Thursday, 30 June 2016

The Maya of Henri Bergson

This is worth quoting in full:

“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words
again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day. — 'Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood.' — Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and opernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ver took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.”
(from Self Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson)

Mindful of the penetrating awl eye from the podium, I, as a matter of mental economy, try to save on my negative capability against the rainy day of outright paradox. So then finding that the metaphysics of Bergson and Shankara are both genial I hereby justify my simultaneous adherence.

To keep my very distractable mind focused I am in the habit of writing notes as I read. One of those files on that excellent little app Fastnote is called The Maya of Henri Bergson. Maya though generally understood as illusion is much much more. The use of the term ‘illusion’ indicates a judgment that can be corrected by
analysis. Maya is a natural state that makes the subject/object dyad possible. It therefore underpins veridical perception. It is unavoidable but contains within itself the aporia - how does that external object come to be, in some sense, in me? It is the object’s ‘perceptuality’ that corrects Maya while at the same time leaving perception as it is. Our understanding has changed not our experience.

The leading analogy in the case of Maya and superimposition is that of the rope that is taken for a snake in poor light conditions. In Bergson the leading analogy re the lapse from duration is the cinematographical mechanism. The core of both of those analogies is the concept of in Bergson's case 'superposition' and in the case of Advaita/Shankara superimposition'. There is more than just a simple similarity of term here, there is a fundamental congruence of a metaphysical standpoint. What both assert is that a practical view of how things are, the one led by mathematics and the other by the inevitable subject/object dyad , both of these views are metaphysically incomplete. They do not represent an ultimate reality.

The trouble with analogies is that in order to understand how they are to be taken you must already have a grasp of what they analogise. If you don't you are almost certainly going to focus on some point which is irrelevant. In the case of the cinematographical mechanism some people have taken it as a critique of the cinematic art's i.e. the film's, capacity to represent reality. In the case of the 'adhyasa'/superimposition concept some people have become fascinated by the epistemological problem of illusion and its psychological foundations.
So what then are those analogies good for if they distract from their true import? My tentative answer is that they are a mnemonic device that holds a complex philosophical position in a single image. The internal elements of the analogies draw together a complex of abstract elements.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Aurora Leigh: Baptised into the grace and privilege of seeing ( Elizabeth Barrett Browning)

I had a little chamber in the house,
As green as any privet-hedge a bird
Might choose to build in, though the nest itself
Could show but dead-brown sticks and straws; the walls
Were green, the carpet was pure green, the straight
Small bed was curtained greenly, and the folds
Hung green about the window, which let in
The out-door world with all its greenery.
You could not push your head out and escape
A dash of dawn-dew from the honeysuckle,
But so you were baptised into the grace
And privilege of seeing. . .
First, the lime,
(I had enough, there, of the lime, be sure,—
My morning-dream was often hummed away
By the bees in it;) past the lime, the lawn,
Which, after sweeping broadly round the house,
Went trickling through the shrubberies in a stream
Of tender turf, and wore and lost itself
Among the acacias, over which, you saw
The irregular line of elms by the deep lane
Which stopt the grounds and dammed the overflow
Of arbutus and laurel. Out of sight
The lane was; sunk so deep, no foreign tramp
Nor drover of wild ponies out of Wales
Could guess if lady’s hall or tenant’s lodge
Dispensed such odours,—though his stick well -crooked
Might reach the lowest trail of blossoming briar
Which dipped upon the wall.

Friday, 24 June 2016

Brexit: Continent Cut Off

I’m surprised and it’s good. The British have declared their independence and the right to waste their money in their own way. No more will they have to support the travelling circus of the monthly move from Brussels to Strasbourg costing €130,000,000 pa.
travelling circus

Bullying by the elites did not work. Progress towards the United States of Europe has been halted and national governments will have to listen to the disaffected.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Dive Deep

Everybody has a view on morality or about what should be done in a given circumstance and they attempt to base their conclusions on a general principle drawn from the act under discussion itself. Socrates annoyed the Athenians by demonstrating the paradoxes generated by such ‘horizontal’ justifications. Dive deeper would be his motto, find at the metaphysical level the reasons for your action. In short consult with the One, the True and the Good.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Humboldt's Gift by Saul Bellow

To get away from my murder books The Ring and the Book and Crime and Punishment I interposed the sportive Humboldt’s Gift by Saul Bellow. It’s fun but is it great art? There are fine comic scenes in it usually with a touch of menace as the embattled hero Charles Citrine whose life has a lot of loose ends and unresolved issues attempts to bring order and light into a universe in which Ahriman has the upper hand. From anthropohagy to Anthroposophy might be the postcolon title of the book if that particular authorial affectation was going in 1975. It’s a fleshly book , an incarnate, local book. Chicago is presented as the American city releasing ‘foul and pestilential exhalations’ and full of cheerfully crass philistines who pity the intellectual Citrine who thinks that knowledge is an adequate adaptation. As with all Bellow protagonists he presents himself as emotionally labile who feels too much for his own good, put upon and a victim of his good emigrant heart. He suspects that Renata his lover who is 30 years younger than him is after the literary loot from his Broadway play and movie, not to mention the Pulitzers. His ex-wife and her cannibal lawyers see every compromise he makes as weakness. One hundred thousand dollars alimony a year for ever and aye is the prospect that opens up. In case that he should think of hiking to another jurisdiction the judge wants a bond of 200,000. If that wasn’t enough he has run foul of Cantabile, a volatile hoodlum and wannabe wiseguy. Bellow hauls in a net of incident full and overflowing. But who is Humboldt or von Humboldt Fleischer to give him his full name. We know that Bellow here is drawing on his old chum and rival Delmore Schwartz. How true it is to their real relationship I don’t know but what strikes me as a guilty truth is the chance sighting of Humboldt some days before his death by Citrine who hides from him.

Poor Humboldt didn't impose his cycles for very long. He never became the radiant center of his age. Depression fastened on him for good. The periods of mania and poetry ended. Three decades after Harlequin Ballads made him famous he died of a heart attack in a flophouse in the West Forties, one of those midtown branches of the Bowery. On that night I happened to be in New York. I was there on Business—i.e., up to no good. None of my Business was any good. Estranged from everybody, he was living in a place called the Hascombe. I went later to have a look at it. Welfare lodged old people there. He died on a rotten hot night. Even at the Plaza I was uncomfortable. Carbon monoxide was thick. Throbbing air conditioners dripped on you in the street, A bad night. And on the 727 jet, as I was flying back to Chicago next morning, I opened the Times and found Humboldt's obituary.

I knew that Humboldt would soon die because I had seen him on the street two months before and he had death all over him. He didn't see me. He was gray stout sick dusty, he had bought a pretzel stick and was eating it. His lunch. Concealed by a parked car, I watched. I didn't approach him, I felt it was impossible. For once my Business in the East was legitimate and I was not chasing some broad but preparing a magazine article. And just that morning I had been flying over New York in a procession of Coast Guard helicopters with Senators Javits and Robert Kennedy. Then I had attended a political luncheon in Central Park at the Tavern on the Green, where all the celebrities became ecstatic at the sight of one another. I was, as they say, "in great shape" myself. If I don't look well, I look busted. But I knew that I looked well. Besides, there was money in my pockets and I had been window-shopping on Madison Avenue. If any Cardin or Hermes necktie pleased me I could buy it without aski
ng the price. My belly was flat, I wore boxer shorts of combed Sea Island cotton at eight bucks a pair. I had joined an athletic club in Chicago and with elderly effort kept myself in shape. I played a swift hard game of paddle ball, a form of squash. So how could I talk to Humboldt? It was too much. While I was in the helicopter whopping over Manhattan, viewing New York as if I were passing in a glass-bottomed boat over a tropical reef, Humboldt was probably groping among his bottles for a drop of juice to mix with his morning gin.

This betrayal is the moral centre of the book, the sun around which everything else falls, the gravity that bends the space of the novel. It’s almost, well, groovey, to be distracted by the picaresqe priapism of the novel, by Renata the succubus and her witchy mother and the Chicago characters who are corporeally and psychologically larger than life but we take a sober turn when Charlie begins to talk to his death which is what he does though he disguises it as an anthroposophist excursion. Sometime before Charlie begins to put a little distance between the fuzzy warmth of his foibles and his truth , we begin to get a little tired of the cap ‘n bells and the bladder whacking. You’ve danced the hornpipe long enough in
These were light, weightless red shoes from Harrods, a little short in the toe, but admired by the black shoeshine man at the Downtown Club for their weightlessness and style. 

Sumptuary catelogues abound in this book, cashmere socks, wouldn’t they tickle, and linings, many hued, spat out by mulberry eating worms. We are told that if you have a funny foot you need a funny shoe, hand lasted naturally.

How does Citrine end up in Spain trying to communicate with death? You’d need to read it. There are no cliches in it, Bellow refused ‘author’ as a verb, the side bars on esoteric topics are to the point but that’s my foot. Go on read it but of course you have already. What did you think, gentile reader (sorry) is it now in the land of the period craze?

Friday, 17 June 2016

Trumpitude and Brexititude

Well we are in a tizzy, aren’t we. Right thinking people everywhere are profoundly annoyed that their views are being ignored by the ‘profanum vulgus’ and the normal ‘arceo’ is suspended by a democratic process. (Odi profanum vulgus et arceo - I hate the common mob and keep them at a distance : Horace) Trumpitude and Brexititude are being equivilated, the same educational level evinced by both, the same twitter led bolshiness. One thinks of Matthew Arnold and the Populace whose goal is to do as it likes. You taught them to read, and gave them the vote; now look. One agonia aunt on Crooked Timber claims that once out of the E.C.. if such should happen, he will feel less European. Oh my God, do you remember Cona coffee?

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Bergson on Intuition

Let it be said, in conclusion, that there is nothing mysterious about this faculty. Whoever has worked successfully at literary composition well knows that when the subject has been studied at great length, all the documents gathered together, all notes taken, something more is necessary to get down to the work of composition itself: an effort, often painful, immediately to place oneself in the very heart of the subject and to seek as deeply as possible an impulsion which, as soon as found, carries one forward of itself. This impulsion, once received, sets the mind off on a road where it finds both the information it had gathered and other details as well; it develops, analyzes itself in terms whose enumeration follows on without limit; the farther one goes the more is disclosed about it; never will one manage to say everything: and yet, if one turns around suddenly to seize the impulsion felt, it slips away; for it was not a thing but an urge to movement, and although indefinitely extensible, it is simplicity itself.
(from: Introduction to Metaphysics)