‘Are You A Satanist?’



The last twelve to eighteen months have taught me that if you put something on the internet, everybody will see it. People rarely comment on-line, but I seem to get all kinds of bizarre responses when I see them in public, ranging from facial expressions that look like they’ve swallowed a bullfrog (and are struggling to keep it down) to, ‘What’s with all the leather gear?’ Or even, ‘Are you a Satanist?’

paradise-lost-5A Memorable Fancy

As I was walking among the fires of Hell, delighted with the enjoyments of Genius, which to angels look like torment and insanity, I collected some of their proverbs; thinking that the sayings of a nation mark its character, so the Proverbs of Hell show the nature of infernal wisdom better than any description or garments.

When I came home, on the abyss of the five sense, where a flat-sided steep frowns on the present world, I saw a mighty Devil, folded in black clouds, hovering on the sides of the rock: with corroding fires he wrote the following sentence now perceieved by the minds of men and read by them on earth:-

‘How do you know but ev’ry Bird that cuts the airy way,

Is an immense world of delight, clos’d by your senses five?’


From The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

By William Blake.

According to Alfred Kazin, writing in the introduction to The Viking Portable Blake, William Blake was “A lyric poet interested chiefly in ideas, and a painter who did not believe in nature. He was a commercial artist who was a genius in poetry, painting and religion. He was a libertarian obsessed with God; a mystic who reversed the mystical pattern, for he sought man as the end of his search.”

I’m not sure how I found my way to Blake; I think it was connected to fucking around with Paradise Lost by John Milton. Reading something or another else, I found Blake had made comment on Milton, saying that, “The reason Milton wrote in fetters when he wrote of Angels & God, and at liberty when of Devils & Hell, is because he was a true Poet and of the Devil’s party without knowing it.”


I have a number of frighteningly intelligent friends. I expect that at least one, possibly two of them, are bona fide geniuses. I see both of them at least once a week and we sit and discuss all manner of things.

One is immensely knowledgeable in terms of history, art and politics, while the other is a maths and science specialist whose gifts seem to occasionally verge on a kind of disability. I feel very fortunate that either spends his time with me; after talking with them, I feel dazzled by the brightness of the sun from the peaks to which I have been lifted.

The maths dude and I were at coffee the other morning, discussing my recent series on sex and the single stalker, ‘Desperate Romantic’. I asked what he thought about it and he didn’t have a whole lot to say, other than, “Women are profoundly Newtonian with an elliptical orbit.” He also confessed to having felt a strong discomfort while reading; something about the constricting sensation of its almost sordid honesty.

I am certain I am not a genius. I learned this most unpleasant fact while in high school. I felt absolutely awful – for years. How could I ever hope to write something which would touch other people the way Catcher in the Rye touched me? And if I couldn’t, what good was I? What was the point of my life?


My uncle (a priest) probably thinks he is a genius, and on that score, is often quite condescending. I recently told him he should read Richard Flanagan’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North. When he asked, ‘What’s it about?’ The best answer I could come up with was to say, ‘It’s about life.’ He laughed at me.

Interestingly, Flanagan’s book most closely reminds me of War and Peace. The story of the Napoleonic War in Russia is the drama that occurs inside a philosophical treatise on the nature of history: a phenomenon which occurs at the flashpoint of freedom and necessity.

These are the poles of the story and as the events spin out in one immense chain from between them, you feel as if finally, you understand. It’s like being lifted up to look into a telescope by your older brother and discovering it’s actually a portal to the eye of God.

I spoke to another friend of mine about Flanagan’s book and both of us, at certain points in the conversation, were in tears. It’s a crying-and-laughing kind of feeling, which seems to stem from the sensation of being saturated with the pathos of life.

I felt, just as I did when I read War and Peace, that Flanagan had worked his fingers into the sinews of existence and he took my hand and lifted it up and held it there so I could feel the vibrations for myself.



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