Why I wrote Fire out of the Stone ?

Cet article a été écrit par Dane Rudhyar pour le magazine Minutescope de novembre/décembre 1963. Je l’ai trouvé par hasard dans un livre d’occasion venu des Etats-Unis. Cet article donne de précieuses informations pour comprendre le rôle des images religieuses pour l’être humain.

Fire out of the StoneFire out of the stone a été écrit en 1959 par Rudhyar, l’exemplaire ci-contre date de 1963, publié aux éditions Servire.

Traduit en français en 1960, cet ouvrage est paru sous le titre Le roc enflammé aux éditions A la Baconnière. Le sous-titre est évocateur : Le renouvellement des grandes images de la tradition chrétienne.

Henri Miller signe la jacquette : « Rudhyar a le don tout spécial de nous présenter une image mentale de la totalité de son sujet. Il éveille sans cesse en nous le sens des rapports entre toutes les choses et l’intuition de leur signification spirituelle la plus profonde ».

Le roc enflammé« Ce livre présente un christianisme d’essence dynamique et de puissance créatrice et transformatrice, un christianisme capable d’exciter l’imagination des hommes de nos jours et de donner à des mentalités éduquées dans nos institutions saturées d’esprit scientifique et imbues d’une croyance à la perfection de notre civilisation, une vision cosmique et spirituelle qui n’enlève rien à la grandeur de l’homme, mais bien au contraire le dépasse en la transfigurant. Ici, le Christ est bien plus le Transfiguré que le Crucifié ; c’est le Christ qui, plus que par sa mort, sauve les hommes par sa vie. Et cette image du Christ prend son sens le plus complet alors que nous découvrons la signification symbolique de l’Ancien Testament, alors que les concepts familiers de la Paternité divine, de la Création, du Péché s’illuminent d’une clarté nouvelle. »

Why I wrote Fire out of the stone

« Quite a few of my friends who through the years, have read my writings not only on astrology, but on a variety of subjects covered by such vague and confusing terms as -esotericism- or « occultism », or « Oriental philosophy », have been somewhat puzzled by this book of mine which seems so basically Christian in character and spirit. In America especially – much less so in Europe – people who have found that the Churches, of whatever denomination it be, no longer filled their mental, spiritual and psychological need have, in probably the majority of the cases, sought to discover what our Christian-European tradition seemed unable to give them in some aspect of Oriental philosophy or metaphysics. This is natural because of the attraction which the familiar and the common (in terms of our immediate environment) have seemed empty of deep significance and unable to satisfy a psyche eager for expansion and for unfamiliar, thus at least temporarily « fascinating », horizons.

The American mind, because it is not powerfully conditioned by history and the ever-present structuring power of a tradition, tends to expand in surface.

The American mind, because it is not powerfully conditioned by history and the ever-present structuring power of a tradition whose physical monuments and achievements the youth is not allowed to forget for a moment, this American mind tends to expand in surface. Just because it is oriented toward the future and remembers the ideal of a « New » World, it seeks to break away from the immediate parental and even ancestral past which conditioned its development in childhood. If it seeks some roots, or human background, to provide him with some support or frame of reference, it will search far from home; it will indeed tend to act like the palm tree (and, I believe, the sequoia) whose roots cover an immense underground surface, but have no tap root.

The typical European instinctively tries, when unsatisfied by the surface of his existence, to reach to ever deeper depths.

The typical European, on the other hand, instinctively tries, when unsatisfied by the surface of his existence, to reach to ever deeper depths – to grow a longer, more penetrating tap root. He senses instinctively that even if the surface-expressions of his tradition have become dry and empty of vital fluid, he will discover the « living waters » deep below the surface-forms of his culture and those essential and primordial values which have been mostly forgotten during the centuries, yet which are at the source of all that has conditioned his growth as a person.

Our modern Western world has, however, become so « Americanized » that the distinction above-mentioned has lost much of its importance ; nevertheless it does exist, and returning after more than 30 years to the France where I was born, it became evident to me ; and it explains much of the semi-conscious (and often misinterpreted) antagonism of the European to the American, an antagonism mixed with envy and admiration. What struck me, in Paris especially but also in Holland, Switzerland, Germany and England where I gave many lectures, was the fact that the type of individual who in the United States would have turned to the Vedanta, or Theosophy, or Zen, in the great majority of cases were unwilling to leave the Catholic Church of their childhood, even if they scorned its outer doctrines, and were in every way « modernists ». It is for this reason that a deep movement of liberalization is going on for years in the Church emphasizing a very beautiful – yet limited – type of humanism and personalism.

This movement does not go far enough, for it retains, in my opinion, the main errors at the very basis of the Christian Tradition. It still worships Paul and the doctrine of the Original Sin and of the Atonement, rather than Jesus and the universality of His Love. But, even in this, change is coming, and compared to the Fundamentalist Churches of Protestant America the new Catholicism is far freer and more beautiful, but it retains intact the framework of its dogmas and its institutions. Why ? Because this framework constitutes what to so many Europeans is a guiding structure which allows the mind and the feelings to go deeper. And to go deeper is far more valuable to, them than to, extend in surface. An oil well drill can only perform its work if held by a metal tube ; and the European feels the need of being « held » while he seeks to go at the core of truth and reality.

They follow the easy path of surface-expansion and end in a state of utter confusion, their brains crammed with words and formulas, their hearts empty of the existential reality of any true, vital experience.

The reason why one often finds among Americans, who have become fascinated by the Oriental or the occult, people who each year go to a new « Teacher », or become enthused by a new « School » or « Revelation » is that their mind and their search spreads in all directions, because nothing holds them that would enable them to drill patiently through dead rocks below the surface. They follow the easy path of surface-expansion and end in a state of utter confusion, their brains crammed with words and formulas, their hearts empty of the existential reality of any true, vital experience. It is because of this emptiness and this lack of existential experience that so many now look to new chemical drugs for transcendent experiences, which again, I believe, are experiences of surface, not of depth. And the fact that several Englishmen, long residents in America, have taken the lead in popularizing such drugs is in itself quite revealing of what is happening in the British Isles. The modernization and vulgarization of the « theosophy » which H. P. Blavatsky brought to the world from 1875 to 1890 also had a great influence upon the minds attracted by the exotic. It led to peculiar forms of confusion, to the idea that « every Teacher says the same thing » and that therefore one can take from here and there undiscriminatingly in the attempt of developing « my own beliefs ». This individualism usually ends in spiritual sterility, unless the individual started with some very « personal » experience of spiritual depth, and is using it as a test-stone to evaluate the claims of various systems. The European mystic did not and does not seek to discover « his own beliefs », but to tap the central power at the vibrating core of his own personality, to hear the Tone of his individual selfhood. This can be done through the instrumentality and under the guidance of any organized and consistent doctrine which was originally born of the intense experience of its Founder – provided the memory-pattern of the experience and its traditional formulation have not been too perverted by the « disciples ». It is often crucially and tragically perverted ; and I believe this has happened in the case of Jesus which is the reason for my book « Fire Out of the Stone ».

If one wishes to purge, transform, renew and revitalize the old Tradition, so that it may arouse a new enthusiasm in people who have left and scorned its symbols and doctrines, then one cannot be « popular », at least not in a book !

There have been, of course, in the last hundred years, a number of books and schools attempting to bring Christianity back to its original source, to the simple and pure teachings and apparent example of Jesus’ life. But most of these attempts have been vitiated, in my opinion, by a great deal of sentimental devotionalism, or by claims to a very special « Revelation » from some spiritual Being or « Master », or by an eagerness to be within the reach of the average mind. If one belongs to an old Tradition one can find forms of expression, myths and images, which evoke a response in even the most naive consciousness (as Catholicism or Hinduism super-abundantly shows) ; but if one wishes to purge, transform, renew and revitalize the old Tradition, so that it may arouse a new enthusiasm in people who have left and scorned its symbols and doctrines, then one cannot be « popular », at least not in a book !

My book « Fire Out of the Stone » is an attempt to show to people who have strayed away from Christianity and espoused a variety of exotic or glamorous causes – but have been left deceived, empty, or at best confused by a multitude of words, symbols and techniques – that if they really reach to the original source of the Christian Tradition they can find there « living waters. » The problem is : how to go about reaching this source. At first sight it seems very simple ; the Bible is there. But so much has been written, preached and thundered about the Gospel and the stories of the Old Testament that it is very hard for the mind to reach the Bible’s core, even if one reads it afresh. The freshness is gone. The organism has turned to stone. The « fire » at the core of the atoms which constitute « the stone » of the tradition must be released – gently, penetratingly, with a warm and poetic spirit, and above all, with a mind illumined by the persona) experiences of a heart assuaged and deepened by suffering, love, tragedy and the resulting loss of prejudices caused by either belonging, or emotionally refusing to belong, to the tradition.

I could never have written this book at the age of 30. I was intellectually too far away from Christianity, too much against its traditions – even though I had had, not long before, what one might call devotional experiences through months of inner upheaval in which Jesus seemed quite real. In later years I have ceased to be against, or for. For years entering a Catholic church, colloquially speaking, « gave me the creeps. » Every psychic fiber of my being stood up in protest.

But beyond the churches I can find Jesus ; I can read the Bible as a book never read or heard of before. The pros and cons do not matter at all. Now, it does not matter, though I do not enjoy the place : and I have had no « conversion », even a remote one.

But beyond the churches I can find Jesus ; I can read the Bible as a book never read or heard of before. The pros and cons do not matter at all. I can try to feel, to intuit, to experience what it is all about. And I do it with a mind concretized by years of studies in modern psychology, broadened by theosophy, Oriental thought and the cyclic vision of the universe and of human history, and deepened by a long life which brought to me the joys and pains of a multitude of human relationships at all levels.

What is the purpose of « Fire Out of the Stone » ? As the sub-title says – to reinterpret the basic images of the Christian tradition. What does this mean?

A culture and a religion exert power over the mind and feelings of human beings by means of « Images » as well as, and indeed far more than, through concepts. It is the Image of the crucified Son of God which has oriented Christianity up to this day – also the Image of Adam and Eve « sinning » in Eden, of Moses and the Tables of the Law written down on the rock by God’s very hand (or whatever it was !), etc. Such Images-Symbols are imprinted in all children’s minds and remain as subtle or violent determining factors either in the conscious or the unconscious. So does the figure of the meditating Buddha prevade the minds of all Buddhists ; it establishes a fundamental approach to life. Must the Image of the crucified Christ remain the central symbol of Christianity ? I say that it need not ; that it has meaning only in terms of the transfiguration on the Mount which is the central episode of Jesus’ life – and symbolically of all human life as it could or might unfold, if lived in the fullness of a human and truly « individualized » existence.

Must the Image of the crucified Christ remain the central symbol of Christianity ? I say that it need not.

Jesus was told that he was to die at the Transfiguration ; this death was simply a measure of the relationship between an illumined, transfigured person and his Society ruled by a rigid, jealous, tribalistic religious priesthood. The Crucifixion seen as an impressively dramatic event took the importance it has had only because of the domination of another Image, the Original Sin, upon men’s mentality. What has counted through the centuries of Christendom is the spiritual atmosphere of terrifying crisis radiating from the great Image of the Crucifixion. This atmosphere has blighted our European and American-Puritan civilization. lt need not be there.

Alas, the Churches have been so committed to it that they can not let go of it, even in modern America where the way of life of the average person provides no responsive ground for such a religious attitude, except through a mixture of blindness and hypocrisy seasoned with child-like sentimentality. Movements like UNITY and NEW THOUGHT have done pioneer work in trying to change the spiritual atmosphere of the people from a psychology of sinfulness and guilt to one of over-abundant optimism ; but a deeper and more truly psychological approach seemed necessary. Modern man needs a more logical re-interpretation of the central concepts and Images of the Bible seen as a whole – including especially the basic idea of « Creation. » The significance of « the Soul » in its threefold evolutionary manifestation – living soul, individual soul and divine (or Christed) soul – has to be clearly stated.

I do not know if my book will ever perform the function which had inspired its writing ; but it may help at least some individuals to see Christianity in a new light, and to fill once more with meaning certain « places » in their field of consciousness which have remained empty since the Christian Images which once occupied these places were destroyed in the heat of iconoclastic college years, if not long before. The destruction of such Images of childhood always leaves indeed a void in the psyche, whether or not the person is aware of this void – indeed he or she most rarely is, until what this person sought to discover in order to replace the old allegiance perhaps collapses also, bringing a still more acute sense of futility or emptiness.

Actually the places held by the Images of childhood are never filled by new and exotic or glamorous Images ; these find room in other realms of the psyche. What however can be done, it seems, is for the mature individual who has remained unsatisfied, unsure and deeply anxious in spire of his adventures in the ever more extensive area of myths, symbols and techniques of other lands and dead or dying civilizations, is to return to the old Images of his childhood and of the society-at-large in which he lives, and through them to reach deeper depths of realization.

Then the individual can go deeper into and through the old Images he once revered and has scorned for years, and he may meet their living sources.

This « piercing through » is possible because the individual has now a mind developed in breadth and height, and a feeling-nature deepened by many experiences of interpersonal and group relationships. Then the individual can go deeper into and through the old Images he once revered and has scorned for years, and he may meet their living sources – perhaps embodied in a Christ-like figure. Then, and only then, he is « free »; which means simply that he no longer finds in him any obstacle to the exteriorization of this essential truth of being, his « fundamental nature. »

Whether, after that, he uses Christian Images, or Buddhist Symbols, or the American-Indian sense of direct relationship with the Great Spirit, or he reaches toward new symbols – such as those provided by the lives of the great Bahai Prophets who may be the source of a new World-Order–that does not matter any longer, to him anyway ! He makes use of what seems needed at the time and in the particular place in which he relates himself with other persons. Essentially he lives an « Imageless » life – and therefore the meaning of all Images can become clear to his consciousness, whenever the need arises for clarification and revivification. »

Dane Rudhyar, 1963.

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