Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Ars Poetica as Sacred Grammar

I placed a jar in Tennessee,
And round it was, upon a hill.
It made the slovenly wilderness
Surround that hill.

The wilderness rose up to it,
And sprawled around, no longer wild.
The jar was round upon the ground
And tall and of a port in air.

It took dominion everywhere.
The jar was gray and bare.
It did not give of bird or bush,
Like nothing else in Tennessee.

Wallace Stevens, "Anecdote of a Jar" from Collected Poems.

Because mankind (or a potter's clay jar) arrives in the world on a "preject", and is "trajected" by Fate onward, careening his course, he finds himself "in Middle Earth", and "in the middle of things". The old poet Masters would say In Media Res. Eugene Rosenstock-Huessy (from whom I borrowed the terminology "preject/traject") convincingly argues that Locke's "tabula rasa" (blank slate) and Descartes' "Cogito ergo sum" (I think, therefore I am), are inadequate to explain the existential human situation. Human life is centaur-like: half beast, half angel.

3 When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;
4 What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?
5 For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.

Of all the arts, what is left of the liberal arts anyway, poetry and literature have remembered that man's position under the sun is In Media Res : cast (or "prejected") into the "middle of things". The art form of poetic diction and grammar and structure, the rhythms of speech and accent, reflect or mirror this condition, thereby achieving the kind of control and consciousness of which man is uniquely capable, to the extent it is possible for that individual.

The first liberal art, therefore, is not in essence Latin grammar, or "common core" English, or revolutionary theology with radical politics, but a grammar that enables man to actually speak creatively, to glow like the filament of a light bulb when electricity passes through it (Rosenstock-Huessy's metaphor). This is not the natural state of man, but an in between state of Nature and Super Nature.

From the time we are a baby, it is the "voice" which we look for, first, from a story: not style, not narrative, not the yarn, not even characters. 

 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: 28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. (John 10:27-28 King James Version (KJV))

Why is it that we tune in to a certain voice? And why is it, that certain sacred notes or music or speech or writing cuts us to the quick, dividing the soul in half? Voice is the quality we experience when we are plunged "in media res" - in the middle of things. When deprived of "voice", we resist learning that is by rote, ab avo (from the egg), chapter 1/verse 1 through infinity, dry-as-dust Gradgrindism. We call this pedantry and scholiasm, and react against it instinctively, whether encountered on the street, in the Cathedral, at school, or in the marketplace. Instead, humans naturally prefer that which immediately appeals to a certain inner direction in the soul (whether for good or evil). Our addiction to propaganda and advertising is simple a degradation or perversion of our tendency to select intuitively based upon voice. We instinctively or intuitively discern, more or less well, what is "cool", and what is "not cool". All of us are doing a better or a worse job of this, drifting down or rising up. The Middle Ages called this sixth sense estimation (see Avicenna).

The first sacred "art which makes free" (Grammar) is designed to begin the process of "leading out" or education of the sixth sense. Grammar is not diagramming sentences or learning parts of speech: at best, these are the lowest efficient cause of high Grammar, and at worst, the old discarded husks of dead outer bodies of Grammar, the detritus or old clothes of misunderstood earlier ages. 

Grammar is a grasp upon deep intuitive level of spiritual perception, for though it is neither speech nor thought alone (both depending upon the other), it is deeper than both: and it enters into meaning. It is both that which puts the pieces together into meaning, and that which is pointed to by those puzzling clues put back together. It is that without which there are no "pieces" to reconstruct at all, leaving us in a Humpty-Dumpty parody of the deep truth.

“The water in a vessel is sparkling; the water in the sea is dark. The small truth has words which are clear; the great truth has great silence.” (R. Tagore) And, "Sprechen ist silbern, Schweigen ist golden (Speech is silvern, Silence is golden); or as I might rather express it: Speech is of Time, Silence is of Eternity." (T. Carlyle).

Grammar at the sacred level is where paradoxes are resolved in the alchemical union of opposites: speech/thought, time/eternity, sound/silence, meaning/ground of being. It is the fountain of silence where speech and being commune.  How can there be a Grammar of Silence? asks the cynic. Isn't it true that children raised without human speech can never, even when grown, learn to talk? Actually, this is not true, and is an urban myth. But these cynics wish to seek all causes in the smaller material, out of which larger "material" cause(s) supposedly grow.
Thus, "Of Geology and Geognosy we know enough: what with the labors of our Werners and Huttons, what with the ardent genius of their disciples, it has come about that now, to many a Royal Society, the Creation of a World is little more mysterious than the cooking of a dumpling." (Thomas Carlyle)

To these cynics, we reply that it is not our job to make sure that theories "make sense" (to some pre-selected arbitration by a randomly assumed intellectual stance), but rather that they fit the facts of perceptual experience. It is always a matter of what we can unify and perceive out of perceptive experience, at whatever high levels we are capable. The sacred art of Grammar assists in that process, and is not pre-limited by insistence that it cannot venture into the synthetic task of unifying the paradoxical opposites we experience: Man is both animal and angel. Ergo, he can unite the worlds.

Therefore, Grammar tries to articulate this. Man is both profane and sacred: Grammar stammers, confesses, articulates it. By summoning spirits from the vasty deep, it returns us to the beginning, to review what we thought we already knew. We will not bother (for now) to confront Scientism and Reductionism head on, as there is no apology needed for embracing Life. Rather, Grammar appeals to a certain something in man that matches its own divine origin. It brings man "into tune" with the pulsation of an inner life. Let us plunge in - here is William Wordsworth:
"And I have felt         
A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused"
Grammar makes us a glowing filament of lightning or fiery electricity, between the two poles: of the outer World (Gott und die Welt) and the inner Mind. An old African saying was that good language "talks like the rain". And unless that element of life enthuses and suffuses the language that is used, it will not convince us that Life is the giver of that speech. It may be true that rhetoric alone is worthless, as is logic, and as is grammar (since then we would have demagoguery, propaganda, and thought memes). However, without living power, all grammar becomes wordy, dry, and echoing. Listen to a great thinker declare what living speech is like:
“Language is not speech, it is a full circle from word to sound to perception to understanding to feeling, to memorizing, to acting and back to the word about the act thus achieved. And before the listener can become a listener, something has to happen: he or she must expect.”
Grammar has been much abused, because so much undue weight has been loaded onto it, in too narrow a focus, subject to too many misconceptions. Rather than choking on the concept that it (Grammar) has to entail Latin, Greek, Sanskrit, English, Spanish, or any other of a dozen languages we might select out of the pantheon, and forcing our students down a particular linguistic path, we might acknowledge Grammar as the ground of meaning, or the genesis of articulated meaning itself. If we did this, we could see that Grammar is therefore not linguistics, it is not classical Latin, it is not grammar exercises.

At the least, it is not merely that. For example, an enormous aura of mystification has come to surround Latin. By coterminously identifying core, eternal values with the Greco-Latin heritage, the downturn or even modulation or modification of that heritage has been equated with "the death of God" and the "transvaluation of all values" (Nietzsche). Without the zone of creative silence at the fountain of meaning, which zone underlies speech and thought, too much strain enters the Western intellectual architecture. Latin grammar should be "free" to be (merely) the chosen vehicle of expression (upaya) at a particular point in time. This would delimit and unchain Latin from being a hostage on a Neoclassical pedestal, or a Bull's Eye Target in a postmodern shooting gallery.

What can we learn from this? What follows? How should we then live? What does any of it, what could any of it, mean? Any writing, literature, speech, art, invention, or artifice whatsoever that places man into that nexus between speech and thought, and advances him back up the chain of Being, in the direction of the ground of meaning, and even further, to the very source of Being, reveals itself as good Grammar. It bears witness to itself. These "letters" and "numbers" are an initiation into the sacred seven Liberal Arts.

This is the entire point of the book De nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii ("On the Marriage of Philology and Mercury"/De septem disciplinis (On the seven disciplines). Grammar happens when there is Theogony in the intellectual world of a student, when a Weltenschauung is being forged, overthrown, enhanced, if it is for the better. I would add the slogan, No Worldview without Theogony! By which I mean to paraphrase Carlyle's saying, Close thy Byron, open thy Goethe! Worldview without inner expectation, wonder, and discovery is Ideology, Propaganda, or Memes. This cannot happen without spiritual perception, and there is no lawnmower manual that gives us an exact blueprint.

We can see this in literature, the way that the very first sentences of great art works (varied in form and meaning and language) pass the sacred flame from person to person in an undeniably powerful way. This is learning the sacred first art of Grammar from poetry. We commence our initiation into sacred Grammar by diving into some of these sentences, and invoking the power of the entire art force behind them.

As an exercise, see if you can sense how these lines evoke or invoke, summoning a world that is both inner and outer, which corresponds to something already in you, the reader.

“Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.” Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, JK Rowling
“As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into an enormous insect.” Metamorphoses, F. Kafka 
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen

"Into the face of the young man who sat on the terrace of the Hotel Magnifique at Cannes there had crept a look of furtive shame, the shifty, hangdog look which announces that an Englishman is about to talk French." —The Luck of the Bodkins by PG Wodehouse
"Call me Ishmael. Some years ago - never mind how long precisely - having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world."
Moby Dick by Herman Melville
"The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new."
Murphy by Samuel Beckett
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only."

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
"Milton! thou shouldst be living at this hour:
England hath need of thee: she is a fen
Of stagnant waters..."
London 1802, Wordsworth
WARS worse than civil on Emathian 1 plains,
And crime let loose we sing: how Rome's high race
Plunged in her vitals her victorious sword;
Armies akin embattled, with the force
Of all the shaken earth bent on the fray;
And burst asunder, to the common guilt,
A kingdom's compact; eagle with eagle met,
Standard to standard, spear opposed to spear.
Pharsalia, Lucan
 “Arms and the man I sing of Troy, who first from its seashores,
Italy-bound, fate’s refugee, arrived at Lavinia’s
Coastlands. How he was battered about over land, over high deep
Seas by the powers above! Savage Juno’s anger remembered
Him, and he suffered profoundly in war to establish a city,
Settle his gods into Latium, making this land of the Latins
Future home to the Elders of Alba and Rome’s mighty ramparts.
Muse, let the memories spill through me. What divine will was wounded,
What deep hurt made the queen of the gods thrust a famously righteous
Man into so many spirals of chance to face so many labours?
Anger so great: can it really reside in the spirits of heaven?”
Aeneid I.1-11

The alternative to studying fake Grammar is learning how to learn real Grammar. Initially, this involves exposure to powerful and noble texts (for the modern world it is enough for it to be powerful). And in this, poetry is a better initial guide (for the recovering, the addicted, or the perplexed) than the textbook manuals.

If you've come this far, I hope you have a more intense and heightened feel for how powerful first lines reveal their voice, plunging us In Media Res, thereby generating the suspension of disbelief and drawing us into the creative and cooperative process of world-creation in the art object. Once we recognize the kind of "feel" that this spiritual process has, both in the inner and the outer worlds (and there is no denying that one often has to Ask, Seek, Knock in order to begin to get good at recognizing it), we can speed this process up. We can begin to actually wrestle with and see certain contours of experience in more stark relief, or at least, outline.
"What?" yowps the modern Yahoo. "High brow culture is passé, at best! Hey, hey, ho, ho, Western culture's got to go!" Or, "when I hear the word culture, I reach for my Browning (gun)". But why let slobs and louts make the enemy's case? In Les Damnés de la Terre 1961 (Frantz Fanon) refers to "the Graeco-Latin pedestal". Fanon argued that all of Western culture was simply a mind trick that "implanted in the minds of the colonized intellectual that the essential qualities remain eternal in spite of the blunders men may make: the essential qualities of the West, of course”. This cynical strategy implied that behind Western culture lay...truly nothing at all.

And, oh yeah, doesn't a lot of Western literature inveigh against Western literature?

Again we supply these insectoid-souled critics with a more persuasive grammar than they can appreciate, which is more than they deserve:
Up! up! my Friend, and quit your books;

Or surely you'll grow double:
Up! up! my Friend, and clear your looks;
Why all this toil and trouble?
The sun above the mountain's head,
A freshening lustre mellow
Through all the long green fields has spread,
His first sweet evening yellow.
Books! 'tis a dull and endless strife:
Come, hear the woodland linnet,
How sweet his music! on my life,
There's more of wisdom in it.
And hark! how blithe the throstle sings!
He, too, is no mean preacher:
Come forth into the light of things,
Let Nature be your teacher.
She has a world of ready wealth,
Our minds and hearts to bless—
Spontaneous wisdom breathed by health,
Truth breathed by cheerfulness.
One impulse from a vernal wood
May teach you more of man,
Of moral evil and of good,
Than all the sages can.
Sweet is the lore which Nature brings;
Our meddling intellect
Mis-shapes the beauteous forms of things:—
We murder to dissect.
Enough of Science and of Art;
Close up those barren leaves;
Come forth, and bring with you a heart
That watches and receives. (The Tables Turned, By William Wordsworth)

Wordsworth was no Frantz Fanon. He forsook the cause of the 1789 Revolution when he saw its fruit in the Purges and the Terror, while Fanon embraced by any means necessary. Wordsworth did not think it right to "murder to dissect", opening up the bodies and veins of The Other. He wanted (instead) his readers to open the great Book of Nature. The aptly named Wordsworth wrote reams of poetry about this Book of Nature, and published them in collections of books. This creative tension is juxtaposed with tension from other canonical writers, whose beautiful handling of language compels attention. Here is Emily Dickinson:
There is no Frigate like a Book To take us Lands away,
Nor any Coursers like a Page Of prancing Poetry –
This Traverse may the poorest take Without oppress of Toll –
How frugal is the Chariot That bears a Human soul.
Or Dylan Thomas-
Notes on the Art of Poetry

I could never have dreamt that there were such goings-on in the world between the covers of books, such sandstorms and ice blasts of words,,, such staggering peace, such enormous laughter, such and so many blinding bright lights,, , splashing all over the pages in a million bits and pieces all of which were words, words, words, and each of which were alive forever in its own delight and glory and oddity and light.
          Where My Books Go
All the words that I utter, And all the words that I write, Must spread out their wings untiring, And never rest in their flight, Till they come where your sad, sad heart is, And sing to you in the night, Beyond where the waters are moving, Storm-darken’d or starry bright.

Or John Keats-
On First Looking into Chapman's Homer
Much have I travell'd in the realms of gold,
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
Round many western islands have I been
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
That deep-brow'd Homer ruled as his demesne;
Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
He star'd at the Pacific—and all his men
Look'd at each other with a wild surmise—
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

As one can see, paying close attention to any of these texts, especially together, raises questions, questions, questions. And questions are more fundamental than answers. You have to learn to ask the right questions. Don't you? And who can tell you what these are? I think that the answer is no one, and anyone. Anyone who knows. No one who does not. The sacred liberal art of Grammar aimed to teach the lisping aspirant by provoking the layer of deeper meaning within him; this is why Socrates calls himself "only a midwife". Education is ex (out of) + ducare (to lead). It is a leading out of one's self. When deeper layers of meaning come into conflict, there is interior discomfort and movement. The soul is midwifed, or birthed, out of the student. They learn how to learn, and we aren't just talking about diagrams and paradigms, memes or worldviews.

This process can be begun by wrestling with the texts, like Jacob wrestled with his angel. On the one hand, you have Wordsworth ironically, within the leaves and pages of his collected poetry, telling you to shut the book and go back out of doors. It's not downtown where things are happening, but in the vales and the glades. He also states that they send out "impulses" when they are in their summer verdure. Is this right? Have you ever felt an impulse from a wood?

And yet, on the other hand, there are several very powerful pieces of poetry which celebrate the Book. Jonathan Swift even wrote philosophical satires, The Battle of the Books, in which he defended the supremacy of ancient learning, its right to at least parity with what is novel and "modern". One also, of course, thinks about all the nameless monks who scribbled their lives away, in the process, saving ancient learning during the Dark Ages. John Keats lyrically exclaimed "never did I breath its pure serene" (Homer's spirit) "I heard Chapman speak out, loud and bold". That's getting pretty specific about who should translate The Odyssey! The reading of this work opened an obvious doorway of the soul for him, perhaps one of those mansions of the soul he talked about. Is it the same kind of doorway that Wordsworth promises to you when you spend an afternoon nestled in the heart of an old hundred acre wood, or gazing at the daffodils?
For oft, when on my couch I lie

In vacant or in pensive mood,

They flash upon that inward eye

Which is the bliss of solitude;

And then my heart with pleasure fills,

And dances with the daffodils.
Are these men just coming to the same place, by different avenues, based on the predilections and temperament of their souls, just as various routes lead back to the center of a circle? These are not easy questions to answer, when approached dialectically and with "the critical faculty" only, seeking answers as one might seek dictionary definitions or configuration schematics from a manual. Many people seem to think that if you can't recreate it all in a test tube, or turn yourself into one, "it's all in your mind". Others want their answers handed to them like de-encrypted cheat computer codes. One might be disposed to wonder if different people, at different times and places, need different influences to awaken their inner layers of meaning. Keeping that in mind, we proceed to ask the question, or two questions: Is Nature "like a Book"? and "Do books contain their own nature or world?"

If the answers to both of these are yes, we are looking at a phenomenon that is a continuum. Gott und die Welt (or the Book and Nature) as the outer pole, and innerlichkeit or inwardness, as the other pole. Nature and the book, like God and the World, form a biological and geological deposit of the strata of human consciousness, among other things. They can either one be the other. And they both reflect the place
Beyond where the waters are moving,
Storm-darken’d or starry bright.

The shards of creation are there:
And each of which  were alive forever
in its own delight and glory and oddity and light.

And the "frugal chariot" which bears the human soul is frugal, and spare, and fits within a book, because the soul bears itself, with a minimum of trappings. It both bares, and bears, itself through the generation and exploration of meaning, which simultaneously occurs both inside and outside. The synchronicity of their union gives witness and stamp of the living Truth. In this journey, one cannot say either "God alone is great" or "Only God knows", nor can one confess "God is dead", or "Man is the measure of all things". Living truth requires an additive process of synthesizing, or building up. When we walk around inside this artful and divine maze, created by the human spirit, it may seem that various rooms are at war with each other.

But this is what we would expect if we are plunged In Media Res. If the soul is "terribly surprised" (Emily Dickinson) it can feel its "terrible life". Depending on the flux of that life, different means and methods and ways lead back to the circle. This used to be widely known in the Western cultural project, since the entire Western liberal arts, as they evolved out of the humane and spiritual experience of the West, actively confessed that the arts were both liberal and conservational, scientific and artistic, secular and spiritual. They were unashamedly In Media Res - plunging into the living stream of the arts that make free, aware of the surface contradictions, overcoming this with spiritual courage.

This is how and why we can have Kafka so beautifully say that "books are the axe for the frozen sea within us", and yet place him in the same tradition that insists (pace Kafka) that

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

Or even more directly, bluntly as a meat axe -

Don’t read books!
Don’t chant poems!
When you read books your eyeballs wither away
leaving the bare sockets.
When you chant poems your heart leaks out slowly
with each word.
People say reading books is enjoyable.
People say chanting poems is fun.
But if your lips constantly make a sound
like an insect chirping in autumn,
you will only turn into a haggard old man.
And even if you don’t turn into a haggard old man,
it’s annoying for others to have to hear you.
It’s so much better
to close your eyes, sit in your study,
lower the curtains, sweep the floor,
burn incense.
It’s beautiful to listen to the wind,
listen to the rain,
take a walk when you feel energetic,
and when you’re tired go to sleep.
(Yang Wan-Li)

Now the above is a Chinese poet, not part of the Western Tradition. Yet even "The Book of Books" says that "And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh" (Ecclesiastes 12:12). Isn't this what Yang Wan-Li is saying?

Our liberal arts need a return to this kind of beautiful, tensed synthesis, the reconciling of opposites which does not sacrifice (in the Hegelian dialectic mode) the force of either the thesis or the antithesis. This is not Hegelian synthesis; it is the alchemical marriage and union of the full force and range of the aspects of living truth. In Hegelian synthesis, one interprets the vector of the proposed synthesis, usually the thrusting force of the antithesis. In fact, to go further, we are not even sure Hegel himself has been accurately represented by his modern pseudo-affirmers. Regardless, there is a vast abyss of difference between historical dialectical materialism (and all of its kin), and the method which poetry charts out for knowing. Poetry attempts to preserve the entire range, height, depth, and width of the aspects of Truth, in all of its nuances, in its most basic, frightening, wonderful outlines. It is the "first sketch" of what we are excitedly trying to convey that we "saw". For that reason, it is a good paradigm, and method, for re-teaching the sacred seven liberal arts. Poetry reminds us that Grammar is fundamental, and that Grammar is holy. Also, that Grammar is not primarily or even mostly diagrams of past participles, perhaps not even at all.

Returning to a grammar of Grammar, or primordial Poetry, man can nourish the roots he has to depend upon to confront existence, which unfolds along the entire range and aspects of a Truth that is "terribly alive". We are examining method here, not dogmatic content. It is very true to say that poetry is a poor ersatz for religion, yet we remember (for instance) that it was the reading of Wordsworth which saved JS Mill from a deep and incurable depression.

It is the way that someone handles words, or their "voice", which can convince us of the veracity and usefulness of his or her spiritual insight. The modern liberal arts themselves are in a deep and incurable depression. They are, in fact, in terminal decline, and require the re-application of sacred and real "arts which make free" in order to restore their health and vigor. Certainly, super-charging Grammar with the desire that it deliver facts, facts, facts will only further force us into bad and unconscious Grammar, by convincing us that real Grammar is superfluous dilettantism and word snobbery. The liberal arts should not share the same methodologies as the natural sciences, for the very good reason that they are handling aspects of the soul.

Eugene Rosenstock-Huessy suggests that we look to language. Speech is the basic social reality. Grammar, in turn, is the science which describes and analyzes the structures of language. Hence grammar is the foundation for developing a methodology for the social sciences. It must be added at once that it is not conventional grammar that the author has in mind. The grammar we learn in school and which enables us to reel off conjugations and the like is a grammar which has killed the drama and dignity of living speech. Rosenstock-Huessy has in mind a renewed grammar, a “higher grammar,” as he sometimes calls it, which will attend to the nuances of tense and mood, and will see in these the structures of the social reality…. (This book) could make very helpful contributions toward working out a more human approach to the study of the human phenomenon.”Link
Even those who favor a very precise, dictionary definition (in this case Thomistic) of Grammar are clearly insistent on this very point:
So any consideration of particular languages ordered merely to obtaining the habits of speaking, reading, or writing that language without attention to the principles by which it is an instrument of the intellect shares little or not at all in the liberal character of this art.
Taking our cue from poetry obviously surcharged with a great and living Grammar, we instead begin In Media Res, and we can suspend our disbelief (Truth is stranger than fiction): we embrace the dimensions of the universe when we open ourselves to the possibility of the full range of Truth, rather than the rather narrow corners and walls which buffer us both from what is "out there" and what is "in there". This re-orientation to the sacred seven Liberal Arts (or "Arts which make free") cannot be attained by embracing the reigning methodologies of the Twentieth Century. A retreat into boutique cultural Liberalism, or historicist "critical thinking", reductive historical materialism, or scientific reductionism: all of these methodologies have been tried, and all of them rely heavily upon framing real knowledge in terms of "fact" versus "value". All of them share the feeling that deep down, behind Western culture, is...nothing. They do not accept the sacral nature of "Grammar".

This primer is an antidote. In it, we restore the Liberal Arts by the power of the Liberal Arts, and she will take the medicine from her own hand, the first of which is Grammar. By attention to word (and deed), by wonder, by awareness and perception, by the careful and honest refusal to truncate any the fullness of man on a Procrustean bed (even if it is a scientific one), and by the innate capacity which spiritually alert mortals have shown in locating honest guides, one can find a "higher Grammar" which is actually True, Beautiful, Good, and More. For the first art, this involves attention to the forms, nuances, subtleties of speech and language, particularly in the heightened tension of poetry.

Like Aeneas, looking upon the Carthaginian carvings, we can say "sunt lacrimae rerum et mentem mortalia tangent": There are tears for things, and mortal things touch the mind. Immortal things, too. Or maybe the Mind already touches us, and we it? Whether we get it from a book, or out in the openness under the blue of heaven, so long as we get it, we will learn new songs, new grammar of something which is not New, but only new to us, lost as we often are, in the dark wood. We, I...will learn to talk like the rain.