In the Myth Blast today about The Still Point of the Year, Bradley Olson writes eloquently about paradox and opposites. He mentions that: “At the conclusion of The Inner Reaches of Outer Space, Campbell quotes from Romans 11:32 asking, “How far does one’s mercy reach?” He answers his own question saying, “For only so far do the inner and the outer worlds meet.” (117) This is another paradox, yes? The point at which the inner and outer worlds meet would necessarily be neither, or perhaps both, inner or outer. Yet it is here, amid paradox, where once again we find the still point of the turning world.”
I was reminded of hearing Campbell tell about a great insight he’d had back when he was studying and writing about James Joyce that the numbers 11 and 32 appear frequently in Finnegans Wake and he’d realized that was a reference to St Paul in Romans 11:32 writing about the Fall of Man. The literal translation of that verse is: “For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.” I.e., “the Fall” is the cause of salvation. The Holy Saturday Roman Catholic liturgy called “Original Sin” the “Felix Culpa,” the happy fault from which such salvation came.
And then Joe observed that 11 is “the restart of decade,” i.e, 1, 2, 3, 4, etc to 10, i.e, zero, then it restarts at 11. The Felix Culpa is the restart of salvation. And 32 is the acceleration in feet per second per second that objects fall in Earth’s gravitational field.
Bradley Olson’s wonderful discussion of paradox thus alludes to this other paradox that to rise you must fall. The fall isn’t the failure, it’s the opportunity for the success.
Felix Culpa – o happy fault! – certainly has the sense and feel of a Zen koan; that paradox which opens a little crack in “reality” to the stillness on which all that exists, all that is in motion, rests.
That so many layers are embedded in one image – 1132 – dropped like little splashes of color throughout Joyce’s work of art, working on the reader’s psyche whether one knows or not … what an epiphany! Can’t help but feel Joe’s enthusiasm.
“Joyce, Finnegans Wake, p. 517. These dates and times show four (or eight) glyphs of unity: 11-11; and 11:32, which only need be graphically mirrored, as 23:11–one of the permitted transformations in the magical reading of texts–to be written as 11:11 (p.m.). ]”