Friday, 28 September 2012

What lies beyond our memory's confines.

Recently, I have been discussing all sorts of everything with a close friend and we came to discussing a lost Holbein that came up for sale a few years ago in London.  The work, a painting of Thomas Wyatt the Younger, has proved contentious over the years with various scholars over the years arguing over the veracity of the picture.  Certainly, Sir Roy Strong, the leading art historian of Tudor and Jacobean portraiture considered it to be a Holbein, however, Dr. Susan Foister of the National Gallery has declined to pass comment upon the picture.  To me, a mere enthusiast with admittedly no training nor qualification in the history of art, but only saddled with an enthusiasm for mediaeval culture, literature, art and architecture have read the Weiss catalogue in which the portrait is illustrated. With this, and having read various works on Holbein, I cast my own thoughts and opinions. I too, in my humble opinion, believe this painting to be a true Holbein.  The reasons vary from my understanding of Holbein's work to an understanding of his style, technique and some of the more complex reasonings presented by professional art historians as to it's veracity.  Certainly it is atypical of his work in terms of construct, but Holbein was, in many ways, avant garde without always conforming to strict confining regimen of his day.  Surely it should be a matter of celebration to have re-discovered a work by one of the greatest artists in the 16th century in England rather than condemn it to obscurity.

Sir Thomas Wyatt, the Younger - a lost Holbein (?)

Currently I am reading The Book of Lost Books by Stuart Kelly, who has captured my interest and indulged my fascination in lost works by telling his history of literature and poetry through a series of chapters named after a relevant author contemporary to the period which he is discussing.  Equally so, it will be hard for even the most hardened bibliophile to not feel his or her eyes becoming moist at the tremendous sense of loss we have endured throughout history.  Furthermore, how much of the basis of our understanding of our times, both ancient and more recent, are based upon guesswork, assumption, speculation and possibly the element of hope that exists deep within our souls - part of that very essence which makes us human.  The ecstatic sense of discovery, when a lost work of those who came and went before is rediscovered; and how, through that rediscovery, whether read or realised or even recognised, by the many or the very few, can reach out and touch our lives.  This can be in relation to a lost painting, such as one of the beauty of the Holbein above, or a lost poem by Pindar which was found torn up in the scrap heaps in Oxyrhynchus.  Such discoveries should enthrall as much as inspire us, for they are glimpses into our past which (sadly) can never be revisited in both body and soul -  only through speculation, imagination, reconstruction and an endeavour at understanding can they be, albeit tentatively, recreated.

The Thirty-Nine Steps

September 27th, 2012

I don't normally post a photograph of myself despite talking about my thoughts, ideas, impressions, opinions and dreams, but here is an exception.  Yesterday I celebrated the last birthday of my thirties before turning XL years this time next year, so I thought I would share an up to date photograph.  So here I am, on my 39th birthday, taken a stone's throw from the British Museum for those curious to see the individual behind the random ramblings that crop up on this blog at sporadic and erratic intervals here at Sermons of the Refuter, and on Echoes from the Gnosis.

Saturday, 8 September 2012


My mind is troubled.  Perhaps too much reflection in my rather mercurial brain at present. Finding myself engaging in much self questioning and self doubt, and this has been manifesting itself in not quite dreams, not quite nightmares, more akin to what the medieval world would have described as visions, yet mercifully these visions happen when asleep, at supposed rest, yet in this state my Unconscious is clearly emphasising how troubled my spirit is at the moment.

Below are two dream sequences from two different films.  Although the imagery is very different in each, and very different from the images in my head - both at night when I sleep, soundly but troubled at times, and during the day, there are parallels between them all.

As Poe extolled:-
I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand-
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep- while I weep!
O God! can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream? 

Sunday, 2 September 2012


The Daily Telegraph, together with the writer Brian Aldiss, came up with the concept of the mini-saga in the 1980s.  The newspaper held various mini-saga writing competitions, none of which I entered, but I recall that one of these wonderful little compositions used to be read out on BBC Radio 4 each morning as part of the Today programme. Equally, I recall at school having to write one or two of these as part of my English classes.  For those uninitiated, a mini-saga is quite simply a short piece of writing, which contains exactly fifty words, and a title of up to fifteen words.  They can rhyme but not be poetic in nature, be amusing, be profound, be silly, be serious or be educational or be otherwise.  The only rule is the word count, half the size of a drabble, and without the confines of being a fictional narrative.

Feeling creative (and hopefully on the road to inspiration), I have tried to doodle some mini-sages of late.

Strange Shadows in Empty Rooms.

Walking down the hall, whilst passing a rotund, little man, I see a skinny wretch, gangly with Modigliani-like features. Nearby a pear-shaped fellow; his neighbour apparently with no head, just legs. All familiar looking, yet unworldly, strange, grotesque.

Upon leaving this nightmare world, a sign outside reads:

“Hall of Mirrors”.

Signs and Symbols

Signs and symbols, souls and shadows, archetypes and egos.  Anima and animus, Buddhism, Gnosticism, alchemy and the puer aeternus.  Unconscious / Subconscious.

A series of repressed memories mingled with lucid dreams and a quest to understand and eat from the Tree of Knowledge.

All in Jung's head, now in mine.



The Line of Beauty.

"What is Beauty, and what is Truth?" I think she was trying to say.

My mind conjured up images of enchanted splendour; from that of  Botticelli's Venus rising, to Hogarth's ogee of curving arcs.

Looking in the mirror, she turned again to enquire

"Does my bum look big in this?!"


Five miles meandering with a mazy motion

Despite the various forays I have been making down Memory Lane, it somehow feels like, rather than opening old wounds (for much of what I have recalled has long since past) but rather like discovering old scars beneath fresh bruises.  I cannot deny who I am but sometimes it feels like that past was in a different or previous life to the one which, at times I struggle through, now.  Despite now being in my thirties (some would say 'late thirties' - eek), my life still seem to be, more often than not, in a state of flux and turmoil.  Twenty years ago I was at college; a rather morose, moody individual with terrible eczema on his feet  that made it difficult to walk, who would listen to R.E.M., and was reading Andr√© Gide's La porte √©troite and Albert Camus' L'etranger and La peste (a vile book which no troubled teenager should be inflicted with, being SO depressing).  Ten years ago, I was more confident, yet on anti-depressants and travelling around Europe and the United States interviewing film directors and actors, actresses and technicians for a mixed bag in terms of quality European low budget horror movies dating from the 70's and 80's as well as for an abandoned book project on an Italian film director, Lucio Fulci.  I was mainly listening to Blur, The Dead Can Dance and Tibetan horns and Georgian table songs.  In terms of reading I was reading Dennis Wheatley, Italian film writers Antonio Bruschini (RIP) and Antonio Tentori, and about all sorts of esoteric matters.

And now...

Well now I am a civil servant cum writer.  No longer on the anti depressants yet not always coping especially well with life and all it chucks at me, like a child throwing mudpies at a moving target.  Quietly confident in certain areas of life, yet still rather shy.   Listening to the Tallis Scholars, Tori Amos, Bat for Lashes and Sister Marie Keyrouz.  I also do still listen to Blur, to The Dead Can Dance, Tibetan Horn and R.E.M. and more besides.  My scope of reading has magnified in terms of fact and fiction, and I read both in English and in French regularly.  Lots of history, Jungian psychology, mediaeval texts (most recently the mystery plays) and nouvelle generation fiction. 

When reading these three brief descriptions of me; it seems, from an outside view, that this person is a somewhat fickle beast, in some ways there are constants, and in others each decade has made the previous incarnation a long and distant memory and that I am still trying to form myself and my identity.  I suppose this concept of who I am would mainly arise from still having a vast lack of stability in my life, be it in the form of relationship, base, passion or consistant interest.  In certain ways, I suppose, that I want to disown my previous 'incarnation' and with the blind faith and hope that this mercurial temporment that seems to invade my being will at long last find equilibrium, stability, peace.  Ten years ago I was described in an article in the Guardian as being a 'film historian'; these days I rarely watch a DVD a month.  I see people around me who would appear to have more constants in their lives - Mike with his love for black t-shirts, horror movies and death metal bands (like Slayer and Celtic Frost), Fred with his endless passion for cinema, etc.  I suppose that I turned my back on film for many years and it was only when I met the likes of Adam and Amicus (their real names, not Jungian pseudonyms) that I started talking about these movies and the people I had met once again.  Yet, I suppose, in a certain way, I do not really desire connection with being the man who worked (jointly or otherwise) on those extras.  Mike now basks in the limelight and the glory of those days although at the time it was redominantly me who did the detective work or spoke to agents (and spoke the languages) and contacted the people.  At first, reading of Mike's subsequent life in this field used to make me feel annoyed, bitter, for all the pundits which he was recieving but ultimately I was happy for him  He is surrounded by his friends (people I generally do not feel I could truy connect with - unable as I am to enjoy death metal, wear black t-shirts, find tattoos attractive and 'awesome', and appreciative of nonsensical, sanguine horror films). 

Each time I keep hoping that someone will see me anew, and not for who I was.  Yet who I was is who I am, no matter how many masks I wear or how much change I seek to make.  I just hope that people liked and better still, loved, me for who I was then and will still want me now.  Despite the different facets I have in my everchanging, ever evolving personality.  Maybe one day, when truly happy, when there is a syzygy of the anima, the animus - within my soul will I be truly happy.  I feel I miss that connection for I have only tapped into it upon occasion.  I feel I have it when things are new, fresh, yet invariably, but not always, does it turn to disappointment, disillusionment yet I still grin and bear it.

Like minded souls apply here please.

So where am I now?  The answer is that I simply do not know.  I feel a life with rather too many regrets, and with elements of uncertainty ahead and a need for stability.  Equally so however, I see some one who enjoys learning, growing and is continually inspired.  Hopefully who also appreciates and loves beauty, talent, and is valued by those who are true friends.  Sometimes, despite the crowding up of my mind with facts, it feels like a somewhat vapid existance, bereft of emotion, connection, and true happiness.  An inner longing, a need to be appreciated, valued, understood and to be able to share that spark, as well as those passions, enthusiasms, interests on a regular basis rather than occsional flashes in the pan that lift life above the truly mundane. 

Here's hoping...