Thursday, September 8, 2016

Thoughts On Rimbaud, Imitation Versus Individuation

"Ah! I am so forsaken I will worship at any shrine impulses toward perfection!" - from The Drunken Boat, second poem

One must not imitate Rimbaud or any other epochal poet/creative artist. One must only imitate Rimbaud, Verlaine, Baudelaire, Artaud, others in this most important sense, each must, like Rimbaud/others, make their own experiment, live according to their own "daemon", consciously so, else that "daemon" (which is a force of nature, not conscious but conscious only as a volcano is conscious) lives/grips the individual. Without conscious resistance and relationship to this "daemonic force" (which the poet Rilke says, "secretly deigns to destroy us", Duino Elegies) the individual's ego can be literally worn down, worn out, burnt from within and without by archetyal possession.

When the individual becomes identified with the daemon, the archetypal, he/she becomes inflated resulting in a narcissistic belief that he/she is the archetype itself...as in the case of Rimbaud, this comes at a terrible price for as highly inflated one can become when possessed/identified with the daemon, there is always a compensatory negative deflation into depression, madness, illness depending on the heights of inflation/identification. In the resultant deflation in consequence to inflation one can suffer loss of meaing, loss of value, loss of world view. Addictions are tempting at this point as efforts to soothe as well as to restore the inflated "high" identity with the archetype. Rimbaud's life demonstrates this clearly, along with his early death. That he became a slave trader reveals that for all the ecstatic experiences of daemonic possession he did not arrive at any moral obligations to others. This is the psychopathology of narcissistic inflation for if possessed and identified with an arcetype, a daemon, there is no true self though one believes the daemonic impulses and thrust are one's true self. In actuality there is no true self and where there is no real self there is no other. Others become objects to be used via narcissistic hunger for a real self. Others become surrogate selves who must mirror a true self or one's hope for a true self back to the narcissist who has no "real" self but a symptomatic self subject to infillings of archetypal energies with all kinds of amazing experiences but which in the end leave the narcissist emptier and more void than ever. Best to remember Paracelsus wise counsel, "Why be another when he can be his own." The journey to being one's own is fraught with difficulty, loneliness, terror, and failure of self and of others yet it is the human journey, a heroic journey toward authenticity which requires a conscious encounter with self and other as sacred in and of themselves.

Imitating the life of Rimbaud has destroyed many a creative person, Jim Morrison is an example of being destroyed by the daemon, by identification with the Dionysian energeis. Jazz culture, Beat culture, Rock culture is still daily strewn with fragmented souls, and the young burnt out, crazed or dead. Rimbaud helped return Dionysus to us all. It is imperative that Dionysus, god of dissolution, of dissolving boundaries and of unconscious union/reunion was eventually dismembered, torn apart by the maenads, groupies...one can have the ecstasies but one must also be aware that the dissolution of ego, the dismemberment follows.

On the other hand, Rimbaud, whether he knew it or not, functioned as a prophet of what was beginning to emerge in Western culture, the repressed Christian/Victorian unconscious. He opened up the Pandora's box of primal drives, urges, powers to turn the merely natural, the animal impulses toward the uniquely human shrines where one may worship of "impulses toward perfection", meaning beauty, which humans uniquely seek to create, express and demonstrate. He returned, if you will, the repressed, ancient yet still living "gods" to "worship". And turned us again toward the task of beauty, which the poet Rilke says "is a terror" for a real encounter with beauty does indeed "destroy" us, rearranged old ego stances and reifications into a new order, restored toward Beauty and that which Beauty opens up within the individual psyche which must be somehow translated into daily mundane lives. When one encounters such Beauty one then lives the "romance of the mundane", "Graceless things grow lovely with good uses, " as Buddhist poet John Tarrant restoringly writes. But every poet must arrive at his or her own "good uses". Imitation of Rimbaud, others, anyone can only go so far. Then one must enter the wasteland and have one's own heroic encounter, one's own journey, make one's own experiment, undo life since, says Carl Jung, "life must be undone" toward one's greater wholeness/hold-ness.

The old gods were gods of possession and thus are still to be approached with caution and consciousness else one can be overtaken; transformative, yes, but for the better one is not so sure. Having these dis- and re-orienting experiences via "l'abaissement de la senses" (disorientation of the senses) Rimbaud was transformed which awakened him to the power of the unconscious depths but, as in his case, caused ego inflation and archetypal possession which can and does indeed wear one out. Fortunately, we have Rimbaud's miraculous "shout outs" be oneself, to "make one's own experiment" (Carl Jung's phrase), to make one's mistakes and grow for "life must be undone"...(Carl Jung)...

One must individuate even from Rimbaud...which is what he himself "preaches" throughout his ouvre...find your own voice, poets...and give Rimbaud his due praise. Marvel at his gifts to us which rearrange our own tongues to find our own utterances...

One may imitate in order to learn, to discover one's own vocabulary (always influenced by others so why not Rimbaud, "the master influence", especially of the young creative artist who indeed needs to break free of earlier incumbrances, indoctrinations, education which may socialize one but maim, repress or kill one's authentic spirit and relationship one's "daemon". Rimbaud's message is, if nothing else, to quote Paracelsus Bombastus, why "be another's who can be his own."

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