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"…voices / …heard / …as revelations": Peter Dale Scott's Contribution to the Discourse of the Postsecular in his Seculum Trilogy and Mosaic Orpheus



At the same time the Secularization Thesis is being subjected to increasing scrutiny and skepticism, the poet Peter Dale Scott, particularly in his Seculum trilogy (published between 1988 and 2000), develops a profoundly complex post-secular vision, trenchantly critical of secular, calculative reason and boldly comprehensive in its articulation of “what is missing” from the present world order. Enlightenment is both “outer” and “inner”. Its “outer”, social and political, manifestation appears as “development”, the rational workings of constitutional democracy, and calculative reason. As development, it has been perverted by its complicity with the covert, imperialist machinations characteristic of American foreign policy, such as the regime change in Indonesia in 1965, the topic of the trilogy’s first volume, Coming to Jakarta. As constitutional democracy, it has been further subverted by these same “deep political” forces as well as the influence of the hyperwealthy. As calculative reason, secular Enlightenment subjects itself and the world to an atomizing analysis whose “objectivity” leads to a moral anomie and all-too-often an obfuscation and reification of the existing, unjust status quo. Seculum might be said to deploy “the mystical” (the unsaid, unspoken, and unsayable) to root out the suppressed truths of our political order, to free “inner” Enlightenment from the analogous personal repressions of our being implicated in this order, and to point to the limits of language-dependent Reason. By the third volume, Minding the Darkness, the Yin to the Yang of Enlightenment appears as the voice of the global poetic canon fused with that of the world’s major religious traditions in a kind of universal wisdom literature, restoring the anchor of tradition and the orientation of moral value. In Scott’s next volume, Mosaic Orpheus (2009), this post-secular sensibility finds fluent expression in poems with titles such as “The Tao of 9/11” and “Secular Prayer”.
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