GNOSTIC Aletheia

"I am turning toward a kind of aesthetic mysticism… When there is no encouragement to be derived from one’s fellows, when the exterior world is disgusting, enervating, corruptive, and brutalizing, honest and sensitive people are forced to seek somewhere within themselves a more suitable place to live. If society continues on its present path I believe we shall see the return of mystics as have existed in all the dark ages of the world. The soul, unable to overflow, will be concentrated in itself. The time is not far off when we shall see the return of world-sickness – beliefs in the Last Day, expectation of the Messiah, etc. But all this enthusiasm will be ignorant of its own nature, and, the age being what it is, can have no theological foundation: what will be its basis? Some will seek it in the flesh, others in the ancient religions, others in art; humanity, like the Jewish tribes in the desert, will adore all kinds of idols. We were born a little too early: in twenty-five years the points of intersection of these quests will provide superb subjects for masters. Then prose (Prose especially, the youngest form) will be able to play a magnificent humanitarian symphony." Gustave Flaubert

Late October Lecture (registration link at bottom)

Link to register:

Vergil, Petrarca, Howell, & the Eternal, Open Moment of the Archives

In Pub. Virgilij Maronis poetarum principis Bucolica commentarij Michaelis Barth … [1570]

An American scholar at work in an archives must be deeply grateful not just for the persons and materials at hand, but for the wealth of scholarship available on the archives itself. One in an archives is likely at some point – particularly with prolonged, regular usage of said archives – to start pondering at some point how in fact the materials make it to the table at which one is sitting, in my case with cradles, weighted lace, and dulled scalpel at hand. In some cases the research unfolds into a question of authorship, time period, acquisition, and the movements which eventually lead to the home institution. Director of Manuscripts and Archives in the Yale University Library Christine Weidman’s 2006 article “Accessioning as Processing” sheds light on these questions. Although critical functions of the archives such as digitization have only accelerated since the piece was written, I find much of her insight prescient in a manner that is not constricted to an institution such as Manuscripts and Archives at Yale, with its then-staff of twenty-six, 58,000 linear feet of holdings, and an average of 5,000 reference requests each year.

Librorum Francisci Petrarche impressorum annotatio … Venetiis : Per Simonem Papiensem dictum Biuilaquam, anno domini [1503]
” “

How, for instance, can the archivist decrease wait time in making materials available to a given interested party while facing the various obstacles of the archive in the age of digitality? Weidman offers both case studies and specific insights such as the seemingly banal exchange of more boxes forthcoming as a necessary part of less descriptive boxes, in order to keep the engine of things well-oiled. “For us,” writes Weidman, “that is an acceptable cost for making the materials available for research more quickly and keeping them out of the backlog, but it might not be so acceptable for a small repository with limited staff.” This hypothetical caveat is apparent to anyone who has worked in different types of archives; but it is doubly indispensable for the researcher, on one hand, and the students of archives, on the other, in more realistically approaching each archives encounter. Along with Greene and Meissner, Weidman affirms that a more well-running archives works to

encourage thinking about arrangement and description in flexible and creative ways. Every repository (and every collection) has unique circumstances that will dictate what can and should be done in the area of arrangement and description. In the past, it has primarily been arrangement, description, and preservation down to the folder and/or item level. For many of us, this is no longer a realistic option for every collection that we take in or that is already in our backlog. As some repositories have already begun to do, we have to be willing to test new methods, analyze their consequences, refine as needed, and share our experiences with colleagues throughout the profession.

James Howell, Instructions for forreine travell : shewing by what cours, and in what compasse of time, one may take an exact survey of the kingdomes and states of Christendome, and arrive to the practicall knowledge of the languages, to good purpose (London, 1642)

This definitional and practical extension of the archives is also detailed in Carolyn Steedman’s “Archival Methods” from Research Methods for English Studies (Edinburgh University Press, 2005). In both cases we are less than reconsidering than learning altogether how “What you read in the archive is in that eternal, open moment” (Steedman 27).

Mortals and Others: Dispatch from the Archives

For at least the next year, I’ll be working on both dissertational research as well as research into another book that I should have information about here in the near future at the University of Pennsylvania. Before proceeding, though, I’d like to offer some information on the Schoenberg Institute here, for those curious:

Guided by the vision of its founder, Lawrence J. Schoenberg, the mission of the Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies (SIMS) is to bring manuscript culture, modern technology and people together to bring access to and understanding of our intellectual heritage locally and around the world. Simply put, SIMS acts as a think-tank for manuscript studies in the digital age.

We advance the mission of SIMS by:

  • developing our own projects;
  • supporting the scholarly work of others both at Penn and elsewhere, and;
  • collaborating with and contributing to other manuscript-related initiatives around the world.

At the core of SIMS is the Lawrence J. Schoenberg collection of manuscripts, which was donated to the Penn Libraries in 2011 as part of a landmark gift establishing the Institute—the largest donation of its kind in the history of the library. Closely associated with this is our flagship digital project, also established by Larry Schoenberg: the Schoenberg Database of Manuscripts. This free, open-access resource enables scholars and enthusiasts to trace the provenance of manuscripts from their origins up to today, and has a large, global user community. The Institute publishes a bi-annual scholarly journal entitled Manuscript Studies, which appears online and in print, and also coordinates other occasional hard copy and digital publications. Every year, SIMS hosts a variety of visiting fellows on a rotating basis, ranging from graduate students to senior scholars; their presence forms a key aspect of the institute’s vibrant intellectual life. We also host, in partnership with the Free Library of Philadelphia, the annual Schoenberg Symposium on Manuscript Studies in the Digital Age, which brings together scholars from Penn and around the world every November to present cutting-edge research related to a specific theme.

SIMS staff have also spearheaded major digitization and research initiatives, including the Bibliotheca Philadelphiensis collaborative digitization project (2016–2019), and OPenn, the University of Pennsylvania’s open access digital repository for cultural works. Projects currently in development include the Digital Scriptorium 2.0 redevelopment planning project, VisColl collation visualization web app, and Books as Symbols in Renaissance Art web database.

Alongside these research activities, SIMS staff teach a range of manuscript-related courses in the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Arts and Sciences and at other venues such as Rare Book School and the Price Lab for Digital Humanities’ Dream Lab. They also host one-off visiting classes from the university and beyond who wish to examine manuscripts housed in Penn’s collections, at levels ranging from kindergarden to advanced graduate study.

SIMS staff offices are located in the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts on the fifth and sixth floors of the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library, at the heart of the University of Pennsylvania’s campus in Philadelphia.


My work at the Institute can be found in abridged form here.

For my first round of examined materials from the Schoenberg Institute I chose four that operate as entrances into the greater projects on various levels.

Augustine of Hippo’s Commentary on Genesis, fragment dated 1650-1750, should not escape the Miltonist at the start of their own sojourn. Prerequisite classic studies into form and function of both Puritanism and Paradise Lost itself should include Perry Miller and C.S. Lewis, among several other works I intend to assemble syllabi with. But I mention Miller and Lewis here because they really opened my eyes into the critical place Augustine holds in the Puritan vision of reality as well as Paradise Lost on the whole. I would likewise recommend these books to colleagues, students, and general readers alike, as I would the life and work of Augustine.


My foray into Pomponius Mela is related to an earlier study concerning Macrobius and Pseudo-Dionysius (see below) in elements of Dante’s political theology, a study which seamed effortlessly into a summer seminar with Milton that was the beginning of many things. I have yet to come across a method by which to weigh the theories concerning the existence of the planet beyond Creation and Apocalypse on one hand, and Eternality and Indestructability on the other, than by undertaking analyses of geographical theories throughout millennia. What can Pomponius Mela tell us? Perhaps, along with Democritus and Heidegger, that there is no ontological progress, but only technological unfolding masquerading as such.


In my work, the dual shadow of Pseudo-Dionysius and Marsilio Ficino cloak Renaissance Rome. I have also been accused of advocating a fusion of Ficino’s and Hegel’s system(s), an accusation I have less denied than built upon, having considered it at length.


Joseph Wittreich’s Latest Donation

Part of the joy of working in the archives is the element of spontaneity that waits in the wings of silent concentration. Most often, this spontaneity is interior, and intertextual; but it can unfold in other ways, too, as in the case of this most recent donation from Joseph Wittreich. It is really miraculous in its own way that of all the Miltonists whose work I have read, I should be present for interactions with one whose books influence my own work so much. Wittreich’s work and kindness as a person have had an enormous influence on me as both a writer and a mortal. I’ll let this gem from his collection speak for itself, dropped off the day before my most recent session at the archives.

Moving forward, I’ll have plenty of textual analyses, translations, and comments on things happening at the archives. For now, I thought it best to just provide an overview before potentially getting too heady. Enjoy!

Autumn, Science Fiction

Est vera secta ? te, Magister, consulo. rectamne servamus fidem ? an viperina non cavemus dogmata,
et nescientes labimur ? artam salutis vix viam discernere est inter reflexas semitas.

Prudentius, Apotheosis


For the academic year 2022-2023 I have decided to switch things up and keep a weekly blog on my work at the Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies. This shall be not only a chronicle of life in the archives, examining Milton’s Roman typologies and the essence of their sources, but a matter of medievalism, Philadelphia, and whatever else comes up along the way. I understand that this sounds less like an epiphany than something obvious to do. But for one has kept distance from digitality for all of his adult life, it is an undertaking, or exercise, in lifting the hermetic seal for a time, offering audiences both general and specialized a look into the world of manuscripts, medievalism, and early modern literature.

While the work therein shall be primarily for my unfolding dissertation, I am also collecting items for another book I’ve been developing scaffolded chapters on, which we call “The Second Book.” The idea is for this book to be completed after the primary dissertational work is complete. “The Second Book” is a study of Nietzsche’s 125th aphorism in the Gay Science in conjunction with John Milton’s Samson Agonistes. I have been profoundly moved by Giuseppe Fornari’s two-volume Dionysus, Christ, and the Death of God, a work that helped develop this idea, in addition to experiences at Fordham University, Columbia University, Temple University, UCLA, and the Mutter Museum, among others, which have all conjoined in the thrownness of things. The analysis concerns many things: typology, theology, mimesis, Rene Girard, Attic drama, disability, phenomenology, early modern documents, analyses of the Samson legend as well as the history of the concept of the death of God, in addition to Heidegger, Michel Henry, the history of dogmas, Mircea Eliade, and Ioan Couliano.

Thus, for the reader potentially uninterested in medieval manuscripts and Milton’s Roman typologies, the series promises to have various undercurrents interwoven throughout its pictorial and textual odyssey. Rather than seasonal briefings on books, I hope to at last have something on this very site that persons can read with regularity.


I will have more on this soon, as well as the unearthing of my first sci-fi novel (think Olaf Stapledon, J.G. Ballard, Pierre Guyotat, Philip K. Dick). I am in the process of finding an illustrator for the book, and shall again keep the updates coming.

Hars Hartung, “TI989-RII”, 1989

At Swim-Two-Summer-Notes (Summer 2022 Miscellany)

Polk Street is now available for purchase in a limited, privately printed run.

Sonnets is available in a limited, preliminary leatherbound printing, through Phenomenology of Spirit.

This summer I am Kenneth Karmiole Doctoral Fellow at UCLA, engaged in dissertational research.

Fall 2022 through Spring 2023 I will be working at, with, the University of Pennsylvania, as Schoenberg Doctoral Fellow, on similar aspects of dissertational research.

Given the nature and primacy of this and other work, there has been little time to work on Syllogistic, my novel written entirely in syllogisms about a character attempting to decipher the history of syllogistic in chronological research explicated in the form of his own philosophical novel. That said, I have had free spans of weeks here and there, and I am elated to report that the work, Syllogistic, is now about halfway through. It is doubtful that it shall receive anything more than isolated spats of days and weeks for the next couple of years. Still, within these spats, the work has been unfolding well. I am thinking that it could be finished in one to two years at this point, but this hypothesis is predicated on occasional schedule gaps, or an actual (rather than theoretical) break in my predominant scholarly work.

I believe that is all for now. Part of me would like to see Polk Street and [the] Sonnets, but such yearning is not near the top of one’s severest prerogatives.

My advice for aspiring penmen is more or less mollified calumniation. See also Empedocles, Sextus Empiricus, Jerome, Robert Copland, Nicolaus Lyranus, and The Minutes and Papers of the Westminster Assembly (1643-1652).

There is a proposed exegesis in the works … though that too must come later (or at least remain secret).

Extremely rare/limited print available (Ten copies left)

Blue cloth, gold lettering, color William Blake illustration.

Limited to 25 copies altogether, of which ten remain.

Latinized edition: Josephus Nicolellus.

Cost: $5,000.00.

Email me directly if you, your gallery, library, &c. would like a copy (personally inscribed).

Written in 2009, Polk Street has circulated in various editions ever since. Often close to landing at one publishing house or another, I was each time asked to alter the nihilistic cadence, something I was – obviously – unwilling to do. It is a narrative destruction of all political parties, war against idols, something of a Kierkegaardian take on the Dostoyevskian Underground Man, transpiring on one street, in one day: Polk Street, San Francisco, from Market to Beach/Fisherman’s Wharf.


Sonnets forthcoming in an equally limited edition, black cloth w. gold, William Blake illustration, 107 sonnets informed by the architectural systems and lives of the medieval cathedral builders.

Coming 2022-2023

At the end of 2019 some friends and I set out to launch a new literary journal. Photographs, artworks, and a long interview with myself were set up as a call for material was detailed. Yet the journal never came to be. However, the interview shall be published here in a relatively near future, regarding a variety of controversial, orthodox, banal, political, religious, aesthetic, and scholarly matters.

At the same time, the draft of a new type of book is nearing the end of its initial stages. This book is called Syllogistic – for now – and is a novel written completely in syllogisms concerning an author struggling to write the definitive history of syllogistic.

Below is artwork completed in twelve seconds, that will surely not be the actual cover of the book. However, a bird informed me that a handful of meager sentences might appear cryptic, and thus I have attached the not-cover for a book that does itself exist, or shall, here in the lifeworld.

More soon,


Apropos of the Annihilation of the Idols of the Age: Simulations & Apocalypses

Coming 2022 – 2023

Major thank you to Weykman R. Gomes. See his work at & @weykmann

There has been a steady uptick in libraries and bookstores acquiring my books; for this I am very grateful, and shall continue working with a mind on fire, less Emersonian than Heraclitean, albeit for the next several years exclusively on poetry and scholarly works, which I hope shall please ongoing supporters, readers, and those to come.

Contribution to the Dante Society of America’s Canto per Canto series

Between relocation, ongoing research, and misc. works, there has been little time for this regenerate Porson to share any news or, for that matter, even read much for leisure. But I am glad to have been part of this most worthy project, the Dante Society of America’s Canto per Canto series, of which the below is my official entry.

I recommend you take a look at the galvanizing selection of discussions, whether ye be an inveterate Dantean or one contemplating the aesthetic journey that is an unabridged reading of the Comedia.

I look forward to watching the project come into completion, and hope over the coming years to cross paths with many of the great contributors, and offer my thanks and admiration to everyone involved in Canto per Canto.

Canto per Canto, Inferno 14: Long(er) Version

Over the past few months I’ve had a great time discussing classical literature and Dante with my friend Rafael Torre de Silva (Classics, NYU). Indeed, his vision of literature and scholarship give me great hope for the future and have been for me part of a superb well of inspiration from which to draw creative, living waters. Rafael and I recorded some material for the Dante Society’s Canto per Canto project, including a version that went over the allowed time (the formal entry into Canto per Canto should be available online soon).

I post it here because it has some extra ideas that students and fans of literature may find both prescient and intellectually stimulating in terms of scholarship, life, and letters, even life as literature. As we have been working with and through Dante for Canto per Canto, a number of mutual friends, colleagues have also inspired me, among other things, to begin a poetic supplement to St. Josemaria Escriva’s The Way, something like 71 interlinked Petrarchan sonnets with a brisk four-line coda, culminating in 999 lines, as well as the reconsideration of my monastic/Thomas Merton project, or supplement to W.H. Auden and Kierkegaard, as less an anthology in the spirit of Pryzwara now but as perhaps a second Platonic dialogue. My intention is that the spirit that has been at work in the creation of this project be shared with you. This is just the beginning of what is in store, and the prospective aesthetic fruits that have come of discussions with Rafael and related friends this year and last; and thus I hope that viewers of the video and readers of this text are able themselves to perchance the living bread of contagious insight. Let us bow to no makeshift tyrants aiming to “ban” classical literature or contemporary poetics that shed a little too much light on reality; let us in fact realize that the work is always only getting started, and move accordingly from there in a synthesis of preservation, cultivation, and aesthetic cognition.

In the spirit of keeping the conversation, I add below an excerpt from Keith Buck’s 2021 masterpiece of an English translation of Italian scholar Giuseppe Fornari’s two-volume Dionysus, Christ, and the Death of God (Michigan State University Press, 2021) which would have been another direction to take this very canto in looking at work ongoing, new directions, and other aspects of my long book that I gloss in the video. Students, professors, colleagues, friends, strangers, religious, and all beings from all walks of life: I find they increasingly are talking to me about anxiety and the mystery of the future. To this I am doing my utmost to insist that a light shines in the darkness; I believe the fusion of scholars in all stages of the process here working with Inferno 14 are a snapshot of a higher-level thinking and means of proceed that is at work, and that we all keep the conversation going. I hope you enjoy the video and also find new directions within it to take note of, my friends, wherever you are and whoever you are, on the journey of Dasein

I recommend to my readers the Vestigium Forum, the Dante Society’s Canto per Canto series, my books, and Giuseppe Fornari’s colossal two-volume work now available, and thus let Fornari speak for himself as something of an afterthought, or postscript, to the video, while wishing you all a pleasant viewing:

“We shall have other occasions to call on Dante to point the way through the infernal labyrinth of sacrificial rites and myths, and to find our way out, guaranteed to us by the figure of Virgil, the symbol of natural human knowledge, the only possible prerequisite for access to divine revelation, which consists, ultimately, in more thorough humanization. We have far to go, and the violent implications of the labyrinth myth tell us that the way will not be easy. But therein lies its necessity, its potential significance for salvation. We must pause now, though our journey has just begun, to consider an internal detail of the mythologem that can be understood without lapsing into naturalism as long as we keep it inside its strictly collective framework; this detail is the persisting linkage to the sphere of the family and sexual regeneration.

“It is interesting all Dante’s scholars, in commenting on canto XIV of Inferno, devote their efforts to the impressive allegory of the Veglio and pay little attention to the previous image of Rhea choosing Mount Ida “like something forbidden [cosa vieta]” in order to get “a safe cradle” for her baby, although this preparatory scene offers us a revealing and intentional contrast. In Dante the ancient Cretan myth becomes the potential reversal of a diabolical contiguity between violence and sexual desire to which Jupiter’s mother reacts with employing “something forbidden,” that is, by going to a forbidden place that remains the only hope for salvation in the abyss of objectual destruction. There is little doubt that this is for Dante a hidden pagan prophecy about the coming of the Christian Redeemer, represented in canto VI of Purgatorio as the ancient king of the gods crucified on earth for saving humanity (o sommo Give/che fosti in terra per noi crucifisso) [VI, 118-199; cf. XXXII, 112]. The crucifixion of Jupiter/Christ fulfils the scene on Mount Ida and illustrates the final way out of the maze and its sacrificial couplings: the divine child who knowingly accepts becoming a “cosa vieta” and being sacrificed so as to solve the human knot of violence from within.

[“In the ancient myths things are more uncertain and complicated than in the Comedy but the objectual hope for salvation is not different from Dante’s and his comparative symbolism emphasizes revealing analogies to them. The Cretan myths are always characterized by a recognizable family pattern and at the center of the labyrinth we always find a child born out of irregular sexual relations. For the community these represent the overturning of procreation as protected by the order of the family, on which the community relies for stability and permanence. The irregularity of a son conceived in violation of the rules governing the institution of the family is counterbalance by his death as an evil monster at the hands of his beneficent double (the Minotaur killed at the hands of Theseus), by his unjust murder being followed by divine rebirth (Dionysus devoured by the Titans and given a new life, reborn from his father, Zeus), and by his being protected as a divine infant whose killing is transfigured and configured in the form of an initiation ceremony (Zeus saved by the Curetes). Through these strands of evolution, we are able to make out, in the middle of the collective labyrinth, a mythical-ritual updating of the mystery of generation with its dangers and its vital importance for the life of the community, reminding us that the first object in real terms for human beings is represented by their fellow human beings with whom they have dealings, in particular those dangerous and necessary dealings that are human sexual relations.

[“All the character-types in the age-old drama of copulation, with its dangerous yet essential outcome for society’s objectual existence, are to be found variously overlaid in the winding ways of the labyrinth, and they are constantly evoked in a state of affairs still lacking the reassuring mediations that the mythical-ritual machinery takes on the task to confirm. In the Cretan mythologem, along with the collective divinity, we repeatedly see a female divinity who has the features of a mother goddess, a goddess of love, or a virgin goddess: sexual characteristics that are all cross-referential from the point of view of the sacred. The male god may appear as a divine child of the mother goddess, or as her paredros, that is, as a lover and companion subordinate to her, or as the father to her children with the full status of husband.

[“These two types, male and female, combine variously with one another and with the collective divinity (who, in turn, may be male or female) and correspond to leitmotiv of the labyrinth mythologem, indicated affirmatively or negatively by the generative function of the mother goddess Rhea, by the failed matrimonial ambitions of Ariadne, and by the married Pasiphae’s perverse mating with the divine bull that gave birth to the Minotaur: the motif of the hieros gamos, the sacred wedding, perfectly recognizable in our myths that tell of the copulation of a female divinity with Cronos or Zeus, where complete success could only be assured by the sacrifice of the participants, or of one of them, often the weakest and last on the scene, the troublesome newborn baby who in order to be accepted by society had to go through the bloody mediation of sacrifice or else find an acceptable substitute. The mythic material suggests that the sacred coupling took place inside the labyrinth and that the divine child born as a result was sacrificed to the mother goddess. This is what Hera’s fury in the Titans myth indicates. However, as Ariadne’s story shows, death could be the mother’s fate as well. The paredros of the goddess is killed in many other myths; for example, in the myth of Venus and Adonis, deriving from the story of Dumuzi/Tammuz and Inanna/Ishtar found on Cyprus and throughout the Near East. Some of the prehistoric tombs referred to earlier contain the remains of children or fetuses, pregnant women, or women with a child. In the Moravian triple burial, resulting in all likelihood from a human group sacrifice, two men and a young pregnant woman are buried in positions with clear sexual significance and red ochre covers the woman’s genital zone, which is covered by the hand of the man on her left. This area of research is likely to produce further revelations. It was no accident that Dante placed Minos at the start of the circle concerned with desire in one of its most frequent and powerful manifestations, sexual desire. This desire has to be understood as neither as the automatic manifestation of an already-formed libidinal instinct, nor as the simple consequence of indeterminate mimesis, but rather as the cultural interaction of collective mediations on the individual’s somatic and biological constitution, with the aim of reliably perpetuating the human object in its renewal from generation to generation”] (Giuseppe Fornari, Dionysius, Christ, and the Death of God, Volume I.: The Great Mediations of the Classical World, Michigan State University Press, 2021, 137-40).

A special thanks to Michigan State Univ. Press, Prof. Bob Davis, Prof. Susanna Barsella, the Dante Society of America, as well as my editors and publishers.