Friday, February 26, 2010

André Breton on Analogy: Inspiration, Poetry and Mysticism

Only on the level of analogy have I ever experienced intellectual pleasure. For me the only manifest truth in the world is governed by the spontaneous, clairvoyant, insolent connection established under certain conditions between two things whose conjunction would not be permitted by common sense. As much as I abhor, more than any other, the word therefore, replete with vanity and sullen delectation, so do I love passionately anything that flares up suddenly out of nowhere and thus breaks the thread of discursive thinking. What comes to light at the moment is an infinitely richer network of relations whose secret, as everything suggests, was known to early mankind. It is true that flare quickly dies out, but its glimmer is enough to help measure on their dismal scale the exchange values currently available that provide not answer except to basic questions of a utilitarian nature.


Poetic analogy has this in common with mystical analogy: it transgresses the rules of deduction to let the mind apprehend the interdependence of two objects of thought located on different planes. Logical thinking is incapable of establishing such a connection, which it deems a priori impossible. Poetic analogy is fundamentally different from mystical analogy in that it in no way presupposes the existence of an invisible universe that, from beyond the veil of the visible world, is trying to reveal itself.... When we consider the impression it creates, it is true that poetic analogy seems, like mystical analogy, to argue for an idea of a world branching out toward infinity and entirely permeated with the same sap. However, it remains without any effort within the sensible (even the sensual) realm, and it shows no propensity to lapse into the supernatural.

(André Breton, "Ascendant Sign," trans. Michel Parmentier and Jacqueline D'Amboise; in Literary Debate: Texts and Contexts)

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