“Pagan Frontier and Resurrections: D. H. Lawrence’s The Escaped Cock and Shinobu Orikuchi’s The Book of the Dead”
by Hiroaki Inami
The aim of this paper: Focusing on visions of a new religion of these texts and the authors’ thoughts, we will consider a possibility of new polytheism through a theory of discrete difference.
１. Introduction of Shinobu Orikuchi
Shinobu Orikuchi (1887-1953) was one of the greatest scholars of ancient Japanese literature, religion and folklore, and an eminent poet and writer. His representative academic work on literature and folklore is Ancient Studies(1929-30). The Book of the Dead, a novella, is not only the supreme achievement of his career as a writer but one of the most distinguished fictions in modern Japanese literature. A certain literary critic calls it unparalleled in modern Japanese fictions. The first draft was written in 1939 and the first and second editions were published in 1943 and 1947 respectively.
As can be known, Orikuchi and Lawrence were contemporary. (I am going to explain Orikuchi’s spiritual connection by following Mr. Reiji Ando’s commentary on Orikuchi.) In a sense, they belonged to the same cultural milieu, because Orikuchi came in touch with the contemporary Western religious or spiritual movement through his close friend or his homosexual lover Musen Fuji, who was a ‘new Buddhist’ and probably asserted the identity of lives of Buddha and Christ for the first time in Japan. Musen Fuji edited “ The Gospel of Two Saints”, in which he referred to Paul Carus(1852-1919), who invited Taisetsu Suzuki to Chicago and whose book Suzuki translated into Japanese. And it was clear that under the influence of the translation Musen Fuji edited the above-mentioned book. But he was so challenging that he also drew on Arthur Lillie (1831-1912)’s two books, which were written under the influence of Theosophy. Arthur Lillie was in close touch with Anna Kingsford (1846-1888) who belonged to the second generation of Theosophy led by Madam Blavatsky. So Lillie’s books considerably corresponded with Kingsford’s assertion on the method of transformation of Christianity under the secret knowledge of Asian paganism, i.e. the exploration of Buddhism on the basis of extremely mystic interpretation of Christianity. After all, “Buddhism” Lillie found out was Christianized and interpreted in secret or hermetic knowledge of ancient Egypt and Hellenism. To sum up, Orikuchi, in a sense, belonged to the modern Western syncretistic religious, spiritual or mystical movement, which Lawrence was versed in or, to a certain extent, belonged to.
A) Lawrence’s vision of a new religion in The Escaped Cock:
We can affirm this novella is the artistic culmination of Lawrence’s religious thought. There are at least four elements or levels of his vision of a new religion. The first is regeneration or tranformation of Christianity, which at the same time means the end of the Christ figure as preacher of spiritual love and the beginning of the life of resurrected Christ as a singularity or difference in the phenomenal world. The second is his cosmic vision, his cosmic sense of the nature or his idea of nature as manifestation of unseen power, strength or virtue. The third is a vision of the myth of Isis and Osiris. The fourth is rather difficult to grasp, but should be said as the recognition of the Father, which can paradoxically be called polytheistic. Here are the items.
１）A Vision of Regeneration of Christianity
２）A Cosmic Vision of Nature as Power
３）A Vision of the Myth of Isis and Osiris
４）A Vision of the Father as Polytheism
The fourth is related to the first, so the two might be turned into one. We don’t have to explain the first, the second and the third. The fourth vision needs to be explained. This point is so vital that this paper’s gist depends on it. In the commentary by Gerald M. Lacy of The Escaped Cock, there is cited part of Lawrence’s letter to Gordon Campbell(20th December, 1914), which will be most related to my point, so I sufficiently quote the letter from the Cambridge edition.
But the moderns today prefer to end insisting on the sad plight. It is characteristic of us that we have preserved, of a trilogy which was really Prometheus Unbound, only the Prometheus Bound and terribly suffering on the rock of his own egotism.
But the great souls in all time did not end there. In the mediaeval period, Christianity did not insist on the Cross: but on the Resurrection: churches were built to the glorious hope of resurrection. Now we think we are very great, whilst we enumerate the smarts of the Crucifixion. We are too mean to get any further.
I think there is the dual way of looking at things: our way, which is to say ‘I am all. All things are but radiations out from me.’- The other way is to try to conceive the Whole, to build up a Whole by means of symbolism, because symbolism avoids the I and puts aside the egotist; and, in the Whole, to take our decent place. That was how man built the Cathedral. He didn’t say ‘out of my breast springs this cathedral. But ‘in this vast Whole I am a small part, I move and live and have my being.’
The Crucifix, and Christ, are only symbols. They do not mean a man who suffered his life out as I suffer mine. They mean a moment in the history of my soul, if I must be personal. But it is a moment fixed in context and having its being only according to context. Unless I have the Father, and the hierarchies of Angels, I have no Christ, no Crucifixion.
It is necessary to grasp the Whole. At last I have got it, grasping something of what the mediaeval church tried to express. To me, the Latin form of expression comes very natural. To you, the Celtic I should think. I think the Whole of the Celtic symbolism and great Utterance of its Conception has never been fathomed. But it must have been in accord with the Latin.
There is the Eternal God, not to be seen or known, so bright in his fire that all things pass away, evanescent at its touch. He is surrounded by the Hierarchy of the Cherubim and Seraphim, the Great Ones who partake of his being and transmit his glory: and they are absorbed in praise eternally. Beyond the Cherubim are the Dominions and Powers: and beyond these great ones, the Principalities, Archangels, and Angels, which come as messengers and guardians and carriers of blessing at last to mankind.
So, there are the central symbols, from the oldest vision.
Then God, in mediating upon himself, begot the Son. The Son receives the Divine Nature by Generation within the human flesh. In the Son, the human flesh is again crucified, to liberate the eternal Soul, the Divine Nature of God.
For the Divine Nature of God, the Spirit of the Father procreating the human flesh forms the ego. And the Ego would fain absorb the position of the Eternal god. Therefore it must suffer crucifixion, so that it may rise again praising God, knowing with the Angels, and the Thrones, and the Cherubim.
And, from the mutual love of the Father and the Son, proceeds the Holy Spirit, the Holy Ghost, the Reconciler, the Comforter, the Annunciation.
But Christianity should teach us now, that after our Crucifixion, and the darkness of the tomb, we shall rise again in the flesh, you, I, as we are today, resurrected in the bodies, and acknowledging the Father, and glorying in his power, like Job.
It is very dangerous to use these old terms lest they sound like Cant. But if only one can grasp and know again as a new truth, true for ones own history, the great vision, the great satisfying conceptions of the worlds greatest periods, it is enough. Because so it is made new.
All religions I think have the same inner conception, with different expressions.
(The Letters of D. H. Lawrence 2 1913-16.Cambridge University Press, 1981. 248-49. The underline is my emphasis and the following ones are the same.)
The underlined sentences present Lawrence’s two ways of view. Though it may seem contradictory, I think “our way” is monotheistic and “the other way” is polytheistic. There may occur opposition to the idea; is the Father not the only God? Yes. But Lawrence’s emphasis is not the only one but on the whole and the symbolism, in which a man is a small part, which means metaphorically polytheism or plurality. On the other hand, “our way” and “I am all” mean metaphorically monotheism, i.e.“ I am the only God.” Therefore I consider Lawrence’s religious idea as a kind of polytheism. (We later consider what kind of polytheism this is.)
Now we recognize four elements of Lawrence’s vision of a new religion. And we can call this a multiple, fourfold vision of a new religion in The Escaped Cock: a unification of regenerate Christianity, a cosmic vision, a goddess myth and the Father’s polytheism. And my contention is that this new religion is new polytheism, on which I will explore philosophically at the third section.
B)Orikuchi’s vision of a new religion in The Book of the Dead:
I have to introduce this novella briefly. (Since this text is most elaborate and intricate, to summarize it is to omit its multiplicity.) I will tell the main story. It was in the Nara period. A man who had been executed long ago resurrected in a rocky cave. He was Shiga-tsuhiko ( historically Otsu-miko). He had been suspected of plotting against the life of the emperor, and had been executed. The day he was killed, he saw a young woman called Mimimono-toji and he fell in love with her at first sight. His passion for her remained after his death. He had been dead for about fifty years. Then he resurrected and began to think of his lover Mimimono-toji. His longing for her was, as it were, telepathically transmitted to the heroine, Iratsume, who is a young girl belonging to the great aristocratic family to be a maiden in the service of a shrine. At spring and autumn equinoxes, a vision of a young fair man with golden hair and white skin appeared before the heroine between two tops of Mt. Futakami-yama at about sunsets. She saw his vision several times and the vision impressed her soul deeply. The heroine had read sutras of Buddhism and had been copying a sutra by hand. When she finished a thousand time hand-copying, she saw another vision and left her hermitage for a location where a vision appeared, which was Taima-dera Temple halfway up Mt. Futakami-yama. She entered the precincts of the temple and sinned, because no women were admitted to the temple those days. To atone for her sin, she was detained at the temple and began to weave cloth from lotus threads and to make a garment for the man of the vision. On it she drew a picture of the man of the vision, which was simultaneously a Mandala. Other persons saw in it thousands of Bodhisattvas appear out of the earth.
This is a very rough sketch of the novella. From this text we can draw some visions or elements of a new religion.
１）A Vision of Shintoism: Japanese traditional or native faith in the sun: in this case, the setting sun
２）A Vision of Buddhism of Amitabha Tathagata(Amitabha means infinite light)
３） A Vision of Christianity(the man of the vision is associated with a suggestion of Christ, because he has golden hair and white skin, and Orikuchi was under the influence of Christianized Shintoism of Atsutane Hirata of the Edo Period.)
４）A Vision of the Myth of Isis and Osiris: the heroine is equivalent to Isis and the man who resurrected Osiris
５) A Vision of a Mandala
These multiple visions or elements are combined in the text. Therefore here we have a syncretism of monotheism and polytheism. But there is a remarkable resemblance between Lawrence’s vision and Orikuchi’s. To put it srongly, they are almost the same. Lotus, which appears in both texts, is really suggestive. (A distinct sense of flesh I haven’t mentioned is common to both works.) It is as if they were twins. Since I called Lawrence’s vision new polytheism, Orikuchi’s may also be called so. As a working hypothesis, I call Orikuchi’s new polytheism too.
３. New polytheism: from the perspective of a theory of discrete difference
I made a theory of discrete difference in collaboration with Mr. Kazumi Sakamoto. This theory reforms or revises Gilles Deleuze’s philosophy of difference. We can’t afford to explain it in detail here, so we put it simply. We found out that there is confusion between continuous difference and discrete one in Deleuze’s idea of difference. So we distinguished them, selected the latter and turned it into a theory of discrete difference. The theory has a hypothesis of a threefold world.
The Idea World/The Media World/The Phenomenal World
The Idea World is the universal world with plural discrete difference coexisting or consistent with each other in it. The Media World mediates between the Idea World and The Phenomenal World. (We are sorry we can’t fully explain the core of this theory here. We know Lawrence fiercely attacked Platonism. But we have to distinguish two Platonisms. The Idea World is not the one Lawrence attacked.) I draw a parallel between Lawrence’s vision, Orikuchi’s and it.
1.The Idea World/The Media World/The Phenomenal World
2.The Father/Cosmos, Gods(,The Holy Spirit)/The Phenomenal World or Nature
3.Musubino-kami(God of Spirit)/Gods of Creation/Nature
They are threefold or three-layered. We can think there is a correlation between them, or these partitions are equivalent to each other. So, since a theory of discrete difference asserts that The Idea World consists of plural discrete difference, The Father and Musubino-kami(God of Spirit) should be plural. We said our hypothesis above that Lawrence’s vision is new polytheism. A theory of discrete difference logically comes to prove the hypothesis.
Let us consider concretely. In The Escaped Cock we clearly find the idea of singularity and difference.
"For nothing is so marvellous as to be alone in the phenomenal world, which is so raging, and yet apart. And I have not seen it, I was too much blinded by my confusion within it. Now I will wander among the stirring of the phenomenal world, for it is the stirring of all things among themselves which leaves me purely alone."
"Strange is the phenomenal world, dirty and clean together! And I am the same. Yet I am apart! And life bubbles variously. ・・・・now I am risen in my own aloneness, and inherit the earth, since I lay no claim on it. And I am alone in the seethe of all the things; first and foremost, for ever, I shall be alone. ・・・・And perhaps one evening I shall meet a woman who can lure my body, yet leave me my aloneness." (p.572)
"And as he(the man who had died) watched her(the priestess of Isis), he saw her soul in its aloneness, and its female difference. He said to himself: How different she is from me, how strangely different! She is afraid of me, and my male difference. ・・・How alive she is, with a life so different from mine! How beautiful, with a soft, strange courage of life, so different from my courage of death! ・・・”
The Complete Short Novels, Penguin Books, 1982.
“To be alone in the phenomenal world, which is so raging, and yet apart” etc. can mean that the man who had died decided to live a singular and discretely different life. So we have here examples of singularity and discrete difference in the phenomenal world, while there exists the dimension of the Father. Though we can’t afford to explain fully in this short paper a theory of discrete difference, the theory asserts singularity or discrete difference in the Phenomenal World corresponds to singularity or discrete difference in the Idea World. Therefore we can prove that the dimension of the Father in The Escaped Cock contains plurality of “God”.
The same thing applies to the Orikuchi’s text. The heroine, Iratsume is a noble virgin who is to be a maiden in the service of a shrine, singularly different from common or mean people in the secular world. She is singularity and discrete difference. Her religious and sensual vision of the man who resurrected means a transcending dimension, because it is related to Amitabha Tathagata and Buddhist Pure land, which is considered to correspond to Orikuchi’s idea of Musubino-kami or God of Sprit at once.
“The Figure I[Iratsume] vividly saw above shining clouds at sunsets on the days of spring and autumn equinoxes. I don’t believe he is a man of Yamato(Japan’s old name). I wonder whether there will be such one among men of this country I have not known yet. His bared shoulder upon which a golden wig and golden hair are richly hanging is light and fair. A full face with a prominent nose and noble eyebrows. Lowering his eyes, raising his right hand around his breasts, he was hanging his left hand below the armpit, showing his full palm, …. Alas, his scarlet lips above clouds and his visage seeming to smile fragrantly.”
(The Book of the Dead, Chuokoron-Shinsha. INC. 1999, 34-35. My tentative translation.)
“The rich figure with skin, shoulders, armpits and breasts has appeared above the pine tree field of the mountain ridge. But only the face she had been yearning after was dim.
‘Please make your figure(or visage) appear a little
Calmly and calmly clouds were descending. …… Where clouds were swaying just over the sand of the garden [of Manhozo-in Temple], you saw quite distinctly the figure of the noble person with his half body vividly appearing. His face with a fragrant smile turned directly to Iratsume for the first time. His lowered eyes half closed opened freshly as if he recognized her at this time. His lightly closed lips looked softened as if they were saying something to this woman.
Iratsume thought her eyes began to lower because of his nobleness. But she didn’t turn her eyes away, so intent on it that she might not miss this moment.
The ode that she had thought would praise a noble man spurted out from her heart again.
I devote myself to Amitabha. How sublime
At the instant the light became dim. The clouds she saw directly and the figure of the noble man above the clouds were getting dimmer and dimmer and rising higher and higher, and still higher”(ibid. 138-140. )
Therefore also in The Book of The Dead, we can assert the dimension of the heroine’s vision that should be Musubino-kami or God of Spirit contains plurality of “God”.
After all, we have proved our hypothesis of new polytheism, which can also be called new pluralism, because it maintains the dimension of the Idea World. We can call it immanent-transcendental.
Both Lawrence and Orikuchi present a vision and a possibility of a new universal religion, which is, in a sense, a fusion of polytheism and monotheism. But from the viewpoint of a theory of discrete difference, their new religions are post-polytheism and post-monotheism and can be called new polytheism(or super-polytheism). The point is that Lawrence’s ‘the Father’ and Orikuchi’s ‘Musubino-kami’ or God of Spirit are, as it were, deconstructed by a theory of discrete difference and become plural. ‘The Father’ and ‘Musubino-kami’ can be thought as ‘univocity or univocality of Being’ where plural discrete difference coexist, which means original plural ‘gods’ or discretely different ‘gods’ coexist or exist alongside of each other. ＊
＊ In Apocalypse, Fragment Ⅰ, Lawrence tells that God of the Old Testament is polytheistic.
“Now the Bible, we know well, is a great religious book. It is full of God. .....The Jews did a wonderful thing when they focused the whole religious feeling of man upon One God. But that does not prevent their Bible from being full of all the gods. It is this discovery which a man can make in his maturity, to his unspeakable relief.
The Bible is full of all the gods. Nay, even, the Jahveh of the Old Testament is all the gods, except the dying and redeeming gods. But surely the Jehovah of Genesis and Numbers, Samuel, Psalms, Isaiah, Ezekiel, surely he is all the gods in turn, Dionysic, Apollo-like, strange like Ra, and grim like Baal or Bel. You can’t make an idol to Jehovah because he has the qualities of all the ancient gods in turn, Ouranos or Kronos or Saturn, even the old Osiris, or the mysterious gods of the first Sumerians. He is One because he is all of them, not because he is different from any of them. He does not sit absolute and apart, while all the other gods topple, mere fallen into idols. He is himself all the gods and all the idols, savage and fertile, and even he is all the unknown gods that are yet to come.
But now, having really read the Bible as a book, not as a one-sided pronouncement, I realize the very truth of the Bible: If this God exists, One and Eternal, then all the other gods exist too. For all the gods are only “sides” of the One God.”(p. 156) As for Orikuchi, his thinking was wavering between monotheism and polytheism.
Works by D. H. Lawrence
The Escaped Cock. in D. H. Lawrence The Complete
Short Novels. Eds. Keith Sagar and Melissa
Partridge. Penguin Books. 1990
The Escaped Cock. Ed. Gerald M. Lacy. Black Sparrow
“The Flying-Fish.” The St. Mawr and Other
Stories.Cambridge University Press. 1988.
“Resurrection”. Reflections on the Death of a
Porcupine and Other Essays.Ed. Michael Herbert.
Cambridge University Press. 1988. 231-235.
“The Risen Lord.” Late Essays and Articles. ED.
James T. Boulton. Cambridge University Press.
“The Risen Lord.” D. H. Lawrence The Complete
Poems. Eds. Vivian De Sola Pinto and Warren
Roberts. Penguin Books. 1993. 459-461.
“Resurrection of the Flesh.” ibid. 737-738.
Apocalypse and the Writings on Revelation. Ed. Mara
Kalnins. Cambridge University Press. 1980
The Letters of D. H. Lawrence 2 1913-16. Cambridge
University Press, 1981. 248-49.
Works about D. H. Lawrence
Ceramella, Nick. “Lorenzo in Search of a New
Religion.” Etudes Lawrenciennes 21: D. H.
Lawrence After Strange Gods Ⅰ. Service
Publidix Universite Paris-X Nanterre. 2000.
Ferreira, Maria Aline. “ ‘Glad Wombs’ and
‘Friendly Tombs’: Reembodiments in D. H.
Lawrence’s Late Works.” Writing the Body in
D. H. Lawrence: Essays on
Language,Representation, and Sexualty. Ed. Paul
Poplawski. Greenwood Press 2001. 163-175
Harris, H. Janice. “The Many Faces of Lazarus: The
Man Who Died and Its Context.” D. H. Lawrence:
Critical Assesments vol.Ⅲ. Eds. David Ellis
and Ornella De Zordo. Helm Information. 1992.
Hyde, Virginia. The Risen Adam: D. H. Lawrence’s
Revisionist Typology. The Pennsylvania State
University Press. 1992
Lacy, Gerald M. “Ⅰ. Introduction: Lawrence and
the Resurrection Theme” and “ Ⅱ. Chronology:
Influences and Works.” The Escaped Cock. Ed.
Gerald M. Lacy. Black Sparrow Press. 1973.
Marcus, Philip L. “Lawrence, Yeats, and ‘the
Resurrection of the Body’.”D. H. Lawrence: A
Centenary Consideration. Eds. Peter Balbert and
Philip L. Marcus. Cornell University
Troy, Mark. “…a Wild Bit of Egyptology: Isis and
The Escaped Cock of D. H. Lawrence.” D. H.
Lawrence: Critical Assesments vol.Ⅲ. Eds.
David Ellis and Ornella De Zordo. Helm
Information. 1992. 371-383.
Wright, T. R.“The Risen Lord: The Escaped Cock,
Lady Chatterley’s Lover and the Paintings.”
D. H. Lawrence and the Bible. Cambridge
University Press. 2000. 214-227.
Works by Shinobu Orikuchi
The Book of the Dead and Shintokumaru.
Chuokoron-Shinsha, Inc(Tokyo). 1999.
The First Draft・The Book of the Dead. Ed. Reiji
Ando. Kokusho-Kankokai, Inc(Tokyo). 2004.
The Orikuchi Shinobu Corpus vol. 20: Shinto
Religion Volume. Ed. The Ancient Institute in
Memory of Doctor Orikuchi. Chuokoron-sha,
Works about Shinobu Orikuchi
Ando Reiji. The Struggle of Gods: A Study on Shinobu
Orikuchi. Kodan-sha(Tokyo). 2004.
Ando Reiji.“The Mandala of Light.” The First
Draft・The Book of the Dead. Kokusho-Kankokai,