First published in: The International Post-Dogmatist Quarterly Vol.1,Issue 3 – Fall, 1994
I must say from the outset that my approach in these musings deals, not with the scholarly histories of such notions of the avant-garde as are now prevalent; taught, as they are, in the dim and often deceiving light of studies garnered through the probings of, and couched in the language of the academic historian who, by the nature of his process, excludes himself from those states and stances of consciousness which are the foundations of the hollow factualities and often misperceived artifacts upon which the authenticity of his argument must be predicated, but rather from the position of a practitioner in the elucidation of those states of consciousness by means of the disciplined efforts in craft skill acquired through years of long hours spent in their refinement, to which the historian, as observer, is not and cannot be privy to.
Therefore, those who, like myself, are engaged in the occupation of assessing and testing out those propositions set before us by our predecessors, must hold suspect and even speak out in warning of, the road laid out before us by historians who, in a rhetoric indigenous to themselves, gather together such artifacts as are fitting to their fabrications of the avant-garde which are then, as time worn grains, innocuously blended into a mortar designed to bind their macadamizations of historical categories and then substantiated through the use of scientific methodologies yet, leave those facts which do not readily fit, as it were, in rubble-like piles, to be passed by and forgotten as irrelevancies by the pilgrims for whom the path has been laid. Thus history, as it is presented to us, becomes a surrogate, even an imposter of, that reality which it describes with such seeming clarity and authority and, therefore, those projections of a proposed trajectory based upon such history and thus, the interpretation of the present, must equally be spurious and unreliable.
Is it not our inevitable fate then, as practitioners of the arts, we whose task it is to bring to light those alternative perspectives and expressions of reality foreign to scientific and scholarly pursuits, that our work, those evidences of the dream toward which we each, individually aspire, shall, in turn, be ignored or worse; used to suit the ends of those who shall attempt to shape the way by which our progeny shall be guided, as we have unwittingly been?
We come then to the subject of the avant-garde, a term couched in a military, thus adversarial, context which implies a linearity of movement, foreign to the very nature of the activity to which it refers, in an attempt to create a vehicle by which such activity might be recognized and explained. Upon what notions is such a conception as the avant-garde, palpable and imminent as it must have once seemed, predicated if not those of an imagined utopian society surrounded by the womb of technological comfort and security, where the sounds of wind and birdsong are replaced by the hushed noises of temperature conditioned air channeled through metal ducts and the sounds of humming machines and mechanical ringing and bussing; where watching sunsets and conversing with neighbors is replaced by television and porchless houses designed for isolation; where churches and priests are replaced by mental hospitals and therapists, whose citizenry is well educated, well fed ,each with a bau-house and a motor vehicle and money to spend on the latest, new and improved products seen in exciting commercials? Have we not then arrived (at least some few of us) at this promised land so beautifully proposed, so glamorously sold to us or are such notions, though still spreading and growing, now obsolete; defunct?
In the culture of the New, whose ideas and objects, through their presentation as new, are swiftly discarded as obsolete rather than those ideas and objects of previous periods, presented as classical thus cherished as antique, should we not now reconsider those tenants of the avant-garde so necessary in the early part of the century to overcome the oppressive adherence to the past yet, which now oppress us with the mandate of continual newness?
Has not our continual plodding blindly forward toward a misunderstood and even forgotten futuristic ideal brought us to an impasse? Are we not now in a trench war, each of us, crouched in the claustrophobic myopia of a present isolated from a severed past and, being without a guiding star on our horizon, from the future as well? Where the enemy that once informed our rationale and formed the context against which our heroic struggle once seemed so poignant that, in the absence of, we are left listless and confounded, turning in upon ourselves to find that the power with which our predecessors once reshaped the world in which we now find ourselves and which, by all rights, is ours, has been quietly stolen from us by those whose activities have nothing in common with our own?
Is it not time then for the forging of a new tradition in which every detail that now informs our lives; that silently pushes us forward, is reassessed and reconsidered? What shape shall our traditions take (assuming that we have the foresight and will to take up such a task); what principles shall we guide ourselves by? For surely, whether or not we consciously build our new traditions, they will take shape and life, and shall effect us and speak of our time. Thus we should consider upon what foundation we shall proceed; who our new traditions will include and whom they shall alienate; after what are we striving and toward what are we moving.
Or, alteratively, should we cleave as children to a mother’s breast long dry of it’s nurturance to traditions already established, each a world in its own right, to which we must conform ourselves yet, whose tenants and mandates, established for another time and place when our present world could not have been imagined, leave us dissatisfied as with a house which is in need of remodeling and which we must nearly reconstruct in order for it to serve our needs?
Toward what ideals shall we now strive in a time when idealism is considered naive and the quaint preoccupation of the ignorant; when the hierarchy of values that once prioritized with clarity the acts and judgments of our predecessors has been leveled into a democratized pool of equals where the fleeting fashions of televisual interests governed only by an anally retentive political correctness adhered to merely for the purpose of protecting lucrative financial positions built behind a facade of image and credibility, are on a par with ancient principles established by multi-generational inquiry and the practical application thereof?
When pessimism is regarded as if it is a sign of sobriety and intelligence, have we not brought ourselves to a state of apathetic paralysis by which we justify our self abdicating powerlessness, complaining amongst ourselves of the pervasive, institutionalized patterns of submission to which we are subjected while simultaneously maintaining these patterns though our permitting them to continue? “Oppression is by mutual consent. The oppressor or oppressive principle acts, the oppressed passively consent through silent omission.” This theorem remains true where idealism, animated by the enlightened principle of selfless abandon and the fearless pursuit of creative perfection, have been sacrificed for a conformity born of myopic self interest engendered by the abandonment of the hope of an idealized state toward which to guide one’s efforts.
Thus, the New Hermetica dawns on the horizon of our mutual consciousness wherein, as a system of procedures, the pestle of self-disciplined effort grinds the substances of daily activity in the mortar of consciousness yielding, through the alchemical binding of these essences; this Prima Materia, with the power of Spiritual Creativity, a unification of opposites; the Crystals of Transmutation the unleashing of which transmutes this prima materia at the very Threshold of Becoming into its highest potential condition within the host state and, therefore, opening the way to a further transmutation toward the next highest state at which point the procedures are adapted to this next highest state and begun anew. Thus the Transmigration through States is initiated and the inertia of oppression overcome and the most potent form of revolution activated. Therefore, within the context of the New Hermetica, the conception of the Avant Garde is discarded as a general movement forward toward a utopian external and is reoriented to a general movement inward and upward by way of the Trans migration through States.
In the wake of this transmigration the energy to transform the world is generated and the Threshold of Opportunity open for the Bending of the Tao. Thus, in those states and conditions where oppression is upheld by mutual consent (passive) and where the oppressed recognize the source of their oppression as emanating from within rather than without as they had once misperceived, mutations for the alteration of the future become apparent and the Agency of Choice unfolded and the Bending of the Tao possible.
The possible mutations within the Agency of Choice are innumerable in theory yet, in practice, are limited to the essences of the experiences, desires, imaginal capabilities and accommodations of those engaged in the Operations of Transmigration by virtue of their being attracted to those mutations which fall into recognizable alternatives. Among the practicable alternatives then, the highest among them is to internally embrace the Oppressive Principle thus forcing its transmigration to the next highest state and bringing it under the conditions of transmutation whereby the brutal qualities of the Oppressive Principle are fundamentally altered and its functional capabilities forced into refinement whereby, through a number of such operations, the Oppressive Principle is transfigured into a harmless form of mutual agreement (active) wherein it is recognized as Duty and thus the State of Redemption is achieved.
While the State of Redemption is the desirable goal when viewed from those states where the Oppressive Principle is active to the extent that brutality and cruelty are common traits, there are yet higher mutations possible but these are not apparent until the State of Redemption has been achieved. The transmigration from the State of Redemption is toward the State of Enlightenment in which the Oppressive Principle is brought to it’s highest possible state wherein a form of mutual respect is achieved and what was once oppression is now Harmony.
There are yet innumerable higher States of Transmigration but those states beyond the State of Enlightenment are sealed by the Seal of Silence and hidden by the State of the Dissolution of Distinctions and thus constitute a higher order of states which are not discussed here owing to the non-linguistic nature of these states and thus the limit of the system of procedures upon which the New Hermetica is predicated.
In conclusion, the Avant Garde is recognized here as a metaphor of transmutation whose trajectory is traced through the States of Transmigration. As such, conclusions as to who are those individuals who constitute the members of the avant garde must, of necessity, be reconsidered and a revisionist history proposed which takes into account this inward Transmigration though States as a criterion and will, without question yield a history alien to the one now current and thus, lead to a new sense of esthetic which may have nothing in common to that now taught in our academic institutions.
The notion of the avant garde as we have come to know it and those artists who constitute its members may or may not be regarded as the avant garde within the context of the Transmigration through States as here stated taking into account the question that, due to the institutional investments made in this notion and these artists both in terms of the monetary investments and the investment of credibility which these institutions must protect at all costs in order to justify their investments and thus their advancements of these artists and this notion are quite possibly guided more by self interest than by the pursuit of truth, can we assume the latter?
In addition, assuming the questionable ability of these institutions to recognize an avant garde that stands outside of their championship and upon which they would then, of necessity, turn a blind eye, according to what credentials shall those who are entrusted to write this revisionist history be held so as to assure us and themselves of an accurate accounting and interpretation as is needed in order to accurately select those mutations of the future best suited to us when we are engaged in the operations of Bending the Tao?