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Friday, April 6, 2007

A reconstructive language to best articulate Sri Aurobindo’s discourse on evolutionary metaphysics in an open secular society

Re: Deb's Poetic Modernism and RYD's Human Possibilities by Rich on Mon 02 Apr 2007 08:10 AM PDT Profile Permanent Link Actually the preceding post from the Critical Poet on the French Symbolist traces the genealogy of Poetic Modernism back to Mallarme and Baudelaire, who also were a source of inspiration to the Avant-garde movement in the arts in the early 20th century, which antagonized both traditional and mass commercial culture as well as scientific positivism...And this brings me to the conversation with RYD on finding a reconstructive language which may best articulate Sri Aurobindo’s discourse on evolutionary metaphysics into the communicative practices of an open secular society.
And here as a first attempt to discover an appropriate phraseology for the (post)modern psyche, I would like to again consider the track of English poetry after the Future Poetry was published and how Eliot’s voice played out in 20th century English poetry along different lines than initially envisaged by Sri Aurobindo.
In considering appropriate contemporary modes of poetic expression or even philosophical discourse to language Sri Aurobindo’s Action, perhaps we could begin by contrasting the modernist turn which veered off in the verse of Eliot, Pound, Yeats in a fascination for the complexities of language itself, with the form of poetic expression Sri Aurobindo thought the most promising vehicle for the evolution of English poetry. How did the evocation of the relativities of duration and difference in imagistic utterances rather than the mantric voicing of the Bard invoking kerygmatic presence become the primary languaging device in poetry of two post-War generations? To understand this evolution of language the carnage which backgrounded the history of the past century must first be considered, for just as Eliot’s voice was tempered by the First War, the linguistic turn that follows in philosophy, especially after the Second World War, necessarily embarked on a deconstruction of the totalizing ideological impulses and metaphysical validity claims of language regimes (social, political, economic, religious) which had helped make the 20th century the most murderous in history.
In addition one also must consider that the message itself was transformed through its technological medium of expression. Just as the mnemonic techniques of oral culture yielded to the durability of the written archive and the book, in the early 20th century the image would progressively come to augment the written word and eventually in its synthesis with code would become the dominant form of cultural (global) expression. The advance of photography which could capture a thousand words in a single archival frame found (difference) its completed expression in the cinematic image (duration), which through the advent of global communications technology, now supplies the endless telematic figures that circulate unceasingly through the virtual environments we increasingly inhabit.
So if the future poetry evolved into imagistic fragments broadcast from the Wasteland of Modernity should we be surprised if the next turn of the evolutionary spiral in the Information Age would prefigure some form of poetic digital expression in which mantric utterance is facilitated or augmented through a multimedia form which invokes synesthesia, by fusing auditory and visual experience (perhaps even an integral poeting of mantra and yantra?) as the Avant-garde of the evolution of consciousness?
Moreover, if as Deb says: that in its encounter with different cultures, modernity has become not an unitary but a contested reality, just as problematical as the foundational notion of the human: Is it even possible to advance a conversation on evolutionary spirituality in a wider culture which eschews any hope of uncovering a unitary reality?
by Debashish on Wed 04 Apr 2007 01:56 PM PDT Profile Permanent Link As with many other phenomena in cultural history, the alternate direction taken by English modernist poetry could be seen as an accident rooted in French Modernism and its own linguistic characterisics. Sri Aurobindo has pointed out how the grammatical and dictionary precision of the French language led to limitations in the expression of subjective realities, that were sought to be overcome by poets such as Mallarme through resort to linguistic violence. This was a foregrounding and centralizing of what RYD has referred to as the phanopoeic or imagistic component in poetry. Paul Valery, Mallarme's principal disciple, gave this imagistic choice a more universal significance in the regime of modernity by pointing out that the fleeting time-consciousness of modernity demanded an intake of reality best encapsulated in images. It was an attraction to this new taste of utterance that drew Eliot and Pound to the imagistic possibilities of poetry. Pound gave further universal credence to this choice by invoking through it the picto-ideographic East Asian traditions of speech so far doxologically unavailable to the Indo-Aryan phonetic language speakers.
RC's comment adds another dimension to this choice - that of a distancing from the oracular or kerygmatic presencing of speech in the wake of the havoc wrought by misleading prophets of the 20th c. mobilizing enormous human populations in the name of murderous ideologies. RC has also pointed elsewhere to the over-determination of the principal sense of sight in modern times through an unprecedented barrage of images due to the proliferation of image-media and their exploitation by subjective technologies of advertisement and propaganda - (which has actually now loaded the dice of dangerous exploitation and manipulation in favor of the image and against the voice and caused even this component to lose its credibility in contemporary poetry).
All this has indeed pushed poetry along a trajectory in which the phanopoeic and logopoeic (critical idea-content) components have become the media of/and the message. When this happens, the melopoeic (musical, oracular) component becomes latent or subsumed under the others, it does not disappear. Just as Sri Aurobindo's alternate metres - quantitative or stress - in the English language bring to the mind other ways of rhythmic awareness, so too a phanopoeic or logopoeic poetry implies different and alternate principles of rhythmic form. As in Keats' famous lines from his Ode to a Grecian Urn, where he appreciates the "melodies" of the visible urn with its images of musicians with words which he applies also to a deeper reality of poetry - and which Sri Aurobindo classes among his Overhead lines: "Heard melodies are sweet but those unheard/ Are sweeter..." - maybe a more synaesthetic understanding of rhythm is possible and perhaps as RC says, multimedia may be calling for the development of such new mantric means.
However, sensory syntheses and their new uniting principles need not put to an end the aesthetic demands and transcendental possibilities of each sense and the phanopoeic or logopoeic dimensions of poetry need not supercede melopoeic ones, seen as co-existing alternates or even as possibilities with greater power of transcendental expression for the future. "Nothing succeeds like success" as the adage says. On the issue of the post-modern challenge to unitary realities, I hope to say a few words later. DB

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