culture, literature

The Abyss and cultural rebirth

“It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life. Where you stumble, there lies your treasure.” Joseph Campbell

“He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.”
Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil (Aphorism 146)

We are surrounded by the ruins of our cultures.

Our cities crumble. All the marbled statuary has been pulled to the ground.

Crowds jeer the few remaining priests, and expel them outside the city walls.

Broken, bitter and barren,  they flee the flames of the burning archive, carrying in plastic sacks the last books of their lives.

The crowds chase the priests to the beach, and set fire to the libraries and homes they escaped from.

Beyond the flames, beyond the borders of the besieged coastal city, surge the dark abyssal waters.

It is there that these lame priests must dive in search of the treasures that may renew us.

Hidden in tangled seaweed, in a cave beneath the swirling whirlpool, so it is said, the last prophet deposited his five books of wisdom.

No-one alive has read these books, although the last priests have caught glimpses, now and then in their meditations, of the Lost Tradition.

The priests paint their faces with ash, and then make their escape by boat from the stones and fire of the angry crowd.

They row towards the whirlpool to recover the Lost Tradition of the Great Prophet.

But the surging waters seize their boats, and into the maw of the ocean died their dreamy days.

All lost. To prayers, to prayers. All lost.

And in the ashen city, surrounded by dross and the shrieks of the panicked crowd, there sat one darkened priest who stayed in the gloom of his basement.

He lights a candle, and begins to write the sixth book of wisdom.


Image source: Christ of the Abyss off San Fruttuoso



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