“The day when Aristotle decided (malgré lui) that the reign of the magician-shaman was over (Empedocles), was the soul’s D-Day. The paths of the mind had become overgrown. From that moment the hunt for the measurable certainties was on. Death became a constant, the ego was born. Monsieur came down to preside over the human condition.”
Lawrence Durrell, Quinx or The Ripper’s Tale (The Avignon Quintet #5)
“Everything is conquered by submission, even submission itself, even as matter is conquered by entropy, and truth by its opposite. Even entropy, so apparently asbsolute in its operation, is capable, if left to itself, of conversion into a regenerative form. The phoenix is no myth!”
Lawrence Durrell, Sebastian or Ruling Passions (The Avignon Quintet #4)
…and this book which I have always had in deep soak, when will it be finished? When I stop breathing? But the idea behind this furtive activity has always been that ideal book – the titanic do-it-yourself kit, le roman appareil. After all, why not a book full of spare parts of other books, of characters left over from other lives, all circulating in each other’s bloodstreams – yet all fresh, nothing second-hand, twice chewed, twice breathed. Such a book might ask you if life is worth breathing, if death is worth looming… Be ye members of one another. I hear a voice say, ‘What disease did the poor fellow get?’ ‘Death!’ ‘Death? Why didn’t he say so? Death is nothing if one takes it in time.’
…to commingle and intersperse contingent realities – that’s the game! After all, how few are the options open to us – few varieties of human shape, mental dispositions, scales of behaviour: hardly more numerous than the available Christian names used by the race. How many coats of reality does it take to get a nice clean surface to the apprehension? We are all fragments of one another; everyone has a little bit of everything in his make-up. From the absolute point of view – Aristotle’s Fifth Substabnce, say – all persons are the very same person and all situations are identical or vastly similar. The universe must be dying of boredom. Yet obstinately I dream of such a book, full of not completely discrete characters, of ancestors and descendants all mixed up – could such people walk in and out of each other’s lives without damaging the quiddity of each other? Hum. And the whole book arranged in diminished fifths from the point of view of orchestration. A big switchy book, all points and sidings. A Golgotha of a book.
Lawrence Durrell, Constance (The Avignon Quintet #3)
“You ask about Sutcliffe? I cannot tell you for how many years he lay silent, living a larval life in the cocoon of my old black notebook. I did not know what to do with him – though I kept jotting away as directed. It was essential that he should differ greatly from me – so that I could stand off and look at him with a friendly objectivity. He represented my quiddity I suppose – the part which, thanks to you, has converted a black pessimism about life into a belief in cosmic absurdity. He was the me who is sane to the point of outrage. Often I kissed you with his mouth just to see how it felt. He never thanked me.”
Lawrence Durrell, Livia (The Avignon Quintet #2)
Yes there was a definite time, a definite moment, which one can visualise in a manner which makes it as actual as tomorrow will be. There came a radical shift of emphasis, as marked as any historic moment like Copernicus or the Fall of Constantinople, which pushed the balance over from the domain of spirit into matter. Hints of this can be traced in the old mythologies. The whole axis of the human sensibility was altered – as if somewhere out of sight an Ice Cap had melted. The ancient vegetation gave place to our new steel vegetation, flowering in bronze, then iron, then steel – a progressive hardening of the arteries. The table of the essences gave place to the table of the elements. The Philosopher’s Stone, the Holy Grail of the ancient consciousness gave place to the usurping values of the gold bar; it was the new ruler of the soul, and now the slave, deeming himself free, measured his potency against coin, against capital value, the wholly saturnian element in his nature. The dark sweet radiance of usury was born. And freedom, which is simply the power of spending – its prototype the orgasm – was shackled in the mind and later in the body. The faculty of accumulation, the usury, embedded itself in the very sperm sac of man, who began to found cultures based on key repressions – the faculty of storing, holding back, accumulating. Then came periodic blood-lettings in the shape of wars with their symbolic cutlery of steel weapons – the penis and vagina are plain to the view as well as the lathe-turned egg of death. This death-desiring culture could only be consummated and realised by suicide. The new sacrament was to spill blood, not to spill sperm and impregnate the universe. To hoard gold and to spill blood were now the imperative, and this is the order against which our small communion of Gnostics are opposed; we are quietly opting out, and in some places and times, pushing the issue as far as death. Sperm against specie.
This basic shift of emphasis has many other, and sometimes dire, repercussions. For example duality became the key not only to philosophic thought but also to language itself whose basic brick, the word, features this central dichotomy. With everything changing scale and relationship like this, death became obligatory, mandatory, instead of being a choice, arbitrary, and under the psyche’s control. Before this time you could have your cake and eat it, so to speak. You were not obliged to die if you knew how to go on living without wearing out – you could cross the time barrier into the deep hibernation of selflessness, such as the wise men of the East still know in fragmentary form, for it falls short of immortality. But what I speak of was not the fruit of effort or the meditation or the fruit of exceptional minds. It was as ubiquitous as it was optional. The sense of freedom conveyed by this state of affairs can hardly be imagined by spirits like ours, so bent and bowed are they under our perverted system of values.
Lawrence Durrell, Monsieur or The Prince of Darkness (The Avignon Quintet #1)