I've been busy: working out my re-considerations regarding natural language as a form of crypto-text to be de-cyphered (technically, decoded is perhaps more accurate - but there is something there even at an alphabetic level, where cyphers work). There is a fascinating book by John Irwin called American Hieroglyphics, The Symbol of the Egyptian Hieroglyphics in the American Renaissance, in which he speculates upon the influence that the decipherment of the Egyptian hieroglyphics had upon Emerson, Thoreau, Poe, Whitman and Melville, to name but a few favorites. There is a telling quote by Emerson from Nature:
Further on is this from Poe's "The Literati of New York City:"
This, of course, brings to my mind that master of cryptic brevity, Heraclitus, and his foremost interpreter, Heidegger. There is an absolutely crucial essay for me in Heidegger's book, Early Greek Thinking: The Dawn of Western Philosophy, entitled Alethia [pdf]. It is, essentially, an exploration (although in the Heideggerian world, it would perhaps be more aptly termed a "penetration") of Fragment B 16 of Heraclitus. One particular translation for this fragment is:
The original greek fragment contains the word: aletheia - which we have no word for in English, but which might be roughly rendered as "unconcealed." (Many translators simply use the word, "truth" - which is a violence.) The etymology is revealing. a- is used a an alpha-negation and lethe is "forgetfulness". Recall that the Lethe is one of the rivers that flow through Hades. Called the River of Oblivion, the shades of the dead had to drink from this river to forget about their past lives on earth. Following this, aletheia is an un-forgetting. Heidegger comments:
When I first read this years ago it was as if my own thoughts were being perfectly expressed for me. The Holy Fool's journey to the Godshack to find the Bones of God and the Godskull was my own idiosyncratic working through of the "oblivion" of my life and times. Later in the Bone Carver series, the Bone Carver states:
In fact, on one level, the entire Bone Carver series is an exploration of the dialectic of for-giving and for-getting - two of the most cryptic words in the English language. And, for me, intimately bound up with aletheia. Here is the key to the mystery of the Fugitive Gods, to the crippling seductions of the Time Slut, to the nature of the Bone Carver, indeed the the bone itself. You see, the living bone is always hidden within the flesh. Death "reveals" it, decrypts it, unconceals it. The Godskull is the un-hidden, un-forgotten, aspect of God's being in our consciousness.
More beautifully and wonderfully poetic Heidegger:
My recent forays into the history and methodology of cryptography and codes has only furthered my conviction that what separates us from the transcendent and overcoming mystery of God, better aletheia, is merely the thinest of veils. Upon this is projected the ephemeral and sorrowful dreams of our named and faced lives. Like small children - or most of the idiot vulgar - in a movie theater, we come to believe that what is up there on the screen is more real that our own lives. But it is only a trick, an illusion. The projection that I am working to see through these days is language - even more the spirit that informs the language. I go back again and again to Govinda from The Foundations of Tibetan Mysticism:
It amazes me how many congruencies there are between Tibetan Buddhism, Heidegger, Heraclitus and my own spiritual pathways. I am attempting to understand the essence of the human experience of the infinite within, the non-language or un-language of god. This is more than a mere translation or rendering, it is a spirit (Geist) moving beneath the surface of words. It is, if you will, the decrypted meaning indicated by every "true"/ "authentic" mystic and poet.
Just listen to Rilke, even through the encryptions of translation and time, and you can hear Heraclitus and Heidegger and all the singers of Upanishads and Vedas, the Buddha, Novalis and Holderlin and the Holy Fool - even the whispering decay of the Skull of God:
These sublime words trembling within the fragile skeleton of grammar sing of something beyond, more, deeper, further, something un-sayable but with more "reality" than any word can hope to capture. I imagine most words like tiny gnats trying to drink in the ocean. But Rilke's words and language are filled with aletheia, a palpable sense of remembering, of un-forgetting, of un-hiddeness, great beasts of Being slowly emerging into the clearing of our consciousness. And I stand here waiting and watching, knowing with no doubt, that this is the purpose and meaning of my life. To turn away, to become distracted, to lose my sense of presence, is to lose everything. To not maintain the discipline and rituals that hold me in this sacred place, this crucial clearing, that I am now within would make me less than nothing, an abomination, a true oblivion.
I once wondered what kind of belief it took to hold your hand in the fire until all of your flesh burned away and not for one instant waver or doubt. Now I know.