Monday 27 May 2013

Edward J. Edwards: a biography of the founder of our civilisation


Though no one would deny that Edward J. Edwards is the founder of civilisation as we know it today, the story of his life, his career, and his untimely death has until now never been told in a complete and satisfying way. Many are the books, the journal articles, the conference papers, the postgraduate dissertations on Edwards' work. But they are partial; they consider the minutest details but miss the great outlines. They sever the man from his work, and on that account even their most satisfying conclusions have about them something cold and unpersuasive. I have studied the literature; I have attended the conferences where Edwards' ideas are parcelled out like items at a yard sale. I have seen how his thoughts are bought and sold. I have watched the scholars haggling over prices. But Edwards – Edwards himself, Edwards the personality, Edwards the man behind the work – where is he in all this? Who is he?

Naturally it would be impossible for any writer to give a comprehensive account of such a mighty subject. To present Edwards adequately would require another polymath, another Edwards. Who among us could even begin to take the measure of Edwards' contributions not only to theology, philosophy, psychiatry, theosophy, but also to chemistry, neurobiology, art history, philology, Egyptology? And that is to leave aside his stranger, harder to evaluate experiments in poetry, music, sculpture, as well as the anatomical sculpture of plastination. Yet without some idea of how and why Edwards spread his genius across these far-flung continents of learning and inquiry, how can we ever hope to fathom that one great all-consuming labour toward which he bent the full power of his mind: I speak, of course, of anastology. We will, I believe, never fathom the depths of the science of anastology until we come to terms – somehow – with its discoverer, its pioneer, its architect and priest. 

That is why I have resolved to write this book. Not merely to uncover some isolated aspects of Edwards' thought, nor to unravel some of the complex strands of his legacy, but to uncover the person himself – the Man behind the Work.

I do not, of course, presume to be able to explain the mind of Edward J. Edwards. One does not explain a thing like that, any more than one explains poetry or hatred or the immense blank beauty of our poisoned seas. I do, however, intend to take a wide view, abandoning the safe limitations of the specialised monograph and seizing as my theme the man himself – his childhood, his studies, his travels, his career, his work habits, his relationships, as well as the tangled circumstances surrounding his death. Only then, I believe, will it be possible to provide a clear and (as far as possible) comprehensive view of what Edwards' work was fundamentally about.

To speak of his achievement is hardly necessary. But to say what that achievement was for – that is the aim that I have set myself in this book. How far I may succeed is for the reader to judge.

It is not hard to see why no one until now has attempted a comprehensive study of Edwards' life. For one thing, there is the whole history of the heresy trials and the Anastological Wars – with all that this entailed for the freedom and limits of scholarly inquiry into anastological science, especially in Europe and North America. Then there is the destruction of so many of Edwards' writings and personal papers at the time of his death – a melancholy obstacle for the would-be biographer, notwithstanding scholars' careful reconstruction of several writings from the fragments that survived. To these challenges must be added the peculiarities of Edwards' working habits. A person whose research was carried out in libraries, universities, and laboratories might indeed have left behind a colourful trail of documentary evidence. But a life such as Edwards' leaves for posterity precious few institutional traces, given his tendency to pursue his research in slums, factories, brothels, insane asylums, not to mention of course the many morgues and cemeteries where Edwards laboured in his final years.

All this has prevented earlier scholars even from contemplating the audacity of a comprehensive biography. But our frustrating reliance on partial and piecemeal interpretations of Edwards' thought has emboldened me to attempt this work, in spite of its obvious limitations. It is my hope that this biography will enable a fuller appreciation of the huge and multiple dimensions of Edwards' legacy, and will inspire a more penetrating insight into the science (what some, before the Wars, falsely called the miracle) of anastology. 

This work is dedicated to my grandfather, a first-generation anastological subject (born 2 April 2011, died 28 December 2073, resurrected 3 January 2074), and a constant source of inspiration and encouragement in my work.

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