Historically, The School of the Night was a cabal of men centered on Sir Walter Raleigh. They were a collection of poets, writers, and scientists who included lluminaries like Christopher Marlowe, George Chapman, and Thomas Hariot. They studied science, philosophy, and religion, and all were suspected of atheism. William Shakespeare seems to refer to them in Love's Labour's Lost when he says, ". . . Black is the badge of hell / The hue of dungeons and the School of Night." The freethinking School of the Night was seen as subversive and charged with atheism. Atheism at that time was a charge nearly the equivalent of treason, since the monarch was the head of the church and to be against the church was, ipso facto, to be against the monarch. However, it was also a sign of anarchy, and it was a charge frequently brought against the politically troublesome.
According to scholars, not much beyond these sparse facts is known about this rather mysterious cabal of writers. The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics tells us the following:
"The School of the Night was a philosophical and literary society believed by some scholars to have existed in England in the closing years of the 16th century. Among its members are supposed to have been Sir Walter Raleigh (its founder and patron), the poets Chapman and Marlowe, and the mathematician Harriot.... Chapman's obscure and ambitious poems, 'The Shadow of the Night' and Ovid's 'Banquet of Sense,' are seen as expressions of the group's theologico-scientific interests and esoteric learning, particularly in his use of 'night' as the symbol of divine and hidden knowledge. The writers associated with the group had an undeserved contemporary reputation for atheism, due no doubt to their relation to the modernist thought which was beginning to shake Europe at that time, but in their grandiose pretensions as in their enthusiastic classicism they were typical late-Renaissance men. The 'school of night' theory relies heavily for specific evidence on an interpretation of Shakespeare's Love's Labour's Lost (4.3.254); 'O paradox! Black is the badge of hell, / The hue of dungeons, and the school of night,' which is seen as a satiric reference to the esoteric and learned claims of the group. But the passage, undoubtedly puzzling and often emended admits of diverse readings, and the 'school of night' theory remains an unproved, if fascinating, hypothesis."
What makes the School of the Night a fascinating phenomenon for the Gypsy Scholar is that it was a secret society dedicated to the pursuit of esoteric thought. The GS is also fascinated by the esoteric "School of the Night" because it was into the secret mysteries of "Melancholy." These mysteries go back to the Renaissance obsession with the theme of "melancholia" and its psycho-physical "humour" of "black bile," which was, according to studies such as Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy, the paradoxical creative malady particularly of artists and scholars, and which was one of the subjects (with astrological connections; i.e., "Saturn and Melancholia") of Ficino's esoteric "Platonic Academy" in Florence, Italy. Later, in seventeenth century England, John Milton wrote a vision of poetic "melancholy" in his poem Il Penseroso (“The Serious Man”), wherein he celebrated the "divinest Melancholy." And, in the next century, this paradoxical praise of "melancholy" was taken up by Romantic poets from Blake to Verlaine, one such being Keats, who wrote "Ode on Melancholy." Today, singer-songwriting poets such as Van Morrison pick up this Romantic poetic theme: "Melancholia." [This theme of "melancholy" is taken up below on this page.] Thus, what mainstream academicians see as folly is precisely what interests the GS about the "School of the Night."
"Lonely Towr" from Il Penseroso (Palmer 1879)
Oh let my Lamp at midnight hour Be seen in some high Lonely Towr, Where I may oft out-watch the Bear, With thrice great Hermes.
Milton, 'Il Penseroso'
The TOWER of SONG's School of the Night: “The Romantic Nightworld"
The purpose of the RE-VISION RADIO program is to help guide its listeners—"in the middle of the night"—in searching for, by following the song, and entering into that long-abandoned Romantic “Lonely Tower,” situated in that alternative mental dimension—the “invisible landscape.” “Oh let my Lamp at midnight hour / Be seen in some high Lonely Towr, / Where I may oft out-watch the Bear, / With thrice great Hermes" ... (Tower of Song partial “Introduction,” read before every program)
How the Gypsy Scholar—“down and out” of the university—found the Tower of Song
"It is because the mind is at the end of its tether that I would be silent. It is because I think there is a way out—a way down and out—that I would speak. Sometimes—most time—I think that the way down and out leads out of the university, out of the academy. But perhaps it is rather that we should recover the Academy of earlier days—the Academy of Plato in Athens, the Academy of Ficino in Florence. . . . At any rate, the point is first of all to find again the mysteries. By which I do not mean simply the sense of wonder—that sense of wonder which is the source of all true Philosophy—my mysteries I mean secret and occult; therefore unpublishable; therefore outside the university as we know it; but not outside Plato's Academy, or Ficino's.” –N.O. Brown, ‘Mind At the End of Its Tether’ (Phi Beta Kappa Graduation Address, Columbia University, 1968)
“Lady Philosophy has appealed to his intellectual faculties …. Lady Philosophy has shown him the place of reason as handmaiden to the revelation of Beatrice is to be.” (About the young Dante)
When the Gypsy Scholar was just a college undergrad, and finding himself "too long in exile," he had a dream one night. "In the middle of the night" he dreamed he was among those who participated in that original all-night philosophical conversation and drinking party "way, way, back" in ancient Greece--that symposium on the mysteries of philosophy and love. And while the dream didn't specify his role—he may have only been the proverbial fly on the wall—, that he was there in the same philosophical company ("Visionary Company" of Eros) was enough to make him remember this "big dream." Little did the Gypsy Scholar know then that this lucid dream initiated the first step in the process of his quest to discover the whereabouts of what he would later recognize as the Tower of Song. But what he did know, because of the dream (though still through a glass darkly), was that he had entered the academy looking for, longing for, something that no longer existed—or may have never really (historically) existed. Yet something so powerfully impressed itself upon his imagination—like a golden day in childhood or a Neo-Platonic, morphogenetic memory of another life-time—that, in its very hallucinatory existence, seemed much more real than the University of California. This intimation of the immortality of an archetypal image eventually ruptured into his waking world, and he found a fantastic image taking shape in his conscious mind, which was everything that he had not found in the university. "What if," the Gypsy Scholar asked himself, "what if there was an alternative institution . . . ?" (A postmodern rebirth of the "Platonic Academy," Plato's "School of Athens" or Ficino's Florentine "Platonic Academy"?) This started his search—at once noetic and erotic—for "PhiloSophia" and that Great Conversation, or "Infinite Conversation." But the strange fact was that the alienated undergrad didn't become the Gypsy Scholar until he defected (after two degrees) from the Ivory Tower and spent a long night in that abandoned "Lonely Towr" with Lady Melancholia and eventually moved into that (radio) "tower down the track."
The Gypsy Scholar's Waking Dream--"In the Middle of the Night"
“They are residues of the dream world. The realization of dream elements, in the course of waking up, is a paradigm of dialectical thinking. Thus, dialectical thinking is the organ of historical wakening. Every epoch, in fact, not only dreams the one to follow, but in dreaming, precipitates its awakening. It bears its end within itself and unfolds it—as Hegel noticed—by cunning." —W. Benjamin
"Ah, the dreamers ride against the men of action / Oh, see the men of action falling back." —Leonard Cohen
THE TOWER OF SONG is a Night-school (in the universe of the "Romantic Nightworld" or "Night-side" of being) of the airwaves, broadcasting from the its Magdalene Musekal-Memorial Library—a (Romantic) Night-school that is part all-night symposium ("the party of Eros"), part university ("the Invisible College"), part museum ("home of the muses"), part asylum-sanctuary ("a retreat for care of soul"), part literary salon (the Romantic's "place for witty, stimulating conversation generally run by women"), and part anarchist coffee-house (that offers an offbeat blend of poetry and politics, mysticism and activism; and, with refreshment, "provides informal entertainment"), where you hear the mix of proverbial "Infinite Conversation" & "Unending Melody" (or "Argument & Song").
If (as the KUSP Late-night promo says) this late-night time for radio is best with "a pot of java," then the Tower of Song is a Philosophical Cafe on radio.
This RE-VISION RADIO "university-without-walls" is actually a "singing school of the of the soul" (another kind of "soul-music;" thus the "school of rock") of the Romantic "Visionary Company"--those "Unknown Philosophers," "Brotherhood & Sisterhood of the Quest," or "Singers & Keepers of the Dream." This noetic/poetic "ecology of souls" in the TOWER OF SONG is what has been recognized by certain nineteenth-century Romantic seekers of the mystery as the "Hermetic Circle" ("'Nothing ever happens by chance,' he said, 'here only the right guests meet. This is the Hermetic Circle'.")—where "the poetic champions compose" as "ringers in the tower.” And because the TOWER OF SONG' s Night-School is haunted by song, it's a kind of rock-oriented "Dead Poets Society" or "Disembodied School of Poetics." However, any philosophical “education” (paideia) that happens in the Magdalene Musekal-Memorial Library is not the conventional one of the traditional academy, but a subversive, counter-educational programme of an "imaginal literacy," of a higher learning that reunites love and ideas ("a simultaneous knowing and loving by means of imagining”),—a soulful learning that harmonizes both the left and the right brain; a renaissance learning of the art of oratorical eloquence, where the "care of words" is equally "care of soul." RE-VISION RADIO’s Night-School of the Airwaves, then, going back—“way, way back”—to Orphic-Platonic sense of knowledge (lit. wisdom), can be sometimes seen (from a certain perspective on a full-moonlit night) as an esoteric academy of "Pansophia" or "Invisible College," whose Alma Mater is "Our Dark Lady of the Tower of Song." Therefore, the TOWER OF SONG is not for everyone, but for the eternal, underground counter-(oc)culture—"It is a broadcasting entity with a wisdom-laden voice from a Logos-mind that speaks to you"—which is, as "Everybody Knows," not for everyone, but for Romantic Outsiders only!
"And there you have a special beauty, a pulse that can be felt only in the dark--a special language and rhythm of the night sea. In your dark night you may learn a secret hidden from modern people generally. The truth of things can only be expressed aesthetically—in story, pictures, film, dance, and music. Only when ideas are poetic do they reach the depths and express the reality." —Thomas Moore, Dark Nights of the Soul
The Romantic Nightworld
The "Romantic Nightworld" (as the Gypsy Scholar terms it) became an overarching meme in the nineteenth-century for all the values that had been repressed—those associated with the moon and the feminine—due to the tyranny of dayworld (patriarchal) ones. The Romantics celebrated the "feminine" realities of the "Nightworld": imagination, myth, dream, the unconscious, feeling, magic, mysticism, and drug-induced, altered states of consciousness; the entire realm of the “inferior” or non-rational part of the psyche. (As archetypal psychologist James Hillman would put it, the Romantic Nightworld has to do with “the soul’s connection with the night world, the realm of the dead, and the moon.”) The Romantic poets, writers, and philosophers conceived of the "Romantic Nightworld" as a lunar world that corrected the imbalance of a solar world that had become too one-sided with hyper-rationalism, scientism, regimented order, masculine values, and etc. etc. In this lunar “Nightworld,” the values of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century European society were overturned in favor of everything that was rejected, at least since the fifth-century Greek rationalists, as the realm of the “irrational”: mystery, myth, mysticism, poetry, imagination, fantasy, ecstasy, altered states of consciousness, and the feminine. The Romantics associated these alternative values with a "lunar" consciousness, which was socially repressed in favor of the "solar" ego-consciousness (and the reigning "scientism" of their time). Nietzsche would later develop the meme of the "Romantic Nightworld” and its opposition to the dayworld in terms of the opposition of the Dionysian vs. Apollonian consciousness and his revolutionary project of the “revaluation [or transvaluation] of all values." The "Romantic Nightworld," then, was under the aegis of the god of ecstasy and excess, Dionysus, instead of the god of limits and ego-consciousness, Apollo. Therefore, the Romantics championed what has since been called "the Night-side of things."
The Romantic Nightworld
The School of the Night & The Romantic Nightworld
That secret society of the Renaissance, the School of the Night, a philosophical and literary society made up of poets, writers, philosophers, and scientists dedicated to esoteric learning, lives on! (Revived in the 19th-century concept of a separate reality from the daylight world of ego-consciousness and its values: "The Romantic Nightworld.") For the School of the Night, "night" was the symbol of divine and hidden knowledge.
Dreaming in the "Romantic Nightworld"
"The Evolution of Dreams: First the brain started dreaming, then dreams took over the brain and became the mind, which could be viewed as a continuous dream of the universe."
Dream of the Midnight Sun
"Moonstruck," "Dreaming," & "Nightwandering" in the Midnight Hours (of Radio)
"In the middle of the night / I go walking in my sleep / From the mountains of faith / To a river so deep …” --Billy Joel, ‘River of Dreams’ (Tower of Song theme-song)
"There is one part of the night about which I say, ‘Here time ceases!’ After all these moments of nocturnal wakefulness, especially on journeys for walks, one has a marvelous feeling with regard to this stretch of time: it was always much to brief or far too long, our sense of time suffers some anomaly. It may be that in our waking hours we pay recompense for the fact that we usually spend this time lost in the chaotic tides of dreamlife! Enough of that! At night between 1 and 3, we no longer have the clock in our heads. It seems to me that this is what the ancients expressed in the words intepestiva nocte … ‘in the night, where there is no time’…” --Nietzsche, Nachlass
Thus, "in the middle of the night" the Gypsy Scholar wants to say something in your ears:
"You Higher Men, it is going on midnight; I want to whisper something in your ears, like that old bell whispers it into my ear—as secretly, as terribly, as cordially as that midnight bell, which has experienced more than any one man, says it to me. It has already counted the painful heartbeats of your fathers. Ah! Ah! how it sighs! how in dreams it laughs! The ancient, deep, deep midnight!" --Nietzsche, 'The Nightwanderer's Song' (Thus Spoke Zarathustra)
“And your stairway / Reaches up to the moon / And it comes right back / It comes right back to you” —Van Morrison
"Nocturnal Wakefullness" & the Midnight-Radio Insomniac: "The Nightwanderer's Lunar Rapture" The Gypsy Scholar (the "midnight-souled" "insomniac" as radio host), who is dedicated to discovering what "deep midnight's voice contends," presents this marvelous academic essay on the Dionysian Philosopher and Orphic Scholar (who composed and played music) Friedrich Nietzsche's "Lunar rapture: Nietzsche's religion of the night sun."
This essay is presented here because it’s based upon the radical difference between night and day (for the poet, the writer, the artist, the mystic), and thus it emphasizes the "profundity of night" in a mystical sense—truly a "Romantic Nightworld" perspective for Nietzsche. This essay is, then, a wonderful affirmation of what the GS has always maintained about doing Radio; namely, there's a great difference between day-time and night-time when it comes to radio programming—a significantly different vibe, one which is conducive to the magic of late-night radio. The GS also finds that his entire philosophical conceit about radio—”midnight," "dreams," "sleepwalking" and "insomnia”—are taken up in this essay; the "woeful insomniac" indeed! (Furthermore, the essay’s words and phrases concerning the mythopoetic night-world and Nietzsche’s relation to it—“heart of ancient, deep, deep midnight,” “nocturnal world,” “nocturnal incantations,” “moon-crazed ravings,” “lunar intoxication,” “epiphanies of moonlight,” “mystic spell”—perfectly resonate with the GS’s “Romantic Nightworld” conception of the Tower of Song radio.) This is actually all contained the GS's theme song: "River of Dreams," which opens every radio program (“In the middle of the night / I go walking in my sleep …”). This radio-program leitmotif is also returned to every time the GS plays Van Morrison songs, such as 'In the Midnight,' 'Daring Night,' 'Moondance,' 'Hymns ti the Silence,' ("Yeah in the midnight, in the midnight, I burn the candle / Burn the candle at both ends, burn the candle at both ends / Burn the candle at both ends, burn the candle at both ends / And I keep on, 'cause I can't sleep at night / Until the daylight comes through / And I just, and I just, have to sing / Sing my hymns to the silence / Hymns to the silence, hymns to the silence /My hymns to the silence.”), and 'Take Me Back' ("And the music on the radio, and the music on the radio / Has so much soul, has so much soul / And you listen, in the night time / While we're still and quiet / And you look out on the water / And the big ships, and the big boats / Came on sailing by, by, by, by / And you felt so good, and I felt so good …” All the better hearing the song from a radio station near the Santa Cruz harbor and overlooking the Monterey Bay!)
For Nietzsche, the "Nightwanderer" is a visionary kind of "insomniac" (as in the Van Morrison song: "“Yeah in the midnight, in the midnight, I burn the candle / Burn the candle at both ends, burn the candle at both ends / Burn the candle at both ends, burn the candle at both ends / And I keep on, 'cause I can't sleep at night / Until the daylight comes through / And I just, and I just, have to sing..."), whose state of mind is a "wakefulness beyond waking." The Nightwanderer—as mystic insomniac—"speaks of a marvellous yet unendurable joy" and is one possessed by an alien god: "Nietzsche suggests that the continuation of all affective force within the compass of a single life is experienced within a waking dream—as if liberated from the sanity of the day, the self becomes a vessel for alien inhabitation."
"As the evening sun gently bleeds into the horizon and healthy human beings slide into the snore of oblivion, an alien species stirs into life, enraptured by a universe that rivets it to its gaze. Only the insomniac knows the profundity of night. To remain awake when others sleep is to observe a vigil quite foreign to the waking hours of the day. Night is the unlived world, indifferent to the working hours of calm, productive thought and for Nietzsche these restless hours are strangely exalted times. In the Nachlass one encounters the following fragment:"
'There is one part of the night about which I say, 'Here time ceases!' After all these moments of nocturnal wakefulness, especially on journeys or walks, one has a marvellous feeling with regard to this stretch of time: it was always much too brief or far too long, our sense of time suffers some anomaly. It may be that in our waking hours we pay recompense for the fact that we usually spend this time lost in the chaotic tides of dreamlife! Enough of that! At night between 1 and 3, we no longer have the clock in our heads. It seems to me that this is what the ancients expressed in the words intepestiva nocte... 'in the night, where there is no time' ... '
"Never the woeful insomniac, wretchedly nailed to eternity, Nietzsche enthuses about the tremendous feeling to which only the night-wanderer is privy. In nocturnal wakefulness time loses its steady ordinal flow and dissolves into the anomalies of excess beyond measure—always too much or not enough. For the wakefulness of the night is not of the same order as the lethargic flickerings of consciousness, nor simply inverse to the wild flights of dreamlife. More than mere attentiveness, its light survives within you: 'one does not see in the dark with impunity'." An alien voyager from an uninhabited realm, the nightwanderer infiltrates the sun-lit world, entrancing it with its mystic spell and rendering the familiar strange at every turn."
"I want to ask what it would mean to be moon-struck and God-struck … — to be literally addicted to the lunar and the divine — and why it is the wakeful dreamer who has access to this experience. It seems that it is enough to throb with love, hate, desire, simply passion in order to become enraptured by the spirit and power of that which leaves the natural order behind. Liberated from the torpid values of a senescent humanism, the nightwanderer attains a different quality of sentience — a vibrant second nature. As every insomniac knows, in sleeplessness it is the body that is disturbed and encountered anew, as if in the default of dogmatic slumber the inner forces beat to a fundamentally different rhythm."
For the full text of the essay, "Lunar rapture: Nietzsche's religion of the night sun,"click here
The Romantic Nightworld & Reclaiming the Darkness
You darkness, that I come from, I love you more than all the fires that fence in the world, for the fire makes a circle of light for everyone, and then no one outside learns of you.
But the darkness pulls in everything; shapes and fires, animals and myself, how easily it gathers them!— powers and people— and it is possible a great energy is moving near me. I have faith in nights.
—Rainer Maria Rilke, "On Darkness"
Go seeker, if you will, throughout the land, and you will find us burning in the night. —Thomas Wolf
Night is purer than day; it is better for thinking and loving and dreaming. At night everything is more intense, more true. The echo of words that have been spoken during the day takes on a new and deeper meaning. —Elie Weisel
"In the words of Zarathustra, 'the hour has come: let us walk into the night!'"
"Night ‘is sacred to those astray’, a mythic world of dream and derangement, peopled by dark and vagrant souls… But strange are the night-time pathways travelled by Zarathustra who from the outset identifies himself with the gratuitous self-expenditure of the sun... In Ecce Homo Nietzsche quotes the entirety of ‘The Night Song’, a Dionysian dithyramb of deepest melancholy … Indeed, Nietzsche's extraordinary text the ‘The Nightwanderer’s Song’ is set against the backdrop of an immense full moon and explicitly recalls the earlier epiphanies of moonlight … At this point in the narrative, a band of Higher Men [in Zarathustra’s cave] go out to ‘greet the night’ …. Unlike the prisoners in Plato's cave, they do not emerge from darkness into light but enter what Zarathustra calls his ‘nocturnal world’—a deep mystic night of unknowing…" ('Lunar rapture: Nietzsche's religion of the night sun')
For the full text of Nietzsche's "The Nightwanderer's Song,"click here
"'Night Song', a Dionysian dithyramb of deepest melancholy"
The Night Song
’Tis night: now do all gushing fountains speak louder. And my soul also is a gushing fountain. 'Tis night: now only do all songs of the loving ones awake. And my soul also is the song of a loving one. Something unappeased, unappeasable, is within me; it longeth to find expression. A craving for love is within me, which speaketh itself the language of love. Light am I: ah, that I were night! But it is my lonesomeness to be begirt with light! Ah, that I were dark and nightly! How would I suck at the breasts of light! …
'Tis night: alas, that I have to be light! And thirst for the nightly! And lonesomeness! 'Tis night: now doth my longing break forth in me as a fountain,- for speech do I long. 'Tis night: now do all gushing fountains speak louder. And my soul also is a gushing fountain. 'Tis night: now do all songs of loving ones awake. And my soul also is the song of a loving one.— Thus sang Zarathustra.
(from Nietzsche's Thus Spoke Zarathustra)
For the full text of Nietzsche's "The Night Song," click here
To go to the special Musical Philosopher Nietzsche page, click here
I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night. --Galileo Galilei
The Ancient Schools & Educational Traditions upon which The Tower of Song's "Romantic Night-School" (a "University of the Airwaves") is Modeled
Plato's School of Athens
Allegory of the Seven Liberal Arts (de-Vos)
Seven Liberal Arts & Pallas Athena with Apollo & Muses
Academy of Arts & Sciences (based on classical literature,1698)
The Tower of Song's Platonic "Spirit of Education"
The Invisible College
The Invisible College
It was the task of the intellectuals of the esoteric school (early 17th century) of the "Invisible College" ("our philosophical college")--alchemists, hermeticists, magicians, diviners, clairvoyants, and natural philosophers--to translate into pragmatic strategies the occult teachings that were transmitted to them. Entire secret socities were established for this purpose (such as the Freemasons and Rosicrucians). The adepts and alumni of the "Invisible College" were skilled in magical practices, which they employed in the quest of knowledge for the evolution of humankind. (Mainstream college academics have yet to recognize and acknowldege the contribution of these esoteric adepts in filtering advanced knowledge into pre-modern society and, thus, are unaware of the true origins of what are considered the greatest of ideals of Western culture. However, one scholar was a trailblazer in this field of esoteric research: Frances Yates, who identifies this institution of higher learning as the "Invisible College of the Rosy Cross".)
Dream, Magic, & the Romantic Night-School in the Tower of Song
Magic is the book of all scholars. All that will learn must first learn Magic, be it a high or lowly art. Even the peasant in the field must go to the magical school, if he would cultivate his field. Magic is the best theology, for in it true faith is both grounded and found... —Jacob Boehme
The Inspired Scholar, "Faust, at his studies, muses on the power of magic"
In the TOWER of SONG, the Gypsy Scholar dreams of the spiritual ancestors of his Romantic Night-School of the Airwaves. Dreams way, way back to the renaissance of learning that were the medieval schools and monasteries of Andalusia, Sicily, Italy, Paris, and Ireland, and also the later Italian Renaissance school of Ficino's (melancholy-musical) occult Neo-Platonism. Here, the practice of "magic" was aligned with the practice of scholarly "rhetoric." Therefore, in the Magdalene Memorial-Musekal LibraryGypsy Scholar discovers ancient books and their mysteries that seem to speak to him.
. . . Sit here by my side For the night is very long There's something I must tell Before I pass along
I joined the brotherhood My books were all to me I scribed the words of God And much of history . . .
I give you now my books And all their mysteries . . .
The TOWER of SONG's School of the Night: Hermetic Academy of Music
The Hermetica is a category of popular Late Antique literature purporting to contain secret wisdom, and generally attributed to Hermes Trismegistus, "thrice-great Hermes," a syncretism of the Greek god Hermes and the Egyptian Thoth. A collection of several such Greek texts from the second and third centuries, survivors from a more extensive literature, were compiled into a Corpus Hermeticum by Italian scholars during the Renaissance.
Originating between 100 and 500 A.D. in Egypt, Hermeticism takes its name from the Egyptian God Thoth, named Hermes Trismegistus, otherwise known as “Thrice Great Hermes” in Greek. Other Hermetic works, however, existed in Syriac, Arabic, Armenian, Coptic, and other languages. A Greek text, called the “Hermetic Treatises,” contains the founding principles of Hermeticism. The Hermetica (or Corpus Hermeticum) consists in ancient Greek and Latin writings of a religio-philosophic nature ascribed to Hermes Trismegistus. These writings (and it doesn't matter if we say "religious" or "philosophical") were, roughly speaking, of a Neo-Platonic (which includes Pythagorean) character, being that they came out of the milieu of the Roman period in Egypt. The books now known as the Corpus Hermeticum were part of a renaissance of syncretic and intellectualized pagan thought that took place around the 2nd century. Other examples of this cultural moment would include Neoplatonist philosophy, the Chaldaean Oracles, late Orphic and Pythagorean literature, as well as much of Gnosticism. Unlike some Gnostic writings, the Hermetica contain no explicit allusions to Jewish or Christian texts. The Corpus Hermeticum varied in subject matter and dealt with many doctrines--astrology, magic, alchemy, and other "occult" subjects. The writings purport to be from the "teacher" to "pupil;" in most cases that of Hermes Trismegistus to Tat, Asclepius, or Ammon. (However these names are probably fictitious.)
Although they were still popular enough in the 5th century to be argued against by St. Augustine in the City of God, Hermetic texts were lost to the West during the Middle Ages. They were, however, rediscovered from Byzantine copies and popularized in Italy during the Renaissance. The impetus for this revival came from the Latin translation by Marsilio Ficino, who published it in 1471, as De potestate et sapientia Dei. The availability of Hermetica provided a seminal force in the development of Renaissance thought and culture, having had a profound influence over alchemy and modern magic, as well as having an impact on philosophers such as Giordano Bruno and Pico della Mirandola, Ficino's student. The Treatises became the most famous magical text in Western Europe. As the Renaissance continued this magic became connected with philosophy and the humanist movement. By the 17th century it was basically considered a philosophy and not so much magic.
The ancient Hermetic saying is “Know Thyself.” (An ancient Egyptian saying goes, “O Man, Know Thyself; in thee is hid the Treasure of Treasures.”) It is a popular belief among the Hermetic philosophy that the knowledge of God lies in the nature of all men, and not anything else in the universe. Being that God is in Man, one can only find God by knowing himself. This is considered to be the highest wisdom. According to Hermetic philosophy, Man is the central figure. The “secrets of nature” cannot be taught or learned, but rather can only be known by revelation of “knowing thyself.”
One of the most famous writings attributed to Hermes Trismegistus is Emerald Tablet (also known as Smaragdine Table or The Secret of Hermes) is an ancient text purporting to reveal the secret of the Alchemical primordial substance and its transmutations. This short and cryptic text was highly regarded by European alchemists as the foundation of their art, in particular of its Hermetic tradition.
The Hermetica makes the important distinction between knowledge as "episteme" (science) and Knowledge as "gnosis," which are the products, respectively, of reason and of understanding. Gnosis is direct, pure knowledge.
"Without philosophy it is impossible to be perfectly pious. He who learns of what nature things are, and how they are ordered, and by whom, and to what end, will be thankful for all things to the Creator . . . . "
The "Perfect Discourse" of Asclepius makes the same point, but from the perspective of philosophy as gnosis:
"Pure philosophy, that which depends only on piety towards God, should pay no more attention to the other sciences than is required in order to admire how the return of the stars to their first position . . . , qualities and quantities of the earth, the depths of the sea, the power of fire, and the effect and nature of all these things, to admire, adore and praise the art and mind of God."
But the "Perfect Discourse" doesn't stop there; it continues in a musical metaphor:
"And to be instructed in music is precisely to know how all this system of things is ordered, and what divine plan has distributed it. For this order, having brought all individual things into a unity by creative reason, will produce as it were a most sweet and true harmony, and a divine melody."
Ergo, it is, as it were, that the Hermetic "Perfect Discourse" of Asclepius' is the "perfect discourse"--the perfect mix of Argument & Song--of the Gypsy Scholar's Orphic Essay-with-Soundtrack --heard in the Tower of Song. Thus, the Gypsy Scholar plays (through his Orphic Essay-with-Soundtrack) with the double meaning of the traditional "dialectics of music"--is it musical philosophy, or philosophical music? Here, music-as-idea is also idea-as-music, where the "hermeneutics of music" becomes the music of Hermes (who is said to have been the inventor of the lyre and the teacher of Orpheus).
The TOWER OF SONG as the Center of Platonic/Romantic Education & the Hermetic Wisdom of John Milton’s Il Penseroso
The poet's persona invokes Melancholy to allow him to make it possible to go to places he has never been to before and to do things he has never done before. In his invocation the persona creates a pastoral setting with his use of language. Because Milton puts himself into Il Penseroso, this poem is more personal, more mature, and ultimately more powerful. On line 86 the persona talks about a “high lonely Towr.” In this tower he imagines his life as an intellect and poet. He also envisions himself spending numerous hours studying the writings of Hermes Trismegistus and Plato’s writings dealing with “immortal souls.” One of Milton’s motives for this poem is said to be his “movement of career.” It was written during a vulnerable time in his life and deals with various ways of coping with different situations; specifically his vocation as a poet. Milton demonstrates the relation of nature to feelings to imagination to ideals to morals to art to God and finally back to nature. By reading Book IV of Paradise Regained one can understand Milton’s similar attitude found in Il Penseroso. He stresses the points of leisure and study, two subjects or motives found in Il Penseroso. With a close reading of the symbolic language found in this poem one can see the direct correlation between the experience in the poem and the experiences in Milton’s own life. This poem is a symbolic description (perhaps “humanist speculum”) of Milton’s ideas of education, which Milton consistently stressed. Milton also stresses that humanist education leads to universal knowledge. This educative poem shows the “Platonic ascent" through all the levels of human experience. In this poem, Hermes Trismegistus and Plato ultimately offer the philosophic experience.
Milton encountered the Hermetic Treatises during his third year at Cambridge in 1628. During that year he wrote a poem entitled, “De Idea Platonica Quemadmodum Aristotles Intellexit.” The speaker in this poem demands to know where he can find the Platonic archetype of a man. Hermes Trismegistus appears in a list of authors in lines 25-28. The reference made to Hermes in “Il Penseroso” clearly demonstrates that Milton incorporated his studies at Cambridge into his written works.
In the Tower of Song, the love of ideas(the love of learning) is mixed with the idea of love. This radio commingling of "love and ideas" creates an "erotic metaphysics," because of Socrates' and Plato's emphasis on eros (erotic mania) as the driving force of the philosopher's (the "lover of wisdom") quest--"a simultaneous knowing and loving by means of imagining.” This imaginative element of "give attention to soul" practically defines the entire philosophy of Socrates and Plato.
Thus Everybody Knows that the Tower of Song is the Tower of Learning--the singing school of the soul:
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing For every tatter in its mortal dress. Nor is there singing school but studying Monuments of its own magnificence . . . (W. B. Yeats)
"Lonely Towr" from Il Penseroso (Palmer 1879)
Oh let my Lamp at midnight hour Be seen in some high Lonely Towr, Where I may oft out-watch the Bear, With thrice great Hermes.
Milton, 'Il Penseroso' (1633)
From my retreat and view Make my own break through And I might see things new From my retreat and view
There's visions to behold Treasures to unfold Home away from home From my retreat and view
Well the higher you go The more that you know you can find Like a memory that's there Stuck in the back of your mind
There's bargains of the soul Dreams that do unfold Now I know it's true From my retreat and view
There's bargains of the soul Treasures to behold Some time to start anew From my retreat and view
From my retreat and view Got to make my own break through So I can see things new From my retreat and view
High up on the mountainside From my retreat and view The place to satisfy From my retreat and view
From my retreat and view Got to make my own break through So I can see things new From my retreat and view
Come pensive Nun devout & pure Sober stedfast & demure All in Robe of darkest grain Flowing with majestic train Come but keep thy wonted state With even step & musing gait And looks commercing with the Skies
And join with thee calm Peace & Quiet Spare Fast who oft with Gods doth diet And hears the Muses in a ring Ay. round about Joves altar sing And add to these retired Leisure Who in trim Gardens takes his pleasure But first & Chiefest with thee bring Him who yon soars on golden Wing Guiding the Fiery wheeled Throne The Cherub Contemplation
Less Philomel will deign a song In her sweetest saddest plight Smoothing the rugged Brow of Night While Cynthia Checks her dragon yoke Gently o'er the accustomd Oak
Il Penseroso is a famous pastoral poem by Blake's mentor, John Milton (written c. 1631-1633). The poem is in praise of the contemplative, withdrawn life of study, philosophy, thought and meditation, and is a counterpiece to L'Allegro, which praises the more cheerful sides of life and literature. Both pieces detail the passing of a day in the countryside according to both philosophies. And, once more, both poems show the influence of Hermeticism. In Il Penseroso Milton not only pays tribute to Lady Melancholia as muse ("divinest Melancholy"), but also to Hermes Trismegistus ("the Thrice-Great Hermes") and Orpheus--all three presiding spirits invoked in the Gypsy Scholar's Tower of Song.
HENCE vain deluding joyes, The brood of folly without father bred, How little you bested, Or fill the fixèd mind with all your toyes; Dwell in some idle brain, And fancies fond with gaudy shapes possess, As thick and numberless As the gay motes that poeple the Sun Beams, Or likest hovering dreams The fickle Pensioners of Morpheus train. But hail thou Goddess, sage and holy, Hail divinest Melancholy, Whose Saintly visage is too bright To hit the Sense of human sight; And therefore to our weaker view, Ore laid with black staid Wisdoms hue. 1 Black, but such as in esteem, Prince Memnons sister might beseem, Or that starr'd Ethiope Queen that strove To set her beauties praise above The Sea Nymphs, and their powers offended, Yet thou art higher far descended, Thee bright-hair'd Vesta long of yore, To solitary Saturn bore; His daughter she (in Saturns raign, Such mixture was not held a stain) Oft in glimmering Bowres, and glades He met her, and in secret shades Of woody Ida's inmost grove . . . . And joyn with thee calm Peace, and Quiet, Spare Fast, that oft with gods doth diet, And hears the Muses in a ring, Ay round about Joves Altar sing. And adde to these retired leasure, That in trim Gardens takes his pleasure; But first, and chiefest, with thee bring, Him that yon soars on golden wing, Guiding the fiery-wheeled throne, The Cherub Contemplation, And the mute Silence hist along, Less Philomel will deign a Song, In her sweetest, saddest plight, Smoothing the rugged brow of night, While Cynthia checks her Dragon yoke, Gently o're th' accustomed Oke; Sweet Bird that shunn'st the noise of folly, Most musical, most Melancholy! Thee Chauntress oft the Woods among, I woo to hear thy Even-Song . . . . Or let my Lamp at midnight hour, Be seen in some high lonely Towr, Where I may oft out-watch the Bear, With thrice great Hermes, or unsphear The spirit of Plato to unfold What Worlds, or what vast Regions hold The immortal mind that hath forsook Her mansion in this fleshly nook: And of those Daemons that are found In fire, air, flood, or under ground, Whose power hath a true consent With Planet, or with Element. . . . 2
But, O sad Virgin, that thy power Might raise Musaeus from his bower, Or bid the soul of Orpheus sing Such notes as warbled to the string, Drew Iron tears down Pluto's cheek, And made Hell grant what Love did seek. . . . 3 And if ought els, great Bards beside, In sage and solemn tunes have sung, Of Turneys and of Trophies hung; Of Forests, and inchantments drear, Where more is meant then meets the ear. Thus night oft see me in thy pale career, Till civil-suitèd Morn appeer . . . . And when the Sun begins to fling His flaring beams, me Goddess bring To archèd walks of twilight groves, And shadows brown that Sylvan loves Of Pine, or monumental Oake, Where the rude Ax with heaved stroke Was never heard the Nymphs to daunt, Or fright them from their hallow'd haunt. There in close covert by some Brook, Where no prophaner eye may look, Hide me from Day's garish eie, While the Bee with Honied thie, That at her flowry work doth sing, And the Waters murmuring With such consort as they keep, Entice the dewy-feather'd Sleep; And let some strange mysterious dream, Wave at his Wings in Airy stream, Of lively portrature display'd, Softly on my eye-lids laid. And as I wake, sweek musick breath Above, about, or underneath, Sent by som spirit to mortals good, Or th'unseen Genius of the Wood. But let my due feet never fail, To walk the studious Cloysters pale. And love the high embowed Roof, With antick Pillars massy proof, And storied Windows richly dight, Casting a dimm religious light. There let the pealing Organ blow, To the full voic'd Quire below, In Service high, and Anthems cleer, As may with sweetness, through mine ear, Dissovle me into extasies, And bring all Heav'n before mine eyes. And may at last my weary age Find out the peacefull hermitage, The Hairy Gown and Mossy Cell, Where I may sit and rightly spell Of every Star that heav'n doth shew, And every Herb that sips the dew; Till old experience do attain To something like Prophetic strain. These pleasures of Melancholy give, And I with thee will choose to live. 4
1. “Melancholy”. Milton's goddess Melancholy is an earlier version of Urania, the Muse he invokes in Paradise Lost 7.1
“with black”. Melancholy was one of ancient medicine's four humours, black bile, under Saturn's influence. Milton allows his personification to appear to have a black face, but this is simply the way she must appear to worldly mortals. Robert Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy (1632) was the standard treatise on this humour and all its effects.
2. “Towr”. Contrast Il Penseroso being inside the tower, while L'Allegro views a tower from a distance (L'Allegro 77-78).
“Bear”. Viewed from the northern hemisphere, the constellation Ursa Major (the great bear) never sets. Thus to "outwatch the bear" is never to go to bed. (Bear is also Orion.)
“Thrice Great Hermes”, or Hermes Trismegistus (three times great), traditionally the author of the Corpus Hermeticum, a body of mystical writings dating from sometime in the first three centuries of the Common Era. Neoplatonists of the Renaissance regarded Hermes as knowing everything.
“unsphear”. To unsphere would be to summon a spirit (in this case Plato's) from his celestial sphere.
“fleshly nook”. An allusion to the Neo-Platonic idea of human souls as trapped within fleshly bodies.
“Dæmons”. Daimons were thought to be spirits, half mortal and half immortal, that served to communicate between the gods and mortals. In Hermetic philosophy daimons presided over the four elements of created things. In Plato's Symposium, Diotima argues that Eros (Love) is such a daimon.
3. “Musaeus”. A mythical poet, sometimes described as the son of Orpheus and a priest of Demeter, and is thus interpreted as the founder of religious poetry. The fifth-century poem "Hero and Leander" is ascribed to him.
“Orpheus”. Contrast this reference to Orpheus with that in L'Allegro 145-150. “. . . the superiority of the pattern set by Il Penseroso is signaled by the use Milton makes of the Orpheus myth in the two poems. . . . in Il Penseroso the emphasis is upon the power of Orphean music; in L'Allegro it is Orpheus' failure to return Eurydice to the world.”
4. “Hairy Gown and Mossy Cell”. This phrase reinforces the preceding line's mention of "hermitage." A hair shirt would often be worn by a man doing penance. Cell can mean "a dwelling consisting of a single chamber inhabited by a hermit or other solitary."
“spell”. Spell can mean "to engage in a study or contemplation of something," or "to decipher, with an overtone of its magical sense."
“Prophetic” and “Melancholy”. The superiority of Il Penseroso's accomplishment is subtly asserted by the relative security of the poem's closing couplet. "There is no doubt that Melancholy can give such pleasures; there is some question of Mirth's power."
She dwells with Beauty—Beauty that must die; And Joy, whose hand is ever at his lips Bidding adieu; and aching Pleasure nigh, Turning to poison while the bee-mouth sips: Ay, in the very temple of Delight Veil'd Melancholy has her sovran shrine ...
—John Keats, "Ode on Melancholy"
Even so We find the sea of sorrow. Black as night The sullen surface meets our frightened gaze. As down we sink to darkness and despair. But at the depths! Such beauty, such delight! Such flowers as never grew in pleasure's ways.
—Ella Wheeler Wilcox, "The Depths"
I fled to the edge of a mighty sea of sorrow Pursued by the riders of a cruel and dark regime But the waters parted and my soul crossed over Out of Egypt, out of Pharaoh’s dream ...
I was alone on the road, your love was so confusing All my teachers told me I had myself to blame But in the grip of sensual illusion The sweet unknowing unifies a name …
—Leonard Cohen, “Born in Chains”
"My melancholy wants to rest in the hiding places and abysses of perfection: that is why I need music."
—Nietzsche, The Gay Science
"Day is fading away, now evening is coming to all things, even to the best things; listen now, and see, you Higher Men, what devil, whether man or woman, this spirit of evening melancholy is!"
—Nietzsche, "The Song of Melancholy" (Thus Spoke Zarathustra)
For the full text of Nietzsche's "The Song of Melancholy," click here
In the"Invisible Landscape" of The Tower of Song, the luminous, dark, sacred night and its Night-Riders are ruled over by the Dark Goddess--the "Queen of the Night" or "Luna."
"Queen of the Night"
The People/Phantoms of the Night; the Night-Riders: The Music of the Night in the Dark Side of Town
In Europe, during the Middle Ages--around the time of the Troubadours, I may add--, a legend arose about certain mysterious beings, called either "People of the Night," or "Phantoms of the Night." This "good society," as they were oftentimes referred to, magically appeared during the night, usually in forests and high mountain valleys and fields, "accompanied by delightful music of unearthly beauty, which placed human beings under a spell and summoned forth nameless yearning." In fact, their music was so beautiful that it was described by those that accidentally stumbled upon their merry company as "heavenly music," or music that seemed "as if the angels were playing." These "People/Phantoms of the Night" are roughly equivalent to the Celtic otherworldly "fairie" folk (who are, as opposed to today's popular conception, by no means cute little elfin creatures, but somewhat awesome and even terrifying to look upon). Associated with the medieval “Witchcraft” phenomenon, other magical elements accrued themselves onto this folklore complex of the “People/Phantoms of the Night,” such as: (1) the legend of the wild “night-riders” (sometimes led by Herne), who could be heard thundering through the countryside on horseback or even through the air; (2) the legend of the pagan goddess of the Hunt, Diana-Artemis (also, “Holda”), who lured women to “night flying,” or nocturnal travels of riding upon wild beasts—“the game of Diana.”
“The phantoms of the night are the more uncertain and more fantastic beings and in their peculiar form much less well known than the people of the dead. The former are also different from the people of the dead in that with them the usually grim ceremonies of death are replaced with uninhibited joys. These wild phantoms appear on lonely mountain meadows, participating in a joyful roundelay, like the witches. And an invisible music plays movingly beautiful tunes. This music of the night phantoms has been especially praised, being played not only for dances but also for the nocturnal journeys through mountainous gorges and ravines. Whenever a living person hears these wonderful tones, a nameless yearning seizes his or her heart, and he or she must follow the grim procession over mountain and valley until the bells of morning or the first cock’s crow breaks the magic.”
“The appearance of the people of the night or of the night phantoms was usually accompanied by delightful music of unearthly beauty, which placed human beings under a spell and summoned forth a nameless yearning. This music was described as ‘heavenly music,’ or as music so beautiful ‘that it was as if the angels were playing’ . . . .”
"The conception naturally arises whether there is any common pattern to be found behind these ideas of a 'good society,' regardless of who referred to it or did not refer to it. The conception of a good people existing parallel to the dreary world of daily reality, especially ideas of music of unearthly beauty, played by the night people or by the Saligen Lutt (blessed, i.e., dead, people), carries with it possible traces of a peasant utopia. . . . Synonyms for them were 'the blessed women,' 'the noble maidens,' 'the blessed girls,' or even the 'holy people,' or the 'angelic people.' They were enchanted but peaceful people from the mountains who helped human beings, spoke with animals, rewarded the good and sometimes punished the bad, and they possessed the gift of flight."
(Behringer, Shaman of Oberstdorf)
"The Old Magic"
"Oracle at Dodona"
Diana the Moon-goddess
The supreme Lady of this nocturnal “joyous society" was Diana or the “Mistress of the Good Game” (la donna del bon zogo). One of the peasant women in these nocturnal gatherings could be chosen as “Queen of Angel Land” or also as “Queen of the Angels, Queen of the Elves.” Could the original "Lady" of the "good society" be none other than "Our Dark Lady of the TOWER OF SONG"?
After all, the settings of the "People/Phantoms of the Night" sound as if they could well have been in, or on the grounds of, the Tower of Song: “The phantoms of the night danced joyously on remote meadows and mountain pastures, met in certain houses for sumptuous dinners . . . .” Witches brought to trial reported about witches who healed and helped others. Witches also confessed that at their gatherings they heard instrumental dance music, made contact with angels and the dead, and worked magic; even revived the dead. These meetings took place “mostly on mountain tops, where beautiful and pleasant fields are found, or in delightful broad valleys . . . or in large palaces . . . .”
There is also the connection between the "angelic music" of the "People/Phantoms of the Night" and the wonderful music heard in the Tower of Song.
“There is also a definite connection here between death and music, as the illustrations of the dance of death, common from the fifteenth century onward make clear. From this point on there is a linkage to the devil as well, because death and the devil have been closely related for ages, and there is also a theological tradition that has regularly condemned music. There is reason enough, however, to follow conceptually the music of unearthly beauty played or sung by the people of the night in other directions as well.”
This connection made by the Church between music and evil has had, since the Middle Ages, a long life-span. (The cultural watchdogs of the Church condemned popular music and bemoaned the decadent life-styles of the young, especially the music that was being imported into the Latin world from Arabo-Hispanic Andalusia.) Parallels can be readily seen concerning rock-in-roll in the 50s and 60s and hip-hop music today.
Therefore,"there is reason enough ... to follow conceptually the music of unearthly beauty played or sung by the people of the night [in the middle of the night] in other directions as well"--to follow, in other words the music to theTOWER OF SONG.
Night-Rider's magic circle
The School of the Night & the Night-Riders
Having already described the Gypsy Scholar 's waking dream of the Tower of Song as, among other things, an "anarchist all-night coffee house," here's more scholarly information that will make the connection to "The People/Phantoms of the Night."
The folk belief of a “peasant utopia” acquired new life in the peasant rebellions of the Middle Ages (and recalled at moments in the “Peasant’s War,” 1525). This has been called, as part of the millennialist movements of the time “the world turned upside down.” But we can detect in these popular political uprisings the survival of the magico-pagan beliefs in the “People of the Night” and their wild ceremonies.
“The music of their peasant dances may even have resounded more sweetly at the time of the great uprising than it ever had before. But this time of carnival, this ‘world turned upside down,’ when peasants took control of government . . . .”
This citation points in the direction of the Gypsy Scholar's essays on politics and music--"The Romantic Total Revolution." Yet the significance of this citation isn't exhausted in this aspect only. It also points up the Gypsy Scholar's essays on the politics of new-age religion, where the dogmas of new-age religion are challenged by the feminist inverting ("turning upside down") of patriarchal values. Here, for example, the light (good) vs. dark (bad) metaphysic is "turned upside down." [See subpage, "Our Dark Lady"] In the present re-valuing, the carnival of "The People/Phantoms of the Night" heralds the feminist revolution in the spiritual life. For instance, now the "dark" repressed element is brought up from the underworld/hell and given its proper due; that is, what is historically rejected is consciously re-valued as a positive force ("working with the Shadow")--found in the "dark side of town."
This is part of the revolution that the Gypsy Scholar terms "The Romantic Revolution." Yet, as the folklorist points out (in discussing the importance of the ideas of popular culture--like "The People or Phantoms of the Night"--and about one of the ecstatic virtuosos of the 1600s):
"Real conventicles of heretics, as well as surviving notions of fairies (in both cases, groups who were known as ‘good people’) thus provided a conceptual basis for the witches’ dance. . . . there is much evidence in favor of the view that popular beliefs played an important role in the construction of the idea of the witches’ dance. . . . Here was where the bona societas was transformed into the society of witches. When physical force was deployed against folk magic and when lived folk beliefs and myths were demonized, another stage in their suppression was begun. The people of the night were pushed underground and the fairies took leave of history. . . . When push came to shove, not even his neighbors were able to understand their ‘virtuoso representative of popular culture’ any more. The witch hunt replaced the witch finder, the state replaced magic. The church became part of the state administration, and these myths were transformed into the stuff of legends and fairy tales, falling into unconsciousness until, in the nineteenth century, their souls had once again left their bodies. The Romantics, however, did not really discover them anew, but instead invented something entirely new out of them. . . . And the Romantics in turn have been shoved into the shadows by the bricoleurs of our century. But here we go again, speaking of high intellectuals and politicians, while . . . was only a herdsman who went traveling with the phantoms of the night.”
Thus, it could be said that part of the nineteenth-century Romantic project of the cultural recovery of the repressed values of the "Nightworld" today is to recover Romanticism itself! And now that we have heard about the "School of the Night," let's seek the connection of this Renaissance esoteric school and the medieval/Renaissance phenomenon of the "Night-Riders" with the Gypsy Scholar's quest for the alternative academy--that "singing school of the soul." Because he moved from the Ivory Tower to "that tower down the track," he now takes academic liberties in mixing classical culture and popular culture--takes special pleasure in mixing the high and the low. This is part of the Gypsy Scholar's (Re-Vision Radio's "ecstatic virtuoso") serious programme of bringing Romanticism out of the "shadows" and "playing with knowledge," mixing with music, as scholar-artist in-residence--in the TOWER OF SONG, where listeners can go "traveling with the phantoms of the night" or "night-riders."
". . . / if the backbeats born in hell / then that's the place I want to be / gonna be a midnight rider / gonna to burn my candle down / following that driven beat / to the dark side of town / . . . gonna celebrate the mystery of the hole I've fallen in / 'cause I'm a midnight rider / gonna burn my candle down / follow that driven beat / to the dark side of town. . . ." (Eliza Gilkyson)
"Pleasure is frequently, if not always, the disavowed motivation for even the most serious and scholarly studies, studies that denounce the assertive and playful pleasures of popular culture as frivolous. . . . Since popular culture has the audacity to make pleasure ( or "enjoyment" ...) its purpose, cultural studies and the study of popular culture can inspire students and intellectuals to affirm the pleasures of critical analysis, to confront not only the cultural politics of pleasures, but also the pleasures of cultural politics." (Prof. Carla Freccero, Popular Culture)
The Benandanti ("Good Walkers") were an agrarian fertility cult in the Friuli district of Northern Italy in the 16th and 17th centuries. The first coherent description of the Witch’s Sabbath invoked popular ideas of the people: “the game of the good society (ludus bonae societatis) and conveyed a vague impression of banquets, dancing, and music . . . .”
The Witch's Sabbath contained many elements of pre-Christian pagan motifs. Of course, the motifs of “heavenly music” or the “resurrection of the dead” occurred in a Christian context, but “despite the strength and institutional spread of Christian mythology, a set of ides circulated through the whole alpine region that cannot really be called ‘Christian.’ Another set of ideas was the myth of a ‘good society’ that existed parallel to the evil condition of the world.”
"Male and female witches met at night, generally in solitary places, in fields and mountains. Sometimes, having anointed their bodies, they flew, arriving astride poles or broom sticks; sometimes they arrived on the backs of animals, or transformed into animals themselves. . . . There would follow banquets, dancing, sexual orgies. . . . Two themes emerge from them: the processions of the dead and battles for fertility. Those who declare that they participated in them in a state of ecstasy were, in the case of the processions, predominantly women: the battles, chielly men. Both called themselves benandanti. The uniqueness of the term suggests a background of shared beliefs . . . connected with myths commonplace over a large part of Europe (the followers of Diana, the 'wild hunt'). . . . In fact, in both cases, the exit of the soul from body--to join night battles or the processions of wandering souls--was preceded by a cataleptic state which irresistibly suggests comparison with a shamanistic ecstasy.
More generally, the tasks of the benandanti assigned themselves (contact with the world of the dead; magical control of the powers of nature) seem to amount to a social function very similar to that performed by shamans. . . To this mythical nucleus are also linked folkloric themes such as night flying and animal metamorphoses. . . With the end of the persecutions, the Sabbath dissolved. Denied as a real event, relegated to a no longer threatening past, it fed the imagination of painters, poets and philologists. But for a period which was ultimately quite brief (three centuries), the very ancient myths merged into that composite stereotype and have survived its disappearance. They are still active. The unfathomable experience that humanity has symbolically expressed for millennia through myths, fables, rituals and ecstasis, remains one of the hidden centers of our culture, of the way we exist in this world. The attempt to attain knowledge of the past is also a journey into the world of the dead." (Carlo Ginzburg, Ecstasies, Deciphering The Witches Sabbath) [My emphasis]
The People/Phantoms of the Night & Shamanism “The connections between ecstasy, soul travel, fortune-telling, and powers of healing, which we find here united but still only in fragmentary form, have been brought together in other cultures into a type of religious expertise called shamanism . . . . Shamanistic ecstasies can be found in Europe from the early Middle Ages down to today.”
One example of shamanistic techniques in the phenomenon of the “People/Phantoms of the Night” is found in Sicily, with women called “Ladies from Outside” (donni de fori). “They loved children and harmed no one, except perhaps when they defended themselves. Luck smiled on those whom they visited. Anyone who went “traveling” with them, by having souls that left their bodies on certain nights, obtained the capacity to heal and to foretell the future. Their assemblies were enlivened by wonderful music and frolicsome dancing, and wherever they went there was plenty of food and drink. Sometimes they helped people with their work.”
According to Russian folklorist, Vladimir Propp, shamanism survives in the substrate of magical fairy-tales. As another folklorist observes: “It is fairly clear that no pre-Christian cults survived the thousand years of Christian acculturation. The Celtic, Germanic, Slavic, and Roman myth repertoire was broken up, dissolved, and partially extinguished. . . . Even so, the surviving fragments of myth, these vestigial mythologems, were powerful enough to generate the myths over and over again.”
Yes, these myths "are still active" and activated, where "those funny voices" of the ancestors (the dead) still feed the imagination of the poets--that "visionary company"--who compose one of the "hidden centers of our [counter-] culture;" still active, that is, in that imaginal center that is shamanically "sung into existence." Legend has it that only certain individuals could hear “the music of the night people.” These individuals are those that have discovered
The Tower of Song.
Some of the "People/Phantoms of the Night" as seen from the Imaginal Window in the Tower of Song, where you can "hear those funny voices."
"Evening Star" (Venus)
"Night & Sleep"
"Queen of the Night"
In the middle of the night when all is quiet and a magic sleep falls upon the land, the "Queen of the Night," whose other name is Hecate, Goddess of the Underworld, haunts the "Invisible Landscape" of the Tower of Song.
And we fairies, who all run As members of Queen Hecate's team From the presence of the sun, Following darkness like a dream, Now are happy. (Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night's Dream)
"The Scent of Magic"
"The Night of Enitharmon's Joy (Hecate)" by William Blake
"The Magic Circle"
"Diana of the Night-Hunt"
"Wizard of the Tower"
"Riders of the Sidhe" (Duncan)
The people known as "The Sidhe" or people of the mounds, or "The Lordly Ones," or "The Good People," were descended from the "Tuatha de Danann" who settled in Ireland millennia ago. Being defeated by the Milesians, they retreated to a different dimension of space and time than our own, believed to be living under mounds and fairy raths and cairns, and also the land of "Tír na nÓg," a mythical island to the west of Ireland. Place names in Ireland with the pre-nouns Lis, Rath, and Shee are associated with these otherworldly; people for example: Lismore, Lisdoonvarna, Sheemore, Rathfarnham, and etc.
Down through the ages the Sidhe have been in contact with mortals giving protection, healing and even teaching some of their skills to mortals; smithcraft or the working of metals being one such skill. Cuillen (Culann) is one such sidhe smith who has been told of in the legends of Cúchulainn and the later legends of Fionn mac Cumhail.
The Gaelic word sí or síog refers to these otherworldly beings now called fairies. The Irish fairy is not like the diminutive fairies of other European countries, the Sidhe are described as tall and handsome in all accounts, also they are dressed very richly and accounts of their halls are of richly decorated places with sumptuous foods and drinks.
The Sidhe are generally benign until angered by some foolish action of a mortal. Many trees and mounds are considered under their protection and if a mortal destroys or damages these then a curse is put upon himself and his family. In some parts of the countryside people would not build their houses over certain "fairy paths" because of the type of disturbances which would ensue. Whenever a host of the Sidhe appears there is a strange sound like the humming of thousands of bees also a whirlwind or shee-gaoithe is caused.
Re-Vision Radio would invite its late-night listeners to tune into its airwaves and follow the enchanted music in order to find these fairie-type folk, these angelic musicians--these "People/Phantoms of the Night." So Re-Vision Radio's listeners can ask to come along on this magical Night-Ride: "Take me with you on this journey / Take me dancing, take me singing / I'll ride on till the moon meets the sea"
. . . Ride on through the night Ride on, ride on through the night Ride on, ride on, ride on . . .
There are visions, there are memories There are echoes of thundering hooves There are fires, there is laughter There's the sound of a thousand doves
In the velvet of the darkness By the silhouette of silent trees they are watching waiting They are witnessing life's mysteries Cascading stars on the slumbering hills They are dancing as far as the sea Riding o'er the land, you can feel its gentle hand Leading on to its destiny
Take me with you on this journey Where the boundaries of time are now tossed In cathedrals of the forest In the words of the tongues now lost
Find the answers, ask the questions Find the roots of an ancient tree Take me dancing, take me singing I'll ride on till the moon meets the sea
(Loreena McKennitt, 'Night Ride')
click for "Dream Vision"
For the philosophers of Renaissance occultism, the night sky was an image of the soul (anima mundi).
So get on Re-Vision Radio's Mercurial-Neptunian wavelength to hear the "unearthly music" and join the wild dance "with the Great Goddess of the Eternal Wisdom / and the Lord of the Dance / in the daring night"--from the Tower of Song.
In the daring night when all the Stars are shining bright Squeeze me don't leave me In the daring night Galactic swirl in the firmament tonight Oh with the Lord of the Dance With the Lord of the Dance In the daring night
I see Orion and The Hunters Standing by the light of the moon In the daring night In the daring night And the heart and the soul As we look up in awe and wonder at the heavens Oh and we go with the Lord of the Dance With the Lord of the Dance, the Lord of the Dance In the daring night
In the daring night when all the stars are Shining bright Oh baby squeeze me don't leave me in the daring night In the firmament we move, we move and we live And we have our being Squeeze me don't leave, leave me in the daring night
In the firmament we move and galactic swirl And we live and we breathe and have our being Baby in the daring light Darling squeeze me squeeze me Don't ever leave me in the daring night When all the stars are shining bright And don't let go, and don't let go Don't let go don't let go in the daring night And we move and we move, and we move and we move Baby don't let go in the daring night
In the daring night when all the stars are Shining bright Baby squeeze me don't leave me in the daring night Capture it all oh with the Lord of the Dance Oh with the Lord of the Dance in the daring night With the Lord of the Dance in the daring night With the lord of the dance and the great Goddess Of the eternal wisdom Standing by the light of the moon in the daring night
And the bodies move and we sweat And have our being Don't leave me in the daring night In the daring night when all the stars are Shining bright Squeeze me don't leave me Baby in the daring night Squeeze me don't leave me In the daring night In the daring night . . .
(Van Morrison, 'Daring Night')
Great Goddess of Eternal Wisdom
Lord of the Dance
"The Sacred Dance"
"Dance To the Music of Time"
"Dance of the Hours"
"Do not cease your dance, sweet girls! No spoil-sport has come to you with an evil eye, no enemy of girls… And with tears in his eyes, he shall ask you for a dance; and I myself will sing a song for his dance. A dance-song and a mocking-song on the Spirit of Gravity, my supreme, most powerful devil, who they say is 'the lord of the earth'. And this is the song Zarathustra sang as cupid and the girls danced together … Thus sang Zarathustra."
—Nietzsche, "The Dance Song" (Thus Spoke Zarathustra)
“I would believe only in a God that knows how to dance.”
“And we should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once. And we should call every truth false which was not accompanied by at least one laugh.”
—Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra
“I do not know what the spirit of a philosopher could more wish to be than a good dancer. For the dance is his ideal, also his fine art, finally also the only kind of piety he knows, his 'divine service.'”
—Nietzsche, The Gay Science
For the full text of Nietzsche's "Dance Song," click here
The Horned God
The Horned God, "Lord of the Dance," & the Green Man
He is the Lord of the Dance, and His ways are wild and bountiful. He is Lord of the Hunt; King Stag; the Green Man, Lord of the Forest;
King of the Land, and Lord of the Underworld; Warrior, Enchanter, and
Wild Thing. To different cultures, He was known as the bull, the stag,
the lion, the bear, the eagle, and the ram. He is named Dionysus,
Osiris, Dumuzi, Herne, Apollo, Cu Chulainn, Aengus Og, Yeheshah,
Baphomet, Cernunnos, Llugh, Lucifer, Zeus, Baal, Shamash, Shaitaan,
Odin, Thor, and Pan. He is Arthur, Merlin, Lancelot, Gwidion, Galahad,
the Green Knight in the Arthurian story of Sir Gawain, and most
definitely, Robin Hood! Many of the planets are allotted one of His
many names. Most of the days of the week are named for Him. He is known
as the Lord of Life and the Lord of Death, is both the good guy and the
bad guy, defender and destroyer. He is consort, brother, son ally, and
enemy of women, and He is the archetype of all men. As Lucifer, he is
considered the "Morning Star," or Venus! And Venus is also the
Goddess, whether as Stellar Maris or Mari Lucifer.
legends of the Wild Men--dressed in leaves, living in the forest--have
been connected with the Green Man. In some stories of Robin Hood--the
robber and hero dressed in green--he attains godlike status and links
with the Horned God Herne. There is an intimate connection
between the Green Man and the Goddess. Present-day Western pagan
thought identifies the Green Man as the symbol of the qualities of
godhood within the male, as well as being an expression of the
life/death/rebirth cycle and its relationship with the transcendent
life-force, the Goddess, the female expression of godhood.
The Celtic Triple-Goddess
The Indian Black Goddess
The Gypsy Scholar's program --"in the middle of the night"-- takes its listeners on a nocturnal journey into the TOWER OF SONG. And, like the magical phenomenon of the People/Phantoms of the Night, as day breaks the Romantic "Nightworld" (myth, magic, mysticism, music, the feminine) radio magic (mercurial-neptunian) fades, and the Tower of Song disappears back into the hidden dimension of the "invisible landscape." (Link to "Invisible Landscape" at bottom of page.)
"Fairy Princess Titania Sleeping"
If we shadows have offended, Think but this, and all is mended, That you have but stumbled here, While these visions did appear. And this weak and idle theme, No more yielding but a dream, Gentles do not reprehend: If you pardon, we will mend....
Every fairy this must do: Each and every chamber bless Give the palace peacefulness. With the owner of it blessed, Ever he'll in safety rest. Trip away and don't delay; Meet me all by break of day.
If we actors have offended, Think only this, and all is mended: That you've only slumbered here While these visions did appear. And this weak and pointless theme Was nothing better than a dream.... So, good night unto you all!
Puck, Midsummer Night's Dream
The Archetypal Theme of the Enchanted (Dionysian) "Romantic Nightworld" and its disappearance at the dawn of the (Apollonian) Dayworld: How the Gypsy Scholar became a 5-year-old Animist.
Before the new materialistic-mechanistic worldview of science and even before (way, way back) the one it replaced--the Christian monotheistic worldview--, the archaic/shamanic worldview was what is called "animistic." The term animism originally meant "belief in spiritual beings," but it has come to mean the view of the universe and nature as alive with spirit(s), or an indwelling spirit in all things--the ensouled cosmos (personified as the Anima Mundi or World Soul). Thus, animism (from Latin anima "soul," or "life") is nature "animated," a philosophical, religious or spiritual idea that souls or spirits exist not only in humans but also in other animals, plants, rocks, natural phenomena, geographic features, or other entities of the natural environment.
From the Romantic 19th century into the early 20th, this archaic worldview was revived and given the name "neo-vitalism" (cf. Bergson's philosophical "elan vital"), since Aristotle is first credited with philosophic "vitalism." (In Celtic mythology, this would be the world of the "Faerie.") Today, as far as religion goes, the animistic worldview is more genrally recognized by neo-Pagans.
This is a very simplified version of the history of animism, but it will suffice to give you a background in understanding how the GS, although he hadn't the faintest idea of what "amimism" was at the time, became a 5-year-old Animist. This was before reading and books, before any cognitive understanding.
As a child, the GS used to watch "Merry Melodies" Cartoons. Two that he can remember were entitled "Pagan Moon" (1932) and "The Dish Ran Away with the Spoon" (1933).
The plot of "The Dish Ran Away with the Spoon" is especially significant, since it takes place at midnight when everybody in the house is asleep and the inanimate objects--kitchen appliances and utensils--come to life. They are very "animated," singing and jitterbugging around the countertops and table (to jazz music). This Bacchanalian scene gets more and more wild and crazy, and soon the revelers spill out into the night--everything joins in the wild-night revelry; lampposts, cars, plants, trees--, and all is alive and boogying to the music. Here's the plot synopsis I found online for the cartoon: "It's after midnight at "Ye Olde Bake Shoppe"--just the right time for the kitchen utensils, pots, pans and every other inanimate object to come to life for some musical fun. Amidsts the whistling kettles and a salt-pepper-sugar shaker singing trio, a fork takes a shower, and a mixmaster motorboat embarks upon an voyage in the kitchen sink. The highlight of the evening is the courtship of Miss Dish and Mister Spoon, sung to the tune of "& Shuffle Off to Buffalo". Spoiling everyone's fun is a mutant yeast monster who attempts to kidnap Miss Dish, but the other kitchenware rallies together for a last-minute rescue."
This animistic world was immediately recognizable to the 5-year-old Gypsy Scholar. And he was thus a neo-Pagan until the dis-enchantment set in with the later indoctrination he got at church and school. But why do I call that 5-year-old animist the "Gypsy Scholar"? The answer is simple: these animated cartoons were as much about music as they were images--in fact, maybe more about the music:
"The Merrie Melodies cartoons were designed to showcase songs from Warner Bros' vast music library. The title of each cartoon was also the title of the song featured in it. Some, like 'Smile, Darn Ya, Smile!', incorporated the song into the action effortlessly, creating a highly enjoyable mix of the two. . . . The Merrie Melodies soon became a series of one-shot cartoons, with no common thread linking them except for the focus on music." [Emphasis mine.]
Significantly enough, today the grown-up Gypsy Scholar has a radio program (and it is noted that these early animations of the 20s and 30s on film and TV were dubbed as "Illustrated Radio") that (as stated on this website) doesn't just play songs; it "showcases songs" from its "Musekal Library" in the TOWER of SONG. Once more, the GS's Essay-with-Soundtrack (as stated in the "Manifesto & Visionary Recital") seeks to "incorporate(d) the song into the action effortlessly, creating a highly enjoyable mix of the two," as it "focus(es) on music." The synergistic mix and music and image is why the GS calls the concept behind his radio program "Re-Vision Radio."
Is this all just a mere coincidence, or is there something more at work here? In any case, the GS would suggest that we all start out as young animists and then the dis-enchantment sets in. This is true both on the individual and collective levels (ontology recapitulates phylogeny); that is, every individual in its development from child to adult repeats in miniature the dis-enchantment of the world--from the animistic worldview to the industrial mechanistic worldview. (The "Romantic Nightworld," like in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, gives way to the dawning of the Apollonian dayworld of the modern era.)
However, the GS is here to say that all is not lost; that there is a neo-Romantic, neo-vitalistic movement afoot in our dis-enchanted world, calling for (with the help of "new science") a "re-enchantment of the world" (literally, re-en-song-ment).
Thus, the grown up Gypsy Scholar has recovered his childhood religion of animism and meets the the 5-year-old Gypsy Scholar in that special place of en-song-ment--the TOWER of SONG (with its own "Merrie Melodies"). And so the GS invites listeners to meet him there every Sunday/Monday at midnight in the archetypal "Romantic Nightworld," before all the Orphic music magic disappears at dawn of the work-a-day world.