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This article is taken from PN Review 39, Volume 11 Number 1, July - August 1984.

Unaccommodated Man Richard Poole

At the centre of C. H. Sisson's thinking about that problematical entity which speaks of itself in the first person singular stand 'An Essay on Identity' and the poem 'The Discarnation'. In the essay Sisson affirms that the self-consciousness implied in the modern 'I' is present neither in the Adam of myth nor in the earliest specimens of humanity. To be Man is first and foremost to be a member of a species. 'I' the individual is not aboriginal: it has been invented by man: it is something 'historical and conceptual'. It makes no sense to speak of 'identifiable minds in separate bodies', for the mind must be filled by something outside itself through the agency of an inherited culture.

The essay helps us to an understanding of the title of 'The Discarnation'. The incarnation of Adam 'was like the descent of a Platonic form into physical shape. It was a reaffirmation of the kind'. Each man is important, in this account, because he gives expression to the purposes of God. A discarnation may then be understood as a reversal of this descent, a denial of divine purpose, a demythologizing, despiritualizing, deChristianizing of man. It will be attained through the insistence that man is a biological and historical phenomenon, a soft machine whose supposedly inviolable individuality is conventional and ideological. Neither conscience nor consciousness add up to a man, so that 'what we think is less, for sure,/Than what we are, and that is flesh.' Sisson's poem ...

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