Image Source: Opheliac Madness.
At the great blog, Trans-D, Dia Sobin finds artistic connections between layers of time and dimensional existence. Recently, she dug through a trove of old books - with initial posts here and here - and settled on a 1943 edition of Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights (1847). She wrote an incredible post on how Catherine's and Heathcliff's love reveals the blurred boundaries of reality. I commented, because she described something one might call 'the Brontë Effect'; the italicized text cites Dia's post, with my comments in non-italics:
First, regarding Dia's observation that Wuthering Heights is trans-dimensional and multi-temporal, one senses this less in reading the novel, and more in the lingering impression after one reads it. The story leaves one with a feeling of time smashed together through characters' blurred and overlapping identities; their names and roles repeat, and generational tweaks are permitted over decades. The novel goes on forever, but Catherine is only about 18 years old when she dies at Thrushcross Grange. The 2009 dramatization had her die at age 25; either way, she remains eternally young and a persistent force."'And, there is also the transdimensional aspect of the story: the odd way in which Emily presented her narratives, from several different points of view, intertwining numerous points in time, thereby, creating a weird, reverberating gestalt as opposed to a linear chronicle.' ... [I responded:] I felt that there was an indistinctness, especially because the characters give their kids the same names. Past, present and future are jumbled together. ...I wonder if Emily Bronte was exposed via her father to Scottish freemasonry? Because when you look at the story in the sense of two souls in an alchemical marriage, the story becomes much more clear. Maybe she intuitively 'reached for' alchemical concepts without knowing them. I am sure someone has researched it. A lot of the primal gothic takes on the trans-dimensional or multi-dimensional aspects ... if you consider the alchemical. Across time, space, in new incarnations, like the two lovers embody a conflicting spirit of humans on the moors, but [also on] Jacob's Ladder ... ."
ITV 2009 adaptation of Wuthering Heights, starring Tom Hardy as Heathcliff and Charlotte Riley as Catherine. Image Source: Elementary.
Critics wonder why Wuthering Heights depicts love at all. It is so grim and unhealthy. This is why: because the characters do not love each other according to the passage of time in regular human life. They love each other according to time as it actually is, beyond normal perception. They violently resist death as decisive separation, and they deny death as an incontrovertible point in time. After Catherine's death, the characters' love and souls are bound up in a repeating order of trial and error. But this is no western fable of reincarnation. Brontë presents Heathcliff and Catherine as male and female aspects of a single soul. It is by that gnostic path that they gain access to the true nature of the many-layered universe, beyond our linear, chronal point of view. Maybe they go further, and rupture the continuum.
Put simply, Wuthering Heights is a love story that moves beyond three dimensions. This means that Wuthering Heights can be read as a precursor of surrealism, a movement preoccupied with humanity's unconscious excursions into other dimensions. I previously wrote (here) about the proto-surreal quality of Heathcliff's Romantic Gothic anti-heroism. Surrealism hinted that exploring the unconscious enabled access to dreams, memories, and more profoundly, a larger experience of time and space. Similarly, Wuthering Heights implies that love, by launching the characters beyond death, allows them to undo the rules of time as we perceive them, and to experience time as physicists would describe the temporal dimension today. Because human, linear, temporal experience is defined in terms of death, disintegration, despair, breakdowns and entropy, this story offers a symbolic key to anti-entropy, to unlocking and reversing the disintegration of the world.
Branwell Brontë joined the Masons in Haworth, West Yorkshire, UK: "The Lodge of the Three Graces Haworth 408 (originally 506) was formed on 15th September 1792, the first recorded meeting was at the Black Bull on 7th July 1806. They continued to meet there until 1821 when they moved to Lodge street." Images Source: Haworth Village.
This was why I asked Dia if Emily Brontë was aware of Masonic ideas. Dia confirmed that Emily's brother Branwell joined Haworth's Masonic Lodge of the Three Graces on 29 February 1836, at the age of 18. On 6 April 1836, he reached the sublime degree of Master Mason. It would be interesting to discover if Branwell influenced his sister with Masonic concepts of a trialist, surreal, über-real view of the world, a hermetic third way which rises from merged masculine and feminine dualism. I have written about those ideas here and here. With all their symbols and lore, Masons find a rational path to non-Euclidean dimensions, and insight into what some would call a spiritual realm; this is their third column between duality. With their incremented rituals, they seek other dimensions beyond that as well.
Image Source: Highfield Farm.
According to the Brontë Effect, then, a soul-based love will unlock our awareness of reality as it truly is, in which we coexist in all times and places. There is the story, we read, which falls into the 'light,' that is, the story visible to us in three dimensional reality. There must be, however, a related 'dark' story unfolding beyond our view, beyond what we know as Euclidean space (including, perhaps, the realms of dark matter and dark energy).
In the Journal of Mathematical Psychology, a 2009 article, Is perceptual space inherently non-Euclidean?, distinguished between the "'intrinsic' geometry of perceptual space" and "extrinsic geometry." Maybe that which is inexplicable would make perfect sense if we could perceive the whole story, seen and unseen, mapped intrinsically and extrinsically. What stories does the Earnshaws' house tell, as it exists across or beyond time? The novel closes with the moors' natural world playing silent witness to greater mysteries:
"I lingered round them, under that benign sky; watched the moths fluttering among the heath, and hare-bells; listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass; and wondered how any one could ever imagine unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth."
Catherine's ghost at Heathcliff's window. Image Source: pinterest.
The extrinsic dimensional view may make the moors' mysteries make sense. What possesses the Earnshaw father to bring home a demonic foundling, whom he loves more than his own son? Why are Catherine and Heathcliff bound by love? Why do events and people repeat with slight variation? Why is Catherine's ghost knocking at the window? Why do so many readers respond to this novel as a love story, when it has almost no conventional love tropes? Not only do the lovers never have sex, Heathcliff only passionately kisses Catherine as she is dying and pregnant with another man's child. Heathcliff, the protagonist, an abused boy, becomes a terrifying abuser.
Heathcliff and Catherine state that each is the other's soul; that is, each personifies, embodies, manifests, and animates the other's soul. This is why when Catherine dies, Heathcliff's capacity to realize any soul-based morality in the real world dies too. These characters are redeemed by their constant desire to reconnect, he to her, and she to him. For all his cruelties, when Heathcliff seeks Catherine's ghost, he is still a man endeavouring to find and keep his soul. That message surpasses the superficial romantic questions of whether he kisses or marries Catherine or not, or whether he is a nice guy, and therefore deserving to be a romantic hero. Brontë's star-crossed lovers escape damnation because they are still part of God's order. Their love enters the realm of the divine unknowable. Just because we do not understand how and why does not mean their bond is profane.
And we do understand it intuitively, if not rationally. The moors' greater mysteries are answered because the book forces its way into its readers' realities, again and again, in all the years since it has been published. The act of reading Wuthering Heights leaves an after-effect upon the reader exerted via Brontë by her incredible characters, who are larger than life. Catherine and Heathcliff cross the fourth wall in a 'reverberating Gestalt' (as Dia put it); that total love between two souls, allows us to bear witness in our world to the mysterious trans-dimensional connection between disintegration and renewal. Reading this novel connects us to all acts in which the book was previously written, read, dramatized and watched, and that dramatic experience provides a glimpse of love in time and space as they truly are.
See my related post on this topic, Visits from the Dark-Haired Girl (27 September 2016).