vathek inuenced the fourth poem. The primary interest of Brennans piece lies in the outcome, which is dierent from that of Beckfords story, a dierence consistent with Nervals reworking of the material.

In both Beckfords and Nervals stories, a signicant part of the action takes place in the legendary subterranean sanctuary of re beneath the mountain of Caf, but this sanctuary has opposite values in the two tales. The rst stanza of Brennans poem recreates the legendary setting: In Eblis ward now falln, where wisdom rose, beyond the East and past the fane-strown sands, are jasper caverns hewn of Afrit hands, whereover Caf hath hung its huge repose.

In Vathek, the wicked Caliph and his wife receive their just deserts at the hands of Eblis Satan himself, because their desire to gain the power and riches of the Preadamite wizards is evil. In Nervals story, the subterranean cavern belongs to the race of Cain. Solomon, whose God is a kind of inferior demiurge, is the unsuccessful lover; Nerval champions the esoteric above conventional morality.

See Wilkes, The Wisdom Sequence, p. This is similar to the solid re of the dead King Solomon in the previous poem. It seems to represent latent power, ready to be reawakened in the future, a woe but not a hellish, intolerable burning. In the subterranean palace of Nervals story, the element of re is imprisoned within stone so that re may be struck from it again later to warm a cooling earth.

This is consistent with the ability of a wizard or magus to transmit power into gems, explained by Walter Pagel: Mighty power is wrought in Words, Plants and Stones. According to neo-Platonic as well as Paracelsian speculation, the magus transfers the powers of the stars to plants and in particular to gemsthese are the Gamaheu of Paracelsus and may be regarded as the successor of the Gnostic and Abraxas gems with their characteristic graven images. Brennan may or may not have known this magical tradition. He must have known, though, the famous image of the hard, gem-like ame in the conclusion to Walter Paters The Renaissance: Studies in Art and Poetry.

It is clear that the rose in Brennans poem is coloured by the rays of the sun, obviously coming in through a narrow aperture, or perhaps a series of apertures. According to Clark, Brennans enthusiasm for Paters Marius the Epicurean began in , while he was teaching at Goulburn, and he reread this book twice during his time in Berlin and once again on his return to Sydney.

It seems unlikely, then, that he would not have familiarised himself before too long with the well-known Renaissance. Not the fruit of experience, but experi- ence itself, is the end. A counted number of pulses only is given to us of a variegated, dramatic life. How may we see in them all that is to be seen in them by the nest senses?

How shall we pass most swiftly from point to point, and be present always at the focus where the greatest number of vital forces unite in their purest energy? To burn always with this hard, gem-like ame, to maintain this ecstasy, is success in life. Art, Pater suggests, can maintain this ecstasy beyond its momentary manifestation. While the poems of the Wisdom sequence, then, take their place with the Twilights of the Gods and the Folk among the poems dealing with the passing of religions, a sense of potential for the future is conveyed by the imagery of solidied re in the fourth poem.

This is consistent with the continuity of esoteric traditions emphasised by Brennan in the rst of the Symbolism lectures, where he traces the history of the notion of correspondences from Eccle- siasticus to the Middle Ages: Its statement goes backI do not pretend to be able to x a limit to Ecclesiasticus, that all things go by opposed couples; occurs again in the so-called Smaragdine Table of Hermes, that as things are below so are they above: all things which are on earth exist in heaven in a heavenly manner, all things which are in heaven exist on earth in an earthly manner; it is the fountain-head of that ood of symbolism which, swelling high in Gnosticism, ows down the Middle Ages in the dierent channels of Catholic orthodoxy, Rosicrucianism, and Kabbala, with sediments of alchemy and magic, those queer attempts to realize the symbol in the department of practice.

The second and third poems stress that King Solomon has been entombed for a very long time, while the fourth poem shows the powers of the Preadamite Solomons solidied into stone. The hints in the third and fourth poems, however, that both the historical and the Preadamite Solomons might be reawakened at some future time, and that their powers remain latent, give eso- teric wisdom a dierent status from the religions evoked in the Twilights sequence.

Whereas other religions, linked to a particular community of people, pass away completely, esoteric wisdom endures in the traditions that preserve it, somewhat equivocal in its value an ice-bound woe but by no means as absolutely bad as it appears in Vathek. My hidden country One of the two Epilogues comprising the last section of Brennans Poems, and several important pieces from The Twilight of Disquietude and The Quest of Silence, explore the notion of a higher self, located within the psyche but possessing aspects of divinity. The rst Epilogue draws on mystical theology for its exploration of an ecstatic experience in which the self is united with the divine.

The poem describes an inner peak, located deep in my hidden country, where the speaker is exposed in imagination to the elements, in the close embrace of night and its starry shaken hair of gold line Unlike almost all the other poems, the two Epilogues have titles: the rst is and the second The dates refer to important periods of Brennans life. These two poems complete the symmetrical arrange- ment of the work. In a work whose title is apposite to the quest for a higher self, Theosophy or Psychological Religion , Oxford pro- fessor F.

Max Mller identies the hierarchies of angels described by Pseudo-Dionysius with the ons, hypostases appear- ing in Gnostic systems such as those of Basilides, the Docetae and Valentinus who had thirty ons, grouped into eight, ten and twelve. In Mllers view, the object of the Dionysian mystical quest is a God who is unknowable: The highest scope with Dionysius was assimilation to, or union with God. In order to reach this union the truly initiated have to be released from the objects and the powers of sight before they can penetrate into the darkness of unknowledge gnvsa.

The initiated is then absorbed in the intangible and invisible, [. According to Paul Rorem, [t]hey were actually written some ve hundred years later, although we do not know precisely when or where. The inuence of these texts, The Divine Names, The Mystical Theology, The Celestial Hierarchy, The Ecclesiastical Hierarchy and the Letters, had a profound impact on the development of mysticism, extend- ing over many centuries, thanks to the ninth-century translation by Scotus Erigena.

Dionysii, according to Marsdens unpublished research. Brennans pools of clearest blue, glad wells of simple sooth and glacier springs lines recall the visions poets are granted in pools or fountains of water in works of Novalis and Keats. In Novalis Heinrich von Ofterdingen, the young poet after whom the novel is named has a prophetic dream in which visions appear when he steps into a fountain located in a cave.

In the notes he wrote in From Blake to Arnold on Wordsworths Immortality ode, Brennan glosses thy beings height Of heaven- born freedom on thy beings height as those regions of the soul remote from the dailiness of existence, whereupon, as the sunken sun upon mountain summits, the splendour of eternity yet falls. According to Mller, the mystical stages of ascent towards the divine in the system of Dionysius culminate in unication with God and deication [. The Promethean challenge is fur- ther developed as an antinomian rejection of Old Testament law, and the God who gave it, in the second-last stanza: NS, vol.

A detailed discussion of the inuence of Novalis on Brennan begins on page 67 below. Pickburn, and J. Le Gay Brereton, eds. Brennans abandonment of the notion of Hell, the ultimate form of punishment under the Law of God, and his adoption in of the notion of an unknowable God, may be seen as the foundation of the mystical theology of the self adopted here. Two poems Brennan planned in late or early , when Hartmanns work on the unconscious had been available for some time, convey the speakers longing to gain access to the hidden depths of his own being. The mother-deep, wise, yearning, bound creates an image of the mother-deep, located beneath my heart lines What do I know?

Myself alone refers to the sleeping depths, which are too profound to be aected by any actions undertaken by the speaker line 7. I believe that both the deep and the depths refer to a higher self, which Brennan thought of as the human unconscious. The solitary eyelit-slits through which alone this realm may be glimpsed The mother-deep, line 6 reect the inuence of Blakes insistence in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell that man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro narrow chinks of his cavern, that is, through the senses, whereas if the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, innite Pl.

The old stars have been dislodged from their place by the loss of faith of apparently apocalyptic dimensions portrayed in Disaster drives the shatterd night. To gain access to the inner abyss or gulf of uncreated night line 2 would forge that abyss into a new creation, signalled by new stars. One poem, placed by Brennan in the section dealing with the passing of old religions in The Quest of Silence, uses the device Brennan rst read Blake in Berlin. See CB, p. The setting of Lightning: and momently draws on European conceptions of the Orient.

Lightning-ashes reveal glimpses of an Arabian city, a mirage. On the battlements appears a gure whose face, under the high turbans plume, is that of the speaker him- self line Explorations of the transcendental self such as those of du Prel, as well as literary explorations of the doppelgnger in the stories of E.

Homann and Edgar Poe, are obviously rele- vant, but the Oriental setting may be directly indebted to Nervals explorations of the double in the Voyage en Orient and Aurlia. Caliph Hakem has a double called Yousouf, who belongs to the religion of the Druzes.

Only the Caliph is ever aware of the resemblance between the two, which is so marked that Yousouf is able to take Hakems place even with his wife. Perhaps, suggests the narrator, Yousouf is a Ferour, a supernatural being from the Zoroastrian religion whose role resem- bles that of a guardian angel. In Nervals Aurlia, too, the double plays an important role.

In this work, published posthumously in , Nerval explores the dreams and visionary states characteristic of his own mental illness. The work begins with a vindication of such states as points of entry into the invisible world. The narrator asks himself: Mais quel tait donc cet Esprit qui tait moi et en dehors de moi? Navais-je pas t frapp de lhistoire de ce chevalier For more on the beginning of Aurlia, see pages below. Esoteric traditions alone, perhaps, have an enduring relevance.

Some of the poems raise the possibility that we might be able to discover something within the self that could somehow transcend everyday reality and that might even be able to renew the signifying power of old symbols. Brennan uses the sym- bol of Lilith as a focus for his exploration of these issues in Poems. In the next chapter we look at the rst three poems of the Lilith sequence, exploring these dense and dicult poems in the broad intellectual context that is required to grasp their concerns and the implications of their imagery.

We nd Brennan weaving together notions derived from religion, philosophy and psychology to create a symbol of what was for Romanticism humanitys lost heritage: an inner capacity to intuit the noumenon or the divine, or the Absolute operating through the faculty of imagination. Bypassing discursive reasoning, such a faculty could provide access, even if only provi- sional, to the Unknowable. Was this the legendary Double, or that mysterious brother whom the Orientals call Ferour? Hadnt I been struck by the story of this knight who fought all night in a forest with a stranger who [was] himself?

A terrible idea came to me: Man is double, I said to myself. It was Yeats who wrote most of the long section in the rst volume entitled The Symbolic System, 1 in which he used his knowledge of the writings of Jakob Boehme and Emanuel Swedenborg to help interpret Blakes symbolism. An enterprise of this nature, inspired by common esoteric and mystical interests between Blake, writing at the beginning of the English Romantic period, and Yeats, writing at its very end, must have been of particular interest to Brennan.

In fact, his own enterprise in Poems is underpinned by an awareness of the complex relationship between esoteric and Romantic ways of thinking, which he encountered in Yeatss approach to Blake and was able to explore more widely through his knowledge of European Romanticism. The notes Brennan made on this material during his preparation for writing the Lilith sequence aord some important insights into the origins of his Lilith, Lady of Night, and her relationship with Adam.

Brennans notes concentrate on the gure Boehme called Sophia, the mirror or looking-glass of the godhead, a powerful paradigm of the imagination as mediator between the noumenal and the phenomenal realms. Clearly, Brennan appreciated the signicance of this paradigm and wanted to consider Lilith in relation to it. Yeats, ; 3rd edn, rev. Alspach, [London]: Hart-Davis, , p. This note- book is an old printed library catalogue in which Brennan has written from the back to the front. Folio numbers have been attributed in these citations.

We know these notes were made after 11th January, , as they include a reference to the paper Fact and Idea, delivered on that date. It is that represented by the circle con- taining the triangle of the ancient mystics, and may be described as the imagination of God, without which neither Father, Son, nor Spirit could be made manifest in life and action.

In one of the aphorisms written in the Laocoon plate, it is called The Divine Body [. To this emanation, to give it the Blakean term, of the Father, is applied constantly by Boehmen the word looking-glass [. God looking into this mirror, ceases to be mere will, beholds himself as the Son, His love for His own unity, His self-consciousness, and enters on that eternal meditation about Himself which is called the Holy Spirit.

It and the mirror make up together divine manifestation. At rst the thought-forms subsist and move in this universal imagination which liveth for ever without being manifest to themselves and each other as separate individualities, not being lives but thoughts of the universal life. Then comes the contrary of the universal life, the reaction of man against God, the longing of the shapes and thought-forms for a vivid sen- sation of their own existence. Desire is its name, and to it Boehmen traces the fall into physical life.

He describes how the looking-glass, which is emanated from the godhead itself, functions as the divine self-con- sciousness. The looking-glass holds the thought-forms resembling Platos ideas , which will later become separate existences in the material world. Edwin John Ellis and W. Although Yeats employs Boehmes Trinitarian expression in discussing the primary myth of the Boehmian cosmogony, his presentation is overtly Platonic and occultist, less Christian than Boehme.

His presentation entirely omits Boehmes association of the gure with the divine Wisdom Sophia. Yeats describes how, in Boehmes cosmogony, the divine imagi- nation was itself subject to a Fall into materiality as the forms in the mirror sought separate existence. The mirror itself, the divine imagination, is subject to the tension of contrary principles, the seeking and alluring, masculine and feminine, repulsive and attrac- tive, of corporeal life, opposing impulses upwards to the divine and downwards towards entrapment in the material: when the lives become spectres or selfhoods, the mirror, in its turn, grows spectrous, and is changed into a vortex, seeking to draw down and allure.

It ceases to be a passive maternal power and becomes destroying. This double being of corrupted spirit and mirror is the serpent- woman of the rst night of Vala and the virgo-scorpio of the ancient occultists. It is the delusive goddess Nature.

In the notes for the lecture on Blake in his lecture series on Symbolism, Brennan refers to the delusive god- dess Nature, the serpent-woman who is the mother of this world of mystery and jealousy. We can imagine Brennan, his interest aroused by his reading of Yeats, searching the library in which he worked for further infor- mation on Boehme. There he would have found T.

Although Yeats owned the four-volume Law edition of Boehme which Brennan him- self acquired in , a gift from the mother of his friend John le 56 cn. This work contains numerous quotations from Boehme, drawn from the text prepared by Julius Hamberger for publication, together with an enthusiastic discussion of the teachings. From these texts, Brennan could have built up a more substan- tial understanding of Boehmes mirror. Martensen quotes from Boehmes Menschwerden, or Of the Becoming Man or Incarnation of Jesus Christ to explain the metaphor of imagination as a looking-glass: For the nothing causes the willing that it is desirous, and the desiring is an Imagination wherein the Will in the Looking-glass of Wisdom discovers itself, and so it imagines out of the abyss into itself, and makes to itself in the imagination a ground in itself, and impregnates itself with the Imagination out of the Wisdom, viz.

Therefore God forbade Adam, while still in Paradise, to eat in imagination of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, else he would fall into misfortunes and death, and die to the heavenly kingdom, as indeed happened. As a result of this sleep, Eve is created: in place of the retreated heavenly virgin, the terrestrial woman. William Howitt, London: Bohn, , p.


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