Friday, August 03, 2018

History of the Cathars - Out in November 2018


The History of the Cathars will be published in November. This is a new edition of The Cathars: The Rise and Fall of the Great Heresy, with a new title and new cover. The text will remain the same as the existing edition.

More info here.


Sunday, April 01, 2018

A Treatise on the Resurrection

The Anglo-Scottish novelist David Lindsay (1876-1945) has a fair claim to being fantasy literature’s first great Gnostic of the 20th century. As Lindsay’s biographer, Bernard Sellin, comments,
Any list of the analogies between Lindsay’s ideology and the Gnostic cults would be a long one... it would be necessary to cite the importance attached to spirit, the systematic depreciation of the body and the flesh, man as a stranger in the world, the conception of an evil world, indeed an evil God, the cult of the Mother and the Eternal Female, and the condemnation of sexuality.
 Lindsay’s first novel, A Voyage to Arcturus (1920), is an interplanetary odyssey that is effectively a Gnostic Pilgrim’s Progress. Two men, Maskull and Nightspore, travel to the planet of Tormance and one by one have their illusions stripped away from them. The novel embodies Lindsay’s view that the world is a ‘vast sham’:
One must not regard the world merely as a home of illusions; but as being rotten with illusion from top to bottom; not a sound piece anywhere, but all springs, glasses and traps throughout.
 The novel exerted a profound influence on CS Lewis, whose own views on matters of faith and spirituality were far more orthodox than Lindsay’s. A Voyage to Arcturus is gnostic, but with a strongly Calvinist flavour.
 Another Lindsay novel CS Lewis might have been interested in is The Violet Apple (written 1924-6, published 1976). This novel is perhaps Lindsay’s most ‘Christian’ novel - in other words, not very Christian at all. It conflates the stories of the Garden of Eden and Easter, becoming Lindsay’s thoroughly Gnostic take on the idea of resurrection. The Violet Apple could be seen as a turning point for Lindsay, almost a ‘resurrection’, a new direction in his writing.
 When playwright Anthony Kerr and the free-spirited Haidee Croyland eat the apples said to be descendants of the fruit of the Tree in Eden, they can see people’s true nature and the true nature of reality, which is ‘a common coffin’. Lindsay describes Adam’s and Eve’s eating of the fruit as the gaining of knowledge, ‘an eternal symbol of the first resurrection from the dead – of the first rising of man and woman from a world of unconscious animals.’ This is in perfect accord with the Gnostics of antiquity, who regarded Eve as the first human to attain gnosis once she had eaten the fruit from the tree. In Haidee, Lindsay introduces a powerful female character who, Sophia-like, who is able to mediate spiritual truths. (A similar figure would recur in Lindsay’s two final novels, Devil’s Tor (1932) and The Witch (almost finished on his death in 1945, but not published until 1976).)
  The Gnostic view of the resurrection, as we might expect, differs markedly from the orthodox position. The Nicene Creed states that Jesus ‘suffered and was buried, and the third day he rose again’. This resurrection is bodily, which will one day be experienced by all, as the Creed states ‘we look for the resurrection of the dead’. The Gnostic text known as the Treatise on the Resurrection, however, regards the Resurrection as something that is not physical at all, something ‘which is better than the flesh’. As with Paul’s interpretation of the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15, which was written to offer the only true understanding of it, so the Nag Hammadi Treatise was likewise written to a Gnostic who did not know what to believe. The anonymous author tells his recipient, a man named Rheginos, that the resurrection is a necessary experience for the Gnostic believer to undergo, but it is a raising from the death of ordinary consciousness to the life of gnosis:

What, then, is the resurrection?... It is the truth which stands firm. It is the revelation of what is, and the transformation of things, and a transition into newness.

The Gospel of Philip is quite explicit about what the resurrection actually is:

Those who say that the Lord died first and then rose up are in error, for he rose up first and then died. If one does not first attain the resurrection he will not die.

The idea is reiterated later in the gospel, making it clear that the resurrection happens before death, not after it:

Those who say they will die first and then rise are in error. If they do not first receive the resurrection while they live, when they die they will receive nothing.

 The theme of resurrection figures large in David Lindsay’s novel. The action of the novel is set in the week leading up to Easter. The final chapter sees Anthony and Haidee meeting in placed called Wych Hill on Easter Day itself. A wind is blowing; the chapter is called Spring Gale. It is a wind that blows all dust out of their eyes:
A new amazement seized him that he had deliberately elected during all these precious, irrecoverable years to turn his back on the beautiful, open, blowing world of God… it seemed to him that this sweet-smelling spring hurricane was trying to blow everything deathly and sepulchral out of his perception...   
 Haidee has experienced the same ‘transformation into newness’ that the Gnostic Treatise on the Resurrection speaks of. When Anthony meets her on Wych Hill, she has been ‘considering the lilies of the field’ (actually wild daffodils, whose beauty stops her mind). Anthony understands. He asks her, ‘And probably your heart is even lighter for it?’
A silence followed, not of embarrassment, but simply because neither had anything further to say immediately. And if the marvellous experiences from which all these changes had arisen remained unreferred to [their eating of the violet apples], that also was not on account of any delicate reluctance on the part of either to introduce an awkward topic. It merely meant that both felt there was nothing to be said about it. The high, sacred hour was past, and to analyse it, even between themselves, would be profanation. It was always in their hearts.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The Girl Who... Now Available to Buy


The Girl Who Got onto the Ferry in Citizen Kane is now available to buy from the publisher's website.

The pamphlet will be launched at Keats House in London tomorrow night. The event is free, although you will need to book a place via Eventbrite. Tickets are available here.

Friday, February 09, 2018

Cover for The Girl Who Got onto the Ferry in Citizen Kane



This is the front cover of my poetry pamphlet, The Girl Who Got onto the Ferry in Citizen Kane, published by Templar Poetry. The image is a pun, but you'll have to read it to find out exactly what the pun is...
 
The collection will be launched at Keats House in London on 21 February, at 1900. I will be reading with Rachel Spence.  All welcome. Tickets are free, but must be booked via Eventbrite. See you there!

Monday, January 29, 2018

David Lindsay Talk: 31 January


I'm giving a talk in Edinburgh this Wednesday, 31st January, on David Lindsay. Details on the poster below. All welcome.