Daily Archives: January 23, 2011

Frye’s Previously Unpublished Notebook 51

Cross-posted in the library here

This small holograph notebook, discovered in the bedside table of Elizabeth Eedy Frye following her death in May of 1997, is a Double Vision notebook.  It was not included in Northrop Frye’s Late Notebooks, Collected Works, vol. 6.  The numbers in square brackets at the end of some entries refer to the paragraph numbers in the typescript for Notes 53, where there is a similar or parallel entry.  Parallel passages in Notes 54‑1 are also noted in square brackets. This is one of the few examples of Frye’s using a holography notebook as the basis for his typed notes.  Transcribed by Robert D. Denham.

[1]  Fiction.  Cena form.  Characters meet in a house with mind-bending characteristics.  Paradoxes of time‑space (bilocation) and life‑death involved.  Characters as Jungian archetypes: house is unity of social and individual body.

[2]  Romantic archetypal characters: enough realism for a novel: cena form but an individual as well as group enlightenment.  Some things take on a curious importance; Charles Williams, Mary Johnston’s Sweet Rocket [1920], things in other contexts I’d call second rate.

[3]  Something to think about: not necessarily something to write.

[4]  Myth absorbing history: prophecy and the sense of the “historical[.]”   Not absorption but confrontation.  Extreme of Egypt; extreme of pan-historical view now, when there’s a terrific itch for the “historical” Jesus. [194]

[5]  Domination of history by myth: Egypt.  In that nothing happens.  Wonder if I should take the Byron epigram seriously,[1] & interpret my whole 8th ch. complex as history. [195]

[6]  Two levels of history: aggressive and cultural.  The aggressive is imperialistic & seeks the reconciliation of the pax Romana: agreement or the linguistically aggressive dogma.  Cultural history interpenetrates: variety & unity, but no uniformity. [196]

[7]  If so, then why “go into the world & preach the gospel”?  Because the gospel was primarily aimed at Rome (Acts) & so, eventually, at the taking over of the Roman Empire, the Beast & Whore of Revelation.  Of course this initiated what Blake calls the ages of Constantine & Charlemagne.  (Blake’s 27th church is Luther; it should be Loyola.)

[8]  Joachim: age of the Son or dividing Word up to 2000: age of the Spirit after that. [197]

[9]  Logos from Heraclitus to Philo doesn’t mean word: it means a human consciousness linked to some principle of divine origin immanent in nature.[2] So the John logos, which returns to the Hebrew DBR,[3] is an extension. [198]

[10]  Two: go on to Keats, G.U. [Ode on a Grecian Urn] (Wedgwood).  In Blake it’s the trdnl. [traditional] spiritual–physical duality.  Anyway an impersonal-objective vs. a personally-involving world.  Connected by puns on law.  Personal world imports a creator God––unless it’s the other way round.  Yes, the disengagement of personal from impersonal worlds affects [effects?] purifying of religion.  Providence. [199]

[11]  Spengler’s “decline” applies to the empires who conclude the cultural process: as they decline they move towards a confrontation, or historical judgment.  Three. [200]

[12]  The Islamic revelation was a counter-apocalypse, which arose as a part of the Christian failure to separate the two worlds.  They failed because science hadn’t developed far enough.  Three. [201]

[13]  Trace dialectic of the two worlds from the beautiful-true to the spiritual-physical. [202]

[14]  One is the dialectic from “I believe that that really happened (in the past),” the red herring of discursive language, to “I see that that’s the way it has to be.”  Study of poetry of course is training for us.  All three form a larger dialectic running through language, space and time. [202]

[15]  Orwell’s doublethink is the soul-body civil war where the consciousness hypnotizes itself into thinking it believes what the repressed consciousness knows to be nonsense.  Fear of external authority creates internal repression.  All genuine imgn. [imagination] is doublethink as Orwell defines it. [203]

[16]  I suppose Blake’s distrust of memory is linked to the red herring of the past. [202]

[17]  Red herrings: (1) it really means (2) it’s really there (3) it really happened.  From metaphor to spiritual reality. [204]

[18]  Imperial monuments follow the law of Ozymandias: they crumble.  Genuine culture is tribal & regional. [205]

[19]  Literature is the art of inscribing verbal patterns within a mythological cosmos.  It starts as rhetoric, or the figuring of speech: as rhetoric passes into ideology it becomes kerygmatic or spiritual language. [206]

[20]  Myth is the abstract form of narrative; later, in historical writing, it becomes the continuing form of narrative (“decline & fall” stage).  Then it’s Weltgeschichte, & moves on to its confrontation in Heilsgeschichte. [207]

[21]  Esse est percipi; but we know the world keeps on existing whether we see it or not: hence, for Berkeley, we trust that God keeps on watching it, as, to be consistent, the world must be an idea in God’s mind.  It’s a good thing that, as the Psalmist says, God neither slumbers nor sleeps. [208]

[22]  Lewis Hyde: we instinctively speak of cultural abilities as “gifts” (i.e. of the spirit).[4] [209]

[23]  Law, besides the option of obeying it or not, may be just or unjust, logical (the original sense of logos) or arbitrary. [210]

[24]  Feminism and metaphor: man for men & women. [211]

[25]  If the Sabbath was made for man, the Church was too. [212]

[26]  The ideologue identifies truth with whatever promotes his cause: the trouble is the mortality of causes.  Truth, like the classic in literature, is whatever won’t go away, & keeps returning to confront us.  I don’t know what “the truth” is in most matters, only that it’s likely to be connected with whatever returns until we deal with it. [213]

[27]  (Logical positivism failed because it was the exact opposite of “the truth”]: only statements that make no sense have any validity.) [213]

[28]  Interpenetration of belief is unity with variety, like metaphor: reconciliation, conversion, agreement, are all forms of (imperialistic) compulsion. [214]

[29]  Truth is in the repeating pattern which forms the structure of knowledge.  Unique experience has its own kind of truth, but it has no pattern. [215]

[30]  Symmetry is the characteristic of the aesthetic-teleological world: occultism. [216]

[31]  The feminist objection to “man” for “man & woman” is part of the literal fallacy.

[32]  Conspiracy theories of history are fostered, first of all, by the paranoids in establishments. [216]

[33]  Two worlds: one way of relating them is to consider the imgve. [imaginative] or made one as the real form of the other.  Only this is usually a creation myth, where it’s God who makes both worlds. [218]

[34]  Look up The Domain of Arnheim again:[5] Eco 57. [217]

[35] Look up [E.M.] Forster’s “only connect.”[6] Eros connects. [217]

[36]  Eco’s comprehensive sendup of conspiratorial theories of history.[7] Of course, since Jacobins (and Jacobites) there have been conspiracies.  Halfway between history & myth. [216]

[37]  Three: immense importance of the imgve. [imaginative] way of life.  Interpenetration & mythical history are subordinated to that. [219]

[38]  Pagan sequence: first nature-gods reflecting the uncertain temper of nature: remote & unconcerned universal god (Lucretius later).  Animals numinous: transformations of Zeus. [Notes 54‑1, par. 62]

[39]  Transfer from nature to social gods (not a sequence).  War, “wisdom” (cunning).  Eventually some few realize that the true “god” is a Muse or Angel, an aspect of human creative power (Vita Nuova).  This true “god” is transitional from idolatry to monotheism. [Notes 54‑1, par. 63]

[40]  Only why gods of mousike rather than techne? [Notes 54‑1, par. 63]

[41]  Man turning back on a million crosses in war cemeteries to explain how aggression has profound survival value. [Notes 54‑1, par. 64]

[42]  Fraternity: aristocracy: snobbery.  Sense that a real community has to be a minority, a small group.  Link with tribal complex maybe.  Also with the difficulties of the “king” metaphor about God. [Notes 54‑1, par. 65]

[43]  The Jehovah of the O.T. is a humanized being, as violent & unpredictable as King Lear.  We read in Plato & Plutarch about the “hyponoia” & other efforts to make the gods behave themselves & be proper role-models.  The central image of man trying to make this creature into a decent God is Jacob wrestling with the angel. [Notes 54‑1, par. 66]

[44]  Aristocracy: ancestor-worship: efforts to keep a time of continuity with our ancestors as (temporal) authors of our being, nature-gods in a true sense.  Virgin Birth & pushing aside Joseph essential for the myth of the spiritual Father. [Notes 54‑1, par. 67]

[45]  China & its heaven-earth axis: also featured in the Lord’s Prayer. [Notes 54‑1, par. 69]

[47]  Essays from the valley: the pleasant valley, the Tao Te Ching valley, the valley of dry bones, of the shadow of death.  Probably a fifth.

[48]]  Who the hell is Arturus Rex?  No evidence that he was ever a god or had a cult; the British fighter of Saxons is totally irrelevant.  I mean the Arthur of Camelot, presiding over the Round Table, sending knights out on quests and collecting their defeated giants.  Nobody like him before or, really, since.

[49]  The two views of Tempest as (a) profound (b) potboiled not incompatible.

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Editing Frye

This article is cross-posted in the journal here

The odyssey of my editing Frye’s previously unpublished writing began in the summer of 1992 when I arrived at the Victoria College Library to examine the Frye papers that had been deposited there following Frye’s death in January 1991.  I had the good fortune of working with Dolores A. Signori, who had been enlisted to compile a guide to the Frye papers.  Eva Kushner, president of Victoria College, had set me up in one of her offices on the second floor of the E.J. Pratt Library.  Every day, Dolores, who was working down the hall, would bring me a cartful of documents to examine, and my more of less self‑defined job was to see if I could identify the various items.  The Frye papers comprised a substantial body of material––occupying more than twenty‑three meters of shelf space.  What I combed through initially were the “literary files,” as they came to be designated in Dolores’s Guide to the Northrop Frye Papers (Toronto: Victoria University Library, 1993), and among the “personal files,” Frye diaries.  I was also keenly interested in Frye’s correspondence with his Helen Kemp, his girlfriend and later wife, in the 1930s and in the typescripts of his student essays.  These were the four main categories of documents that I focused on.  Among the literary files were Frye’s notebooks, as well as published addresses, lectures, and essays.  I fairly quickly determined that the Frye papers contained a large amount of extraordinary material, and I was convinced that a good portion of it should be published.  Thus began my sixteen‑year odyssey.

The initial challenge was to see, for the holograph material, whether or not I could successfully decipher Frye’s handwriting.  I remember carrying a photocopy of one of the notebooks––it was on Matthew Arnold––back to my room in Burwash Hall to see if I could transcribe it.  I managed to decipher only about half of the text, and so initially I rather despaired of ever being able to reproduce with any degree of certainty what Frye had written.  But the idiosyncrasies of Frye’s script gradually became more and more distinguishable, and eventually I was able to read his handwriting with a fair amount of confidence.  Frye’s orthography remained very consistent over the years, so once I learned the features of his graphemes, it was only occasionally that I would be stumped by a word or phrase.

I convinced myself early on that the notebooks, diaries, student essays, and Frye–Kemp correspondence should be published.  But there was a problem with half of the correspondence––Kemp’s letters to Frye could not be located.  John Ayre had used some of Frye’s letters to Kemp in writing his biography of Frye and he knew of the existence of Kemp’s letters to Frye, but I could not find these letters, nor could Jane Widdicombe, Frye’s secretary and the executrix of the Frye Estate, locate them at the Fryes’ Clifton Road home.  So during that first summer I called Frye’s second wife, Elizabeth, to see if she would permit me to search for the papers in the attic.  She graciously consented.  But shortly after that I learned that she was not well.  Although I knew Elizabeth and had spent some time with her and Frye in Toronto and Washington DC, I decided it would not be proper for me to be rummaging around in the home of one who was showing signs of dementia.  At that point I contacted Ian Morrison, Elizabeth’s son-in-law, who agreed to look through the papers in the attic.  Within several days he drove to the Vic campus, and, as in a scene from a James Bond movie, opened the trunk of his sleek sedan and delivered to me an attaché case and several dusty shopping bags filled with files, photographs, sketch books, postcards, newspaper clippings, and other miscellaneous documents.  Rummaging through this material, I was almost ready to conclude that Kemp’s letters to Frye had not been preserved, but at the bottom of the last shopping bag I finally uncovered them.  Helen Kemp has very carefully clipped the envelopes to the letters and had made notes on some of them, presumably for John Ayre’s benefit.  In any event, I now had 266 letters, cards, and telegrams that passed between Northrop Frye and Helen Kemp from the winter of 1931–32 until 17 June 1939, and I decided that the first project I would tackle would be the transcription of the Frye–Kemp correspondence.

The size of the entire project was almost overwhelming, but I set out to photocopy whatever I thought was worthy of eventual publication.  This was, in addition to the correspondence, chiefly the seventy-seven notebooks that turned up, the seven diaries, and a number of typescripts of Frye’s talks, student papers, and essays.  The Victoria library staff had been gracious in accommodating my needs, but the photocopying proved to be something of a frustration as the machines in the library produced such poor copies.  Robert Brandeis, the chief librarian, has provided me with a key to the library so that I could get in and out of my temporary office at night (the library was not open in the evening during the summer).  So for several weeks I would fill my book bag with notebooks and diaries, haul them across campus to one of the photocopiers in the Robarts Library, and stand there for hours feeding dimes in to the machine.  This was doubtless against library policy (I was afraid to ask for fear I would not be permitted to take the manuscripts from the library), but I was eager to take back to Virginia copies I could read, and the chance that I would be hit by a truck, scattering the Frye manuscripts along St. George Street, seemed fairly remote.  I have no idea how many pages I copied altogether, but the thirteen volumes of previously unpublished material that eventually made their way into the Collected Works amount to almost 7,000 pages.

Word of this treasure trove of began to seep out, and some of those attending the conference on the Legacy of Northrop Frye, held at Victoria during the fall of 1992, began to examine the material in the Frye “fonds,” a word, new to me, that archivists use to refer to a body of material in special collections.  I began to get the sense from some quarters that as a foreigner I was usurping an editing project that properly belonged to Canadians.  The Frye material, it was suggested, was of sufficient scope to keep an army of Toronto graduate students busy for years.  So what business did I have hauling copies of these treasures back to Virginia?  It was at this point that I asked for permission from Jane Widdicombe and Roger Ball, executors of the Frye estate, to edit and publish all of Frye’s previously unpublished manuscripts and documents.  The permission was granted with the proviso that the executors would have final approval of the publisher.  I had been Frye’s unofficial bibliographer for a number of years, and in the late 1980s he had permitted me to edit three volumes of his essays and a collection of interviews.  The executors had earlier granted permission for me and Michael Dolzani to edit Frye’s professional correspondence, which had been coming to the Victoria University library in instalments over a period of years.  But with the excitement generated by the notebooks, diaries, and other papers, I decided to put the professional correspondence on the back burner.  I asked Michael Dolzani, who had been Frye’s research assistant for twelve years and was more knowledgeable about Frye’s work than anyone else, to help me edit the unpublished material.  He agreed, and we set about the painstaking process of transcribing and annotating the photocopied documents.  In 1995–96 I received a year‑long NEH fellowship, which meant that for an entire year I could devote full time to the project.  Five years later Michael and I had a large portion of the manuscripts in electronic form.  Once we had most of the transcription completed we began assigning the material to particular volumes.  I elected to begin with Frye’s late notebooks, written mostly during the 1980s, and Michael initially tackled what came to be known as The “Third Book” Notebooks, Frye’s free‑wheeling speculations about the book he intended to write after Anatomy of Criticism but never did.

In the meantime, a proposal had emanated from Victoria College, spurred by the leadership of President Eva Kushner, to produce a collected edition of Frye’s works.  The issue now was whether or not the previously unpublished documents would become a part of this project.  By 1994, I had completed the transcription of the Frye–Kemp correspondence, a document of more than 400,000 words.  At a meeting at Victoria College of President Kushner, the executors, Ron Schoeffel of the University of Toronto Press, and myself, I agreed that the best course was to join my efforts with the Collected Works project.  I had not had a very happy experience with the publication of my Frye bibliography with the U of T Press, and so I sought some assurance that there wouldn’t be the kind of foot‑dragging with this project that there had been with the bibliography.  I was promised that the manuscript would be published within a year.  It took two years.  I was naturally eager to have the unpublished material in the hands of readers as soon as possible, but I came to realize there was little I could do to advance the process at the Press, which tended to move slower than a wounded turtle.  In any case, the two‑volume Frye–Kemp correspondence was published in 1996 under the general editorship of John M. Robson.  And then, sixteen years after I began making a census of the material in the Frye fonds, I completed my commitment to make available to the reading public the previously unpublished manuscripts of Northrop Frye.  I ended up editing nine of the thirteen volumes, Michael Dolzani edited three, and we shared the editorial duties for the final volume.  Whatever insights we felt were worth reporting appear in our introductions to the several volumes.  Each of us took on an additional volume in the series: Michael edited Words with Power and I, Anatomy of Criticism.

There were eureka moments on practically every page of Frye’s manuscripts, and there were larger epiphanies, such as the discovery, when we were well along in the process, of a set to typed notes called “Work in Progress,” which suddenly clarified the history and organizing pattern of Frye’s ogdoad project and its symbolic shorthand––the eight‑book project that motivated so much of his writing career.  Then there was the discovery when I was almost finished with the late notebooks of still another notebook, which turned up on the bedside table of in Elizabeth Frye’s nursing home.  These notes were the workshop for Frye’s 1990 “double vision” lectures at Emmanuel College.  Transcribing and annotating can often become rather mindless operations, but what justified the tedium was watching Frye’s fertile, nimble, and well‑stocked mind at work.  It is trite to say that every day uncovered new insights, but it is nevertheless true.

The success of the Collected Works project is due to the devoted labors of many people, including Jean O’Grady and Margaret Burgess at the Northrop Frye Centre, but no one has been so important in insuring success as Alvin A. Lee, who assumed the role of general editor after the untimely death of Jack Robson.  Anyone interested in the history of the project should consult Lee’s “The Collected Works of Northrop Frye: The Project and the Edition,” in Northrop Frye: New Directions from Old, ed. David Rampton (Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, 2009), 1–14.  All of us owe an enormous debt to Lee.

The volumes of previously unpublished material:

The Correspondence of Northrop Frye and Helen Kemp, 1932–1939. 2 vols. (Denham)

Northrop Frye’s Student Essays, 1932–1938 (Denham)

Northrop Frye’s Late Notebooks, 1982–1990: Architecture of the Spiritual World. 2 vols. (Denham)

The Diaries of Northrop Frye, 1942–1955 (Denham)

The “Third Book” Notebooks of Northrop Frye, 1964–1972: The Critical Comedy (Dolzani)

Northrop Frye on Literature and Society, 1936–1989 (Denham)

Northrop Frye’s Notebooks and Lectures on the Bible and Other Religious Texts (Denham)

Northrop Frye’s Notebooks on Romance (Dolzani)

Northrop Frye’s Notebooks on Renaissance Literature (Dolzani)

Northrop Frye’s Notebooks for “Anatomy of Criticism” (Denham)

Northrop Frye’s Fiction and Miscellaneous Writings (Denham and Dolzani)

Frye’s Musings on Death

From the Notebooks

The creation is not in the past; the Last Judgement is not in the future; we must get a proper view of creation that isn’t a projected sexual or artefact myth: when we get it the Last Judgement conception will clear up, & when that clears up there shall be a way open for a conception of life without birth & death that isn’t either before birth or after death. (11f.29)

Death is a process, not a condition.  A stone is not dead: when did it die? (11f.66; see Great Code, 157)

It’s only in nature’s Heraclitean fire that time is irreversible.  Hopkins is impressionist, he likes “dappled” things, because that preserves the sense of identical particulars while coming to terms with the dissolution of all form.  But the resurrection isn’t just a comfort, or even what makes the particular adamant or immortal diamond: it’s something that stops the irreversibility of time.  What is immortal is not the life we are going to live after death, but the life we have lived.  The Resurrection must be retrospective. (11f.98)

Death is not the opposite of life; death is the opposite of birth.  The new birth that Jesus spoke of to Nicodemus is also a release from death.  Matthew & Luke have infancy narratives about a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes; Mark & John start with the symbol of the second birth through water & the spirit.  Coming out of the water with the redeemed from the dragon. (11f.144)

I come back to the feeling that one’s eternal existence is to be connected, not with where one is going after death, but with where one is at death.  (21.30)

The total similitude of death turns into the particular point of light that turns similitude into the universal identity.  That is what resurrection means now. (21.473)

Birth means death & consciousness means nothingness.  Between birth & death you can help produce other bodily lives: between consciousness & nothingness you can help produce creative activity.  Hence maybe the two poles of the Atman, Thou & That, can produce the new child-spirit who is also ourselves. (11e.7)

The business of life is to make a path for the incarnation: the business of death is to make a path for the resurrection. (11b.31)

My hunch is that grief of survivors, being so largely self-pity, distresses, perhaps even impedes, progress to a world that makes more sense.  I know that she [Helen] would forgive me my sins of indolence and selfishness in regard to her, and therefore God will.  I hope only that she knows now that I genuinely loved her very dearly, so far as human frailty permits.  God bless, protect, and keep her among his own.  I hope to see her again; but perhaps that is a weak hope.  Faith is the hypostasis of what is hoped for, the elenchos of the unseen. The one thing truly unseen, the world across death, may, according to my principle, be what enables us to see what is visible. (44.170)

From Notebook 3

[15]  The Tibetans say that when you die you get a flash of reality (Chih-kai [Chik-hai] Bardo) that for everyone except a yogi saint is bewildering & unrecognizable, whereupon you pass into a plane of hallucination (Chon-yid Bardo) & then seek a womb of rebirth (Sidpa Bardo).  I don’t know about after death, but it’s an excellent account of all other crises of the spirit, & so may be true of that one.  So often it happens in meeting someone who needs help & can be helped (or encouraged) there comes a sudden flash of the right thing to do, the courteous & beautiful act, instantly smothered under a swarm of spawning Selfhood illusions of timidity, laziness, selfishness & the rest, whereupon the moment of what we rightly call inspiration passes, and we return to the ordinary level of existence.  It’s only rarely that we even recall having such a moment, & perhaps the capacity for having them could be destroyed.  One of the major efforts of all discipline is to unbury the consciousness of the moment that Satan can’t find, as Blake calls it.  Hence the importance of achieving spontaneity, Butler’s unconsidered control.  In social relationships we always admire the person who acts, to quote Blake again, from impulse & not from rules, and we assume, however unconsciously, that such impulses can be trained to achieve adequate & accurate expression.  That is perhaps why Jesus stresses the unconsidered life—I’m not thinking of the lily passage [Matthew 6:28] so much as the instructions to the apostles not to rehearse their speeches [Matthew 10:19–20].  It is true, however, that the way of achieving such development is to concentrate on the present moment, which implies that all idealization or brooding over the past, and all idealization or worry over the future, are diseases of the soul—hence the lily passage.

[45]  . . .  The mystics also think in terms of an ascent, a ladder of development, usually to be completed after death—well, that’s the Catholic doctrine of purgatory, which seems to me an effort to adapt the doctrine of rebirth to Christianity.  If I had to believe in either, I’d choose rebirth, as purgatory as a set plane of existence different from this doesn’t make sense—Dante’s purgatory is in this world, by the way.  The Protestants identify the initial conversion with the final vortex, & I wonder if this Lankavatara Sutra I’m reading, in spite of its traditional guff about a stock of merit accumulated for God knows how long, doesn’t point in the same direction.

[71]  We speak of fruitful & sterile ideas, & it is perfectly true that ideas beget & reproduce like everything else alive, but it isn’t just a linear Orc-reproduction: we want novelty, but we want too a consolidating form, a family appearing as a single Man.  And while one shouldn’t be a Thel, & should haul our ideas out into Generation & write books & take the bushels off our lights, still what really happens is simply a growth in our minds, a turning from a centre to a circumference.  Hence, really, all ideas are unborn.  If there is no death there is no birth either, and of course no life.

[95]  When a man of eighty says he never felt better in his life everyone knows he has never been so near his death, but the statement may be true for all that.  I used to think of people who never believed anything except on evidence or reasonable deduction therefrom as materialistically minded.  Now I just think of them as stupid.  That looks from outside as though I were getting bigoted & provincial, but I know I’m not, or if I am it doesn’t matter.  Peace, it’s wonderful.

[119]  Here is a speculation which probably makes no sense whatever: Christians & Buddhists have the same sense of escape from time, but the Westerner says we never die because he thinks of immortality as continuity of energy, & the Easterner says we have never been born because he thinks of immortality as release from karma or causation.  But both are equally true, or untrue, whichever you like.  When the Westerner tries to absorb the idea of unbornness, he tumbles into the “predestination” pitfall; when the Easterner tries to get clear about deathlessness, he gets into the “reincarnation” one.  There are forms of these doctrines which make sense, of course: the ones that don’t, the babies slated for hell & the there’s-that-man (or beast)-again superstitions, illustrate the difficulty.

[139]  The Delphic oracle urged man to know himself, meaning not an increase of introspective knowledge, but the struggling of consciousness which at the same time apprehends the world more accurately.  Dreams are subjective, but maybe a dream fully interpreted would become a vision.  There must be a point at which it ceases to be true that it’s a subjective experience.  Dreams aren’t Ulro nightmares: in general, man lives in G [Generation] during the day & B [Beulah] at night, as, perhaps he lives in G from life to death & in B from death to life.

[146]  The past is hell, the eternally fixed state where the ghosts of dead sins & errors are forever imprisoned.  The future begins in childhood as a world of infinite potentiality.  As life goes on, the future becomes steadily more predictable, & the life consequently less interesting.  Children fascinate us; old men bore us because they conceal no surprises.  At death the future finally merges with & joins the past—in Dante’s hell the future but not the present is known.  Life reaches its crisis nel mezzo del cammina, the sun at its highest in the sky, realizing with a shudder that it is bound to a cycle & must now descend.  Hence the importance Jung attaches to the 35–40 period: its timing may depend partly on the length of the life, which of course the unconscious always knows.  I think one has to be reborn now & start in fancy all over again in relation to a new kind of life, as though the sun at zenith were to think of itself as at the bottom of reality & start rising & straight up.  That way, the imgn. [imagination] may grow stronger as the foolish body decays.  The optimism I have inherited from my father, the feeling that next year things may be quite different & much better, should be conserved, though some of it is dodging.  I have inherited another feeling, of wanting to get rid of things that are lost, or spoiled, or a bother, as quickly as possible instead of trying to recover or patch them up, & there is a certain danger of applying this to my own life & going off the deep end over reincarnation.  This conception of hell as the past may be useful.  Dante was psychoanalyzing himself, & straightening out the kinks in his character by analytic reduction, in going into hell.  In connection with that, I suppose the psychological value of the doctrine of original depravity is in upsetting the smugness of the egocentric consciousness.  The consciousness is transitory, and we derive our idea of the present from it.  Each dimension of time breeds fear: the past, despair & hopelessness & the sense of an irrevocable too late: the present, panic & sense of a clock steadily ticking; the future, an unknown mystery gradually assuming the lineaments of the consequences of our own acts.  Hope is the virtue of the past, the eternal sense that maybe next time we’ll do better.  The projection of this into the future is faith, the substance of things hoped for.  Love belongs to the present, & is the only force able to cast out fear.  If a thing loves it is infinite, Blake said, & the act of love is itself a vision of a timeless world.  Oh, God, how well I talk.  Deteriora sequor.  Or do I just say that because of an obscure feeling that such statements are somehow approved of by some atavistic God in my infantile shadow world?

[149]  Evidently the superego transforms the Ego-Id relation into an Ego-Tu one.  The ego swallows its parents and puts them to guard the door of the Id.  As obstacles, they’re Satan & Rahab; as transparent, Los & Jerusalem.  The ego, the reality-principle, deals with conflicts of truth & error; the id, the pleasure principle, with conflicts of good & evil.  As opaque, the parents are narcissistic, reflecting the ego on itself, & also presenting the pleasure-pain values of the id in terms of a moral law of good & evil.  Freud says that the id is inherited & the ego isn’t; the superego, being the boundary, is a memory which may be a revived inherited memory, Jung’s archetype.  Anyway, what the ego has to do is swallow its parents a second time, in their second or permanent death, & occupy their place.  When it does so it is, in Jungian terms, the Self, between the ego & the id.

[161]  One should think of truth, not only statically as the correct formulation of propositions, but dynamically, as the normal current of the energy of the soul.  These correspond to the allegorical & moral levels in Dante.  A lie is to the intellect what a neurosis is to the emotions, a blocking point which dams up the current; a stone around which it forms whirlpools.  Hence imaginative people who keep spinning spider-webs in their minds make the best liars, as they make the best use of neuroses.  For vigorous extroverted people “living a lie” is an intolerable burden, & confession for them has the quality of a physical compulsion.  A great deal is said about the psychological rightness of Catholic auricular confession: as usual, the priest absorbs both the indwelling Christ & the social community.  The point about “know thyself” is to pervert self-deception, so that the lies one is obliged to tell in the interests of the persona won’t stay in the mind—thus Johnson’s “clear your mind of cant.”  Probably one has to lie to men—certainly to women—but not to know that one is lying is to lie to God.  Honesty with oneself carries off social lies in a private excretion.  Honesty with others follows: you can’t interpret James’s “confess your sins to one another” [James 5:16] as the Oxford Group does, because shitting in a group is a perversion, or rather a fixation of childish curiosity.  One has always to remember the dynamic nature of truth, and hence of reasoning.  “My father has money; I shall have it when he dies; I need money now; he must die now.”  Depending on the extent of one’s capacity for parricide, that sequence may be anything from irrefutably logical to unthinkable.



Frye in 1957, the year he published Anatomy of Criticism

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Rae, Bob.  University of Toronto Quarterly 61, no. 1 (Fall 1991): 3–4.  Appears also in Vic Report 19 (Spring 1991): 5.

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Saddlemyer, Ann.  University of Toronto Quarterly 61, no. 1 (Fall 1991): 7–8.  Appears also in Vic Report 19 (Spring 1991): 9.

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Time (4 February 1991): 61.

Toronto Star (26 January 1991): D7.

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