Why are mysteries unpublishable? First, because they cannot be put into words […]. Mysteries display themselves in words only if they can remain concealed; this is poetry, isn’t it? We must return to the old doctrine of the Platonists and Neo-Platonists that poetry is veiled truth; as Dionysus is the god who is both manifest and hidden; and as John Donne declared, with the Pillar of Fire goes the Pillar of Cloud. This is also the new doctrine of Ezra Pound, who says: “Prose is not an education but the outer courts of the same. Beyond its doors are the mysteries. Eleusis. Things not to be spoken of save in secret. The mysteries self-defended, the mysteries that cannot be revealed. Fools can only profane them. The dull can neither penetrate the secretum nor divulge it others.” The mystic academies, whether Plato’s or Ficino’s, knew the limitations of words and drove us on beyond them, to go over, to go under, to the learned ignorance, in which God is better honored and loved by silence than by words, and better seen by closing the eyes to images than by opening them.

And second, mysteries are unpublishable because only some can see them, not at all. Mysteries are intrinsically esoteric, and as such are an offense to democracy: is not publicity a democratic principle? Publication makes it republican—a thing of the people. The pristine academies were esoteric and aristocratic, self-consciously separate from the profanely vulgar. Democratic resentment denies that there can be anything that can’t be seen by everybody; truth is what any fool can see.

Norman O. Brown, “Apocalypse: The Place of Mystery in the Life of the Mind”, in Apocalypse and/or Metamorphosis