Midsummer Eve's Dream

by Steven H. Cullinane
on June 23, 1995

The 23rd of June is also known as Midsummer Eve. According to the Random House Dictionary, College Edition, it was "formerly believed to be a time when witches caused mischief." Shakespeare discussed some other activities proper to this date.

Part One -- Before the Beginning of Time

Sophia (or "Wisdom") speaks:
-- I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was.
(Proverbs Chapter 8, Verse 23)

A Jesuit spirit speaks:
-- Forma and quidditas are not convertible notions... The quidditas or essence of an angel is the same as its form.
(See William T. Noon, S. J., Joyce and Aquinas, Yale, 1957)

A proud spirit speaks:
-- Better yet: one must bring the being-there back to the concept of which it is the temporal, historical presence (Dasein) or, in a circular fashion, introduce the concept into its own being-there.
(See Jacques Derrida, Dissemination, University of Chicago, 1981, page 12)

A bright spirit speaks:
-- Here, effort is like dancing's its own pleasure.
Here, all things exist purely in the action of joy --
Like light, like all kinds of light --
Existing only as the structures of joy!
No more words. Away! Go, away!
(Words courtesy of Delmore Schwartz and William Shakespeare.)

Part Two -- Eden

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.
(Genesis, Chapter 2, Verse 1)

The father of spirits speaks:
-- Life and death flow into one, and there is neither evolution nor destiny: only being.
(Here God is quoting Albert Einstein.)

And whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.
(Genesis, Chapter 2, Verse 19)

And Adam visited Monterey, California (home of the Army Language School) in 1960, at the age of 21. (Here our narrative becomes quite specific, with physics student Heinz Pagels playing the role of Adam.) And Adam thought, "This is John Steinbeck's country, a rough place... a gathering place for life's losers and a few winners."
(From Pagels' book The Dreams of Reason, Simon and Schuster, 1988)

The spirit of John Steinbeck speaks, describing Cannery Row in Monterey:
-- Its inhabitants are, as the man once said, "whores, pimps, gamblers, and sons of bitches," by which he meant Everybody. Had the man looked through another peephole he might have said, "Saints and angels and martyrs and holy men," and he would have meant the same thing.

Adam ignores John Steinbeck.

And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman....
(Genesis, Chapter 2, Verse 22)

And the woman began going to a local evangelical church when she was 13, but stopped going to church a couple of years later, when she decided that the stories and the instructions of the Bible were being understood too literally.
(Source: The New Yorker, April 3, 1995, p. 58)

And the woman grew, attended Stanford, and entered the doctoral program in religion at Harvard in 1965. Her name was Elaine.

Enter the serpent, who pretends to be Sophia, the Wisdom of God.

Elaine, our Eve, encounters the serpent in an ancient document called The Testimony of Truth, which was unearthed in Egypt in 1945. The serpent's offer is the traditional one -- knowledge -- and Eve obtains her Ph.D. from Harvard in 1970.

Meanwhile, the serpent, who controls the jounal Tel Quel in the late 1960's, attempts to enact rather than simply state ideological and political, as well as literary and critical, upheavals. The Tel Quel program attempts to push to their utmost limits the theoretical revolutions wrought by Marx, Freud, Nietzsche, Mallarme, Levi-Strauss, Saussure, and Heidegger.
(Source: Dissemination, J. Derrida, p. xxxi.)

And the woman saw that the tree was good... and a tree to be desired to make one wise. She took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.
(Genesis, Chapter 3, Verse 6)

And the result was two books:
The Gnostic Gospels, by the woman, Elaine Pagels (Random House, 1979), and
The Cosmic Code, by her husband, Heinz Pagels (Simon and Schuster, 1982).

And it came to pass that The New Yorker described both books on April Fools' Day, 1995.

A critic speaks:
-- In its beginning, the man's book makes two big mistakes:
(1) It confuses Einstein with God, and
(2) It credits Einstein with work on the curvature of space that was actually done more than 50 years earlier by Gauss and Riemann.
(See Max Jammer's Concepts of Space, Harvard, 1954)

The critic continues:
-- In its ending, the man's book retells the story of Adam and Eve and the tree of knowledge, and offers one dubious statement and one damned lie:
The dubious statement:
"Science is not the enemy of humanity."
The damned lie:
"Science is another name for knowledge."
(I.e., for all of knowledge.)

So God drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.
(Genesis, Chapter 3, Verse 24)

Part Three -- The Death of Adam

July 24, 1988 -- While coming down from Pyramid Peak, near Aspen, Colorado, our Adam, Heinz Pagels, 49, slips and falls 2,000 feet to his death.

The New Yorker article of April 3, 1995, describes this event. It also quotes some of the final words of Pagels' book The Cosmic Code. These words describe his dream about falling from a mountain: "As I continued to fall in the dark void... I sang to the beauty of the stars and made my peace with the darkness."

A bright spirit speaks:
-- "Is it a dream?" I asked. To which my fellow
Answered with a hoarse voice and dulled insistence:
"Dream, is it a dream? What difference
Does it make or mean? If it is only a dream
It is the dream which we are. Dream or the last resort
Of reality, it is the truth of our minds..."
(Delmore Schwartz, Summer Knowledge, p. 150)

Following the final words of Pagels in The Cosmic Code, another voice is heard (which was not quoted by The New Yorker).

A solemn spirit speaks:
-- For the essence and the end
Of his labor is beauty, for goodness and evil are two things and yet variant, but the quality of life as of death and of light
As of darkness is one, one beauty, the rhythm of that Wheel, and who can behold it is happy and will praise it to the people.
(Robinson Jeffers, "Point Pinos and Point Lobos")

Part Four -- Angels of Eden

Children's choir performs excerpts from
A Wind in the Door, by Madeleine L'Engle.

Student choir performs excerpts from
Desolation Angels, by Jack Kerouac.

Adult choir performs excerpts from
Weaveworld, by Clive Barker.

God may or may not allow the appearance of the real thing.
(The closest that man has come in this century to describing the real thing is a poem, "The Owl in the Sarcophagus," by Wallace Stevens.)

Part Five -- Realism

A comic parade of politicians, statesmen, and literary critics, led by Julie Eisenhower, Henry Kissinger, and Andrew Delbanco, passes in review. They carry signs and chant slogans that feature the words "realism" and "idealism" in various nonsensical and amusing contexts. In the reviewing stand are Plato, T. S. Eliot, and G. H. Hardy.

Following the parade, a speech is given by Charles Williams, based on his book The Place of the Lion. Williams explains the true meaning of the word "realism" in both philosophy and theology. His guard of honor, bayonets gleaming, is led by William of Ockham.

The meeting is closed with the lord's prayer and refreshments are served.

As the marchers, the reviewers, the speaker, and the audience disperse, a member of the audience, Wallace Stevens, sees the giant of nothingness appear on the horizon.

Conclusion -- Notre Dame

Fortunately, Stevens notes, the giant is accompanied by his consort, Notre Dame de Paris, alias Sophie Galois, alias Wisdom, alias Simone Weil.

Her companion the giant remains on the horizon while Sophie approaches Stevens. In her right hand are two slim paperbound books; in her left hand are two weighty leather-bound and jewel-encrusted volumes.

"Mr. Stevens, these are for you," she says, handing him the two slim paperbacks. "Many of the angels enjoy them." They are:
(1) Galois Theory, by Emil Artin
(University of Notre Dame Press, 1944), and
(2) Selected Poems, by Robinson Jeffers
(Vintage Books, 1965).

"What are the other two books?" Stevens asks.
"Oh, they're for souls in purgatory. They're Hartshorne's Algebraic Geometry (as a favor to my brother) and Noon's Joyce and Aquinas."

"See you around," she says, and, rejoining the giant, returns to the point at infinity.

Last maintained Feb. 27, 2001. Created Feb. 27, 2001 shc759.
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