21 May 2016

Rudolph Otto and Carl Jung's Numinosum


left: Caravaggio's "Conversion of Saint Paul on the Way to Damascus" c. 1600

Rudolph Otto coined the term "numinosum", adopted by Carl Jung, to refer to human experiences which produce a kind of holy terror, awe or dread.  Rudolph Otto described it as a feeling of the ‘mysterium tremendum' [awe-inspiring mystery].  Numen is a Latin word, deriving from the verb nuere, meaning “to nod.” In ancient practice, watching for the nod of a god (see links.)

We are, in this wandering, NOT particularly interested in the aspect of the numen and the numinous which are associated with awe, dread or holy terror as illustrated in Caravaggio's painting of St. Paul. Rather our interest regards its mundane and boring form where unrational human ideas and behaviors are played out within everyday culture -  blindly accepted without question - that may have as their obfuscated basis this factor described by both Jung and Otto.

For quick backgrounding, a review.  Follows six "numen/numinosum" quotations selected from the recent book, The Quotable Jung, edited by Judith Harris, Princeton University Press 2015  and two links to further study on Jung and Rudolph's coinage of "numinosum" - from the Jungian Center in Newbury, Vermont and by Margo Mecks, Myth and More.  

From Judith Harris' edit:

from Psychology and Religion (1938/l940), CW 11, p. 6 & p. 9.  "Religion, as the Latin word [religio] denotes, is a careful and scrupulous observation of what Rudolph Otto aptly termed the numi­nosum, that is, a dynamic agency or effect not caused by an arbi­trary act of will. On the contrary, it seizes and controls the human subject, who is always rather its victim than its creator. The numinosum, whatever its cause may be, is an experience of the subject independent of his will. At all events, religious teaching as well as the consensus gentium [general consensus] always and everywhere explain this experience as being due to a cause external to the individual. The numinosum is either a quality belonging to a visible object or the influence of an invisible presence that causes a peculiar alteration of consciousness."

"I want to make clear that by the term "religion" I do not mean a creed. It is, however, true that every creed is originally based, on the one hand, upon the experience of the numinosum and, on the other hand, upon pistis, that is to say, trust or loyalty, faith and confidence in a certain experience of a numinous nature and in the change of consciousness that ensues. The conversion of Paul is a striking example of this. We might say, then, that the term religion designates the attitude peculiar to a consciousness which has been changed by experience of the numinosum.

from letter to Gunther Wittwer, 10 October 1959, Letters, Vol. 11, p. 517.  "I profess no 'belief.'  I know that there are experiences one must pay "religious" attention to. There are many varieties of such experiences. At first glance the only thing they have in common is their numinosity, that is to say, their gripping emotionality. But on closer inspection one also discovers a common meaning.  The word religio comes from religere, according to the ancient view, and not from the patristic religare. The former means "to consider or observe carefully." This derivation gives religio the right empirical basis, namely, the religious conduct of life, as distinct from mere credulity and imitation, which are either religion at second hand or substitutes for religion."

from "On the Nature of the Psyche" (1947/1954), CW 8, § 383.  "Numinosity, however, is wholly outside conscious volition, for it transports the subject into the state of rapture, which is a state of willless surrender."

from Visions: Notes of the Seminar Given in 1933-1934, Vol. 11 (22 February 1933), p. 919.  "In the least the greatest will appear - such is your expectation. And that is the numen, the hint of the god."

from Nietzsche's Zarathustra: Notes of the Seminar Given in 1934-1939, Vol. II (5 May 1937), p. 1038. "The idea of God originated with the experience of the numinosum. It was a psychical experience, with moments when man felt overcome. Rudolf Otto has designated this moment in his Psychology of Religion as the numinosum, which is derived from the Latin numen, meaning hint, or sign."




01 May 2016

Early (5000+bce) Binary Symbolism


Full circle- we appear to have begun our info tech with 1/+'s and 0s and we find ourselves today with info tech based on the same two symbols.  Two marquettes for your consideration.

a: From Carl Liungman Symbols, isbn 91-972705-0-4 "This is our planet's ideogram, the sign for the earth, or the planet called Tellus. It has been found on a Cyprian coin from around 500 B.C. It is similar to the so-called orb, used by rulers during the Middle Ages to symbolize their control over a part of the earth's surface." From the Encyclopædia Britannica, 2006, "Tellus, also called TERRA MATER, ancient Roman earth goddess. Probably of great antiquity, she was concerned with the productivity of the earth and was later identified with the mother-goddess Cybele. Her temple on the Esquiline Hill dated from about 268 BC. Though she had no special priest, she was honoured in the Fordicidia and Sementivae festivals, both of which centred on fertility and good crops."

 b:  drawing of the three "nefers" from the neck of a "nefer" shaped vase, tomb of Kha, Deir el-Medina, 18th Dynasty (1550-1307 bce), page 78, "Reading Egyptian Art" by Richard Wilkinson, 1992, Thames & Hudson, isbn 0500277516

 c: From Symbols above, entry "41b:22" - "A sign engraved in a rock face in Galicia in northern Spain about 3000 B.C." More on this petroglyph and "J", "K", "L" (below) of the so-called Spanish Art Groups, II and III, in the books: "Prehistory", M.C. Burkitt, 1925, Cambridge Press; "Rock Paintings of Southern Andalusia" by M.C. Burkitt and H. Breuil, 1929, Oxford Press; "Eternal Present" by S. Giedion, 1962, Pantheon Books.

 d: "An ideogram engraved in neolithic times in a rock wall in Val Camonica near Brescia in Italy." from Symbol above. The Valley Camonica has unnumbered tens of thousands of petroglyphs from 5000 bce down to medieval times - see rupestre.net

 e: "This ideogram was found carved into a rock wall in Galicia in northern Spain. It was engraved about 5,000 years ago." from Symbol above - see notes following "c".

f: Clonfinlough, Ireland: Neolithic rock engravings. Drawing after Burkitt from page 234,"Eternal Present" Sigfried Giedion, 1962, Pantheon Books. This glyph seems to be tied to a large number of mythic ideas from the runic "split year god" to the Christogram of Constantine. It features in the works of Hermann Felix Wirth ""Die Heilige Urschrift der Menschheit" by Herman Wirth, 1936, Leipzig. The Nazi SS leader Himmler sponsored Wirth at this point of his studies (1935-38). Locals recall that Abbe Breuil deciphered (c. 1929) the image and concluded that it represented a fight to a finish between the Old Irish and the Milesians in pre-Christian times, 1300BC. The cross-men were charging at the loop-men who in return were retreating from the attack.


g: From ARAS Online: "The ankh or crux ansata - the sign of life - has the form of a looped knotted cross. As a syllable, this hieroglyph is the root of no less than twenty four words. Of these, Brugsch (cited by Giedion) lists fourteen which retain the original sense of the root: to have existence, to renew existence, to will into existence.  Winthius (cited by Giedion) observes that the picture of an opening or an eye is recognized by some ethnologists as a picture of the vulva."

"Giedion believes that the Egyptian sign of life may be related to the prehistoric fertility symbols of vulva and phallus, the upper part corresponding to the Aurignacian symbol for the vulva, combined with an abstraction of the phallus. . . of the eternal renewal of procreation, of the magic power inherent in the union of male and female."   "In early Christian times, the ankh was modified by Egyptian Christians into the Coptic cross."

credit: ARAS Online [online archive] Record No. 2Ac.008, New York: The Archive for Research in Archetypal Symbolism; available from www.aras.org; accessed 1 May 2016.   Citations mentioned by ARAS:  The Eternal Present: The Beginnings Of Art. S.Giedion, Pantheon Books. Bollingen Series XXXX\V 6.1, 1962. pp. 231, 233

h: from signary pebble, Mas d'Azil, Ariege, France, c. 12,000 bce

Regarding the petroglyphs "i", "j", "k" and "l" above - following from their intermediate source (page 234), in S. Giedion's Eternal Present, the Beginnings of Art, Pantheon Books, Random House, NYC, 1962, page 230 : "It is astonishing that the innumerable ideograms of eastern Spanish art - those last notes of prehistory from the iron and bronze ages - are still deprived of any precise interpretation, as are also those similar northern symbols, related to them in type and time, from [Clonfinlough,] Ireland [previous post] and the high western Alps. But the expression of male and female qualities has been definitely brought out in a number of different figurations. What, for instance, is the meaning of the strongly definely circular form crossed by a vertical line which comes so close to the form of the Greek letter phi? Is it really only an abstract human figure? Can it not just as well be an androgynous symbol (edit: perfer "coitial symbol"]? Other signs point to the possibility of this as the highest fertility symbol: generator of life, with life endowed." citation: S. Giedion, Eternal Present, , 1962

m and n: per Symbols above: sign of Aphrodite, Venus and by alchemists for copper.

Compare above marquette with Aurea Catena Homeri.


25 April 2016

Membrum virile, membrum muliebre


"To the primitive, all straight lines signify the membrum virile, the phallus; whatever is circular or sickle-shaped is the membrum muliebre, the vagina.  However unlikely this statement may appear, it is our only way of gaining insight into primitive thought; indeed into the basic meaning of the whole spiritual culture, their legends, songs, cults, arts, and magic." citation: J. Winthuis' Das Zweigeschlechterwesen bei den Zentralaustraliern and anderen Völkern, Leipzig (1928), page 12.

To this we would remind of the modern - "the unconscious sees a penis in every convex object and a vagina or anus in every concave one." And we would expand on "lines" and "sickle-shaped" - to include every point (dot, spot, star, bindi) and every pointing and pole as a penis; that every wrap (strap, strip, scroll, rope and ribbon) and every wrapping is a vulva.

from S. Giedion, The Eternal Present, Bollingen, Random House, 1962, pages 226, 227, 230 - "Although [prehistory's] symbols of the sex organs are wide spread and easily recognizable, the symbol for continuing procreation, for the two-in-one. . .is wrapped in obscurity." "The symbol of the two-in-one can be expressed by a conjunction of male and female symbols, even by a juxtaposition of the two symbols." "M. C. Burkett, for instance, shows a short series of representations of the human figure as developed in eastern Spanish [rock] art which become similar to the letter of the Greek alphabet. But what do they actually mean? What is the meaning of the strongly defined circular form corssed by a vertical line which comes so close to the form of the letter ϕ?  Is it really only an abstract human figure? Can it not just as well be [*a coital] symbol?  Other signs point to the possibility of this as the highest fertility symbol: generator of life, with life endowed." (Ed: *Giedion uses "androgynous" rather than "coital", but the current meaning of "androgyny" is not consistent with his conjunctive use of "generator of life".)

To the concept of this conjunction of male and female symbols, there is an indispensable correlate of a phenomena described by Rudulf Otto and Carl Jung refered to as "numinosum" - "a dynamic agency or effect not caused by an arbitrary act of will. On the contrary, it seizes and controls the human subject, who is always rather its victim than its creator.  The numinosum - whatever its cause may be - is an experience of the subject independent of his will." Carl Jung, Collected Works, Vol 11, Bollingen, Princeton University Press, 1958, page 6, [cf: Latin numen - divine command or a nod.]

More concerning this dynamic interactions of ancient archetypes, the collective unconscious and the unrational grip of numinosum in a subsequent post.  On this interaction, we can decode a great amount of human symbolization and such activities as religion, politics, language and writ.

20 September 2015

Elemental Symbolism 103 - Interrupted.



Viagra spokeswoman says "Watching football together is great. But, I think women will agree, cuddling with their man after the game is nice too".

Next lesson was to have been a much more exact paraphase of the earlier Oxford Press post - "Every convex object a penis and a vagina in every concave one." Next lesson would have suggested that "Every point (aka dot, spot, bindi) and every pointing is a penis.  Every wrap (aka strips, straps, ropes and ribbons) and every wrapping is a vulva".  

As wanderers of this blog's curiosities re: Asherahs and Maypoles have read repeatedly - it is our considered opinion that all games of "sport" are largely ritualized acts of coitus. Or perhaps, more correctly, socially sanctioned and "sanitized" acts of coitus. That is, two opposing tribes attempt to move a seed-like object through to its respective gate or into a net or a basket or some other kind of receiving "goal".   To which we have commented, "Skip the game, skip the curious millions of $$$ paid to the ersatz, and so-called, "players" - because the only real game is the brave man and woman who fearlessly run, no, race, to the nearest hotel room."  But, per Jung, you knew this already.  

Not a TV watcher, I accidentally saw this most remarkable advertisement above. This kind woman, gentlemen, is the intended receiving goal - and she brought her own seed-like object to the game. Pfizer suggests you too bring along a seed-like object.

(At some future timeout, we will resume the point and wrap discourse - hint: "Stars and Strips Forever" and similar. Oh, yes, we will again, and already have, raised the importance of  the "P" and "V" alliteration. Only the lexic will miss the visual shapes of the letter "P" (penis, point) and the letter "V" (vulva, virgin, vagina) or the kinky double VV (wrap, wrapping) - such and more will be "wrapped up" in Elemental Symbolism lesson, about, #132.)

06 September 2015

Carl Jung's Archetypes and Collective Unconscious

Elemental Symbolism 102: California Law - see caption in text.
[Illustration, left: from California Code of Regulations 2010‚ Title 24‚ Part 2, Chapter 11B - Accessibility to Public Buildings and Public Accommodations, SECTION 1115B Bathing and Toilet Facilities (Sanitary Facilities), 1115B.6 Identification Symbols.  1115B.6.1 Men's sanitary facilities shall be identified by an equilateral triangle, 1/4 inch (6.4 mm) thick with edges 12 inches (305 mm) long and a vertex pointing upward. The triangle symbol shall contrast with the door, either light on a dark background or dark on a light background.    1115B.6.2 Women's sanitary facilities shall be identified by a circle, 1/4 inch (6.4 mm) thick and 12 inches (305 mm) in diameter. The circle symbol shall contrast with the door, either light on a dark background or dark on a light background.]

The Concept of the Collective Unconscious by Carl Jung
Originally given as a lecture to the Aberneihian Society at St. Bartholomew's Hospital, London, on October 19, 1936

     Probably none of my empirical concepts has met with so much misunderstanding as the idea of the collective unconscious. In what follows I shall try to give (1) a definition of the concept, (2) a description of what it means for psychology, (3) an explanation of the method of proof, and (4) an example.1    

1. Definition-  The collective unconscious is a part of the psyche which can be negatively distinguished from a personal unconscious by the fact that it does not, like the latter, owe its existence to personal experience and consequently is not a personal acquisition. While the personal unconscious is  made up essentially of contents which have at one time  been conscious but which have disappeared from consciousness through having been forgotten or repressed, the contents of the collective unconscious have never been in consciousness, and therefore have never been individually acquired, but owe their existence exclusively to heredity.  Whereas the personal unconscious consists for the most part of complexes, the content of the collective unconscious is made up essentially of archetypes.  

     The concept of the archetype, which is an indispensable correlate of the idea of the collective unconscious, indicates  the existence of definite forms in the psyche which seem to be present always and everywhere. Mythological research calls them "motifs"; in the psychology of primitives they correspond to Levy-Bruhl's concept of "representations collectives," and in the field of comparative religion, they have been defined by Hubert and Mauss as "categories of  the imagination." Adolf Bastian long ago called them "ele-  mentary" or "primordial thoughts."  From these references,  it should be clear enough that my idea of the archetype - literally a pre-existent form - does not stand alone, but is something that is recognized and named in other fields of knowledge.  

     My thesis, then, is as follows: In addition to our immediate consciousness, which is of a thoroughly personal  nature and which we believe to be the only empirical  psyche (even if we tack on the personal unconscious as an appendix), there exists a second psychic system of a collective, universal, and impersonal nature which is identical in all individuals. This collective unconscious does  not develop individually but is inherited. It consists of pre-existent forms, the archetypes, which can only become conscious secondarily and which give definite form to certain psychic contents.    

2. The Psychological Meaning of the Collective Unconscious-  Medical psychology, growing as it did out of professional practice, insists on the personal nature of the psyche.  By this I mean the views of Freud and Adler. It is a psychology of the person, and its aetiological or causal factors [that] are regarded almost wholly as personal in nature. Nonetheless, even this psychology is based on certain general  biological factors, for instance on the sexual instinct or on the urge for self-assertion, which are by no means merely personal peculiarities. It is forced to do this because it lays claim to being an explanatory science. Neither of these views would deny the existence of a priori instincts common to man and animals alike, or that they have a significant influence on personal psychology. Yet instincts are impersonal, universally distributed, hereditary factors of a dynamic or motivating character, which very often fail so completely to reach consciousness that modern psychotherapy is faced with the task of helping the patient to become conscious of them. Moreover, the instincts are not vague and indefinite by nature, but are specifically formed motive forces which, long before there is any consciousness, and in spite of any degree of consciousness later on,  pursue their inherent goals.  Consequently they form very close analogies to the archetypes, so close, in fact, that there is good reason for supposing that the archetypes are the unconscious images of the instincts themselves, in other words, that they are patterns of instinctual behaviour. 

     The hypothesis of the collective unconscious is, therefore, no more daring than to assume [that] there are instincts.  One admits readily that human activity is influenced to a high degree by instincts, quite apart from the rational  motivations of the conscious mind. So if the assertion is made that our imagination, perception, and thinking are likewise influenced by inborn and universally present formal elements, it seems to me that a normally functioning intelligence can discover in this idea just as much or just as little mysticism as in the theory of instincts.  Although this reproach of mysticism has frequently been leveled at my concept, I must emphasize yet again that the concept of the collective unconscious is neither a speculative nor a  philosophical but an empirical matter.  The question is simply this: are there or are there not unconscious, universal forms of this kind?  If they exist, then there is a region of the psyche which one can call the collective unconscious.  It is true that the diagnosis of the collective unconscious is not always an easy task. It is not sufficient to point out the often obviously archetypal nature of unconscious products, for these can just as well be derived  from acquisitions through language and education. Cryptomnesia should also be ruled out, which it is almost impossible to do in certain cases. In spite of all these difficulties, there remain enough individual instances showing the autochthonous revival of mythological motifs to put the matter beyond any reasonable doubt. But if such an unconscious exists at all, psychological explanation must take account of it and submit certain alleged personal  aetiologies to sharper criticism.  

     What I mean can perhaps best be made clear by a concrete example. You have probably read Freud's discussion2 of a certain picture by Leonardo da Vinci: St. Anne with  the Virgin Mary and the Christ-child. Freud interprets this  remarkable picture in terms of the fact that Leonardo  himself had two mothers. This causality is personal. We  shall not linger over the fact that this picture is far from unique, nor over the minor inaccuracy that St. Anne happens to be the grandmother of Christ and not, as required  by Freud's interpretation, the mother, but shall simply point out that interwoven with the apparently personal psychology there is an impersonal motif well known to us from other fields. This is the motif of the dual mother, an archetype to be found in many variants in the field of mythology and comparative religion and forming the basis of numerous "representations collectives." I might mention, for instance, the motif of the dual descent, that is, descent from human and divine parents, as in the case of Heracles, who received immortality through being unwittingly adopted by Hera. What was a myth in Greece was actually a ritual in Egypt: Pharaoh was both human and divine by nature. In the birth chambers of the Egyptian temples, Pharaoh's second, divine conception and birth is depicted on the walls; he is "twice-born."  It is an idea that underlies all rebirth mysteries, Christianity included.  Christ himself is "twice-born": through his baptism in the Jordan he was regenerated and reborn from water and  spirit. Consequently, in the Roman liturgy the font is designated the "uterus ecclesiae," and, as you can read in the Roman missal, it is called this even today, in the "benediction of the font" on Holy Saturday before Easter.  Further, according to an early Christian-Gnostic idea, the  spirit which appeared in the form of a dove was interpreted as Sophia-Sapientia — Wisdom and the Mother of Christ. Thanks to this motif of the dual birth, children  today, instead of having good and evil fairies who magically "adopt" them at birth with blessings or curses, are  given sponsors - a "godfather" and a "godmother."  

     The idea of a second birth is found at all times and in all places. In the earliest beginnings of medicine it was a magical means of healing; in many religions it is the central mystical experience; it is the key idea in medieval, occult philosophy, and, last but not least, it is an infantile fantasy occurring in numberless children, large and small, who believe that their parents are not their real parents but merely foster-parents to whom they were handed over. Benvenuto Cellini also had this idea, as he himself relates  in his autobiography.    
 

     Now it is absolutely out of the question that all the individuals who believe in a dual descent have in reality always had two mothers, or conversely that those few who shared Leonardo's fate have infected the rest of humanity with their complex. Rather, one cannot avoid the assumption that the universal occurrence of the dual-birth motif together with the fantasy of the two mothers answers an omnipresent human need which is reflected in these motifs.  If Leonardo da Vinci did in fact portray his two mothers in St. Anne and Mary - which I doubt - he nonetheless was only expressing something which countless millions of people before and after him have believed. The vulture symbol  (which Freud also discusses in the work mentioned) makes this view all the more plausible. With some justification he quotes as the source of the symbol, the Hieroglyphica of Horapollo, a book much in use in Leonardo's time. There you read that vultures are female only and symbolize the mother. They conceive through the wind (pneuma). This word took on the meaning of "spirit" chiefly under the  influence of Christianity.  Even in the account of the miracle at Pentecost, the pneuma still has the double meaning  of wind and spirit. This fact, in my opinion, points without doubt to Mary, who, a virgin by nature, conceived through the pneuma, like a vulture. Furthermore, accord-  ing to Horapollo, the vulture also symbolizes Athene, who  sprang, unbegotten, directly from the head of Zeus, was a virgin, and knew only spiritual motherhood.  All this is really an allusion to Mary and the rebirth motif. There is not a shadow of evidence that Leonardo meant anything else by his picture.  Even if it is correct to assume that he identified himself with the Christ-child, he was in all probability representing the mythological dual-mother motif and by no means his own personal prehistory. And what about all the other artists who painted the same theme?  Surely not all of them had two mothers?  

     Let us now transpose Leonardo's case to the field of the neuroses, and assume that a patient with a mother complex is suffering from the delusion that the cause of his neurosis lies in his having really had two mothers. The personal  interpretation would have to admit that he is right - and yet it would be quite wrong.  For in reality the cause of  his neurosis would lie in the reactivation of the dual-mother archetype, quite regardless of whether he had one mother or two mothers, because, as we have seen, this archetype functions individually and historically without any reference to the relatively rare occurrence of dual motherhood.

      In such a case, it is of course tempting to presuppose so simple and personal a cause, yet the hypothesis is not only inexact but totally false. It is admittedly difficult to understand how a dual-mother motif - unknown to a physician trained only in medicine - could have so great a determining  power as to produce the effect of a traumatic condition.  But if we consider the tremendous powers that lie hidden in the mythological and religious sphere in man, the aetiological significance of the archetype appears less fantastic.  In numerous cases of neurosis the cause of the disturbance  lies in the very fact that the psychic life of the patient lacks the co-operation of these motive forces. Nevertheless  a purely personalistic psychology, by reducing everything  to personal causes, tries its level best to deny the existence  of archetypal motifs and even seeks to destroy them by personal analysis. I consider this a rather dangerous procedure which cannot be justified medically. Today you can judge  better than you could twenty years ago the nature of the forces involved. Can we not see how a whole nation is reviving an archaic symbol, yes, even archaic religious forms, and how this mass emotion is influencing and revolutionizing the life of the individual in a catastrophic manner? [The reference, of course, is to Hitler's Germany. -J.Campbell]  The man of the past is alive in us today to a degree undreamt of before the war, and in the last analysis what is the fate of great nations but a summation of the psychic changes in individuals?      

     So far as a neurosis is really only a private affair, having its roots exclusively in personal causes, archetypes play no role at all. But if it is a question of a general incompatibility or an otherwise injurious condition productive of neuroses in relatively large numbers of individuals, then we must assume the presence of constellated archetypes.  Since neuroses are in most cases not just private concerns,  but social phenomena, we must assume that archetypes are constellated in these cases too. The archetype corresponding to the situation is activated, and as a result those explosive and dangerous forces hidden in the archetype come into action, frequently with unpredictable consequences.  There is no lunacy people under the domination of an archetype will not fall a prey to. If thirty years ago anyone had dared to predict that our psychological development was tending towards a revival of the medieval persecutions of the Jews, that Europe would again tremble before the Roman fasces and the tramp of legions, that people would once more give the Roman salute, as two thousand years ago, and that instead of the Christian Cross an archaic swastika would lure onward millions of warriors ready for  death - why, that man would have been hooted at as a mystical fool.  And today? Surprising as it may seem, all this absurdity is a horrible reality.  Private life, private  aetiologies, and private neuroses have become almost a fiction in the world of today. The man of the past who lived in a world of archaic "representations collectives" has risen again into very visible and painfully real life, and this not only in a few unbalanced individuals but in many  millions of people. 

     There are as many archetypes as there are typical situations in life. Endless repetition has engraved these experiences into our psychic constitution, not in the form of images filled with content, but at first only as forms without content, representing merely the possibility of a certain type of perception and action.  When a situation occurs which corresponds to a given archetype, that archetype becomes activated and a compulsiveness appears, which, like an instinctual drive, gains its way against all reason and will, or else produces a conflict of pathological dimensions, that is to say, a neurosis.    

3. Method of Proof-   We must now turn to the question of how the existence of archetypes can be proved. Since archetypes are supposed to produce certain psychic forms, we must discuss how and where one can get hold of the material demonstrating  these forms. The main source, then, is dreams, which have the advantage of being involuntary, spontaneous products of the unconscious psyche and are therefore pure products of nature not falsified by any conscious purpose. By questioning the individual one can ascertain which of the motifs appearing in the dream are known to him. From those which are unknown to him we must naturally exclude all motifs which might be known to him, as for instance - to revert to the case of Leonardo - the vulture symbol.  We are not sure whether Leonardo took this symbol from  Horapollo or not, although it would have been perfectly  possible for an educated person of that time, because in those days artists were distinguished for their wide knowledge of the humanities. Therefore, although the bird motif is an archetype par excellence, its existence in Leonardo's fantasy would still prove nothing. Consequently, we must look for motifs which could not possibly be known to the dreamer and yet behave functionally in his dream in such a manner as to coincide with the functioning of the archetype known from historical sources.

      Another source for the material we need is to be found in "active imagination”.  By this I mean a sequence of  fantasies produced by deliberate concentration. I have found that the existence of unrealized, unconscious fantasies increases the frequency and intensity of dreams, and that when these fantasies are made conscious the dreams change their character and become weaker and less frequent. From this I have drawn the conclusion that dreams often contain fantasies which "want" to become conscious. The sources of dreams are often repressed instincts which have a natural tendency to influence the conscious mind. In cases of this sort, the patient is simply given the task of contemplating any one fragment of fantasy that seems significant to him - a chance idea, perhaps, or something he has become conscious of in a dream - until its context becomes visible, that is to say, the relevant associative material in which it is embedded.  It is not a question of the "free association" recommended by Freud for the purpose of dream-analysis, but of elaborating the fantasy by observing the further fantasy material that adds itself to the fragment in a natural manner.

      This is not the place to enter upon a technical discussion of the method. Suffice it to say that the resultant sequence of fantasies relieves the unconscious and produces material  rich in archetypal images and associations. Obviously, this is a method that can only be used in certain carefully selected cases. The method is not entirely without danger, because it may carry the patient too far away from reality.  A warning against thoughtless application is therefore in  place. 

    Finally, very interesting sources of archetypal material are to be found in the delusions of paranoiacs, the fantasies observed in trance-states, and the dreams of early childhood, from the third to the fifth year. Such material is available in profusion, but it is valueless unless one can adduce convincing mythological parallels. It does not, of course, suffice simply to connect a dream about a snake with the mythological occurrence of snakes, for who is to guarantee that the functional meaning of the snake in the dream is the same as in the mythological setting? In order to draw a valid parallel, it is necessary to know the functional meaning of the individual symbol, and then to find out whether the apparently parallel mythological symbol has a similar context and therefore the same functional meaning. Establishing such facts not only requires lengthy and wearisome researches, but is also an ungrateful subject for demonstration. As the symbols must not be torn out of their context, one has to launch forth into exhaustive descriptions, personal as well as symbological, and this is practically impossible in the framework of a lecture.  I have repeatedly tried it at the risk of sending one half of my audience to sleep.


[Originally given as a lecture to the Aberneihian Society at St. Bartholomew's Hospital, London, on October 19, 1936, and published in the hospital's Journal, XLIV (1936/37), 46-49. 64-66.  From The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious. Collected  Works, Vol. 9.i, pars. 87-110. The present version has been slightly revised by the author and edited in terminology. This exerpt from Penguin's 1976 book “Portable Jung” edited by Joseph Campbell, pages 59 to 69]  

1 The lengthy closing example of the man who saw the phallus as the source of the wind appearing in the sun disc in 1906 – thought to be the same archetype as is mentioned in the much older liturgy of the Mithraic cult - is omitted in Joseph Campbell's edit here as it occurs earlier in “The Portable Jung” on pages 37-39.  That passage and the entire book is linked here.

2 Leonardo da Vinci and a Memory of His Childhood, sec. IV.  Translated by Alan Tyson in Sigmund Freud, Standard Edition of  the Complete Psychological Works, II (London, 1957) 


10 June 2015

"Genital Symbolism" from Oxford Press "Companion to the Body"

Elemental Symbolism 101: Wired Magazine March 2015
The Oxford Companion to the Body | 2001 | COLIN BLAKEMORE and SHELIA JENNETT | 700+ words | Copyright ‘The derisive remark was once made against psychoanalysis that the unconscious sees a penis in every convex object and a vagina or anus in every concave one,’ observed the Hungarian psychoanalyst Sandor Ferenczi, adding, ‘I find this sentence well characterizes the facts.’ For large sections of the lay public, and particularly for its opponents, psychoanalysis, from its earliest days, has indeed seemed to rely almost exclusively on sexual and genital symbolism. With the passing of psychoanalysis as a central mode of psychotherapy, jokes about shrinks seeing a phallus in every cigar have become rather less topical. For those seriously interested in the theories and techniques of psychoanalysis, however, the interpretation of symbols remains important and it is, of course, crucial for those interested in approaching literary or artistic works from a classical psychoanalytic angle. Even for historians and others who are interested in psychoanalysis only from a scholarly perspective, Freudian symbolism is a rich source of insights into the psychoanalytic Weltanschauung. The subject of psychoanalytic symbolism is vast and, contrary to popular ideas, not all psychoanalytic symbols are necessarily sexual. According to Freud, dream-symbols refer to ‘the human body as a whole, parents, children, brothers and sisters, birth, death, nakedness’. Sex, however, is of cardinal importance to psychoanalysts, and sexual symbolism (especially the symbolism of the male genitalia) has preoccupied a large number of practitioners. As defined by Freud, a symbol is sensorial and concrete in itself, although the idea(s) it represents may be relatively abstract and complex. A symbol has multiple meanings and some resemblance to what it is supposed to represent, which in most cases is an unacknowledged idea or one the individual is not conscious of. Symbols appear in thought most readily when the individual is tired, experiencing neurotic problems, or dreaming. Dreams, Freud believed, represented the royal road to the unconscious, and ‘symbolism’, he asserted, ‘is perhaps the most remarkable chapter of the theory of dreams.’ It is in the interpretation of dreams that psychoanalytic symbolism has been most prominent, most colourful, and, for the hostile or the flippant, most risible. ‘The range of things which are given symbolic representation in dreams’, Freud pointed out, ‘is not wide … but the symbols for them are extremely numerous.’ The most apparently diverse dream-imagery, therefore, often turned out to indicate the same thing. In recent years, psychoanalysis has been described as phallocentric and there is much evidence for this in Freud's discussion of dream-representations of the penis, which he described, seemingly without a trace of irony, as ‘the more striking and for both sexes the more interesting component of the genitals.’ The most basic phallic symbols in dreams were those resembling the organ in shape: sticks, umbrellas, posts, trees. Another kind of phallic symbol was provided by objects that could penetrate or injure: knives, daggers, or spears. Firearms belonged to both sets because of their shape and because they could injure. Other symbols of the phallus were provided by ‘objects from which water flows’ (taps, fountains, watering-cans) or by ‘objects which are capable of being lengthened’, which Freud exemplified with hanging lamps and extensible pencils. Yet other symbols that the penis could be represented by were ‘balloons, flying-machines and most recently by Zeppelin airships’ because they all shared the ‘remarkable characteristic of the male organ … to rise up in defiance of the laws of gravity’. The same symbolic relation was expressed when the individual dreamt of flying: here, the phallus was treated ‘as the essence of the dreamer's whole person’ and the individual became one giant, flying, erection. Why, then, did women have dreams of flying? ‘Remember’, Freud urged, ‘that our dreams aim at being the fulfilments of wishes and that the wish to be a man is found so frequently, consciously or unconsciously, in women. Nor will anyone with a knowledge of anatomy be bewildered by the fact that it is possible for women to realize this wish through the same sensations as men. Women possess as part of their genitals a small organ similar to the male one; and this small organ, the clitoris, actually plays the same part in childhood and during the years before sexual intercourse as the large organ in men.’ Symbols that were, according to Freud, unquestionably phallic but could not be easily classified into a group were hats, overcoats, neckties (‘which hang down and are not worn by women’), cloaks, reptiles, fishes, ‘and above all the famous symbol of the snake’. Woods and bushes, predictably enough, symbolized pubic hair in both sexes. For comparative purposes, it might be appropriate here to briefly list the symbolic representations of the female genitalia. ‘The complicated topography of the female genital parts’, observed Freud, ‘makes one understand how it is that they are often represented as landscapes, with rocks, woods and water, while the imposing mechanism of the male sexual apparatus explains why all kinds of complicated machinery which is hard to describe serve as symbols for it.’ The female genitals could also be represented by ‘all such objects as share their characteristic of enclosing a hollow space which can take something into itself’. Pits, cavities, vessels, bottles, boxes, jewel-cases, trunks, pockets, ships, cupboards, rooms, and, by slight extension, churches and chapels all fell under this category. (Keys opening locked rooms, however, were definitely male.) Among animals, ‘snails and mussels at least are undeniably female symbols’ and among bodily parts the mouth represented the genital orifice. The breasts were commonly symbolized in dreams and ‘these like the larger hemispheres of the female body, are represented by apples, peaches and fruit in general’. Flowers, however, always indicated the female genitals and often the idea of virginity; so did gardens. Sometimes in dreams, female symbols could represent the male genitals and vice versa; only the most clearly differentiated symbols (weapons, pockets, or trunks) were used constantly without any ambiguity. Sexual intercourse itself was not very prominent in the symbolic world, being represented by images of rhythmic activity (such as dancing or riding), violent experiences (being run over), being threatened with weapons, or climbing ladders or stairs. What was the epistemic basis of these interpretations? The patient, after all, usually had no idea about the symbolic dimensions of his dreams and one could suspect that the analyst was dreaming up the interpretations. Characteristically refusing to restrict himself to lofty medical or psychological discourse, Freud declared that the meanings of dream-symbols were far from imaginary: similar but far more easily understood symbols were found in fairy-tales, myths, jokes, idioms, sayings, songs, and folklore. ‘If we go into these sources in detail, we shall find so many parallels to dream-symbolism that we cannot fail to be convinced of our interpretations.’ There is certainly a grain of truth in this claim and, whatever one might think of the truth of psychoanalytic doctrine, one would probably acknowledge that the folklore of most cultures as well as their popular discourses were often crowded with genital symbolism. Such symbols are continually added to the cultural repertoire and used in ever more imaginative or ludicrous ways. Some of the more modern instances have been influenced, explicitly or unwittingly by psychoanalysis. Although Freud was none too pleased with the French Surrealists' interest in psychoanalysis in the 1920s, quite a large proportion of Surrealist imagery — one thinks, for instance, of the phallic neckties of Breton, the noses of Dali, and the bones of Tanguy — derived from Freudian symbolism. In a broader cultural sense, Freudian symbolism and, in particular, interpretations of phallic imagery, have become pervasive in fiction, the arts, and the media to the point of banality. ‘Sometimes’, Freud is supposed to have warned, ‘a cigar is only a cigar!’ The attribution of that story is dubious; its moral is not. -Chandak Sengoopta

 Bibliography Freud, S. (1900/1953). The interpretation of dreams. In The standard edition of the complete psychological works of Sigmund Freud, Vols 4, 5 (ed. J. Strachey et al.). Hogarth Press, London. Freud, S. (1915–16/1961) Introductory lectures on psycho-analysis. In Standard Edition, Vol. 15, (ed. J. Strachey et al.). Hogorth Press, London. Order this Oxford Press book

21 May 2015

Leonard Shlain's "Left, Right and Center"

If you have wandered wild places where experience and vision seemed to easily trump the ruling classes' dependance on dark language and sacred texts - this book  'plains everythin'. Thank you, Dr. Shlain - be at rest.

    Parsed here, as you will see, for "limited access" by left-handed “readers”, is a quick distillation of Leonard Shlain's latest book, “Leonardo's Brain” - especially, its chapter 13, "Emotions / Memories" (pp 133-141).  Shlain states that this chapter “will focus on the brain organization of someone who is right-handed and left-brain-dominant” (pg.134). He later does consider and discuss the brain organization of the “8 to 12 percent” that are left-handed (right-brain dominate) in the final chapters ("spoiler alert": left-handed asexual women appear to be greatly in the lead.)  Here are your simplified left, right and center "bullet points"-

Characteristics of right-brain (left hand): In fetus, right-brain (left hand) is already mature before left-brain (right hand) begins to develop.

Right-brain (left hand) is more familiar with needs and drives stemming from earlier stages of mammalian and primate evolution - the domain of sex and child raising – is non-verbal, having more in common with earlier animal modes of communication.

Right-brain (left hand) generates feeling-states which are non-logical and non-linear – examples, allow faith in God, understanding the subtleties of a joke, the rise to patriotic fervor. All feeling-states are nondiscursive and overwhelm the left-brain's new facility with words.

Right-brain (left hand) merges multiple determinants, emotions, meanings, sounds and images into holistic states. The right-brain (left hand) contributes metaphor to left-brain's abstract words.

Right-brain (left hand) have little volitional control and betray their own feelings though fidgeting, blushing or smirking.

Emotions predominately located in right-brain (ed: left hand) – fear, terror, love, hate, shame, disgust, envy, jealousy, ecstasy.

Right-brain (left hand) perceives world concretely without attempt to translate to words – this is the portal to the spiritual – entertains altered states without need of faith or logic. Dreaming occurs primarily in the right-brain (left hand).

Right-brain (left hand) is holistic – appreciates relationship of parts to the whole - assimilates images as instant gestalts – as examples: faces and music.

Right-brain (left hand) deciphers tone, inflection and nuance. It understands better - gestures, grimaces, cuddling, suckling, touching and body stance.

Right-brain (left hand) better at spatial relations and distance – skiing, dancing.

Additional notes from other chapters: Right-brain (left hand) “is aware of its connections to everything else” - “minor lobe merges a complex web of spirituality, intuitions, mysticism and pattern recognition to generate complex feelings.” (pg 90)

“Orgasm is a right-hemispheric function. Love is rooted in the right brain. Ecstasy is an emotion experienced at the right of the corpus callosum.” (pg 101)

Characteristics of left-brain (right hand):  Left-brain (right hand) – “innovative features” include – speech, motor activity, numeracy, abstractions – such as alphabets, ideograms, words, names and numbers. “Abstract thinking is the ability to process information without concrete images.”

Left-brain (right hand) range back and forth along the linear time of past, present and future – follows series of steps – sequencing rather than holistic gestalt.

Left-brain (right hand) analysis reduces everything to its component parts.

Left-brain (right hand) is doing and action, controls the vital act of willing.

Left-brain (right hand) controls the picking, throwing, tool making.

Left-brain's (right hand) only emotions are happiness, joy and cheerfulness.

Left-brain (right hand) knows the world through words and speech. Language and words are “the very essence of the action mode; with them, we abstract, discriminate, analyze and dissect the world.” Words are image substitutes. The left-brain builds concepts without resort to images.

Left-brain (right hand) follows the linear sequence of logic, the if/then syllogisms – which is the foundation of science, education, business and military strategy.

“The left lobe processes time and keeps track of dates. Only a (ed: right handed) human can experience, or even understand “birthdays” - left brain tracks only the discrete trees, but cannot see the entire forest.

Additional notes, Chapter 9: Left-brain (right hand) is the seat of ego and superego, is separate from the world – the “I” and “not-I”. (pg 90) – “sees the world from a survivalist's point of view.” (pg 176)

 Leonard Shlain's books and life.        Best review of book.     Buy Shlain's "Leonardo's Brain".

19 January 2014

Which "God"?

God the Father by Cima da Conegliano c. 1515
Tuesday 14 January 2014, published in the Guardian 

One reason that modern-day debates between atheists and religious believers are so bad-tempered, tedious and infuriating is that neither side invests much effort in figuring out what the other actually means when they use the word 'God'. This is an embarrassing oversight, especially for the atheist side (on which my sympathies generally lie). After all, scientific rationalists are supposed to care deeply about evidence. So you might imagine they'd want to be sure that the God they're denying is the one in which most believers really believe. No 'case against God', however watertight, means much if it's directed at the wrong target.
Yet prominent atheists display an almost aggressive lack of curiosity when it comes to the facts about belief. In The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins expertly demolishes what he calls 'the God hypothesis', but devotes only a few sketchy anecdotes to establishing that this God hypothesis is the one that has defined religious belief through history, or defines it around the world today. AC Grayling insists that atheists are excused the bother of actually reading theology – where they might catch up on debates among believers about what they believe – because atheism "rejects the premise" of theology. And when The Atlantic ran a piece last year entitled Study theology, even if you don't believe in God, Jerry Coyne, the atheist blogosphere's Victor Meldrew, called it "the world's worst advice." And on and on it goes.
My modest New Year's wish for 2014, then, is that atheists who care about honest argument – and about maybe actually getting somewhere in these otherwise mind-numbingly circular debates – might consider reading just one book by a theologian, David Bentley Hart's The Experience of God, published recently by Yale University Press. Not because I think they'll be completely convinced by it. (I'm not, and I'm certainly not convinced by Hart's other publicly expressed views, which tend towards the implacably socially conservative.) They should read it because Hart marshals powerful historical evidence and philosophical argument to suggest that atheists – if they want to attack the opposition's strongest case – badly need to up their game.
The God attacked by most modern atheists, Hart argues, is a sort of superhero, a "cosmic craftsman" – the technical term is "demiurge" – whose defining quality is that he's by far the most powerful being in the universe, or perhaps outside the universe (though it's never quite clear what that might mean). The superhero God can do anything he likes to the universe, including creating it to begin with. Demolishing this God is pretty straightforward: all you need to do is point to the lack of scientific evidence for his existence, and the fact that we don't need to postulate him in order to explain how the universe works.
Some people really do believe in this version of God: supporters of 'intelligent design', for example – for whom Hart reserves plenty of scorn – and other contemporary Christian and Muslim fundamentalists, too. But throughout the history of monotheism, Hart insists, a very different version of God has prevailed. In a post at The Week, Damon Linker sums up this second version better than I can:
… according to the classical metaphysical traditions of both the East and West, God is the unconditioned cause of reality – of absolutely everything that is – from the beginning to the end of time. Understood in this way, one can’t even say that God "exists" in the sense that my car or Mount Everest or electrons exist. God is what grounds the existence of every contingent thing, making it possible, sustaining it through time, unifying it, giving it actuality. God is the condition of the possibility of anything existing at all.
God, in short, isn't one very impressive thing among many things that might or might not exist; "not just some especially resplendent object among all the objects illuminated by the light of being," as Hart puts it. Rather, God is "the light of being itself", the answer to the question of why there's existence to begin with. In other words, that wisecrack about how atheists merely believe in one less god than atheists do, though it makes a funny line in a Tim Minchin song, is just a category error. Monotheism's God isn't like one of the Greek gods, except that he happens to have no god friends. It's an utterly different kind of concept.
Since I can hear atheist eyeballs rolling backwards in their sockets with scorn, it's worth saying again: the point isn't that Hart's right. It's that he's making a case that's usually never addressed by atheists at all. If you think this God-as-the-condition-of-existence argument is rubbish, you need to say why. And unlike for the superhero version, scientific evidence won't clinch the deal. The question isn't a scientific one, about which things exist. It's a philosophical one, about what existence is and on what it depends.
But too often, instead of being grappled with, this argument gets dismissed as irrelevant. Sure, critics argue, it might be intriguing, but only a handful of smartypants intellectual religious people take it seriously. The vast majority of ordinary folk believe in the other sort of God.
As Hart points out, there are two problems with this dismissal. First, you'd actually need to prove the point with survey data about what people believe. But second, even if you could show that most believers believe in a superhero God, would that mean it's the only kind with which atheists need engage? If a committed creationist wrote a book called The Evolution Delusion, but only attacked the general public's understanding of evolution, we'd naturally dismiss them as disingenuous. We'd demand, instead, that they seek out what the best and most acclaimed minds in the field had concluded about evolution, then try dismantling that.
Which is also why atheists should read Hart's book: to deny themselves the lazy option of sticking to easy targets. Perhaps you'll come away convinced. But even if all you do is clearly articulate why you think he's completely wrong, you'll be helping to lift the discussion far above what usually passes for debates about religion.

19 November 2013

"Accidental" Vagina Stadium

Render: Zaha-Hadid.com
from The Guardian, Monday 18 November 2013 by Holly Baxter entitled "Qatar's accidental vagina stadium is most gratifying", subtitled "The resemblance of the Al-Wakrah World Cup stadium to the female genitalia can only be a good thing – sport and vaginas are not always such public bedfellows".  Lovely puns all, but, with the hunky males placing seed-like objects through nets, gates and so-called "goal" posts, Frater Holme holds that ALL games/stadia are stylized phallic/uterine fields of "play" - cut to it, it's cheaper to get a hotel room! Let me not longer interrupt Holly Baxter's Guardian piece. . .to wit:

 "Have you ever heard of the Vagina Building? If you're not from Chicago, it's unlikely – but if you are, it's a precious part of local folklore and a celebrated shape on the skyline. Towering amid the clustered phallic skyscrapers, the Crain Communications Building (its slightly more official name) was completed in 1983 with a prominent vertical slit in the front. Urban legend – for sadly, that is all it is – states that the building was designed by a woman sick to her back teeth of phallic architecture as a big feminist middle finger to the men who had made her live in the shadow of their huge metal penis replacements for decades. The truth is that the vaginal resemblance is accidental, and the architect behind it very much male. But the story persists, and is still told with a sense of pride. Luckily for all of us who enjoy a good story involving construction and genitalia, this week has proven that Chicago's Vagina Building will soon be rubbing, er, shoulders with another case of "accidental vagina representation". The design for Qatar's new Al-Wakrah sports stadium has quickly gone viral: with its shiny, pinkish tinge, its labia-like side appendages and its large opening in the middle, the supposedly innocent building ("based upon the design of a traditional Qatari dhow boat") was just asking for trouble. And trouble came, in the form of Buzzfeed and thousands of Twitter fans. Surely a well-populated Facebook group is only hours away.

"As those who have tried to keep alive the tale of the Chicago Vagina Building know, there is something quite pleasing about a building shaped like a fanny. Look out on to the London skyline and penises are everywhere: the Gherkin, for instance, might even be visible from your office window right now, thrusting itself into the grey autumn sky among wisps of cloud, a proud red light shining at its very tip. And that's without even going into the phallic implications of Big Ben. The world even has an ode to the wonky boner, that lopsided erection that is the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Penile structures were just as abundant in the ancient world, of course – and while the humble yoni once had its heyday in certain parts of Asia, it still usually took a backseat wherever ornamental penises were involved.

"The Qatari stadium's resemblance to a woman's private parts may be unintentional, but I for one applaud it. Perhaps the bigwigs who will be running the stadium should embrace this so-called faux pas and rebrand it as a deliberate nod towards the increasingly liberal Qatari policies concerning women in sport. In a world where sport and vaginas very rarely come together with such prominence (see every UK female footballer's salary versus every UK male footballer's salary), this can only be a good thing. And after all, why not have 45,000 people crammed inside a woman's reproductive system? It's not like they haven't been there before. • This article was amended on 19 November 2013. It originally referred to "the bigwigs behind the design" probably being men. The architect was female, Zaha Hadid. This sentence has now been changed accordingly."

Again, this blogger holds that "sport and vaginas" only "come together" - that pun was not intended. . . .ah, in this blog.

24 September 2013

Ronald Dworkin, Religion without God

Foto: John Earle / Suhrkamp Verlag, August 2005
From Stanley Fish, NYT Opinionator: "Dworkin begins boldly in his very first sentence: “The theme of this book is that religion is deeper than God.” Dworkin doesn’t mean that being religious and believing in God are incompatible; he means that the latter is a possible version of, but not the essence of, the former.

"The essence of the religious attitude, he tells us, is the conviction that 'inherent, objective value permeates everything, that the universe and its creatures are awe-inspiring, that human life has purpose and the universe order.' In the grip of that Emersonian conviction, one may or may not subscribe to the existence of a personal God, but it should not be the case that constitutional protection depends on a commitment to theism, for that would be to make the hallmark of religion something that is alien to the lives of many people. It is important for Dworkin’s argument that we not view religion as a special activity that exists to the side of the everyday experience of interacting with and appreciating nature. It is when we identify religion as an anomaly whose precise configuration must be described that we get ourselves into trouble and fall to debating, as religion clause jurisprudence endlessly does, whether this particular ceremony or piece of behavior is 'properly religious.' We should, says Dworkin, abandon 'the idea of a special right with … its compelling need for strict limits and careful definition.' We should 'consider instead applying, to the traditional subject matter of that supposed right, the more general right to ethical independence.'"  Read entire piece by Stanley Fish, NYT.

25 August 2013

Phoebe Anna Traquair, Irish Seer


From Mela Muter's lovely "Art Incunnu" efforts- "Phoebe Anna Traquair was an Irish artist who rose to prominence in Edinburgh and went on to produce a staggering volume of work. She was part of the Arts and Crafts movements in Scotland and worked in a number of disciplines including embroidery, jewellery making and metal work, painting, illustration and book design. She painted vast murals in several buildings including the Catholic Apostolic Church and the chapel of the Royal Hospital for Sick Children, both in Edinburgh. Notably, she illuminated the book "Sonnets from the Portuguese" by the poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning, but she is probably best known today for her exquisite embroidered panels and drapes, one of the most spectacular of which "Salvation of Mankind" (left) in City Centre Gallery, Edinburgh. Traquair is a unique figure in both British Art and the Arts and Crafts movement, and she has been identified as the first significant professional woman artist in modern Scotland." Read and see more. . .
Click on images to enlarge.

From Elizabeth Cumming's 2005 book on Traquair, page 47 "This keenness for perfection also reflected in [Phoebe Traquair's] reading of Walter Pater. . .that 'not the fruit of experience, but experience itself, is the end'."

03 August 2013

Jane Ellen Harrison's Epilegomena


Tucked in time between the works of the social anthropologist Sir James George Frazer and the psychiatrist Carl Jung, indeed a bridge, are the writings of the classicist, Jane Ellen Harrison (1850-1928), especially her opus - Themis (1912, 1927) - her study of the earliest forms of Greek religion.  

Themis not only had great influence on the continued studies of the origins of religion, even to present, but also on contemporary arts and artists including the American abstract expressionist, Clyfford Still.  (See review of Still's current exhibition including Harrison's book, Themis - FD: I am collection photographer at CSM, Denver, where I learned of Harrison's work.) 

Nine years after writing Themis, and at the age of seventy-one, Jane Harrison set down the essence of her thoughts in the short sequel to Themis, entitled Epilegomena (1921), an excerpt from the conclusion of the first of its three chapters follows below.  Just her Epilegomena answers great (yes, huge!) questions.  Download both Epilegomena and Themis at archive.org  Harrison portrait (portion) above by Augustus John.

"Still more strange is it to find the ritual mould surviving even in the plays of Shakespeare. The Hamlet-saga like the Orestes- saga has behind it the ancient and world-wide battle of Summer and Winter, of the Old King and the New, of Life and Death, of Fertility and Barrenness; behind the tragic fooling, as behind the Old King Oedipus is the figure of the Scapegoat, the whole tragic katharsis rests on the expulsion of evil in the ritual of the spring - Renouveau. The examination of the elder Eddic poems shows that the theory of their origin in primitive ritual drama correlates a number of facts which else appear meaningless and unrelated. Finally, and perhaps most strangely of all, it has recently been shown that the legend of the Holy Grail has a like ritual foundation. In the Grail literature "we possess a unique example of the restatement of an ancient and august Ritual in terms of imperishable Romance."

"The question of the influence of folk-plays and fertility dramas on various forms of literature has now long passed beyond the region of conjecture. It is firmly based on fact and widely accepted. It would be a delight to follow it into further fields, but the task before us now is quite other. We have to note not the evolution of literature but the primitive beginnings of theology, to mark how the god rose out of the rite.

"The ritual dance then is dead, but its ghost still lives on in Seville Cathedral and wakes to a feeble fluttering life three times a year. At the Festival of Corpus Christi, during the Octave of the Immaculate Conception and during the three days of Carnival (when I had the good fortune to see it) the ritual dance is danced in the Holy of Holies behind the great gold grille immediately in front of the High Altar. It is danced by the so-called Seises or groups of choristers. Their number has now dwindled to two groups of five.

"This dance of the Seises [ed: the Six or Sixteen] has been to the Church the cause of no small embarrassment and she has frequently but so far vainly sought to abolish it. She admits that its origin is "perdu dans la nuit des temps." It is frankly pagan and we can scarcely avoid the conjecture that it took its origin in the dances of the Kouretes in Crete in honour of the Mother and the Son. At Carnival, when I saw it, the dance took place after, Vespers. The song with which the dance was accompanied was a prayer to the Sun, but it was to the setting, not as with the Kouretes, the rising Sun. It was a prayer for light and healing. The dance is now attenuated to a single formal step. It is decorous, even prim in character. But the fading light, the wondrous setting, above all, the harsh plangent Spanish voices of the boy singers are strangely moving. It is a sight once seen never forgotten. Great Pan is dead, but his ghost still dances."

Reprint Cambridge Press 1927
Reprint University Books 1962

04 June 2013

Sentient Beings. . .All


Illustration: Katie Scott/NYTimes
A teaspoon of soil may have billions of microbes divided among 5,000 different types, thousands of species of fungi and protozoa, nematodes, mites and a couple of termite species. How these and other pieces all fit together is still largely a mystery. Read more. . .

It turns out that we [human beings] are only 10 percent human: for every human cell that is intrinsic to our body, there are about 10 resident microbes — including commensals (generally harmless freeloaders) and mutualists (favor traders) and, in only a tiny number of cases, pathogens. To the extent that we are bearers of genetic information, more than 99 percent of it is microbial. Read on. . .

Besides the charismatic fauna commonly observed in North American homes — dogs, cats, the occasional freshwater fish — ants and roaches, crickets and carpet bugs, mites and millions upon millions of microbes, including hundreds of multicellular species and thousands of unicellular species, also thrive in them. The “built environment” doubles as a complex ecosystem that evolves under the selective pressure of its inhabitants, their behavior and the building materials. Read further. . .

In a world of hand sanitizer and wet wipes, we can scarcely imagine the preindustrial lifestyle that resulted in the daily intake of trillions of helpful organisms. Nature’s dirt floor has been replaced by tile; our once soiled and sooted bodies and clothes are cleaned almost daily; our muddy water is filtered and treated; our rotting and fermenting food has been chilled; and the cowshed has been neatly tucked out of sight. While these improvements in hygiene and sanitation deserve applause, they have inadvertently given rise to a set of truly human-made diseases. Continues. . .

An enlightened drill by the New York Times, these pieces and more.



 

26 May 2013

The Canon of Desiderius Lenz

Beuronese image, left, may sum up this entire blogged effort - boy meets girl with trusty serpent in tow, coital Asherah/May pole inclusive - all resplendent in 3D Fibonacci sequences.
        Notes: Best and maybe only (english) book on Desiderius Lenz and the Beuron art movement (wikilinks) is The Aesthetics of Beuron directly from publisher, Francis Boutle for $20ish. (Amazon is $156.)  David Clayton's Way of Beauty pages about the Beuronese School are linked here. Links also to works located at the Abbey of St. Hildegard and in our own Conception Abbey in Conception, Missouri. (The former's website features very, VERY low res images and the latter's images are curiously hidden down below a long bit of scrolling/strolling past an ascii image lists before discovering the image - ah, those contemplative arts.)

Pater Desiderius Lenz's chalice at right (again a sexual nexus) is realised only now-ish (2010).

30 April 2013

Kreider on 'Marketable Truth' and 'I Dont Know'

Illustration: Jim Stoten/NYTimes
This is another reason so many writers feel the need to impersonate someone wise or in possession of some marketable truth: it’s a function of insecurity, of fear. If we don’t assume some sort of expertise, why, exactly, should anyone bother reading us, let alone buy our books or invite us to appear on “Fresh Air”?  To admit to ignorance, uncertainty or ambivalence is to cede your place on the masthead, your slot on the program, and allow all the coveted eyeballs to turn instead to the next hack who’s more than happy to sell them all the answers.

My least favorite parts of my own writing, the ones that make me cringe to reread, are the parts where I catch myself trying to smush the unwieldy mess of real life into some neatly-shaped conclusion, the sort of thesis statement you were obliged to tack on to essays in high school or the Joycean epiphanies that are de rigueur in apprentice fiction — whenever, in other words, I try to sound like I know what I’m talking about. Real life, in my experience, is not rife with epiphanies, let alone lessons; what little we learn tends to come exactly too late, gets contradicted by the next blunder, or is immediately forgotten and has to be learned all over again. More and more, the only things that seem to me worth writing about are the ones I don’t understand. Sometimes the most honest and helpful thing a writer can do is to acknowledge that some problems are insoluble, that life is hard and there aren’t going to be any answers, that he’s just as screwed-up and clueless as the rest of us. Or I don’t know, maybe it’s just me. Read the entire The Power of ‘I Don’t Know’ By TIM KREIDER, "Draft" NY Times, April 29, 2013  Illustration: Jim Stoten

06 April 2013

Soup Kitchen Eucharist


Easter Sunday was our annual and ancient discussion of how to kill and eat the Divine God - with its associated and copyrighted nuances by various parties, as example, the punishments regarding the belief, or lack thereof, in the johnny-come-lately miracle of transubstantiation - wiki it - much better than the miracle of refrigeration.

Here follows a rarely actioned suggestion from the gospel of Matthew about how to remember and honor the Divine God. We should add that no human has yet to be punished, killed or roasted because of his/her belief or non-belief in this pericope - not yet anyway, read on.

And, if what Matthew writes just proves to be the case, then the soup kitchen might be at the cutting edge of the true 'do unto Me' Eucharist. And our own Dorothy Day will be the great soup kitchen Saint- wiki again.  Her optimistically named organisation - Catholic Workers - follows in her dedication. However, note below, if you do not care to slave over a hot stove in a soup kitchen (or similar tasks) on this side of the veil, you still get to go to a very hot place as part of the 'deal' later on. (Illustration of Dorothy Day, above, by Julie Lonneman, used with permission of the artist.)
 
That Mt 25 pericope: 31“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 34“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ 37“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ 41“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ 44“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ 45“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ 46“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (-English NIV, others here.)

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