The Rational and the Astral

Ulrich’s new millennium project has one big danger: it may become ungrounded in the actual world. Ulrich is careful to preserve rationality. Clarrisse, like Moosbrugger, is not similarly constrained by a rational boundary. Ulrich and Agathe, for instance, speak deeply about the division of the sexes and the quest for re-integration, referencing Plato’s myth along the way. Now let Clarrisse take up that theme, and witness the boundaries disappear. This exchange with Meingast is her struggling to define her mission to cultivate the hero in Walter by denying him sex, which would “murder” that hero. Note also the light this throws on her fascination with Moosbrugger, the sex murderer.

“…I attract Walter in a way that’s not quite right.”

“I can imagine,” the Master answered, this time with a sympathetic look. “There is something boyish about you.”

At this praise Clarisse felt happiness bouncing through her veins like hailstones. “Did you notice before,” she eagerly asked him, “that I can change clothes faster than a man?”

A blank expression came over the philosopher’s benevolently seamed face. Clarisse giggled. “That’s a double word,” she explained. “There are others too: sex murder, for instance.”

The master probably thought it would be wise not to show surprise at anything. “Oh yes, I know,” he replied. “You did say once that to satisfy desire in the usual embrace is a kind of sex murder.” But what did she mean by “changing,” he wanted to know.

“To offer no resistance is murder,” Clarrisse explained with the speed of someone going through one’s paces on slippery ground and losing one’s footing through overagility.

“Now you’ve really lost me,” Meingast admitted. “You must be talking about that fellow the carpenter again. What is it you want from him?”

…”Do you have much self-control?” he asked.

“Well, yes and no,” Clarisse said candidly. “But I told you, if I let him have his way, I’d be a sex murderer!” Warming to her subject, she went on: “My woman friends say they ‘pass out’ in the arms of a man.I don’t know what that is. I’ve never passed out in a man’s arms. But I do know what it’s like to ‘pass out’ without being in a man’s arms. Your must know about that too; after all, you did say that the world is too devoid of illusions…!”

Meingast waves this off with a gesture, as if to say she had misunderstood him. But now it was all too clear to her.

When you say, for instance, that one must decide against the lesser value for the sake of the higher value,” she cried, “it means that there’s a life in an immense and boundless ecstasy! Not sexual ecstasy but the ecstasy of genius! Against which Walter would commit treason if I don’t prevent him!”

…”Is what you want connected with Moosbrugger? Meingast probed.

“That’s hard to say. We’ll have to see what comes of it,” Clarrisse replied. “I’m going to abduct him. I’m going to create a scandal!”


This exchange has a kind of strange logic. We now explore the root of that strangeness, a kind of mad science of metaphor.

The double words were signs, scattered throughout the language like snapped-off twigs or leaves strewn on the ground, to mark a secret path. “Sex murder” and “changing” and even “quick” and many other words–perhaps all others–exhibited double meanings, one of which was secret and private. But a double language means a double life. Ordinary language is evidently that of sin, the secret one that of the astral body. “Quick,” for instance, in its sinful form meant ordinary, everyday, tiring haste, while in its joyous form everything flew off it in joyful leaps and bounds. But then the joyous form can also be called the form of energy of innocence, while the sinful form can be called all the names having to do with the depression, dullness, and irresolution of ordinary life. There were these amazing connections between the self and things, so that something one did had an effect where one would never have expected it; and the less Clarisse could express all this, the more intensely the words kept coming inside her, too fast for her to gather them in. But for quite some time she had been convinced of one thing: the duty, the privilege, the mission of whatever it is we call conscience, illusion, will, is to find the vital form, the light form. This is the one where nothing is accidental, where there is no room for wavering, where happiness and compulsion coincide. Other people have called this “living authentically” and spoken of the “intelligible character”; they have referred to instinct as innocence and to the intellect as sin. Clarisse could not think in these terms, but she had made the discovery that one could set something in motion, and then sometimes parts of the astral body would attach themselves to it of their own accord and in this fashion become embodied in it. For reasons primarily rooted in Walter’s hypersensitive inaction, but also because of heroic aspirations she never had the means of satisfying, she had been let to think that by taking forceful action one could set up a memorial to oneself in advance, and the memorial would then draw one into itself. So she was not at all clear about what she intended to do with Moosbrugger, and could not answer Meingast’s question. (II,1001-1002)


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