Paramaecium’s “Within the Ancient Forest” Lyrics – Outlined, Explained, Analyzed – Part 3: Reason Alone Cannot Suffice

“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.”

– Oscar Wilde, “The Soul of Man under Socialism”

“A man’s physical hunger does not prove that man will get any bread […]. But surely a man’s hunger does prove that he comes of a race which repairs its body by eating and inhabits a world where eatable substances exist. In the same way, though I do not believe […] that my desire for Paradise proves that I shall enjoy it, I think it a pretty good indication that such a thing exists and that some men will.”

– C.S. Lewis, “The Weight of Glory”

The song “I Am Not Alive” has Dé-nyl now advancing deeper into the forest, with Destiny as his guide. More importantly, he is also venturing further into his thoughts concerning the nature of reality and his own identity. He has left behind the overly rational, bright and sunlit world outside the forest and is now searching in the mysterious and unpredictable realms of intuition and the unconscious. Destiny has introduced him to mythical and mystical thinking, waking his desire for the “Hidden Lands.” But the promising dawn that accompanied the “Song of the Ancient” has now faded into “the longest night of my life.” Dé-nyl is going through a crisis that has him wondering whether he has ever really been alive. While he is thus caught up in the dark night of his soul, his reason is beginning to protest against his being guided by intuition alone: “Destiny would have that I blindly follow with no thought of my own.” Dé-nyl is beginning to be as uncomfortable with Destiny’s lead as his panicking horse Dé-kaat had been at the sight of the forest pool. The rational side of Dé-nyl feels left alone and in the dark. But is this really true?

As Dé-nyl continues to ponder, he remembers his old teacher who sent him on the journey in the first place. (He actually seems extraordinarily talented at remembering his teacher’s incredibly long utterances… While Paramaecium might not be the doom band with the longest songs or the slowest riffs of all time, they do deserve a minor award for what is probably one of the longest lines/sentences in any doom metal song. This sentence is so ridiculously long that I will gladly quote it in its entirety – and remember, it’s only an excerpt from a longer speech by the teacher as recalled by Dé-nyl: “The fact that it is your utmost desire to behold both truth and life, whilst you live in ongoing uncertainty and the everpresence of death, would suggest that this state which you find yourself in is not of your own demeanour; suggests that you once had contentment and life from whence you’ve been enticed away.”) Are you still with me? What the teacher employs here is what is known as the “argument from desire” – for example, the C.S. Lewis essay “The Weight of Glory” quoted above expresses the idea that our very desire for things we do not experience in this world means that we were really created for another world. In this context, however, it is important to emphasize that the “argument from desire” is an argument, not a proof. The existence of heaven – or in the lyrics, the truth that the “old man” has fallen from the glory of the “Hidden Lands” – is merely “suggested” by the desire. Ultimately, faith is a reaction to that suggestion and always involves a decision.

The teacher (rational thinking – located in the left hemisphere of the brain for most people) has sent off Dé-nyl knowing that he would meet, and be guided by, Destiny (intuitive, mythic thinking – the right hemisphere of the brain). The teacher could have insisted on himself remaining Dé-nyl’s only teacher, but the point is that he did not. He was aware of his own limitations. According to Blaise Pascal’s Pensées, “[r]eason’s last step is the recognition that there are an infinite number of things which are beyond it. It is merely feeble if it does not go as far as to realize that”. The left and right hemispheres of the brain do not cancel each other out, but complement each other – just like one does not breathe by inhaling all the time. Reason and intuition must be held in balance.


Image: – if anyone knows the artist, please let me know!

Thus, Destiny may in some ways represent the opposite of reason, but her guidance is not opposed to reason. It is not irrational, but transrational, as Richard Rohr would put it. Her role is to take Dé-nyl’s hand and lead him where mere reason never could lead him. This is why she repeats to him his teacher’s mantra that “reason alone cannot suffice.” The path Dé-nyl is to follow is not that of “reason alone,” although it was reason that helped him find the path. Rationality is not complete without intuition and faith.

Dé-nyl also fortunately recalls his teacher’s warning against the shortcut of esoteric thinking: He is wretched and downcast enough to expect “corruption and death” within himself, and thus not to search for the ultimate truths that will redeem him through mere introspection, and he resolves not to search too much within himself, and also not in the world he immediately perceives with his five senses, but rather “in the great beyond.” The sacramentalism instilled by the Song of the Ancient re-emerges in the recollected words, “there are greater things behind the sky than in all that you survey.” With this transcendentalism, Dé-nyl once again decides to follow Destiny’s lead in his quest for the cure of his wretchedness and his hunger for truth. The hope for “light” returns.

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