Tuesday, 11 February 2014

37. The Making of the Christmas Pudding Considered as Alchemical & Political Process

1. Prima Materia: The Opening of the Work. I dedicate this, a recipe for the Christmas Pudding, to my children, their partners, and all their children – Anna, Jamie, Ianthe, Nick, Jeanette & the anyone else who is yet to come & will. The work, in other words, must be collective & shared, starting where we are but open to all chance. Upon such is based this art of poetry & of cooking, for it originates in nature, our nature, which is Culture, thence follows a natural end in a just form, through just and natural means. What these words mean, well, we shall see, yes? Take them as a proud & riddling blazon to live up to – just and natural in form, end and means.

2. OK, then, why can’t I
escape to the utopia of the pre-modern city[1]
instead of this rigid dialectic of inner & outer
because, first a date fast approaches
inexorable as duty, and bearing danger & ridicule
unusual for a poem or recipe
                                 we’re heading for that one day the five and twentieth (or next before Advent) Sunday after Trinity when we know we’re about to start (seriously, actively) the Great Work of Christmas. Now, we know he, the babe Jesus, wasn’t born then, but we’ll instead join our good old friends & relations in all our commonplace joy at this Natal Day of Sol Invictus[2]. We must follow, on the lines of, why not, this day’s Collect: “Stir up, we beseech thee O Lord (substituting here & elsewhere that unknown god)[3] the wills of thy faithful people that they plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works may of these be plenteously rewarded (oh surely, a good wish) through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” – celebrating yet birth in the midst of winter (like you, Anna, Jamie & Jeanette) and the real promise we must continually make to ourselves of our new life, in all its weeping & laughter, moistening dry bodies that they may Green and Grow. Amen, again. Let us go and see, then, together, the nature of the four elements, for art can produce extraordinary things out of the aforesaid natural beginnings such as nature herself would never be able to create.

3. There is a mass of stuff for this you need, of course, for the Way of the Universe is through the Inclusion of Particulars. Some of this ordinary, like the moon & the sun, but often crunching (apples? carrots? it is a diverse world full of diverse tastes!), smelling of the sun (coagulated), despite our drabness. Let’s list these – I must in fact, for this iteration requires all due process:
             110 g plain white flour
             175 g suet (vegetable etc)
             120 g slightly stale white bread
             110 g sugar (demerara or muscovado etc)
             100 g plump raisins
             50 g sultanas
             115 g various uncut candied peels
             50 g undyed etc glacĂ© cherries
             50 g dried figs
             50 g blanched almonds
             ¼ tsp mixed spice
             ¼ tsp fresh ground nutmeg
             up to ¼ tsp mixed ground ginger & ground cloves
             ½ tsp salt
                   – and here to balance
                   there must be mercury
                   a few drops should suffice
             2 medium eggs
               in token of timely resurrection
             75 ml milk
                   – of heroines
             & good dark rum at hand
             a swart sweet solvent to unite in coition
             + a little butter just to grease the pot, set the process within clear & defined limits so that we can engage with all these material particularities clearly in motion. It will be a struggle, but we must know when we have gained what we need and seek.

4. We must talk of familiar things first, for the earth flowers and bears manifold coloured blooms and fruits, and in her interior has grown a large tree with a silver stem, stretching out to the earth’s surface. Its fruit you must grate it fiercely into crumbs. Slice up finely the peel of the fruit of the TERRA FOLIATA – bearing in mind there is no healing or salvation in the ready cut tubs of this. Halve the fruit of Health & rinse to return them to the state of grace. Then prepare, too, finally the Herb LUNATICA or BERISCA.[4] Everyone can take part to make this conjunction a common enterprise, to which all are committed & have played their part. Let everyone be excited at this stage. There can be no regret – so much can be done when all is ebullient with such potential.

5. The First Conjunction. We rise in joy, back and forth, back and forth, the red and the white, the black and the white. It is like mixing dough in one big bowl, with suet and crumb, plus sifted flour, sugar, then dried fruit and spice and salt. At last backwards & forwards, backwards & forwards. And here then the body becomes spiritual. Imagine that in another bowl you beat the eggs well and add the milk and half a glass of rum, making a black, dirty and foul smelling slime or clay. Backwards & forwards again & again! Stir the wet into the dry, adding more rum – or milk for the faint hearted – there needs always to be thought of these. If it seems not moist and dark enough, not emanating from her the most splendid perfume, surpassing all aromas, then say silently all your Christmas wishes for all this poor old world. Shall I tell you a great mystery? These wishes are this: “It is a living thing, which no more dies, but when used gives an eternal increase.” We blossom, like peacocks, like white peafowl, like deer, like flowers, which perceived rightly, perceiving and acting, uniting our opposites in one conjunctive and gentle decoction.

6. All this control & calm
– where’s it getting us to?
It isn’t fresh is the surprise. Oh god, let it all rest quietly under a bloody tea towel, in a cool place until tomorrow. Put it off, you’ll feel better – two days of pleasure? And then? Oh, stuck in the edge of a ruined forest, with the philosopher’s egg & the winged rebis itself. I think you need rage. Red and white! Red and white!

7. Nigredo. Thy head! The head, thy golden head! Familiar situation here then next – luting (as well as looting). You will need to butter a large pudding basin, giving room at the top for it all to rise again, then spoon in the dark mixture, carefully covering, note, in an adult fashion (not like worldly wantons). Lute the vessel thus: one layer greased dull white baking paper and two of luminous foil. Put in a pleat like a fine lawn shirt’s back across there, to allow for the innumerable fruit of its increase. Tie it around the basin’s rim firmly with string, and loop it across to the other side for a handle to raise up at last. Hide the head within. The body shall receive a superabundant life. This is the time, of course, of dark, quiet, murderous secrecy. There will be danger, even death, amidst these preparations.

8. Albedo. This is a perfect decoction, transferring energy to transform the arcane substance or people. At the end we shall arise. In the meantime, there is a pan[5], an old battered one in fact, and the pudding is in it, but it is a very mediated situation (with watchers on the walls around). It needs a very large pan (to stand for the world), and inside, at its bottom the trivet of faith.[6] Then fill this quite high with water and boil. When that becomes a turbulent and dangerous landscape, lower in the basin, letting the covers not be defiled with ordinary water, and get it to a steady simmer with a lid over the pan to maintain the pressure and the heat.[7] This situation needs checking and supporting, with boiling kettles, bellows, videos of the conflagration uploaded continually on YouTube etc – constant, purposive agitation is all. Keep up the watch – this is alchemy or revolution or cooking, not a game of literature. The time is real and precise: five long hours there is the pan & the pudding in it. What a situation, to throw smoke in Saturn’s face & transform this.

9. There is a minor problem. The covers will prove inadequate, will end up boiled raw. Prepare another set. Readiness is all. At five hours pull out the pudding, raised on high with fully conscious care, the decoction burst into the peacock’s tail. This is the moment of power, when the revolution transforms into triumphant carnival. Remove the old & replace with the new, like re-dressing a wound. Hence it is this combat raises upwards, or else you shall not gain by it.

10. Citrinitas. The black sun of midwinter irradiates the ruined forest. It is a slow, frigid putrefaction: a necessary process like clearing up after the carnival, organising the street committees and preparing for the completion of change. It rests there until Christmas Day. It isn’t hanging in a balance, it just requires time for the transformation to be completed, like some dormant grub or larva in a cool dry place of its choosing. We put ours outside in a woodshed next to the house, perhaps as place for food inconceivable & grotesque, unless you think again that this is also a religious or civic ritual, but not sad and ludicrous as they often are in these latter days, instead suffused with and suffusing familiar pleasures if just done correctly. The dark sun begins to gild the air as it decays at this quiet final turn.

11. Rubedo. Finally, then, your family, your feast, your fantasy – it’s here! It just needs implementing. For just two hours simmer as before, while you and the children play with your new toys. Lift out the basin, and uncover at once! No more playing! Slide a knife or palette knife around, put a large shallow dish on top and invert – for this is the feast of the time of inversion, yes?[8] Then serve the people assembled however they and you want, even as ceremonial as a true Christmas pie. They are all laughing together, jocund, familiar and rubicund.

12. “I was actually doing it. I felt alive, there’s no word to explain it. It was like that first day it happened will always be the best day of my life for ever – I swear to God.” This is so. This is how people experience a revolutionary moment or any other real action. It may not change things – but it will change us. It is more likely to be effective than alchemy, isn’t it? The only realisation attainable there is the non-attainability of that transformation – with the realisation, at this point, that the person is what is transformed. It’s a long way round, though, and its detritus of antimony & mercury, salt & sulphur, pretty destructive: the new-born sun begins to illumine the utopian city we approach – but the forest is still ashen, ruined[9]. Poetry at least doesn’t pollute – but’s probably even less likely to attain such clear and full moments. Like alchemy, it gives us a way of voicing this, and a way of voicing that it cannot be voiced. So, I’m not bothered at this point with the rules of my game, any game. There is nothing to bind me, not today. Not, sometimes, at Christmas – yes? Another little peak, just sometimes, of smaller, familiar & domestic fullnesses of body and of being. Improve and make as you wish. In all things aim at common pleasure, free exchange and full awareness. The sun that shines in the wintry sky is the red sun of transformative power. It is unconquerable, and its birth date is coming soon is what I need to tell you again now. Improve & make as you wish.[10]

[1] We hold the Key to the City of Xian, remember?
[2] So should we not forget Jamie’s friend Trevor Wakefield and all his gang
[3] As we accept no lordship
[4] It has a red stem, spotted with black, grows easily and decays easily, and gains Citrine flowers after three days – let it be destalked & cut into 3 pieces, in honour of the dialectic
[5] Or poem
[6] Failing this, the upturned saucer of dogma – but that may break due the high energies released in the process
[7] Mary of Egypt first did this – honour her!
[8] Wherefore is this Art compared to the play of children, who when they play, turn underneath that which before was uppermost
[9] Welcome to the Anthropocene: Age of Ash and Rubble
[10] The reason why all natural things are put together in body is, that there may be a united composition.

1 comment:

  1. Salomon Trismosin, Splendor Solis (1582; Harley 3469) – online images at The Hermetics Resource Site ; images and text at Hermeticism: AOR – The Hermetic Society; useful commentary in Johannes Fabricius, Alchemy: The Medieval Alchemists and their Royal Art (Diamond Books, 1976).
    section 12 quote : “Charlie”, Toxteth, reported in The Guardian, December 5, 2011.