It’s Holy Saturday.
Not very long ago a friend sent me a copy of the Deptford Trilogy. Jan and I actually went through a Robertson Davie’s orgy of reading many years ago, and I’d read all his fiction. But, it had been, well, possibly as many as twenty years ago, and I realized I really didn’t remember much of the details on his books.
So, I picked it up and tumbled once again into Davies’ world.
Near the end of his book, World of Wonder, the third of the Trilogy, Robertson Davies puts the following soliloquy in the mouth of one of his characters
You have read Spengler? No: it is not so fashionable as it once was. But Spengler talks a great deal about what he calls the Magian World View, which he says we have lost, but which was part of the Weltanschauung – you know, the world outlook – of the Middle Ages. It was a sense of the unfathomable wonder of the invisible world that existed side by side with a hard recognition of the roughness and cruelty and day-to-day demands of the tangible world. It was a readiness to see demons where nowadays we see neuroses, and to see the hand of a guardian angel in what we are apt to shrug off ungratefully as a stroke of luck. It was religion, but a religion with a thousand gods, none of them all-powerful and most of them ambiguous in their attitude toward man. It was poetry and wonder which might reveal themselves in the dunghill, and it was an understanding of the dunghill that lurks in poetry and wonder. It was a sense of living in what Spengler called a quivering cavern-light which is always in danger of being swallowed up in the surrounding, impenetrable darkness.
Oswald Spengler was a German philosopher and author of the magisterial and, I gather, poetic Decline of the West. He was a complicated man, opposed to Hitler’s antisemitism, and fake heroism, but an antisemite of a sort himself, and a nationalist and conservative, which put him in awkward company with the Nazis as they came to power.
More important for this small reflection, Spengler believed that cultures had a quasi-reality with a beginning and an ending. As, I hope, an aside, he predicted the fall of the west into dictatorships of various sorts starting about, well, now.
But it’s the Magian world that captured my imagination. Although the paragraph really is Robertson Davies, as is his Magian world.
The paragraph comes, as I note, at the end of the Trilogy, and is something of a coda to the whole project. And it set me to thinking about that Magian World View. Not in Spengler’s sense, but in Davies’. It is, among other things, both a description of something, and, I believe, an invitation.
The theologian Peter Hawkins tells us,
“From a variety of statements scattered throughout his nonfictional writing — One Half of Robertson Davies (1977) and The Enthusiasms of Robertson Davies (1979) — we know that the author has confessed himself a Christian believer without nailing down the nature of that belief. Although he was confirmed as an Anglican while studying at Oxford, his religion seems to have been most nurtured by the thought of Carl Jung, whose insistence on God as a psychological fact of human nature — a fact avoided at enormous peril to ourselves — is echoed throughout Davies’s fiction. And yet Davies’s religion is no mere Christianity. Indeed, he might well claim the realization of (the character from one his novels) Francis Cornish as his personal testimony: ‘Somehow I’ve drifted into a world where religion, but not orthodoxy, is the fountain of everything that makes sense.’”
I’m most taken with that line, “It was religion, but a religion with a thousand gods, none of them all-powerful and most of them ambiguous in their attitude toward (humanity.) It was poetry and wonder which might reveal themselves in the dunghill, and it was an understanding of the dunghill that lurks in poetry and wonder.”
Today is Holy Saturday. And God is dead, if for a day.
For me this holy day is a noticing of a fracturing of the divine. It happens. Not just today, But today is its feast. And with it I feel in my bones that thousand gods. Each birthing, living, and dying. A fractal of the universe.
And how poetry and wonder is the call of the moment. The Magian world.
And every moment. A magian universe. The real one, actually. At least for us humans.
The invitation, which I guess, actually isn’t in Davies’ book, but which I see calling from every page, just as it is made with everything that presents in this world of joy and sorrow; that moment awaits.
Just open your eyes. Come a bit closer. Just open your ears. Come.
An eternal invitation.