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The Journey Thus Far

Munich

      Months passed; a new woman came into my life. She was half-English half-Maltese, considerably younger than me, and strikingly beautiful. Since her father was in the English army, most of her life had been spent moving from one country to another. This, coupled with her artistic talent, made her a fair reflection of my own soul.
      She stood by me, smiling with amusement, when the usual chaos intervened in my life. First, two Swiss artists, acquaintances from Vienna, came to stay with me in the house on triq il-Madonna tal-ghar. They made wonderful company, and the place soon became a pleasant mix of cooking, conversation, alcohol, and art. The floors were soon cluttered with child-like drawings and the walls adorned with their papier mâché sculptures. Then, another artist, a charismatic if not chaotic Maltese whom I'd first met in Vienna, broke with her English boyfriend and moved herself in. This brought her Austrian ex-husband rushing down from Vienna, desiring a long sought-after reconciliation. And since the house we all slept in was, after all, his house, he promptly kicked the lot of us out (except, naturally, her). The Swiss went back to Vienna, and I, homeless, ended up in another series of temporary accomodations, actually sleeping in someone's closet for a month.
      Fortunately, through my Maltese-English girlfriend, I was able to leave Malta and make my passage up to the continent. She found a job in Munich, and I willingly accompanied her on the voyage. After much bureaucracy, including several trips to the German Embassey in Vienna, I too acquired German working papers. We took an apartment together in Alt Schwabing, and for two years, dived in and out of each other's darker depths. After causing each other much pain in between the balancing moments of pleasure, we mutually called it quits.
      Finally, for the first time in my life, I felt happy in my solitude. By teaching English in Munich, I was able to earn a decent wage, and didn't have to spend a lot of time doing it. So, I was free to cycle along the Isar, swim at the beautiful jungendstil Volksbad, or content myself alone at home. In my apartment on Germaniastrasse, I began Christ Alchemist anew, and completed a marvellous monochrome underpainting in shades of burnt umber.
      Then, through a Jamaican friend, I discovered the visionary properties of hashish. I did not smoke it very often - only a handful of times as a matter of fact. But each trip became a carefully documented voyage into that same realm of imagery revealed to me previously in madness and dreams. Forgotten childhood memories, which previously had only been revealed to me through trauma's regressive tendencies, now surfaced willingly and at ease. Ancient works of art echoed with a long-forgotten resonance. My past dreams took on new meanings, and my paintings appeared as never before.
      But, as a painter, I found that the drug never facilated my abilities to paint. While the altered state enhanced my perception, it never offered me the extended concentration and manual dexterity necessary for painting. Instead, it offered me a controlled journey into the same realm of imagery which, previously, had only been revealed to me dangerously and chaotically. I used these experiences to clarify my vision, to think through its images, and to understand their underlying arrangement. It aided my researches immensely, as my ideas seemed to coalesce much more quickly and naturally. In particular, I had been making notes over the last ten years on the interplay of art, myth, and dreams, bringing them all together under the rubrique of iconologic.
      All those years, through my life's hardship, and the dreams and artwork that emerged, I had been pursuing iconologic - but it had remained an elusive, almost impossible idea to grasp. For our modern age had lost the ability to think in this manner. We had forgotten the ancient manner of image-thinking, which surfaced on occasion in dreams and was preserved still in sacred works of art and myth. But our word-centred discourse, with its own predicate logic, had gradually replaced it. Only in rare moments of revery, madness, and revelation did it temporarily re-appear. Now, through hashish, the inherent properties and peculiar nature of iconologic emerged clearly and indisputably, revealing as well its underlying, more ancient outlook onto life.
      In particular, on the evening of May 11, 1995, I meditated on an image which I'd found in an alchemical treastise.

      As a spiral of clouds swirling inward to a circle of light at the centre, this engraving had a two-fold purpose. On the one hand, it revealed the massa confusa which the alchemist saw when gazing into the prima materia of his opus. As such, it was a model of his mind's interior. On the other hand, it was also an image of the Creation: the first emergence of light within the swirling depths of a cloudy, darkened abyss.
      But I had paused, shocked in silent recognition, when I first came upon it, because the engraving also evoked the image of the spiralling maelstrom which I had first encountered in my nightmare in Toronto. Over the course of my life - through my dreams in Vienna, and then in Malta - I had descended - no, ascended - ever further into its cloudy, swirling abyss.
      The longer I gazed into this engraving, the more it became a template for arranging images in my mind. Indeed, this engraving of the cosmos soon became a model of my mind's own interior; its swirling clouds offering a reflection of my own long-forgotten memories. I saw images gradually take form in its dark, swirling depths. These began on the periphery, as personal memory-images, emerging from the depths of my life-history. I saw the more familiar figures of my parents, my brothers, and my friends. Then, further down in the swirling mists, I began to discern cultural memory-images, emerging from the spiralling depths of, what Jung called, the collective unconscious. I saw the mythic images of Christ, the Madonna, Mary Magdalen, and the lesser figures of Christianity. Through their momentary arrangement, the more archaic meaning of the Christian myth suddenly became clear to me.
      Finally, in the circle of light at the centre, a profoundly archaic image emerged. Through prolonged concentration, I began to enter through all these images in succession, passing through the personal and cultural memories to their more ancient source. For example, I passed through my personal memory-image of my mother, to the collective memory-image of the Magna Mater, and from there, to the ancient Mysterium at its source.
      For the first time in my life, I had the undeniable sensation of 'entering through the image'. What this meant was, to enter ever deeper through a succession of related images to gaze, with uncomprehending clarity, into the terrible mystery that lay at their source. My personal memories of my own mother had been given to me so that I could relate myself, in a much deeper way, to the more ancient, collective memory of the Great Goddess. And this sacred symbol had been rendered into art aeons ago so that we could enter through it to the Sacred. In that archaic image at the centre - the circle blazing with blinding light - lay 'the ancient One'. This was the source of Unity that stood at the centre of all things. Entering thus through the personal and collective memory-images given to me in my life, I was able to behold, for an extended moment of epiphany, the ancient Sacramentum.
      Having learned, in this way, to 'enter through the image', the logic of iconologic became abundantly clear. What I had lacked all this time was the archaic meaning underlying arrangements of images. All my memory-images, be they from dreams, madness, or the experiences of life itself, had been so arranged as to reveal an eternal Presence beyond life's temporary unfolding. With this new-found knowledge, the image-clusters of myth, art, and dreams now made perfect sense. Iconologic described the multitude of different ways in which images were arranged so as to reveal life's underlying holiness.
      Each time I returned to this state, I was able to think clearly and at great length on iconologic, writing everything down at breakneck speed in my notebooks. Surprisingly, my pages of notes continued to make sense to me days and weeks afterward. All that was required of me was to spend hours in research to demonstrate objectively what had been revealed to me intuitively in a matter of instants.
      And so, I set about doing the research which, incidentally, required a number of years. Weeks were spent in the Gasteig and Ludwig Maximilians Bibliothek in Munich, as well as the Bibliotheque Nationale when I later moved to Paris. I acquired my Macintosh, and began writing up my results in manuscript form. The first chapter emerged spontaneously. Several chapters followed naturally after that. The work continued to grow in an organic way, as if my hand were transcribing, bit by bit, a manuscript which my mind had worked out in its entirety. And in this way, over the course of three years, Enter Through the Image was born.
      This book lays out in an objective manner the results of my research, inspired initially by dreams, enriched by experience, and expanded finally by hashish-induced insight. I began the m.s. in Munich, and finished it in Paris. By writing that work (which took months of precious working-time away from my painting), I came to understand the inspiration behind my art: the unconscious mix of myths and symbols, arranged through iconologic, which reveal - ultimately - the eternally Sacred.
      But, before going on to explain the iconologic of my works in detail, I should recount how I eventually found myself in Paris. It began one rainy afternoon in Munich, when I decided to check out a room for rent on Hohenzollernstrasse. Upon entering the apartment, I was struck by the gaze of a young French woman, who also happened to be looking at the room. Neither of us wanted it, so we left together. We made small talk in the Treppengang, and later in the courtyard. Then, we wished each other Viel Gluck with the apartment search, and went our separate ways.
      And I would never have seen her again if it weren't for the fact that, five minutes later, we bumped into each other again on the corner of Hohenzollern and Leopoldstrasse. This time we spoke a bit longer (despite the pouring rain), communicating mostly in German, but with the occasional forrays into French and English. She explained that she was new to the city. And so, upon her suggestion, we began exploring Munich together: the Englischer Garten, the Französische Viertel, and Ammersee. After all the trials and torments in my life vis à vis the dark feminine, I had the greatest reservations in pursuing this relationship. But eventually, I had to accept that the Goddess had no doubt sent this mysterious little minikin my way. And so, the unusually beautiful city of Munich, with its outlying forests, mountains, and lakes, became the backdrop to a romance which, a year and a half later, ended in our marriage.
      After a year together in Munich (she eventually moved into my apartment on Innere Wienerstrasse), F. and I decided to make the move to Paris. For the first six months, we lived in a small hotel in Montmartre. And it was there, in the Mairie de Montmartre, that our marriage vows were made. Later we moved to the Left Bank, which is why I now find myself sitting before my Macintosh in a small studio in the Latin Quarter, with a corner for my easel, and a wife who sleeps beside me all through the night. F. doesn't mind the closed quarters; sleeping high up on the mezzanine, or sitting as one of the twelve round the oak table laden with sweetmeats and wine. Meanwhile, as we slowly acquire each other's native tongue, we continue to speak in German (laced with many French and English expressions, creating a language all our own). Since our arrival in Paris, I have been peacefully productive - finishing Enter Through the Image, and completing almost all the paintings which I carried with me in my wanderings: the Mystic Diptych, Christ Alchemist, and The Harrowing of Hell.

Living in a small hotel in Montmartre, Paris


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