Monday, 28 December 2015

Jealous God


It seems that ‘my God’ is subject to jealousy as well as being the object of jealousy. A Trinitarian God is not the same as the God of the Muslims. The Christian cannot allow that a description contrary to the one revealed points to the same entity. Therefore the Jews of the Old Testament were worshiping an unrevised version of God in a faulty edition presumably the same as that taught by Joseph and Mary and the local rabbi in Nazareth.

What is one to make of this sophism?:

So Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, "Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects. "For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, 'TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.' Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you."
(Acts 17:22)

cf.microtoming





Friday, 25 December 2015

The Tenth Man and the Koshas


There's a terseness about Sankara when he is at his best. The decks are being cleared and the cannons run out as it were. In Tai Up. II.i.1 the well known analysis of the definition of Brahman as satyam, jnanam, anantam is unpacked. First the opponent open up with an attempt at dismasting. The notion of the limited individual achieving unity with the unlimited is evidently incongruous. Not so says Sankara. It is a question of realisation. One is stuck in a conceptual framework much like the person counting the number of people that forded a river. He counts in a successive manner and finds only nine have made it over. Where's the tenth man?, he asks. When he shifts to counting inclusively the complete number is clear to him. Our normal and usual way of counting objects in the world out there is successive but that is not always adequate. I can remember the discussion about whether the year 2000 really marked the millennium because Dennis the monk (Dennis the Short) started from the year 1 when devising his chronology. A year had not elapsed then, so back to year zero if you please which makes our space odyssey 2001. Interestingly like the concept zero which was not available to height challenged Dennis (remember that meme) the concept of non-incongruity between the Jivatma and Brahman has also to be inculcated through rigorous analysis.

The individual soul, though intrinsically none other than Brahman, still identifies itself with, and becomes attached to, the sheaths made of food etc., which are external, limited, and composed of the subtle elements; and as (in the story) a man, whose mind is engrossed in the counting of others, misses counting himself, though that personality is the nearest to him and supplies the missing number, just so, the individual soul, under a spell of ignorance, that is characterised by the non-perception of one's true nature as Brahman, accepts the non-Selves, such as the body composed of food, as the Self, and as a consequence, begins to think, "I am none other than those non-Selves composed of food etc." In this very way, Brahman, that is the Self, can become the non-Self through ignorance, there is a non-discovery (in the story) of the individual himself who makes up the requisite number, and just as there is the discovery of the selfsame person through knowledge when he is reminded of that personage by someone, similarly in the case of one, to whom Brahman remains unattained owing to his ignorance, there may be a discovery of that very Brahman by realising that omnipresent Brahman to be non other than one's own Self - a realisation that comes through enlightenment consequent on the introduction of the scriptures.

koshas is a short account of the coshas/cosas/koshas.
There are 5 of them and they are part of the samkhya (meaning counting) ancient cosmological system. There are 20 elements or is it 25, anyway the analogy of counting as in the Tenth Man is maintained. The Koshas are the different ways of viewing the human constitution or schemas in terms of the spiritual, vital airs (pranas of yoga), biological, mental, bliss body. By focussing on the elements of the human constitution we may forget to consider the 'binding problem' as it is called in western epistemology. What pulls the whole together?

Monday, 21 December 2015

Orthopraxis and Liberation


In his commentary on Taittriya Upanishad Sankara (Tai.Up. I.xi.4),during his discussion of Karma, Knowledge and Liberation, proffers three contraposititions to his doctrine of the central importance of Knowledge in the achievement of Liberation. These objections centre on orthopraxis which is a feature of the religion in its Mere Hinduism form to borrow a phrase. That ancient strand of the primacy of ritual is moderated by the Upanishads’ discussion of the inner symbolic meanings of fire, ghee etc. Sankara takes a rigourist view of Knowledge as the sole factor in the banishment of ignorance. Is the ascription the book Soundarya Lahari with its detailed description of Yajna, Yantra and Mantra to him an attempt to bring him back to ritualism? Who can say at this point. If you google 'yajna’ you will be offered them for a fee of 900$. For the finding of a suitable life partner cheap at the price.

To summarise his rebuttals: it’s all karma/action and only brings more karma in its train.

And hence liberation is not (an) achievable (result). A traveller has to reach a place which is different from himself. Not that the very place that is non-different from himself can be reached by ones self. And this follows from the well-known fact of identity (of the individual and Brahman) gathered from hundreds of Vedic and Sruti texts such as “Having created it (the world ), He entered into it”. *(Tai.Up. II.vi.1), “Know the individual soul also to be myself” (G. XIII.2).

Thursday, 17 December 2015

A Glass of Blessings by Barbara Pym (1958)


This is that rare thing; the Anglo-Catholic novel. A central focus or field in which the characters are brought together is the church of St. Lukes whose parish priest is Father Thames. I feel that this is Pym’s sly echo of Father Tiber as in Macauley’s Lay:
O Tiber! Father Tiber!
To whom the Romans pray
Father Thames doesn’t need to have swum it as the true ancient and catholic tradition is upheld by him even unto celibacy and not just incense, processions and auricular confession. Very High, High Church and several times the Low is mentioned with a shudder.

The time of the novel is about 1955 and the narrator and protagonist is Wilmet Forsyth who is married to Rodney. She is 33 and her husband is older, a higher civil servant, department unspecified though we learn down the novel that he was involved in the production of report on the linoleum industry. They live in the residence of his mother Sybil, a widow with an interest in archaeology, quite happily. No area specified but the leafy square that is their view indicates a good one. Rhoda the maid of all work lives in the basement. Sybil takes charge of the cooking. Wilmet arranges the flowers and is free to do much as she likes. From the observations of others as reported by her we learn that she speaks with a cultured accent is regarded as beautiful and dresses very well. She is also witty and good company, and a little innocent which is part of her charm for the reader. A knowing scryer of character falls dead on the page.

Having no children leaves her with time on her hands. Piers Longridge the brother of her best friend Rowena Talbot teaches evening classes in Portugese and French and as they have planned to go on holidays to Portugal it might be useful to take lessons in the language:

'That hardly seems likely,* said Sybil with a laugh, 'but it would be nice for you to have some intellectual occupation, if it would be that.
'You mean that I should have some work to do?* I asked, rather on the defensive, for I sometimes felt guilty about my long idle days. I did not really regret not having any children, but I sometimes envied the comfortable busyness of my friends who had. Nobody expected them to have any other kind of occupation.
'Not at all, dear, said Sybil calmly. 'Everybody should do as they like. You seem to fill your days quite happily.*
It was true that I had tried one or two part time jobs since my marriage, but Rodney had the old-fashioned idea that wives should not work unless it was financially necessary. Moreover, I was not trained for any career and hated to be tied down to a routine. My autumn plans to take more part in the life of St Luke’s, to try to befriend Piers Longridge and perhaps even go to his classes, ought to keep me fully occupied, I thought.

The unromantic Rodney deposits a substantial sum of money in her account on her birthday quite enough for her to keep herself beautifully dressed. She describes her outfits regularly. However there’s a feeling of a lack, an ‘is that all there is’.
’Yes, I’m very lucky((to have 3 children)). It's a pity you haven't any, Wilmet,' she ((Rowena)) added tentatively. ‘Do you mind?’
‘A little, I suppose. It makes one feel rather useless. Still, there's plenty to occupy my time.’

Very English of that pre-sharing era. Later they watch a television programme. In the upper middle class way everything is given its full style and title. Telly would come in quotes and said in a common accent.
After dinner we had coffee in the drawing-room and watched a television programme. There was a film about the habits of badgers, which showed the creatures rootling about in a kind of twilight in what seemed to be rhododendron bushes. But in reality, as we were told by the commentator, there were lights suspended from the trees because badgers only come out at night and so couldn't be filmed naturally. There was something melancholy about the creatures in the half darkness, with their long sad faces.
Wilmet’s secret project is the raising of Piers Longridge from the slough in which he is perceived to be wallowing. He seems to her to be a handsome, dissolute, romantic figure. That doesn’t work out as she planned. She has a friend Mary Beamish:

Mary Beamish was the kind of person who always made me feel particularly useless —she was so very much immersed in good works, so splendidly everyone said. She was about my own age, but small and rather dowdily dressed, presumably because she had neither the wish nor the ability to make the most of herself. She lived with her selfish old mother in a block of flats near our house and was on several committees as well as being a member of St Luke's parochial church council. This particular morning, which seemed to me in my nastiness the last straw, she had just been to a blood donor session and had apparently come away sooner than she ought to have done; for when Sybil and I arrived at the Settlement she was sitting on a chair surrounded by anxious fussing women, one of whom held a cup of tea seeming uncertain what to do with it. 'You should have rested for at least twenty minutes,’ said Miss Holmes, the warden of the Settlement, a tall worried looking woman. ‘It was most unwise of you to come away so soon.’
'And not to wait for your cup of tea either,’ said Lady Nollard in her fruity tones which always made me think of some great actress playing an Oscar Wilde dowager. 'That was very naughty, you know.’

Mary Beamish of course escapes the fate that Wilmet presumes for her and by the end her quiet certainties are exploded. Is she an Emma of our day? Yes in a way and also just as charming. This novel abounds in wit and observation and moves along effortlessly without a single slack passage. She retails the adventures in the clergy house and the sticky fingers of their new housekeeper Mr. Bason who follows that career with horse brasses and high teas in an antique shop in the West Country. Handsome Fr. Ransome, dull and dumpy Father Bode and Trollopean Father Thames get the due notice of the wit of Barbara Pym. On that I’ll end my song.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Kant and Advaita's Third Way


The trouble with Kant and other system builders with an extensive glossary of technical terms is that to navigate your way through them you have to achieve a command of this jargon. This has an indoctrination effect, engrams are etched and suddenly you’re in Kantworld where beauty is the understanding’s grasp of the purposiveness of the object. A work of art works. That doesn’t seem right.

 a race-automobile which seems to rush over exploding powder is more beautiful than the 'Victory of Samothrace'."(Tommaso/Futurist Manifesto)

What is Kant’s central insight, experiment or observation that functions as a protophaenomenon as Coleridge put it. Having a sense of that we can then submit to the system and its toils. Essentially it is a reaction to what he call transcendental realism or finding everything in the object. He opposed to that his own transcendental idealism or finding everything in the subject. It seems to have taken him 10 years to pack that bag.

Advaita Vedanta offers a third way: transcendental non-dualism to adapt Kant’s terminology and rule of trine. The object is an appearance. That is its reality. By virtue of being a form of limitation of absolute consciousness it can appear as it is in the mind of the subject which is also a form of limitation of absolute consciousness. Being of the same 'stuff’ the mind can take the form of the object. There is then a non-numerical identity relation between the object out there and the object in the mind of the subject. To this basic position Advaita adds in my interpretation of the theory of superimposition (adhyasa) a further layer. The Advaitin asks: Where is this consciousness really taking place? They postulate that it is in absolute consciousness, the ultimate reality. However the locus of this awareness is taken to be the mind of the subject, being superimposed there due to the dominant role of the physical in the generation of perception. Liberation is the overcoming of this mistake.






Saturday, 12 December 2015

The Line of Beauty and The Golden Section


When Kant maintains that saying that something is beautiful is a claim to an objective position that does not reflect the eye of the beholder, is he correct? The sceptic might say that if Kant had gotten out of Konigsberg more often he would have to admit that the ‘line of beauty’ is very variable.
line of beauty

Yet there lingers the doubt in the waiting room of challenged axioms: we do dispute taste. Might there exist an attractor that throws its shadow over the fluctuations of what is considered beautiful. Hogarth’s sinuous line converts the plain into the beautiful but he also admits that the uneventful causes the central experience to stand out. It is clear that fiction with too many effects subverts its own power. The line needs framing.

The golden section was first noticed by the Greeks but it was always a guiding intuitive principle.
golden ratio
It is the craftsmen who live unconsciously within a tradition that manifest the central aesthetic most clearly. This Chinese woodworker when he fashions and shapes his frame saw and moulding planes creates the curve of beauty. It is ergonomic too. Beauty works.
chinese woodworker
Scandinavian cabinet makers within a tradition of individual conscious design find harmony in more complex ways. Their rectangles are stretched and have to find balance in their negative space and the interior arrangements of the cabinets. The show cabinets of James Krenov can be uncomfortable to look at. There’s a tension that requires a complete explication before harmony is achieved.



Tuesday, 8 December 2015

The Philosophy of Kant as contained in extracts from his own writing by John Watson


As I was reading John Watson’s extracts from the Philosophy of Kant in his own translation I had the uncanny experience of being able to understand it inasmuch as this was new to me. Is this a true translation or a paraphrase I asked myself. I checked his extracts from the Third Critique (of Judgement) comparing and contrasting them to the translation by James Creed Meredith revised, edited and introduced by Nicholas Walker (Oxford World’s Classics). Right enough there are differences but it is as though Watson had wrested intelligibility from the wearying anfractuousities of Kant. It’s that sense that one has of Kant constantly doubling back in mid sentence as a new thought,which he imagines clarifies, occurs to him .

Watson’s introduction to his Extracts contains in brief his philosophy of education and is worth quoting:

My reason for presenting to the public these translations from the philosophical writings of Kant will be best understood if I state how they came to be made. The teacher of philosophy soon finds that a very powerful irritant is needed to awaken his pupils from their " dogmatic slumber." I do not doubt that it is possible to secure the desired end by a systematic criticism of the preconceptions that stand in the way of genuine philosophical comprehension. But my experience is that it is almost impossible, by this method, to prevent the average student from accepting what he is told without mastering it and making it his own. Thus he passes from one form of dogmatism to another, and with the new dogmatism comes the great enemy of all education, a conceit of knowledge without its reality. The study of philosophy is of little value if it does not teach a man to think for himself. The process of self-education is necessarily a severe one, and, therefore, distasteful to the natural man. Yet any attempt to evade it by some " short and easy method " defeats the end. What is required is a process by which the student who is really in earnest may pass, gradually and surely, from a lower to a higher plane of thought. The philosophical writings
of Kant, which exhibit in brief the transition from the old to the new, I believe to be a potent instrument for this end. 

Watson’s Translation of Introduction to the Critique of Judgement:
THE object of philosophy is to search for the principles by which reason may obtain a true knowledge of things. Now, we may conceive of objects either from the theoretical or from the practical point of view, and hence the ordinary division of philosophy into theoretical and practical is perfectly correct. But, in making this division, we must be sure that the conceptions upon which the distinction of principles rests are themselves distinct.
There are two, and only two, classes of conception by reference to which a distinction may be made in the principles of philosophy. These are conceptions of nature and the conception of freedom. The former are the condition of theoretical knowledge in conformity with a priori principles; the latter in itself supplies merely a negative principle of theoretical knowledge, but it is the source of principles which enlarge the sphere of the will, and which are therefore called practical Philosophy has thus two main divisions, theoretical philosophy or the philosophy of nature and practical or moral philosophy. But these terms have hitherto been grossly misapplied, both in the division of the principles of philosophy and in the division of philosophy itself. For it has been assumed that there is no distinction between what is called "practical" in the sphere of nature, and what is " practical" relatively to the idea of freedom. Now, this confusion between two perfectly distinct conceptions has made the division of philosophy into theoretical and practical unmeaning, inasmuch as the same principle is assumed to apply to both spheres.

Meredith’s Trans:

Philosophy may be said to contain the principles of the rational cognition that concepts afford us of things (not merely, as with logic, the principles of the form of thought in general irrespective of the objects), and, thus interpreted, the course, usually adopted, of dividing it into theoretical and practical is perfectly sound. But this makes imperative a specific distinction on the part of the concepts by which the principles of this rational cognition get their object assigned to them, for if the concepts are not distinct they fail to justify a division, which always presupposes that the principles belonging to the rational cognition of the several parts of the science in question are themselves mutually exclusive.
Now there are but two kinds of concepts, and these yield a corresponding number of distinct principles of the possibility of their objects. The concepts referred to are those of nature and that of freedom. By the first of these, a theoretical cognition from a priori principles becomes possible. In respect of such cognition, however, the second, by its very concept, imports no more than a negative principle (that of simple antithesis), while for the determination of the will, on the other hand, it establishes fundamental principles which enlarge the scope of its activity, and which on that account are called practical. Hence the division of philosophy falls properly into two parts, quite distinct in their principles-a theoretical, as philosophy of nature, and a practical, as philosophy of morals (for this is what the practical legislation of reason by the concept of freedom is called). Hitherto, however, in the application of these expressions to the division of the different principles, and with them to the division of philosophy, a gross misuse of the terms has prevailed; for what is practical according to concepts of nature has been taken as identical with what is practical according to the concept of freedom, with the result that a division has been made under these heads of theoretical and practical, by which, in effect, there has been no division at all (seeing that both parts might have similar principles).

I rest my case. Those baffling bracketed parentheses.



Watson’s work is at
watson's critique

Meredith’s:
Meredith's Critique




Monday, 7 December 2015

Secret Societies and the French Revolution by Una Pope-Hennessy


What can with certainty be said is that the entry in Wikipedia for the Illuminati is both at once full of otiose speculation and specious completeness and nevertheless lacking in reference to important sources. I chiefly have in mind the essay on Secret Societies and the French Revolution by Una Pope-Hennessy (nee Birch) who traces with admirable clarity the sources of The Perfectabilists who later became known as The Illuminati. This surprises me but on reflection to mention only to deprecate The Illuminati as a leaven of subsequent uprising is an indication of their well known strategy.

Birch accounts Martinez de Pasqually an important forerunner:

Not only was France the home of many masonic lodges, but its social system was riddled with mystical societies which gathered their initiates from among the adepts of masonic grades, and owned allegiance to no supreme council. Swedenborg and Martinez de Pasqually always regarded masonry as a school of instruction, and considered it the elementary and inferior step that led to the higher mysteries. In consequence of their teaching it came about that a great number of sects and rites were instituted in all parts of Europe, whose unity consisted in a common masonic initiation, but whose aims, doctrines, and practices were often irreconcilable. The Martinizists, or followers of Martinez de Pasqually, were a distinctively French sect; they had lodges in Paris in 1754, and also at Toulouse, Poitiers, Marseilles, and other places. The term "Illuminates" is applied to them equally with the Swedenborgians, Martinists, and several germane societies.
Pasqually is said to have been a Rosicrucian adept. His teaching was theurgic and moral, and his avowed object was to develop the somnolent divine faculties in humanity, and to lead man to enter into communication with the invisible, by means of " La Chose," the enigmatic name he gave to the highest secret. He is chiefly interesting as having been the first to permeate the higher grades of French masonry with illuminism, an example followed afterwards with conspicuous success by the disciples of Weishaupt.

Pasqually was followed by Louis Claude de Saint-Martin who further adapted the teaching of his master and became:

He became the mystical philosopher of the Revolution, and the book he published in 1775, " Des Erreurs et de la Verite," produced an immense sensation, comparable to that created by the publication of " La Profession de Foi d'un Vicaire Savoyard." Like Rousseau, he believed in the infinite possibilities of man, holding that Providence had planted a religion in man's heart "which could not be contaminated by priestly traffic, nor tainted by imposture." Rousseau gave the name of conscience to "the innate principle of justice and virtue which, independently of experience and in spite of ourselves, forms the basis of our judgments"; Saint-Martin thought it the divine instinct. On the belief in man's essential goodness both founded their demand for social revolution, claiming an opportunity for men to be indeed men and not slaves, a chance for climbing back to that old God-designed level of happiness from which they had descended. Saint-Martin saw in such a movement the awakening of men from the sleep of death, and with deep conviction he responded to the cry “All men are priests," uttered three centuries earlier by Luther, with the cry "All men are kings " The answer to the social enigmas of the century was whispered by him in the " ternaire sacre " of Liberty, Equality, Fraternity; and it echoed with reverberating clangor through all the lodges of France. Martinist societies were everywhere founded to study the doctrines contained in his book and to expound the teachings of the mystical philosopher who, like Lamartine in a later day, contemplated the Revolution as Christianity applied to politics.

Well, one might say, these societies were no more than the foolery of secret handshakes along with the serious business of fixing the little difficulties of their friends in the commercial and legal spheres. That was true and continues to be the case but prior to the Revolution they were the source of the dissemination of forbidden ideas which culminated in the 'ternaire sacre’ latterly the divine 'laicite’.

Birch offers evidence of the systematic infiltration of French Lodges by the Illuminati under the direction of Weishaupt. Her elegant and extensive essay is well worth reading. Find it on archive.org along with her introduction to The Disciples at Sais by Novalis. The epub format is faulty but the pdf is quite readable on my cheap rubbish tablet.








Friday, 4 December 2015

First and Second Law of Cliche


You have discovered the first law of cliché. They are there to put you at your ease and come with the nudge of unuttered single quotation marks. Jimmy J. can say ‘run off her feet’ in The Dead and that’s all right but he would forbid himself ‘eyes that strain in their sockets’ not as though he didn’t know all about eye strain as he scanned with the largest available glass. Nor would he be guided by the ‘moon’s lanthorn’ a sort of fey navigation that he would undoubtedly ‘eschew’. Withal.

The second law is that cliché has claws. The everyday can maim you suddenly, like you were cut by a Stanley knife, a clean shallow cut that traces a weeping edge like the tears of a statue in a remote monastery, so embarrassing to the monks.

Abbe Brens: And Now This.
Pater Miks: Yes it is vulgar but that is the catholic part of the meaning of the Catholic Church. God comforts us with the familiar. Bread, wine, oil and now blood.
A.B.: I told you to stop reading Chesterton.

Cliches uttered by policemen are not comfortable. Ascertaining and forming an opinion is a gavel rap. When polis refers to you as ‘sunshine’, that is not the beckoning of Falcon Tours. For you my friend happiness is a footnote in a YA book entitled A Nosegay of Verse.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Enda Kenny is a Moveable Feast


Enda Kenny, the famous Irish Prime Minister, was speaking on the floor of the House offering his commiserations. That it came out in a garbled Dan Brown way is perhaps the fault of his speech writer, Miriam O’Callaghan (the other one) who does the colour pieces for him. Usually they involve men coming up to him and telling him how surprised and delighted they were with the extra money in their pay packets and other equine compost activator. The story of how the police and the army were going to protect ATM machines during the early days of the financial crisis is probably his own.

A Friday evening in winter.
For many the end of the working week, in the city of Light.
Parisians got ready for the weekend.
Went home to pick up their children for the match, or met friends for a night out at Bataclan, or called into La Belle Equipe or le Petit Cambodge or Le Carillon, for a quick bite, a beer, a well-deserved pastis.
In 1307, almost to the month, the Knights Templar were arrested, interrogated, tortured, charged with heresy.
708 years on, in the particular blue, the cobalt, of an evening in Paris, ordinary yet extraordinary men and women, so many of them so young, paid with their lives, their futures, for another kind of ‘religious’ fear and loathing.
A fear and loathing that have nothing to do with any God, or any ‘faith’.
Its expression in Paris, and in other parts of Europe and the world, proof of the observations of Voltaire.
That those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.

Let’s comb the nits out of this piece. We know as a matter of history that Philip IV of France avid for Templar loot in league with Pope Clement V instigated the action against them. We know that it was Catholics that Voltaire was inveighing against. Could the Paris atrocity be a Vatican false flag black op? If we draw lines between the places that were attacked the resultant figure is a skewed pentacle. That is very significant. Muslims have already suffered at the hands of the Templars and the Knights of Columbanus. Enough is enough.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Insolens Verbum


I am reading The Man who was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton and as ever wonder whether his over use of paradoxes(oi) was a severe defect of his style. They seem like shiny, glittery objects which have a mesmeric effect and stun the judgement by their patent cleverality. It is, I suggest, a corollary of the principle mentioned by Coleridge in Essays on the Principles of Method:

For if he be, as we now assume, a well-educated man as well as a man of superior powers, he will not fail to follow the golden rule of Julius Caesar, Insolens verbum, tanquam scopulum, evitare. (De Analogia) Unless where new things necessitate new terms, he will avoid an unusual word as a rock.

Avoid reefs - you tend to get stuck on them. Unusual juxtapositions have that effect for they require unpacking. Richard Whately in his Rhetoric has the better procedure. First expatiate and then summate by the apothegm or other device. Oops, insolens verba.

Still, I enjoy his paradoxes, which is undoubtedly a defect in me:

"Listen to me," cried Syme with extraordinary emphasis. "Shall I tell you the secret of the whole world? It is that we have only known the back of the world. We see everything from behind, and it looks brutal. That is not a tree, but the back of a tree. That is not a cloud, but the back of a cloud. Cannot you see that everything is stooping and hiding a face? If we could only get round in front—"

((Full Quote from Caesar: tamquam scopulum, sic fugias inauditum atque insolens verbum trans:avoid a strange and unfamiliar word as you would a dangerous reef ))

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Ibn 'Arabi's Four Tender Fire


Ibn ‘Arabi is not just prolific, many writers are, but he is well into the land of graphomania. Stephen Hirtenstein in his book The Unlimited Mercifier quotes from an introduction to one of his multitudinous works:

I what I have written, I have never had a set purpose, as other writers. Flashes of divine inspiration used to come upon me and almost overwhelm me, so that I could only put them from my mind by committing to paper what they revealed to me. If my works evince any kind of composition, that form was unintentional. Some works I wrote at the command of God, sent to me in sleep or through a mystical revelation.

How many works exactly? Hirtenstein tells us ‘over 350‘ of assured provenance and perhaps 700 altogether if one includes works that have not been fully authenticated. Did I read that one of these books runs to 3,000 pages? This is more than automatic writing, it’s automatic shorthand. There doesn’t seem to be a team of amanuenses involved. When you take account of the constant travelling I can only suppose that he wrote from morning till night every day. Naturally you do not revise divine inspiration but there were proof readings in his presence to establish the text and his accompanying disquisitions had an audience of up to 30 people.

He married twice or perhaps four times or more. If it is better to marry than to burn, his was a four tender fire. That is the aspect of Islam that definitively causes me to doubt its moral sense combined as it is with a concern for modesty and propriety in women. There is only a small percentage of polygamous marriages or should I say polygyny as Wikipedia does. One to three percent of all Muslim marriages are multiple even given the fact that it is not legal in every muslim majority country. cf: wikipedia polygyny
Ibn 'Arabi had a late onset of interest in sex. This was in his 30‘s even though in his spiritual tours up till then he had encountered many sufis who value celibacy. To clarify, Hirtenstein is not sure whether these marriages were successive or simultaneous.

I put this together with Arabi’s repeated assertions of spiritual prowess and considering that the philosophy that he wrote might have been the compound of Sufi theosophy with some simples of his own, I suspend judgment on him as a great master.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

The Blue Flower by Penelope Fitzgerald


Could my own preference for writers' - not just Lawrence's - notes and letters be part of a general, historical drift away from the novel? For Lawrence the novel was 'the one bright book of life', 'the highest form of human expression so far attained'. Nowadays most novels are copies of other novels but, for Lawrence, the novel still contained these massive potentialities. Marguerite Yourcenar offers an important qualification to this idea when, in her notes on the composition of Memoirs of Hadrian (a text of far greater interest, to me, than the novel to which it is appended), she writes that 'In our time the novel devours all other forms; one is almost forced to use it as a medium of expression.' No more. Increasingly, the process of novelisation goes hand in hand with a strait-jacketing of the material's expressive potential. One gets so weary watching authors' sensations and thoughts get novelised, set into the concrete of fiction, that perhaps it is best to avoid the novel as a medium of expression. ((from Out of Sheer Rage by Geoff Dyer))

This is the thought of the ‘protagonist’ a near-Dyer beset by velleities from the book, - ‘we don’t like novel’ -, with the post colon - wrestling with D.H. Lawrence. I use quotes to mark the irony of ‘agonia’ or wrestling in Greek. In any case after a while one loses interest in pinning this ‘Dyer’ and not taking the book up again is easy.

How different it is with Penelope Fitzgerald’s The Blue Flower. When for the purpose of this little note I began to read it I found myself being drawn into it again. This author has nothing up her sleeve, no post modern meretriciousness, no theory and yet it’s more than a story. The beginning for instance with the gathering up of the laundry for the year at the home of Novalis.

Jacob Dietmahler was not such a fool that he could not see that they had arrived at his friend's home on the washday. They should not have arrived anywhere, certainly not at this great house, the largest but two in Weissenfels, at such a time. Dietmahler's own mother supervised the washing three times a year, therefore the household had linen and white underwear for four months only. He himself possessed eighty-nine shirts, no more. But here, at the Hardenberg house in Kloster Gasse, he could tell from the great dingy snowfalls of sheets, pillowcases, bolster-cases, vests, bodices, drawers, from the upper windows into the courtyard, where grave-looking servants, both men and women, were receiving them into giant baskets, that they washed only once a year. This might not mean wealth, in fact he knew that in this case it didn't, but it was certainly an indication of long standing. A numerous family, also. The underwear of children and young persons, as well as the larger sizes, fluttered through the blue air, as though the children themselves had taken to flight.

We are being introduced to the aery passage of the souls of the Hardenbergs, vestments that she will fill with their bodies one after the other and at the end of the book empty again with the record of the ways of their passing. It is simple ‘once upon a time’ storytelling that you surrender to with a child’s bated breath. There are 55 chapters, a form which suggests the Fragments of Novalis , occasionally rounded off with unstrained after aphorism.

Hardenberg was not really an old man - he was between fifty and sixty - but he stared at Jacob Dietmahler with an old man's drooping neck and lowered head. 'You are right, quite right. I took the opportunity. Opportunity, after all, is only another word for temptation.'

We know that Fritz von Hardenberg is going to die but this will be after his Sophia, Sophie von Kuhn, has pre-deceased him. That’s true but now in the nunc-stans of the novel he is alive and we forget much as we forget our own mortality. Artfully, Fitzgerald ends the novel with Novalis still alive and Sophie dead. In a previous experience of the flimsy boundary between the dead and the living he has had an intimation of the way to accept his grief:

The creak and thump of the pastor's cows could still be heard far into the burial ground where the graves and the still empty spaces, cut off from each other now by the mist, had become dark green islands, dark green chambers of meditation. On one of them, just a little ahead of him, a young man, still almost a boy, was standing in the half darkness, with his head bent, himself as white, still, and speechless as a memorial. The sight was consoling to Fritz, who knew that the young man, although living, was not human, but also that at the moment there was no boundary between them.
He said aloud, 'The external world is the world of shadows. It throws its shadows into the kingdom of light. How different they will appear when this darkness is gone and the shadow-body has passed away. The universe, after all, is within us. The way leads inwards, always inwards.'

The description of the operation on Sophie without anaesthetic is based on the reality and ought to be compared to that of Dr. Brown the Edinburgh surgeon.
surgeon brown
Sophie’s Operation:
'We will administer the cordial.'
It was a mixture of wine and laudanum, to Dr Brown's prescription, which Sophie drank down without protest. Then to the bedroom, where all must skirt awkwardly round the bed in its unaccustomed place. The students, to be out of the way, stood with their backs to the wall, darting sharp looks, like young crows, each taking out the pen and inkwell from behind his lapel.
Sophie was helped onto the pile of borrowed mattresses. Then the Professor asked her, in tones of grave politeness -suitable, in fact, to a child on its dignity - whether she would like to cover her face with a piece of fine muslin. 'In that way you will be able to see something of what I do, but not too clearly . . . There now, you cannot see me now, can you?'
'I can see something glittering,' she said. Perhaps it was a game, after all. The students wrote a line in their notebooks.
Following the medical etiquette of Jena, the Professor motioned Dietmahler to his side, and asked him,
'Esteemed colleague, am I to make the incision? Is that what you advise?'
'Yes, Herr Professor, I advise it.'
'You would make two incisions, or one only?'
'Two, Herr Professor.'
'So?'
'So.'

It was only after her death that Hardenberg became the Novalis , the clearer of new land. The story of the Blue Flower was never finished.
The novel of this Year and many a year for me.




Monday, 16 November 2015

Novalis and the Unity of Being


What Novalis understood was that ecstasy was amplified inwardness. Calling that a function of his idealism is to ignore his consistent proceeding by homologies. Formal unities are not replicated but are inflected by the possibilities of the material in which they are found. Analogies proceed by a focus on single aspects and that tends to create a pluralism. First there are beings and then there is a unity of beings and finally there is a unity of beings within Being.

The solipsism inherent in Idealism cannot trace 'the paths of Novalis’ and it has amused me that any path through a field making for a gap in the hedge does not proceed by straight logic but is curved into the line of beauty.

All things lead me back upon myself. I well understood what the second Voice said once. I rejoice in the wonderful collections and figures in the study halls; it seems to me as though they were only symbols, veils, decorations enshrouding a Divine Being ; -and this is ever in my thoughts. I do not seek for them, but I often seek in them. It is as though they might show me the path to a place where, slumbering, lies the Virgin for whom my spirit yearns. (The Disciples at Sais)








Sunday, 15 November 2015

The Paths of Novalis


Men travel by many different paths. Whoever tracks and compares their ways will see wonderful figures arising ; figures that seem to belong to the great Manuscript of Design which we descry everywhere, on wings of birds, on the shells of eggs, in clouds, in snow, is crystals, in rock formations, in frozen water, within and upon mountains, in plants, in beasts, in men, in the light of day, in slabs of pitch and glass when they are jarred or struck, in filings around a magnet, and in the singular Coincidences of Chance. In these things we seem to catch an idea of the key, the grammar to this Manuscript, but this idea will not fix itself into any abiding conception, and seems as if it were unwilling to become in its turn the key to higher things. It seems as though an Alcahest had been poured over the mind of man. Only momentarily do his wishes, his thoughts, incorporate themselves. On such wise do his ideas arise, but, after a short while, all swims once more vaguely before his eyes.
(from The Disciples at Sais by Novalis)

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Carlyle and Novalis - The Blue Flower


As a warming up exercise Carlyle lays about him with his blunted and gapped claymore; a weapon which is comically overspecified for the destruction of iridescent soap bubbles.

 Not as if we meant, by this remark, to cast a stone at the old guild of literary Improvisators, or any of that diligent brotherhood, whose trade it is to blow soap-bubbles for their fellow-creatures; which bubbles, of course, if they are not seen and admired this moment, will be altogether lost to men’s eyes the next. Considering the use of these blowers, in civilized communities, we rather wish them strong lungs, and all manner of prosperity : but simply we would contend that such soap-bubble guild should not become the sole one in Literature ; that being indisputably the strongest, it should content itself with this preeminence, and not tyrannically annihilate its less prosperous neighbors. For it should be recollected that Literature positively has other aims than this of amusement from hour to hour; nay perhaps that this, glorious as it may be, is not its highest or true aim.

It is the young Carlyle writing in the Foreign Review (1829) his assessment of Novalis's Writings. Edited by Ludwig Tieck and Friedrich Schlegel). Fourth Edition. 2 vols. Berlin, 1826. He had not yet reached the stage of being a ‘singing razor’ cf.
singing razor
Never mind, he gives good value with 50 odd pages including translations from Flower Pollen and The Disciples at Sais and sundry fragments.

Here’s the one about the famous blue flower from Heinrich von Ofterdingen:

" The old people were already asleep ; the clock was beating its monotonous tick on the wall; the wind blustered over the rattling windows; by turns, the chamber was lighted by the sheen of the moon. The young man lay restless in his bed; and thought of the stranger and his stories. 'Not the treasures is it,' said he to himself, ' that have awakened in me so unspeakable a desire; far from me is all covetousness; but the Blue Flower is what I long to behold. It lies incessantly in my heart, and I can think and fancy of nothing else. Never did I feel so before: it is as if, till now, I had been dreaming, or as if sleep had carried me into another world •, for in the world I used to live in, who troubled himself about flowers ? Such wild passion for a Flower was never heard of there. But whence could that stranger have come ? None of us ever saw such a man; yet I know not how I alone was so caught with his discourse: the rest heard the very same, yet none seems to mind it. And then that I cannot even speak of my strange condition ! I feel such rapturous contentment; and only then when I have not the Flower rightly before my eyes, does so deep, heartfelt an eagerness come over me: these things no one will or can believe.

In a dream Heinrich is visited by the spirit of the Blue Flower:

" Intoxicated with rapture, and yet conscious of every impression, he floated softly down that glittering stream, which flowed out from the basin into the rocks. A sort of sweet slumber fell upon him, in which he dreamed indescribable adventures, and out of which a new light awoke him. He found himself on a soft sward at the margin of a spring, which welled out into the air, and seemed to dissipate itself there. Dark-blue rocks, with many-colored veins, rose at some distance ; the daylight which encircled him was clearer and milder than the common; the sky was black-blue, and altogether pure. But what attracted him infinitely most was a high, light-blue Flower, which stood close by the spring, touching it with its broad glittering leaves. Round it stood innumerable flowers of all colors, and the sweetest perfume filled the air. He saw nothing but the Blue Flower; and gazed on it long with nameless tenderness. At last he was for approaching, when all at once it began to move and change ; the leaves grew more resplendent, and clasped themselves round the waxing stem ; the Flower bent itself towards him; and the petals showed like a blue spreading ruff, in which hovered a lovely face. His sweet astonishment at this transformation was increasing, — when suddenly his mother's voice awoke him, and he found himself in the house of his parents, which the morning sun was already gilding."

There is a coarseness in Carlyle which arises out of his never having passed through the ‘gate of resignation’. His mystical apprehension is Vulcanite and doesn’t quite understand the surrender of Novalis. It’s a Shiva/Shakti polarity. Sophie von Kuhn was the Anima or Shakti rupa of Novalis.
My beloved is an abbreviation of the universe, and the universe is an extension of my beloved.
When you love her, you love life and accept that it has a terminus and after that more life and another death. The ordinary love that Novalis found after the death of Sophie is a puzzle to Carlyle. In Irish lore those that beat the coffin and cry ‘Why did you leave me’ will be remarried within the year.

The other mistake of Carlyle’s is the characterization of Novalis as the German Pascal. There was the love of Mathematics and Science but the crispness and clarity of the Frenchman is quite other than the vague palpations of Novalis. Carlyle admits that much of the writing is opaque to him as it should be given that it was per speculum et in aenigmata for its author also.















Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Wittgenstein on the Scripture of Pain


One may illustrate the distinct uses of Scripture (in all that relates to morals) and of natural Conscience, by the comparison of a sun-dial and a clock. The clock has the advantage of being always at hand, to be consulted at any hour of the day or night; while the dial is of use only when the sun shines on it. But, then, the clock is liable to go wrong and vary from the true time; and it has no power in itself of correcting its own errors; so that these may go on increasing, to any extent, unless it be from time to time regulated by the dial, which alone the unerring guide.
(from Introductory Lessons on Morals and Christian Evidences by Richard Whately pub. 1857)

"But if I suppose that someone is in pain, then I am simply supposing that he has just the same as I have so often had." — That gets us no further. It is as if I were to say: "You surely know what 'It is 5 o'clock here' means; so you also know what 'It's 5 o'clock on the sun' means. It means simply that it is just the same there as it is here when it is 5 o'clock." — The explanation by means of identity does not work here.
(Philosophical Inverstigations by Ludwig Wittgenstein para:350)

The sun-dial/sun/clock analogy may be a common one though it’s not particularly familiar to me. Wittgenstein here might be said to rebut the scripture of pain. There is none. To further expand the Whately/Wittgenstein correspondence in an admittedly fanciful way the word evidences is suggestive of the British Empiricist tenet - if we have valid knowledge
we have evidence. Wittgenstein is impugning this, it seems to me, conscious as I am that one is walking on a quaking bog ascribing a position to him.





Friday, 6 November 2015

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh


What would we do without the English Stately Home(o)? The family dynamics of the Flytes seemingly reflect the classic recipe for the making of the homosexual. Dominant mother, absent father, send the boy to boarding school – stand back. They are Catholics living in the stately home which itself appears to have a non-speaking part in the drama. It is mentioned several times that it is a relatively new establishment having been moved from its original location at Marchmain village. There is a suggestion that this move using the original stones represents a fall from greatness into the filth of modern life. The elder son nicknamed after the seat ‘Bridey’ is the inverse of a spoiled priest. He still wants to be a priest, Jesuit of course, but primogeniture oblige. The great house has its own Arts and Crafts chapel which Lord Marchmain, now resident in Venice with his mistress, had built for his devout wife. He ‘changed’ when he married but it is clear that it was purely to marry. It is the 1920’s when the book opens and Daddy never came back after the war. Still, life goes on, the rosary is said every evening and mass is celebrated in the chapel though this may be stopped shortly as the congregation has dwindled since the old days.

The narrator is Charles Ryder who first saw Brideshead during his first year at Oxford accompanied by the second son Sebastian who goes about with a teddy-bear, a beautiful youth probably based on Waugh’s Other Side dabbling. Young Lord Sebastian’s orientation is lightly intimated, infantile and asexual if anything. The visit to Brideshead is to see Nanny Hawkins who lives on as an old retainer with a room of her own in the dome, surely a symbol of emotional supervenience. Did Aloysius the teddy go with them? I forget. It was just a two seater Morris-Cowley and it might have been unsafe given the drinking that Charles and Sebastian do. The Twenties are on.

What occurs is what Archbishop Whately remarked – without a principle a man grows gradually worse. Sebastian goes to Fez and continues to drink himself to death. By the end of the novel he is living with monks in Tunis. Ryder sees him as a broken saint whose charm remains intact. That may be a sentimental note.

Through the middle of the book Charles Ryder and Lady Julia Marchmain, Sebastian’s sister and double, have an affair. They divorce their spouses. What happens next is the spiritual heart of the book and the reader may take it as a possibility through grace or a flagrant nonsense unconnected to human psychology.

Comic interludes such as Ryder and his Father on the long Vacation are there. Waugh knows well the sort of eccentricity that people with independent income can develop. The Granada T.V. series (on youtube) stays close to the book and in its own way is an independent triumph.
This dialogue:
We dined in a room they called "the Painted Parlour." It was a spacious octagon, later in design than the rest of the house; its walls were adorned with wreathed medallions, and across its dome prim Pompeian figures stood in pastoral groups. They and the satin-wood and ormolu furniture, the carpet, the hanging bronze candelabrum, the mirrors and sconces, were all a single composition, the design of one illustrious hand. "We usually eat here when we're alone," said Sebastian, "it's so cosy."
While they dined I ate a peach and told them of the war with my father.
"He sounds a perfect poppet," said Julia. "And now I'm going to leave you boys."
"Where are you off to?"
"The nursery. I promised Nanny a last game of halma." She kissed the top of Sebastian's head. I opened the door for her. "Good night, Mr. Ryder, and good-bye. I don't suppose we'll meet to-morrow. I'm leaving early." I can't tell you how grateful I am to you for relieving me at the sick-bed."
"My sister's very pompous to-night," said Sebastian, when she was gone.
"I don't think she cares for me," I said.
"I don't think she cares for anyone much. I love her. She's so like me."
"Do you? Is she?"
"In looks I mean and the way she talks. I wouldn't love anyone with a character like mine."

Confession is good for the soul. I had read a lot of Waugh before my recent reading of this book. Is it Waugh without the Waughness, tilting into seriousness and theology? As a devout Filbertine I liked it.


Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Heroes and Hero Worship by Thomas Carlyle


A few days ago on his blog The Victorian Sage
Victorian Sage
Mark Wallace revealed that Huff Po U.K. had mentioned Thomas Carlyle in an introduction to a prospective mens’ month. I felt that the impugning of featuring only male heros in his book Heroes and Hero Worship was waving the bien pensant flag. You Bad Victorian, me Good New Man sort of thing – the breast beating of the Beta New Man as opposed to the breast beating of the Alpha Male Silverback Victorian. Mark in his reply made the point that any mention of Heroes might open up new vistas. He mentioned also the category of the Man of Letters favoured by Carlyle which has led me to read that chapter initially delivered as a lecture entitled The Hero as Man of Letters.

Is it a tract for our times? That’s an interesting question and one fraught with the possibility of being cut off at the gulch by a hashtag posse. Carlyle's early struggles had an heroic quality. There were no networks that he could use. His father was not that sort of Mason. Heroes tend to be one off individuals defined by their own power. How free of ethnic and class considerations can they be? Carlyle’s black humour and his scorn had a Celtic tinge to it. The merry cackling of Jane and Tom in Chelsea over Harriet and John Stuart must have been great crack yet it has to be admitted that Mill’s Utilitarianism is the order of our day with its implicit standardisation and its cult of happiness . The call to Work, to suffer and to grow in power seems demented compared to that.

Bentham and by implication Mill receive a swingeing chastisement:

The other day speaking, without prior purpose that way, of Bentham's theory of man and man's life, I chanced to call it a more beggarly one than Mahomet's. I am bound to say, now when it is once uttered, that such is my deliberate opinion. Not that one would mean offence against the man Jeremy Bentham, or those who respect and believe him. Bentham himself, and even the creed of Bentham, seems to me comparatively worthy of praise. It is a determinate being what all the world, in a cowardly half-and-half manner, was tending to be. Let us have the crisis; we shall either have death or the cure. I call this gross, steam-engine Utilitarianism an approach towards new Faith. It was a laying-down of cant; a saying to oneself: "Well then, this world is a dead iron machine, the god of it Gravitation and selfish Hunger; let us see what, by checking and balancing, and good adjustment of tooth and pinion, can be made of it!" Benthamism has something complete, manful, in such fearless committal of itself to what it finds true; you may call it Heroic, though a Heroism with its eyes put out! It is the culminating point, and fearless ultimatum, of what lay in the half-and-half state, pervading man's whole existence in that Eighteenth Century. It seems to me, all deniers of Godhood, and all lip-believers of it, are bound to be Benthamites, if they have courage and honesty. Benthamism is an eyeless Heroism: the Human Species, like a hapless blinded Samson grinding in the Philistine Mill, clasps convulsively the pillars of its Mill; brings huge ruin down, but ultimately deliverance withal. Of Bentham I meant to say no harm.

But this I do say, and would wish all men to know and lay to heart, that he who discerns nothing but Mechanism in the Universe has in the fatalest way missed the secret of the Universe altogether. That all Godhood should vanish out of men's conception of this Universe seems to me precisely the most brutal error,—I will not disparage Heathenism by calling it a Heathen error,—that men could fall into. It is not true; it is false at the very heart of it. A man who thinks so will think wrong about all things in the world; this original sin will vitiate all other conclusions he can form. One might call it the most lamentable of Delusions,—not forgetting Witchcraft itself! Witchcraft worshipped at least a living Devil; but this worships a dead iron Devil; no God, not even a Devil! Whatsoever is noble, divine, inspired, drops thereby out of life. There remains everywhere in life a despicable caput-mortuum; the mechanical hull, all soul fled out of it. How can a man act heroically? The "Doctrine of Motives" will teach him that it is, under more or less disguise, nothing but a wretched love of Pleasure, fear of Pain; that Hunger, of applause, of cash, of whatsoever victual it may be, is the ultimate fact of man's life. Atheism, in brief;—which does indeed frightfully punish itself. The man, I say, is become spiritually a paralytic man; this godlike Universe a dead mechanical steam-engine, all working by motives, checks, balances, and I know not what; wherein, as in the detestable belly of some Phalaris'-Bull of his own contriving, he the poor Phalaris sits miserably dying!


My final quote from Heroes refers to the Man of Letters but might just as well apply to anyone, man or woman, and in any century, who has not found ‘the path with heart’:

His fatal misery was the spiritual paralysis, so we may name it, of the Age in which his life lay; whereby his life too, do what he might, was half paralyzed! The Eighteenth was a Sceptical Century; in which little word there is a whole Pandora's Box of miseries. Scepticism means not intellectual Doubt alone, but moral Doubt; all sorts of infidelity, insincerity, spiritual paralysis. Perhaps, in few centuries that one could specify since the world began, was a life of Heroism more difficult for a man. That was not an age of Faith,—an age of Heroes! The very possibility of Heroism had been, as it were, formally abnegated in the minds of all. Heroism was gone forever; Triviality, Formulism and Commonplace were come forever. The "age of miracles" had been, or perhaps had not been; but it was not any longer. An effete world; wherein Wonder, Greatness, Godhood could not now dwell;—in one word, a godless world!

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Careless Mary


I find myself radically disengaged from all possible outcomes.

Knitting the great jumper of life, this causes me not to drop one stitch, she said.

Mary emphatically denies concern and asks for privacy at this time.

Putting it in Singerian terms, this is a puddle and I am wearing wellingtons, she said

Frankly my dear......

Predilections flatten one’s world.

Have we lost power, my radar screen is blank, she said.

In this matter monism seems correct. It’s all one to me, she said.

Somewhere in America a bluebottle is trapped between the sashes, its buzzing gives me no peace.

Swami told me - you must be careless.

There are many shades of magnolia, it’s vital to select the correct one.

I tug the sides of my beige cardigan, I settle myself, she said.

Replete with ghast as I am.

A settled apathy seems appropriate.










Saturday, 24 October 2015

Windt on spatio-temporal abatement in dreams


There is an academic rule, unwritten and therefore unbreakable that a serious paper must be at least 19 pdf pages long. Nothing dissipates the force of an insight more than expatiation. A crisply written blog post can have more impact that a footnote encrusted piece of scholarment. Jennifer Windt’s series of posts on Dreams and Dreaming with their well chosen mood setting paintings are an example of the soul of wit.
windt on dreaming

One of her points is the abatement of spatio-temporal sense in the dream. I won’t summarise as that would be an impertinent dilution. If you’re not prepared to follow links play a game of solitaire instead. What I will offer is a confirmation in my own experience of this attribute and how it can lead to paradox. In a couple of instances of clairvoyance which I have experienced the ‘forward memory’ occurred just at the point of entry into sleep or just coming out of it when there is a freeing of the physical embedding in a particular time and space and while there is yet objective consciousness.
cf. forward memory

To accept the neural correlates of consciousness is not to reduce consciousness to the neuronal traffic. Consciousness is much larger than that. Anyone for cosmic? The materialist would insist that your body isn’t at a point removed in space and time and there cannot be information from there and then. The commonplace flouting of this rule escapes the attention of the materialist. Evidence is sometimes too great to be acceptable and is eliminated, generally by claiming that it is subjective.


Thursday, 22 October 2015

Jennifer Windt and the scientifically-minded Advaitin


By combining my analysis of the methodological background assumptions of scientific dream research with Thompson’s proposal on the investigation of dreamless sleep experience, we can see that if we were to translate the Yoga and Advaitin view into a research methodology, we would find it to rely on assumptions that run parallel to those of scientific dream research. Dreamless sleep experiences, or so a modern-day, scientifically-minded Advaitin would be forced to admit, are reportable experiences; and if it should happen that (under sufficiently ideal reporting conditions, such as immediately after having awakened from sleep) one were unable to recall any such experience having happened during sleep, this would indicate that no such experience had occurred.
(from commentary on Evan Thompson’s paper on Deep Dreamless Sleep by Jennifer Windt)

If the criterion for being a scientifically minded advaitin is the acceptance of neural correlates of consciousness as a given then any advaitin would pass. To put it at its strongest, for them the brain is just very complex matter. It is ‘jada’ or inert until it is pervaded by consciousness. It then can reflect the level of its complexity. That is the primary statement of the understanding of the advaitin which is further clarified by saying that the being or existence of any reality is consciousness. There is no emergence of consciousness at a certain level of complexity of brain structure. It always is. In this the advaitin as a monist would depart from the usual run of materialist psychology. Parallel operation of brain/mind is taken as a working hypothesis for yoga as is clear from its bio-feedback practices but is not their final understanding.

This consciousness which is the being of everything cannot be lost as otherwise the individual thing would wink into non-existence. This then is why the d.s. argument is so important. The pure blankness of deep dreamless sleep knows itself as a pure blankness. We do not need to posit some obscure experiencer by scrying the eeg data. The knowledge underlines the existence of a non-dual immediacy. Evident non-dual knowledge cannot be interpreted as arising from the experience of a mental subject being aware of a mental object. As the person passes from this deep dreamless sleep into a waking state the transition becomes evident but not as an inference or Husserlian retro reflection etc.

Clearly for the empiricist whose foundational inquiry is: if I know, how do I know; knowledge that is immediate, non-inferential, non- analytic or a priori is a poor candidate for real knowledge. The empiricist will tend not even to see it or to naturalise it automatically. Windt follows Thompson in this. Nevertheless her remarks on spatio-temporal sense in dreams is interesting.
(cf. her blogposts on this at: philosophy of brains)


Tuesday, 20 October 2015

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan


Underneath all that froth there must be some coffee. A Visit from the Goon Squad is a piece of lying trash quite readable at it but for the Powerpoint bit which I glanced at but did not read. I could never look Dickens in the page again if I did. The story towards the end about the marketing of the Scotty comeback could be applied to the 5 pages of fulsomeness from critics world wide. A B.T. (blind team). No never. Up to that point I thought the Scotty story where he visited Benito Salazar with a fish that he caught in the East River was more true than the others. Scotty, poor, psychotic, with un-American bad teeth of the worst sort - missing. More likely to be a stalker than anything invoking a blood boltered home invasion with a note of apology - ‘then it all came down’. Jennifer Egan is clever and witty but her cynicism lacks the bite of the dog, no teeth but a vicious suck. Still it is shaken free of cliche and unlike that biography of Jim Morrison ‘Everybody gets out of here alive’. Even Scotty gets a set of delph.

Monday, 19 October 2015

Evan Thompson on the 'memory' of having been in a state of deep dreamless sleep.


Sankara talks of the knowledge of having been in a state of deep dreamless sleep (d.s.) as a memory in his commentary on Brh.Up. IV.iii.6:

We see also that the purpose of a light is served in dreams, as, for instance, meeting and parting from friends, and going to other places, etc.; and we awake from deep sleep with the remembrance that we slept happily and knew nothing. Therefore there exists some extraneous light.

Evan Thompson in his paper #37 open mind papers (commentary by Jennifer Windt and E.T's reply_ in epub and pdf)
on the neuroscientific implications of the knowledge that we have been in a state of deep sleep concludes that being in a state of deep sleep is experiental because it is a memory. You cannot have a memory which is veridical without there having been a prior experience. If you remember something e.g. posting a letter, there are not two elements one a letter being posted and two, you being the poster of that letter. That seems an epistemological bedrock.
c.f Brh.Up. IV.iii.6: Similarly, in the case of remembrance, he who remembers being also the one who saw, the two are identical.

So what then are the experiential aspects of the deep dreamless sleep experience asks Professor Thompson? Here I believe that Thompson has gone astray, forgetting the automatic and characteristic M.O. of the advaitin. When Sankara talks of ‘memory’ in opening the discussion he is using ‘memory’ as a handy shelf to park the ‘experience’ on. It is typical adhiropa/apavada or attribution followed by retraction. It is a method of continuous approximation or correction and refinement. In Western terms it is dialectic, Socratic, maiuetic. As the development of the teaching proceeds the real nature of what I have called a protophaenomenon
protophaenomenon
is made clear. In that post I quote at length from Chapter II of Upadesa Sahasri. Sankara says that ‘the knowledge of the knower can never be lost’. There is no experiencer to have an experience in the state of deep dreamless sleep yet nevertheless there is knowledge. That is the whole point of the insight.

Thompson’s discussion of the neuroscientific implications of d.s. is interesting but his account of the Advaitic position is not correct in my view. It would render Sankara’s thesis self contradictory. Jennifer Windt in her commentary paper writes about spatio-temporal apprehension in normal, lucid, and white, dreams. I will write more about that later. However she too bounces between experience and memory in her account of d.s.



Sunday, 18 October 2015

History of Anglo-Irish, Irish, English Literature


In 1685 in the Examination Hall of Dublin University, the professors busy at the conferring of B.A. degrees beheld an unusual sight: a poverty stricken student, eccentric, awkward, with hard blue eyes, an orphan without friends unhappily dependent on the charity of his uncle, failed because of his ignorance of logic presenting himself for the second time without having deigned to study logic. In vain his tutor brought a most respectable portfolio: Senglesius, Keckermannus, Burgersdicius. He had thumbed three pages and closed it quickly. When it came to the assessment the proctor had to put his arguments in order for him. He asked him how one could reason well without rules. The answer was that he could reason very well without rules. This excessive foolishness created a scandal; he got for the time being most unwillingly, as a special favour, the registrar said, and the professors went along with it undoubtedly bathing with smiles of pity the feeble head of Jonathan Swift.
(from Histoire de la Litterature Anglaise par H. Taine pub. 1873)

No doubt that’s as full of howlers as a South American jungle. Every now and then I decide to get up my French and surely a man with the prenom of Hippolyte is worthy of the attention of a poor student such as myself. (bring your own accents)

The slogan 'race, milieu, moment’ is his. This sounds like a literary version of blood and soil but the question remains: how does it happen that from time to time there is a flowering of great work in a country. Partly it is that a couple of naturally great writers raise everybody else’s game. The other lesser talents who by virtue of being of the brood of Mother Machree, for instance, know them in their wather. They are congenial in the original sense. You read Frank O’Connor and even if you never met him you know him. You went to school with John McGahern and know his rancid sweetness. John Banville never went to college and so has to be more literary than anyone. Tick, ‘if you don’t want’, that box. Their words go deeper for the aspirant. Eimear McBride without The Portrait headline toocow, moocow, and that had the queer smell would not have dared. Familiarity breeds an attempt, ne’ pas.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Buddhism, the New Psychoanalysis?


Seriously, is Buddhism the new psychoanalysis? U.S. intelligentsia having ditched a discredited therapy have taken to lifestyle Buddhism. The love of psychology with its gadgets and gimmicks seems to be the bridging factor and the egregious scientism of monks with dangling E.E.G. wires is taken to as demonstrating rational superiority. We know it’s true because we tested it! No one looks very closely at the metaphysics which is in the case of Sarvasunyavada is less convincing than Berkeley’s Immaterialism. Of Nagarjuna I can affirm neither truth or falsity and so I retreat into the shrubbery muttering.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

The Wise Cat of Abu al-Hajjaj


One of the early teachers of Ibn ‘Arabi:

Abu al-Hajjjaj of Shurabul (a village close to Seville) was indeed a mercy to the world. When the sultan’s men came to see him, he would say to me: “My son, these men are God’s assistants engaged in the affairs of the world. It is thus quite fitting that men should pray on their behalf that God show forth His truth by their works and assist them”....

He had a black cat which used to sleep in his lap and which no-one else was able to hold or fondle. He once told me that God had made the cat a means by which to recognise the saints. He explained that the apparent shyness in her was not an inborn trait, for God had made her very joyful in the company of God’s saints. I myself saw her rub her cheek against the leg of certain visitors and flee from others. One day our shaykh al- ‘Urvani visited this shaykh for the first time. When he arrived the cat happened to be in another room. However, before he had the chance to seat himself, the cat came in and looked at him, whereupon she opened her paws, embraced him and rubbed her face in his beard. Then Abu al-Hajjaj rose to receive him and seated him, but said nothing. Afterwards he told me that he had never seen the cat behave in this way with anyone else.
(from a memoir of Ibn ‘Arabi Ruh al-kuds trans. The Epistle of the Spirit of Holiness quoted in The Unlimited Mercifier: The Spiritual Life and Thought of Ibn ‘Arabi by Stephen Hirtenstein.)




Friday, 9 October 2015

Bergson and Yeats's Masterful Images


Those masterful images because complete
Grew in pure mind but out of what began
A mound of refuse or the sweepings of a street,
Old kettles, old bottles, and a broken can,
Old iron, old bones, old rags, that raving slut
Who keeps the till. Now that my ladder’s gone,
I must lie down where all the ladders start
In the foul rag and bone shop of the heart.
(from The Circus Animals Desertion by W.B. Yeats)

That Yeats knew and appreciated the philosophy of Bergson is clear from the positive annotations to his copies of Matter and Memory and Creative Evolution. An early edition of A Vision was dedicated to Vestigia which was the name adopted by Bergson’s sister Mina for her work in the Order of the Golden Dawn which her husband directed during Yeats’s membership. He of course was the well known McGregor Mathers. Mina (sometimes Moina) is an ususual name. The only other bearer I can remember is Meena Harker nee Murray of Dracula.

I haven’t seen those annotations which are in the National Library but I imagine concurrence was achieved on the importance of Cones and Intuition. For my amusement I stretch the difficult topic of ‘images’ in Bergson to fit the above quoted stanza of Yeats. The ‘masterful images’ are from the outer reaches of the memory cone of Bergson. They are archetypal and impersonal. ‘Images’ are normally inflected by memory. It’s a matter of efficient response. What Bergson calls ‘perception’ is a purely material response to stimuli unmediated by consciousness. This basic physical presence in the world would correspond to the ‘foul rag and bone shop of the heart’. Presumably in Bergson’s philosophy this is the ground on which ‘images’ are laid. Staying within the archetypal symbol/metaphor of the mirror Bergson remarks: The objects which surround my body reflect its possible action upon them. (Matter and Memory) We do not carve at the joints, rather, what we take to be objects are reflections of our needs at the basic level. They are therefore images. 'Images’ are an attempt to navigate between Realism and Idealism. He speaks of the world as an aggregate of images. It may have been an ill-chosen course given the strong mental bias conveyed by the term 'image’. I

Sartre’s The Psychology of Imagination has much to say on the image and the ‘unrealizing’ function of the mind. Another day, another de trop.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Superimposition (Adhyasa) Once Again


It is through ignorance (avidya) imposed on the Self, that people suffer the sorrows arising from desire and work (karma). But that ignorance does not really inhere in one’s Self just as the snake, the silver, the water, and the dirt, superimposed on a rope, a mother of pearl, a desert, and the sky (respectively) do not in reality exist as the distortion of the rope etc.. But they appear as the defects of those things (rope etc.) because of the superimposition of false notions on the substances (rope etc.) that provide the basis for them. They (the substances) are not tainted by those faults, for they are outside the notions thus falsely superimposed. Similarly, people, after having superimposed on the Self the false notions of action, agent, and fruit, like the snake (on a rope) experience the misery of birth, death, etc. consequent on the superimposition; but the Self, though it is the Self of all, is not tainted by the sorrows of the world outside. For just like the rope etc. It is extraneous to the superimposition of false notion.
(commentary of Sankara on Katha Up. II.ii.11)

This is an outline statement of the adhyasa (superimposition) thesis using all the standard examples. It is, in my view, best understood after the fashion of a Kantian transcendental postulate. It is not as though there is an act of superimposing as an act amongst other acts: adhyasa is a background, supervenient condition. Realising it as operative is a matter of understanding and knowledge rather than experience. Strictly speaking ecstatic experience such as samadhi does not banish ignorance in Sankara’s view. Others hold that it is certainly at the very least propaeduetic. They would be of the yogic persuasion.

Part of the realisation of the Self, contra the ego/self, is the dismissal of the narrative diachronic notion as Galen Strawson does. One then falls back into the pratibodha viditam concept of the Self as known with every state of awareness or the Self as immediate presence.

It (i.e. Brahman) is really known when it is known with (i.e. the Self of) each state of consciousness, because thereby one gets immortality. (Since) through one’s own Self is acquired strength, (therefore) through knowledge is attained immortality.

(commentary) Pratibodha-viditam, known with reference to each state of intelligence. By the work bodha are meant the cognitions acquired through the intellect. The Self, that encompasses all ideas as Its objects, is known in relation to all these ideas. Being the witness of all cognitions, and by nature nothing but the power of consciousness, the Self is indicated by the cognitions themselves, in the midst of cognitions, as non-different from them. There is no other door to Its awareness.
(Kena Up. II.4)

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis


Years ago I started reading Lucky Jim then put it down and somehow forgot to pick it up again. That happens in a reading life and is not necessarily a signal but having gone on with it recently I found myself not getting on with it. I could have put it down at any point of the story without a pang as a tale of everyday pissartistry, wistful and full of wonder as to why it is so lauded. The internet has open sesame search words. It’s no use trying ‘Lucky Jim by Amis reviews’ as they are all enthusiastic; hilarious satire, savage analysis that sort of thing. No, the magic word is overrated. Yes, I’m a Dissenter and we have a small but select Church that is sparing of incense. In the work of Amis the Elder that I’ve read it’s not as bad as The Anti-Death League nor as good as The Old Devils.

A partial reason why it fails for me is that it has only fleeting moments where Dixon is about to realize that he is a pathetic creature. Everybody else is that but not him. That’s not lucky. Satire has to fill the world; all of it has to be subverted. No one is saved and that includes you Jim lad. By contrast the Adrian Mole books by Sue Townsend are genuinely satiric and witty. Should I reach out to my left and, take The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole and pick a page, any page, I might be gone for some time.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Jane Austen's Temper


‘Temper’ is a word that in our modern vocabulary has become reduced to two sorts; good and bad. For Jane Austen there were 47 varieties of it. In Emma I find it and mentioned 47 times. I find ‘amiable’(temper), ‘social’, ‘sweet’, ‘contented’,’sweetness of temper’, ‘good’, ‘benevolence’, ‘sour the temper’,’ill-tempered’, ‘best-tempered’, ‘cheerful’, ‘odd-tempered’, ‘devil of a temper’, ‘recover his temper’, ‘sanguine temper’, ‘restlessness of temper’, ‘open temper’, ‘faults of temper’.

It is clear that someone with the writerly resources of Austen could have avoided that repetition and chosen cognates and near synonyms for what we might call 'characteristic disposition’, 'dominant mood’, 'general feeling’ , 'personality’ and so on. We need not have recourse to ‘premsia’ and ‘threctia and the universe of Cattell to vary the delineation of temper. That she did not do so is very likely because of its importance to her. It is the natural word. Living in a restricted closed off world as she was, attention to the moods of others and navigation of their reefs and shoals would be a useful skill. On an open tempered, interpretation it might be a loving awareness. I find her acerbic ironies refreshing and I shouldn’t wonder if some of her family found her temper a little sharp betimes.

Related Post:Losing Your Temper




Monday, 28 September 2015

Who Adheres to the Anatman Doctrine?


Any answer is a retorsion.

A Question which is strictly unanswerable is hardly a question.

But,

To, ‘Is there anybody at home?’, shouted through the letter box.

No answer is an answer.

Friday, 25 September 2015

The Imagination of Ibn Arabi


The imagination is the place of apparition of spiritual beings, Angels and Spirits, who in it assume the figures and forms of their ‘apparitional forms’ and because in it the pure concepts and sensory data meet and flower into personal figures prepared for the events of spiritual dramas, it is also the place where all ‘divine history’ is accomplished, the stories of the prophets, for example, which have meaning because they are theophanies, whereas on the plane of sensory evidence on which is enacted what we call History, the meaning, that is, the true nature of these stories, which are essentially ‘symbolic stories’ cannot be apprehended.
( from Alone with the Alone by Henry Corbin)

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Indian Intro. to the Philosophy of Perception


There may be many who wish to find out more about Indian Philosophy but are put off by the Sanskrit jargon which surrounds it, pretty but prickly like a Berberis hedge. It keeps common cattle off of course. A good introduction to the problem of perceptual error, illusion, confusion and delusion is an essay in a collection that is available on Internet Archive, Contemporary Indian Philosophy by Various Authors
Contemporary Indian Philosophy
(note: the epub version is clean) pub. 1950 in a revised and extended edition.

The Problem of Truth by M. Hiriyanna is an exposition along classical Vedanta lines which avoids having to learn the rudiments of philosophy bazaar Sanskrit. The philologically minded may deplore this but philosophy isn’t poetry, it’s not lost in translation. In any case that classic text Vedanta Paribhasa by Dharmaraja Adhvarindra who flourished in the 17th.century seems to be the guiding light. It is also available on internet archive and a more modern version with glossary translated by Swami Madhavananda is (pdf)
Vedanta Paribhasa

Take a break from malign demons.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Miss Austin (Austen) and Aristotle


Miss Austin (the form of Jane’s name that Dr. Whately uses) pays attention and can conjure a world out of fragments:

Harriet, tempted by every thing and swayed by half a word, was always very long at a purchase; and while she was still hanging over muslins and changing her mind, Emma went to the door for amusement.—Much could not be hoped from the traffic of even the busiest part of Highbury;—Mr. Perry walking hastily by, Mr. William Cox letting himself in at the office-door, Mr. Cole's carriage-horses returning from exercise, or a stray letter-boy on an obstinate mule, were the liveliest objects she could presume to expect; and when her eyes fell only on the butcher with his tray, a tidy old woman travelling homewards from shop with her full basket, two curs quarrelling over a dirty bone, and a string of dawdling children round the baker's little bow-window eyeing the gingerbread, she knew she had no reason to complain, and was amused enough; quite enough still to stand at the door. A mind lively and at ease, can do with seeing nothing, and can see nothing that does not answer.

That episode of Harriet shopping and going back to the Bates house with Frank Churchill and his step mother Mrs. Weston and then Mr. Knightley passing by on his horse on an errand and the meandering conversation, the teasing of Miss Fairfax, the fixing of a rivet on a pair of spectacles; one thing after another in a flow so natural that we hardly notice the art. Whately praises her in his review for her achievement of Aristotelian perfection.

It is a remark of the great father of criticism, that Poetry (i.e. narrative, and dramatic poetry) is of a more philosophical character than History; inasmuch as the latter details what has actually happened, of which many parts may chance to be exceptions to the general rules of probability, and consequently illustrate no general principles; whereas the former shows us what must naturally, or would probably, happen under given circumstances; and thus displays to us a comprehensive view of human nature, and furnishes general rules of practical wisdom. It is evident, that this will apply only to such fictions as are quite perfect in respect of the probability of their story; and that he, therefore, who resorts to the fabulist rather than the historian, for instruction in human character and conduct, must throw himself entirely on the judgment and skill of his teacher, and give him credit for talents much more rare than the accuracy and veracity which are the chief requisites in history. We fear, therefore, that the exultation which we can conceive some of our gentle readers to feel, at having Aristotle's warrant for (what probably they had never dreamed of) the philosophical character of their studies, must, in practice, be somewhat qualified, by those sundry little violations of probability which are to be met with in most novels; and which so far lower their value, as models of real life, that a person who had no other preparation for the world than is afforded by them, would form, probably, a less accurate idea of things as they are, than he would of a lion from studying merely the representations on China teapots.
(from Miscellaneous Lectures and Reviews by Richard Whately)

And Mr Knightley, that paragon, is he a little whim of improbability on the part of Miss Austin, a mocking perhaps of the beau ideal of ladies fiction, a snapping of the knight’s garter as it were. What evidence have I for this mischief? Alas none.









Saturday, 19 September 2015

Rossetti Interpretation


Myself and Siris have been having an interesting conversation about the Christina Rossetti poem An Apple Gathering.
An Apple Gathering
His observations are true after their own fashion but not entirely apposite. What has evidence which implies consistency and corroboration to do with poetry? Expect only hints, guesses, intimations.

In any case I find it a bleak merciless little poem. The persona adopted seems to be that of a woman who is disinclined to regret her preemption of conjugal felicity. She appears to be mocked by those who have been continent. Or is it that they are more forgiving of themselves or have accepted forgiveness? Plump Gertrude and
A voice talked with her through the
shadows cool
More sweet to me than song

Cue Abide With Me.
But the narrator remains outside all joy and stays out in a permafrost world.

In the Goblin Market collection as a whole I find 27 mentions of ‘cold’ and there are 5 of ‘blossoms’; all overwhelmingly negative in tone. There is no note of joy in this liturgy.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

The Zen of Galen Strawson



After ten years of apprenticeship, Tenno achieved the rank of Zen teacher. One rainy day, he went to visit the famous master Nan-in. When he walked in, the master greeted him with a question, "Did you leave your wooden clogs and umbrella on the porch?"
"Yes," Tenno replied.
"Tell me," the master continued, "did you place your umbrella to the left of your shoes, or to the right?"
Tenno did not know the answer, and realized that he had not yet attained full awareness. So he became Nan-in's apprentice and studied under him for ten more years.

If Galen Strawson were to be put into that story would his answer be ‘what umbrella?’?

I can understand his position as he has outlined it in his Aeon essay
life story
which incidentally seems an incipient classic in the ‘what it’s like to be ’ genre. He is steeped in the reality of the present moment and there he joins Bergson. Duration is the nearest we can get to the compressed rolled up history of the past. There is no need for a story because it is all there in the instant. It was Sartre in Being and Nothingness who reminded us that our most intense moments have no element of the ‘reflective cogito’ and how everything that we are can be wrapped up in a gesture or a walk. In the same way we can offer a dubious simulacrum of ourselves that apes that gesture. This is ‘bad faith’.

Does G.S. have ‘madeleine moments’ which cut a plane through through the ‘memory cone’? He doesn’t say.

Suggested correct answer to : Did you place your umbrella to the left or to the right of your shoes?

If you say another word I will hit you with it


Monday, 14 September 2015

Rebalancing Whately


It is a commonplace economy of thought to assume combinations of attitudes. Richard Whately was a complex person and evades prediction. An entry in A Compendium of Irish Biography makes this clear:
Richard Whately
He is neglected. Being a clergyman wouldn’t help.

Primordial Instruction


Looking around the Oriel Senior Common Room Dr. Whately notes:

They are not only, in general; very ugly and ill-made, but, in the structure of their limbs, and especially in the head and face, they approach considerably to animals of the ape tribe; and the countenance is usually expressive of a mixture of stupidity, ferocity, and something of suspiciousness and low cunning.

Actually he is in fact referring to uncivilised natives, savages and others who have degenerated from an original state in which the elements of gracious living were given by God in a sort of revelation. This must be the case because those races do not improve or invent anything so they could not have started out that way. Europeans improved after that antedeluvian donation, they have regressed and are now on the way out.

Each one of us Europeans, whether Christian, Deist, or Atheist, is actually a portion of a standing monument of a former communication to mankind from some superhuman Being. That Man could not have made himself, is often appealed to as a proof of the agency of a divine Creator and that mankind could not, in the first instance, have civilised themselves, is a proof of the same kind, and of precisely equal strength, of the agency of a divine Instructor.

One thinks of Von Daniken. These speculations are taken from a lecture On the Origin of Civilisation published in Miscellaneous Lectures and Reviews (1860) while he was Archbishop of Dublin. He cites Humboldt in his lecture and it is clear that at that time good, intelligent and apparently well-informed people could hold views which to us are reprehensible. However it’s arguable that expressing revulsion is mere fatuous meliorism in these latter days when various horrors are welcomed as advances.