273 Now we shall take a look at our theme from the personal angle. The critical spirit becomes more acute when we penetrate into lower strata or layers that have been displaced from reality. We enjoy the trip beyond the line onboard a luxury yacht. The service was so exquisite that we hardly even noticed it. Five stewards stood by to satisfy all our desires; a chef de service supervised and harmonized their activity.
In the tropics we had to transfer to another ship. Here, too, there was nothing to object to in the way we were treated. In any event, it was not comparable to the previous ship; there we had experienced an optimum.
These are questions of style. The way we used our five senses and our consciousness did not lead beyond approaches, where proximity meant less than the linearity of the intention, which we used to call “faith”. Any plane can become oblique.
The image of a luxury yacht might lead to the mistaken notion that approach is equivalent to rising up in the hierarchy, or to refinement. The truth is rather the contrary. On elevated planes, at a distance from the reticulum, the risk of obliqueness also increases, and consequently it also gets harder to remain upright—equilibrium requires the skill of a tightrope walker. It is hard to learn, sometimes it is only acquired after generations, through inheritance.
To give with just discretion, to work righteously, to know how to judge, becomes an enormous task the higher one rises. In this respect, consider Matthew 19:23: “Verily, I say unto you: it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven!” In general, this whole chapter is instructive with regard to the reduction of ethical problems to pure structural forms. Verse 8: “… at first it was not like this.” In those times, wealth had not yet been divided. Every attempt to link power and justice, power and the spirit, therefore points towards a restoration.
The hidden fibers of the undifferentiated are found throughout the realm of diversity. “Bread” informs the meaning of the food of rich and poor, it becomes synonymous with every gift, it is even converted into a sacrament. Thus, “the word” is also found in every language.
If I had the impression that LSD, contemplated as a vehicle, does not transport one beyond the antechambers, which are nonetheless decorated with very exquisite taste, I had undoubtedly undergone experiences that provided a basis for this notion. And so it was; I began this Mexican section with the most pleasant memory. This does not presuppose any objection to the acuteness of the esthetic judgment, although it has not made my stay in a society organized according to merely economic-dynamic principles any more agreeable. Here one proceeds more easily if one has a thick skin.
Albert Hofmann was probably right when he said that the dose had been too small. We had discussed the idea and agreed on several occasions to undertake a second excursion; the last time we spoke was in December. Twice our plans were postponed by the flu, then by snow-covered roads and an automobile accident: small signs in favor of the suspicion that the right moment had not yet arrived.
In any event, our first venture had also taught us some lessons—especially in the way that it had cast the qualities in their mutual opposition into such powerful contrast and instilled them with so much life. There is a big difference between perceiving mere properties or qualities: in the latter case one not only perceives the object, but also its “charge”. The world is still the same but the nature of perception can decide between the calling of a natural artist and the job of a house painter. Here, training does not help. Even so, an initiation might perhaps instill one with respect for the mystery of light and colors.
In dreams we also see objects that have been freed from their everyday properties and have gained quality. The world acquires a twilight aura. Things still preserve approximately their usual contours, but not their status and their names; at the same time, they radiate more energy. The night recharges them. If they were to acquire more energy, we would leave the realm of dreams and penetrate a new reality.
This is what is gained from approach that goes halfway: that the rising tide of being inundates the world with greater force. If we proceed beyond qualities, dreams, heroes and gods, then the risk increases. The benefit can become ineffable—but then it is also incommunicable. Nonetheless, the “having once been there” can transform the human being in such a way that it remains hidden to him, and does not penetrate into his consciousness.
This is also true of serious illnesses, very profound ecstatic intoxications, and epileptic attacks, which can be followed by a glimpse of the resurrection. In artists, a change of style. Not only is there an organ of generation, but there is also an organ of creation. Here one approaches the undivided world. This is how the great founders returned—from the caves of Mecca, from the shadows of the fig tree, from the desert, from the Sinai.
Psychonauts 275 I would like to once again return to the blue thread. As I said, I had once before attempted to describe it—in a brief narrative: A Visit to Godenholm. Here is an excerpt:
“Every now and then, Schwarzenberg burned a stick of incense to clear the air. A blue thread rose from the incense holder. Moltner contemplated it at first with amazement, and then with fascination, as if his eyes had acquired a new power. Here, the playfulness of this aromatic substance was disclosed, which rose like a slender stem and then took the shape of a delicate ring. It was as if this smoke had been created by his imagination—a pale fabric of marine lilies in the depths of the sea, which hardly move at all under the undulating waves. Time made its effect felt in these forms; it stretched them, concentrated them, and curled them, as if imaginary coins were being stacked one upon another. The multiplicity of space was disclosed in the fibers, in the enormous number of nerves that formed the thread and spread out in the air.
“Then a slight air current came into contact with it and made it turn gracefully on its axis, like a ballerina. Moltner uttered a cry of surprise. The spokes and lattices of the marvelous flower turned towards new prairies, towards new fields. Myriads of molecules surrendered to harmony. Here, laws no longer acted under the veil of appearances; matter was so subtle and weightless that it allowed the laws to be discerned directly. How simple and irrefutable it all was! Numbers, measures and weights arose from matter. They were stripped naked. No goddess could have communicated with the initiate in a more audacious and free manner. The pyramids, with all their weight, did not attain to this revelation. This was a Pythagorean splendor.
“Here, in the rhythm of changing shapes, a feeling became evident, which, like the shudder one feels at the edge of a cliff, strikes the researcher when he trespasses beyond the borders of his field. But it was more beautiful. And more serene.”103 This will suffice as a fragment of an initiation. Its quotation is warranted, insofar as it describes impressions that are typical of this degree of approach. Another feature that is typical is the increase of the power of the color blue. One should also pay attention to the empirical world.
We certainly encounter, not only in the awakening of national consciousness, but also within internationalist revolutionary movements, a marked predilection for certain colors. The color red benefits from the fact that it has a power that lies beneath the political hierarchies, as a pure elemental color, and its appearance in the fire of conflagrations and volcanoes, but above all in blood. Against it, the white of the Bourbons, or, later, the black or brown shirts, could not triumph. In any case, this red depends on constant motion, like the circulation of the blood of the beating heart. The color red is displayed in battle, and especially in civil wars.
Blue, on the other hand, is the color of the spirit and of the higher unities attainable only through the spirit. As the color of the cosmic and planetary immensities, it also symbolizes the computerized spirit that is victorious over the passions. In its domain, there is no hatred.
These observations pertain to the attention deserved by the appearance of the color blue as a symbol. Symbols are, of course, the products of a selection, but before the selection there must be a pre-selection in the depths. Later, they will converge and, in this sense, it is agreed that blue and silver symbolize aeronautics.
276 When we characterize impressions as typical, we presuppose that they are not the objects of claims by a single individual, but that they are also shared by others.
The flow of blue light heralds approach. This phenomenon is typical; it breaks down in individual perception. Just by chance, I recently received a privately-published book: Schicksalsrune in Orakel, Traum und Trance [The Runes of Fate in Oracles, Dreams and Trance States](Arbon-Press, Arbon, 1969). It contains Rudolf Gelpke’s notes concerning the experience of space flight as recounted by “astronaut Dr. Erwin Jaeckle, in Stein am Rhein” (December 2-3, 1966).
I will quote a few notes relative to our theme:
19.00: Dropped (0.2 mg LSD).
20.45: Feel “lighter”.
20.55: Now the effect is beginning to be felt clearly. Intensity of blue (smoke from an incense stick, shadows in the room). “Even lighter.”
21.10: Colors: Following the “approximation of blue”. Acoustics unaltered (on the bells of the clock tower: “always as in a village”).
21.15: “The painting on the wall takes on a third dimension.”
21.20: “I could imagine that a water lily floats this way on its stem. My favorite aphorism: The greatest love is objectivity, even better in Latin: AMOR MAXIMUS AMOR REI (EST): the acronym reads: amare.”
21.25: “Now I am sober again…. desire to remain in the moment, without interruptions or evasions…. Clear blue, unusual freshness, also on my skin, how marvelously fresh…. I feel as if I am in a sauna, but it could also be water…. the shadows are becoming more distinct, yes, they are breathing.”
21.35: Outside, the noise of motors. “Yes, the motor also agrees…. Gelpke, where are you floating?”
21.50: Various colors, then they all disappear. “Presence is transparency…. The light is always good.”
22.00: “Ernst Jünger is always talking about ‘ascent’ because he lives in a cave—Only ‘flying’ seems beautiful to him.”
22.55: “… I have always known that the eye is a knot of a tree.”
Also after the gradual descent, unusual visions that, in part, are only accepted by those who are in a similar state of mind. For example: “Schelling: he conceals abysses, he knew more than he knew.” Or: “In Rome—I have seen the writing of Petrarch: he had the power of a hangover, but no weight.” Or: “My complexes are totally on the surface. Deep down I am identical with myself, that is: without vanity.”
Finally, “on the return flight”, sentences especially devoted to ecstatic intoxication: “This is not drunkenness: it cannot be compared, by any means, with alcohol—they are completely different languages. In narcosis we sink: until the water closes over us. Here, however, we ascend: the sky opens up like a flower.”
And finally: “Ascent and descent have symmetrical properties.”
277 If, in some passages of these extremely abbreviated notes, the reader perceives echoes of the preceding reflections, it is a sign that his reading of this book has borne fruit.
In every era, long before Delphi and Dodona, the revelations disclosed to the aspirant who beholds the vision are complemented with the interpretation of the initiate, of the person who is experienced with internal landscapes. The secret heart of nature is approached in the voice of the enraptured aspirant, but he needs an augur to discern, according to his rank and importance, the often confusing oracles.
Fashion has seized upon the psycho-pharmaceuticals just as it embraced astrology. The newspapers are full of articles about these questions. It is not by chance, but a sign that heralds growing, unsatisfied needs. The century will not conclude without some strange phenomena supervening yet.
Everyone writes poetry, but who has written the perfect poem? This is also true of interpretations. Here, the history of discoveries has hardly even begun; places and names are missing on the white spaces of the map of the internal world…. Babel, the Bab-el-Mandeb, the Sinai. It is rare to see, as in the Apocalypse, a brilliant light.
At what point will man become identical with himself? If he manages to live up to the maxim, “know thyself”, then he will have bloomed. The mother and the father also have to become one.
The power of images is displayed in the fact that they have us in their power. However, they can exercise an even more imperious constraint: they absorb us. When we penetrate into the elements, into the characters, into the spirits, into the gods—which does not mean that we become identical to them, but to ourselves: we conjure our absent being.
278 When, in Section 276 above, I mentioned the name of Rudolf Gelpke,104 I was reminded of the first time I met him, when I began to concern myself with the third phase, the Mexican phase, of approach. At that time he was living with his mother and his sister in a villa not far from Basle, a city where I had lived sporadically, but always with pleasure, during the 1950s.
His mother drove to Binningen to pick me up and take me to her house for dinner. Along the way, she stopped at a hotel to pick up another guest: Wilhelm Furtwängler. As we were driving across the market square, the car broke down because of a problem with the transmission. Mrs. Gelpke went to look for a mechanic, but before she departed, a line of trams had formed behind us, whose conductors were angrily blowing their horns. The maestro and I had to offer a sacrifice to Mercury as we pushed the car off the rails. Then, to relax and to watch the course of events, we went to a nearby cafeteria. As it turned out, the breakdown was a fortunate coincidence—in my experience I have often had good luck with breakdowns. We were thus able to take advantage of a peaceful interlude to talk about something that had been addressed by Plato, and concerning which I always enjoyed listening to the opinions of intelligent contemporaries: how should the artist behave towards a despot? We would not have had time to discuss this later, since Furtwängler, who was scheduled to conduct a concert the next evening, would go to bed immediately after dinner. On the days before concerts it was his habit to go home to meditate and rest until he went onstage.
Rudolf Gelpke was just then in his first year at the university; our first meeting was brief, but augured well under a good conjunction of the stars. When, now and then, I heard from him, it was as if he had been suffused with the essence of the East. There is an elective affinity between the spirit and the substance of foreign cultures, an osmosis. Translations of Persian texts arrived, like that marvelous story of the princess in the seven star towers. Had he in the meantime obtained a position as a professor in Teheran? Did he teach classes as a visiting professor, as Mercea Eliade did at American universities? I don’t know, or I have since forgotten: that world of examinations, positions, academies and honors is, basically, irrelevant. That is the world that is swarming with revolutionaries who are not even capable of living without a car and who parasitically batten, like remoras on a whale, on the stomach of Leviathan, upon whom they depend for good or for ill.
Then I received his apology for ecstatic intoxication—in this respect, as well, he represents the East against the West.105 I opened the book to the “Introduction” (Teheran, March 1966) and I saw my memory corroborated by the following sentence: “… I have spent the last ten years, in equal proportions, in Iran (Persia) and in the West, in Europe and the United States.”
I also read the chapter dedicated to Antonio Peri and his trips.106 By the way, I see the author as more akin to Antonio, prince Achmed and his niece Peri Banu than to the doctors, except for such spirits as Galland, Hammer-Purgstall and Rückert. The Orientalists form a particular elite that succumbed to a seduction, as did Goethe.
At the heart of Gelpke’s work (On Inebriation in the East and in the West) we find the following passage:
“The drug researcher (the kind created by Ernst Jünger, for example, in the eastern and western figure of Antonio Peri) is a totally modern phenomenon. This figure can only arise in a society whose religious image of the world has been shattered, and where, as a result, the knowledge of the metaphysical implications and the symbolic character of ecstatic intoxication and of the vehicles to achieve it, has also been lost.”
It is laudable that, shortly afterwards, the author does justice to the vine and to its condition of equality with respect to any other drug, in the hierarchy of the vehicles of ecstatic intoxication—in this domain, if he compares it to opium, there is undoubtedly a difference with respect to keys, but not with respect to the chamber that is to be entered; much more important is the difference between the western interpretation and the eastern interpretation. I quote:
For western man, “reality is the external world. Consequently, he will always feel tempted to judge every way of life, every opinion, and, in general, everything that separates him from action, as an ‘escape’ ‘against’ reality and ‘from’ reality. The eastern man adopts the opposite view: in his judgment, the ‘road towards the interior’, the mystical journey, is the only experience of reality that goes beyond time and space and therefore beyond the veil of fleeting appearance. This is why, from his point of view, the person who ‘escapes’ is actually the person who lives in thrall to the external world: the man of action”.
Speaking of wine in the light of the East, we cannot fail to mention Omar Khayyam, the tent-maker, or Hâfez. Concerning the latter, Gelpke says: “Naturally, wine, for a wise man of the rank of a Hâfez, has both meanings (that is, symbolic and real), and this is confirmed by the following verses:
“You fill my cup, waiter, with the purple light of pleasure.
You sing a song, oh minstrel, because the sun revolves in rhythm with our desires.
A divine visage reflects from the bottom of the chalice:
a madman, whose anxieties will never be quelled by the wine of our cup;
I am afraid that the break of dawn, the day of the resurrection,
will accuse, as a sin, not my bacchanals, but your abstinence.
A living heart, beating with love, can never perish,
and in the Book of the World we are fated to inherit eternity….”
(From the verse translation by Georg Jacob in Unio Mystica, Hannover, 1922.)
279 If I do not like the term, Drogenforscher (“drug researcher”), it is not so much an aversion to the word itself as to the use to which it has been put. An Indo-Germanic root, prk, has been split up in the Romance and Germanic languages to form verbs that sometimes contain an interrogative intention and sometimes an investigative intention (argentums poscere: “to demand money”). Research is not free of suspicion.
The struggle in Faust’s studio occurs around the extensive or intensive sense of the word. It involves the dilemma between science and knowledge:
That we in truth can nothing know!
That in my heart like fire doth burn.107
Since then, research has become increasingly more dependent on technology, on statistics, on pure mathematics, on nuts and bolts, on microscopes and telescopes. The researcher is no longer stalking the real tiger, or grouse, or even a strange nocturnal butterfly; he is a cipher in a planned hunt. Disgusting types populate the margins of science, like the impotent and shameless old man who measures orgasms with a stopwatch. The heartbeat has been replaced by the ticking of the clock. It is nothing to marvel at when Gaia sheds her leaves. However, after the bleaching of the winter, even more than spring will be engendered.
We live in an epoch in which words have lost their gravity, which tends to take place periodically. Then they should be recharged again or replaced. Even the term, forschen (“to research”), becomes suspect. Intelligent westerners foresaw this, as in the case of Flaubert, who shared with certain other persons an inclination for the East (Bouvard et Pécuchet, 1881). At that time, with regard to spiritual matters, it was still possible to take some liberties.
Gelpke therefore refers to the venerable root of the word. The lover asks a question in a way that is different than someone who is just curious. The light and shadow of the Cosmic Hunt still affect him. And the great huntress still approaches him, like the goddess of the Moon, while Actaeon, because of his sacrilegious curiosity, is torn to pieces by his own dogs.
It is said that Actaeon “preserved no trace of humanity, except that most fateful trait in a situation involving amorous relations: a conscience”. The most marvelous thing about this great myth is how Chiron, preceptor of Actaeon, called off the dogs. He showed them a picture of Actaeon, which made them sit calmly at its side.
This power touches upon the job of the artist, of the man who is a friend of the Muses, of the wise man, in eras when the dogs have lost their master. The work of art not only acts prophetically on the future, but interprets, expiates and pacifies the past as well.
Retrospective on Godenholm 280 I owe the spectacle of the blue thread to a morning in Bottmingen; it is interwoven with another event, with my visit to the Celt, Heuneberg, on a winter night. It was an encounter, one night, with fate; it was only insinuated, and for good reasons.
I knew in advance that my little book (A Visit to Godenholm) would neither make much of an impression nor would it be a commercial success; and I was struck by a kind of chill when I saw it in the shop windows.
For Baader, the task of art was still transparency. In a consumer society, other principles prevail. This is of the nature of the thing, and anyone in this society who gives himself aristocratic airs of discontent, will make himself ridiculous. It is precisely at this point where meditation generates a particular kind of attraction. Even our contemporaries endowed with intelligence do not know what to make of A Visit to Godenholm, as I was able to gather from their more or less perplexed observations. It was, besides, very hard to classify.
When, after the First World War, I was appointed to the commission that drafted the new military regulations, I began to read contemporary literature. This was preceded, in military hospitals and during periods of convalescence, by an avalanche of readings that were by no means fruitless, focused particularly on the classics and the romantics. With respect to the moderns, the ones to whom I then turned, I am indebted to Friedrich Georg for a good selection; he had been seriously wounded and discharged from the army a year before. He called my attention to the expressionists, especially Trakl, to whom I have remained totally faithful.108 At that time, in Berlin, I also obtained a copy of a collection of short stories by Gottfried Benn, Brains—reading this book made me want to read his subsequent works. For every passionate reader there are a few authors “one reads with a feeling of participating in their work” and whose “new books” are awaited with impatience. This is a spacious playing field for hopes, delights and disappointments.
I had a feeling that in his poems “there had to be something to discover”, particularly in the verses that approached the undifferentiated and touched upon the stratum that covers it, and over which a precipitation begins to fall, although vaguely, like dew and fog. The indeterminate is still strong here. It is the object of poetic invocation, as, for example, in the following stanzas:
O that we might be our ancestors’ ancestors.
A clump of slime in a warm bog.
Life and death, fertilizing and parturition
Would all be functions of our silent juices.
An algal leaf or a sand dune,
Shaped by the wind and basal and heavyset.
Even a dragonfly’s head or a gull’s wing
Would be too evolved and suffer too much.109
It is a ticket for a voyage to the Isle of Orplid.110 A beautiful equilibrium between the conscious and the unconscious vibrates in these verses, and also between certainty and pain. It is thus like a ship with a good draught navigated through frontier rivers.
The poem—entitled “Songs”—trails off in the subsequent verses. However, what counts in the work are the luminous points. The desert extends far into the distance; time becomes a torture—the affliction that already impregnated romanticism, that “I don’t know what I want to say”, becomes a modern, orchestrated sadness. I have before me his Works (1960); I want to look up a word in the index, and there I find, one after another, like the labels of a spice rack:
Trupp hegelaufener Söhne
Turin I111 From this list one can get an idea of what he is cooking. The poems, certainly both “Tristesse” as well as “Turin I”, are, once again, very beautiful.
He achieved success with exhibitions like “Gonorrhea” and “Morgue”. In any case, one must distinguish between applause and worth. The worth or the measure in which the author is taken seriously is creation of approach. What is striking about this, what is illuminating—esthetically, politically or even just by virtue of its sensationalism—is not the house with its walls, basement or attic, but the furniture: the bar with its whores, the cacophony of Berlin. All of this is nothing but a backdrop; applause is not a sufficient criterion to determine whether the piece will survive once the season is over or whether it will still be performed three hundred years from now.
One does less justice to an author by abandoning him than by recognizing his karma and his tragedy, which is always strictly connected with the time and its deadly aggression. In the best cases the author puts up a good fight but his successes are turned against him. Time leaves its mark on works and images, even when it takes the form of scars.