The Mystery Of Aesthetic Sublimation: Sublimation As A Promise Of A More Radical Pleasure Than Even A De-sublimated one

An Inscription

Go little book,
To him who, on the lute with horns of pearl,
Sang of the white feet of the Golden girl:
And bid him look
Into thy pages: it may hap that he
May find that Golden maidens dance through thee.

Oscar Wilde

What pushes the human minds to create poems if not the expectation of a richer satisfaction than the earthly pleasures can provide? Sublimation is a difficult pursuit but for some an irresistible calling. Yearning for amour – “singing of the white feet of the Golden girl”, wanting earthly delight of a shared love through tears of suffering (“horns of pearl”) meets the invitation to sublimation – an offer to read a book instead. The book is supposed to seduce the person dreaming about love into reading a book! How can this proposal be successful? – Only if reading will be able to transform (to “upgrade”) “the white feet of the Golden girl” into “Golden maidens’ dance”. This last image is a metaphor of sublimation’s promise to the human being – sublimate and you will feel much more satisfied than if you will continue to pursue earthly pleasures. How can sublimation achieve that?

Indeed, there is a difference between “white feet of the Golden girl” and the “Golden maidens dance through a book”. What is behind the second metaphor? The dance of the Golden maidens in comparison with the irresistibly obvious – the white feet of the Golden girl, is the image of plenitude, absoluteness, of the intriguing touch of otherness, a paradisiacal world of dream-like bliss, when always possessive sexuality dissolves in total happiness.

How can a human being take this promise seriously? How can a creative person, be he/she a poet or a reader of poetry prefer sublimation to the nearness to the white legs of the girl-gold?

Sublimated pleasure (here, writing for the poet and reading poetry for the reader) promises to be much richer, more mythologically encompassing than “real”, earthly pleasure. To be able to fall for sublimated promise we have to be able to decipher this promise and to react on it positively – we have to be able to understand its charms. What do we feel when we find this promise of sublimation irresistible? What really hides behind the fairy tale? What is this fairy-tale of sublimation? We know what it means to be in the immediate proximity to the “white feet of the Golden girl” – whiteness of the blondness/blondness of the whiteness works on us as a teasing aphrodisiac (white feet is a premonition of the white thighs in a golden nimbus/golden nimbus as the sun of the white thighs). But “Golden maidens’ dance through book” is a mystery – it is not concrete enough, not fleshy enough, and still it’s irresistible – it is like an orgasm pulverized in air. What is it really? The promise is enveloped into the mystery of unconscious knowledge (knowledge or dream, memory or illusion, mother or beloved?).

The sublimation’s promise of primordial satisfaction – so primordial that it cannot be compared with what can be achieved with amorous or/and sexual object, is for the archaic layer of human psyche (where our desire for the return of the primordial object is accumulated and compressed) – the very restoration of blissful symbiosis with the object, with what the maternal womb is for the embryo and maternal body – for the new-born child. The unity with the primordial object promised (in the language of the unconscious) by the artistic sublimation is that between mother’s body and baby when he didn’t psychologically differentiate itself yet from the mother, when the unity with the other body was even more passionate although not yet sexualized.

What is most interesting and meaningful here is that the promise of this restoration of an unconsciously idealized psychological symbiosis with the primordial woman-mother refers to the maternal object not in the content of the sublimated (artistic) representation but only in its form. The primordial ties between creative subject and its object (from the poet’s or reader’s perspective) are represented by the archaic, quasi-mythological images. Oscar Wilde recommends his reader to read a book directly through the form, without consciously understanding too much. If we don’t think what the “Golden maidens’ dance” means we’ll get much more pleasure from this dance. Mythological pleasure overrides the sexual pleasure by referring to something more primordial – what we can re-experience after we lost it and unconsciously unable to forget.

Oscar Wilde in his poem invokes ecstasy of making the human unconscious a domineering rival over our conscious amorous and sexual needs. Although sublimation is considered by psychoanalytic thinking as the civilizational burden on our amorous/sexual needs, sublimation is victorious because of the psychological trick it uses with our cognitive simplemindedness. By promising us through the channels of our unconscious the superior pleasure in comparison with the one that is prosaically concrete, sublimation wins not only over reality, but over de-sublimation, at least among people with education and talent for creating and enjoying sublimated realities.

In his “An Inscription” poem Oscar Wilde becomes a sorcerer of sublimation as a cultural tool of a controlled psychological regression that creatively able to open up new cultural horizons for human mind and sensitivity. We feel that an authentic human creativity can be activated by using the archaic psychological matrix, that cultural progress can use regressive psychological mechanisms as its activators and promoters. We start to understand that the mind of our psychological wholeness can be superior in comparison with that of our conscious mind prone for dogmatic ossification. We have to be more in humility in front of our unconscious psychological and spiritual resources.

Sublimation is a successful rival (by being more productive and humility orienting) to perversions which try to bathe in the mystery of happiness by unifying humans with primordial archaic object through creating “real” but not too realistic behavioral rituals.

Oscar Wilde - 1854-1900
Oscar Wilde – 1854-1900