Sunday, July 09, 2006

Visionary Poetry 13: Immanence & Transcendance

Is transcendance the goal of visionary poetry? It is certainly a central concern. But too often transcendance is considered in an either/or relationship with the here-and-now. In fact, genuine vision encompasses all of these states of being at the same, in a both/and rather than an either/or relationship.

I don't think you can discuss transcendance without also discussing immanence. The two states are paradoxically the same, and this paradox lies at the core of mysticism, and probably at the heart of what we might call spiritual. "Spiritual" includes those experiences we can have that numinous, transcendant, immanent, and mystical—but which are not tied to any given religion, belief-system, or cultural trope. Visionary experiences are of this type, no matter how they are interpreted later in culturally-bound language, description, and trope. What is transcendant, here, is that visionary and spiritual states transcend culturally-bound beliefs. We might use the language of our local culture to tell about what we have experienced, but the experience itself transcends the description and the context. Thus, in various parts of the world, a vision of the Divine Feminine might be called a visitation from the Virgin Mary, or Kannon (Quan Yin), White Buffalo Calf Woman, Spider, or various others. Every culture has Trickster tales. The fact that such patterns and visions occur in every culture, in every era, is one of the markers of what makes them archetypal. An archetype is a universal pattern arising from the collective unconscious of the entire species; we all have access to the archetypes, even if you call them one thing and I call them something else. Our images of the gods, or God, are archetypes. (And not the actual Presence, one might add. The goal of many mystical quests is to see the Face of the Divine directly, without intermediation. Again, this turns up everywhere. Meister Eckhart: "I pray to God to rid me of God.") So the archetypes transcend time, place, and local culture. But they are also immanent, because they arise from within. Immanence is the divine-within, the divine embodied in The Ten Thousand Things. When you see the Divine looking back at you from the eys of your Beloved, that is the Immanence. Something much larger than we, but also the same as we, that arises from within us. This again is a key trope you find in a lot of mystical poetry. Where that overlaps with spiritual poetry is that it's dealing with the same topics, but in a non-sectarian way. Some folks such as the Theosphists have defined spirituality as simply the same concerns as religion usually talks about, but with the sectarian, institutional trappings removed. Of course, the paradox here is that one risks creating a new system, a new institution with its own set of new trappings. The mystics talk about continuing to remove layers of the onion, even if you have to keep removing layers forever. So, spiritual poetry might look like that: it can start somewhere specific, and keep going past the usual boundaries.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Sarrouche said...

Hi. Intersting post. Have you ever read: 'Immanence: A Life...' by Gilles Deleuze? I recommend it.

11:29 AM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...

I have read some Deleuze before, but not that title, I think, except perhaps in excerpts cited by others. I'm adding it to the reading list, so thanks for the recommenation.

10:56 AM  

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