- Isaiah 66:24
I finally received Matt Cardin's new book, Dark Awakenings, today and have to say I love the cover artwork by Jason Van Hollonder. I did a google on him and found his unique art site: The Art of Darkness which helped me understand just why Matt Cardin's work displayed such a macabre religious sense and orthographic awareness. Jason was inspired by the unique combination of the great Flemish Renaissance painter, Pieter Bruegel, and the pulp horror anthologies of the sixties with their lurid art and exquisite horror tales. Such works as Bruegels, Triumph of Death, with its grotesquery of detail and dark religious portent will know where Hollander gained inspiration.
The cover for Cardin's work is byzantine in its ornate iconography with angelic presences underlying the revanant corpse of an ancient prince awakening from the dark voids of his undying prison. One thinks that this might have been the inside of Leonardo DaVinci's famous Mountain Top Mausoleum sketched but never finished. Below the rising skeleton one sees the Greek alphabetical characters which might be a last name appellation used to either bind or awaken this dead creature. But this is only a cover after all, a window onto a dark mind bidding us enter its pages and explore the depths of its exquisite horrors.
Opening the pages we are presented with a short "Apologia Pro Libro Suo", or defense of his book, which includes ten pithy quotes from authors, great and small - H.P. Lovecraft, Rudolf Otto, Edgar A. Poe, Carl Jung, Mary Shelley, Robert Frost, and William James. The selection shows a certain lineage based on religious, philosophical, psychological, and poetic affiliation. Each one affirming a stance in regard to the tradition of horror as it has played out over time within our culture.
The first quote is from H.P. Lovecraft and opens up the deep seated affiliation of horror and religious mania that has ruled human kind for millenia. The eeire power of that tradition is rooted deep within our own unconcious minds; the patterns of a morbid archetypal world, a beastiary of imagination and nightmares that awakens us to the force of the numinous mystery of existence that would deign to slay us all.
The second quote is from Rudolf Otto and shows forth the two qualities of "the daunting and the fascinating", and their apparent allure and force in casting a daemonic circle of dread over the entire field of religious experience. This power of the daemonic object to enthrall us, fascinate us, and at the same time instill a daunting dread that invokes within us the religious impulse to worship and thereby incorporate the numinous object and make it a part of our own being is a part of that ancient "Mysterium tremendum et fascinans" ("fearful and fascination mystery") of which Aldous Huxley says this:
"The literature of religious experience abounds in references to the pains and terrors overwhelming those who have come, too suddenly, face to face with some manifestation of the mysterium tremendum. In theological language, this fear is due to the in-compatibility between man's egotism and the divine purity, between man's self-aggravated separateness and the infinity of God."
The third quote is from Edgar A. Poe which displays all the hallmarks of that Imp of the Perverse of which he says,
"We stand upon the brink of a precipice. We peer into the abyss - we grow sick and dizzy. Our first impulse is to shrink from the danger. Unaccountably we remain. By slow degrees our sickness, and dizziness, and horror, become merged in a cloud of unnameable feeling. By gradations, still more imperceptible, this cloud assumes shape. . . . It is merely the idea of what would be our sensations during the sweeping precipitancy of a fall from such a height. . . . And because our reason violently deters us from the brink, therefore, do we the more impetuously approach it. . . . Examine these and similar actions as we will, we shall find them resulting solely from the spirit of the Perverse. "(829)
The fourth quote is from Carl Jung and deals with the inner "daimon" that guides us for good or ill in life. Plato [427-347 B.C.E.] asserts that "[a]s regards the supreme form of soul in us, we must conceive that the god has conferred it upon each...as a guiding genius [daimon] - that which...lifts us from earth toward our celestial affinity, like a plant whose roots are not in the earth, but in the heavens". The concept of daimon as one's personal companion and guide emerged along these lines in the fifth century. Perhaps the best known case in point is Socrates, who credited his daimon as the source of his philosophical inspiration.
The fifth quote is from Mary Shelley, sister of the poet, who affirms the dark power of the daimonic working in the depths of our unconscious, shaping us through our own ignorance to destinies we have neither chosen nor willed.
The sixth quote is from the poet Robert Frost who expounds on the power of knowledge in art and scholarship, and the crucial wildness that awakens within the artistic impulse and brings a knowledge in fits and snatches from the dark foreworlds of our ancestral inheritance and awakens it to the light of a new art and awareness based on individual experience.
The seventh set of quotes is from William James who meditates on the bloody horror of our lives in this universe of organic necessity. James sees the dark awakening of an ancient sea of teeth, beasts of the ocean, forests, jungles, and deserts all in a Darwinian struggle for existence without end... leading to a religious melancholia and black pessimism wherein there is "no religious reconciliation with the absolute totality of things..."
Then the eighth quote is from Thomas Ligotti, horror writer and philosophical propounder of the nihilistic light, who offers no consolation other than that of our own intense panic stricken lives in tune to the dark imaginings of other humans who have through their painful art given us a way to cope with our own individuated miseries.
The ninth quote is from Eckhart Tolle for whom the greatest loss is the loss of our own deep sense of self, and the name for this loss is: fear.
The tenth, and last quote, is from H.P. Lovecraft who tells us that yes... it is fear, the old beast of our darkest awakenings who lives within us, our daimon guiding us, challenging us, prodding us ownward on that great journey of self discovery and abjection.
It seems that Matt Cardin is digging into the oldest impulses within the human being, the dark daimonic powers that reside within the depths of our collective nightmares, the rejected thoughts that uncannily come back to haunt us in those far dreams of despair we nightly travel. Those ruins of ancient cities, tumbled worlds, galactic horrors that live in the voids between our thoughts... shall we follow this psychopomp into the dark labyrinth where the only beast that lives is the horned god of our own desperate imaginings; and, maybe that god is the void, the emptiness, the nullity that is...
I will continue my meditations on Matt Cardin's work... day by day... more to come....
1 Aldous Huxley, The Doors of Perception