The Red Book

Image: Jupiter and Mercury in the house of Philemon and Baucis, Adam Elsheimer, c1608, Dresden.

But what mystery are you intimating to me with your name, Oh Philemon Truly you are the lover who once took in the Gods as they wandered the earth when everyone else refused them lodging.

You are the one who unsuspectingly gave hospitality to the Gods; they thanked you by transforming your house into a golden temple, while the flood swallowed everyone else.

You remained alive when chaos erupted. You it was who served in the sanctuary when the peoples called out in vain to the Gods.

Truly it is the lover who survives. Why did we not see that? And just when did the Gods manifest?

Precisely when Baucis wished to serve the esteemed guests her only goose, that blessed stupidity the animal fled to the Gods who then revealed themselves to their poor hosts, who had given their last.

Thus I saw that the lover survives, and that he is the one who unwittingly grants hospitality to the Gods.

Truly, Oh Philemon, I did not see that your hut is a temple, and that you, Philemon, and Baucis, serve in the sanctuary.

This magical power allows itself to be neither taught nor learned. Either one has it or does not have it.

Now I know your final mystery: you are a lover.

You have succeeded in uniting what has been sundered, that is, binding together the Above and Below. Have we not known this for a long time? Yes, we knew it, no, we did not know it.

It has always been this way, and yet it has never been thus.

Why did I have to wander such long roads before I came & to Philemon, if he was going to teach me what has been common knowledge for ages?

Alas, we have known everything since 􀢢me immemorial and yet we will never know it until it is has been accomplished.

Who exhausts the mystery of love?

Under which mask oh Philemon, are you hiding? You did not strike me as a lover.

But my eyes were opened, and I saw that you are a lover of your soul, who anxiously and jealously guards its treasure.

There are those who love men, and those who love the souls of men, and those who love their own soul.

Such a one is Philemon, the host of the Gods.

You lie in the sun oh Philemon, like a serpent that coils around itself.

Your wisdom is the wisdom of serpents, cold, with a grain of poison, yet healing in small doses.

Your magic paralyzes and therefore makes strong people, who tear themselves away from themselves.

But do they love you, are they thankful, lover of your own soul?

Or do they curse you for your magical serpent poison?

They keep their distance, shaking their heads and whispering together.

Are you still a man, Philemon, or / is one not a man until one is a lover of one’s own soul?

You are hospitable, Philemon, you took the dirty wanderers unsuspectingly into your hut. Your house then became a golden temple, and did I really leave your table unsatisfied?

What did you give me? Did you invite me for a meal?

You shimmered multicolored and inextricable; nowhere did you give yourself to me as prey.

You escaped my grasp. I found you nowhere. Are you still a man? Your kind is far more serpent-like.

I sought to grab hold of you and tear it out of you, since the Christians have learned to devour their God.

And how long will it take for what happens to the God also to happen to man?

I look into the vast land and hear nothing but wailing and see nothing but men consuming each other.

Oh Philemon, you are no Christian. You did not let yourself be engorged and did not engorge me.

Because of this you have neither lecture halls nor columned halls teeming with students who stand around and speak of the master and soak up his words like the elixir of life.

You are no Christian and no pagan, but a hospitable inhospitable one, a host of the Gods, a survivor, an eternal one, the father of all eternal wisdom.

But did I really leave you unsatisfied?

No, I tell you because I was really satisfied. Yet what did I eat?

Your words gave me nothing. Your words led me to myself and my doubt.

And so I ate myself. And because of this, Oh Philemon, you are no Christian, since you nourish yourself from yourself and force men to do the same.

This displeases them most, since nothing disgusts the human animal more than itself. Because of this they would rather eat all crawling, hopping, swimming and flying creatures, yes, even their own species, before they nibble at themselves.

But this nourishment is effective and one is soon satiated from it.

Because of this, Oh Philemon, we rise satiated from your table.

Your way, Oh Philempn, is instructive. You leave me in a salutary darkness, where there is nothing for me to either see or look for.

You are no light that shines in the darkness, no savior who establishes an eternal truth and thus extinguishes the nocturnal light of human understanding. You leave room for the stupidity and jokes of others.

You do not want, Oh blessed one, anything from the other, but instead you tend the flowers in your own garden.

He who needs you asks you, and, Oh clever Philemon, I suppose that you also ask those from whom you need something and that you pay for what you receive. Christ has made men desirous, for ever since they expect gifts from their saviors without any service in return.

Giving is as childish as power. He who gives presumes himself powerful.

The virtue of giving is the sky-blue mantle of the tyrant. You are wise, Oh Philemon, you do not give.

You want your garden to bloom, and for everything to grow from with n itself.

I praise, Oh Philemon, your lack of acting like a savior; you are no shepherd who runs a􀁛er stray sheep, since you believe in the dignity of man, who is not necessarily a sheep.

But if he happens to be a sheep, you would leave him the rights and dignity of sheep, since why should sheep be made into men?

There are still more than enough men.

You know, Oh Philemon, the wisdom of things to come; therefore you are old, oh so very ancient, and just as you despairing silence!