“Axiomata”, Ezra Pound (1921)

I

1 The intimate essence of the universe is not of the same nature as our own consciousness.

2 Our own consciousness is incapable of having produced the universe.

3 God, therefore, exists. That is to say, there is no reason for not applying the term God, Theos, to the intimate essence.

4 The universe exists. By exists we mean normally: is perceptible to our consciousness or deducible by human reason from data perceptible to our consciousness.

5 Concerning the intimate essence of the universe we are utterly ignorant. We have no proof that this God, Theos, is one, or is many, or is divisible or indivisible, or is an ordered hierarchy culminating, or not culminating, in a unity.

6 Not only is our consciousness, or any concentration or coagulation of such consciousness or consciousnesses, incapable of having produced the universe, it is incapable of accounting for how said universe has been and is.

7 Dogma is bluff based upon ignorance.

8 There is benevolent and malevolent dogma. Benevolent dogma is an attempt to “save the world” by instigating it to accept certain propositions. Malevolent dogma is an attempt to gain control over others by persuading them to accept certain propositions.

There is also nolent, un-volent dogma, a sort of automatic reaction in the mind of the dogmatiser, who may have come to disaster by following certain propositions, and who, from this, becomes crampedly convinced that contrary propositions are true.

9 Belief is a cramp, a paralysis, an atrophy of the mind in certain positions.

 

II

1 It is as foolish to try to contain the Theos in consciousness as to try to manage electricity according to the physics of water. It is as non-workable as to think not only of our consciousness managing electricity according to the physics of water, but as to think of the water understanding the physics of electricity.

2 All systems of philosophy fail when they attempt to set down axioms of the Theos in terms of consciousness and of logic; similiter by the same figure that electricity escapes the physics of water.

3 The selection of monotheism, polytheism, pluralism, dual, trinitarian god or gods, or hierarchies, is pure matter of individual temperament (in free minds), and of tradition in environment of discipular, bound minds.

4 Historically the organisation of religions has usually been for some ulterior purpose, exploitation, control of the masses, etc.

 

III

1 This is not to deny that the consciousness may be affected by the Theos (remembering that we ascribe to this Theos neither singular nor plural number).

2 The Theos may affect and may have affected the consciousness of individuals, but the consciousness, is incapable of knowing why this occurs, or even in what manner it occurs, or whether it be the Theos; though the consciousness may experience pleasant and possibly unpleasant sensations, or sensations partaking neither of pleasure or its opposite. Hence mysticism. If the consciousness receives or has received such effects from the Theos, or from something not the Theos yet which the consciousness has been incapable of understanding or classifying either as Theos or a-Theos, it is incapable of reducing these sensations to coherent sequence of cause and effect. The effects remain, so far as the consciousness is concerned, in the domain of experience, not differing intellectually from the taste of a lemon or the fragrance of violets or the aroma of dunghills, or the feel of a stone or of tree-bark, or any other direct perception. As the consciousness observes the results of the senses, it observes also the mirage of the senses, or what may be a mirage of the senses, or an affect from the Theos, the non-comprehensible.

3 This is not to deny any of the visions or auditions or sensations of the mystics, Dante’s rose or Theresa’s walnut; but it is to affirm the propositions in Section I.

 

IV

1 The consciousness may be aware of the effects of the unknown and of the non-knowable on the consciousness, but this does not affect the proposition that our consciousness is utterly ignorant of the nature of the intimate essence. For instance: a man may be hit by a bullet and not know its composition, nor the cause of its having been fired, nor its direction, nor that it is a bullet. He may die almost instantly, knowing only the sensation of shock. Thus consciousness may perfectly well register certain results, as sensation, without comprehending their nature (see I, 1). He may even die of a long-considered disease without comprehending its bacillus.

2 The thought here becomes clouded, and we see the tendency of logic to move in a circle. Confusion between a possibly discoverable bacillus and a non-knowable Theos. Concerning the ultimate nature of the bacillus, however, no knowledge exists; but the consciousness may learn to deal with superficial effects of the bacillus, as with the directing of bullets. confusion enters argument the moment one calls in analogy. We return to clarity of Section I (1-9).

3 The introduction of analogy has not affected our proposition that the “intimate essence” exists. It has muddied our conception of the non-knowability of the intimate essence.

[Speculation.—Religions have introduced analogy? Philosophies have attempted sometimes to do without it. This does not prove that religions have muddied all our concepts. There is no end to the variants one may draw out of the logical trick-hat.]

 

V

1 It is, however, impossible to prove whether the Theos be one or many.

2 The greatest tyrannies have arisen from the dogma that the Theos is one, or that there is a unity above various strata of Theos which imposes its will upon the sub-strata, and thence upon human individuals.

3 Certain beauties of fancy and of concept have arisen both from the proposition of many gods and from that of one god, or of an orderly arrangement of the Theos.

4 A choice of these fancies of the Theos is a matter of taste; as the preference of Durer or Velasquez, or the Moscophorus, or Amenhotep’s effigy, or the marbles of Phidias.

5 Religion usually holds that the Theos can be, by its patent system, exploited.

6 It is not known whether the Theos may be or may not be exploited.

7 Most religions offer a system or a few tips for exploiting the Theos.

8 Men often enjoy the feeling that they are performing this exploitation, or that they are on good terms with the Theos.

9 There is no harm in this, so long as they do not incommode anyone else.

10 The reason why they should not incommode anyone else is not demonstrable; it belongs to that part of the concepts of consciousness which we call common decency.

11 We do not quite know how we have come by these concepts of common decency, but one supposes it is our heritage from superior individuals of the past; that it is the treasure of tradition. Savages and professed believers in religion do not possess this concept of common decency. They usually wish to interfere with us, and to get us to believe something “for our good”.

12 A belief is, as we have said, a cramp, and thence progressively a paralysis or atrophy of the mind in a given position.

 

Note

This terse statement of his philosophy was Pound’s farewell to London. Having made it, he went to Paris, and then to Rapallo.

First published in The New Age, Vol. XXVIII, No. 11, 13 January, 1921, pp. 125-6. Proofread and annotated by Fergus Cullen (2016-7).

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