[for Tuning Speculation III]
When my brain says “Come!” to you, you shall cross land or sea to do my bidding; and to that end this! With that he pulled open his shirt, and with his long sharp nails opened a vein in his breast. When the blood began to spurt out, he took my hands in one of his, holding them tight, and with the other seized my neck and pressed my mouth to the wound, so that I must either suffocate or swallow some of the . . . Oh, my God! My God!
– Bram Stoker, Dracula
You need not seek Him here or there, He is no further than the door of your heart; there He stands patiently awaiting whoever is ready to open up and let Him in. No need to call to Him from afar: He can hardly wait for you to open up. He longs for you a thousand times more than you long for Him: the opening and the entering are a single act.
– Meister Eckhart
But what is there really to say, except that there is an abyss inside of me, a vast, breathable black abyss . . . —the melodrama of it is appalling.
– Rasu-Yong Tugen, Baroness de Tristeombre, Songs from the Black Moon
Beauty is love kissing horror.
– Ladislav Klima, Glorious Nemesis
This paper is the second step in a three-part investigation into the mystical interstices of fear, love, and music entitled. A segment of the first part, “Mystical Auscultation,” which investigates the relation between listening and intelligent action, i.e. “action . . . which is intelligently designed to attain God-realisation” (Meher Baba) was presented at Tuning Speculation II last year. This year, in tune with the foregrounded issue of daydreaming and the boundary between actual and potential life, my presentation will continue the reflection on theosis by addressing the thrill of romantic distraction as a force swerving being into the inevitable impossibility of divine union or becoming God/Truth/Reality, i.e. oneself. While the idea that individual life in this universe is such a romance may strike the ‘modern’ person as absurd, I hope to soften the intellectual blow of this truth by observing it through the lens of cosmic horror. Understood in its occult intersection with the terrifying scales of cosmic reality, the thrill of romantic distraction is revealed as a form of ‘infra-legible microtemporal event’ seducing being beyond itself, so that it may finally taste the infinite sweetness that cannot wait to feed itself to itself across the abysses of terror. Dying to give you this kiss, the immanent beyond leaks into life in the mode of thrilling distraction, bringing one to the loved-feared moment where “I must either suffocate or swallow,” where the I must drown.
The idea of ‘thrilling divine romance’ is here drawn from Meher Baba’s Discourses, whose final chapter concludes with this sentence:
The sojourn of the soul is a thrilling divine romance in which the lover, who in the beginning is conscious of nothing but emptiness, frustration, superficiality and the gnawing chains of bondage, gradually attains an increasingly fuller and freer expression of love, and ultimately disappears and merges in the divine Beloved to realise the unity of the Lover and the Beloved in the supreme and eternal fact of God as Infinite Love.
Because all things are understood through their opposites and because “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18), my essay will proceed by commenting on this sentence in light of fear. And I am afraid to comment on this sentence. First, because love is fearful and sentences you to itself forever. As Helga says in Ladislav Klima’s The Sufferings of Prince Sternenhoch, “Anyone who falls in love ceases to be human. Will dissolves in its mire. No madhouse is mad enough for one in love. Anyone who falls in love should be hung immediately. There is no corner on earth that would admit such an outcast.” And secondly, because this supreme and eternal fact is perforce beyond opposition and thus cannot be understood. As Rumi says, “Hidden things . . . are manifested by means of their opposite; since God hath no opposite, He is hidden . . . The Light of God hath no opposite in all existence, that by means of that opposite it should be possible to make Him manifest.” Fear is thus the superior term for actively failing to understand thrilling divine romance, for not understanding divine love in the best way, precisely because it is pertains directly to the horror of divine intelligibility. To approach the divinity of love with one’s mind, to subject it to reason, is to woo and court the worst terrors, terrors that only lead further into the divine nature. So Hadewych, for whom “Hell should be the highest name of Love,” describes a fearful, logos-crucifying path to God: “They who follow [this] way . . . live as if in hell: That comes from God’s fearful invitation. It is so fearful to their mind; their spirit understands the grandeur of conformity to the delivering up of the Son, but their reason cannot understand it. This is why they condemn themselves at every hour. All their words, and works, and service seem to them of no account, and their spirit does not believe that it can attain that grandeur. Thus their heart remains devoid of hope. This leads them very deep into God, for their great despair leads them above the ramparts and through all the passageways, and into all places where truth is” (Letters).
By interpreting Meher Baba’s statement on ‘thrilling divine romance’ in the context of horror, I intend to shed light on the nature of mystical despair and to theoretically flesh out the more general experiential domain of appalling melodrama. Appalling melodrama begins at the threshold where there is no more (and everything) to say, where thought and feeling, faltering upon their own abyss, now proceed despite themselves and musically move forward anyway, all flush and pale. Appalling melodrama pertains to affects of inevitable impossibility, to the feeling of what both must and cannot happen, to the intelligence which knows that fear is only the beginning. Thus, whereas philosophy’s darker affects are characteristically situated inside negative emotion, appalling melodrama calls the horror of philosophy into the profounder negativities of positive feeling, the more actual and brilliant darknesses of love and romance. Fleeing in horror from the safety of fear, appalling melodrama occurs in the mutual paling of affect and intellect, the falling of thought before what it will not feel, the plunge of feeling into what it cannot think. On this model, the three primary concepts of this paper—thrilling divine romance, mystical despair, and appalling melodrama—intersect around the gravity of the heart as the organ of the positive hopelessness which alone leads mind beyond itself. As Klima says, “But what the mind does not believe, the heart does. And in the end the intellect does, too; what else is left for it to do?”
Reading the idea of thrilling divine romance through the lens of fear will work to stave off sentimental misunderstanding of its meaning and invite spiritual return to the ‘breathable black abyss’ wherein divine desuscitation, the killing kiss of God (mors osculi) is found. For that is what you most wisely/foolishly fear and foolishly/wisely suspect, that your absolute Beloved, the beloved Absolute, is actually dying to make all your dreams come true. Love is the highest and deepest of horrors, the truth according to which life is not only a dream, a cosmic illusion, but something at once better and worse, a fantastical epic love story and supreme pulp fiction. By thinking the thrill of romantic distraction towards its highest heights, I aim—somehow, someway—to shed light on that secret omnipresent summit where one will, like the narrator of Klima’s Glorious Nemesis, say with an indescribable kind of everlasting hyper-ridiculous joy, “My love is alive! She is weird in the extreme, mystical powers at Her command, as is my love for Her! And She loves me, loves me!”