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The Struggle Between the Birth of the Individuated Logos(Ego) and the Tyranny of the Demons that Cloth Themselves in the Remnants of the Dying Father God
(created by Ken DiBenedette in 2003)
(From The Collected Poems
of Sylvia Plath. HarperPerennial Edition. Page 222-224)
You do not do, you do not do
Any more, black shoe
In which I have lived like a foot
For thirty years, poor and white,
Barely daring to breathe or Achoo.
In "Daddy", Plath is the ego struggling to free itself from the demonic, Ahrimanic Death forces that have substituted themselves as the new Father God of humanity. Plath's response to her Father lays bare the fundamental contradiction in how humanity relates to the "Father God". The view of the Father as all-powerful and all-knowing (omnipotence and omniscience) conflicts with the view that God has provided humans with the possibility of creativity and freedom.
Rudolf Steiner in his lecture "Love and its Meaning in the World" deems Love as the core substance of the Godhead, not knowledge or power:
"Love is the creative force in the world."
"Besides love there are two other powers in the world. How do they compare with love? The one is strength, might; the second is wisdom. In regard to strength or might we can speak of degrees: weaker, stronger, or absolute might omnipotence. The same applies to wisdom, for there are stages on the path to omniscience. It will not do to speak in the same way of degrees of love. What is universal love, love for all beings? In the case of love we cannot speak of enhancement as we can speak of enhancement of knowledge into omniscience or of might into omnipotence, by virtue of which we attain greater perfection of our own being. Love for a few or for many beings has nothing to do with our own perfecting. Love for everything that lives cannot be compared with omnipotence; the concept of magnitude, or of enhancement, cannot rightly be applied to love. Can the attribute of omnipotence be ascribed to the Divine Being who lives and weaves through the world? Contentions born of feeling must here be silent: were God omnipotent, he would be responsible for everything that happens and there could be no human freedom. If man can be free, then certainly there can be no Divine omnipotence. "
"Is the Godhead omniscient? As man's highest goal is likeness to God, our striving must be in the direction of omniscience. Is omniscience, then, the supreme treasure? If it is, a vast chasm must forever yawn between man and God. At every moment man would have to be aware of this chasm if God possessed the supreme treasure of omniscience for himself and withheld it from man. The all-encompassing attribute of the Godhead is not omnipotence, neither is it omniscience, but it is love — the attribute in respect of which no enhancement is possible. God is uttermost love, unalloyed love, is born as it were out of love, is the very substance and essence of love. God is pure love, not supreme wisdom, not supreme might. God has retained love for himself but has shared wisdom and might with Lucifer and Ahriman. He has shared wisdom with Lucifer and might with Ahriman, in order that man may become free, in order that under the influence of wisdom he may make progress. "
If we try to discover the source of whatever is creative we come to love; love is the ground, the foundation of everything that lives. "---from Rudolf Steiner's lecture "Love and its Meaning in the World".
Antonin Artaud presents a portrait of the all-powerful and all-knowing father God archetype and how this being uses hate, not love, to impede human freedom:
"But look at God all of a sudden like a fist, like a scythe of slicing light. I willingly severed myself from life, I wished to turn my destiny inside-out.
This God has disposed of me to the point of absurdity. He has kept me alive in a void of negations and furious renunciations of myself; he destroyed in me everything, down to the finest dust of conscious, sentient life.
He reduced me to being like a walking robot, but this robot felt the rupture of his unconscious self.
And how I have wished to produce proof of my life. I wish to get back in touch with the resonant reality of things, I wish to smash my pre-destination.
And what does this God say to that?"...Artaud Anthology edited by Jack Hirschman. City Light Books San Francisco.1965. Page 57. From Artaud's essay "On Suicide" translated by David Rattray.
As the "I" or ego begins to dominate our consciousness, we find it more and more difficult to experience the "doings" of the world as a result of a separate God being--a unified force that lays outside of our consciousness. We stand in a transitional stage where the remnants of "God consciousness" lay like ruins. Our inability to stand firmly in our still developing ego makes us dependent on powers outside of ourselves that take up the remnants of "God consciousness" and use that dominating, paternal power for purposes that are contrary to the healthy evolution of humanity. Death forces replace the creativity of the original Godhead.
Those who do stand firmly upon their own developing ego, like Plath and Artaud, have the courage to face realms of consciousness that threaten total annihilation of the self.
The "I" struggles to come to expression, but the negative Father-God forces prevent the new self from uttering the creative word. This new self can barely take in the breath of the life force and remains "poor and white". The Death-God pervades the realm of the material, the "foot" is the new ego at the root of tree of life immersed in the mineral processes of the Earth. The Death-God's domination of the emerging self is the black shoe that prevents the new self from merging with the light of the world.
30 years not only indicates the Trinity but foreshadows the three sets of ten mentioned later in the poem. Jesus was 30 year of age when the divine Christ ego permeated him during the baptism by John on the River Jordan.(Luke 3:23).
Also, keep in mind that Plath's birthday, 10/27/1932 , coincides with the final power grabs of National Socialism in Germany. She truly was a "daughter" of an Earth possessed by the most violent, demonic forces.
And a head in the freakish Atlantic
Where it pours bean green over blue
In the waters off the beautiful Nauset.
I used to pray to recover you.
Plath in an earlier poem described how this "ghastly statue" permeated her thinking and sensory perception:
by Sylvia Plath (From The Collected Poems of Sylvia Plath. HarperPerennial Edition. Page129)
"I shall never get you put together entirely,
Pieced, glued, and properly jointed.
Mule-bray, pig-grunt and bawdy cackles
Proceed from your great lips.
It's worse than a barnyard.
Perhaps you consider yourself an oracle,
Mouthpiece of the dead, or of some god or
Thirty years now I have labored
To dredge the silt from your throat.
I am none the wiser.
Scaling little ladders with glue pots and pails
I crawl like an ant in mourning
Over the weedy acres of your brow
To mend the immense skull plates and clear
The bald, white tumuli of your eyes.
A blue sky out of the Oresteia
Arches above us. O father, all by yourself
You are pithy and historical as the Roman
I open my lunch on a hill of black cypress.
Your fluted bones and acanthine hair are
In their old anarchy to the horizon-line.
It would take more than a lightning-stroke
To create such a ruin.
Nights, I squat in the cornucopia
Of your left ear, out of the wind,
Counting the red stars and those of plum-
The sun rises under the pillar of your tongue.
My hours are married to shadow.
No longer do I listen for the scrape of a keel
On the blank stones of the landing."
Here Plath feels the physical world as the death skull of her father God, still emitting demonic sounds, and usurping the place of her true self. Again she mentions the "30 years" although she was no older than 27 when she composed this poem.
from the Oresteia by Aeschylus. TheAgamemnon. Clytemnestra and her lover Aegisthus kill her husband Agamemnon .
Didn't Nietzche's madman already proclaim Daddy dead in the 19th century? And what did human consciousness offer in his place? Our own science and rationality? Our own brain-bound thinking? The Father God evolved into a new planetary consciousness, a particular consciousness of the planet-a marble heavy statute?A dead world and a dead culture with no life.?Science without Art? Intellect and Will without Heart?
"You died before I had time"--indicates a subtle relationship between the "I" and time--ego must possess time and not be a mere point in it. "Father", after all, seems to span vast periods of time and space--something about "Daddy" and old consciousness of time. Ego somehow frees the cycles of time. Recover is interesting word-get Daddy back or bury again?
In the German tongue, in the Polish town
Scraped flat by the roller
Of wars, wars, wars.
But the name of the town is common.
My Polack friend
Says there are a dozen or two.
So I never could tell where you
Put your foot, your root,
I never could talk to you.
The tongue stuck in my jaw.
See "Getting There"--the great Ahrimanic machine leveling all life. Like Artaud's scythe. The Father's origin cannot be pinpointed-Poland? The #12 indicates that the father originates from the starry world. He has come to inhabit the subterranean regions of the Earth. The blackness of his imagery makes one wonder whether the Zodiac's powers still reach him.
Speech is the very being of the free logos. The Poet must struggle to regain the Word. Part of her inability to communicate is related to theGerman language. Is that language more embedded in forms and the unconsciousness nature of things and hence unapproachable to a more self conscious English prodigy? Her father's ability to speak English is not relevant--his essential nature was formed by the vowels and the consonants of the German language. Again German language juxtaposed with "not-being" of the logos:
It stuck in a barb wire snare.
Ich, ich, ich, ich,
I could hardly speak.
I thought every German was you.
And the language obscene
The word or logos becomes embodied by traveling through the"birth canal" of speech production. The "I" or "Ich" cannot penetrate to the open air. The "I" under the influence of German atavism ("Ich") is snared in the larynx and feverishly tries to emerge. The ego's birth struggle recalls the claustrophobia and suffocation of the physical birth trauma(perinatal trauma). Perinatal consciousness is a source of both transcendental creative experience and extreme pain. A person's individual conscious seems to unite with the collective consciousness of humanity when recalling the perinatal trauma. The individual may experience a universal pain that far exceeds one's normal allotment. This pain may be converted to a deep death-rebirth experience having a similar transformative effect as spiritual initiation.(see Bache,Christopher M., Expanding Grof's Concept of the Perinatal: Deepening the Inquiry into Frightening Near-Death Experiences.From Journal of Near-Death Studies V.15.No.2 Winter 1996 Page118.)
Bache's article contains the following account of the experiences of a patient experiencing the perinatal phase during Grof's LSD therapy:
"I was caught up in a horror that I am incapable of describing with any accuracy. It was a raging insanity, a surging kaleidoscopic field of chaos, pain, and destruction. It was as if the entire human race had gathered from all corners of the globe and gone absolutely stark raving mad. They were attacking each other with a rabid savagery augmented by science fiction technology. There were many currents crossing and crisscrossing in front of me, each composed of thousands of people, some currents killing in multiple ways, some being killed, some fleeing in panic, others being rounded up, others witnessing and screaming in terror, others witnessing and having their hearts broken by a species gone mad-and "I" was all their experiences. I was not me in any personal sense but had expanded to include thousands, even millions of persons. The magnitude of the deaths and the insanity is impossible to describe. Every time I try, even now, I break down in tears.
.......The suffering comprises all of human history. It is at once species-specific and archetypal. It comprises the wildest science fiction worlds of horror beyond your imagination. It involves not only human beings but billions and billions of pieces of matter in agonizing galactic explosions. Horror beyond any scope. It is a convulsing of the human species, a convulsing of the universe.....".(Bache,Christopher M., Expanding Grof's Concept of the Perinatal: Deepening the Inquiry into Frightening Near-Death Experiences.From Journal of Near-Death Studies V.15.No.2 Winter 1996 Page118-119).
So Plath's conscious experience of her ego's birth trauma may have led her to reexperience the transpersonal agony of her prebirth experience.
The history of the German people suggests a titanic struggle between sun-like progressive forces and the darkest forces of group soul atavism. I feel that Plath inherited these warring powers. The dark atavistic forces lived unconsciously as a "double" within the Plath psyche and provided a "substance" for the embodiment of the dead Father-God.
18th, 19th, and 20th century Germany was a battleground of opposing forces. Peter Tradowsky, in Kasper Hauser: The Struggle for the Spirit(Temple Lodge 1997 Page146), quotes a conversation between Rudolf Steiner and Count Polzer-Hoditz from 1916. Steiner, in discussing Kasper Hauser, stated::"South Germany should have become the new Grail Castle, the new champion of the spirit, the cradle of future achievements. The arena for the spirit had been well prepared by such personalities as Goethe, Schiller, Herder, Holderlin, etc. Kasper Hauser was to have gathered around him all that flourished in the arena thus prepared. But that was not wanted by those circles (western Lodges and Jesuits). They could not allow a center to awaken if they were not to relinquish their control and power aims. Goethe's kind of spirituality frightened them.""
Tradowsky goes on to argue that Kasper Hauser's assassination (99 years before Plath's birthday) ".....is the greatest imaginable catastrophe that has occurred up till now in the development of the German nation. The perpetration of this event has resulted a century later in the exact opposite having come about in historical reality to that which had been intended through Kasper Hauser. As the effects of selfhood had not been successfully established in the German Folk body, the powers directed against the ego asserted themselves of necessity in a disastrous fashion."(Peter Tradowsky, Kasper Hauser: The Struggle for the Spirit(Temple Lodge 1997 Page75).
also from Tradowsky:
"The true German folk spirit can only work into the folk body by way of the ego. The ego, however, is without doubt the most endangered and unstable member of man's constitution. If it is able to realize and take firm hold of itself as a supersensible being in the spiritual world, then it can control and regulate the whole of man's being through its spiritual activity. If this does not happen, if the ego is unable to retain its spiritual involvement, then it will not result in a mere suspension of activity, but will produce an emptiness, a force of suction, which will attract the most evil forces, in contradistinction to the best possible ones."(Peter Tradowsky, Kasper Hauser: The Struggle for the Spirit(Temple Lodge 1997 Page75).
The pool of Christ-like impulses to nourish the World was smothered over by the fiercest Evil. Hitler, who hated the true soul of Germany, succeeded in destroying German culture's World influence and I believe this is a pain that Sylvia Plath acutely felt as much as the death of her father. The power of regeneration contained in the works of Novalis and Goethe became an unimportant side stream next to the behemoths of Western mercantilism and fascist atavism.
An engine, an engine,
Chuffing me off like a Jew.
A Jew to Dachau, Auschwitz, Belsen.
I began to talk like a Jew.
I think I may well be a Jew.
The snows of the Tyrol, the clear beer of Vienna
Are not very pure or true.
With my gypsy ancestress and my weird luck
And my Taroc pack and my Taroc pack
I may be a bit of a Jew.
Of course, the one God who is the source of all things is not the target of Plath's enmity. Our inability to be independent individuals causes us to fall back and be dependent upon a new "world-God". This ahrimanic-God is a machinelike insertion of powerful forces that usurps the flowing forms of life. A machine like being takes hold of our consciousness and imposes a crystalline rigidity upon our thinking and this rigidity takes a firm hold of our social institutions. Jewish monotheism sought the unity of a single force and power behind the appearances. Christianity began the process of finding that same force within the soul of each individual. Our fear of this individuating process drives us to accept the rigid order of the ahrimanic world-God.
Plath's work fuses these contradictory forces. The old Father crystalline forces are reflected in the rigidity of poetic forms and the "Christ" forces appear as the breaking down of the old forms. Plath's inspirations more and more broke the molds. Her poetry never became completely formless--so the rigid death forces of the father-Ahriman-double have a proper place, just as Death has its legitimate role in life ."Daddy" must be integrated into her new "I" being, not simply destroyed and eliminated. Fear must be overcome and "Daddy" must be transformed.
Novalis, from his General Draft for an Encyclopedia--"The proofs of God perhaps are worth something en masse-as method. God here is something like infinity in mathematics-or nought to the power of nought. (Degrees of zero)(Philosophy of zero). (God is now one to infinity-now one over infinity-now zero.) God is a mixed concept. It arose from the union of all mental powers etc. by means of a moral revelation, a moral miracle of centering. God, like philosophy, is each and everything to everyone-"x" personified-Fichte's nonself. Fichte's nonself is the unity of all stimuli--that which is absolutely stimulating and for just that reason has become like--an eternally unknown. Only life stimulates and only life cannot be enjoyed." (from Novalis Philosophical Writings. Translated and Edited by Margaret Mahoney Stoljar.1997 State University of New York. Page135-136.)
I believe that Novalis is pointing out how human thought and consciousness has been molded by the God concept. Even as humans have rejected the belief in an anthropromorphic all seeing God, human consciousness is still shaped by that belief. Our tendency in mathematical thinking to move towards concepts like infinity without logically grasping them indicates minds that still have the impression of the Godhead. Modern cosmology's "big bang" and biology's theory of evolution indicate that the old God-consciousness still exists, only the pictures and the words have changed for scientific man. The desire to unite all phenomena in an original, unitary, singular cause is indicative of how older forms of thought remain. Mental powers, like spokes of a wheel, still revolve around the God center and the"suction" in that center attracts all kinds of forces, including the demonic. As Tradowsky noted in the quotations above, the individual ego must move into that center.
Also Novalis implicitly finds the Father God in the mysterious forces of Will. The outside unity of all stimuli(ie that which works upon the Will) cannot remain an eternal unknown and be consistent with freedom. The outside "nonself" must become the inside self or ego and then the source of all stimuli will be known and humans can achieve true freedom of the will.
"Only life stimulates and only life cannot be enjoyed."--here Novalis hints at a great mystery. The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil is within our consciousness and through thinking, feeling, and willing we can work with knowledge and moral forces. But Biblical legends reveal that humanity was denied access to the Tree of Life. When our true ego occupies the center vacated by the Father, then thought will merge with the forces of life and humans will directly give life to new forms. The dangers of moving into this evolutionary stage are self evident.
OwenBarfield in Saving the Appearances: A Study in Idolatry(Wesleyan University Press. 1957. Pages 155) argues that the Jews began the process of reflecting upon the representations of their psyches which culminated in the total inwardness of Christianity:
"Thus, the human word, for Aquinas, proceeds from memory, as the Divine Word proceeds from God the Father. We shall understand the place of the Jews in the history of the earth, that is, of man as a whole, when we see the Children of Israel occupying the position in that history which memory occupies in the composition of an individual man. The Jews, with their language trailing vestiges of the world's Creator and their special awareness of history, were the dawning memory of the human race. They too tore the phenomena from their setting of original participation and made them inward, with intent to reutter them from within as word. They cultivated the inwardness of the represented. They pinpointed participation to the Divine Name, the I AM spoken only from within, and it was the logic of their whole development that the cosmos of wisdom should henceforth have its perennial source, not without, and behind the appearances, but within the consciousness of man; not in front of his senses and his figuration, but behind them."
This evolution is still taking place and artists such as Plath are pioneers in the continuous movement toward freedom from outward forces which is the signpost of true Christianity. Plath and other carry this evolution forward regardless of their personal religious beliefs.
also the "Taroc pack"-Plath's ability to access the archetypes or "Mothers"--creativity is aided by a remnant of the old consciousness or "clairvoyance". But this atavistic clairvoyance is disruptive to the rational, orderly God father and Plath must be banished to the realm of societal misfits. Even the small place that our society may reserve for a true poet is not conducive to the survival of an ego liberating talent such as Plath.
I have always been scared of you,
With your Luftwaffe, your gobbledygoo.
And your neat mustache
And your Aryan eye, bright blue.
Panzer-man, panzer-man, O You----
Not God but a swastika
So black no sky could squeak through.
Every woman adores a Fascist,
The boot in the face, the brute
Brute heart of a brute like you.
Panzer-man, tank-man--again Plath equates this father force with the inexorable flattening and destruction of a huge grinding machine. The reversed swastika of stifled creativity is the only thing to replace the unity that gave life to all things. Twentieth century consciousness bears the weight of holocaust precisely at the same time that human self conception is in the midst of a radical adjustment and can least withstand that terrible weight.
The negative side of the feminine--the captured, Earth-bound Sophia accepting the death forces as the ruler of the World. Sophia's creative forces that are necessary for the evolution of humanity are given over to Death. This union can only result in a still-born infant. Life will be slowly dissipated. Fear and superficial attachments cannot be the rulers of our beings. Reckless courage is what is required.
You stand at the blackboard, daddy,
The "Devil" goes straight for the heart and the red blood (see Cut and Faust). The Devil's "bite" blocks the ceativity of the heart forces--the number 2 indicates a rational dualism that creates non-living forms. The vacancy left in her being upon her Father's death was filled by this Germanic double of speed and efficiency--such a powerful force must be integrated at a conscious level.
Remarkably, Plath poured herself into her life's work. Hers was the ultimate sacrifice as she watched her life forces pour into "idea beings" that will out live her and bring benefits to evolving humanity. Ralph Waldo Emerson, in his essay "The Poet", saw this "outpouring" as a creation of an immortal "new self":
"She(Nature) makes a man; and having brought him to ripe age, she will no longer run therisk of losing this wonder at a blow, but she detaches from him a new self, that the kind may be safe from accidents to which the individual is exposed. So when the soul of the poet has come to ripeness of thought, she detaches and sends away from it its poems or songs, -- a fearless, sleepless, deathless progeny, which is not exposed to the accidents of the weary kingdom of time: a fearless, vivacious offspring, clad with wings (such was the virtue of the soul out of which they came), which carry them fast and far, and infix them irrecoverably into the hearts of men."
But they pulled me out of the sack,
And they stuck me together with glue.
And then I knew what to do.
I made a model of you,
A man in black with a Meinkampf look
And a love of the rack and the screw.
And I said I do, I do.
So daddy, I'm finally through.
The black telephone's off at the root,
The voices just can't worm through.
Plath seeks to end an unconscious dialogue with Death's dark forces. From the realm of the shades, serpent like voices or vibrations moved into her double through a black (unconscious) conduit. Her consciousness of this process allows her to cut off the subterranean contact.
There's a stake in your fat black heart
And the villagers never liked you.
They are dancing and stamping on you.
They always knew it was you.
Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I'm through.
(From The Collected Poems of Sylvia Plath. HarperPerennial Edition. Page 222-224)
Table of Contents / Daddy / Cut /Metaphors/ The Thin People / I Am Vertical / Bee Poems / November Graveyard / Mirror / Apprehensions / Eyemote / Guestbook / Lady Lazarus / Links/ In Plaster / Mirror / Black Rook in Rainy Weather / Mary's Song / Getting There / Ariel / Fever 103 / Elm / The Moon and the Yew Tree / The Bee Keeper's Daughter / Firesong / Lorelei / Stings / The Bee Meeting / Burning the Letters / Words/Balloons/The Queen's Complaint/Moonrise/Sonnet to Satan/Thalidomide
NEW: The Double in "Mirror" and "In Plaster" --September 2002