We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

The Celestial Tradition

A Study of Ezra Pound’s The Cantos

Demetres P. Tryphonopoulos

Publication Year: 2010

Despite the painstaking work of Pound scholars, the mythos of The Cantos has yet to be properly understood — primarily because until now its occult sources have not been examined sufficiently. Drawing upon archival as well as recently published material, this study traces Pound’s intimate engagement with specific occultists (W. B. Yeats, Allen Upward, Alfred Orage, and G. R. S. Mead) and their ideas. The author argues that speculative occultism was a major factor in the evolution of Pound’s extraordinary aesthetic and religious sensibility, much noticed in Pound criticism.

The discussion falls into two sections. The first section details Pound’s interest in particular occult movements. It describes the tradition of Hellenistic occultism from Eleusis to the present, and establishes that Pound’s contact with the occult began at least as early as his undergraduate years and that he came to London already primed on the occult. Many of his London acquaintances were unquestionably occultists.

The second section outlines a tripartite schema for The Cantos (katabasis/dromena/epopteia) which, in turn, is applied to the poem. It is argued here that The Cantos is structured on the model of a initiation rather than a journey, and that the poem does not so much describe an initiation rite as enact one for the reader.

In exploring and attempting to understand Pounds’ occultism and its implications to his [Pounds’] oeuvre, Tryphonopoulos sheds new light upon one of the great works of modern Western literature.

Published by: Wilfrid Laurier University Press

The Celestial Tradition

pdf iconDownload PDF (90.5 KB)

Title Page, Copyright

pdf iconDownload PDF (143.4 KB)


pdf iconDownload PDF (126.7 KB)
pp. vii-viii


pdf iconDownload PDF (86.6 KB)
pp. ix

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (485.1 KB)
pp. xi-xviii

Most of Ezra Pound's sympathetic readers have begun with the assumption that "the significance and form [of The Cantos] are hidden in an iterative and kaleidoscopic pattern for the assiduous and intelligent to discover" (Light 1). Daniel S. Pearlman's...

read more

I. The Cantos as Palingenesis

pdf iconDownload PDF (2.8 MB)
pp. 1-21

Pound's "religious" ideas form a mosaic out of elements selected from a wide variety of pagan mystery religions and occult movements. The mosaic seems to be pieced together out of randomly chosen bits. Being neither a systematic philosopher...

read more

II. The Occult Tradition

pdf iconDownload PDF (2.0 MB)
pp. 23-58

Ezra Pound's stay in London coincided with a time of intense public interest in the occult. He arrived in London in September 1908, attracted, he said later, by the prospect of meeting William Butler Yeats, whom he considered to be the most important...

read more

III. Pound's Occult Education

pdf iconDownload PDF (2.3 MB)
pp. 59-100

I have already remarked that even though critics of modern poetry are beginning to recognize that Ezra Pound worked in the same esoteric tradition as Yeats, there is still a relative dearth of current scholarly comment on his relation to the occult. Given the emphasis...

read more

IV. Palingenesis: Katabasis / Dromena / Epopteia

pdf iconDownload PDF (3.0 MB)
pp. 101-158

In the foregoing pages, I have endeavoured to accomplish the following tasks: (1) to describe some of Pound's ideas which may be termed occult; (2) to trace the general outline and describe the most important moments of efflorescence of the wisdom tradition...

read more

V. "The Subtle Body": Cantos 90 and 91

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.5 MB)
pp. 159-188

This chapter presents an analysis of cantos 90 and 91 in terms of the palingenetic pattern, especially the epopteic or metamorphic phase of the triple schema developed earlier (katabasis / dromena / epopteia). Canto 90 illustrates the rebirth...

Appendix I

pdf iconDownload PDF (138.0 KB)
pp. 189-191

Appendix II

pdf iconDownload PDF (69.5 KB)
pp. 192

Works Cited and Consulted

pdf iconDownload PDF (684.7 KB)
pp. 193-205


pdf iconDownload PDF (724.2 KB)
pp. 207-214

E-ISBN-13: 9780889205789
Print-ISBN-13: 9780889202023

Page Count: 232
Publication Year: 2010