Break on through to the other side...
The main strand of Delirium: The Rimbaud Delusion concerns Andrea Mann and her spiritual awakening. This self-awareness is forced into being by a series of events which may or may not be real. Andrea is tricked by Albert in various ways until she does not know what is true and what is not.
The inspiration for this aspect of the story comes from various sources. One source is Rimbaud’s own words regarding ‘the total derangement of all the senses’ which he believed (in his youth) was necessary both to obtain enlightenment and to become a poet:
I say one must be a seer, make oneself a seer.
The Poet makes himself a seer by a long, gigantic and rational derangement of all the senses. All forms of love, suffering, and madness. He searches himself. He exhausts all poisons in himself and keeps only their quintessences. Unspeakable torture where he needs all his faith, all his super-human strength, where he becomes among all men the great patient, the great criminal, the one accursed - and the supreme Scholar! - Because he reaches the unknown!
from Rimbaud's Letter to Paul Demeny 18711
Andrea’s sense of herself, her life and everyone she meets is fractured and distorted by Albert. His intention is that when she has been completely broken down, torn apart, destroyed, she can be put together again in some kind of better order.
Another source for this idea was my own life experience reinforced by various novels broadly working around similar topics. One of these—probably the main one—was The Magus by John Fowles. Another was The Chymical Wedding by Lindsay Clarke.
Two of my previous novels have been based around the same idea: The Man with the Horn, which is a modern version of the ancient Dionysian rituals; and The Land Beyond Goodbye, set in the Northern Territory of Australia.
My own understanding of a mystic or ecstatic experience came after a period of darkness and distress and took the form of a sudden enlightenment - of being able to 'see' the truth behind mundane reality. I still don't know whether this was something real or simply an illusion brought on by my own disordering of the senses. I attempt to work out the answer to this conundrum in my writing (some of it anyway).
The mystic state is something many artists and writers have experienced or tried
to experience - from Jim Morrison to Van Morrison, from Walt Whitman to Bob Dylan to Russell Hoban to Vincent Van Gogh... the line is endless. It is a state some consider a form of madness - "Last night I was one with
God," the woman says, and the psychiatrist thinks, "A possible
schizophrenia."(Dana Wilde) - and others consider an essential step on the path to self-realisation.
|Patti Smith & Rimbaud|
For more information on the mystic state see Dana Wilde's website on Reading Mystical Literature.
"I promised I would drown myself in mystic heated wine..." Jim Morrison
|Jim Morrison - fan of Rimbaud|