The Characteristics of “Inspired” Texts

I’ve had a life-long fascination with the so-called “Inspired” texts: poems, prose-poems, narratives etc. that come unbidden–are “found” somehow, somewhere from an “elsewhere” that ranges from Heaven, Hell, Atlantis, Lemuria, Babylon, Binah, Hochma, Sheol, and every dimension in between.  I’m talking about “Thunder, the Perfect Mind” from the Nag Hammadi Library, “I Am The Daughter of Fortitude” from John Dee’s Spiritual Diaries, The Book of Mormon, Patience Worth, Oasphe and other “American Scriptures,” Blake’s Prophetic Books, Joanna Southcot’s writings, Jane Lead, and the list goes on. Then there are the inspired chants and improvisations of Marina Sabina, the ravings of Antonin Artaud…etc.  The story with most of these books is that they allowed no revision, had simply appeared, or erupted, breaking the typewriter keys, pushing human endurance of pain, humiliation, to the limits, unhinging sanity, ruining businesses and lives, offering improbable healings and instructions.  What are the characteristics of these “given” texts and how and why are they, and WHAT do they represent in terms of pot-post-modern-poetics, in terms of cognition of language and brain science?  Discussion welcome.  Ideas, insights, examples welcome.  Everyone welcome.  Jess


4 thoughts on “The Characteristics of “Inspired” Texts

  1. In response to Jess’ query below, I was going to suggest Jack Spicer’s Vancouver lectures – re: “The Outside,” dictated writing, Martians, etc. But somebody probably already has.
    Joseph Harrington
    Professor of English
    Conger Gabel Teaching Professor
    University of Kansas (Lawrence)

  2. The introduction to my forth-coming Complete Gaha Noas Zorge. I explain a bit regarding my take on the spiritual diaries of John Dee and their “performance.”

    Gaha (babes) Noas (of the abyss) Zorge (become friendly)

    This project was initially begun as a collaboration with the British poet Alan Halsey. Both of us began with copies of A True & Faithful Relation of What Passed for Many Years Between Dr. John Dee and Some Spirits, by Meric Casaubon (1659), as our common source. This wonderful volume is an edited version of the scrying sessions held in England and in Continental Europe by John Dee and the infamous Edward Kelley between 1583 and 1607. Kelley would gaze into a black, table-tennis paddle-shaped piece of obsidian, or into a smoky crystal ball and relate the visions that he saw to Dee, who would write them down. Among proto-surrealistic landscapes and symbolic actions of mathematical poppets and flame-eyed monsters, a genuine language called Enochian was dictated to Dee via Kelley. I was initially drawn to this sprawling book with its precise descriptions of the fashions of angels, and its meditations on the antediluvian world, as an exotic curiosity, a real-time approximation of Borges’ “Book of Sand” but I soon came to identify at least three recognizable plays with a beginning, middle and end in T & F. In addition I found a very precise relationship between the “table of art” and its tiring-house-like crystal with early schematics of the Tudor stage. Angels stepped from, flew from, floated from, ran from, climbed in and danced out of the crystal, once the curtain was lifted from within. Choruses sang from within it like Ed Sullivan singers on an old TV screen. (One presumes that the fidelity of the sound was superb!) Moreover, upon closer examination of the original spiritual diaries, I saw indications that the allegedly direct, dictated-by-spiritual-beings, text had been revised by Dee in the same manner as any literary text. As Enochian scholar Ian Rons confirmed in personal e-correspondence with me on July 20th of 2005:
    “We are lucky to have one section for which both a rough and a fair copy exists. The rough copy is at the end of MS. Cotton XLVI Pt. I and the fair copy of the same is at the beginning of PT. II (beginning 15th August 1584—the first action at Prague—and covering about 2 1/2 Actions.) The fair copy is worded more precisely, and the tendency is to discard redundant or repetitive phrases without loss of information. Quick examples of some corrections are as follows: “black sins” [corrected to] “blackness and sins”; “…I hear it as afar off, and through the stone” [corrected to] “…I hear coming through the stone”; “bubbleth” [corrected to] “playeth”; “Madimi stood still, as E.K. told me” [corrected to] “Madimi stood still in E.K.’s sight”; “Sin is a mountain to hide man from the sight of God, etc.” [corrected to] “Sin is the greatest mountain”…

    In short–what I’ve seen of this material convinces me that the great majority of these writings are not transcripts of things seen and heard so much as highly suggestive, even interactive scripts to be performed in the presence of, and with the participation of, select audiences. In fact, one such figure, the Polish prince Albert Laski did attend and take part in one of these sessions on Wednesday, June 19th, 1582. Later, during Dee and Kelley’s peregrinations on the continent, other major figures took part in varying degrees. I believe these performances were more Senecan drama and psychodrama than seance. Books of numbered grids and darkly allegorical and biblical-sounding texts drawn from the prophetic books of the bible and the apparent favorite of the Angels, Esdras, Book II, shared in a candle-lit room must have made for a potent and dangerous entertainment in a time when mathematics, repetitions of bizarre and cryptic words and even puppetry were considered gateways to damnation. I also cannot help but see in the size of the so-called angels and the specificity of their descriptions—even down to the smallest detail—a resemblance to the culture of marionettes and puppetry which first flourished in Prague and environs during the reign of Rudolph II, and flowered coincidentally or not right after Dee and Kelley’s sojourn in his realm. Perhaps these dramas were brought to fact with the help of poppets, stringed or unstringed, and “magical” or not. Examination of the handwritten manuscripts shows us that the scripts were copied into Dee’s notebooks alongside other materials, including diary entries, and quotations, notes, and transcriptions, all of which would have been worked up later into the extended plays. The ambiguous boundaries between these materials is what, I believe, has led readers to misunderstand the nature of the books themselves. The popularity of Senecan drama, which was read aloud to audiences, gives one clue to the manner of performance of T & F, while yet another clue takes the form of the tradition of Tudor Interludes: often were often mini plays given before and after banquets.

    While Alan concentrated on creating a Beddoes-like ramble among these words and a folio of excellent visual poetry, hunting and gathering within the rich pages of the text, I used a small crystal skull (large enough to lay within my left eye socket), and a crystal ball, and attempted to replicate the phenomenological conditions of the scrying sessions and thereby touch the Enochian well-springs, as it were, of the text. As you’ll see the work frames and maps out many topics. Thanks to my late friend the poet Rane Arroyo for presenting this experiment as a small volume from his New Sins Press, and giving it the Editor’s Award for 2009. Unfortunately he did not live to see the results of his generosity to the great sadness of all who knew him. Thanks, too, to Paul Baker, who first aired my reading of it on his Wordsalad radio show in 2009, and to Lou Rowan (Golden Handcuffs Review) and Tenth Moon for publishing sections of it. Additional thanks go to Sheila E. Murphy and M. L. Weber for including much of the first half in >2: An Anthology of New Collaborative Poetry (Sugarmule Press, 2007). Finally, thanks to Alan Halsey for helping me pick the lock on this volume of “ancient and forgotten lore,” and going on to harvest the riches of it in his own inimitable way, most recently in a beautifully printed selection from West House Books, which I recommend to one and all. Jesse Glass 11/27/2014.

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