In his writing, Calasso strived to create a circulation between the visible and the invisible. That’s my favourite expression of his. Sbrojavacca writes that ‘on every page Calasso invites us to use reading as an instrument to investigate the unseen’. Literature, in this conception, is the polysemic, ambiguous vessel we can use to venture into the invisible. La Folie Baudelaire (2009) is perhaps most explicit on this. Calasso argues that the French poet is the master of analogy, and represents the moment where the sacred becomes the purview of literature as the rest of society abandoned it. Analogic thinking is presented as the only way to access the kind of knowledge ‘that shines a light on the natural obscurity of things’. This is why everything in Calasso is juxtaposed but never explained. The ‘opera’ was a gnostic project, shrouded, as most gnostic projects are, in a mist of poetry, eruditeness, and beauty.
As Baudelaire explained in a letter cited by Calasso, ‘the imagination is the most scientific of the faculties, because it is the only one to understand the universal analogy, or that which a mystical religion calls correspondence’. This aspect of Baudelaire is said to place him in a lineage of ‘pansophists’. ‘Universal analogy: it suffices to utter this formula to call up, like some vast submerged architecture, the esotericism of Europe starting from the early fifteenth century. The forms it assumed were numerous – from the mild Platonism of Ficino to Bruno’s harsh Egyptian version, from Fludd’s Mosaic-naturalistic theosophy to Böhme’s Teutonic-cosmic variety, down to Swedenborg and Louis-Claude de Saint-Martin’. This freewheeling argument ends with a quote from Goethe: ‘Every existent is an analogon of the entire existent; and so that which exists always appears to us isolated and interwoven at one and the same time. If one follows analogy too closely, everything coincides in the identical: if one avoids it, all is dispersed in the infinite.’
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