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Dostoyevsky, Michael Peddie, genius, madness, Notes from Underground, and the abyss

excerpted from THE WAY OF WONDER: a return to the mystery of ourselves, by Jack Haas




            It is well known that there is a fine line between genius and insanity, but perhaps there is even a finer line between genius and ignorance, lucid ignorance; the person who coherently loses all concept of life, who intentionally, or not, forgets what it means to ‘be’, ends up dwelling, as we have seen, in the precarious realm between ecstasy and derangement.



“Ever wonder if there's a difference between having a mystical experience and completely losing your mind?”

Michael Peddie



            Well, perhaps there is not much of a difference after all.

In the previous chapter I briefly mentioned the darker aspects of a person’s tragic encounter with the upheaval of wonderment- where the ‘outsider’ was seen as an individual who had not properly assimilated novel realizations into their existence. On the other side of the coin, however, there exist the ‘crazies’ who have lived abundantly (well, some who did, some who didn’t) and joyously in their new perspective, despite being permanently stationed on the fringe of life. These heroes of sane ignorance are the wise madmen and madwomen in this chapter, who, from time to time, maintain enough functional control of their faculties to record for the rest of us the annihilation of every solidity, every certainty, and every truth, for they have come to exist defiantly in the limbo of freedom, madness, and wonder.

One of these individuals, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, has done a remarkable job of describing the internal struggles of those who have seen the precariousness of our reality. From his aptly titled novel, The Idiot, to his not-so-short story Notes From Underground, to his brilliantly succinct and inspiring The Dream of a Ridiculous Man, he provides us with a collage of disparate, idiosyncratic ‘fools’, as it were. We shall not here delve into these works, but instead be satisfied with Henry Miller’s description of Dostoyevsky himself, which is as lucid as Dostoyevsky's characters were strange. Of this rare ‘outsider’, Miller wrote: “Dostoyevsky was the sum of all those contradictions which either paralyze a man or lead him to the heights. There was no world too low for him to enter, no place too high for him to ascend. He went the whole gamut, from the abyss to the stars. ...It is a pity that we shall never have the opportunity to read again or see a man placed at the very core of mystery, and by his flashes not merely illuminating things for us, but showing us the depth, the immensity of the darkness.”

           At ‘the core of mystery’, when all the walls, repressions, denials, and lies crumble to useless pieces around the lucky or forsaken individual (as they did for Dostoyevsky, who survived numerous crises, including almost being executed, and many torturous years in the hopeless gulag), there is no hidden meaning which bubbles to the fore, only an obvious non‑meaning ensconcing all and everything; an essential, immense non‑meaning, for non-meaning is the essence of the core.


excerpted from:


way of wonder, sacred geometry, sri yantra



THE WAY OF WONDER: a return to the mystery of ourselves

by Jack Haas

author Jack Haas, Canadian, American writer, artist, photographer

















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