Apocalypse
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Apocalypse

And the Writings on Revelation

D. H. Lawrence

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Apocalypse

And the Writings on Revelation

D. H. Lawrence

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About This Book

This collection of writings by the author of Sons and Lovers presents his thoughts on religion, art, psychology and politics in a newly restored text. Though D. H. Lawrence was one of the great writers of the twentieth century, his works were severely corrupted by the stringent house-styling of printers and the intrusive editing of timid publishers. A team of scholars at Cambridge University Press has worked for more than thirty years to restore the definitive texts of D. H. Lawrence in TheCambridge Editions. Written while he was dying, Apocalypse is Lawrence's final book. In it, he presents both a radical criticism of our civilization and a statement of unwavering belief in man's power to create "a new heaven and a new earth." This volume also includes Lawrence's review of Book of Revelation by John Orman, and his Introduction to The Dragon of the Apocalypse by Frederick Carter. The Appendixes also present previously unpublished material on Revelation.

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Information

Publisher
RosettaBooks
Year
2019
ISBN
9780795351426
Note on the text
No manuscript or typescript of this review survives. The base-text is therefore the review as it was published in the Adelphi magazine for April 1924. There is no textual apparatus.
A REVIEW OF
THE BOOK OF REVELATION
BY DR. JOHN OMAN
The Apocalypse* is a strange and mysterious book. One therefore welcomes any serious work upon it. Now Dr. John Oman (The Book of Revelation, Cambridge University Press, 7s. 6d. net) has undertaken the arrangement of the sections into an intelligible order. The clue to the order lies in the idea that the theme is the conflict between true and false religion, false religion being established upon the Beast of world empire. Behind the great outward happenings of the world lie the greater, but more mysterious happenings of the divine ordination. The Apocalypse unfolds in symbols the dual event of the crashing-down of world-empire and world-civilization, and the triumph of men in the way of God.
Dr. Oman's rearrangement and his exposition give one a good deal of satisfaction. The main drift we can surely accept. John's passionate and mystic hatred of the civilization of his day, a hatred so intense only because he knew that the living realities of men's being were displaced by it, is something to which the soul answers now again. His fierce, new usage of the symbols of the four Prophets of the Old Testament* gives one a feeling of relief, of release into passionate actuality, after the tight pettiness of modern intellect.
Yet we cannot agree that Dr. Oman's explanation of the Apocalypse is exhaustive. No explanation of symbols is final. Symbols are not intellectual quantities, they are not to be exhausted by the intellect.
And an Apocalypse has, must have, is intended to have various levels or layers or strata of meaning. The fall of World Rule and World Empire before the Word of God is certainly one stratum. And perhaps it would be easier to leave it at that. Only it is not satisfying.
Why should Doctor Oman oppose the view that, besides the drama of the fall of World Rule and the triumph of the Word, there is another drama, or rather several other concurrent dramas? We gladly accept Dr. Oman's interpretation of the two Women and the Beasts. But why should he appear so unwilling to accept any astrological reference? Why should not the symbols have an astrological meaning, and the drama be also a drama of cosmic man, in terms of the stars?
As a matter of fact, old symbols have many meanings, and we only define one meaning in order to leave another undefined. So with the meaning of the Book of Revelation. Hence the inexhaustibility of its attraction.
— L. H. Davidson.*
INTRODUCTION TO
THE DRAGON OF THE APOCALYPSE
BY FREDERICK CARTER
Note on the text
The base-text for this 'Introduction' is the manuscript – 'about 5,000 words' – that DHL sent around 6 January 1930 to his agent Curtis Brown, by whom it was later typed and placed for publication with The London Mercury. It was published in the July 1930 issue. The typescripts, however, were never corrected by DHL, so that the final stage in the production of the 'Introduction' which had the author's sanction was the manuscript, now at the University of California.
The textual apparatus records the textual variants between the MS base-text and the 'Introduction' as it was printed in The London Mercury. Two editorial changes have been made: foreign words and book titles are italicised in accordance with DHL's usual practice in this MS, and the title of the Book of Revelation appears in roman type throughout.
INTRODUCTION TO
THE DRAGON OF THE APOCALYPSE
BY FREDERICK CARTER
It is some years now since Frederick Carter first sent me the manuscript of his Dragon of the Apocalypse.* I remember it arrived when I was staying in Mexico, in Chapala. The village post-master sent for me to the post-office: Will the honourable Señor please come to the post-office. I went, on a blazing April morning, there in the northern tropics. The post-master, a dark, fat Mexican with moustaches, was most polite: but also rather mysterious. There was a packet—did I know there was a packet? No, I didn't. Well, after a great deal of suspicious courtesy, the packet was produced; the rather battered typescript of the Dragon, together with some of Carter's line-engravings, mainly astrological, which went with it. The post-master handled them cautiously. What was it? What was it? It was a book, I said, the manuscript of a book, in English. Ah, but what sort of a book? What was the book about? I tried to explain, in my hesitating Spanish, what the Dragon was about, with its line-drawings. I didn't get far. The post-master looked darker and darker, more uneasy. At last he suggested, was it magic? I held my breath. It seemed like the Inquisition again. Then I tried to accommodate him. No, I said, it was not magic, but the history of magic. It was the history of what magicians had thought, in the past, and these were the designs they had used.—Ah! The postman was relieved. The history of magic! A scholastic work! And these were the designs they had used!—He fingered them gingerly, but fascinated.
And I walked home at last, under the blazing sun, with the bulky package under my arm. And then, in the cool of the patio, I read the beginning of the first Dragon.
The book was not then what it is now. Then, it was nearly all astrology, and very little argument. It was confused: it was, in a sense, a chaos. And it hadn't very much to do with St. John's Revelation. But that didn't matter to me. I was very often smothered in words. And then would come a page, or a chapter, that would release my imagination and give me a whole great sky to move in. For the first time I strode forth into the grand fields of the sky. And it was a real experience, for which I have been always grateful. And always the sensation comes back to me, of the dark shade on the veranda in Mexico, and the sudden release into the great sky of the old world, the sky of the zodiac.
I have read books of astronomy which made me dizzy with the sense of illimitable space. But the heart melts and dies, it is the disembodied mind alone which follows on through this horrible hollow void of space, where lonely stars hang in awful isolation. And this is not a release. It is a strange thing, but when science extends space ad infinitum, and we get the terrible sense of limitlessness, we have at the same time a secret sense of imprisonment. Three-dimensional space is homogeneous, and no matter how big it is, it is a kind of prison. No matter how vast the range of space, there is no release.
Why then, this sense of release, of marvellous release, in reading the Dragon? I don't know. But anyhow, the whole imagination is released, not a part only. In astronomical space, one can only move, one cannot be. In the astrological heavens, that is to say, the ancient zodiacal heavens, the whole man is set free, once the imagination crosses the border. The whole man, bodily and spiritual, walks in the magnificent fields of the stars, and the stars have names, and the feet tread splendidly upon—we know not what, but the heavens, instead of untreadable space.
It is an experience. To enter the astronomical sky of space is a great sensational experience. To enter the astrological sky of the zodiac and the living, roving planets is another experience, another kind of experience; it is truly imaginative, and to me, more valuable. It is not a mere extension of what we know: an extension that becomes awful, then appalling. It is the entry into another world, another kind of world, measured by another dimension. And we find some prisoned self in us coming forth to live in this world.
Now it is ridiculous for us to deny any experience. I well remember my first real experience of space, reading a book of modern astronomy. It was rather awful, and since then I rather hate the mere suggestion of illimitable space.
But I also remember very vividly my first experience of the astrological heavens, reading Frederick Carter's Dragon: the sense of being the macrocosm,* the great sky with its meaningful stars and its profoundly meaningful motions, its wonderful bodily vastness, not empty, but all alive and doing. And I value this experience more. For the sense of astronomical space merely paralyses me. But the sense of the living astrological heavens gives me an extension of my being, I become big and glittering and vast with a sumptuous vastness. I am the macrocosm, and it is wonderful. And since I am not afraid to feel my own nothingness in front of the vast void of astronomical space, neither am I afraid to feel my own splendidness in the zodiacal heavens.
The Dragon as it exists now is no longer the Dragon which I read in Mexico. It has been made more—more argumentative, shall we say. Give me the old manuscript and let me write an introduction to that! I urge. But: No, says Carter. It isn't sound.
Sound what? He means his old astrological theory of the Apocalypse was not sound, as it was exposed in the old manuscript. But who cares? We do not care, vitally, about theories of the Apocalypse: what the Apocalypse means. What we care about is the release of the imagination. A real release of the imagination renews our strength and our vitality, makes us feel stronger and happier. Scholastic works don't release the imagination: at the best, they satisfy the intellect, and leave the body an unleavened lump. But when I get the release into the zodiacal cosmos my very feet feel lighter and stronger, my very knees are glad.
What does the Apocalypse matter, unless in so far as it gives us imaginative release into another vital world? After all, what meaning has the Apocalypse? For the ordinary reader, not much. For the ordinary student and biblical student, it means a prophetic vision of the martyrdom of the Christian Church, the Second Advent, the destruction of worldly power, particularly the power of the great Roman Empire, and then the institution of the Millennium,* the rule of the risen Martyrs of Christendom for the space of one thousand years: after which, the end of everything, the Last Judgment, and souls in heaven; all earth, moon and sun being wiped out, all stars and all space. The New Jerusalem,* and Finis!
This is all very fine, but we know it pretty well by now, so it offers no imaginative release to most people. It is the orthodox interpretation of the Apocalypse, and probably it is the true superficial meaning, or the final intentional meaning of the work. But what of it? It is a bore. Of all the stale buns, the New Jerusalem is one of the stalest. At the best, it was only invented for the Aunties of this world.
Yet when we read Revelation, we feel at once there are meanings behind meanings. The visions that we have known since childhood are not so easily exhausted by the orthodox commentators. And the phrases that have haunted us all our life, like: And I saw heaven opened, and behold! A white horse!*—these are not explained quite away by orthodox explanations. When all is explained and expounded and commented upon, still there remains a curious fitful, half-spurious and half-splendid wonder in the work. Sometimes the great figures loom up marvellous. Sometimes there is a strange sense of incomprehensible drama. Sometimes the figures have a life of their own, inexplicable, which cannot be explained away or exhausted.
And gradually we realize that we are in the world of symbol as well as of allegory. Gradually we realize the book has no one meaning. It has meanings. Not meaning within meaning: but rather, meaning against meaning. No doubt the last writer left the Apocalypse as a sort of complete Christian allegory, a Pilgrim's Progress to the Judgment Day and the New Jerusalem: and the orthodox critics can explain the allegory fairly satisfactorily. But the Apocalypse is a compound work. It is no doubt the work of different men, of different generations and even different centuries.
So that we don't have to look for a meaning, as we can look for a meaning in an allegory like Pilgrim's Progress,* or even like Dante.* John of Patmos didn't compose the Apocalypse. The Apocalypse is the work of no one man. The Apocalypse began probably two centuries before Christ, as some small book, perhaps, of Pagan ritual, or some small pagan-Jewish Apocalypse written in symbols. It was written over by other Jewish apocalyptists, and finally came down to John of Patmos. He turned it more or less, rather less than more, into a Christian allegory. And later scribes trimmed up his work.
So the ultimate intentional, Christian meaning of the book is, in a sense, only plastered over. The great images incorporated are like the magnificent Greek pillars plastered into the Christian Church in Sicily: they are not merely allegorical figures: they are symbols, they belong to a bigger age than that of John of Patmos. And as symbols they defy John's superficial allegorical meaning. You can't give a great symbol a "meaning", any more than you can give a cat a "meaning". Symbols are organic units of consciousness with a life of their own, and you can never explain them away, because their value is dynamic, emotional, belonging to the sense-consciousness of the body and soul, and not simply mental. An allegorical image has a meaning. Mr. Facing-both-ways has a meaning. But I defy you to lay your finger on the full meaning of Janus,* who is a symbol.
It is necessary for us to realize very definitely the difference between allegory and symbol. Allegory is narrative description using, as a rule, images to express certain definite qualities. Each image means something, and is a term in the argument and nearly always for a moral or didactic purpose, for under the narrative of an allegory lies a didactic argument, usually moral. Myth likewise is descriptive narrative using images. But myth is never an argument, it never has a didactic nor a moral purpose, you can draw no conclusion from it. Myth is an attempt to narrate a whole human experience, of which the purpose is too deep, going too deep in the blood and soul, for mental explanation or description. We can expound the myth of Kronos* very easily. We can explain it, we can even draw the moral conclusion. But we only look a little silly. The myth of Kronos lives on beyond explanation, for it describes a profound experience of the human body and soul, an experience which is never exhausted and never will be exhausted, for it is being felt and suffered now, and it will be felt and suffered while man remains man. You may explain the myths away: but it only means you go on suffering blindly, stupidly, "in the unconscious" instead of healthily and with the imaginative comprehension playing upon the suffering.
And the images of myth are symbols. They don't "mean something". They stand for units of human feeling, human experience. A complex of emotional experience is a symbol. And the power of the symbol is to arouse the deep emotional self, and the dynamic self, beyond comprehension. Many ages of accumulated experience still throb within a symbol. And we throb in response. It takes centuries to create a really significant symbol: even the symbol of the Cross, or of the horse-shoe, or the horns. No man can invent symbols. He can invent an emblem, made up of images: or metaphors: or images: but not symbols. Some images, in the course of many generations of men, become symbols, embedded in the soul and ready to start alive when touched, carried on in the human consciousness for centuries. And again, when men become unresponsive and half dead, symbols die.
Now the Apocalypse has many splendid old symbols, to make us throb. And symbols suggest schemes of symbols. So the Apocalypse, with its symbols,...

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