Erik Graff's Reviews > The Violet Apple & The Witch

The Violet Apple & The Witch by David Lindsay
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's review
Jul 31, 2008

really liked it
bookshelves: literature
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Recommended for: seekers

Graduating from seminary, I moved back to Chicago, settling into a lonely apartment in East Rogers Park while renewing old friendships. After a year, Mike and Tom Miley invited me to replace Tom Kosinski, another high school pal, who was headed for a year in rural France. Life improved.

Michael and I had become friends during the summer after high school, nine years previous, and had kept in contact despite my academic sojourns in Iowa and Manhattan and his travels through the West. Many of our acquaintances were like us in the sense of sharing a grave dissatisfaction with the way we and the human world were, but Michael was different. Some became political radicals. Others, overtly countercultural, even joined communes. Still others, mostly younger persons, became Jesus Freaks of one sort or another. Michael was sui generis. His turn to religion involved a turn from organized Christianity--Catholicism in his case--towards the experiential roots of, presumably, all religion.

Like myself, Michael had had some considerable experience with altered states of consciousness, both externally induced and spontaneous. Like myself, these experiences had raised questions, both epistemological and ontological, and suggested radically alternative, often better, ways of being. We were, and remain, vitally concerned with such matters.

The theme of most of David Lindsay's novels and stories suggests experiences like ours. Lindsay apparently had been vouchsafed what Christians call beatific vision, what the hellenistic Greeks called gnosis. It is one thing to be dissatisfied, to feel quotidian consciousness and behaviors to be wrong in important ways. Traditionally, in our culture, this is the sense of sin, of oneself and of the world being fallen. It is another thing, a blessing, to have had the experience of right mindfulness and of right behavior allied to it. Many sense this, the other, better side of being to the extent of recognizing it embodied in the various teachers of the enduring religions: Abraham, Moses, Elijah, Zoroaster, the Buddha, Mohammed, Jesus etc. A few, like Michael, like Lindsay, take on the mission of those figures themselves, attempting to spread the word, changing the world by changing consciousness.

Most, but not all (Arcturus is the exception), of Lindsay's stories occur in the ordinary world and represent more or less ordinary people. In these representations he is no great writer. All of his stories have one or more characters attain or at least glimpse reality in contrast to the everyday. In these matters one must credit him for at least trying to represent the Mystery and for persisting at it in unsuccessful book after unsuccessful book.

A common way of getting at what I've called "the Mystery" and at conveying the sense of it is by reference to the state of falling in love. Most everyone experiences that heightened state of consciousness, of care and of kindness in their lives. Some, indeed, become addicted to the pursuit of it as some become addicted to certain drugs or practices which produce such altered states of consciousness.

The Violet Apple, like The Haunted Woman, employs reference to human mating behaviors, to romance, engagement, marriage and their vicissitudes, to get at the essence of righteous, salvific love. Its sometimes rather heavy-handed references to the Garden of Eden, the Tree of Knowledge, the Serpent, the original parents, the fruit, the fall and the cross attempt, neither gracefully nor subtly, to remind the reader that this is allegory, that the common stations of human life have archetypal reference and meaning. Unlike most of his other books, this one has a mature ending in the sense of suggesting what one ought do if one can't enter the sacred mountain (Devil's Tor), the 9th century springtime (Haunted Woman), the Schopenhauerian Tower (Arcturus) and sustain the revelation. One works, mindful of the revelations now passed, as if one still had such a consciousness or, as Kant so dryly puts it, "in accord with such maxims as might be instantiated as universal law."

I read The Violet Apple during one of many trips to the cottage in Michigan with Michael, sitting together in the living room on a cool evening, Michael hovering just inches above the couch so as not to disturb me.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
August 1, 1979 – Finished Reading
July 31, 2008 – Shelved
July 31, 2008 – Shelved as: literature

Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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Paddy Hello Erik, I don't know if Lindsay's books can fairly be described as unsuccessful from any level on which they can be understood: if you have an awareness of "the mystery" and any power to express it surely you will think that the most worthwhile use of your time, and surely if one person shares your vision even imperfectly you are a success in a way that no amount of sales or plaudits can equal.

Erik Graff Well, he certainly wanted to be more 'successful' as a popular writer than he was.

Paddy Sure, but its clearly the vision that drives. The natural desire for recognition is rejected, maybe even to the point of deliberately making it less accessible.

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