[Elias Hassos - Rauch]

I spent Friday evening in a quiet way, sewing 15 new felt catnip critters to be given as gifts to the many cats and cat-owners I know, and also in indexing my growing set of reading journals. I've been keeping these journals since 2005 and am already up to 6 basic reading journals, 2 small 'incidentals' journals, and one larger notebook for more detailed notes and studies. In the process of re-reading my notes and excerpts, I came across my reflections on reading CS Lewis' Out of Silent Planet trilogy -- these notes have a strong connection with some of my thoughts on Milosz's Land of Ulro and so I wanted to reproduce them here.


First, an excerpt from That Hideous Strength:

For still she thought that 'Religion' was a kind of exhalation or a cloud of incense, something steaming up from specially gifted souls towards a receptive Heaven. Then, quite sharply, it occurred to her that the Director never talked about Religion; nor did the Dimbles nor Camilla. They talked about God. They had no picture in their minds of some mist steaming upward: rather of strong, skillful hands thrust down to make, and mend, perhaps even to destroy. Supposing one were a thing after all -- a thing designed and invented by Someone Else and valued for qualities quite different from what one had decided to regard as one's true self.

I then wrote this:

Isn't the problem in resisting and hesitating because one wants to hold on to the potential self as seen from the outside? When we force the 'I' which is not clear or distinct to be a sort of precious jewel handled judiciously or flashed strategically, we cut the life out of it -- sever it from its root, its connection to every life-giving element of nature, every formative element of the environment. There is a cleft as the person grows away from her root and into her being, but there is no formal sundering. To do so is to rob yourself entirely, to dash away all those rich hues which alone can constitute personality.

Is it not better to rest yourself in something so final, so ultimate, so entire, that all that is required is to turn inward, to gaze at the core which disappears into a coruscation of light flooding in from the true root. We all open out through one cause and close up on it as well. There is no other way to be. There is no hard self, it's a throbbing, living, rich and mysterious thing. It is neither of the present nor of the past, nor of the future -- it is of all, throbbing through all. It is both the single unit and the helpless part. It demands and needs. It takes and pulls and pries, but it gives and rests and lies still. It is a core and an anchor and it is a moment and a bit of ephemera. It is dark and earthy, it is clear and stellar. It is a blessed thing we have and it is blessed because it is thus.

'I am that I am,' He said, and we are blessed to be able to say that we are as He has made that we are.

When man seeks to reach out beyond the mystery that is part of his essence, he is seeking perversity, unnaturalness, cold and sterile non-existence. Whether or not there are other ways of existence is a question that is itself a mystery -- something to tell tales of and create stories about. They are not things to be achieved.
When man tries to 'perfect' himself he is trying to stab out the dirt of existence that is truth. Do not hide. Do not fool yourself with your own mask -- a protective device that wounds its wearer just as quickly as it fools the observer. There is a darkness, wetness, fertility. There is blood and bone and flesh. There is also mind, Reason (whatever that may be) and thought. But this is the triumph and the misery -- the ecstasy and the agony -- as much as one so divided may feel.

We yearn to be pure, free, united and no longer at civil war, and in so yearning we fall, again and again and again -- there is disobedience in that childish, stubborn refusal to accept. What we are to accept is that we are in this state through fault of our own! It is a choice made at the individual level by one who by nature wills, chooses, decides. The 'by nature' part is tricky and seems to mean that our hand in committing the fault was forced -- and for what reason? We always ask how we might be better, more excellent, more perfect, but we never allow ourselves to just dwell.

What does this word mean after all? Darkness, closeness, length of time -- we must dwell in our mysteries, fold them about us like great wraps of velvet, like great fogs of scent, like deep glades of green.

And as we dwell we must continue to live -- to be surficial as well, to skate and glide and dance, to flit and gleam and shine.

Our mysteries prove the necessity of our life -- we continue to shine forth as organisms because we dip down to that endless well, those 'fonds' of Leibniz -- because our mystery is in that connection -- in why we are permitted to drink ever so deep and bloom forth from those draughts.

I sit here -- heady with the scent of the peonies, awash in words. I was earlier aglow with the amber light creating webs between my fingers. Why do we crave discovery so greatly? We want to root it all out, bring it to the air, kill it with our breath of reason. What a feeble thing that clear light seems now, now, against the pure light of truth.

The shallow but penetrating clarity of light; the deep and secret, perhaps dangerous, depth of heat -- cool, sharp clarity & warm, languid depth -- the well is both -- both deep and embracing and fertile -- life-giving -- and it is cool, active, lit with rays and fierce in its essence.

We try so hard to do the fusion on our own, to combine within one person the facets of being which we can glimpse.

Why shouldn't we stick to the entreaties? I am a woman and I know nothing of what I'm told that means -- of the depth, the sanctity of hearth and womb and birth. I turn from those ideas and question them about their one-sided flat validity. And yet my reluctance is revealing.

I see so much in these past thoughts of mine -- a turning away from simple Aristotelian excellence of man and the romanticism of Rousseau, the influence of Nietzsche and of re-reading the Bible as a text and not as something sacred -- I see myself two years ago, fresh from new ways of thinking and seeing, with a new desire to write as a way of understanding myself and my place in the world -- I see myself applying what I've read and learned to how I live -- and I see myself still lost, still amazed at the myriad ways of living, of understanding or not-understanding.