|Thomas de Quincey|
Banish the frailties of hope; wither the relenting of love; scorch the fountain of tears; curse him as only thou can curse. So shall he be accomplished in the furnace; so shall he see things that ought not to be seen, sights that are abominable, and secrets that are unutterable. So shall he read elder truths, sad truths, grand truths, fearful truths. So shall he rise again before he dies. And so shall our commission be accomplished which from God we had,--to plague his heart until we had unfolded the capacities of his spirit.
--Thomas De Quincey, Suspiria de Profundis
De Quincey worked, often by candlelight, and had the unfortunate and (I think) amusing habit of accidentally setting things on fire: papers, clothing, even his hair. One may imagine the long suffering sigh which escaped his lips. Indeed, the title of the work from which I just quoted translates to "sighs from the depths." The passing today, of a friend of a friend, reminded me just how often we find ourselves in, and how much we owe to the accomplishment we find there in the furnace of life--the furnace that holds the transformative alchemical fire, and how it is that in the seeing of things that ought not to be seen, we see through the illusions we mistake for our reality. De Quincey works a notion in this paragraph (the full paragraph is much longer) that Sufi adepts have spoken of as "dying into one's life." It is a strenuously difficult precursor to a profound transformation and psychological rebirth.
If one is fortunate enough to be accomplished in that furnace or lucky enough to die into his life, one is then able to understand and bear the elder truths, the sad, grand, fearful truths of our existence, which are, at the same time, probably the truths of our non-existence, as well. Life and death become less puzzling or threatening and at the same time beauty, a soothing clarity, and a revelation (as well as an experience of revelling in the circumstances of our lives) begins to occupy one's awareness more and more.
Now is the time for grieving, Dear Soul, for understanding the frailties of hope, for giving yourself over to grief and allowing yourself to live for a time in the furnace of life for this, too, unfolds the capacities of your spirit and is the teacher of unutterable secrets.