For beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror, which we still are just able to endure,

and we are so awed because it serenely disdains to annihilate us.


-RAINER MARIA RILKE,  First Duino Elegy

Translated by Stephen Mitchell







Here we go round the prickly pear

Prickly pear prickly pear

Here we go round the prickly pear

At five o’clock in the morning.


Between the idea

And the reality

Between the motion

And the act

Falls the shadow

                          For Thine is the Kingdom


Between the conception

And the creation

Between the emotion

And the response

Falls the shadow

                                         Life is very long


Between the desire

And the spasm

Between the potency

And the existence

Between the essence

And the descent

Falls the shadow

                        For Thine is the Kingdon


For Thine is

Life is

For Thine is the


  This is the way the world ends

This is the way the world ends

This is the way the world ends

Not with a bang but a whimper.



T. S. Eliot

from The Hollow Men


Our normal waking consciousness . . . is but one special type of consciousness, whilst all about it, parted from it by the filmiest of screens, there lie potential forms of consciousness entirely different.  We may go through life without suspecting their existence; but apply the requisite stimulus, and at a touch they are all there in all their completeness, definite types of mentality which probably somewhere have their field of application and adaptation.  No account of the universe in its totality can be final which leaves these other forms of consciousness quite disregarded.  How to regard them is the question—for they are so discontinuous with ordinary consciousness.  Yet they may determine attitudes though they fail to give a map.  At any rate, they forbid a premature closing of our accounts with reality.


William James

The Varieties of Religious Experience


Cathexis – investment of mental or emotional energy in a person, object or idea.  to hold fast.”


perceive:  Lat. percipere; per- + capere, to seize


“. . . Kiefer’s consideration of the imagination helps us to create cognitive maps to comprehend contemporary reality.

            Kiefer’s palpable grasp of the powers of imagination enables him to fulfill one pedagogical task of postmodern art:  teaching us the importance of the habitat of the earth.  His refusal to forget the consequences of war, the threat of nuclear destruction, and the negative outcomes of technology keeps being projected, in his Theater of Cruelty stagings, against the symbol of the earth, which purifies our vision of the abstract images of nature and history that stand at the root of so many of these consequences.  His visionary sketch of the habitat for postmodern humans recalls us to the elemental relationship we have to the earth, to its place within the cosmos, and to previous human cultures who have understood, so well, the limits of human powers.  This is the vision of tragic man.”


Fire on the Earth

John Gilmour


Entering that gable-ended Spouter-Inn, you found yourself in a wide, low, straggling entry with old- fashioned wainscots, reminding one of the bulwarks of some condemned old craft. On one side hung a very large oil-painting so thoroughly besmoked, and every way defaced, that in the unequal cross-lights by which you viewed it, it was only by diligent study and a series of systematic visits to it, and careful inquiry of the neighbors, that you could any way arrive at an understanding of its purpose. such unaccountable masses of shades and shadows, that at first you almost thought some ambitious young artist, in the time of the New England hags, had endeavored to delineate chaos bewitched. But by dint of much and earnest contemplation, and oft repeated ponderings, and especially by throwing open the little window towards the back of the entry, you at last come to the conclusion that such an idea, however wild, might not be altogether unwarranted.


But what most puzzled and confounded you was a long, limber, portentous, black mass of something hovering in the centre of the picture over three blue dim, perpendicular lines floating in a nameless yeast. A boggy, soggy, squitchy picture truly, enough to drive a nervous man distracted. Yet was there a sort of indefinite, half-attained, unimaginable sublimity about it that fairly froze you to it, till you involuntarily took an oath with yourself to find out what that marvellous painting meant. Ever and anon a bright, but, alas, deceptive idea would dart you through.- It's the Black Sea in a midnight gale.- It's the unnatural combat of the four primal elements.- It's a blasted heath.- It's a Hyperborean winter scene.- It's the breaking-up of the icebound stream of Time. But last all these fancies yielded to that one portentous something in the picture's midst. That once found out, and all the rest were plain. But stop; does it not bear a faint resemblance to a gigantic fish? even the great leviathan himself?


Herman Melville

Moby Dick

The Spouter-Inn


At length the desired observation was taken; and with his pencil upon his ivory leg, Ahab soon calculated what his latitude must be at that precise instant.  Then falling into a moment’s revery, he again looked up towards the sun and murmured to himself: ‘Thou sea-mark? thou high and mighty Pilot! thou tellest me truly where I am—but canst thou cast the least hint where I shall be?  Or canst thou tell where some other thing besides me is this moment living?  Where is Moby Dick?  this instant thou must be eying him.  These eyes of mine look into the very eye that is even now beholding him; aye, and into the eye that is even now equally beholding the objects on the unknown, thither side of thee, thou sun!’

            Then gazing at his quadrant, and handling, one after the other its numerous cabalistic contrivances, he pondered again and muttered:  ‘Foolish toy! babies’ plaything of haughty Admirals and Commodores, and Captains;  the world brags of thee, of thy cunning and might; but what after all canst thou do, but tell the poor, pitiful point, where thou thyself happenest to be on this wide planet, and the hand that holds thee; no! not one jot more!  Thou canst not tell where one drop of water or one grain of sand will be to-morrow noon; and yet with thy impotence thou insultest the sun! Science! Curse thee, thou vain toy; and cursed be all the things that cast man’s eyes aloft to that heaven, whose live vividness but scorches him, as these old eyes are even now scorched with thy light, O sun!  Level by nature to this earth’s horizon are the glances of man’s eyes; not shot from the crown of his head, as if God had meant him to gaze on his firmament.  Curse thee, thou quadrant! dashing it to the deck, ‘no longer will I guide my earthly way by thee; the level ship’s compass, and the level dead-reckoning , by log and by line; these shall conduct me, and show me my place on the sea.  Aye,’ lighting from the boat to the deck, ‘ thus I trample on thee, thou paltry thing that feebly pointest on high; thus I split and destroy thee!’

Herman Melville

Moby Dick

The Quadrant


Whatever was spared by the flames in prehistoric Europe was later felled for construction and shipbuilding, and to make the charcoal which the smelting of iron required in vast quantities.  By the seventeenth century, only a few insignificant remnants of the erstwhile forests survived in the (British) islands, most of them untended and decaying.  The great fires were now lit on the other side of the ocean.  It is not for nothing that Brazil owes its name to the French word for charcoal.  Our spread over the earth was fuelled by reducing the higher species of vegetation to charcoal, by incessantly burning whatever would burn.  From the first smoldering taper to the elegant lanterns whose light reverberated around eighteenth century courtyards and from the mild radiance of these lanterns to the unearthly glow of the sodium lamps hat line the Belgian motorways, it has all been combustion.  Combustion is the hidden principle behind every artifact we create.  The making of a fish-hook, manufacture of a china cup, or the production television programme, all depend on the same process of combustion.  Like our bodies and like our desires, the machines we have devised are possessed of a heart which is slowly reduced to embers.  From the earliest times, human civilization has been no more than a strange luminescence growing more intense by the hour, of which no one can say when it will begin to wane and when it will fade away.


W. G. Seabald

The Rings of Saturn


          The Snow Man


One must have a mind of winter

To regard the frost and the boughs

Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;


And have been cold a long time

To behold the junipers shagged with ice,

The spruces rough in the distant glitter


Of the January sun; and not to think

Of any misery in the sound of the wind,

In the sound of a few leaves,


Which is the sound of the land

Full of the same wind

That is blowing in the same bare place


For the listener, who listens in the snow,

And, nothing himself, beholds

Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.



Wallace Stevens


We have no idea what his fantastic head

was like, where the eyeballs were slowly swelling. But

his body now is glowing like a gas lamp,

whose inner eyes, only turned down a little,


hold their flame, shine.  If there weren’t light, the curve

of the breast wouldn’t blind you, and in the swerve

of the thighs a smile wouldn’t keep on going

toward the place where the seeds are.


If there weren’t light, this stone would look cut off

where it drops clearly from the shoulders,

its skin wouldn’t gleam like a fur of a wild animal,


and the body wouldn’t send out light from every edge

as a star does . . . for there is no place at all

that isn’t looking at you.  You must change your life.