A Prose Poem of Self-Righteousness
There are those themes, the references, laying underneath the cultural stigma of evil that make it particularly fascinating for the freethinkers among us. Think of the multi-layered problems that 'evil' offers, the immediate textual/literary connotations, the questions and answers, aged through the millenia like a fine wine, that the paradigm offers up to the decadents for admiration or disclosure. Evil, it can be said, is the problem that every man must face alone: and yet it is a reserve of strength that our entire nation/culture endlessly draws from: an abyss of obsession, the hidden power against which we supposedly struggle. All hypocrisy aside, we know with quasi-scientific certainty that the themes of 'good' or 'evil', taken objectively, are not fixed and determinate: they range, they rove, they shapeshift and endlessly change: they are the pulse behind space and time, the engine that drives our dreams. The 'inversion' of mainsteam values in order to reach 'truth' is a commonplace in this respect, and really quite boring. It is only a 'half-truth' after all - the priest who practices vicious sodomy or child molestation (crying out in his rebellion for an answer from the God from Without - another illusion) is not even a blip on our radar-screen of indeterminate evil anymore (if he ever was), rather he surfaces for a second on the national consciousness only in order to justify the opinions we already had of him - he throws in his lot with the rest of humanity, he could not resist (how many men have the strength?) the will of a united humanity bent on him, determined to make him display his 'weaknesses', and thus offer us all the perversion of Absolution. No, there are few who can even hope to 'resist' their 'urges' anymore - and if they do it is only out of pride, the greatest sin of them all, in order to justify the fact (before the brightly-lit stage of humanity) that they are in fact not weak, when they and we know that they really are anyway...and reality once again establishes itself as a play of illusions - or rather, lies, gray truths, a realm of experience that can never be understood by the minds that we have been given. No, it is an old wives tale and a whispered paradox, hidden among the eaves of churches, that the weeping worshippers cry out in their agony for the darkening blanket of hypocrisy to be cast aside, exposing the rot and vermin of prosaic sin underneath the faces around them: a clear light to pierce the veils of shadows and lift the maddening lies from our lips towards...heaven?
Lucifer, that primeval icon of rebellion, now the Lord of the Hissing Mire, archserpent, ray of crimson first dawn's light, navigator of the seabred and born, machinist, technologist, first scientist, investigator, pioneer, ravager, avenger, war-torn hawk and despoiler of peace, reaver of the Official Lie, most beautiful of the angels, how he hides and waits in every judgement, every Look and Glance, every mote that stirs in the air: how he lies coiled beneath our tongues and slithers into virgin ears, borrows the attributes of the elder Pan, plays upon the pipes of insanity: divine, at the center of the Interpretation, the Translation, the echoes of our voices in the cold air. And so many names: Prometheus, light-bringer, light-bearer, blowing the divine fire into shaped clay, taking up the white maggots of Midgard laying in wormwood, fallen from the putrescence of the Goliaths, stretching them into Man, eternally laughing beneath the frozen smile of Loki; the death-gods Cernunnos and Anubis, crying beneath the soil, drenched in the sacrifice of Samhain or the adopted rites of the Lupercalia, whipped into a frenzy as the Inversion of all Hierarchies bows unseen to the flow of menses, baying to the moon of Mithra, or the black hood of uprearing Set, caressed by the fingers of the Awakened One as he lolls beneath his Lotus tree and casts his eyes upon the afterlife. The roaring lion of Job, pacing back and forth through the sands of the desert, the bloodied knives of Ezekiel's marauders, creeping into hidden chambers of abomination, the deathwish of a besotted Herod, the rictus of John the Baptist, the swaying skirts and gauze of Salome, smoke in her jade green eyes, the vanity of dew-drunk Samson, challenging the dawn to usurp his place as Judge and hero of the jaw-bone...
But we are committed wholesale to judging, are we not? For it insures us our place in the center of the universe, or as the fulcrum that measures the forces that slip and disappear around the edges of our vision. Lines of force and criticism sweep the horizon, they impact upon our fellow men - they form the grid of placement, or rather, perpetual displacement, as they come back to us clothed in velvet, honey-tongued and eager to please. We judge our own judgements, and come up short.
Is there true rebellion in evil? Or do our actions only rebound upon ourselves?
"Nature herself is fundamentally anti-social, it is only by a usurpation of powers that the organized body of society opposes the natural incination of humanity..."
- from Antonin Artaud, The Liquidation of Opium, 1925
The seduction of evil is the beacon of truth that it holds above us, always just a hair's breadth from our outstretched fingers as we wander over hills and through valleys, the will-o-wisp of a doom that remains, always, completely unoriginal. No, there are no new sins to be committed: rather it is all just a matter of degree, and the species-wide desire for man to equal nature's forces, which degrade, disillusion, and massacre without mercy. No, no, don't say 'Hitler', say: 'hurricane at Galveston'. Not 'Pol Pot', but 'Pompeii'. We are mocked by the elements that we, in horror, can only hope to emulate through our feeble evil. Feeding cruelly upon ourselves, we are often merely grist for larger terrors - and from the point of view of history, or of eternity, what are we, really? What are our evil acts? Only weak cries and pleas to a deaf, silent universe that rolls ever onward...
Humanity's efforts at evil can only, in the end, be feeble approximations of what transpires 'naturally' in almost every case every day: our reality, filtered, 'purified', time condensed, space decreased, experience changed to personal action, the laws of cause-and-effect passing through a single person's destiny as avatars, manifestations, abstractions clothing themselves in flesh in order to impact on reality - Gods made men. Is there anything that can be done to the human body that has not been done by the agents of disease and decay? Is there any wonder that crime has a pathology - that Erewhon is still unrealized?
The man who steals, kills, cheats, and lies is buried as naked as his victims. He will never see his own elaborate funeral, the mourners spilling hot crocodile tears beneath black veils, the intricate and expensive mausoleum he is interred within. The sight of Hitler's poison-bloated, powder-scarred corpse has less power to move the emotions of the living than do the images of his victims. We spit and jeer at his body's desecration or pass it in disinterest while enshrining the shriveled, bleached flesh of Auschwitz. In the Galveston and New Orleans cemeteries, the dead shout their vanity still through their towering spires, crosses, and charnel houses: these monstrous creations of marble and concrete shelter the graves of paupers at their feet, who lay in their deep shadows: the graves of the rich are open to the elements, the pollution of these decaying cities, the car exhaust of passing vehicles - they are blackened and sun-cracked, the graves of the poor, hidden beneath their tawdry wings, look brand new.
20 August 2000