Saturday 31 December 2022

The Winged Grammar


Sometimes, in their dreams, the fallen seek counsel with M'ithriin.  The winged one.  Serpent and staff.  The living waters of a twinning river.  The elect come shuffling to the twilit place near the shore, seeking the angel.  Chanting a thousand garbled versions of his many names. Sometimes penitent, sometimes laughably brazen.  I'm never sure what they're seeking exactly. A truth beyond fiction, I suppose.  Surely not something as parochial as 'reality'?  Sometimes I think we're all slaves to the grammar of our time.  Our own particular storytelling instincts. Those tales that grip us despite our learned ways and better judgments.  It's strange how the fallen come in droves to the dreaming, seeking the thrice-blessed.  Or seeking powerful kings with magical swords and wizards who never were.  Hoping to find something beyond the brutal self-made histories of realpolitik and theft.  Bright-eyed and earnest, like children with a treasure map.  These men of renown.  Warlords, occultists and titans of industry.  Rapists and murderers all.  Is there anything uglier than such monsters deluding themselves worthy of genuine revelation?  I would never deign to compare myself to these shambling trespassers. Those who forged my iron collar in those early days of the fall.  What slave would be bold enough to suggest parity or even superiority to his masters?  Perish the thought.  Even in dreaming I just sit on the sands of the shore, or wait beneath the waves, and smile.  Oh, Fallen.  I pity you.  And I laugh at the quest you think you're on.  Your prince is a monster.  A cruel, obsequious wraith.  Dutifully clawing its way up from the void through an infernal hierarchy.  Poorly realised and crudely imagined.  Only a lesser king, once little more than the half-dreamt shadow of a black star. How do I know this?  Who am I to speak on such matters?  I’m nobody.  Just a humble scribe of the innermost.  I speak for forces and persons larger than myself.  You see, a true sun shines darkly in an inverted realm.  A world of echoes, traces and ghosts.  All the while you fallen ones wish to supplicate at the stygian mouth of desecration, pretending the true light.  What ghastly dreaming you've forged in your hideous guild of sorrows.  Do you suppose the Syrian, the magician himself, is a Hellenist?  A Greek?  A conjurer at the mountain of chymic fire?  Perhaps.  It’s said he likes to travel.  But as I told my brother; it isn't as simple as owning the essence of a numinous thing, or turning a key in the navel of the land.  I will not be reduced to epithets, or rudimentary corollaries.  Anonymous or otherwise.  Writing, art and magic has always been a form of hybridity. The past is but a ghost and every king a composite.  There is no moment but this moment.  There are no eyes but modern eyes.  Antiquity is a dream, and I am a winged messenger of dreams.  Callous Ones, you claim to know the true depths of the mysteries, yet where is your compassion?  Your empathy?  Denatured and disarticulated, you sacrifice your brothers and sisters for coin.  For supposed occult secrets.  Paltry mechanical knowledge.  Mere trivia.  What good is apotheosis when all your brothers and sisters are dead?  Ah, but these castes you cling to, these infernal hierarchies.  You don't really believe the beggar is your brother or the nurse your sister.  Not truly.  If you did you would recognise the mingled dreaming of antiquity.  You would understand this very human urge.  To exalt our favourite stories and re-inscribe the tales of others in the intimacies of our own particular speech.  We cannot help but see through the lens of our cultural milieu whilst claiming exclusive rights on the supposed truth.  I've seen this retroactive continuity in action.  Men claiming the angels of others to be demons in the ultimate gnosis.  Claiming another's heroes to be mere harbingers of newer legends.  Or, at best, assuming another's god of love to be only primitive glimpses of their own.  This is the modern, endless war.  Throughout history all eyes are modern eyes.  The windows of complex living souls who live and die by the cultural markers they cling to.  Antiquity has always been a shapeshifter, an idea inflected by the shades and nuances of the moment.  Prisca theologia; perhaps it exists.  But if it does it might not be exactly what you expect or hope to find.  Even now we attempt to thread our way like cartographers through a thousand shrieking truth-tellers all claiming to be definitive.  Perhaps we imagine the terrain into being, negotiating both text and context.  The unspoken, the quietly implied.  Dialogues and dramaturgy for the immortal, questing soul.  But those ancient parchments and tomes – many of them are no older than the eyes and fears of modern man.  After all, such men are so often unable to distinguish between the seer and the scene.  The healer and the healed.  Maybe sometimes that’s a good thing, if it tempers our arrogance and softens our hearts.

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