Posts Tagged ‘mishima


The Pure Land

If one feels like having something to eat, there automatically appears before one’s eyes a seven-jeweled table on whose shining surface rest seven-jeweled bowls heaped high with the choicest delicacies. But there is no need to pick up these viands and put them in one’s mouth. All that is necessary is to look at their inviting colors and to enjoy their aroma: thereby the stomach is filled and the body nourished, while one remains oneself spiritually and physically pure. When one has thus finished one’s meal without any eating, the bowls and the table are instantly wafted off.

Yukio Mishima, “The Priest of Shiga Temple and His Love”


The law as an obstruction to poetry…

The law is an accumulation of tireless attempts to block a man’s desire to change life into an instant of poetry. Certainly it would not be right to let everybody exchange his life for a line of poetry written in a splash of blood. But the mass of men, lacking valor, pass away their lives without ever feeling the least touch of such a desire. The law, therefore, of its very nature is aimed at a tiny minority of mankind. The extraordinary purity of a handful of men, the passionate devotion that knows nothing of the world’s standards… the law is a system that tries to degrade them to ‘evil’, on the same level as robbery and crimes of passion.

– Yukio Mishima, “Runaway Horses” (Chapter 33)


Mishima on contempt…

Honda wondered why he could not be more tolerant. He knew, as it became more and more of a burden to make new acquaintances, how difficult it was to muster a smile. Contempt was of course the emotion that came first, but even that was rather a lot of trouble these days. He thought how much easier it would be to respond with spittle than with words, even as the words came to his lips, but words were the task that remained. With them an old man could twist the world as he might squash a willow lattice.

- Yukio Mishima, “The Decay of the Angel” (Chapter 23)


More love-related morsels from Mishima…

And when I hung up I felt a quite unexpected twinge of sadness. Denial is itself a sort of concession, and it is natural that the concession should bring a shadow of sadness over one’s self-respect. I am not afraid of it.

Summer is almost over. I am very much aware of its passage. As strongly as words can express. There were mackerel clouds and cumulus clouds in the sky today and a faint touch of sharpness in the air.

Love should follow along, but my emotions must not follow anything.

Yukio Mishima, “The Decay of the Angel” (Chapter 24)

The little present Momoko gave me in Shimoda is here on my desk. It is a framed bit of white coral. On the back, in two pierced hearts, it carries the inscription: “From Momoko to Toru.” I do not understand how she can go on being prey to these childish tastes. The case is filled with little bits of tinfoil that float up like the white sands of the sea when you shake it, and the glass is half frosted with indigo. The Suruga Bay I have known is compressed into a frame five inches square, it has become a lyrical miniature forced on me by a girl. But small though it is, the coral has its own grand, cold cruelty, my inviolable awareness at the heart of her lyric.

Yukio Mishima, “The Decay of the Angel” (Chapter 24)


Happy Valentine’s Day! ^_^

On reflection, falling in love for him was not only extraordinary, but rather comical. By having closely observed Kiyoaki Matsugae, he knew full well what sort of man should fall in love.

Falling in love was a special privilege given to someone whose external, sensuous charm and internal ignorance, disorganization, and lack of cognizance permitted him to form a kind of fantasy about others. It was a rude privilege. Honda was quite aware that since his childhood, he had been the opposite of such a man.

- Yukio Mishima, “The Temple of Dawn” (Chapter 39)


Mishima: Social Psychologist

Back to “Runaway Horses” real quick. This is quite a different approach from how we studied and considered groupthink during my undergraduate and graduate social psychology courses.

In ordinary human relationships, good and evil, trust and mistrust appear in impure form, mixed together in small portions. But when men gather together to form a group devoted to a purity not of this world, their evil may remain, purged from each member but coalesced to form a single pure crystal. Thus in the midst of a collection of pure white gems, perhaps it was inevitable that one gem black as pitch could also be found.

If one took this concept a bit further, one encountered an extremely pessimistic line of thought: the substance of evil was to be found more in blood brotherhoods by their very nature than in betrayal. Betrayal was something that was derived from this evil, but the evil was rooted in the blood brotherhood itself. The purest evil that human efforts could attain, in other words, was probably achieved by those men who made their wills the same and who made their eyes see the world in the same way, men who went against the pattern of life’s diversity, men whose spirits shattered the natural wall of the individual body, making nothing of this barrier set up to guard against mutual corrosion, men whose spirit accomplished what flesh could never accomplish. Collaboration and cooperation were weak terms bound up with anthropology. But blood brotherhood… that was a matter of eagerly joining one’s spirit to the spirit of another. This in itself showed a bright scorn for the futile, laborious human process in which ontogeny was eternally recapitulating phylogeny, in which man forever tried to draw a bit closer to truth only to be frustrated by death, a process that had ever to begin again in the sleep within the amniotic fluid. By betraying this human condition the blood brotherhood tried to gain its purity, and thus it was perhaps but to be expected that it, in turn, should of its very nature incur its own betrayal. Such men had never respected humanity.

- Yukio Mishima, “Runaway Horses” (Chapter 33)


History hangs detached somewhere in mid-air…

Like the knives and forks in the waiters’ hands that had not yet been separated, emotion and reason commingled in Honda; and not a single plan (a malicious tendency of reason) had been made—his will was still uninvolved. The pleasure which he had discovered at the end of his life entailed such an indolent abandonment of human will. As he thus relinquished it, the determination to engage himself in history that had so obsessed him since youth was also suspended in space, and history hung detached somewhere in mid-air.

Yukio Mishima, “The Temple of Dawn” (Chapter 41)


Purity as the key to joining heaven and earth…

Taking a step back to the previous volume…

If we look on idly, heaven and earth will never be joined. To join heaven and earth, some decisive deed of purity is necessary. To accomplish so resolute an action, you have to stake your life, giving no thought to personal gain or loss. You have to turn into a dragon and stir up a whirlwind, tear the dark, brooding clouds asunder and soar up into the azure-blue sky.

- Yukio Mishima, “Runaway Horses” (Chapter 37)


The Artist and the Role of His Audience in His Immortalization…

Sex, murder, and cannibalization are only metaphors in this stunning excerpt from “The Temple of Dawn”. This is an entirely fascinating look into the mind of a narcissist, artist, and genius—and a telling revelation of how he perceived his audience and what he saw as their role in his immortalization.

“…half the babies are incredibly beautiful, while the other half are ugly and deformed.

The creative powers of all artists in the land are utilized to develop various means of slaughter. That is to say, there are theaters throughout the country devoted to sexual murder, in which the beautiful boys and girls are cast in all manner of roles where they are tortured to death. They recreate all sorts of mythological and historical personalities who were sadistically murdered while young and beautiful. But of course there are many new creations too. They are nobly murdered in magnificent, sensual costumes, with splendid lighting, brilliant stage settings, and wonderful music; but usually they are toyed with by members of the audience before they are quite dead, and after that the bodies are consumed.

The graves? The graves are right outside ‘The Garden of the Loved Ones.’ It is a beautiful place, and ugly deformed people stroll among the tombs on moonlit nights, lost in romantic moods. As statues of the beautiful ones are erected as gravestones, there’s no cemetery in the world with so many beautiful bodies.

Orgasm, a phenomenon something like a corporeal crystal, is further crystallized in  memory, and following the death of the god of beauty, one can recall the highest degree of sexual excitement. The people live only in order to reach this point. Compared to this heavenly jewel, the physical existence of human beings, whether the lover or the beloved, the killer or the killed, is only the means of reaching this point. This is the ideal of the country.

Memory is the sole matter of our spirit. Even should a god appear at the climax of sexual possession, then that god becomes the ‘remembered one,’ and the lover becomes ‘the one who remembers.’ Only through this time-consuming process is the presence of the god really proved, is beauty attained for the first time, and is sexual desire distilled into love that is independent of possession. Hence, gods and humans are not separated in space, but there is a time lag between them. here lies the essence of temporal polytheism. Do you understand?

Murder sounds harsh, but it is necessary for purifying memory and distilling it into its strongest concentrated element. Besides, these ugly, deformed inhabitants are noble, truly noble. They are experts in altruism; they live for self-denial. These lovers-cum-murderers-cum-rememberers live their roles faithfully, they remember nothing about themselves, but live only in adoration of the memory of the loved ones’ beautiful death. Remembering becomes the single task of their lives. ‘The Land of the Pomegranate’ is also a country of cypresses, beautiful mementos, and mourning; it is the most peaceful and quiet place in all the world, a country of recollections.

Every time I go there, I think I never want to return to a place like Japan. The land is full of the sweetest, tenderest elements of humanity. It is a country of true humanism and peace. They have no such savage custom as eating the flesh of oxen and pigs.”

Yukio Mishima, “The Temple of Dawn” (Chapter 25, bits and pieces taken from pp. 169-173)


A colossal evening glow…

Son of a bitch! Just thirteen pages into Mishima’s “The Temple of Dawn” and he forces me to underline, annotate, and share the entirety of two pages.

“Art is a colossal evening glow,” he repeated. “It’s the burnt offering of all the best things of an era. Even the clearest logic that has long thrived in daylight is completely destroyed by the meaningless lavish explosion of color in the evening sky; even history, apparently destined to endure forever, is abruptly made aware of its own end. Beauty stands before everyone; it renders human endeavor completely futile. Before the brilliance of evening, before the surging evening clouds, all rot about some ‘better future’ immediately fades away. The present moment is all; the air is filled with a poison of color. What’s beginning? Nothing. Everything is ending

“There’s nothing of substance in it. Of course, night has its own intrinsic nature: the cosmic essence of death and inorganic existence. Day too has its own entity; everything human belongs to the day.

“But there’s no substance in the evening glow. It’s nothing but a joke, a meaningless, but impressive joke of form and light and color. Look… look at the purple clouds. Nature seldom offers a banquet of such a lavish color as purple. Evening clouds are an insult to anything symmetric, but such destruction of order is closely connected with the breakup of something much more fundamental. If the serene white daytime cloud may be compared to moral exaltation, then these riotous colors have nothing to do with morality.

“The arts predict the greatest vision of the end; before anything else they prepare for and embody the end. Gourmets and good wines, beautiful forms and sumptuous clothes—every extravagance human beings can dream up in one era is crammed into the arts. All such things have been awaiting form. Some form with which to pillage and destroy in the shortest time all of human living. And that is the evening glow. And to what purpose? Indeed, for nothing.

“The most delicate thing, the most fastidious aesthetic judgment of the minutest detail—I refer to the indescribably subtle contours of one of those orange-colored clouds—is related to the universality of the vast firmament; its innermost aspects are expressed in color, and uniting with external aspects, they become the evening glow.

“In other words, evening glow is expression. And expression alone is the function of the evening glow.

“In it, the slightest human shyness, joy, anger, displeasure is expressed on a heavenly scale. In this great operation the colors of human intestines, ordinarily invisible, are externalized and spread over the entire sky. The most subtle tenderness and gallantry are joined with Weltschmerz, and ultimately affliction is transformed into a short-lived orgy. The numerous bits of logic which people have so stubbornly cherished during the day are all drawn into the vast emotional explosion of the heavens and the spectacular release of passions, and people realize the futility of all systems. In other words, everything is expressed for at most ten or fifteen minutes and then it’s all over.

“The evening glow is swift and possesses the characteristics of flight. It constitutes perhaps the wings of the world. Like the wings of a hummingbird which change into rainbow colors as it flutters about sucking the honey from flowers, the world shows us a brief glimpse of its potentiality for soaring; all things in the evening glow fly rapturous and ecstatic…and then in the end fall to the ground and die.”

Yukio Mishima, “The Temple of Dawn” (Chapter 1)

August 2014
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