Licht und Blindheit | Jean-Pierre Turmel*

Joy DivisionThe event on stage is more than a spectacle. The intense spotlight beam isolates the silhouette, fixes it in space and annuls time. Blinded and dumbstruck for a moment, the illuminated singer no longer discerns the limits of the room around him. An echo in the heart of the chance silence strengthens the overwhelming impression of a subterranean quest. Echoes of grottoes and cold cathedrals, echoes of the infinite cosmos.  

Categories of anguish tend to merge together: the oppression of depths and the closed evoke dread of the void, the corridors of the kingdom of the dead resound in the far depths of ourselves like the idea of the infinite.
This spectacle is a ritual, one infinitely despairing of solitude.
A shudder ... Those few seconds, free from vibrations, are an eternity. In them, they condense the depths of interior reflections, funeral exploration of dark labyrinths, from which only the unique and irredeemable end is certain. Would the music be only punctuation and accentuation, the frame more or less hewn from an absolute silence, secretly sought after?

The blinding spotlight is a setting sun. The horizontal light of dusk, which strikes the eyes without the head having to look up. It is the hour of unmeasured shadows announcing the return of darkness. Intermediary time zone and moment of mixed emotions. Exaltation and depression can be born from these fires and shadows - the mental ambiguity in echo with that of the privileged moment.

Every being anguished by its own existence experiences an irresistable attraction for those end of the day contemplations. Can it itself foresee what its feeling will be? Weary of life and desiring the Night ... or on the contrary sparking off internally at the sight of the last flarings? Two extreme examples, amongst others, to show the nodal character of that moment when all subjective experiences are summed up, when all of each day's conflicts are replayed.

CLEMENS BRENTANO, the German romanticist, wrote this intuitive sentence: "... Impressively, the night veils the immense porch of dusk, and every human heart knows who has won, who has lost".

The opposition of clarity to darkness as a reflection of the battle between reason and the delirious, but equally a point where the two empires cloud over reciprocally, as in a kind of reconciliation. Mad and secret hope of the distressed being ... Hope that the symbolic ritual, cosmic and everyday, will induce by its exemplarity, the synthesis of that which, in its own mind, is separated. Perhaps if the Star at that precise moment suspended its fall. But coexistence never establishes itself, it is usually melancholy and despondency which accompanies the setting. Destiny of those who desire the half-light, who refuse to choose between analysis and delirium. Hesitant people from intermediary zones, from the uncertainty, from shadows and almost horizontal lights, from half-open doors and broken windows.

Others opt for the darkness. They will call up the abstract, will desire the rise of secret forces, of dream, of phantasms and of the unconscious ... but with some restrictions, in truth even a certain intellectual dishonesty.

HEINREICH VON KLEIST, that other great Romanticist, states that "in the organic world, in so far as the conscious reflection becomes darker or weaker, grace advances more radiant and triumphant..."; it is no less true of it that he hesitates to annihilate all conscience in himself. He seeks only in fact the awakened dream, a kind of somnambulism where the observer, though in retreat, would remain vigilant. The unconscious is here a super conscience, a reservoir of occult knowledge in which the awakened part desires to drink deep. As MARCEL BRION notes in his work the Romantic Germany, the question is one of "sleep and active dreams". One enters the night in order to explore it and the twilight is its threshold. Interior darkness, darkness of the terrestrial depths, the romantic symbolism passes with ease and intuition from one world to the other. The nocturnal sky blends with the subterranean world of hells. The texts of that time testify to that... Thus half magnificent letter from Caroline Von GUNDERODE to Beltina BRENTANO (Clemens Brentano's sister): "You don't yet understand that these paths lead right lo the bottom of the spirit's mine; but the day will come when they appear to you as such, for man walks often through deserted ways; the more he has the desire to advance, the more solitude become terrifying, and the more the desert spreads onwards. But when you realise how far you have descended into the well of thought and when you find there below a new dawn, when you re-emerge joyous, when you speak from your subterranean world, then you will be consoled; for the world will never be with you".
Most paradoxically, it is the light that she seeks in the blackness of the inner worlds, a new dawn (that twilight of the morning) with an essential different quality - the revelation of herself.

O lamps of luminous fires
In your splendours the hollow grottoes
Of blind and dark feeling
Through advantageous favours
Give both light and warmth
To the cherished object of their heart
'The dark night of the soul'

Through those who are in misery of
seeing themselves without faith, one
sees that God does not illuminate them;
but for others one sees that there is
a God who blinds them
PASCAL 'thoughts'

The light is like a meterialisation of the "ungraspable", the intersection of transcendence and the visual. It is the very symbol of the Spiritual through antinomy to the Material. The light is truth, its domain of clarity is also that of transparence and the aerial. It is opposed to concealment and creeping. It is honesty and deprivation. The light should therefore induce only knowledge, its symbolism should be that of analysis, of description, and of the look ... but there again words mix, the illusions superimposed one on the other, the end achieved is in contradiction with the appearance conveyed by the invocation. Light and dazzle of sunset. Rays of light similar to shafts, crossing the bodies and destroying them, beams of radiations disintegrating the flesh. The mystic aspires to be only "pure spirit", to free himself from the corporeal.

"The Ecstasy of St. Teresa" by Bernini (1598-1680): the light is sharp, made from golden metal. The saint, in an ecstatic state close to fainting, has half-closed eyes (the detail is important) ... It is like a voluptuous agony, the prolonging and the translation of the Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian. The marble, ghastly pale, sets the body in a specific moment, between flesh and crystal, just before the tangible disappears and the soul flies away. The illumination, in the literal and mystical sense of the term.

Extreme pallour of the death desired as the passage to immortality. Coldness of the renouncement of the palpable, anticipation of the infinite, timeless, absolute and fixed. But what is it internally, what is the reality behind the glazed image?

The sunset burns with its last flames. Light/warmth, star energy, echo in the internal fire of emotions, the ecstasy is a fire devouring the being, and seeming to consume it literally. Interior and exterior loose all signification, the body sublimating its substance, becoming all gradually transparent, is consumed in harmony with the illumination. The Mystic touched by the light feels he himself becomes immaterial radiation; but that the subjective transmutation operates from the interior, at the source of illusions. It finds its origins in the depths of the being, it springs from the secret imperiousness of desires, of which it is only the symbolic resurgence.

It appeals then, that the aim of the mystic in his search for the light is not so much as to be dazzled. That dazzling blindness is the triumphal way, although diverted, of a descent to hell. (The eyes which close indicate the withdrawal to the interior of oneself, introspection, self-spelaeology). The difference between the blinding of the black nights and the white blindness of the illumination is minute ... The Mystic abandons the exterior look in order to see better within himself, to be no more than Vision. His call to the elevation of the soul is a return to the primitive essence; is desire to be freed from pleasures of the flesh only opens the way to an intellectual orgasm embracing the whole body and not the sex alone.

That desire to escape the body and valorize the spirit does not lead to an analytical knowledge but to another more intense and more animal. Mysticism is the universe of illusion par excellence, of the opposition between the said and the experienced. It is not that animal that in us, at the moment, is destroyed, but on the contrary the "I", the spectator and the critic. Chastity and asceticism are not the negation of desire but rather one of the means of transcending pleasure and rendering it avowable. The light is a way to invoke the darkness of the "self". Esoterism was right to state that what is above is like what is below ... to adore God would be only to sanctify the strength that one feels in oneself, a fervent homage to the unconscious, to the interior double that one forebodes as so much more consistent.

Religiousness, beliefs are only the dregs justifying a dionysiac behaviour. A new exaltation, in some way purified, can be born and developed. Departing from less illusory bases, the atheistic Mysticism will produce new emotions, widening thus the spectre of ecstasy.

Georges BATAILLE, exploring the territories of transgression, as Sade before him, and some others, indicated one of the ways, but it would be boring to limit it to that. Certainly, pornography and intellectual violence permit interesting excesses, but the modern world conceals equally a quantity of experiences of which we don't yet perceive the whole oneiric and symbolic interest. At the heart of daily punishment and sufferings, in the very wheels of encroaching mediocrity, are found both the keys and the doors to inner worlds. Modern symbolism finds the source of its images and its myths in the sufferings of the present ... it reconciles itself with Naturalism by sublimating it. Thus the Factory is not solely alienated. Machines and cadences find in us certain secret correspondences ... The 8 hour shift beyond the destruction it operates daily, brings the organism into a point, anti-natural, where the disordered state is expressed among other things through a kind of waking delirium. The maddest images are then born with ease, the unbridled established without the conscious being able to do anything but register them. How not to effect a parallel with Sufism which utilises giddiness and conjugate fatigue ... and the methods of western mystics centred on abstinence and prayer.

If to ponder at every moment, in a quasi-superstitious way, the hidden significance of daily events is a wide spread fact (evil?), to consider the modern world in its symbolic expansion is less so.

Society of the Spectacle, modern mythology, generalised Publicity, are capital concepts but nevertheless insufficient to define the nature of our relationships with the universe and society ... we perceive the world, unconsciously, as an omnipresence of signs ... signs without significations, whose sole interest is to evoke, to make us look back into the concealed part of ourselves. The look and subjectivity ... we must reconsider our relationship with the event in the most innocent appearance ... thus is it the spectacle, minute fragment of Spectacular society.

What happens in the concert is outside the ordinary. Anguish and concentration, between the fire of dazzling spotlight and the moving darkness of the crowd, vaguely disturbing, below the stage.


JOY DIVISION passes beyond simple entertainment to retranscribe musically the worlds of half-light and the intensity of ecstasy. Sometimes disillusioned or nostalgic accents intrude, for the experience is multiform and its complexity cannot be translated in a sole concept. A music at the intersection of luminous and dark worlds, between silence and the cry, a bridge between the past and present mystical symbolism. Key of the rock concerts (doesn't the word "rock" in itself refer to the subterranean world?) modern rituals of which till now we saw only the entertaining or sociological aspects.

* from Sordide Sentimental SS 33002 | written November/December 1979 and released March 1980 | Translation by Paul Buck | Included in the accompaning book of the Heart and soul CD package