Monday, 16 July 2001

"Any attempt to penetrate the pagan mysteries of the Renaissance should perhaps begin with the admission that the term 'mysteries' has several meanings, and that these already tended to become blurred in antiquity, to the great enrichment and confusion of the subject."

Edgar Wind, Pagan Mysteries in the Renaissance, p.

I have always thought that this is one of the most delicious sentences, with which to start a book. What I love about this sentence, is the proximity of the two seemingly opposed words enrichment and confusion. In fact, we are almost in the territory of the language which emanates out of Ven Trungpa Rinpoche, and in particular, the Shambhala Teachings. To lift Edgar Wind's words, out of their context, may be unforgivable, but any explorations into the subject of the Pagan Mysteries in the Renaissance, is both enriching and confusing at the same time. Buddhism does not layer confusion with negative connotations - but sees it as a state in preparation for opening to the Teachings themselves. In fact, confusion has a metaphysical strategy of its own. The scaffold of logic that imprisons thought is loosened - and all manner of rich insights can, and do flood in, when we are confused.

Naturally, confusion, would be Dionysian. One would have to search for confusion in The Bacchae of Euripides. A mother must be confused, if she tears her own son to pieces. The Hypnerotomachia Poliphilia of Francesco Colonna is the very essence of confusion, as it should be, set in a dream landscape, replete with surreal ruins. And yet it is this great Renaissance classic, that some of the most profound initiatory secrets of paganism, are released, in a contemporary setting. Of course, we would have to rewrite the use of the word pagan in the light of the work of James Hillman and Rafael Lopez-Pedraza. And the neo and post-Jungians in general. Then there are those unfortunate people who call themselves neo-pagans, who have really missed the boat completely. Or missed the goat!

The word pagan itself, is very loaded, and is in need of a thorough, refreshing re-working. Signs of which are already in the air.