An Introduction to Mount Analogue

During the Second World War, a few years after Yeats composed "Meru", Rene' Daumal, a French mystic and writer, attempted to construct a cosmic axis for the modern world. Drawing on the symbolism of sacred peaks in Eastern and Western traditions, his allegorical novel Mount Analogue posits the existence of a supreme mountain "uniting Earth and Heaven" - a concrete symbol of the way in which people may awake from the slumber of their usual state of mind and ascend to a higher level of consiousness. Writing as a character in his own book, Daumal decides that such a peak must have the following characteristics:

"For a mountain to play the role of Mount Analogue, I concluded, it's summit must be inaccessible, but it's base accessible to human beings as nature has made them. It must be unique, and it must exist geographically. The door to the invisible must be visible."

Having decided that the summits of the highest known mountains lack the requisite inaccessibility and that mythic peaks like Meru lack the necessary geographical reality, Daumal and a group of like-minded characters, led by a professor of mountaineering named Pierre Sogol, determine that Mount Analogue must exist on a huge island in the South Pacific, hidden by a mysterious force field that bends light rays around the peak. They form an expedition and set off to find and climb the mountain.

The nature of the peak and its ascent immediately bring to mind comparisons with Dante's Purgatorio. The mountains in both works bear allegorical names that make their symbolism explicit: Mount Analogue and Mount Purgatory. Each rises on an island situated on the opposite side of the earth from places well known to the reader: Paris in Mount Analogue and Jerusalem in the Purgatorio. When Daumal and his party land at the foot of their mountain, they find a Community of people similar to those who reside at the base of Mount Purgatory - procrastinators and others who lack the motivation needed to continue the Spiritual Quest. Like Mount Purgatory the climb of Mount Analogue requires a profound act of repentance, a purgation of self-willed egotism. Sogol finds the group's first peradam, a nearly invisible crystal needed as payment to ascend the mountain, when he expresses these feelings of contrition and humility:

I have brought you this far, and I have been your leader. Right here I'll take off the cap of authority, which was a crown of thorns for the person I remember myself to be. Far within me, where the memory of what I am is still unclouded, a little child is waking up and making an old man's mask weep. A little child looking for mother and father, looking with you for protection and help - protection from his pleasures and his dreams, and help in order to become what he is without imitating anyone.

Although Dante and Daumal share the basic idea of the mountain as a symbol of the Spiritual path, they situate their allegories in the milieux of their times, making for profound differences between the two works. Set in the twentieth century, the French novel tells the story of a mountaineering expedition - inconceivable in the early Renaissance - complete with ropes, crampons, and Alpine guides, who represent Teachers who have attained higher states of consciousness. Whereas Dante makes the ascent of Mount Purgatory an expression of Christian doctrine regarding the path to Salvation in Heaven, Daumal uses the climb of Mount Analogue to represent the Teaching he considers most relevant for his time - the Ideas of the Russian mystic George Ivanavich Gurdjieff concerning the way that people must follow to awaken from the automatism of the human condition.

Dante reaches the Earthly paradise on top of Mount Purgatory, but we never find out what lies on the summit of Mount Analogue, not what its heights symbolize. Just at the point that his characters begin the actual ascent of the mountain, Daumal died, leaving the novel to end in midsentence. His failure to complete his work - and the odd fact that nobody has tried after him - may say something about the nature of our times: that the modern world lacks a unified view of the cosmos needed to create a universal allegory comparable to Dante's, with its magnificent Vision of a cosmic axis linking the human realm to a higher order of existence.

From Edwin Bernbaum's book: "Sacred Mountains of the World"