The Great Return


THE GREAT RETURN by Arthur Machen

Coincidence and chance and unsearchable causes will now and again make clouds that are undeniable fiery dragons, and potatoes that resemble eminent statesmen exactly and minutely in every feature, and rocks that are like eagles and lions. All this is nothing; it is when you get your set of odd shapes and find that they fit into one another, and at last that they are but parts of a large design; it is then that research grows interesting and indeed amazing, it is then that one queer form confirms the other, that the whole plan displayed justifies, corroborates, explains each separate piece.”

…and this strikes me as gestalt real-time reviewing of literature in a hindsight nutshell, not a jigsaw solution, as Machen may suggest consciously, but an epiphany that he knows from within his complex soul or simply from within his simple instinct. Beyond the “Iconostasis” and any “tmesis” mentioned here, we follow a thread from Protestants through Catholic incense within a Welsh chapel into a cross between “Freemasons” and “Fishermen”, towards the holy “Graal”, the latter two terms at least making me ask the eternal question (that earlier ‘question of time’ above in this review): ‘Is it a Tench?’ — and giving me the certainty I now have that Aickman (based at least partly on the “evidence” of this being his choice of such a Machen work for the climax of this anthology) was imbued with the works of John Cowper Powys, even though, I am told, there is no evidence to this fact in Aickman’s memorabilia. But mere evidence (!) is not everything, as this Machen work proves. A visit to Llantrisant by the narrator during the other ‘lights’ of the then world war to sort out a personal ‘jigsaw’ about what the Welsh natives there had experienced — those “mysteries in sound” of bell or bells, that gorgeous light of rosy fire above the sea, “fragments of dreams” that Machen miraculously expresses though the narrator, the changes in the perfumes of their local church and in their churchman himself. The Dream of Olwen and other healings. References to Railers and Dissenters. The “paradise” in meat and drink, and in many other things. A farmer who is a “little black man” and the arrival of forgiveness in bitter local disputes. The Rosicrucian triangulation as seen by the consumptive Olwen during her healing. A rose on fire. Is this all a “collective hallucination” or the genuine pervasive “glow” of transfiguration, an epiphany beyond our understanding? Reading this story makes you understand, though, indeed makes you KNOW — ironically despite what it says in its very last sentence! Aickman’s swords in our side?

Full context on above HERE

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