The CONSISTENCY of ODYSSEUS ELYTIS-«Genesis» with George SPENCER-BROWN’s ideas in «LAWS of FORM» poem «Genesis», by the Greek poet Odysseus Elytis, although considered «religious» is deeply heretical, very much against the Status Quo of Christianity. It expresses a fundamental Experience of (existential) Boundaries being drawn, between inner and outer world, a «fundamental distinction», which also exists in the philosophical Logic system of George Spencer Brown (in his book «Laws of Form»). I don’t think there has ever been a satisfactory interpretation of this poem (as well as many other poems by Elytis), apart from some purely «literary» analyses, useful only for a partial understanding of specific concepts or messages in isolation, without philosophical or logical completeness.
George Spencer-Brown
Odysseus Elytis
Odysseus Elytis

I’ve been reading Elytis’ poetry for a number of years; still learning from it. But I was lucky enough to approach it equipped from the start with a rare and extremely appropriate interpretative tool: – «Laws of Form» by George Spencer Brown.

According to George Spencer Brown’s theory (on which I wrote a brief Greek intro, here) the basis of all Experience is (quoting him) «a fundamental act of distinction»between inner and outer worlds, before which «boundaries may be placed anywhere we please; while the world at this stage appears like sifting sand beneath our feet «. However, after this primary Act of Distinction, all the familiar properties of the world or the universe we inhabit.. follow, as logical consequences, emerging out of the same primary, primal or primordial Act of Distinction.

It is a fundamentally «interactive»theory, in which the leading part is played by the active observer, the Mind / Actor / Observer… who does not merely «observe», but also actively forms the structure of experience, through the formation of Boundaries between what is «inside» and what is «outside».

The «goal» of this Fundamental Formation of Distinctions is Conscious Existence itself, balancing itself as it walks on a tight-rope, standing on the Boundary itself; the Boundary being a point of existential equilibrium, about which Odysseus Elytis says:

One point One point
Onthis point (you attain) balance, existence
(If you go) Past this point unrest and darkness
(If you go) Before this point, roaring screaming angels
A point-a point

And on this point, advancewithout limit is possible
Or else, wihout it, nothing can exist anymore

It is remarkable how Elytis expresses this topology of «balance»:

1) (If you go) Past this point unrest and darkness (i.e. depicting a chaotic, exclusively-external world)

2) (If you go) Before this point, roaring screaming angels
(i.e. depicting a closed exclusively-inner world)

3) And on this point, advancewithout limit is possible

This «balance» is therefore not merely a (simple) boundary between Inner and Outer.

Particularly interesting is the rhetorical question raised by the poet, answering his own (previous) lyrics:


– What’s good? What’s evil?

  • I.e. the distinction itself, between Inside and Outside is the correct answer to the wrong… (children’s) question «what is good and what is evil?»

Interestingly, the alleged «most important of all» religious or theological questions, the question (or distinction between-) «what is good and what is evil», is not treated as a doctrine (by the poet) but only heretically and existential-ly (or boundary-wise):

The answer of the Archetypal Self to the fresh, «newlyborn» Self is that this (distinction between Good and Evil) is not the most fundamental distinction; not the most important question to ask. Instead of this old disctinction, between Good and Evil, the correct alternative question one should ask, or the correct fundamental distinction, is simply the distinction between Inner and Outer worlds.

  • Obviously, the «correct way to exist» is not through a recluse-likeregress inside the purely internal world (of «screaming angels») nor through getting lost in the chaos of the Outer World; The correct way is pursuing the balance of standing or residing ON the boundary, on the distinction itself – between inside and outside.

Indeed, Odysseus Elytis expresses exactly the same thing as George Spencer Brown’s distinction, in his poem «Genesis». He speaks about himself, but not exactly his «earthly» self…

In this poem (as in many others) Elytis is not talking about something «Christian» (or «religious» in a dogmatic sense) but expresses awe towards the greatness of a Personal Religious Experience of Cosmic Bliss, achieved through an Inner Journey, a process of «internal navigation» within his Archetypal Self.

This peculiar experience of Elytis, lacking a conventional Patriarchal God but immersed in a Divine «mythical self», could very well be (without any misunderstanding) a «primary religious experience», with no doctrine and no dogmatism.


In this «primary Experience of Distinction», which probably represents a real situation of Mind experienced by the poet on a personal level (as described in another article of this blog – HERE) the Forms of both Inner and Outer worlds are inextricably linked in an unbroken unity (or non-distinction), which ceases after birth, after a rapture disrupting this primordial unity, or after emerging from/out-of- the experience which recollects all this, regressing deply into primordial / archetypal Timelessness (within the Present Time).

In the meantime, the dream-like surrealist scene of the poet’s experience has a timeless frame of reference, where present, past and future have not yet been distinguished!

In other words, Elytis, (most probably) without reading George Spencer-Brown, expressed in his lyrics (perhaps better than Spencer-Brown) an Experiential Process which Spencer-Brown regards as the most fundamental of all; a process that underlies Logic in its totality: – The genesis of a «primary distinction» between Inner and Outer worlds.

  • P.S. I have translated in Greek the whole book «Laws of Form» (by George Spencer Brown) many years ago.If you are interested in publishing it / printing it (with G.S.B.’s permission) in Greece, send an e-mail to my address: omadeon @
Enhanced by Zemanta


  1. @Dejon H.
    Thanks for your words of encouragement! 🙂

    As a matter of fact, it’s amusing to note that this article has been VERY rarely read, by people who read this blog.Post number 1 in popularity (almost 2500 visits) is about… Lesbians and the island of Lesbos. THIS post, however, expresses my real and deepest interests in life and Science, shared only by very very few people and myself.

    Thanks for the intriguing link to a site based on «Laws of Form», as well! 🙂

  2. Another blogger’s very good post was… automatically linked to this one, today, because of WordPress «automatically generated related links» function. Here it is:

    I wrote a comment, there, probably relevant here, too:

    omadeon Says:
    January 23, 2009 at 8:27 pm

    Spencer-Brown’s calculus or laws of form could thus be characterized as the formal schema of all possible transcendental philosophies. In short, all philosophies of access or forms of correlationism would presuppose a distinction that produces the manifestation of the very things they experience themselves as finding. Thus, the transcendental philosopher experiences himself as discovering conditions of one form or another (mind, language, history, text, Arche-Writing, power, etc) in indicating these conditions as conditions for access or manifestation. The paradox is that this “discovery” is already auto-posited by the distinction that precedes the work of indication. Thus, through a sort of transcendental illusion common to all transcendental philosophies, conditions are experienced as found rather than auto-posited.

    Hi, this paragraph says it all, I think.

    What might be added, however, is that the paradox appears to be more intricate than initially supposed, for the simple reason that… out of the First Distinction, ALL the laws of logic follow as consequences. (I mean zero-order logic, of course). This suggests very strongly that the entire edifice of our logical thinking and reasoning… (not just the transcendental aspects of it – which is THE crucial point) consists of nothing-but-this circular argument, whatever you like calling it.

    Most people -on the contrary- imagine that logic and formal reasoning is based on solid, grounded laws that follow from common sense axioms describing the physical world (among possible worlds).
    I.e. we’ve always been flying into imaginary areas, thinking we were solidly on the ground.

    Excellent post, BTW.

  3. P.S
    As a matter of fact, the BEAUTY of Odysseus Elytis’ poetry is that… it’s NOT imaginary, i.e. it’s not hypothetical; on the contrary, it’s an account of EXPERIENCE, the primacy of which must be recognised, BEFORE any kind of Logic or Reasoning become -at all- possible..
    i.e. Far from being just a mathematician’s wild imagination, we’ re talking about EXPERIENCE which is «auto-posited»…A PRIORI.

  4. @ory
    It’s quite natural if you feel baffled, or (even if) you disagree! 🙂

    You raised quite reasonable objections in my other blog, which specialises in «Laws of Form», etc.

    when I finish my current project (in scheduling optimisation) as well as… reduce my… addiction to blogging, a bit, I will offer you a much more complete, longish detailed response to your comments (in my other blog).

  5. @ory
    Well, a new post in my other blog was just published, with some detailed answers to your query, by a real expert, on this topic, Dr. William Bricken. A short notice-post was also posted today in THIS blog, about it.

    I take it that you still disagree with Dr. Bricken (hehe), as I’ve seen your other posts in the «Laws of Form Forum».
    Well, such is life ! 🙂

    I have my own subtle differences of opinion, e.g. as regards Dr. Bricken’s «Boundary Algebra«, which _might_ be a mere special instance of «Multiple Form Logic«, as a matter of fact, according to a «theorem T13», that I proved, long ago, in THIS page:

    However, it appears that MAYBE this issue is more-or-less «philosophical»; so it’s also possible that your own objections to «Lof =/= Boolean Algebra», are also «philosophical». (I really can’t be 100% sure, yet…)

    Ah well, «the proof of the pudding is in the eating«, while…
    the «eating» is in AUTOMATIC THEOREM PROVING ! 🙂

  6. […] In a previous quote, Zizek’s view of the Imaginary as a “madness” which is also “the prerequisite of sanity” was mentioned. In realty, this is not so much an issue of “madness”, as much as an issue of a pre-logical cleavage of Being: A boundary that generates all the Laws of Logic, but pre-exists any Logic (as well as anything Symbolic).  Nevertheless, perhaps the best possible account of such a (divine) madness is by Elytis, described in “the Consistency of Odysseus Elytis ”Genesis” with George Spencer Brown’s Laws of Form”. […]


Εισάγετε τα παρακάτω στοιχεία ή επιλέξτε ένα εικονίδιο για να συνδεθείτε:


Σχολιάζετε χρησιμοποιώντας τον λογαριασμό Αποσύνδεση /  Αλλαγή )

Φωτογραφία Google

Σχολιάζετε χρησιμοποιώντας τον λογαριασμό Google. Αποσύνδεση /  Αλλαγή )

Φωτογραφία Twitter

Σχολιάζετε χρησιμοποιώντας τον λογαριασμό Twitter. Αποσύνδεση /  Αλλαγή )

Φωτογραφία Facebook

Σχολιάζετε χρησιμοποιώντας τον λογαριασμό Facebook. Αποσύνδεση /  Αλλαγή )

Σύνδεση με %s