‘Kali’ (2010, water-colour, ink, acrylic on 4xA4 card), by Nick Ward
The Goddess Kali is something else! In Indian transcendental-ritual practice she represents some pretty shattering metaphysical concepts like 1. Creation 2. Preservation 3. Dissolution. My personal tantric practice is heavily into ‘ritual’ activity – this painting is a good example. I finished it this morning (14/8/2010) to the ironic and laid-back sounds of Alex Lester’s 2am – 5am BBC Radio 2 slot having woken from a full-on dream of my mother (who died in 2005) – suffice to say, in the dream she was very much alive and in the course of the dream died in a rowing boat in a rough sea. Alone. The black parts of the painting are my own hand-prints. I’ll come back to Kali.
I dedicate this painting to Professor Oliver Rackham (Corpus Christi College, Cambridge), a dedicated Cambridge University pioneer in the field of the History of Ecology. He has also, for some years, been leading the counter-attack against University Administrators and their Government paymasters who have failed on a grand scale to protect the future well-being of the University personified by the likes of Professor Rackham and their sometimes eccentric ways.
Besides setting up a new department at Cambridge University Professor Rackham is also famed around College as a keen amateur actor. When we last met for dinner he seemed excited by the idea that I might write a role with him in mind. Playing Kali will be a challenge for Oliver as there is no escaping the nakedness and no escaping the fury of traditional depictions. Introducing an Eastern Mystical theme to the much discussed ‘Lucifer’s Slave’ will, I hope, broaden the appeal of the Corpus Christi Faustian pact warhorse and bring in the ‘media’. Oliver is a battler!
vote pagan (27/2/2011)
28th Feb 2011: latest thoughts from the diary
On Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra
I have not (nor am I capable of) reading this book in the German original – so I am currently working with the R.J.Hollingdale 1961 translation for Penguin. Hollingdale is tough-going if the mission is to release the poet-dramatist in Nietzsche.
The two chapters of Thus Spoke Zarathustra I would most like to see translated afresh are The Dance Song and The Second Dance Song – and then only for my own Faustian dramatic purposes.
Be on your guard against the learned! They hate you for they are unfruitful. (p.300 minimised from Holligdale’s translation)
we could take a walk in the wood where there are three nymphs dancing besides White Tara’s emerald lake and White Tara on seeing the Dark Goddess implores: Oh Dark Goddess please do not crack your whip here for the sound of the whip kills thoughts of love by this deep lake which is called the Lake of Tender Thoughts. Who is your lover?
Dark Goddess: He is the Last Man! I found him on the Island of Beyond Good and Evil.
White Tara: I am jealous of you for your lover. Give him to me!
Dark Goddess: He is not faithful enough for you. He is too full of lust to satisfy the White Witch of Love.
White Tara: Does he love you, Dark Goddess?
Dark Goddess: Not as much as he pretends and he is always at the point of leaving.
The Second Dance Song is the penultimate chapter of Part Three and concludes with the tolling of a great bell as Zarathustra and Life (my White Witch of Love) are caught in love’s eternal gaze. This is how Hollingdale (p243/4) translates the end of it:
’And we gazed at one another and looked out at the green meadow, over which the cool evening was spreading, and wept together. But then Life was dearer to me than all my Wisdom had ever been.
Thus spoke Zarathustra.
O Man! Attend!
What does deep midnight’s voice contend?
‘I slept my sleep,
‘And now awake at dreaming’s end:
‘The world is deep,
Deeper than day can comrehend.
‘Deep is its woe,
‘Joy – deeper than hearts’s agony:
‘Woe says: Fade! Go!
‘But all joy wants eternity,
‘- wants deep, deep, deep eternity!’
Not dissimilar to the famous ending of Marlowe’s Dr Faustus, claimed by Hell after his twenty four years beyond good and evil, incidentally. Where is this heading? Welcome to the dramaturgical workshop of my mind!
EVIL ANGEL. Nay, thou must feel them, taste the smart of all:
He that loves pleasure must for pleasure fall:
And so I leave thee, Faustus, till anon;
Then wilt thou tumble in confusion.
[Exit. Hell disappears.–The clock strikes eleven.]
FAUSTUS. O Faustus,
Now hast thou but one bare hour to live,
And then thou must be damn’d perpetually!
Stand still, you ever-moving spheres of heaven,
That time may cease, and midnight never come;
Fair Nature’s eye, rise, rise again, and make
Perpetual day; or let this hour be but
A year, a month, a week, a natural day,
That Faustus may repent and save his soul!
O lente, lente currite, noctis equi!
The stars move still, time runs, the clock will strike,
The devil will come, and Faustus must be damn’d.
O, I’ll leap up to heaven!–Who pulls me down?–
See, where Christ’s blood streams in the firmament! 
One drop of blood will save me: O my Christ!–
Rend not my heart for naming of my Christ;
Yet will I call on him: O, spare me, Lucifer!–
Where is it now? ’tis gone:
And, see, a threatening arm, an  angry brow!
Mountains and hills, come, come, and fall on me,
And hide me from the heavy wrath of heaven!
Then will I headlong run into the earth:
Gape, earth! O, no, it will not harbour me!
You stars that reign’d at my nativity,
Whose influence hath  allotted death and hell,
Now draw up Faustus, like a foggy mist,
Into the entrails of yon  labouring cloud[s],
That, when you  vomit forth into the air,
My limbs may issue from your smoky mouths;
But let my soul mount and ascend to heaven!
[The clock strikes the half-hour.]
O, half the hour is past! ’twill all be past anon.
O, if  my soul must suffer for my sin,
Impose some end to my incessant pain;
Let Faustus live in hell a thousand years,
A hundred thousand, and at last  be sav’d!
No end is limited to damned souls.
Why wert thou not a creature wanting soul?
Or why is this immortal that thou hast?
O, Pythagoras’ metempsychosis, were that true,
This soul should fly from me, and I be chang’d
Into some brutish beast! all beasts are happy,
For, when they die,
Their souls are soon dissolv’d in elements;
But mine must live still to be plagu’d in hell.
Curs’d be the parents that engender’d me!
No, Faustus, curse thyself, curse Lucifer
That hath depriv’d thee of the joys of heaven.
[The clock strikes twelve.]
It strikes, it strikes! Now, body, turn to air,
Or Lucifer will bear thee quick to hell!
O soul, be chang’d into small water-drops,
And fall into the ocean, ne’er be found!
Thunder. Enter DEVILS.
O, mercy, heaven! look not so fierce on me!
Adders and serpents, let me breathe a while!
Ugly hell, gape not! come not, Lucifer!
I’ll burn my books!–O Mephistophilis!
[Exeunt DEVILS with FAUSTUS.]
A quote from my (far and away) first choice Nietzsche commentator, Erich Heller. This is from his 1976 essay collection ‘The Poet’s Self and the Poem’ (University of London, The Athlone Press) – one of my most treasured books. In fact in belonged to my mother and Erich inscribed it on the second day we spent together in Dr Michael Tanner’s rooms at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, 25 June 1983, with the following:
‘To Nick Ward’s mother whose son’s paneygric made me fall in love with her Erich Heller’
This is from p 37 of Heller’s ‘Nietzsche in the Waste Land’ concerning Zarathustra and Nietzsche’s theory of Eternal Recurrence – the most devastating and far-reaching of this troubling-inspiring and linguistically excessive book:
‘For every truth that departs from the world, there arrives a ghost. But there is one in particular whose acquaintance Nietzsche-Zarathustra has made, a demon-ghost who would frighten him and to whom he stretched out his hand in friendship as if it were the bearer of most joyful news. With this encounter ends the Fourth Book of Cheerful Science. It is that strange, beautiful, and still hesitant ‘What if’ rehearsal of the Eternal Recurrence, the idea which, together with the prophecy of the Übermensch, was to become the most resounding of Zarathustra’s messages. And as if to make quite sure that the connection between that passage and the prophetic book is not overlooked, it is followed, in Cheerful Science, by the beginning – anticipated here word for word – of Thus Spoke Zarathustra; word for word, but with an added heading: ‘incipit tragoedia’; and the tragic, catastrophic potential of the Eternal Recurrence does indeed emerge most clearly from the passage. It is entitled ‘Das Grosste Schwergewicht’ which may – but only just – be rendered as ‘The greatest weight’; and what this translation loses of its original allusions to the integrating gravitational force, it gains by its closeness to the camel’s heaviest burden. This is the text of ‘the greatest weight’:
What if one day or one night a demon secretly followed you into your loneliest solitude and said to you: ‘This life, as you are living it now and have been living it, you will have to live once more and an an infinite number of times; and nothing will be new in it, but every pain and every joy, and all that has been trivial in your life or great must be repeated, and all in the same sequence; and also this spider here and the moonlight between the trees; and also this moment and I myself. The eternal hourglass will be turned again and again – and you with it, you tiny grain of sand!’ Would you throw yourself down and, gnashing your teeth, curse the demon who spoke thus? Or have you ever experienced a moment so tremendous that you would reply: ‘You are a god and never have I heard anything more divine!’ If that thought gained power over you, it would, as you are now, transform or perhaps crush you; the question: ‘Do you want this once again and an infinite number of times?’ would lie as the greatest weight upon everything you do. Or else: how deeply would you have to fall in love with yourself and with life in order not to desire anything more than this ultimate confirmation and seal’.
‘Nothing that Zarathustra will have to say later in announcing, with blatant conviction and without ‘if’ and ‘when’, the Eternal Recurrence, will be as authentic as these poetic conditionals, and nothing will be as translucent. Indeed, what shines through this prose poem is the ground of tragic nihilism from which the annunciation springs, the frightening ‘or else’ that stipulates ecstasy as the sole condition in which existence may be tolerable. For between the ‘tremendous moment’ that wills itself again and again, and the cursing of the ghost, there stretches nothing but gloomy nothingness. Therefore the author of ‘The greatest weight’ cannot but suspect that no one except the Übermensch would be able to press that seal of eternity upon an existence that knows only time and time and time: time and therefore only futility and death’.
March 1st 2011 via e-mail to The Master and most Senior Fellows, Corpus Christi College, Cambridge.
In note form.
I only met Erich Heller three times. Christmas 1982 and June 25 1983 (in PI) and in Jan 1989 when I was in Chicago.
I’ll be ammending the ref to the 1983 memory – written yesterday in my customary (multi-themed) flurry. It was not for ‘the day’ – it was perhaps 2-3 hours when, apart from telling him about my mother’s Open University course etc, I listened to the exchange between Michael and this great German-Jewish Philosopher-Critic as they discussed many subjects (many of which were beyond me). Michael was still pressing Heller on why he could not embrace Wagner and Erich finally conceded that he, perhaps against his best critical judgement, could not separate thoughts of Wagner from the Concentration Camps. Michael was, I think, disappointed that the great man should have been forced to such an ahistorical statement – but I’m only guessing – and besides, perhaps, this led to Michael’s recent and conclusive statements on this subject.
Michael adored Erich and on his desk is a photo I took of Erich disappearing down a corridor in Evanston in 1989.
Of much greater significance, of course, are the other connections I am making here – connections, I fear, that can only be expressed in absolutely non-academic terms… What do I mean by ‘spectral geography’?
Georg Friedrich Philipp von Hardenburg (Novalis) (1772-1801)
“The imagination places the world of the future either far above us, or far below, or in a relation of metempsychosis to ourselves. We dream of traveling through the universe – but is not the universe within ourselves? The depths of our spirit are unknown to us – the mysterious way leads inwards. Eternity with its worlds – the past and future – is in ourselves or nowhere. The external world is the world of shadows – it throws its shadow into the realm of light. At present this realm certainly seems to us so dark inside, lonely. shapeless. But how entirely different it will seem to us – when this gloom is past, and the body of shadows has moved away. We will experience greater enjoyment than ever, for our spirit has been deprived.” (from ‘Miscellaneous Observations’, 1798)
What do I mean by quoting Novalis so favourably? All philosophy is homesickness. 1984 – remembered
If only we shared at least a bearable overlap then I am utterly convinced great product would result.
I will be ammending this blog, of which I am proud.