A Petroglyphic Monad:
The Constellation of Megalithic Art,
and Benjamin’s Arcades Project
Dr Simon Crook
O God, I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams.
William Shakespeare, Hamlet
The fact that ‘this idea is reflected in all the others’ is precisely what we consider the characteristic of a dialectical book…The Society of the Spectacle…as a negative of spectacular society…ultimately seeks nothing other than to overthrow the existing relation of forces in the factories and the streets.
Anon., ‘How not to understand Situationist books’, Internationale Situationniste No.12, 1969 (trans. Knabb 1981: 266).
Structuring the Conjunction
The discipline of archaeology has struggled to engage with questions of consciousness and ‘magical agency’ surrounding places inscribed with images of prehistoric ‘art’, such as the megalithic ‘tombs’ which are a focus of this article. The evanescent quality of experience eludes a dualistic empiricism which privileges material culture understood in its most crudely physical form. A concomitant narrowing of human motivation to an austere, instrumental rationality, determined by a ‘mode of production’, ensures that the qualitative activity of engraving images – deemed marginal to the construction of grand narratives of cultural history or social development – is reduced to a form of ‘symbolic labour’. Conceiving such images as a reflection of social structure further privileges a perceptually impoverished utilitarian model of social organisation, inadequate to the interpretation of a ‘spectrum of consciousness’ (Lewis-Williams 2002: 121) extending beyond the limits of such social theory.
As a gesture in acknowledgement of such ineffable dimensions – the ‘unusable superfluous force of matter or luxury’ (Asger Jorn, Held og Hasard, p.54 1963, in Shield 1998:142) – unrecognised by discursive structures which reproduce the positivist assumptions of social science, I prise a corpus of prehistoric rock art out of the linear sequence of archaeological chronology, to experiment with the potential of magical thought as a research method, in which the aim is ‘continually set far beyond the boundaries of what is empirically and rationally verifiable’ (Johannisson 1988: 252). It means not stopping at the theories of science, which are dictated by logic, but applying an analogical reasoning. Analogy, André Breton explains,
transgresses the deductive laws in order to make the mind apprehend the interdependence of two objects of thought situated on different planes, between which the logical functioning of the mind is unlikely to throw a bridge.
(Choucha 1991: 59).
Hence, driven by dissatisfaction at the limited permutations of predictable outcomes – ‘regularities’ – determined by functional models of social relations, and motivated by a playful misappropriation and subversion of poststructuralist-influenced ‘archaeologies-of-text’, some years ago I embarked upon the dialectical process of interpreting megalithic art of the Neolithic through the medium of James Joyce’s novel, Finnegans Wake, while interpreting the ‘sacred text’ of the Wake through the medium of megalithic art. This ludic approach to the materials has released me from certain methodological obligations – literary and archaeological – which govern the analysis of each phenomenon in isolation (Crook 2004).
Détournement, the ‘mutual interference of two worlds of feeling’, supersedes ‘the original elements and produces a synthetic organisation of greater efficacy’, according to early Situationist theorists (Debord and Wollen 1956: 9). The process of ‘mutuomorphomutation’ (FW 281.R) activated by the ‘structured conjunction’ of archaeological and literary phenomena has evolved to include a third element – as ‘the astrologer’ to ‘the conjunction of two stars’ (Benjamin 1999a: 696) – Walter Benjamin’s Passagenwerk, his ‘Arcades Project’. One commentator suggests that in this project Benjamin had in mind ‘a surreal Talmud for our times’ (Mertens 2004: 73), in which insight would not be created by a structured enumeration of arguments, instead its seemingly random quotations are ‘meant to create centres of associations between which sparks can jump’ (ibid.: 65). Together, these three elements – Megalithic Art, Finnegans Wake and the Passagenwerk – coincide in ‘a single space-time construction’ (Debord 1957: 55), ‘in double preposition as in triple conjunction’ (FW 595.24-25).
To ‘repeat at luxure’ (FW 328.9) the singularity wherein this whole is refracted, simultaneously, through its multiple facets, characterises an ornamental mode which does not follow a set of a priori procedural rules, is ‘not successive, not extorted by the oblique violence of premises’ (Walter Charleton 1650, in Ormsby-Lennon 1988: 313), but is motivated by an impulse to redeem a disenchanted world which is ‘fractured into a series of discrete entities’ (Chambers 1998: 172), which are governed by ‘an imperious rationalism’ (ibid.: 176). An impulse consonant with the humour of melancholy, which Hildegard of Bingen relates to the theological state of fallen humanity, ‘an anamnestic trace of divine nostalgia’ (Pensky 1993: 31), it aligns with Walter Benjamin’s quest to rescue ‘the intoxication of cosmic experience that the human being of antiquity possessed’ (Scholem 1976: 217-218). I elaborate this motivated text in the context of the resonance of the clash between Aristotelian and Rosicrucian models of language, both implicated in the metaphor of the ‘neurological bridge’ of altered states of consciousness applied to the interpretation of rock art (Lewis-Williams and Dowson 1988: 202).
The Speculative Good Friday
In 1604 – according to the history related in the Fama Fraternitatis, the first Rosicrucian Manifesto – the seven-sided burial chamber of the ‘illuminated father’, Christian Rosenkreuz, was discovered. Enlightened by a mysterious ‘inner sun’, geometrical figures embellished its walls. Engraved upon an altar was the legend: ‘This compendium of the universe I made in my lifetime to be my tomb’ (Yates 1972: 291). His uncorrupted body was found, clutching a sheaf of mysterious writings. Ten years after this discovery the first two anonymous Rosicrucian manifestos appeared. Declaiming on the portentous ‘new stars’ discovered in the constellations Cygnus and Serpentarius in the year 1604, which lent an eschatological dimension to their mission of universal reformation, the Rosicrucians drew on the esoteric currents of Renaissance Hermetic and magical tradition, the Jewish Kabbalah and the Paracelsian revival of alchemy (Yates 1972).
The philosophy of the ‘crucian rose’ (FW 122.25) permeates Finnegans Wake, which begins with the word ‘riverrun’ (FW 3.1), alluding to the motif of erinnerung, Hegel’s concept of ‘recollection’ which concludes his ‘ghost story’, The Phenomenology of Spirit. Here, the Absolute Spirit, ‘sunk into the night of its self-consciousness’ (Verene 1985: 4), interiorises the entirety of human history. Likewise, writing ‘entiringly as he continues highly-fictional, tumulous under his chthonic exterior’ (FW 261.17-18), Joyce conceived of Finnegans Wake as the dream of the fallen old Finn, lying in death by the River Liffey, watching the history of Ireland and the world – past and future – flow through his mind (Ellmann 1982: 544): ‘their joke was coming home to them, the steerage way for stabling, ghustorily spoeking’ (FW 323.35). The ‘Omnitudes in a knutshedell’ (FW 276.L2) of the ‘Headmound’ (FW 135.9), the riverside tomb of this composite patriarchal figure – HCE/Finnegan/Edmund, ‘king and martyr’ (FW 135.9) – recalls the image of Hegel’s ‘Golgotha of the spirit’, the Schädelstätte, the ‘Place of the Skull’ with which the Phenomenology ends:
the life of the Spirit is not the life that shrinks from death and keeps itself untouched by devastation, but rather the life that endures it and maintains itself in it. It wins its truth only when, in utter dismemberment, it finds itself.
(Hegel 1977: 18-19).
The 1922 Boundary Commission map of Ulster: ‘made him, while his body still persisted, their present of a protem grave in Moyelta of the best Lough Neagh pattern’ (FW 76.20-22).
In alchemical tradition this image is understood as the caput mortuum, the substance remaining after putrefaction, symbolised by a skull (Magee 2001: 145-146), which Robert Fludd – a defender of the Rosicrucians (1616) – described as ‘the midden of them all… or dung of the whole spiritual mass’ (Huffman 2001: 81). The work of alchemical renewal in Finnegans Wake revolves around ‘that fatal midden’ (FW 110.25), in the reconfiguration, redemption and waking of ‘that same snob of the dunhill’ (FW 50.30), the ‘proper old promnentory’ (FW 623.6), HCE:
Well, this ought to weke him to make up. He’ll want all his fury gutmurdherers to redress him (FW 617.17-19).
Priapic ‘assauciations’ (FW 413.18) at a chambered tomb in Guernsey: ‘disassembling and taking him apart, the slammocks, with discrimination for his maypole and a rub in passing over his hump’ (FW 358.33-35).
In ‘the deification of his members’ (FW 498.21), HCE (Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker) is the dismembered Egyptian god, Osiris, whose missing member it is the task of Isis, in the person of his wife, ALP (Anna Livia Plurabelle), to find. In his ‘boke of the deeds’ (FW 13.30-31), Joyce assumes the role of Thoth, the scribe of the gods, who provides ALP/Isis with the words of power with which she is able to rouse Osiris: ‘Irise, Osirises!’ (FW 493.28).
John Dee’s Sigillum Dei Aemaeth. A model of Christian Rosenkreuz’s seven-sided tomb? Was HCE prismatically suspended here, ‘like a heptagon crystal emprisoms’ (FW 127.3)?
This search for lost fragments – ‘recalled and scrapheaped by the Maker’ (FW 98.17) – corresponds to the materialist historiography of Walter Benjamin. While, for Hegel, the dialectic was ineluctably a temporal process, conceptualisable only in or as narrative (Helmling 2003), Benjamin saw such narratives as complicit with the triumphal procession of history’s victors, an understanding consonant with Stephen Daedalus’ complaint in Ulysses: ‘History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake’ (U.42). Instead, Benjamin’s re-membering of discontinuous fragmentary images exists outside the order of time altogether (Pilkington 1976: 174):
If the object of history is to be blasted out of the continuum of historical succession, that is because its monadological structure demands it. This structure first comes to light in the extracted object itself. And it does so in the form of the historical confrontation that makes up the interior… of the historical object, and into which all the forces and interests of history enter on a reduced scale.
(Benjamin 1999: 475).
Rescued in this way and reconfigured according to a principle of montage, the materialist historian seeks to discover ‘in the small individual moment the crystal of the total event’ (ibid.: 461), like William Blake’s ‘World in a Grain of Sand’, threatened by the calculative logic of Single Vision and Newton’s Sleep:
There is a Grain of Sand in Lambeth that Satan cannot find. Nor can his Watch Fiends find it: tis translucent & has many Angles.
(William Blake, Jerusalem 41: 16-17).
Walter Benjamin writes, ‘A historical materialist approaches a historical subject only where he encounters it as a monad. In this structure he recognises the sign of a Messianic cessation of happening… a revolutionary chance in the fight for the oppressed past. He takes cognisance of it in order to blast a specific era out of the homogeneous course of history – blasting a specific life out of the era or a specific work out of the lifework’. Theses on the Philosophy of History, XVII (1968a: 254).
The historian who stops ‘telling the sequence of events like the beads on a rosary’ and ‘grasps the constellation which his own era has formed with a definite earlier one’ establishes ‘a conception of the present as the “time of the now” which is shot through with chips of Messianic time’ (Benjamin 1999a: 255). Such ‘litterish fragments lurk dormant’ (FW 66.25-26) in Finnegans Wake‘s ‘mudden research’ (FW 595.25), the ‘Refuse of History’ (Benjamin 1999: 461). Its ‘wholemole millwheeling vicociclometer’ (FW 614.17) is modelled on Vico’s cyclical history of three ages and a ricorso which, like the Wake, is opposed to the unidimensional linear progress of the Enlightenment, and interrupts any ‘straight unfolding of a single line of development’ towards one aim (Heath 1984: 46). Hegel’s writing of history oriented to the realisation of Geist partakes of this unilinear model, informing his characterisation of Napoleon as ‘the World-Soul… riding a white horse’ (Lauer 1993:19). While HCE is the patriarchal hero on the ‘ghostwhite horse’ (FW 214.15) who, like Kalki, the tenth avatar of Vishnu in Hindu and Buddhist eschatology, concludes unilinear history and the world, in Joyce’s writing of a ‘whorled without aimed’ (FW 272.4-5) he is toppled in the play of chance and Dame Fortune – ‘the besieged bedreamt him stil and solely of those lililiths undeveiled which hat undone him’ (FW 75.5-6) – as the following illustration by Stephen Crowe of the text of Finnegans Wake shows:
© Stephen Crowe 2010 (from here)
So it is that Finnegans Wake, in the dissolution of all the artistic means of bourgeois society, amidst ‘the decomposition in which we, like everyone else, are completely involved’ (Debord 1957: 52) has been considered as less ‘an artistic creation’, more ‘an autopsy of its corpse’ (Anon. 1959: 85), a summation in tune with the Wake‘s continuous conjunction, within the divinatory moment of ‘the now’, of alchemical putrefaction and renewal: ‘your phumeral’s a roselixion’ (FW 346.12-13).
Signatures of Trance
In furnishing Louis Gillet with ‘the key to his work’ in Finnegans Wake, Joyce told him about
the language he had adopted in order to give his vocabulary the elasticity of sleep, to multiply the meaning of words, to permit the play of light and colour, and to make of each sentence a rainbow to which each tiny drop is itself a many-hued prism
(Atherton 1959: 17).
Research into altered states of consciousness (ASC) has identified recurring visual elements, defined by Heinrich Klüver in 1926 as form constants, said to derive from the human nervous system, which are experienced by all people who enter such states ‘no matter what their cultural background’ (Lewis-Williams and Dowson 1988: 202). These elements – which can take geometric forms as lattices, zigzags, dots, spirals and catenary curves – have been described as entoptic phenomena (from the Greek ‘within vision’) (ibid.). The identification of such visual forms as images in rock art known to have been produced in the context of altered states in the recent past, has led to the generalisation of a ‘neuropsychological model’ to the interpretation of rock art in prehistory, where no ‘ethnographic data’ exists.
Comparison of form constants (entoptic phenomena) encountered in the early stages of trance with motifs in rock art (Lewis-Williams and Dowson 1988).
While this model has constructed something of a ‘neurological maze of geometric ASC percepts’ (Luke 2010: 23), nevertheless, the title of Lewis-Williams’ and Dowson’s paper, ‘The Signs of All Times’ (1988) evokes the portentous tenor of the Rosicrucian Manifestos, which is suggestive of ways of seeing beyond the very confines of the neurophysiology which the authors employ as the empirical seat of ‘single vision’. To characterise entoptic motifs as signatures of trance, connotes the Paracelsian concept of ‘The Signature of All Things’, which ‘from the Creation, not with Inke, but with the very finger of God are imprinted in all creatures’, and forms ‘the better part of true Literature’ (Ormsby-Lennon 1988: 318) as envisioned in the Rosicrucian Linguistics of the seventeenth century.
Antagonistic to the Aristotelian view of language as a machinery adapted to social collaboration and the organization of facts and arguments that such collaboration requires (ibid.: 329), the Rosicrucians saw a necessary or motivated (usually magical) connection between words and the things they signified (ibid.: 315), and felt the inadequacy of ‘discursive speech’ for conveying the experience of a direct apprehension of truth and the ‘ineffable’ intensity of the mystic vision (ibid.). While language planners were determined to construct novel mechanisms of denotation and communication (Ormsby-Lennon 1988: 330), Rosicrucians sought the Lingua Adamica in which the post-Babelian confusion represented by Aristotelianism ‘would be mystically (even telepathically) transcended’ (ibid.), offering an epistemology of mystical apprehension – by revelation (ibid.: 313). Conversely, Aristotelian Linguistics functions through rational comprehension (ibid.), forging a discursive sequence in a ‘social factory’ where ‘knowledge’ is conceived ‘as a production’ (Shanks and Tilley 1992: 114).
That the neurophysiology of altered states is an object of study is a measure of the success of the analytical mode of Aristotelianism. Nevertheless, the presentation of the signatures of trance reveals the perennial disturbance of the lived body – albeit estranged from the continuum of Divine Nature – to the discursive structure of a social science informed by the dualism of structural linguistics. Its distinction of signifier and signified, and absolute separation of subject and object makes it as averse today to ‘human universals’ as its Aristotelian precursors were to the Rosicrucian ‘compendium of the universe’. Ultimately, this discursive structure dictates that ‘”I” can only come to know “myself” through the medium of language’ (Thomas 1996: 46). Consequently, the subject
must insert itself into the networks of the symbolic system in order to become a ‘self’, the subject is always fundamentally absent from itself, always dispersed and fragmented in webs of signification. The self is constructed in language. The externality from which it must emerge … is one not simply of language and culture, but also of power relations
(Thomas 1996: 46).
The precedence given to the ‘symbolic system’ over the lived body makes intelligible the charge of utopianism against those who refuse the ‘humanly inadequate world’ (Hudson 1982: 21) of such linguistic and social constructions, those who seek a ‘universall sensuall tongue,’ common to the senses of all, accessible at all times, but paradoxically, inexpressible in linguistic terms as conventionally understood. Benjamin, echoing the Rosicrucians, associates the Messianic era with the advent of this universal language, capable of replacing the confusion of the Tower of Babel, that everyone would understand ‘as children on Sunday understand the language of the birds’ (Löwy 1992: 233).
Joyce also sought ‘a language which is above all languages’ (Cheng 1995: 278), and described the words of Finnegans Wake as ‘not fragments but active elements and when they are more and a little older they will begin to fuse of themselves’ (Joyce 1957: 205). To Samuel Beckett, it was ‘not about something, it is that something itself’ (Beckett 1929) , its motivated nature merging signifier and signified.
The fact that the language of real communication has been lost is what the modern movement of art’s decay… expresses positively. What it expresses negatively is that a new common language has yet to be found – not, this time, in the form of unilaterally arrived-at conclusions… – but rather in a praxis embodying both an unmediated activity and a language commensurate to it. The point is to take effective possession of the community of dialogue, and the playful relationship to time, which the works of the poets and artists have heretofore merely represented.
(Debord 1994 §187)
Indeed, Finnegans Wake, with its ‘chaosmos of Alle anyway connected’ (FW 118.21-22), in which ‘the world, mind, is was and will be writing its own wrunes for ever’ (FW 19.35-36), manifests the conception of an infinite ‘field of consciousness’, whereby minds are not confined to the insides of heads, but share a communicative field, even ‘beyond the limitations of space and time’ (Luke 2010: 23). For this reason, its ‘Magis landeguage’ (FW 478.9-10) transcends applications of the ASC model which reduce the amplitude of experience to neurophysiological processes restricted to the functioning of the individual human brain: ‘dirt cheap at a sovereign a skull!’ (FW 374.27-28). Such applications are redolent of what Hegel deridingly refers to as ‘phrenology’ (Verene 1985: 90): a technique that presents experience ‘like a skeleton with tickets stuck all over it’ (Verene 1993: 44), a ‘table-of-contents mentality’ that leaves the life of its object untouched (ibid.). ‘The untireties of livesliving being the one substrance of a streamsbecoming’ (FW 597.7-8) universalises the materiality of altered consciousness (substrance), in ‘various phases of scripture as in various poses of sepulture’ (FW 254.28), inviting a reading of archaeology as scriptural exegesis:
so witness his chambered cairns a cloudlelitter silent that are at browse up hill and down combe …a testament of the rocks from all the dead unto some the living
Here, ‘at no spatial time processly which regards to concrude chronology’ (FW 358.5-6), consciousness ‘is free to consider events in any order it wishes, or spatially rather than temporally’ (Purdy 1982: 212), as ‘If there is a future in every past that is present’ (FW 496.35). This reconfiguration of history is conducive to the divinatory moment whereby Walter Benjamin’s materialist historian grasps ‘the constellation which his own era has formed with a definite earlier one’ (Benjamin 1999a: 255), interrupting the linear sequence by which both chronology and Aristotelian language fall into step with the forward march of an objective history written by the victors. Likewise, ALP, the ‘Ensouling Female’ (FW 302 L), engages in the redemptive task of ‘victuum gleaner’ (FW 364.33-34), retrieving the ‘jetsam litterage’ (FW 292.16) of ‘lost histereve’ (FW 214.1). The Wake‘s ‘eternal conjunction’ (FW 251.12-13) of Giordano Bruno’s coincidenta oppositorum realises Bruno’s critique of Aristotle’s statement that contraries cannot come together in the same subject (Punter 1982: 28), a philosophical position summarised as ‘Harrystotalies’ (FW 110.17). To Robert Fludd, ‘all souls have a continuous relation to the one world-soul… as has the sunlight to the sun’ (Huffman 2001: 138), which explains the logical impossibility of acquiring knowledge of an infinite universe by means of the analysis of discrete fragments, for the only possible knowledge of such a universe must be through a dialectical synthesis (Punter 1982: 29).
Cairn T, Loughcrew: ‘persianly literatured with burst loveletters, telltale stories, stickback snaps, doubtful eggshells, bouchers, flints, borers…fallen lucifers, vestas which had served, showered ornaments’ (FW 183.8-28) Watercolour by G. V. du Noyer of the Cairn T backstone, Loughcrew (1865). This stone is illuminated by the equinox sunrise.
‘In imageascene all’
‘russicruxian’ (FW 155.28) allusions proliferate around that ‘Malingerer in Luxury’ (FW 192.5), Shem the Penman, Joyce’s parodic alter ego, ‘first till last alshemist’ (FW 185.34-35). As ‘unseen blusher in an obscene coalhole’ (FW 194.12), his ‘rosy gnoses glow’ slides ‘lucifericiously within an inch of its page’ (FW 182.4-5), by ‘that rosy lampoon’s effluvious burning’ (FW 182.11). He embodies Cornelius Agrippa’s humor melancholicus, which ‘attracts certain demons into our bodies, through whose presence and activity men fall into ecstasies and pronounce many wonderful things’ (Yates 1979: 62). Shem the ‘Shamman’ (FW 192.23), ‘driven by those numen daimons’ (FW 142.23), falls into such ecstasies:
the whirling dervish, Tumult, son of Thunder, self exiled in upon his ego a nightlong a shaking betwixtween white or reddr hawrors, noondayterrorised to skin and bone by an ineluctable phantom… writing the mystery of himsel in furniture
Even in this act of ‘writing the mystery of himsel’, Shem’s own ‘hermeneutics of megalithic space’ (Thomas 1993) is a rejection of the external conditioning of subjectivity determined by structural linguistics. Echoing the characterisation of chambered tombs as the house of the sidhe (‘shee’ – the fairies of Irish tradition), the description of Shem’s lodgings as his ‘house O’Shea or O’Shame…no number Brimstone Walk’ (FW 182.30-1) includes details which recall the acoustic qualities and decorative repertoire of the architecture of megalithic tombs, in that the
soundconducting walls thereof, to say nothing of the uprights and imposts, were persianly literatured with burst loveletters, telltale stories, stickback snaps, doubtful eggshells, bouchers, flints, borers…fallen lucifers, vestas which had served, showered ornaments, borrowed brogues…blasphematory spits…fresh horrors from Hades
The ‘burst loveletters’, ‘persianly literatured’ on the ‘magicscene wall’ (FW 553.24) are engraved with ‘all the charictures in the drame!’ (FW 302.31-32):
ownconsciously grafficking with his sinister cyclopes after trigamies and spirals’ wobbles pursuiting their rovinghamilton selves
(FW 300. 25-28).
Engraved kerbstones from Knowth and Newgrange (after Martin Brennan).
Finnegans Wake is Shem’s ‘traumscrapt’ (FW 623.36), a dream narrative, written at the behest of his mother, ALP, ‘bespaking the wisherwife’ (FW 66.15-17). With her 111 children, ALP transliterates the system of gematria in kabbalistic mysticism, whereby a numerical value is assigned to each letter of the word which is the name of the letter in the Hebrew alphabet (Ifrah 1998: 255) – ‘Anna Lynchya Pourable! One and eleven’ (FW 325.4-5). Aleph, the name of the first letter, ‘the spiritual root of all other letters’ (Scholem 1965:30), has the value 1 + 30 + 80 = 111 (ibid.). As Shem writes for ALP, so in kabbalistic mysticism ‘the truly divine element in revelation, the immense aleph, was not in itself sufficient to express the divine message, and in itself it was more than the community could bear’ (Scholem 1965: 31). Only ‘the prophet was empowered to communicate the meaning of this inarticulate voice to the community’ (ibid.):
Ever of thee. Anne Lynch. He’s deeply draiming! Houseanna. Tea is the Highest! For auld lang Ayternitay!
The ‘trancedone boyscript’ (FW 374.3-4), revolving around the ‘equoangular trillitter’ (FW 286.21-22) of ALP is ‘the record of an entranced mind’ (Gordon 1986:183-184), replaying the scene in Ulysses when Leopold Bloom induces a trance as he stares at the red triangle trademark on a bottle of Bass:
And lo, wonder of metempsychosis, it is she, the everlasting bride, harbinger of the daystar, the bride, ever virgin… writhing in the skies a mysterious writing till, after a myriad metamorphoses of symbol, it blazes, Alpha, a ruby and triangled sign upon the forehead of Taurus.
For Joyce, ‘his books were not to be taken as mere books, but as acts of prophecy’ (Purdy 1982: 207), in which ‘Every letter is a godsend’ (FW 269.17), bespeaking simultaneously the origin and end of God in ‘their sacreligion of daimond cap daimond’ (FW 365.3-4).
Geometric forms encountered in Irish megalithic art (left) and form constants encountered in altered states (right). Bradshaw Foundation 2011
Theatres of Memory
Neolithic chambered tombs can be conceived as ‘memory theatres’ of the kind developed in the Renaissance, by which time the principles of the classical art of memory came under the influence of the Hermetic-Cabalist tradition via Marsilio Ficino and Pico della Mirandola (Yates 1966: 129). Giordano Bruno tries to unify the universal contents of memory by basing it on visual emblems, ‘in living, magical contact with reality – in contrast to the empty pedant language’ of the Aristotelians (Yates 1964: 283). Since the divine mind ‘is universally present in the world of nature’, in Bruno’s image magic ‘the process of coming to know the divine mind must be through the reflection of the images of the world of sense’, which unify the contents of memory and ‘set up magical correspondences between outer and inner worlds’ (Yates 1966: 257). These images must be charged with affects, ‘particularly with the affect of Love’. As Yates observes, ‘We are here within range of Bruno’s Eroici furori with its love conceits which have power to open “the black diamond doors” within the psyche’ (Yates 1966: 257-258).
The world’s oldest rock art, from Blombos Cave, South Africa. The incised lattice pattern on a piece of red ochre gives the impression of a row of diamonds, their upper and lower halves delineated by a horizontal line.
Giulio Camillo’s Theatre of Memory rested on the seven pillars of Solomon’s House of Wisdom, where the universe will be remembered ‘through organic association of all its parts with their underlying eternal order’ (Yates 1966: 138). The ‘organic association of all its parts’ corresponds with the condensation of the wider landscape into the architecture of Newgrange through the gathering of local and non-local materials – sand, stone and cobbles – used in its construction (Cooney 2000: 136), a place, perhaps, for people ‘to regul their reves by incubation’ (FW 397.34), a place for the incubation of dreams. Camillo correlates the seven planetary spheres of the celestial world with eight Sephiroth of the supercelestial world, excluding the two highest of the ten, Kether and Hokmah, explaining that he is not going above the sephira, Binah, to which Moses ascended, stopping his series at Binah-Saturn (Yates 1966: 149).
Seeing the Boyne valley tombs as ‘memory places’, or topoi, within which to associate and recall all the disparate and diverse elements of the universe, introduces, with the invocation, ‘Approach to lead our passage!’ (FW 262.2), the figure of Anna Livia Plurabelle (ALP), ‘her all cunniform letters’ (FW 198.25), arrayed around the quintessential emblem in the Wake‘s ‘memory theatre’, the diagram on page 293: ‘a microcosm corresponding in all motions to the macrocosm’ (Yates 1972: 293), but configured by Joyce as a feminised space: ‘pubably it resymbles a pelvic or some kvind’ (FW 608.23) (Danish kvinde, ‘woman’). Here ALP holds ‘the cluekey to a worldroom beyond the roomwhorld’ (FW 100.28-9), where she and her husband, HCE, are buried ‘fux to fux’ (FW 177.36), like Queen Victoria and her Consort, Prince Albert:
in their bed of trial… by the glimmer of memory… Albatrus Nyanzer with Victa Nyanza, his mace of might mortified, her beautifell hung up on a nail, he, Mr of our fathers, she, our moddereen ru arue rue, they, ay, by the hodypoker and blazier, they are
The ceremonial carved flint head of Albatrus Nyanzer’s ‘mace of might’ was found in the right-hand, northern recess of the eastern tomb chamber of Knowth Site 1 in 1982, the mushroom spirals and the hole for a wooden shaft conveying the look of eyes and mouth, a face with a mortified expression. The Wake‘s theatrical/cinematic description of ALP and HCE’s ‘residmance of a delugion’ (FW 367.24) cuts to a
Chamber scene. Boxed. Ordinary bedroom set. Salmonpapered walls. Back, empty Irish grate, Adam’s mantel, with wilting elopement fan, soot and tinsel, condemned. North, wall with window practicable. Argentine in casement. Vamp. Pelmit above. No curtains. Blind drawn. South, party wall. Bed for two with strawberry bedspread, wickerworker clubsessel and caneseated millikinstool. Bookshrine without, facetowel upon.
The elaborate decoration of the right-hand recess of the eastern chamber of Knowth’s ‘salmonpapered walls’ is characterised by nested arcs (resembling upturned rainbow patterns).
Orthostat 54 in the right-hand recess of the eastern chamber of Knowth Site 1. Note the rows of paired light and dark triangles at the base, the ‘glimmer of memory’ of the light and dark halves of the rhombus in the ALP diagram (Picture: World Heritage Ireland).
The vesica piscis formed by the overlapping of the ‘daintical pair of accomplasses’ (FW 295.27), and the diamond configured by doubled triangles at its centre, is simultaneously rhomb, tomb and womb, displaying ‘the body- and image-space’ (Weigel 1996) of megalithic art as ‘Humperfeldt and Anunska, wedded now evermore in annastomoses by a ground plan of the placehunter’ (FW 585.23), with its ‘Uteralterance or the Interplay of Bones in the Womb’ (FW 293.L). It coincides with the alchemical motif of the conjunction of opposites as a womb which is also a marriage bed of the ‘Royal Couple’ Sol and Luna – in which the king is dissolved, as in the grave, to bring forth the red son or Phoenix:
reberthing in remarriment out of dead seekness to devine previdence… in red resurrection
Where ‘thinking suddenly stops in a configuration pregnant with tensions… it crystallizes into a monad’ (Benjamin 1970: 254). HCE’s prismatic suspension here, ‘like a heptagon crystal emprisoms’ (FW 127.3), recalls the seven-sided chamber of Christian Rosenkreutz’s tomb, a ‘compendium of things past, present, and to come’ (Yates 1972: 293), a spectral realisation of Hegel’s erinnerung in the seven-hued ‘Renborumba’ (FW 351.5).
That Finnegans Wake is such a compendium accords with the suggestion that, included within the playing card diamond of the ALP diagram, are the principles of crystallogical measurement as formalised by Miller’s Indices (Paré 2013). Translated to three dimensions the lozenge takes the form of an octahedron, the form assumed by the minerals diamond and gold when fully developed. The angles of the axes and the ratio of the lengths of the parameters are the ‘elements’ of a crystal. Applied to the octahedron the indices of each of the eight faces is 111 (ibid.), corresponding with the gematric value of ‘the divine element in revelation’, ALP, in the Wake‘s ‘polyhedron of scripture’ (FW 107.8), condensing Benjamin’s monadic ‘crystal of the total event’ (Benjamin 1999: 461) which escapes the objective sequence order of chronology, the ‘falling into step’ of things:
eskipping the clockback, crystal in carbon,sweetheartedly.
A row of carved triangles, forming lozenges, on a roofslab within Newgrange, over the opening to the passage from the chamber (after O’Kelly 1982: 180). ‘The hatboxes which composed Rhomba, lady Trabezond (Marge in her excelsis), also comprised the climactogram up which B and C may fondly be imagined ascending’ (FW 165.21-24).
The archaeological metaphor, ‘Dream is the earth in which finds are made’ (Benjamin 1999: 909), aligns the memory magic of passage tombs with his Passagenwerk – ‘The Arcades Project’ – his endeavour to transfigure the dreamworld of modernity, symbolised by the commodity culture of nineteenth century Paris, and its shopping arcades. Benjamin’s unfinished project shares Finnegans Wake‘s appeal for a collective awakening, ‘the awakening of a not-yet-conscious knowledge of what has been’ (Benjamin 1999: 458). As dream- and wish-image, the Arcades were to be ‘Fermenters of intoxication in the collective consciousness’ (ibid.: 905), to effect a ‘transformation of reason’, rather than an undialectical ‘derangement of the senses’ (Eiland 2006: viii-ix):
Shamwork, be in our scheining!
The upper ‘light’ triangle and the lower ‘dark’ triangle of the ALP diagram appear at Newgrange and Knowth in the contrast between the closely pecked lower half of lozenge motifs and the unpecked upper space between other pecked triangles (O’Kelly 1982: 180). Like the lozenge at the centre of the ALP diagram, a duality between ‘lighter’ and ‘darker’ halves of the ‘diamondcuts’ at Knowth and Newgrange is suggested by the distinction between the upper and lower halves of lattice carvings, distinguished by a greater or lesser intensity of pecking, giving the lattices the appearance of rows of conjoined triangles: ‘hatboxes which composed Rhomba, lady Trabezond (Marge in her excelsis)’ (FW 165.21-23). They are reminiscent of Robert Fludd’s ‘divine and mundane triangles’, in which God is represented in an upward-pointing equilateral triangle, as a second, reflected triangle below represents the world.
This configuration, conceived as a ‘dialectical image’, manifests the Wake’s coincidenta oppositorum and Benjamin’s dialectic at a standstill. A form of dialectic without the Hegelian sublation (Aufheben) or reconciliation (Versohnung), the dialectic at a standstill is not about the overcoming of contradictions through the closure of narrative, but ‘the ability to linger in ambiguity, attentive to the richness of concrete experience’ (Brand 2002: 218). In its refusal of narrative closure it shares the fin negans of Joyce’s novel. If ambiguity is the imagistic appearance of dialectics at a standstill, and this standstill is utopia, ‘a place saturated with wishful affect’ (Cohen 1993: 48), then Neolithic passage tombs are such places, awash with the ‘wishmarks of mad imogenation’ (FW 251.17).
Finnegans Wake begins and ends at the Vernal Equinox: ‘a white horsday… about the first equinarx in the cholonder’ (FW 347). Book IV is the most important of a number of ‘stills’ (Hart 1962: 73) in ‘this allnights newseryreel’ (FW 489.35): a timeless moment which ‘contains all the seeds of the book’ (Hart 1962: 73). As Book IV opens, the sun rises at 6 am exactly, and is still rising as the book ends, in a state of momentary changeover from one cycle to the next, but here ‘frozen’ in the act (ibid.). The Wake’s ‘stopping of the day’ illuminates Benjamin’s observations on temporal standstill:
The initial day of a calendar serves as a historical time-lapse camera…it is the same day that keeps recurring in the guise of holidays, which are days of remembrance. Thus the calendars do not measure time as clocks do; they are monuments of a historical consciousness of which not the slightest trace has been apparent in Europe in the past hundred years
(Benjamin 1999: 253).
This consciousness is found to be still alive in an incident in the July Revolution when, on the first evening of the fighting, it turned out that ‘the clocks in towers were being fired on simultaneously and independently from several places in Paris’ (ibid.).
‘a ground plan of the placehunter’ (FW 585.23). Knowth Site 1 (after George Eogan 1986), showing the ‘equinoxious’ east and west passages.
The ‘spearspid of dawnfire’ that touches ‘the centre of the great circle of the macroliths’ (FW 594.21-23) anticipates the perception – now considered erroneous (Prendergast and Ray 2015) – that the east and west passages of Site 1 at Knowth, a Neolithic chambered tomb in the Boyne valley, were aligned to the vernal and autumnal equinox sunrises and sunsets. Since the two passages were rediscovered in 1967 and 1968, an equinoctial alignment has been assumed. Nevertheless, Site 1 does materialise Finnegans Wake, in that the elliptical groundplan of this double-entrance tomb can be transposed onto the ‘ALP diagram’ on page 293 so that each ‘equinoxious’ entrance aligns and opens on the apex of each end of the diamond on its long axis.
‘framm Sin fromm son, acity arose’
The correlation of Archaeology, Literature and Philosophy (ALP) can be explored via a comment Joyce made to the sculptor August Suter, as reported by Frank Budgen. He said: “I feel like an engineer boring through a mountain from two sides. If my calculations are correct we shall meet in the middle” (Budgen 1960). The architecture Knowth and of Finnegans Wake, expressed in this way, accords with the unrealised project of Le Corbusier and Edouard Trouin at La Sainte Baume, the mountain cave where Mary Magdalene was said to have spent her last years (Samuel 2001). Described as a city ‘according to Rabelais’ and an ‘orphic city’ (Samuel 2001: 325), it was to include a museum of Magdalenic iconography, a theatre, and a Basilica, envisaged as a Cathar cathedral, actually situated on the site of the Grotto of the Magdalene.
The design for the Basilica, to be bored into the mountain, is redolent of Joyce’s two-sided tunnelling metaphor in his Magdalenic text, and accords with Le Corbusier’s favourite diagram, his drawing of the cycle of day and night (Samuel 2001: 331). This sign of the 24 hour day Le Corbusier saw as an object of meditation, a route to the ‘Lost Paradise’ (ibid.), perhaps to the Wake‘s ‘one sweet undulant mother’ (FW 41.7). Asger Jorn, who was employed by Le Corbusier in 1936, adapted this image as a ‘dialectical symbol’ to illustrate a ‘genuinely materialist art’, to provide a critical contrast between what he regarded as dualistic and dialectical solutions in art, design and symbol (Birtwistle 1986: 39). The undulating, wave form of this image – encountered as a motif in megalithic art – enacts the journey of Panurge underground to seek the wisdom of a ‘chthonic Solphia’ (FW 450.18), much like the Wake‘s Shem, that ‘unseen blusher in an obscene coalhole’ (FW 194.18).
In his sketchbook of 1954 Le Corbusier copied out several pages of Book Five of Rabelais’ Gargantua and Pantagruel, in which Panurge visits the Oracle of the Holy Bottle in an attempt to discover whether he should get married or not (Samuel 2001: 326). Arriving at a holy fountain, Panurge encounters Bacbuc the High Priestess, who orders him to drink ‘one, two, three times’ (ibid.: 327). Behind these repeated recommendations to drink lies the explanation that ‘the headiest liquor of all’ is the liquor of learning, the knowledge in question being that of God, not the ‘hypocritical’ God of established religion, but a more complex deity with links back to ancient religion and philosophy (ibid.: 326).
Likewise, the textual architecture of Finnegans Wake revolves around the microcosm of the public house – the ‘twoinns’ (entrances) of Knowth (and its implicit injunction, in the Anglicised version of its name, to know) – ‘his umbrageous house of the hundred bottles’ (FW 380), a ‘porterhouse’ (FW 405:23) where Anna serves ‘her old phoenix portar’ (FW 406.10): ‘very potably so… one who deeper thinks will always bear in the baccbuccus of his mind that this downright there you are and there it is is only all in his eye’ (FW 118.15-17). Perhaps this is one context for the Basin Stone in the right-hand recess at the end of the eastern passage of Knowth. The π (pi) symbol alludes to the Magdalenian dimension in that it is Welsh for magpie, and expressed as a fraction it approximates to 22/7, the numeration of Mary Magdalene’s Feast Day on 22nd July. Also implicit are the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet, essential to kabbalistic mysticism, and the twenty-two cards of the Major Arcana of the Tarot, which themselves have been linked to the letters of that alphabet:
The Chemical Wedding
With the Wake‘s ‘Hullo Eve Cenograph’ (FW 488.23-24), sent ‘for the seek of Senders’ (FW 389.36), ‘for Maggi beyond by the ashpit’ (FW 211.22), Joyce activates the Cinderella narrative as an allegory of the soul’s transformation of light out of darkness (Bayley 1912). She is the
personification of the Holy Spirit dwelling unhonoured amid the smouldering ashes of the Soul’s latent, never totally extinct, Divinity
(Bayley 1912: 194-195).
Joyce knew Bayley’s ‘intriguing array of Cinderella lore’ well (Gordon 1986: 281-282); it influenced his characterisation of Issy, the ‘pretty Proserpronette’ (FW 267.10-11), daughter of ALP and HCE. Indeed, ALP – whose ‘hallucinian via’ (FW 478.13-14) the passage of the tomb is – is Demeter to Issy’s Persephone: ‘the message she braught belaw from the missus she bragged abouve’ (FW 333.19-20). Cinderella personifies both the human soul, exiled from Paradise and the ‘light’ of the Holy Spirit of Wisdom, hidden within the soul, unrecognised until events are set in motion by the appeal to her ‘God’-mother (Baring 1991: 152). In this role she is like Sophia, or the Shekhinah, whose loss is felt by HCE in ‘mourning the flight of his wild guineese’ (FW 71.4). Like the Bride in the Song of Songs she undergoes trials in darkness prior to her royal marriage. Like the Prince in the story, Solomon is consumed with love for her and seeks her until he finds her (ibid.: 61).
The Dream of Oenghus is a version of this narrative in which an altered state of consciousness plays a central role, located within the chambered tomb at Newgrange. Visited there in dream each night by the fairy woman, Caer, Oenghus is rendered lovesick at her departure, each morning. After a long search, he eventually finds her at Hallowe’en, in the form of a swan among a group of 150 swans on Lough Bel Dragon. In the form of two swans they returned to Newgrange, where they ‘sang a choral song so that it put the people to sleep for three days and three nights’ (Jackson 1971: 93-97).
Kissing Swans, Lac Leman, Geneva: ‘through neck and necklike Derby and June’ (FW 454.31-32) ♥
The ‘swaying motif of rising-and-falling intervals’ which emerges in the second movement of Sibelius’ Fifth Symphony, and flies forth in the finale, Sibelius called his ‘swan hymn’ (Ross 2007), described by Alex Ross as a spiritual force in animal form (ibid.). This theme was inspired by the sight of sixteen swans flying in formation over his home, Ainola. During the composition and recomposition of this symphony, Sibelius compared his compositional practice to ‘the search for the proper reconfiguration of scattered mosaic tiles flung down from heaven’ (James Hepokowski), a description redolent of the redemptive practice of tikkun in Lurianic kabbalah. Just so with the number and letter magic of Finnegans Wake, performed through the Abulafian figure of Shem in his entranced reconfiguration of ALP’s ‘meusic before her all cunniform letters’ (FW 198.24-25), ‘flashing down the swansway‘ (FW 450.5), whereby Joyce combines the ‘riverrun’ of the Meuse, music and mosaic in his stream of consciousness.
‘neoliffic smith and magdalenian jinnyjones’ (FW 576.36). A Bronze Age rock carving from Hvarlös, Sweden, recorded by P.V. Glob. Considered to be a depiction of a ‘sacred marriage’, the woman’s vagina has been configured as a lozenge: ‘And be the powers of Moll Kelly, neighbour topsowyer, it will be a lozenge to me all my lauffe’ (FW 299.27-29).
In terms of the repertoire of carved motifs, the ratio of lattice patterns carved within the chambers of Knowth and Newgrange has led to a hypothesised relationship between lattices and ancestors (Dronfield 1996: 22). In fact, the correlation between lattice/lozenge carvings – ‘diamondcuts’ (FW 572.4) – and mortuary deposits (Dronfield 1996: 23) parallels a relation between inhumations and carved iconography (notably the suits of playing cards) expressed in Joyce’s novel:
Tomb be their tools. When the youngdammers will be soon heartpocking on their betters’ doornoggers: and the youngfries will be backfrisking diamondcuts over their lyingin underlayers, spick and spat trowelling a grave trench for their fourinhand forebears. Vote for your club!
The association of lattice motifs and bones suggest a conceptual connection which may be parallelled in Tukano symbolism, where the lattice/lozenge pattern symbolises matrilineal descent and exogamy (marrying women ‘from outside’) (Dronfield 1996: 52). As a heraldic device in Europe the lozenge was appropriated to the arms of spinsters and widows (Baker 1932: 651). Its etymological derivation from Provençale lauza (‘tombstone’) and probably from Latin lapis (‘stone’) (ibid.) corresponds to its recurrence as a motif in megalithic art. Joyce’s use of playing cards – ‘heartpocking’, ‘diamondcuts’, ‘spat’ and ‘club’ – and his accumulation of gambling references – ‘alla ludo poker’ (FW 261.F1) – recalls Anatole France’s characterisation of gambling as ‘the art of collecting into a single instant the emotions dispersed throughout the slow-moving existence of ordinary men’ (Benjamin 1999: 498). The cards – ‘with their hurts and daimons, spites and clops’ (FW 476.15-16) – may be ‘related to the images of Ars Memorandi’, freeing faculties in us ‘which are suppressed by convention and daily routine’ (Seligmann 1997: 416). A memory system to ‘fress up the rinnerung’ (FW 300.15-16), engraved on the walls – ‘(the memories framed from walls are minding)’ (FW 266.20-21) – they render the chambered tomb a ‘cartomanse’, a holy house of cards:
House of call is all their evenbreads though its cartomance hallucinate like an erection in the night of the mummery of whose deed
The preponderance of lattice/lozenge designs in megalithic tombs, and their proposed association with exogamy, corresponds with the marriage of Oenghus and Caer, ‘sommerlad and cinderenda’ (FW 331.26), and Solomon and Sheba, the ‘shebeen quean’ (FW 68.21-22):
Never play lady’s game for the Lord’s stake. Never lose your heart away till you win his diamond back
Implicating the cosmic marriage of Sol and Luna – the Chemical Wedding of the alchemical great work, depicted in the ALP diagram – is Kerbstone 52, the ‘Calendar Stone’, set in the ‘paradismic perimutter’ (FW 298.28-9) of Knowth. It may resolve the ‘age-old problem of harmonizing the solar and lunar cycles’ (Brennan 1983: 144). It appears to show the 28 phases of the moon as engraved horseshoe-like crescents circulating around the ‘waveney lyne’ (FW 209.18) of the ecliptic, transforming into circles as they reach the full moon. The twenty-seventh or last visible phase enters a central spiral, which obscures the invisible phases (ibid.). A twenty-ninth phase is shown – the new moon, marking the renewal of a twenty-eight day cycle, in ‘Geoglyphy’s twentynine ways to say goodbett an wassing seoosoon liv’ (FW 595.7-8). It corresponds to the images of the twenty-eight mansions of the moon and the Draco Lunae given by Cornelius Agrippa (Yates 1964:196), the latter, 29th image, showing the head and tail of the lunar dragon. – that of renewal, or the new moon (ibid.).
The ‘Calendar Stone’ K52 (after Martin Brennan).
The depiction on K52 at Knowth of the ‘underlacking of her twenty nine shifts’ (FW 289.11-12) weaves a pattern, ‘to no end gathered’, on ‘the loom of the moon’ (U), ‘of the best Lough Neagh pattern’ (FW 76.21-22), through which conjunctions of the ‘wished for’ and ‘nature’ are constructed. The ‘twentynine ditties round the wishful waistress’ (FW 255.33), associates Knowth’s ‘wishful’ perimeter with the ‘leap-year girls’ of ‘St Bride’s Finishing Establishment’ (FW 220.2-4), who symbolise the lunar cycle in Finnegans Wake: ‘And what do you think that pride was drestin! Voolykins’ diamondinah’s vestin’ (FW 250.30-31). They are The Floras, ‘a month’s bunch of pretty maidens’ (FW 220.5) who, as a ‘lunarised score’ (FW 92.12-13) of twenty-eight, form ‘with valykyrienne licence’ (FW 220.5-6) the guard for their twenty ninth member, Issy, ALP’s daughter/younger self: ’29 sweet reasons why blossomtime’s the best’ (FW 64.35-36). They also embody the coincidenta oppositorum, ‘weeping like fun’ with ‘gleeful cries’:
amongst revery’s happy gardens nine with twenty Leixlip yearlings, darters all, had such a ripping time with gleeful cries… and weeping like fun, him to be gone, for they were never happier, huhu, than when they were miserable, haha
They may also be present as the twenty-nine upright stones which line the passage of the decorated tomb at Gavrinis, Brittany. ALP, Izod’s ‘fiery goosemother’ (FW 242.25), is also their ‘mivver, Mrs Moonan… off in the fuerst quarter scrubbing the backsteps of Number 28’ (FW 157.14-16).
The concern with lunar cycles postulated for stone K52 correlates with the Kabbalistic conception of the Shekhinah within Judaism, which introduces the symbolism of the feminine into the divine (Scholem 1965: 106). The ambivalence and the exile of the Shekhinah, linked to the phases of the moon, lends an additional analogical significance to stone K52. As the lowest of the ten sephiroth of the Tree of Life, the powers of mercy and of stern judgment are alternately preponderant in the Shekhinah (Scholem 1965:107), so that at times she ‘tastes the other, bitter side, and then her face is dark’ (ibid.). This dual aspect of the Shekhinah is personified as the two wives of Jacob, Rachel and Leah; the one exiled from God and lamenting, the other in her perpetually repeated reunion with her Lord (Scholem 1965: 149), suggested by the ‘lighter’ and ‘darker’ halves of the diamond in the ALP diagram, and the ‘diamondcuts’ at Knowth and Newgrange, as well as the ‘Gay’ and ‘Gloamy’ aspects of Issy. They appear in the Wake as the fortune-teller:
Kate (Miss Rachel Lea Varian, she tells forkings for baschfellors, under purdah of card palmer teaput tosspot Madam d’Elta, during the pawses)
The ‘ambivalence’, the alternating phases of the Shekhinah, is related to that of its exile, sometimes represented as the banishment of the queen or of the king’s daughter by her husband or father (Scholem 1965: 149). The ‘lessening of the moon’, the ‘duindleeng lunas’ (FW 549.13) – both dwindling and two indwelling in Finnegans Wake – was interpreted by the Kabbalists as a symbol of the Shekhinah’s exile, the Shekhinah itself being the ‘holy moon’, which has fallen from its high rank, been robbed of its light and sent into cosmic exile, shining only with reflected light (ibid.: 51). No cosmic event seemed to be more closely connected with the exile of all things than the periodic waning of the moon (ibid.: 152). This exile is ritually dramatised in the yom kippur katan, or Lesser Day of Atonement, as the Kabbalists called the day before the new moon, devoted to fasting and repentance:
Let us hear, therefore, as you honour and obey the queen, whither the indwellingness of that which shamefieth be entwined of one or atoned of two
This is the context for the performance of the Lurianic Midnight Rite by the ‘Negoist Cabler’ (FW 488.21), Shem. This kabbalistic rite has two parts, devoted to the two aspects of the Shekhinah, Rachel and Leah. The tikkun Rachel, or ‘Rite for Rachel’, was the true rite of lamentation; in observing it,
men ‘participate in the suffering of the Shekhinah’ and bewail not their own afflictions, but the one affliction that really counts in the world, namely, the exile of the Shekhinah
(Scholem 1965: 149).
The mystic, then, should rise and dress at midnight and recite a set liturgy which includes Psalm 137: ‘By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept’ (Scholem 1965: 149-150). At the close of the chapter which begins with the burial of HCE in Lough Neagh, ALP is brought in, with an allusion to the same psalm:
For we, we have taken our sheet upon her stones where we have hanged our hearts in her trees; and we list, as she bibs us, by the waters of babalong.
Does Joyce allude here to Aleister Crowley’s Scarlet Woman, Babalon, of whom Crowley wrote: ‘And in her is a perfect purity of that which is above, yet she is sent as the Redeemer to them that are below’ (Crowley 1954). According to the Zohar, at midnight the Shekhinah, who is in exile, sings songs and hymns to her spouse, and a dialogue or even a hieros gamos is enacted between God and the Shekhinah (Scholem 1965: 148).
The actual day of the new moon, ‘When the moon of mourning is set and gone’ (FW 623.27-28), and the moon is reborn, is a day of rejoicing on which fasting is expressly prohibited (ibid.: 151): ”Tis golden sickle’s hour’ (FW 360.24). The ‘golden sickle’ of the lunar crescent appears at the feet of The High Priestess in the Rider/Waite version of the Tarot, along with the horned diadem on her head. Sat between the white and black pillars – Japheth and Boaz – of Solomon’s Temple, she represents ‘the Second Marriage of the Prince who is no longer of this world… the spiritual Bride and Mother, the daughter of the stars’ (Waite 1910: 76). She is herself the Supernal Mother of the Kabbalah, Binah, who reflects to the emanations beneath, the Shekhinah ‘that is both above and below’ (ibid.: 79), a status homologous with that of ALP and Issy in Finnegans Wake:
And I sept up twinminsters, the pro and the con… now all loosebrick and stonefest, freely masoned arked for covennanters and shinners’ rifuge: descent from above on us, Hagiasofia of Astralia, ourorisons thy nave and absedes, our aeone tone aeones thy studvaast vault; Hams, circuitise!
The ‘sacred marriage’ which annuls, momentarily, the exile of the Shekhinah each sabbath is a ceremony in which Messianic redemption is anticipated (ibid.: 153) (‘do you mind waiting?’), manifesting Benjamin’s dialectic at a standstill, the opening to a Messianic interruption of ‘the homogeneous course of history’ (Benjamin 1968a: 254):
There’s Mumblesome Wadding Murch cranking up to the hornemoonium… The finnecies of poetry wed music. Feeling the jitters?… Now’s your never! Peena and Queena are duetting a giggle-for-giggle and the brideen alannah is lost in her diamindwaiting.
The state of being lost in her two minds at her diamond wedding, depicted in the ‘duominous… mezzotinties’ (FW 552.24) of megalithic lozenge/lattice motifs, and the double entrances or ‘twoinns’ (FW 111.17) of Knowth, accords with the ambivalence of the Shekhinah. Ambiguity, states Benjamin, is ‘the imagistic appearance of dialectics at a standstill… a dream image’ (Cohen 1993:46). The use of dream elements in waking being ‘the textbook example of dialectical thinking’ (Cohen 1993:48), in ‘awakening’ occurs the dialectical synthesis between dream consciousness and waking consciousness (Cohen 1993: 55).
The Oneirocriticon of Artemidorus distinguishes between two kinds of dream, the oneiron and the enhypnion: the former foretells the future and the latter reproduces ‘the things that are’ (Boas 1993:12). Presumably, Benjamin has in mind the oneiritic dream – ‘the ride onerable’ (FW 328.13) – which points to what Ernst Bloch described as the anticipatory consciousness of a possible world, adequate to the ‘utopian subject’ (Hudson 1982: 21). This is distinguished from the ‘bad empiricism’ of ‘the world at hand’, a ‘humanly inadequate world’ (ibid.), reproduced through the enhypnion. Benjamin’s concept of the constellation (evoking Joan Miro’s series of paintings produced between 1939 and 1941, with its images of stars, birds and women) is consonant with Freud’s method of free association in dream interpretation, which utilises the dreamer’s free associations, insisting that ‘by a circuitous route they guide him back to the hidden meaning of the dream’ (Frieden 1993: 103). In Benjamin’s schema ‘historical awakening’ is the ‘critical moment in the reading of dream images’ (1999: 912), ‘the exemplary case of remembering’ (ibid.: 907).
Joan Miro, Femmes au bord du lac a la surface irisee par le passage d’un cygne (Women at the Edge of a Lake Irradiated by the Passage of a Swan) 1941
From spark to phoenish
Within the ‘tumass equinous’ (FW 93.9) of Knowth dream elements coalesce in the context of a ‘social awakening’. It is a place, like the tombs at Loughcrew, ‘where the real world and the other world collided’ (Champion and Cooney 1999: 210) – a ‘collideorscape’ (FW 143.28). Here, ‘from each equinoxious points of view, the one fellow’s fetch being the other follow’s person’ (FW 85.28-29), HCE – the man on a white horse – confronts the dark horse of the colonial and working class subject (Cheng 1995), ‘with his deepseeing insight… within his patriarchal shamanah… he conscious of enemies, a kingbilly whitehorsed in a finglas mill’ (FW 75.12-16). In the dark room of the passages, where ‘photoplay finister started’ (FW 516.35-36), the allusion to the world’s end (finis terre) identifies the tenth and final avatar of Vishnu – Kalki – mounted on a white horse, the harbinger of the end time in Hindu eschatology and the start of a golden age.
The Seventh Tarot Trump, La Carrozza (The Chariot), from an Italian design. Note the ‘equinoxious points of view’ of the black and white horses.
Yet, the copresence of the dark horse in this photofinish recalls the chariots of Plato’s Phaedrus, in which the soul is guided by the dark horse of passion and the white horse of reason, suggesting a dialectical intertwinement beyond either/or dualism. Benjamin’s constellation, ‘an image which flashes up at the instant when it can be recognized and is never seen again’ (Benjamin 1999: 247), realises the dynamism of the astrological ‘Horuscoup even when Oldsire is Dead to the World’ (FW 105.28-29), the ‘snapshot’ taken at the moment of an individual’s birth which forms a configuration capable of interpretation (Auerbach 2007):
almost any photoist worth his chemicots will tip anyone asking him the teaser that if a negative of a horse happens to melt enough while drying, well, what you do get is, well, a positively grotesquely distorted macromass of all sorts of horsehappy values and masses of meltwhile horse
Recalling ‘a king billy whitehorsed in a finglas mill’: the upward-pointing white triangle of the obelisk at Farley Mount, Hampshire, a memorial to a racehorse interred in this Bronze Age burial mound. By coincidence, this picture was taken on the evening of 22/7/2013, the Feast Day of Mary Magdalene, and just a couple of hours after the birth of a scion of the House of Windsor was announced. Amidst the rumbles of thunder and the passing showers, church bells were heard ringing in celebration of the royal birth: ‘dizzed and dazed by the lumpty thumpty of our interloopings, fell clocksure off my ballast: in our windtor palast it vampared for elenders (FW 550-551).
Joyce’s photographic process within ‘darkumound numbur wan’ (FW 386.20-21), recalls Benjamin’s ‘A Small History of Photography’, in which he introduces his concept of the aura. The old photograph is exemplified in the portraits of David Octavius Hill. Their ‘aura’ is a result of the technical conditions of the period and of the status of photography, producing ‘the absolute continuum from brightest light to darkest shadow,’ so that ‘the way light struggles out of darkness… is reminiscent of mezzotint’ (Rochlitz 1996: 151-2). The ‘mezzotinties’ (FW 552.24) embodied in the dark and light triangles of ALP/Knowth reveal the interplay of light and shade in the lost letter(s) concealed in the of ‘the Mound of a Word’ (FW 175) where
the traits featuring the chiaroscuro coalesce, their contrarieties eliminated, in one stable somebody… experiencing a jolting series of prearranged disappointments, down the long lane of (it’s as semper as oxhousehumper!) generations, more generations and still more generations!
In a Rosicrucian twist on structuralist-informed ‘hermeneutic archaeology’, the mound, the ‘oxhousehumper’ of aleph (ox), beth (house) and gimel (camel), is comprised of the litter of letters from the Fall, inviting an interpretive number and letter magic: ‘Can you rede… its world?’ (FW 18.18-19). The lozenge/lattice motifs on ‘the mizzatint wall’ (FW 334.24) at Knowth and at Newgrange embody the ‘parchment pied’ (FW 395.4) of ALP’s ‘Grandmère des Grammaires’ (FW 256.20), her ‘Primer of Black and White Wenchcraft’ (FW 269. F4):
the fairness of promise with consonantia and avowals. There lies her word, you reder. The height herup exalts it and the lowness her down abaseth it (FW 249.13-15).
The ‘lowness of her down’ is the ‘bluishing refluction below’ (FW 299.17-18) of ALP’s daughter, ‘Izzy, her shamemaid’ (FW 212.17-18), embodying the ‘chthonic Solphia’ (FW 450.18). In alchemical philosophy, the upward pointing triangle is identified as the ‘fiery triangle’, while the downward is the ‘watery triangle’ (Roob 1997: 173). When these triangles interpenetrate each other to form the six-pointed Seal of Solomon, or hexalpha, ‘the work of rebirth and reunification with Sophia will be complete’ (ibid.). This is the context for Finnegan’s resurrection in the traditional song when, in the midst of battle, a bottle of whiskey (‘firewater’) is thrown, spilling on his head, reviving him:
Let be buttercup eve lit by night in the Phoenix! Music. And old lotts have funn at Flammagen’s Ball. Till Irinwakes from Slumber Deep.
HCE’s pub, The Phoenix Tavern, where ALP serves ‘her old phoenix portar’ (FW 406.10), is in Chapelizod, a village named after the Irish princess Isolde, rival of Isolde of Brittany in the affections of Tristan, and both embodying the dual nature of Issy in her ‘mirrorminded curiositease’ (FW 576.24). Isolde’s ‘rival doors of warm bethels of worship’ (FW 186.30) coincide with the east and west passages at Knowth, illuminated (as was once believed) by the equinoctial sunrises and sunsets (Eogan 1986: 128). Here the two ‘flash brides’ (FW 66.36), who ‘as magdalenes, were drawpairs’ (FW 237.36-238.1) are complicit in the social/sexual Fall of HCE, also correspond to the commodified female ‘threshold-dweller’ of Benjamin’s Arcades, the central figure of his project, through whose profane illumination ‘images become dialectical images’ (Weigel 1996: 87), embodying the sexual geography of the awakening of desire in the commodified space of the city. The notion of the dialectical image is, says Taussig, aimed ‘precisely at the holy alliance of the orderly with the sacred’ (Taussig 1987: 443). In the recurrent parodised appropriation of the motto of the Order of the Garter – Honi soit qui mal y pense (‘Shame on him who thinks ill of it’) – Joyce seems to celebrate this ‘joyfold’ (FW 527) conjunction:
Honey swarns where mellisponds. Will bee all buzzy one another minnies for the mere effect that you are so fuld of pollen yourself
Describing his project to Gershom Scholem as a ghostly procession, Benjamin’s provisional title identifies it with a supernatural spectacle: ‘Parisian Arcades. A Dialectical Féerie’. The Féerie was an elaborate theatrical spectacle but, as a term it was discarded by Benjamin in favour of phantasmagoria (Cohen 1993: 254). He compares his practice to the cinema: ‘Method of this project: Literary Montage. I need say nothing. Only show’ (ibid.: 254). Combining magic lantern projection with verbal utterances, sound effects, music, smoke, incense, mirrors and audience participation, at the centre of the show ‘stood the phantoscope, a medium of illumination that transforms the unfiltered natural light of rational understanding into an energy somewhere between nature and art’ (Cohen 1993: 256). Seeking to register sediments of experience ‘no longer or not yet claimed by social and economic rationality’ and render them legible ‘as emblems of a forgotten future’ (Hansen 1987: 209), Benjamin hoped ‘to tap into an ontologically prior form of auratic experience’ which, by a shock of recognition, would trigger ‘forms of collective memory and experience unavailable to forms of instrumental perception’ (Cooper 2002: 62). And, just as the camera ‘introduces us to the optical unconscious’ (Work), so Joyce resorts to its imagic language because
One great part of every human existence is passed in a state which cannot be rendered sensible by the use of wideawake language, cutanddry grammar and goahead plot.
letter to Harriet Shaw Weaver (24 November 1926).
‘Our central idea’, states Guy Debord, ‘is that of the construction of situations… the concrete construction of momentary ambiances of life and their transformation into a superior passional quality’ (1957a: 22), in order ‘to multiply poetic subjects and objects’ and organise ‘games of these poetic objects among these poetic subjects’ (ibid.: 25).
Admission is ‘dirt cheap at a sovereign a skull’ (FW 374.27-28) to the Wake‘s ‘auradrama’ (FW 517.2) at ‘Feenichts Playhouse’ (FW 219.2), where the House of the Dead is a taproom presided over and patronised by ‘that host of a bottlefilled’ (FW 310.26), an ‘unconsciously penetrated space’ (Benjamin 1968b: 230) haunted by ‘the fair folk’ and ‘the good people’, traditional epithets of the fairies:
With futurist one-horse balletbattle pictures and the Pageant of Past History worked up with animal variations… Shadows by the film folk, masses by the good people… Longshots, upcloses, outblacks, and stagetolets by Hexenschuss, Coachmaker, Incubone and Rocknarrag
In performing the ‘problem passion play’ (FW 32.31), funerary and festive coincide in socialist cinema – ‘see the Bolche your pictures motion’ (FW 330.23), revealing the end of the old regime in the dreamscape of the pub, an ‘eeridreme… being effered you by Bett and Tipp’ (FW 342.30) with its caricature of a horse/hearse/arse:
The Games funeral at Valleytemple. Saturnights pomps, exhabiting that corricatore of a harss, revealled by Oscur Camerad. The last of Dutch Schulds, perhumps. Pipe in Dream cluse. Uncovers Pub History.
Projected through the ‘myrioscope’(FW 127.35), they are ‘Movies from the innermost depths of my still attrite heart’ (FW 194.2-3), ‘Real life behind the floodlights as shown by the best exponents of a royal divorce’ (FW 260.F3), in an ‘underworld of nighties and naughties and all the other wonderwearlds!’ (FW 147.27-28):
The construction of situations begins on the ruins of the modern spectacle… the very principle of the spectacle – nonintervention – is linked to the alienation of the old world. Conversely, the most pertinent revolutionary experiments in culture have sought to break the spectator’s psychological identification with the hero so as to draw him into activity by provoking his capacities to revolutionise his own life
(Debord 1957a: 25).
The ‘hallucinian via’ (FW 478.13-14) of Finnegans Wake opens up a ‘phantastichal roseway anjerichol’ (FW 470.18) which evokes, simultaneously, the ascending hierarchy of angels and the tumbling walls of Jericho, implicated in the fall of the hero, HCE: ‘such a satuation, debauchly to be watched for, would empty dempty him down to the ground’ (FW 319.35-36), in a Joycean echo of the ‘constructed situation’. As the situationists fashioned – after Lefebvre – the critique of everyday life, so Joyce saw ‘the music hall, not poetry’, as ‘a criticism of life’, performed in Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld and its climax in the infernal gallop of the can-can:
and fourtiered skirts are up, mesdames
A page from Ars Magna Lucis et Umbrae (1646) by Athanasius Kircher.
Joyce’s 1924 notebook has the notation, ‘Dawn wireless thought transference’ (Gordon 2004: 271), anticipating the Wake‘s field of consciousness, attuned to ‘the wireless harps of sweet old Aerial’ (FW 449.29-30). Its ‘radiooscillating epiepistle’ (FW 108.24) – transmitted at the behest of ALP/Isis, who ‘dream telepath posts dulcets on this isinglass stream’ carried ‘on my hearz’ waves’ (FW 460.21-27) – has a corresponding echo in the conjunction of archaeoacoustic research focused on megalithic tombs and the frequency of the number 111 in Finnegans Wake: ‘the majik wavus has elfun anon meshes’ (FW 203.31): the magic wave has 11+1 meshes.
As ‘the ride onerable’ (FW 328.13) – three ones – of ALP’s gematric value, 111 Hz is also a natural resonance frequency identified for Neolithic tombs and chambers in Ireland and Britain, which cluster mostly within the ‘myrioheartzed’ (FW 331.23) range of 110-112 Hz (Mills 2014: 66-67). In the context of ‘chambermade music’ (FW 184.4) this frequency has consciousness-altering effects: at 110-112 Hz the patterns of activity over the prefrontal cortex abruptly shift, resulting in a relative deactivation of the language centre, with regular exposure to resonant sound at that frequency ‘turning on’ an area of the brain that relates to mood, empathy and social behaviour (Cook, et al 2008). Within the ‘homedromed and enliventh performance’ (FW 32.31-32) of the tomb’s ‘Magnificent Transformation Scene’ (FW 222.17) the combined effects of light and sound ‘may have enhanced the spectacle of communication with the dead or spirits’ (Mills 2014: 66), while carved motifs may have been visualisations of sound phenomena experienced within the tomb (ibid.). The ‘soundconducting walls’ (FW 183.8) of Cairn T at Loughcrew come to mind, embellished with ‘burst loveletters’ (FW 182), aligned on the Equinox sunrise, and resonant at 111 Hz. Shem’s synaesthetic experience in ALP’s ‘genesic field’ (FW 112.16) is implied here:
I shall have a word to say in a few yards about the acoustic and orchidectural management of the tonehall
Benjamin’s post-Enlightenment challenge to Marx also involves the dark room, the camera obscura. Marx represents this entity in Enlightenment terms, opposing the darkened space of ideological illusion to the sun-filled landscape of reality, emblematising his faith in the illuminating power of rational critique (Cohen 1993: 255). Benjamin’s phantasmagorical show transgresses the dichotomy of reason/illusion (ibid.: 256), a transgression anticipated in Nicholas of Cusa’s negative theology, for the place
wherein Thou art found unveiled is girt round with the coincidence of contradictories, and this is the wall of Paradise wherein Thou dost abide. The door whereof is guarded by the most proud spirit of Reason, and, unless he be vanquished, the way in will not lie open
(Happold 1970: 336).
La Hougue de Déhus, Paradis, Guernsey.
Adorno exhorted Benjamin to emerge from the cave of representation and bring his project into the light of day (Cohen 1993: 257), though Benjamin suggested that the phantasmagoria had been ‘integrated into the construction’ of his study rather than described (ibid.). Countering Adorno’s description of his critical route as emergence from a darkened cave into a natural space where things appear as they really are, Benjamin evokes the image of the flash ‘Fludd of truth’ (1616) of the equinox at Loughcrew and the Winter Solstice at Newgrange and Maes Howe: ‘”Theory… breaks like a single ray of light into an artificially darkened chamber,” thereby placing his spectators, and possibly himself, in the camera obscura where phantasmagorical projection occurs’ (Cohen 1993: 257):
Our situations will be ephemeral, without a future; passageways.
(Debord 1957a: 25).
Conclusion: ‘whorled without aimed’
Through the retrieval and active involvement with the scattered materials reconfigured here, it can be seen that détournement and the literary montage of Benjamin and Joyce are completely unlike postmodern modes of deconstruction in which ‘neutral and indefinitely interchangeable elements’ are used ‘without negation, without affirmation, without quality’ (Anon. 1966:176). Détournement does not rest merely on displacement, the infidelity of the element, but is a return to a superior fidelity of the element within the dialectical development of a unifying meaning (ibid.). Likewise, the juxtaposition of images in Benjamin’s technique of montage was intended to facilitate the construction of paradise from the glimpses of alternative futures by revealing ‘otherwise concealed or forgotten connections with the past’ (Tambiah 1987: 369).
Dispersed through Lewis-Williams’ and Dowson’s deployment of the neurophysiology of altered states to interpret rock art, are fragments of a Rosicrucian epistemology: portentous signs, signatures and the concept of analogy (1988). ‘Deactivated’, ostensibly, by their metaphorisation, these buried fragments are, nevertheless, active elements which, ‘by dint of a secret heliotropism’ (Benjamin 1968a: 246), turn towards the light, like Joyce’s ‘sleeper awakening, in the smalls of one’s back presentiment… a flash from a future of maybe’ (FW 597.26-28). While the relation of the present to the past is temporal, ‘the relation of what-has-been to the now is dialectical: not temporal in nature but figural’ (Benjamin 1999: 463). The utopian charge implicit to this spatial and atemporal conception of history (Helmling 2003) is congruent with ‘dreaming’s disregard for sequential regularity’, which counters ‘the whole discourse of time, discipline and order’ (Wolfe 1991: 204).
The magical correspondence between Benjamin’s Arcades, Finnegans Wake, and the archaeology of megalithic art, suggest realms of experience ‘too all-encompassing to have coincided with the locality of their times’ (Bloch 1976: 8). The ‘living and speaking pictures’ of image magic – too much for the discursive hegemony of an atomistic, either-or rationality to bear – in their ambiguity are attentive to a ‘secret commonwealth’ of experience in an ‘undivided reawlity’ (FW 292.31), which does not exclude the social productions and theories of the temporal world, because ‘There is No Limit of Translucence’ (William Blake, Jerusalem).
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