Selva Oscura

The third play printed here, ‘Oedipus and Dionysus’, has not been performed, although a Catalan translation is being used as an opera libretto. It has also been published in Spanish.

When the crisis in society and in his personal life deepened, Henrik Ibsen turned from poetic drama to the more intense prose inquisitions of his great works. (James Bridie used to say that, of course, he was not a Norwegian playwright but a chap called Henry Gibson from Gallashiels!) So it was that in the ‘selva oscure’ of my middle years I turned from the theatre of poetic drama to the forms that could more appropriately contain the matters that increasingly concerned me. The matters were what perhaps they had always been, the terrible disaster of a more and more unified social system based on utterly false and disastrous precepts, and a private doom which that society was more and more designing to be that of an isolated, individual unit whose only social reality lay in consumerism, and whose historicity lay only in being a statistic. The romantic Jacobitism of my childhood and youth was to make me another kind of mature Jacobite in the years that lay ahead.

The historical Jacobite stood for the True Religion and he opposed a pretended protestantism which obviously and inevitably led to atheism. At the same time his claim to personal monarchic rule was that only the financially unbound leader could oppose the structured wealth of a Money Elite, and, allied to the monarch, only his gold- and silver-based coinage stood in the way of an absolutist financial system, no longer bound through being real-value wealth, thus liberating usury to a spiral endebtment without any limit but its own ultimate collapse. I was embarking on a personal journey to redefine a modern Jacobitism. The True Religion and an abolition of what had once been William-and-Mary mercantilism, now become the monstrous enslaving world system of usury-bankism, a streamlined, vaster and more deadly system of that 19th-century capitalism that had so horrified Carlyle and Dickens.
There is no doubt that, being a child of World War II, I could be aware that the foundations of the society into which I had been born were already hopelessly flawed. At the same time, the growing recognition that the nature of modern society was itself alienating and ultimately destructive of all the human values it pretended to defend – somehow that realisation did not come through a rational and critical analysis, but rather it came to me as it came to George Sand and Alfred de Musset. It was as if only the cataclysmic disaster of a love affair could allow the self, so utterly submerged in the worldly ocean of technique, to experience itself. It was as if the head of the drowning man was somehow to rise above the engulfing waves to experience one full and glorious draft of life-giving air.

While still at R.A.D.A. the dreadful event occurred – I fell in love, that terrible unconditional state which forbids all application of reason. Ernest Hemingway in ‘Death in the Afternoon’ wrote that this event was like a kind of death, and that people he knew who had experienced it were in some way cauterised in their selfhood, already dead, never to be the same again. It is not that the sensual is ended, but that it is forever separated from the burning of the soul. The dedication to the two plays of my youth are the only visible scars of that sublime and ultimately tragic disaster. Yet there is no doubt that without it this whole body of work would never have occurred, this whole body of existence would never have been understood, this whole spiritual journey would not have been undertaken. In the words of the Sufi, you cannot love, meaning Allah, if you have not loved.

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