Our greatest blessings, says Socrates in the Phaedrus, come to us by way of madness—provided, he adds, that the madness comes from the god. Our real choice is between holy and unholy madness; open your eyes and look around you—madness is in the saddle anyhow. Freud is the measure of our unholy madness, as Nietzsche is the prophet of the holy madness, of Dionysus, the mad truth. Dionysus has returned to his native Thebes; mind—at the end of its tether—is another Pentheus, up a tree. Resisting madness can be the maddest way of being mad.
And there is a way out—the blessed madness of the maenad and the bacchant: "Blessed is he who has the good fortune to know the mysteries of the gods, who sanctifies his life and initiates his soul, a bacchant on the mountains, in holy purifications." It is possible to be mad and to be unblest; but it is not possible to get the blessing without the madness; it is not possible to get the illuminations without the derangement. Derangement is disorder: the Dionysian faith is that order as we have known it is crippling, and for cripples; that what is past is prologue; that we can throwaway our crutches and discover the supernatural power of walking; that human history goes from man to superman.
No superman I; I come to you not as one who has supernatural powers, but as one who seeks for them, and who has some notions which way to go to find them.
Sometimes—most times—I think that the way down and out leads out of the university, out of the academy. But perhaps it is rather that we should recover the academy of earlier days—the Academy of Plato in Athens, the Academy of Ficino in Florence, Ficino who says, "The spirit of the god Dionysus was believed by the ancient theologians and Platonists to be the ecstasy and abandon of disencumbered minds, when partly by innate love, partly at the instigation of the god, they transgress the natural limits of intelligence and are miraculously transformed into the beloved god himself: where, inebriated by a certain new draft of nectar and by an immeasurable joy, they rage, as it were, in a bacchic frenzy. In the drunkenness of this Dionysian wine, our Dionysius (the Areopagite) expresses his exultation. He pours forth enigmas, he sings in dithyrambs. To penetrate the profundity of his meanings, to imitate his quasi-Orphic manner of speech, we too require the divine fury."
At any rate the point is first of all to find again the mysteries. By which 1 do not mean simply the sense of wonder: that sense of wonder which is indeed the source of all true philosophy—by mystery I mean secret and occult; therefore unpublishahle; therefore outside the university as we know it; but not outside Plato's Academy or Ficino's.
—Norman O. Brown
the invisible college
Our curriculum explores the mysteries that surfaced during Alexandre Kojève's inspired spot translation of The Phenomenology of Spirit with core offerings in philosophy, theology, political theory, literature, and art history.
Courses are ongoing but joining them will be difficult. We at the College, in keeping with our predecessors, adhere to a set of rather unorthodox admissions protocols, more rigorous than you can imagine.
Don't bother submitting an application—we find you.
We'll know you by your thoughts.
A philosophy that does not culminate in a metaphysic of ecstasy is vain speculation; a mystical experience that is not grounded on a sound philosophical education is in danger of degenerating and going astray.
Intellectual despair results in neither weakness nor dreams, but in violence. Thus abandoning certain investigations is out of the question. It is only a matter of knowing how to give vent to one's rage: whether one only wants to wander like a madman around prisons, or whether one wants to overturn them.
To halfheartedness, to loopholes and deliria that reveal a great poetic impotence, one can only oppose a black rage and even an incontestable
bestiality; it is impossible to get worked up other than as a pig who rummages in manure and mud uprooting everything with his snout—and whose repugnant voracity is unstoppable.