MICHEL CAMUS

The Paradigm of Transpoetry *


We do not know what poetry is. The univocal concepts which one used to call "the world", "reality", "nature", "culture", "poetry" have become more naïvely reductionist since seekers have become increasingly aware of the plurality of worlds and cultures, of the complexity of levels of reality and of levels of perception, levels uncaptured by Aristotelian logic and dialectics. Rather, an infinite number of levels of truth and of complexity in poetry exist, a verticality of levels of poetic perception, a plurality of directions of the quest, a multiplicitiy of forms of poetic art.

Many trends in contemporary Western poetry have become estranged from its origins in the initiatory "high-poetry" of the East. Evidence which the adepts of the Greater Vehicle had clearly seen when they discovered the verses of the Rig Veda. René Daumal and his friends had opened a poetic, mystic and gnostic way, through the contradictory cultures of East and West, as they did through the sciences turned exclusively toward the pole of the Subject and those turned exclusively toward the pole of the Object. In France, as elsewhere, there are still poets open to the invisible dimension of "sacred bonding" to be distinguished, as does Roger Caillois, from "sacred unbonding". There are trans-religious poets inhabited by a feeling for the Absolute: the Arab poet Adonis for example. Atheist mystical poets like Bernard Noël. Poets of enigma "burning" at different degrees of intensity in their element of fire. Seekers after truth, in whose view initiatory poetry, oriented toward a unified consciousness, tends to create a link between the essence of humanity and the essence of the universe. Poetry of source and sorcery. Poetry of awakening. Only the awakened poet knows that the quick and the dead are of the same essence. But the poetry of greatest awakening today lives on only in the catacombs of an epoch which is prey to the disintegration of all values, the degeneration of all religions, the collapse of the last myths of Marxism and the utopian eschatology of science. In a world in which all points of reference have been lost, here and there one still finds seers, heretic bearers of the sacred fire and the alchemists of silence. The media fear silence. Insensitive to "high-poetry", the people who live on the surface of life are incapable of sensing the secret silence, which lives on hidden in the silence of death.

North, South, East, West are part of the same Rose of Winds and are generated by the same enigmatic center. Every true poetic search, in whatever language or kind of culture, is oriented toward this center and tries to approach it in the sense meant by the poet Antonin Artaud when he cried out: - but who has drunk at the well-spring of life ? Among the converging pathways of the quest, each has its own way of crossing over toward the inaccessible fountain of life; one might call trans-poetic the way of the "poet-so(u)rcerer " oriented toward the unity of knowing. Goal which goes through and beyond poetry.

Filled with the sense of the Absolute, the poet-so(u)rcereris today a citizen of the world. She is trans-national in the sense that she feels linked relatively to many levels of reality at a time, but linked absolutely to what goes through and beyond them. That is to say that she feels herself to be first a citizen of the cosmos, then citizen of the Earth (the "planet-village" of Jacques Delors), then European, then French, then Corsican for example. Alas, as Kierkegaard said in substance, man has an annoying tendency of relativizing the Absolute while absolutizing the Relative. What is necessary, on the contrary, is to lose our absolutist identifications to accede to what René Berger has called a trans-identity : this is a concept which is infinitely open, analogous to that of an infinite identity of every consciousness awake to its own transcendence and to the transcendence of the universe, thus to a double transcendence to be perceived as one. One can therefore be both national, through membership in a territorial culture and trans-national in the spirit of trans-culture.

The essential part of being trans-cultural is not to let oneself be alienated by forms and beliefs, by systems of thought and formal teachings. It is to open oneself to the transcendence of meaning of the meaning before language, openness which the Mexican shaman Don Juan Matus called the "silent knowledge" which is inseparable from our luminous ignorance. The poet-so(u)rcererworks at reconciling the warring sisters of poetry and philosophy. The trans-cultural vision of poetry is inevitably trans-religious; it is planetary before being European, French or anything else; it flowers at the center of the Rose of Winds; it is open to all differences. Our occidental identity is illusory to the extent that it does not integrate the Other - the oriental - that we are also, in eternity. From this point of view, both Rûmi and Meister Eckhart are equally our "masters" of living. Our understanding of any culture different from our own can only be the result of our own understanding being open to the identity of opposites. We, Occidentals, are in our essence the alter egoof the Orientals. We are a part, as are they, of the same transcendental We, to make reference to the vision, in the work of Edmund Husserl, of the absolute inter-subjectivity of the beings and the things which determine the essence of life.

One of the axioms of the poet-so(u)rcereris the absolute principle of the relativity of all reality and of all language. She knows that all is metaphor. She knows that the paradox of poetic language is to allude to what escapes language. One often forgets that language is a Great Wall of China. The poet-so(u)rcerergoes through and beyond language by being open to the "silence-alive". It is in this way that the poet escapes from the prison of the tongue. "There is no poetry without silence", said Roberto Juarroz. This presenceinfinitely near infinitely far of the "silence-alive" one can call indifferently presenceof the sacred or consciousnessof immanent transcendence in the sense that transcendence is immanent to consciousness itself. It is this "Order of the Secret" which initiatory poetry attempts, an impossible wager, to enable people to share in. It is a secret, so to speak, that is trans-poetic, because it goes through and beyond speech and silence, because it is before speech and silence. It is the middle secretly includedin the binary opposition of speech and silence. No poet has ever said nor will ever say what this included middle is. Meister Eckhart alluded to it in evoking the essence of a "third speech" which is neither spoken nor thought and which is never expressed. Poetic silence can accede, in its experience, to the highest luminous level of silence. Only this silence can free us from the opacity and weight of language. It is not an empty silence, it is a silence full and even overflowing with silent meaning. It matters little what name is given to designate the abyss or the hollow hidden in a tongue, in other words the non-referent that escapes all language. The poet-so(u)rcereruses words freely as arrows shot toward the Unpronouncable, toward the inaccessible but inexhaustible Source. Within his human limitations, he can only approach it without ever being able to reach it. To say "the Source" is again a metaphor; that of the enigma of "Who ?" and the enigma of "What ?" which are one and the same enigma. The poet has the freedom of making allusion to them by evoking the Name-less, the Form-less and the Bottom-less. Paradoxically, it is the Bottom-less that provides the foundation of the unity of poetic knowledge.

We live in a world in which techno-science generates a techno-culture which has nothing whatever in common with an agriculture of the soul. To these outrageous forces of uncontrolled globalization, what counter-forces can poet-so(u)rcerers oppose ? Resistance to the obscurantism of the media. Self-transformation toward self-knowledge. Our vision of the world cannot change unless we change from inside, unless our states of consciousness evolve, in Goethe's words, toward more light, mehr Licht! In the titanic struggle which opposes light and darkness, each of us, according to her nature, serves either entropy or negentropy, either the evolution of consciousness or its involution. Each is the conscious or unconscious instrument of forces which are beyond all understanding. Poet-so(u)rcerersknow on what side they fight. The paradigm of trans-cultural poetry is above all the necessity of the awakening of man to what makes him a man, to what goes through him and what goes beyond him. The Manifesto of Transdisciplinarityof Basarab Nicolescu, quantum physicist but also author of a thousand Poetic Theorems, opens the way to encounters between poets and scientists, between researchers in social sciences and those in the exact sciences. This is a radically new departure. It is the seed of a new alliance between researchers and creators in all disciplines against the predators in power. Growing numbers of astrophysicists and quantum physicists are turning out to be metaphysical poets. The alliance of seekers after truth, those questioning the pole of the Subject and the others the pole of the Object, and their transdisciplinary interactions, can constitute an indestructible nucleus of light against the predators' attempts to plunge the world in shadow. The destiny of humankind is not decided in advance, it is created at every moment. Launched on the spaceship Earth in a fabulous cosmic adventure, the human phenomenon possesses in its heart an inexhaustible potential to awake to the luminous transcendence of its own interior sources. It is the vocation of the poet-so(u)rcererto make allusions to this by creating new points of reference and new sign-posts on the path-less path of interior infinity.

Michel CAMUS
Translated from French by Joseph E. Brenner


*   Text published in Transversales Science/Culture, n°44, March-April 1997.

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