On Temptation

Many, many years ago, I wrote an essay which appeared in my short manuscript, Magic for Clods. Entitled "On the Alteration of Focus Theory" it concerned itself, in not so many words, with the notion that Newton's Third Law has applicability to the realms of morals and human development. I might add that the eminent philosopher and typist extraordinaire, Carrington Quynap III, highly praised the piece.

I shake my head in disbelief upon hearing various know-it-alls decry how "old-fashioned" Newton's physics was compared to that of Einstein, or that the latter "replaced" the former. For Christ's sake! That Third Law is at the very core of relativity and anticipated Einstein by three centuries! When I push against a heavy rock with one pound of pressure, could it not be said equally correctly that the rock pushes against me with one pound of pressure? And that's not vacuous playing with words, either; Newton invoked an incredible arsenal of mathematics, solely his invention, to demonstrate the principle was entirely consistent within the axiomatic system he created. 

In the spectacular biography
Isaac Newton by James Glieck, the author noted something which floored me: 
He sought order and believed in order but never averted his eyes from the chaos. He of all people was no Newtonian.
I'd go so far as to take this one step further. Given Newton's extensive investigations into alchemy, it's pretty clear he saw himself as the most steadfast Platonist imaginable. Despite that, he gave the formalist just about all the bricks and mortar needed to overthrow Platonism. Quoting Glieck again,
He was chief architect of the modern world.
Perhaps more importantly, Einstein himself wrote:
Fortunate Newton, happy childhood of science!...Nature to him was an open book, whose letters he could read without effort...In one person he combined the experimenter, the theorist, the mechanic and, not least, the artist in exposition.  He stands before us strong, certain, and alone...
Catch the drift? I would ask you to reconsider the two Glieck quotes, and then focus on Einstein's choice of the word "artist."

It always comes back to, life imitates art, doesn't it?

But returning to Newton's Third Law, a couple years ago, still halfway believing in the somewhat faded notion of the Age of Aquarius, I made a rather bold decision. It was a good choice, as all choices are.

Read that last sentence again, or refer to the section in this memoir entitled Corpus Crowley. All choices are appropriate in the larger scheme of things and will eventually be made. But seen too close up, they sometimes hurt like hell.

Have you run across that Flammarion wood engraving of a philosopher reaching through one of Aristotle's crystal spheres, trying to grasp the heavens? That's the way I felt then. I really thought I had found nirvana. And yet, one dreary November day shortly thereafter, I wrote:

I detest memory,
especially forced to recall,
things that never happened at all.

Never enter the race unless you're prepared to lose;
why wasn't that remembered?

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is;
why wasn't that remembered?

"Never trust anyone," warned Herod Agrippa to Claudius;
why wasn't that remembered?

Ma always said I was gullible.
Maybe, but memory is the real culprit.

Why wasn't that remembered?
Maybe not a noble thought, but that's the way it seemed at the time. In very short order I felt Lord Byron's melancholia exceedingly deeply:
So, we'll go no more a-roving 
  So late into the night, 
Though the heart be still as loving,  
  And the moon be still as bright.  

For the sword outwears its sheath,          
  And the soul wears out the breast,  
And the heart must pause to breathe,  
  And love itself have rest.  

Though the night was made for loving, 
  And the day returns too soon,  
Yet we'll go no more a-roving 
  By the light of the moon. 
If you take time to parse that lament and what old Byron was getting at, you'll know exactly how I felt then. A rather low period, with no hope of reprieve...

And then, and then...

In one fell swoop, neither my pessimistic doggerel nor Byron's farewell to youth were relevant anymore. For indeed, the tilt of the magickal universe, once believed in, was restored without warning. It was a far more miraculous event than the profile of the Virgin Mary appearing on the crust of a grilled cheese sandwich. Here's what I wrote in my journal back one frosty February day, after the very first of many fifteen-minute dates crammed into busy days.


Have you ever driven down a newly bladed country road, the gravel still squishy and unpacked? It sure looks smooth and welcoming when no vehicle has hit it yet. But all of a sudden, the soft stuff pulls you toward the center. Yanking violently on the steering wheel to correct your course merely overcompensates, the front wheels not turning elegantly, but rather skidding like runners on a sled; they're hardly wheels anymore. And you end up back in the center again, not on the right side of the road where you belong. As long as this newly bladed stretch lasts, you're caught in the middle for as far as the eye can see, the car lurching in short bursts one side to the other, inelegantly, in perpetuity it seems. But always brought back to the center. Why won't the goddamned car go where you want it to and at least not scare the piss out of you while it caroms? It's far worse when you're the sole occupant and must worry about oncoming traffic.

I don't like roads that others have bladed. In fact, I don't even like roads, preferring to travel cross-country.

That should be abundantly clear from this blog. Facile? Hardly! Productive? Always!

Nonetheless, those were different days, then. My friends and I thought the world would always be this way, always Aquarian. Several decades of evidence to the contrary were starting to stack up, though. Sure, the fire still existed within me, but one believer does not a quorum make.

However...two people, now that's a horse of a different color. A noteworthy animal, don't you think?

Today has been one of the most amazing of my life. Right before falling asleep last night, I wondered what I would be writing today. Upon awakening I saw the word "urge" incarnate, standing before me, but that's not strong enough, how about: right before my very eyes...it's always in the eyes, isn't it? Especially green ones.

For a quarter hour, I...no, that's not quite right...we heard Oscar Wilde's Lord Henry whispering:
The aim of life is self-development. To realize one's nature perfectly--that is what each of us is here for. People are afraid of themselves, nowadays. They have forgotten the highest of all duties, the duty that one owes to one's self. Of course, they are charitable. They feed the hungry and clothe the beggar. But their own souls starve, and are naked. Courage has gone out of our race. Perhaps we never really had it. The terror of society, which is the basis of morals, the terror of God, which is the secret of religion--these are the two things that govern us.  And yet....

And yet...I believe that if one man were to live out his life fully and completely, were to give form to every feeling, expression to every thought, reality to every dream--I believe that the world would gain such a fresh impulse of joy that we would forget all the maladies of mediaevalism, and return to the Hellenic ideal--to something finer, richer than the Hellenic ideal, it may be. But the bravest man amongst us is afraid of himself. The mutilation of the savage has its tragic survival in the self-denial that mars our lives. We are punished for our refusals. Every impulse that we strive to strangle broods in the mind and poisons us. The body sins once, and has done with its sin, for action is a mode of purification. Nothing remains then but the recollection of a pleasure, or the luxury of a regret. The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden to itself, with desire for what its monstrous laws have made monstrous and unlawful. It has been said that the great events of the world take place in the brain. It is in the brain, and the brain only, that the great sins of the world take place also.
To be both the source and the destination of an urge is intoxicating. In a not so trifling fifteen minutes, the earth's axis violently swung back to where it was when Thuban was the pole star and cat goddesses ruled the Nile.

It seems the Age of Aquarius is something of a fan dancer. Surrounded by burlesque balloons, a quick swirl of the fan reveals just a bit of naked flesh, tempting us briefly, but discreetly covering herself again for a few more years. And then another flash, the briefest of nudity, only to be obscured once more, a decade longer, until the next titillating glimpse. The feathers she waves about are so gossamer, permitting only the blurriest of views of what we crave. Yes, the Age of Aquarius has always been a tease.

Until today.

Recurring dreams are usually violent, active, hair-raising. Can you imagine dreaming repeatedly over the course of forty years something incredibly dull? How about a recurring dream of doing the dishes, or raking the yard, or balancing the checkbook? Then out of the blue on the 14,601st night, you return to nocturnal images of ecstasy as promised in the Age of Aquarius. And most remarkable of all, what Lord Henry spoke of ends up being a two-way street.

It wasn't a lie after all.

And that's how I started my day.

Next installment: Lady of the Mountain 

No comments:

Post a Comment