Dialectic Structure of Heresy

15 Aug

In this site’s first post I described the dynamic, three-part phases of image-work: the idyllic phase in which a new identity is imagined or conceived (the process is loaded with Eros); the apocalyptic stage when the image-ideal separates increasingly from its generating host individual or culture, draws power from it, possesses and displaces it creating a state now termed ‘virtual reality’; an elegiac phase in which the exhaustion, petrifaction or collapse of the generating host, the Narcissus or Christabel figure is mourned by its diminished self or its survivors. This last phase often leads to a new stage of idealization.
It is notable that the formative decades of the West proper, the solidification of a Christian West from about 1090 – 1260, the era of the Crusades, Cathedral building, Arthurian Romance, the Fourth Lateran Council, the ideal of the Quest and the sang real saw an explosion of heresies that splintered the Culture in its very formation, in its act of idealizing and forging its identity around a series of images or fictions. Cathars, Brethren of the Holy Spirit, Albigensians, Waldensians, the splitting of the Papacy itself between Rome and Avignon, refractions  testified to the instability within the cult whose identity was grounded in fictions and the burial of history by ideological and historiographic syntheses. This road led to Chateaubriand’s accurate exaltation of Christianity as a cult of aesthetics.
The mystic Joachim De Floris (1145-1202) termed his age “the era of the Holy Ghost.” He saw it as the dialectic completion of the supplanted Eras of the Father and of the Son. The holy ghost is a meta-fiction, a shadow of a shadow: as a persona is a mask, the holy ghost is the shadow of a mask. The glory of Western Art grew by leaps and bounds (the Renaissance began in Italy at the end of this period of formation) which is apt for an age that was forming itself around an abstraction of a fiction. It encoded and encodes the mistrust and hatred of the father by the wife-mother and son as embedded in Greek, Egyptian and Mesopotamian myths (c.f. Hesiod Theogony which explains the origin of sexual passion, Aphrodite as embodying the castration of the father).
This era, 1090-1265 also was the age which saw widespread blood libels against the Jews, the original or ‘genuine article’ against which the possessing and displacing fiction was arrayed; the historical people from which the imperial fiction of a ‘New Israel’ was extracted. This too was the era when the Jews were expelled from England and, shortly afterward, from France. The emphasis on blood may have reflected guilt about not following Judaism’s ban on consumption of blood as well as delusional ideas about matzo. A more complex cause was a projection and transference of the self-created fiction’s emptiness upon the full and solid which was blamed by the spectral negation that alienated itself from what it purported to be. This obsession fits the West’s organization of its identity around the holy or blood dish (sangraal) which also can be read at “Royal Blood” (sang Real). Insistence on its own royalty and primacy whose forms and precedence it took from Israel from which it constructed its fiction of an avatar, the West in formation intensified its efforts to consume and displace the Jews as may be seen in the fiercely anti-Jewish remarks in Chretien’s “Percival” or “Legend of the Sangreal.”
In any case, the fragmentation or confusion of identity built into the West’s formation continued in the splitting Reformation and its own fission that continues in the last 150 years as a proliferation of cults. Among the more prominent are theosophy and earth worship (environmentalism) for the purpose of managing and gaming humans. All these replacement theologies embody and express the increasing terror, horror and desperation of a culture slipping deeper into the apocalyptic and elegiac modes both of which are over-represented in postmodern film as they were in Modernist art from Ernst, Dali, De Chirico, Bellmer, Grosz and others to the formal satires of Huxley, Orwell and Burgess. Spengler’s thesis of Cosmopolis and Civilization as “the great petrifact” describes and derives from this cultural dynamic.

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2 Responses to “Dialectic Structure of Heresy”

  1. mythartculture August 15, 2011 at 2:54 am #

    This background imagery is amazing, intense and imaginative, a good background for a site on apocalypse.

    • Eugene Narrett September 1, 2011 at 11:51 pm #

      Thank you very much; this imagery is from a painting of mine, “A Taste for Ceremony” (o/c 1983). It was part of a series of ten very large oil paintings with massive figures posing with masks and mirrors against a deep background based on 14th century painting.
      Only a few of my large paintings survive from my major period, 1983-9, It was powerful, highly dramatic figurative art. I would welcome further comments or inquiries about it. Most of my works on paper and a few dozen small paintings from my earlier period 1976-83 exist.
      Thanks for your perceptive comment: it was an apocalyptic and elegiac art, expressive of our times and a prolepsis of the writing on the aesthetics of cultural identity and formation in recent years.
      I am just now beginning to paint again after 20 years of trauma…

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