Endnote No. 4

As in art, the act of editing is an act of making decisions—of choosing where to shine the light. That is of particular import in this instance, given the sheer volume and dynamics of the words, images, and ideas contained in the manuscript itself. Like the ancient prophets who were “gifted” with visions and voices—and whom we now suspect were very likely afflicted with any number of diagnosable neurological conditions (chief among them epilepsy and schizophrenia)—it is almost certain Temple’s injuries caused his extreme hypergraphia. However, as the work of Kay Redfield Jamison and others has established, an artist’s affliction does not necessarily denude the art of its salience, its beauty, or even—perhaps—its insight into mysteries that transcend the limitations of the human mind.4

4 The exegesis of (purportedly) mystical writings is, itself, necessarily an act of divination, and the first order of business, it would seem, is to divine the motivations—and therefore, in some fundamental way, the authenticity—of the so-called mystic himself. This is not always easy. Usually, in fact, it is almost impossible; at any rate, it is not always possible to do more than confirm that the work expresses a vision that others do not—cannot—see and therefore the real dilemma is this: do we classify, straightaway, such forms of expression as delusion, dysfunction, gibberish, and thereby discard them wholesale, or do we take them to be what the ancients or other Romantics might describe as “God-breathed” prophecy? In other words, is it the author or the audience whose vision is flawed? This is the age-old and flawed binary of reason and faith. Yet there is another approach, that of the scholar—she who stands away from this basic back-and-forth tension, she who studies and seeks patterns in the work, whether rooted in authorial intent or otherwise, and who, from this, forms (and reforms) various conjectures; she may then even arrive at a steadfast thesis (or a set of them), but, in the end, the scholar always honors questions over certainties.